A.J. Ellis Continues to Surprise… or Does He?

It would be unfair for me to say that Dodger catcher A.J. Ellis hasn’t performed beyond my expectations, in fact it would be an out and out lie – he does, after all, have the fourth best On Base Percentage (OBP) in the MLB (.442) and the 11th best average in the NL (.317); but am I surprised that he is enjoying tremendous success as the Dodgers’ everyday catcher? Absolutely not.

Dodger catcher A.J. Ellis absolutely crushed a 1-1 fastball off Astros reliever and former Dodger prospect Wesley Wright for his game-winning 5th home run of the season. It was the first walk-off home run of A.J.'s career. (Photo by Bret Hartman / AP)

Shortly after we launched the ThinkBlueLA.com blog site this past April, I posted a feature story on the 31-year-old Ellis entitled A.J. Ellis’ Ship is About to Sail and it’s Not the Titanic in which I detailed A.J.’s long and winding road to the Big leagues. In that article, I included my predictions of how I felt that Ellis would fair in his first full season as the Dodgers everyday catcher based on my observations of him during spring training 2012 and on the fact that I have been a huge A.J. Ellis fan throughout his 10-year professional career. Not only has A.J. easily met my pre-season predictions, he has exceeded them… significantly. In the article, I also expressed my displeasure that Dodger general manager Ned Colletti had pretty much kicked A.J. to the curb (on multiple occasions) by signing veteran free agent catchers who were clearly passed their prime and on the downhill side of their careers rather than giving Ellis the opportunity that he so rightfully deserved. Sure I understand that you can’t predict how well a guy will do in the majors based on his minor league accomplishments but come on now, Ellis had been in the minors for nine seasons and had been consistent throughout his entire minor league career, especially in what I consider to be one of the most important statistical areas in all of baseball – OBP. Colletti’s continuing reluctance to give A.J. Ellis his due was painful to watch as a fan and I can’t even imagine how painful it must have been for A.J. But through it all, A.J. maintained a positive attitude and never gave up, not even a little. I have to believe that his extreme faith had a lot to do with this, not to mention that he is, simply put, a really good guy.

A.J.’s tremendous success this season and certainly his incredible game-winning 9th inning walk-off home run on Friday night may be a huge surprise to many (including Ned Colletti), but in all honesty, I am not surprised at all. I have always felt that A.J. had the potential of being a very good Dodger catcher – I just never expected him to be a great Dodger catcher, which he is clearly becoming.

 

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5 Responses to “A.J. Ellis Continues to Surprise… or Does He?”

  1. Bluenose Dodger says:

    AJ has been a surprise to me but not a total surprise. In his minor league career he has always had a very good OBP, my favorite offensive stat. His minor league OBP average is .400+.

    AJ has a quality so many of us lack. That is, patience. Patience to continue to give his all in the minors when the Dodgers kept bringing in catchers who were obviously no better than him. I guess the knock on him was lack of power. Let’s forget that one too.

    AJ has unreal patience at the plate, often going to 0-2 before offering. That is a Tony Gwynn Sr. kind of confidence. I think many players are afraid of hitting with two strikes, but not AJ.

    He does a great job of handling pitchers and his CS% is the second best in the NL – .453.

    I am so pleased he now has some years to play at the MLB level, find financial security for his family, and be an integral part of the Dodgers as we move on up. WTG AJ.

  2. KSparkuhl says:

    Great comment Harold… I echo your sentiments on AJ.

    One thing that has troubled me of late is Mattingly’s unwillingness to move AJ up in the order, especially in having Matt Kemp on the DL. During this time, Mattingly has kept the middle of the order with a predominant left handed presence by using four left handed bats in a row. Would it not have been better to move AJ Ellis in the five hole behind Andre Ethier instead of the much weaker hitting Adam Kennedy, thereby breaking up all those left handed bats? Certainly by having Dee Gordon and the pitchers spot behind him, the pitchers can be more selective with AJ, and yet he continues to kill the ball.

    The other side of that coin is that James Loney is the recipient of better pitches due to AJ’s hot bat. Pitchers are more likely to give Loney a better look at the ball to keep AJ from coming up. It didn’t work out that way last night when the Astros walked Loney to get to AJ Ellis. You’d think the Astros haven’t been paying attention to the scouting reports.

    Matt Kemp will be returning shortly and when that happens the Bobby Abreau/Tony Gwynn Jr. puzzle will need solving. It still needs to be said however, that with the way AJ is hitting the ball, he should be move up a slot or two in the order.

    • Ron Cervenka says:

      This has been a topic of discussion on DodgerTalk quite a bit of late. Kevin Kennedy (or rather David Vassegh, actually) posed this question to Mattingly who said that having Ellis in the six or seven spot “stretches out the line-up” to make it more RBI rich throughout. He added that having Ellis in the 6-hole makes him the number two hitter in the second half of the line-up. I have to admit that I had never really looked at it this way and quite frankly it makes pretty damn good sense. Imagine that – a fan since 53 and I learn new stuff everyday about this game – I LOVE it!

  3. desertdodger says:

    What else can I say but get this man to KC stat!

  4. OldBrooklynFan says:

    Like Bluenose said, “The knock on A.J was his lack of power. I think that’s what held him back. So they looked for a starting catcher elsewhere, but now that he’s here, he’s playing to stay.
    I like his patience at the plate and his OBP.

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