The reoccurring issue with Andre Ethier over the past few seasons has been his inability to hit left-handed pitching. It’s an issue that has put the Dodgers in frustrating situations when opposing teams happily bring in a left-hander out of the bullpen to put away Ethier in key moments late in a game.
Over the past three seasons, Ethier is hitting just .225 against lefties, with a .276 on base percentage and a .324 slugging percentage.
Those aren’t the type of numbers that the Dodgers have in my mind for their starting right fielder, who is due $13 million dollars this season.
The Dodgers are just four games into the 2013 season, but Ethier’s early success against lefties has been a bright spot so far.
It started on Tuesday night, when San Francisco Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner was shutting down the Dodgers offense at a rapid pace for eight shutout innings.
The Dodgers came out of the 3-0 loss with just two hits off of Bumgarner. However, Ethier had one of those two hits, when he doubled in the bottom of the second off of the 23-year-old. He ended up striking out in his last two at bats against the lefty, but that double down the right field line was a good sign.
On the very next night, Ethier continued to show signs of improvement.
The Giants decided to bring their lefty specialist Javier Lopez into the game to face Adrian Gonzalez in bottom of the sixth, and a strikeout was the end result. Lopez’s night would usually be over after that, but manager Bruce Bochy kept his guy in the game, daring Ethier to get a hit against the lefty specialist.
Once again, Ethier roped a double down the right field line, forcing Bochy to use another arm out of his bullpen.
Last night, Ethier was at it again.
Jonathan Sanchez of the Pirates was on the mound, and it didn’t take Ethier long to keep this early success against lefties going.
In the bottom of the second, Ethier sent a high fastball by Sanchez into the right field pavilion for a solo home run and his first long ball of the 2013 season.
The Dodgers need Ethier in the lineup every day and if he can hit left-handed pitching consistently that’s where he’ll be.
All of the talk of minor league super-prospect Yasiel Puig getting his shot this season with the Dodgers relies on Ethier’s ability to hit left-handers, and right now he’s getting the job done. It’s a pretty small sample size to get excited about, but this early success could be a sign of good things to come.
Follow Michael Stephenson on Twitter