The Dodgers made three errors on a single play in the sixth inning of Monday’s game against the San Diego Padres.
Mattingly did use a pinch runner eventually, when the bases were loaded with one out. Erisbel Arruebarrena took Ellis’ place at third base, and barely had to move as Adrian Gonzalez and Juan Uribe struck out.
A.J. Ellis has an unusual slash line: A .192 batting average, .335 on-base percentage and a .234 slugging percentage.
It takes a special combination of traits to achieve those numbers: A good eye, little power, and a complete inability to hit for average. That’s been Ellis this year. But exactly how special is this combination?
Thanks to baseball-reference.com’s play index, there is an answer to this question.
Since 1901, only one player has finished a season with 300 or more plate appearances, a batting average below .200, an on-base percentage above .330 and a slugging percentage below .240. That man is Jimmy Sheckard. In his final major-league season of 1913, Sheckard batted .194/.368/.238.
Yep, it’s the same Jimmy Sheckard whose three triples in one game (in 1901) were not matched by a Dodger until Yasiel Puig did it last month in San Francisco.
Look out, Jimmy. Now A.J. is coming for you too.
A.J. Ellis was back in the Dodgers’ lineup Friday, 19 days after he sprained his ankle celebrating Josh Beckett‘s no-hitter in Philadelphia.
Ellis is batting .170/.350/.213 in a season limited by injuries to 15 games. The 33-year-old catcher missed 39 days in April and May after undergoing a procedure on the mensicus in his left knee.
As a group, Dodger catchers rank near the bottom of the league in batting average (29th, .185), on-base percentage (27th, .268), slugging percentage (29th, .275) and weighted on-base average (29th, .247) this year. Tim Federowicz, who has the worst on-base percentage of any major-leaguer with at least 50 plate appearances, was optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque to make room for Ellis.
Ellis might give the Dodgers’ lineup a dimension it missed in his absence.
“Over the course of last year, the last couple years, even when his average may not be jumping out at you, he’s always a guy that gives you a tough at-bat every day,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “He makes a pitcher work. I think we’ll look forward to that. It just gets another ‘quality out’ when you make an out.”
Ellis’ 4.37 pitches per plate appearances in 2013 were the most by any major-league player with at least 400 plate appearances.
A.J. Ellis spoke in somber tones Monday as he described one of baseball’s all-time freak injuries. An old adage was certainly at play: It’s only funny if it doesn’t happen to you.
Ellis sprained his ankle Sunday while the Dodgers ran out to congratulate Josh Beckett for his no-hitter at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. Ellis didn’t catch the game — Drew Butera did — but Ellis leaped and landed on Butera’s discarded catcher’s mask in the midst of the celebration.
“I knew right away it was more significant than other ankle rolls I’ve had in the past,” Ellis said. “I immediately came in, saw (Dodgers head athletic trainer) Stan Conte, got an x-ray which came back negative, treated it the entire flight home yesterday, and came in this morning.
“I woke up and called Stan this morning I didn’t think I would be able to play the next few days just because of the way I felt. Probably best for the club to get another catcher up here. So I’m beyond frustrated, still kind of shocked and just ready to get back in the rhythm of things, whenever that might be.”
The Dodgers recalled Tim Federowicz from Triple-A Albuquerque with Ellis on the 15-day disabled list. Ellis was scheduled to meet with team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache to determine the severity of the injury and a timetable for recovery.
Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis returned to Los Angeles on Tuesday. He took batting practice in the afternoon along with Juan Uribe, separate from the rest of the club.
Though he looked healthy, the Dodgers will wait at least a day before activating the catcher from the 15-day disabled list.
“We feel like today tells us if he feels good, he bounces back after catching two days,” Mattingly said. “He feels like he’s ready to play. Medical feels like he’s ready to play. It’s soon.”
Drew Butera is catching Josh Beckett and Miguel Olivo is serving as the backup.
Without Ellis, the catching duties have been split fairly liberally among Miguel Olivo, Drew Butera and Tim Federowicz, who’s currently in Triple-A. Which of the three becomes the backup once Ellis returns?
“If you want me to make that decision now, I probably can’t do that,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said before Sunday’s game against the Giants, a 7-4 loss. “I wouldn’t want to do that anyway. We’ll figure that out as we get there. It comes down to conversations, us talking about what we need, what we want that position to be and what we think about it.”
Mattingly said the conversations have already begun.
When imagining where the conversation begins, it’s tempting to focus on offense. There isn’t much to look at there. Olivo started hot, but in his last 11 at-bats he has no hits and eight strikeouts. Overall he is 5 for 23 (.217). Butera is 10 for 44 (.227) with two home runs. Federowicz was 5 for 46 (.109) with one home run before his demotion.
