12 September 2008

The Fifth Element

One of these days Andre Ethier will go 0 for 5 with a couple of strikeouts and a double play. And then the next game he'll collect a single, but nothing else. And it will have become official: he's no longer hot. But nothing really will have changed. He will still be the same talent he's always been, a near total package of power, plate-discipline, and outfield play. He's even been flashing some speed lately, collecting a triple and some stolen bases, much to my delight after arguing with my wife that Ethier wasn't as slow as she thought. Ethier isn't really great at anything, except maybe outfield play, but he may yet prove to be the better overall baseball talent than even Matt Kemp, the golden boy. Right now if pressed on the matter I would call Ethier at least Kemp's equal in everything but speed.

How hot is Andre Ethier? His stats since he started hitting in front of Manny are above the stratosphere. Ethier's stats are up in the aether, the fifth element postulated by Aristotle that was thought to float above the element of air. Since the All-Star break Ethier has an OPS of 1.029, which is exactly the same OPS that Milton Bradley has during the entire year. So Ethier has, in the second half of 2008, equaled the man he was traded for. This, remember, is supposed to be one of the few trades that Colletti has ever made that he won, and one of the few trades that Beane has ever made that he lost. And Beane probably did lose it, no matter that Bradley is a better pure talent than Ethier. Bradley did not last in Oakland, because of injuries and temperament. Ethier is younger and more durable, and is also now becoming a fan favorite, a role that should have been Bradley's if talent were the only determiner of adulation.

Milton Bradley is hurt again. Texas manager Ron Washington is saying that Bradley will be back soon, but it's a lower back injury, so we'll see. Bradley is primarily a DH now, something I did not know until I looked it up just now. I find the idea of Bradley as a DH surprising and sad. He was so good in the outfield, in center field, even. It's not just me saying this: a few nights ago Vinny was talking about an amazing catch Bradley made in Petco Park. Yet Bradley has only played in the field 20 out of 115 games this year. Maybe that's a precaution given how easily he gets hurt. Maybe he's not aging well in the field. But man alive can he hit! We can only dream of Ethier even having a full year as good as the one Bradley is having right now.

The dream just might become reality sometime in the next few years. Through all his streaks and downs and up and benchings Ethier has posted an OPS above 0.800 every year. He's pushing against 0.900 this year. He's 26 and about to enter the prime of his career. And he's a Dodger, for now and the near future. Right now he's a hard charging surprise candidate to be best Dodger by 2010. The bar has been raised, Matt Kemp.

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