Andre Ethier is Reviving His Career

Andre Ethier

Last season, Andre Ethier was destined for obscurity—relegated to pinch hitting and the occasional platoon, but in 2015, the 33 year old has rebounded with vengeance.

Ethier, in 60 games, has nine homeruns and 27 RBI. He’s batting .285 with a .365 OBP and 144 wRC+. Last year, in 130 games, Ethier hit four homeruns, drove in 42 runs while batting .249 with a .322 OBP and 98 wRC+.

Due to Yasiel Puig and Carl Crawford’s injuries earlier in the season, Ethier was afforded ample playing time that now has him looking like a viable option to start everyday in the outfield. The Los Angeles Dodgers have a ton of depth, and in some ways, perhaps even a logjam in the outfield, but possessing a bat like Ethier’s is a tremendous asset that makes the franchise such a lethal and potent offense.

Ethier is currently posting his best ISO (.229) since 2009 (.237), and if he continues on this trajectory, he’ll have his best statistical season since 2012 when he homered 20 times and drove in 89 runs. His recent success could be attributed to the outfielder refining his approach at the plate.

In his last three seasons, Ethier struck out in 20.1%, 17.2% and 19.5% of plate appearances while drawing walks 8-11% of the time. This year Ethier has decreased his K% to 14.8% while raising his BB% to 10.3%.

The 33 year old has increased the amount of contact he makes. Within the strikezone, he’s making contact on 90.5% of his swings, up from 2014′s 88.4%. Outside of the zone, Ethier’s connecting 67.2% of the time, better than the 63.9% he posted a season ago. More encouraging, Ethier is swinging at the same amount of pitches out of the zone this year as last, 30.5% versus 2014′s 30.9%, while swinging at more pitches within the strikezone (69.5% from last season’s 64.8%).

With Ethier swinging at more strikes, he’s capitalizing on mistakes and getting the most out of his plate appearances. His GB/FB rate has dropped from last year’s 1.96 to 1.03. As a result of elevating the ball more, Ethier’s HR/FB rate has jumped to above average—with 15.3% of his fly balls hit for homeruns, nearly tripling 2014′s 5.6%.

Ethier is doing a better job handling pitches down and away this season, connecting on them about 20% of the time more often than he did in 2014. He’s also doing a better job driving pitches inside, tripling his ISO on pitches within that location.

Although he doesn’t see them often, when he does, Ethier is clobbering cutters, splitters and changeups. He’s seen the pitches 4%, 0.9% and 13.5% of the time, respectively, with the following pitch values:

wFC/C: 8.29
wFS/C: 3.56
wCH/C: 3.55

The splitter values are in line with last year’s performance, but the cutter and changeup represent dramatic increases, from 0.38 and 0.22, respectively.

Ethier isn’t being fooled by off-speed stuff this year, and he’s shortened his stroke enough to capitalize on pitches inside that may have jammed him in the past. His ability to recognize strikes more efficiently has the lefty making more contact and allowing him to be more aggressive at the dish without swinging recklessly at pitches out of the zone.

The outfielder is owed at least another $35.5 million until 2017 and he may never be worth the contract he signed, but if he continues to hit like he has while remaining selective and patient, he will definitely be an asset for the Dodgers over the course of his contract.

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Frank Cesare is a Sports Analyst and Co-Creator of the Going For Two Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @frank_world and @G42Podcast.