Andre Ethier is growing rather sick and tired of questions regarding his inability to hit left-handed pitchers and whether or not he’s going to be platooned, and he recently stated that the difference between people nagging him about it and not is an extra five hits a year.
It was only one at-bat, and it was only spring training. But it was Andre Ethier’s first at-bat of spring training against a left-handed pitcher, so naturally it commanded a lot of attention.
Ethier stroked an opposite-field triple in the fourth inning Saturday against Chicago White Sox southpaw Leyson Septimo. He finished the exhibition opener 1-for-2, and after the game cautioned against making too much out of a small sample size.
“(If I) get five extra hits in the year, you guys aren’t going to talk to me about it,” Ethier said. “It’s that simple.”
Well … yeah, that would help, but it’s not like five hits a year in this context is a minor improvement or a tiny adjustment or something.
Over his seven-year career, Ethier has had 1010 at-bats against southpaws, which is about 144 per year. So he’s asking for five hits per 144 at-bats, which is ridiculous.
To put that into perspective, the much-maligned James Loney has 3170 at-bats over the exact same seven years. Giving him five hits for every 144 at-bats results in 110 additional hits, and his career batting average jumps from .282 to .317 and his career OPS goes from .758 to around .830. That turns him from a punch-line into an above-average regular.
Keep that fact in mind going forward, because even giving Ethier the free hits he thinks would help him avoid criticism, I don’t think it would help as much as he thinks. Add 35 hits to his numbers against lefties over those seven years and you get a career line that goes from .238/.296/.352/.649 to .272/.328/.389/.717, which isn’t exactly stellar considering the league-average OPS from 2006 to 2012 was .743.
Point being, his batting average would be solid enough, but that doesn’t address the walk rate (10.8%/6.2%), strikeout rate (15.3%/21.4%), nor power (.215 ISO/.115 ISO). So even granting him five hits against lefties every year, which is just silly, I’m gonna guess people would still ask questions about a ~.200 OPS difference in split. Like fans/media wouldn’t ask why he goes from Josh Hamilton to Juan Uribe based on the handedness of the pitcher?
Look, I can imagine it’s frustrating for Ethier to hear the same questions over and over again, and I get that it’s not his fault that Don Mattingly and friends refuse to platoon him. However, for $85 million, people tend to want more than a guy who just crushes righties, and the reality for now is that he’s an excellent platoon guy masquerading as an everyday regular, five annually gifted hits or not.