Several bloggers and some of their followers are lobbying for AJ Ellis to hit at the top of the Dodgers lineup, instead of near or at the bottom. They point to his .360 OB%. Wow! Here’s the deal – it’s a small sampling – he has 244 AB’s in parts of 4 years, so opposing offenses have not even thought about him, but let’s assume that it’s a valid number. Let’s assume that he will have a .360 OB% over an entire season (which I really doubt, but hope for). He still can’t hit at the top of the order. Why? Because I can drink a beer and make a sandwich in the time it takes for him to go from 1st to 3rd! Understand this: AJ Ellis is a great guy and MAYBE he will have a good OB%, but he is slower than molasses.
What would you rather have – a guy with a .330 to .340 OB% who can go from 1st to home on a single to RF or a guy who can get on more but just runs station-to-station? You can’t measure what Dee Gordon does to a pitchers’ psyche, and you can’t expect a 23 or 24 year-old with a zest for the game to not improve his OB%. Dee Gordon is smart, fast and coach-able – I think he will adapt. The next question is whether Mark Ellis should hit #2. While Mark Ellis not fast, he is faster than AJ. I think you have to start the season with Mark Ellis at #2 and Dee Gordon at #1. If that becomes an issue, it will have to be dealt with in due time.
The dynamics of hitting #8 and #1 or #2 are quite a bit different. I like AJ Ellis, but Dodger fans need to realize that he is average defensively (at best) and has not proven he can hit at the major league level. I still believe that Fed-Ex will be the Dodgers’ starting catcher before the year is over. I’m not ready to anoint AJ Ellis as the starter. Also, I have have read people say that Russ Martin hit second, so why couldn’t AJ hit second? Russ Martin had some speed, could run and was a good base runner to boot. AJ Ellis simply is not!
Finally, I am going to remind you that what happened to the Dodgers last season was a microcosm of strange circumstances. For half the season, it was obvious that the Dodgers were affected by the divorce and bankruptcy, and for a while some even wondered if they would be paid. By the second half of the season, even though they had many injuries to key players, they got their act together and played as one of the best teams in baseball. Some of you seem to forget that.
Look, for any team to do well, certain things have to happen. Certain players have to play well. It is no different with the Dodgers, but there is basis for hope (just like any team):
- If AJ Ellis is what some bloggers think, then Catcher is a solid position.
- There is evidence and logic behind believing that James Loney can come back and be a guy who hits .290-.300 with 90-100 RBI.
- Mark Ellis is on the downhill slide, but if healthy, can still be a solid player at 2B – hopefully he can hit a little too.
- The sky is the limit for Dee Gordon – watch him grow!
- Juan Uribe showed up in better shape than last year and is seeking retribution. All the Dodgers need from him is an “average” year.
- Juan Rivera and/or Jerry Sands should be at least “major league average.”
- Matt Kemp is a man possessed to be the best player in baseball.
- Andre Ethier wants to prove the naysayers wrong and is playing for a new deal. We know what he can do if his head is right (it may not be).
I believe that this years’ team is better than last years’ version. The pitching depth is better and Harang and Capuano will surprise some of you. The bullpen should be better – last year, the pen lost 4 or 5 games for Kershaw. You think he can’t win 30 with a better pen? He might not do it this year, but if he stays healthy he is as likely as anyone in baseball to do that:
- He has a smooth delivery that doesn’t require a lot of energy.
- He has a man’s body now and is stronger.
- He is a battler and smart.
- He’s not moody and every mistake just strengthens his resolve.
- He doesn’t make many mistakes and will continue to pitch deeper into games.
This 2012 version of the Dodgers is going to be fun to watch, led by that jackrabbit at the top. Watch and see.