A.J. Ellis Should Bat At Top Of Dodgers Order, Despite Opinions Of Ken Gurnick & A.J. Ellis

Ken Gurnick of MLB.com wrote what was essentially a rebuttal to Mike Petriello‘s article about batting A.J. Ellis second in the order.

Catcher A.J. Ellis is aware of the Internet chatter suggesting he might make the best No. 2 hitter in the Dodgers’ batting order, but he thinks he’s a better fit at No. 8, which is where he’s expected to bat this year.

Internet chatter“.

At least mention him by name and tell everybody where you got the idea from.

Ellis’ .376 career on-base percentage is what catches the eye of number crunchers, figuring he would be on base often for Matt Kemp and the middle of the order to drive in.

Aside from the obvious drawback of clogging up the bases, Ellis cautions that opposing strategy influences the on-base stat for a No. 8 hitter as much as his selective hitter’s eye.

Clogging up the bases? What is this? Dusty Baker managerial camp?

Oh you silly nerds.

“If I’m hitting second, I’m not going to see the same pitches I see hitting eighth,” he said. “If Kemp is behind me, I’m going to get peppered with fastballs. They won’t be pitching around me. I won’t get some of those walks. Sometimes as a catcher batting eighth, they work around you because they feel they have a sure out batting ninth.

“So some of those walks are a product of the pitcher. I love hitting eighth. I take it as a challenge and embrace it. There’s a strong mental aspect to it and I feel privileged in that spot. Jamey Carroll hit eighth a lot for us and he taught me a lot.

I’m not oblivious to the fact that pitchers may change the way they attack batters in certain counts depending on who hits behind them, and while Ellis is being a good sport about all this, I don’t believe what’s being argued at all.

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What we do know is this:

1) A.J. Ellis has always had a plate discipline skill.

Despite never having a minor league OPS over .800 until he got to the rarefied air of the Los Angeles Dodgers AAA affiliates at the age of 27, he still managed to stick around in the organization and continue to be a relevant piece.

Why?

Because his career walk rate in the minor leagues is 15.6%. He has walked at a 11.5% clip for his MLB career and is projected to walk at around a 13% rate next year. The average in the MLB last year was 8.1%.

Ellis didn’t magically grow this skill because he’s hitting 8th, he has always had it, and if he didn’t, he would be out of baseball.

2) A.J. Ellis makes a lot of contact.

Pair a high walk total with a ton of contact and you generally have the recipe for an acceptable enough batting average to make the player’s on-base percentage valuable.

His career strikeout rate in the minor leagues is 13.3% and he has struck out 15.2% of the time in the MLB. He is projected to hover around 15% next year, while the MLB average is 18.6%.

So despite being devoid of power, the constant contact and discerning eye help him avoid making a ton of outs, thus making him a decent hitter.

3) A.J. Ellis has not walked more in the 8th spot in the lineup thus far in his MLB career.

Granted, it’s a small sample size, but to say he has walked more because he hit in the 8th spot is just wrong as of right now.

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Just saying.

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So sure, he’ll get pitched around more frequently batting in the 8th spot than batting in the 2nd spot, but it doesn’t change his inherent skills. Additionally, one could conversely argue that getting more pitches to drive would up his average and slugging as well.

While it’s an unknown how he’ll fare when getting better pitches to hit, it’s a risk I’m willing to take, especially when the alternative is a player who had a .288 OBP last year (Mark Ellis).

Call me crazy.

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