Dodger Thoughts

Jon Weisman's outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball and life

Just as Ethier heats up, wall of lefties in Colorado awaits

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By Jon Weisman

There’s no denying that Andre Ethier is having the roughest year of his fine nine — yes, nine — in the Major Leagues, but he showed particular signs of life on the Dodgers’ recent homestand. And normally, there’s nothing like a four-game trip to Coors Field in Colorado to turn a momentary spurt into a full-fledged hot streak.

Ethier hitting a three-run home run against Shelby Miller of St. Louis on Saturday.

Ethier hitting a three-run home run against Shelby Miller of St. Louis on Saturday.

But in a cruel and unusual twist for Ethier, Colorado has four left-handed pitchers lined up to start against the Dodgers: Franklin Morales, Jorge De La Rosa, Yohan Flande and Christian Freidrich. And Ethier is struggling this year as much as ever against southpaws, with a .268 on-base percentage and .263 slugging in 42 plate appearances.

The confluence of lefties comes with Rockies righties Jordan Lyles and Jhoulys Chacin on the disabled list.

None of the four scheduled starting pitchers are intimidating. Morales, an eight-year veteran on his second tour with Colorado, has a 5.75 ERA this year (73 adjusted ERA, or ERA+). De La Rosa, in his 11th year, is at 4.86 (86). Friedrich, making his 20th MLB start, has a career ERA of 6.61 and ERA+ of 69. Flande would be making his third career start and is at 6.10 and 71.

Nevertheless, all four are faring significantly better against left-handed batters, with De La Rosa showing the most pronounced differential: .835 OPS by righties against him in 2014, .497 by lefties.

The 32-year-old Ethier’s career OPS is .823, and his career OPS+ is 122, as is his career wRC+. So far this year, he has fallen far below those figures, and more than 10 percent below his previous single-season lows, to .684, 93 and 95. In his most recent slump, from midgame June 17 through June 27, he reached base twice in 23 plate appearances.

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But while going 7 for 19 with a 1.137 OPS in the past five games, Ethier had some of the best at-bats I’ve seen him have all year, including a three-run homer Saturday and a leadoff triple Monday that led to the only run of the Dodgers’ 1-0 victory. Then on Wednesday, Ethier squared up on a two-out, two-strike pitch in the fifth for a line single up the middle that drove in two runs for a 3-2 Dodger lead, and later with two out in the ninth, he battled from an 0-2 count to 3-2 before slicing a double to left that positioned himself to be the winning run.

Let’s put it this way: If Ethier is going to play against lefties, he probably has no better opportunity to show his stuff than the coming four games, especially after Don Mattingly said Wednesday that Matt Kemp was due for a rest. (Generally speaking, Kemp, Yasiel Puig and Scott Van Slyke figured to be regulars in the outfield this weekend.) Otherwise, it looks bad timing for a hitter in the process of finding himself.


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1 Comment

  1. oldbrooklynfan

    It’s Friday July 4th and the Rockies are sending right handed pitcher Jair Jurrjens, who they picked up in a trade, to the mound, so it looks like Ethier will start.

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