People getting impatient with Matt Kemp for a few hitless games is pretty silly. But Andre Ethier has been a source of frustration for some time now.
Tuesday’s game-ending double play was a tipping point for a few people to point the spotlight at him, including Steve Dilbeck of Dodgers Now, Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. and — in the most detail — Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness.
Petriello notes that a second-half slump is nothing new for Ethier, although in the past it was easier to blame things on injuries. This year, he’s not so sure:
… While the poor K/BB trend isn’t good, I don’t think he’s suddenly lost all patience and ability to make contact. It seems to me that it’s more of a symptom than a cause, and that the real root of the trouble is simply this: other managers aren’t blind.
Here’s what I mean by that. Check out the percentage of lefty pitching that Ethier has faced over the last six years, shown in the table at right. For years, Ethier routinely faced lefties 25-30% of the time. This year it’s well over 40%, and as I hardly need to tell you, Ethier is absolutely awful against lefty pitching. Well, I don’t need to tell you, but I will – in over 1,000 career plate appearances against southpaws, Ethier hits only .238/.298/.351 (.650); this year, it’s even worse .216/.281/.315 (.596). Despite his briefly effective first few weeks against lefties this year, Ethier’s back to his typical awful performance against them, and other managers are taking advantage of that fact. If there’s any mystery here, it’s why it took them so long to do this since Ethier’s never really been able to hit them.
Yet either because Don Mattingly is unwilling to offend a star or he simply has no one on the active roster to turn to (and while I know Mattingly-bashing is a fun sport, I’m more inclined to believe the latter, because the bench is short and does anyone really like Rivera that much?) Ethier continues to hit against lefties. …
It’s a problem without much of a solution, certainly not as long as first base is in its current quandary. The only moves I can think of are to call up Jerry Sands and Elian Herrera as platoon partners for first base and left field, and get rid of a couple of Juans. Otherwise, we’re just hoping for the best.
In the short term, Stephen offers a source of optimism for tonight:
… A pair of left-handers have had success against Cain in their careers. Andre Ethier is 24-for-50 with two doubles and a triple, hitting .480/.500/.560 against Cain in his career, and is 2-for-3 with a double this season. Ethier has still sitting on 29 doubles on August 5, one double shy of becoming the first Dodger in the 129-year history of the franchise with six consecutive seasons of 30 doubles or more.
James Loney is hitting .364/.429/.533 (16-for-44 with five doubles and a triple) against Cain with 11 RBI in 17 games, including 2-for-3 this season. …