With Spring Training quickly approaching, clarity on Andre Ethier’s role with the Los Angeles Dodgers may be but a few weeks away.
Ethier, who primarily played off the bench for the Dodgers in 2014, is hoping to reclaim a starting role in 2015, but in order to do so, he’ll have to beat out Joc Pederson in center field or Carl Crawford in left. again in 2015.
Last season Ethier started 79 games and played in 130, which was the second-lowest of his career. He later called it the most humlbing season he’s ever endured.
While Ethier didn’t see the field with much regularity in 2014, he tended to struggle when given playing time. According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, a former coach of Ethier’s believes consistency is key to getting production from the 32-year-old outfielder:
He’s a guy who has to play a lot to get into a rhythm. If he doesn’t, like last season, he’s not going to produce. The more he hits against lefties, the more comfortable he gets against them. He needs to be an everyday player.”
In Either’s career against left-handed pitchers, 6.2 percent of his plate appearances have resulted in a walk. This is vastly different from his plate appearances against right-handers, as 10.7 percent of those resulted in a walk. However, the amount of walks are not the issue in this case.
The problem is Ethier’s inability to hit left-handers compared to right-handed pitching and it is reflected in his batting-average splits. In his career, Ethier is batting .235/.294/.348 against lefties and .304/.506/.888 against right-handers.
While his former coach’s idea of “exposure therapy” may work for some, it hasn’t applied to Ethier’s case thus far. The last time he batted above .235 against lefties was in 2008 when he hit .243.
The Dodgers reportedly had a deal in place to trade Ethier to the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Baltimore Orioles expressed an interest, but it appears as though he’ll be in Glendale, Ariz. on Feb. 25 along with other Dodger position players.
If Ehtier hopes to earn a starting role in the Dodger outfield, he’ll need to improve on his deficiencies at the plate. He understandably upset over his role in 2014, but without improvement against left-handed pitching, he’ll be hard pressed to play on a regular basis.