COMMENTARY | The Los Angeles Dodgers are no doubt regretting the 5-year, $85 million contract extension they gave right fielder Andre Ethier in June. The emergence of prospect and fellow big-money signee Yasiel Puig and Ethier's declining production make the deal look like an albatross.
But is Ethier hasn't really been that bad this season. The numbers aren't as horrific as some make it seem. Surprisingly, he's been equally mediocre against left- and right-handed pitching. However, he got off to a quick start against lefties and he's just regressing to the mean.
Ethier is hitting 20 points less than he did in 2012, yet his on-base percentage is a couple points higher this season. That's thanks to an increased walk rate.
His walk rate was 8.1 percent in 2012 -- his lowest mark since his rookie season (2006, 7.7 percent). While an 8 percent walk rate is a touch less than league-average, but it isn't a Luis Cruz-esque, either. Ethier has also reduced his strikeout rate a bit from last season (20.1 percent to 19.4 percent).
Ethier's power is, unfortunately, absent. He seemed to have rediscovered it a little last season, posting a .176 isolated power mark -- just a less than above-average. This season, however, he's been merely average with his ISO (.142).
The advanced numbers suggest Ethier isn't doing anything considerably different than he did last season. He's swinging at fewer pitches out of the strikezone while swinging at more in the strikezone.
The only thing I can see is he's hitting more fly balls. His groundball-to-fly ball ratio is 0.85. His line drive percentage is down less than 1 percent, but is still better than his career rate.
It isn't a bad thing Ethier is hitting more fly balls. He isn't a speed demon and won't leg out many infield singles. But if he's going to hit the ball in the air more, he needs to hit some of them either in a gap or over the fence.
Despite hitting more fly balls, he's hitting fewer home runs. He's below league-average in HR/FB rate at 8.6 percent. It was 14.1 percent in 2012 -- tied for the second-best mark of his career.
Ethier's down production didn't prompt Dodgers' manager Don Mattingly to bench him, but it was his perceived lack of effort.
Mattingly made some candid comments before the May 22 game in Milwaukee, and they raised some eyebrows
"I'm putting out my lineup that I feel is going to be the most competitive and going to compete the hardest."
That was in response to a question about Ethier's benching. The saga that followed was epic -- and is seemingly over for now. Grit and effort aside, Ethier, despite his struggles (which aren't that bad this season), gives the Dodgers the best chance to win (against a right-handed pitcher, at least). He shouldn't sit against righties unless he's hurt.
The Dodgers' offense is struggling. That's no secret. While Ethier hasn't been as good as he was last season or is he worth his extension, it's hardly all his fault. But this team seems to be looking for scapegoats these days and Ethier and Mattingly appear to be them.
I'd be shocked if Mattingly makes it through the season. I think Ethier will, but he'll almost certainly be dealt in the winter to open a spot for Puig or Joc Pederson.
Ethier hasn't been great this season, but he's far from the biggest problem the Dodgers have on the offensive end.Dustin Nosler has followed the Dodgers from Northern California all his life. He's the founder of Feelin' Kinda Blue, a Dodger blog. He also co-hosts "Dugout Blues," a weekly Dodger podcast. Find him on Twitter @FeelinKindaBlue.
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