Friday, October 03, 2008

High Praise for Andre Ethier

Today's Wall Street Journal had an interesting piece by Tim Marchman (no link) about the incremental benefits of key offensive players from 2008 playoff teams. Surprisingly, Andre Ethier came up big time among all eight teams:

Baseball Info Solutions, a Pennsylvania-based research firm, recently ran a set of simulations of each playoff series. In each one, they removed a key offensive player from a team, substituted an average player at his position, and then played out that team's series 50 times. Some results were expected. Left fielder Ryan Braun, for instance, had the most impact of any Brewer; on average, the team scored 1.02 fewer runs per game without him than they did with him. Some were less so: Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley had more than twice as much impact as first baseman Ryan Howard, who hit 16 more home runs and drove in 42 more runs during the regular season.

The most surprising result, though, came in Los Angeles. Removing right fielder Andre Ethier, who hit .305 with a .375 on-base percentage this year, cost the Dodgers an average of 0.96 runs per game in the simulation series. Removing Mr. Ramirez cost them 0.58 runs per game (the difference has to do with talent levels at their respective positions).

Whether or not Mr. Ethier outplays Mr. Ramirez -- with respect, I wouldn't bet on it -- this kind of result points up the impact a single player can have in the right circumstances, and how unpredictable the playoffs can be.

It's really too bad that it took all frickin' year to get Ethier some regular playing time on the Dodgers, but at least heartening that truth and wisdom has prevailed in the end. Kudos to Ethier, as well, for not flapping his mouth at any point this year, criticizing the illogical move to start others ahead of him. Nice guys can finish first, indeed.