The improvement in catching has been an important part of the Dodgers’ success in 2015. Just a year ago, the Dodgers catchers were the worst hitting bunch of backstops in the league, and they finished the 2014 season with a MLB worst .181 batting average along with an N.L. worst OBP (.283), SLG (.261), and OPS (.544).
Even though Yasmani Grandal has been in a prolonged slump, which has at least partially been due to left shoulder soreness, the Dodgers have been able to absorb his struggles. Thanks to a fantastic first half of the year from Grandal, along with A.J. Ellis’s steadfast dedication and adjustments at the plate, this season has yielded the best pair of Dodgers catchers in many years. Ellis, who conversely struggled mightily at the plate in the first half, has risen to the occasion and began to pick up some of the slack during Grandal’s slump.
You would have to go back to 2010 to find a group of Dodger catchers who hit better than the current .256 clip (in 2010, Dodger catchers hit a collective .258). That was the same year Ellis hit .280 and Rod Barajas hit over .300, along with the 81 hits from Russell Martin.
One of the biggest areas of improvement offensively for the Dodgers catchers is their increased power. The Dodgers catchers hit seven home runs in all of 2014, but this year they have collected 19 home runs good for third best in the league. A large chunk of the power surge has been thanks to Grandal, who is tied for third-most home runs in the league amongst catchers (15). Grandal could have easily hit more home runs if he hadn’t lost time due to a concussion and his recent left shoulder soreness. Buster Posey has hit 17 home runs this year with 159 more at-bats than Grandal.
Ellis has hit one more home run than he did last year and his late season adjustments at the plate have proven fruitful at just the right time. The veteran catcher now has a positive 1.0 WAR, which is an upward trend and improvement from his -0.6 WAR in 2014.
1st Half: .217/.330/.337 with two home runs and six RBI
2nd Half: .294/.429/.451 with two home runs and seven RBI
Ellis is also hitting well against left-handed pitching at a .292 clip in 48 at-bats.
Eric Stephen of TrueBlue LA pointed out during Sunday’s game that A.J. Ellis has been getting on base consistently for the Dodgers of late:
With that single, A.J. Ellis has reached base by hit or walk in 21 of last 22 starts
— Eric Stephen (@truebluela) September 6, 2015
Over the last 30 games, Ellis is hitting .313/.441/.506 with four home runs, 19 walks and 11 RBIs in 83 at-bats. On the flipside, Yasmani Grandal is hitting .186/.286/.237 with just one home run, 13 walks and eight RBIs in 97 at-bats over the last 30 games.
Grandal complimented Ellis on his recent success as written by Pedro Moura of the Orange County Register:
“A.J.’s doing a great job behind home plate,” Grandal said. “Why not give him a shot at playing more games in a row, getting him a little more comfortable back there on back-to-back days? You never know what can happen.”
What can happen? How about a 2-for-3 day by Ellis on Sunday against the Padres including a go-ahead RBI single in the sixth off Andrew Cashner. Ellis lifted his batting average to .246 with a .756 OPS.
CONTINUE READING: Offense Isn’t The Only Improvement.