AJ Ellis is no stranger to homerless game streaks – 871 plate appearances between home runs from 2008 – 2011
AJ Ellis is crossing into historical territory with his homerless streak now approaching 214 plate appearances (208 in 2014). No Los Angeles Dodger catcher has ever come to the plate over 200 times in a single year, and not hit at least two home runs. Granted this is all very premature as AJ still has over seven weeks to rectify the matter but I still find it fascinating.
Probably because the first and only time I’ve ever spoken to AJ Ellis he had just been called up to the Dodgers on June 16th, 2009 right in the middle of a homerless streak that would become epic. It is very hard not to hit a home run while playing for the Isotopes but AJ managed to go 176 plate appearances for the Isotopes without a home run. Interesting enough in 2009, while AJ was having problems going deep, the Dodgers starting catcher Russell Martin had also yet to hit a home run in 235 plate appearances. Which means that on the day AJ Ellis was promoted to the Dodgers, neither the starting catcher for the Dodgers, nor the starting catcher for the AAA team had yet to go deep in over 411 plate appearances.
This struck me as odd so while most of the press crew were hanging around Mitch Jones who had also been promoted that day, I ambled over to AJ Ellis to congratulate him on his promotion, and to ask him if the and Russell were having a friendly wager on who would go deep first. He smiled and disarmingly talked about how his game wasn’t about power but getting on base. I don’t remember much more of the conversation, but it would be the last time I interviewed a major league player, and I’ll be glad it was AJ Ellis.
We talked about his OBP and he laughed when I mentioned that he and Russell have yet to homer this year. Said his game to work the count and either get the pitch to hit he wants or take a walk. He’ll the leave the power game to Mitch Jones.
It was a little strange, the person interviewing him before me basically just asked him about Mitch Jones and what a great story he was, while seeming to ignore the fact that AJ Ellis has a had tough climb to the major leagues himself.
In 2009 AJ Ellis would not hit a home run. For anyone. Not for the Isotopes in 360 plate appearances, not for the Dodgers in his minimal 10 plate appearances. AJ Ellis would also not hit a home run for the Dodgers in 2010 in 128 plate appearances. We just assumed AJ Ellis was not going to hit home runs. Yet, in 2012 he hit 13. Followed that up with 10 in 2013.
Okay, back to his prior homerless streak. Now that baseball reference has game logs, we can go back and figure out how long his 2008 – 2011 homerless streak ran.
2008 – he last hit a home run on Aug 26th, 2008 for the Las Vegas 51’s (the team would move to Albuquerque the following year)
2008 – 14 AAA plate appearances , 3 major league appearances – total 17 plate appearances
2009 – 360 AAA plate appearances, 10 major league appearances – total 370 plate appearances
2010 – 76 AAA plate appearances, 128 major league appearances – total 203 plate appearances
2011 – 215 AAA plate appearances and 56 major league plate appearances before hitting his 1st home run on July 22nd in the fourth inning
The final talley was 14+3+360+10+76+128+215+56= 871 plate appearances without a home run between 2008 – 2011.
Doing the research for the piece I had no idea his homerless streak involved parts of four seasons.
I also put out a challenge to find me a major league baseball player who has hit double digits home runs in a single season that ever went over 500 professional at bats without a home run who was NOT a middle infielder.
I didn’t do this piece to pick or rag on AJ Ellis. He is and has been one of my favorite Dodgers, but Dodger fans can’t ignore his offensive futility in 2014. Or can they? Maybe when you are the catcher of the greatest left hander of the 21st century, you can ignore just about anything.