10 Reasons Why Andre Ethier Won't Win the Triple Crown in 2010
The first nine names on this list are those of the men who have won the Triple Crown since the end of the Dead-ball Era.
The 10th is the name of one of baseball's best and brightest young sluggers to emerge in some time.
But does Andre Ethier have what it takes to add his name to the list of baseball legends who succeeded in achieving perhaps baseball's most difficult accomplishment?
Simply stated, the answer is no. Andre Ethier is a great player, but he will not win the Triple Crown in 2010.
On Saturday, Ethier broke the tip of the pinky finger on his right hand during batting practice. Not good news.
The latest is that it is a small break that will need to heal on its own and therefore won’t require any treatment. Ethier looks likely to avoid a trip to the disabled list, and will be able to play through the injury as long as he is willing to deal with the pain.
Certainly it could have been worse. Hand and finger issues can lead to extended trips to the disabled list, so Ethier is lucky that the injury wasn’t more significant. However, the impact of this injury will still be significant.
Until Ethier’s pinky fully heals, expect to see a dip in his performance at the plate, and the chance that he aggravates or further complicates the injury is far more likely if he plays through the pain.
Andre Ethier is one of the league’s streakiest hitters.
Want some evidence? Just last season, Ethier had a stretch when he went 32-87 (.367) and a stretch when he went 8-75 (.106). He had another stretch during which he went 23-63 (.365) and yet another stretch when he went 18-94 (.191).
When he’s hot, he is nearly unstoppable. He collects hit by the handful and clubs home runs in bunches.
However, when Ethier gets cold the wheels come off completely.
A slump will come, and when it does Ethier’s average will have come back down to Earth, and the NL’s other sluggers will quickly close the gap in the home run and RBI categories.
I can’t pretend I fully understand MLB’s official Park Factors are calculated, but I do know that it is a system used to calculate if individual ballparks favor hitters or pitchers, and that Dodger Stadium ranked 28th overall in 2009 with a rating of 0.857.
That means that Dodger Stadium strongly favors pitchers. Furthermore, its 0.876 home run rating means it’s the league’s fifth most difficult stadium to hit a home run out of.
It may not seem that significant, but the hand full of hits and home runs swallowed up by the vast outfield at Dodger Stadium over the course of the Dodgers’ 81 home games could make all the difference in Ethier’s bid for history.
Hitting in the three hole behind Matt Kemp and ahead of Manny Ramirez is about as good as it gets. Kemp promises Ethier a ton of RBI opportunities, and Manny prevents teams from pitching around Ethier, and assures that he will see plenty of pitches to hit.
However, Manny has already made on trip to the DL this season with a calf injury, and it seems likely that the aging slugger will spend more time on the shelf at some point during the remainder of the season.
While Ethier didn’t struggle when Manny was out, 19-52 for a .365 average and five home runs, James Loney clearly doesn’t provide the same kind of protection that Manny does.
Furthermore, if Manny is out of the lineup later in the season, expect teams to pitch around Ethier. In Manny’s first DL stint, teams pitched to Ethier. They won’t later in the season if Manny isn’t hitting behind him. Expect a lot of intentional walks, especially if he is still on a tear.
Ryan Howard’s RBI Totals
144, 141, 141, 146, 139, 149. Yup, those are Ryan Howard’s individual RBI totals for each of the past six seasons.
While he may be on pace for just 106 at the moment, Howard is a near lock to finish the season somewhere around 140 RBI. Why?
Well, batting between Matt Kemp and Manny may be nice, but the Dodgers lineup as a whole doesn’t provide the RBI opportunities that Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, and Co. provide Howard.
Could Ethier finish the season with more RBI than Howard? Of course, he is on pace for 175 after all. However, he can expect that Howard will be battling him for the RBI title right down to the season’s final day.
Career Batting Average
Andre Ethier is currently batting a phenomenal .392. While that is undeniably impressive, you can’t ignore that fact that Ethier entered the 2010 season with a career batting average of only .290.
There certainly isn’t anything wrong with a career batting average of .290. In fact, the majority of the players in the league would give their right arm for a career stat like that.
However, you can’t ignore that Ethier has never come close to posting the type of average that would put him in contention for a batting title.
Ethier almost certainly will post a career high in the average department, but he will not be able to maintain an average in the high .300s. Expect Ethier’s average to slowly dip as the season progresses, and for him to find himself in a tight race for the batting title at best.
Mark Reynolds’s Raw Power
Mark Reynolds is the type of guy who ruins runs at a Triple Crown.
He’ll never come close to winning one himself. He strikes out way to much to post a batting average near .300, never mind in batting title range. Furthermore, he collects an unreal percentage of his RBIs on long balls, meaning he’s unlikely to ever post a truly fantastic RBI total.
However, he is a significant threat to win the home run title. In fact, his 10 home runs currently place him just one behind Ethier. It doesn’t matter that Reynolds is only hitting .229.
Reynolds approaches every at bat with a home run in mind, and that flawed mentality may be enough to undo Ethier’s run at a Triple Crown.
Patience, Patience, Patience
Andre Ethier is simply too aggressive at the plate.
This season he has drawn 14 walks, three of which where of the intentional variety, putting him on pace for 64 on the season.
64 walks isn’t an exceptionally low total, but it is much lower than the average number of walks drawn by the past five Triple Crown winners, Carl Yastrzemski 1967, Frank Robinson 1966, Mickey Mantle 1955, and Ted Williams 1947 and 1942.
That collection of Hall of Famers collected an average of 119 walks in their five Triple Crown seasons. That’s approaching twice the total Ethier is on pace for in 2010.
So, why is that significant? It shows that patience at the plate is essential to posting the type of season that goes down in history.
Being patient at the plate allows hitters to see better pitches. Ethier simply doesn’t see as many 3-1 fastballs as Yaz, The Judge, The Mick, and the Splendid Splinter did.
It hasn’t caught up to Ethier yet, but it will.
Albert Pujols is the single biggest threat to Andre Ethier’s bid for the Triple Crown.
Some baseball insiders claim that Pujols is off to a slow start, and by King Albert standards, maybe they’re right. Yet, Pujols’s eight homeruns and 29 RBI put him just three long balls and nine RBI behind Ethier. Certainly within striking distance.
Furthermore, if Pujols is off to a slow start, what happens when King Albert does get hot? Pujols has the ability to collect hits, RBI, and home runs in bunches. One hot week could pull Pujols even with Ethier.
Albert Pujols will finish ahead of Andre Ethier in at least one of the Triple Crown categories in 2010.
2010 Is Not 1967
There is a reason that no one has won the Triple Crown in 42 years. Baseball is simply a much different game today than it was then.
The reasons why winning the Triple Crown is more difficult today than it was then sounds more like a Billy Beane thesis paper than one of 10 reasons in a sports article about why it won’t happen in 2010, so I won’t get into too much detail.
However, the influx of foreign players, thus providing a deeper pool of talent to beat out in the Triple Crown categories, the increased emphasis on the home run, the designated hitter rule, and even steroids have all directly or indirectly effected the chase for the Triple Crown.
Am I saying it will never happen again? No, the Triple Crown is not dead, it will happen again. However, it won’t be Andre Ethier, and it won’t be 2010 when it does.
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