Andre Ethier’s Resurgence: Are We Seeing A Repeat of 2008?

The 2014 season was Andre Ethier’s worst offensive season in his career. Last year, Ethier slashed .249/.322/.370 while posting a 98 wRC+. To give you an idea of how bad last season was for Ethier, his best year on offense was 2008 when he slashed .305/.375/.510 and owned pitchers with a 134 wRC+. While it is too early to draw any conclusion, this season Andre Ethier has been successful at the plate. In 51 plate appearances, Ethier is slashing .327/.424/.653 with a 194 wRC+. The 33-year old outfielder is proving to be a valuable piece in the Dodgers lineup.

Looking at some data, we can see how his hitting profile in 2008 compares to his hitting profile in 2014 and 2015. The first set of images you’ll be seeing are raw pitch counts from 2008, 2014, and 2015.

2008 Raw Pitch Count

2014 Raw Pitch Count

2015 Raw Pitch Count

Looking at the raw pitch counts, we can see that in 2008 and in 2014 pitchers were pounding the corner low and away from Ethier. Though it is foolish to draw any conclusions about pitcher tendencies towards Ethier so early in the season, the data that has trickled suggests that pitchers are all over the place when pitching to him; though, we can see that pitchers are now throwing towards the inner and lower half of the zone more so than in 2008 and 2014.

Now we’re going to take a look at Andre’s swing rates from the same three years.

2008 Swing Rate

2014 Swing Rate

2015 Swing Rate

In 2008, Ethier’s plate discipline was at its best. He hardly went after pitches that broke away from him at the plate. In fact, you can see that the pitches he often swung at were on the inside part of the strike zone. In 2014, his approach at the plate started to change. Plate discipline data reinforces this. In 2008, Ethier swung at 25.7% of pitches that were outside of the strike zone while swinging at 63.0% of pitches that were in the strike zone, with an overall swing rate of 43.8%. Ethier was more selective at the plate and the restraint paid off in 2008 as he posted a .375 OBP. However, in 2014, Ethier’s swing rate pitches outside the zone was 30.6% and his swing rate at pitches inside the strike zone was 69.1%. Overall, Ethier was swinging at a lot more pitches but making far less contact than he did in 2008. In fact, he was making contact 5.4% more often in 2008 than he was in 2014. Confirming this is his paltry .322 OBP from the 2014 season. So far, in 2015 he is making slightly less contact but is back to being selective at the plate by staying away from pitches outside the zone and swinging less overall. Once again, restraint is paying off as he is posting a .424 OBP!

I can’t go through this post without mentioning BABIP. Andre Ethier’s career BABIP is at .322. In 2008, he posted a .330 BABIP, a .307 BABIP in 2014, and currently a .333 BABIP. Now here’s look at his overall batted ball data, his batted ball data against right-handed pitchers, and against left-handed pitchers.

Overall Batted Ball Data
Year LD% GB% FB% HR/FB
2008 26.6% 41.4% 32% 14.1%
2014 21.6% 51.9% 26.5% 5.6%
2015 10.8% 37.8% 51.4% 15.8%

Batted Ball Data vs. LHP
Year LD% GB% FB% HR/FB
2008 23.0% 46.0% 31.0% 8.6%
2014 12.9% 64.5% 22.6% 0.0%
2015 0.0% 60% 40.0% 0.0%
Batted Ball Data vs. RHP
Year LD% GB% FB% HR/FB
2008 27.8% 39.9% 32.3% 15.9%
2014 22.8% 50.2% 27.0% 6.3%
2015 12.5% 34.4% 53.1% 17.6%

So what are the numbers suggesting to us? The data suggests that Andre Ethier’s production is linked directly to how well he performs against right-handed pitching. We can see that his down year in 2014 was the result of poorly hit balls which was likely the result of a lack of plate discipline discussed earlier. Even more telling is how poorly he hit against right-handed pitching in 2014 compared to other years. It is well known among clubhouses that Ethier cannot hit left-handed pitching to save his career. This has been used against him and the Dodgers to great success for opposing teams. In fact, it has worked so well that Ethier is now a platoon player, being brought in almost exclusively against right-handed pitchers. So far this year, Ethier has been destroying righties while still being impotent against lefties. Again, the caveat remains that it is still too early in the season to draw any distinct conclusions; however, if Andre is able to remain disciplined at the plate, then he will likely continue to see success against right-handed pitchers.



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