It may not seem like it right now, but believe or not, starting catcher A.J. Ellis is one of the most important pieces to the Dodgers’ playoff run. Ellis provides good leadership on and off the field. Despite struggling with the bat, Ellis provides more than enough to the team with the glove. He knows every batter’s strength and weakness. He studies the team’s stats and videos before every series. Ellis does a lot more for this team than you realize. He works with the whole pitching staff and finding their weak points and what spots they need to hit in each at-bat for all nine innings.
Ellis is a leader. A proven leader. His leadership and what he provides to the team is probably one of the many reasons why the Dodgers are in first place in the west division and have the best record in the National league. He works with pitching coach Rick Honeycutt on improving the pitching staff every day. Honeycutt and Ellis are the reason why throughout the years since Ellis has been on the team are one of the best pitching staffs in the majors.
Yes, Ellis has struggled with the bat this season, but I don’t blame him. Try catching nine innings a game. Every day. It gets really tiring. By the time he comes to the plate, he’s usually tired from catching. It’s the same for all catchers. Yes, age also doesn’t help their knees. So give Ellis a break and give the credit that he is due. As I said in the previous paragraph, If it weren’t for Ellis doing his part, the pitching staff might not have a place among the top five in team ERA.
Fans usually tend to only focus on the offense of their team, but there are so much more than just offense than meets the eye. Baseball is also about defense and most importantly, decision making. Catchers tend to be team’s choices for the manager’s position in baseball because of decision making. Ellis is always making decisions through every pitch. Every inning. In 162 games, plus postseason. He has to guide his pitchers through nine innings. That alone is a tough job to do. I give so much credit to, not only Ellis, but catchers around the MLB. They all go through the same thing. They have to make the hard decisions and what is best for the pitcher and the rest of the team.
It remains to be seen if Ellis will return as the starting catcher in 2015 or the Dodgers will test the free agent waters as former Dodger catcher Russell Martin of the Pittsburgh Pirates will be available this winter. Moving to the bench, might be the best scenario for Ellis who will be 34 at the beginning of the 2015 season.
I am not worried about Ellis’ bat because Ellis is in a lineup where he doesn’t have to deliver every at-bat like driving in runs or hitting home runs all the time. The Dodgers have bats at the likes of Dee Gordon, Yasiel Puig, Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford and Juan Uribe ahead of Ellis in the lineup. It is only an added bonus to the lineup when Ellis does deliver with the bat. Because Ellis has the big bats in front of him, he can focus fully on the defense, which in my opinion, is what Ellis should do. Focusing more on defense is big because he has to catch every pitch in the game. Every day. Ellis can hit for sure. It will come naturally. It is just a matter of time before Ellis puts everything together. But until that happens, Ellis is still will remain a big piece of the team.