The Los Angeles Dodgers sit atop the National League West with a 7.5 game lead in the division. With under 20 games left in the season, a few key players have exceeded expectations and have positioned themselves in a key role heading into the postseason.
One nominee for a player who has responded well after a heavily criticized season is Andre Ethier. The outfielder was used sparingly in the 2014 season in a lesser role than what he thought he was capable of. Heading into the 2015 season, the 33-year-old aggressively produced to the point of earning back his starting job when Carl Crawford went to the disabled list.
Throughout the 2015 campaign, Ethier is slashing .294/.366/.482, with 13 home runs and 44 RBIs. In a turnaround of a season, the nine-year veteran has produced accordingly this season and has positioned himself in the Comeback Player of the Year award conversation.
When manager Don Mattingly was asked about Ethier’s season and whether it caught him off-guard, he remained adamant that Ethier has always been a productive player. “It’s been a nice surprise,” Mattingly said. “It’s not something I don’t think we thought he wasn’t capable of. I think it’s been a great year for him and us, obviously.”
“Coming out of Spring Training with all the talk of wanting to play everyday and all that, and really I’ve said it a few different times, he’s backed it up with his play. When he’s gotten his opportunities he’s been really good. I don’t know if it’s really necessarily a surprise that he’s capable of this, but it’s been a good season for him.”
The 2011 Gold Glove winner has always been accepting of his role and seeing less at-bats against left-handed pitchers, but has also been supportive of the clubhouse and winning being a top priority. The Arizona native’s offensive numbers this season have eclipsed most of the categories from the 2014 season, including nine more home runs and a significant increase in OPS from .692 to .848.
Entering the day off on Thursday, Ethier has 299 career doubles. The Dodgers begin a three-game weekend series against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday, an intriguing look into a potential NLCS match up for the Boys in Blue.