Of course, the Dodgers aren’t focusing on offense from their catchers. More important to the conversation is how each player handles the position defensively and how well they work with the pitching staff. Those are harder to quantify, especially in a small sample size.
Nonetheless, here we go.
Butera has the lowest catchers’ ERA of the bunch (2.90, 10th in baseball) and hasn’t made an error. He’s also tied for the league lead in passed balls (four) and has thrown out only one of four attempted base stealers.
Of course, passed balls are a judgment call. Olivo wasn’t charged with a passed ball last night when J.P. Howell threw a slider in the dirt in the 10th inning. But because Olivo didn’t keep the ball in front him, a runner was able to score from third base. In 54 innings, Olivo has a 4.73 catchers’ ERA. Two baserunners have tried stealing on him; one was caught.
Pitch framing is not an asset for any of the Dodgers’ catchers, according to StatCorner.com.
We could parse Federowicz’s numbers, but his contract status separates him from this discussion if Olivo, Butera and Ellis are healthy. Federowicz can be optioned to the minors at any time. He’ll stay there so long as he continues to miss 48 percent of the breaking pitches he swings at. (That was his miss rate in the majors.) Butera and Olivo are out of options, so one of the two will probably be designated for assignment in the next 48 hours.
“We’ve been pretty clear about what we like out of our catchers,” Mattingly said. “The backup catcher … you’re not playing as much. You want to make sure that you’re getting the right guy back there for all the things you’re asking him to do — studying, working with pitchers, all those things because it’s just what we want out of the position. As much as what we’re looking for offensively … it’s what we’re looking for out of the position.”
Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis went 1 for 2 with a single and a walk, and was caught stealing in his first rehabilitation game Sunday in El Paso, Texas. He caught all nine innings of the Albuquerque Isotopes’ 11-0 loss to the El Paso Chihuahuas.
Ellis, who had arthroscopic surgery on the meniscus in his left knee April 8, is expected to play at least one more game with the Isotopes.
“He’ll play tomorrow then we’ll evaluate where he’s at,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Sunday.
Tuesday will mark exactly five weeks since the surgery. Initial estimates placed the timetable for Ellis’ recovery at 4 to 6 weeks.
Wednesday, the Dodgers formally acknowledged that fact. Billingsley was transfered to the 60-day disabled list and the Dodgers selected the contract of catcher Miguel Olivo to the 40-man roster.
Rather than continue to stash Olivo in Triple-A Albuquerque, where he’s batting .390 with four home runs and 18 RBIs in 15 games, the Dodgers recalled Olivo and optioned catcher Tim Federowicz to Albuquerque for the second time this season.
Olivo, 35, hasn’t appeared in a major-league game since June of last year with the Miami Marlins. He showed well in spring training, batting .263 (5 for 19) in nine games as a non-roster invitee on a minor-league contract. When he was returned to the minors, Olivo requested his release.
Ultimately Olivo bid his time at Triple-A and was rewarded for his patience.
Ellis, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee April 7, is expected back in mid-May.
The fact that this was even a possibility, 15 days after the catcher had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, is a bit mind-boggling. Ellis has been taking batting practice regularly, caught Kershaw’s bullpen session Tuesday, and is running on an Alter-G anti-gravity treadmill — the same one that got Matt Kemp in shape during spring training.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said that the initial 4-6 week timetable is still in play for Ellis, but that could change soon enough.
In the meantime, a couple trends have emerged. Drew Butera has caught three of Zack Greinke‘s last four starts. The term “personal catcher” hasn’t entered the discussion yet, but the two have had high praise for each other and Mattingly might choose to keep them paired together, even after Ellis returns.
Tim Federowicz has caught 10 games to Butera’s six since Ellis went down, and has just four hits in 37 at-bats. Two of those hits have come since Paul Goldschmidt whacked him in the left hand over the weekend.
“Each day is getting better,” Federowicz said Wednesday. “Right now I’m really focused on my defense. Offense will come. I’m not worried about it.”
Can fans be so patient?
In spite of the fact that the two healthy catchers have a modest three-game hitting streak, Federowicz and Butera are still batting a combined .145 (8 for 55) since Ellis had his surgery. For his part, Ellis was batting just .167 (4 for 24) before going on the DL.
The Dodgers might have bigger problems than this one, so it’s flown a bit under the radar. Just don’t expect to see any catchers batting higher than eighth unless one, at last, catches fire.