Andre Ethier was more than 3.5
We had a joke at Dodger Thoughts when Andre Ethier was in the minor leagues that he was a 3.5. Meaning he probably wasn’t going to be good enough to be a major league starter but would be very valuable off the bench. Boy were we wrong.
Many players get that label. You could say that Andrew Toles and Alex Verdugo might be in that category until they prove they are major league starters.
Like many fans I’m going to miss Andre. Not just because he was here so long and you were comfortable with him but because he was a fun baseball player. He had passion, he could hit, he could hit for power, he could hit in the clutch (yeah, I said that), he could field, and he could throw. He wasn’t a five tool player but his tool was average to above average. The only thing that Andre could not do, was hit left-handed pitching. Yet many manager gave it a go. Even with a career OPS of .633 against left-handed pitching, his managers allowed him to garner 1200 plate appearances against them. Go figure
My history with Andre goes all the way back to his beginnings. While a member of the Oakland A’s he was on the same Arizona Fall League team in 2005 as Matt Kemp, James Loney, and Andy LaRoche. The 2005 Phoenix Desert Dogs
Name Age PA 2B 3B HR RBI OPS Andre Ethier* 23 105 7 3 2 21 1.093 Matt Kemp 20 99 6 3 3 16 1.021 James Loney* 21 65 2 0 5 17 .964 Andy LaRoche 21 100 9 0 0 15 .844 Tony Abreu# 20 88 6 1 1 7 .761
I went out that fall to scout the best the Dodgers had to offer and spent almost a week in Arizona. Andre Ethier was very impressive but at the time he wasn’t a Dodger. He played both CF and RF switching up with Matt Kemp. Matt Kemp was the talk of the fall league team putting himself on the prospect map with thunderous home runs as one of the youngest players in the league. Andre was right behind him putting up an OPS over 1.000 but since Andre was already 23, he should have destroyed the AFL.
The first move that Ned Colleti made as the Dodgers general manager was to trade the beleaguered Milton Bradley, and the player he got was Andre Ethier. At the time Andre was in AA and if the price seemed cheap for a young major league center fielder it was only because Milton Bradley had blown his value with maturation issues. Given what he was working with, it seemed like a decent get for Ned.
Who knew at the time, it would be the best trade he ever made.
Andre reported to AAA and got off to such a great start he was with the Dodgers by May of 2006. By August 5th Andre was hitting .352 and the talk was if he could get enough plate appearances to win the batting title. I did not partake in those talks, I was pretty sure that if Andre played more, the more he would stop hitting at such lofty levels. Sure enough he hit a rough patch and his average fell from .352 to .308 as he hit just .132 in Sept. Andre would only get one plate appearance in the postseason. With his dismal finish the talk about being a 3.5 was being bandied about again.
In 2007 Ned hedged his bets and brought in Luis Gonzalez to play in the outfield. That left Andre/Kemp/Luis battling for at bats. Andre ended up with the most but offensively he was just equal to Gonzalez while Matt Kemp was showing the power that would be his talking point until he hit a wall in Colorado a few years later. Andre was good but there was still the talk that he might not be the answer as a full time outfielder. The jury on 3.5 was still in session.
Andre entered 2008 without a full time job. The Dodgers had signed Andruw Jones this time to be the CF. Andre would need to fight Matt Kemp and Juan Pierre for playing time but by the end of spring training Andre was a starting outfielder. Andruw Jones played his way off the Dodger roster and Matt Kemp become the starting CF with Andre in Right and Pierre in left. The Dodgers would acquire Manny Ramirez and the outfield was now a powerful trifecta of Ethier/Kemp/Ramirez. 2008 would be the first of three years in a row where Andre would put up an OPS+ of 132 or 133. The talk of 3.5 had become historical and was no longer relevant.
In 2009 and 2010 he become known as the walk-off king.
It was uncanny how many times Andre came through time and time again.
Basically from 2008 – 2013 Andre was a mainstay in the Dodger outfield and a big part of the Dodger offense. He was always underrated but every year you could find him as one of the top offensive outfielders in the National League.
Because of his consistency the Dodgers signed him to a five year deal on June 12, 2012 worth 85M. Just like Matt Kemp it would quickly become an albatross contract. Andre finished 2012 in good style and did well in 2013 but in 2014 just one year into the deal he got hurt and at age 32 saw his OPS drop 30 points and fall below 100 for the first time in his career.
Andre bounced back in 2015 to have an outstanding season but that would be the last hurrah for Andre. In both 2016 and 2017 he would get hurt during the spring and miss 5/6 of season, showing up in Sept for some pinch hitting duties.
Even as he became the forgotten Dodger due to injuries, he remained a fan favorite as you could tell during the postseason player introductions in 2017.
His final at-bat with the Dodgers was a pinch hit single to drive in the only run in game seven of the World Series. That was a great way to go out, and I’m happy I saw the last hit of Andre Ethier in a Dodger uniform.
I don’t know where Andre will end up in 2018 but I sure hope he does well. Even if it is the Giants.