Will Ely Mania return to Los Angeles in 2011?
The overall story of John Ely in 2010 is a positive one, but it must be told in two parts. First of all, Ely to the Dodgers was found money; along with Jon Link, Ely came to the Dodgers from the White Sox in the Juan Pierre trade. That the Dodgers got two useful players in the trade, in addition to just salary relief, was a plus.
Ely began the season no higher than eighth place on the Dodger starting pitching depth chart, but thanks to a combination of injuries and ineffectiveness from James McDonald and Scott Elbert, it was Ely who got the call in late April when the Dodgers had a need to fill. Ely took great advantage of the opportunity, throwing strikes and taking names. He lost his first start, against the Mets, but then ElyMania began (which was a fun ride, wasn't it?), as Ely allowed two or fewer runs in six straight starts. After seven starts Ely was looking good, but then things went south in a hurry:
|First 7 starts||3-2||46.0||35||13||0||1.57||7.24||2.54||0.935|
|Last 11 starts||1-8||54.0||70||48||12||5.33||6.50||8.00||1.889|
Ely's game relies on control. His average fastball last season was 87.4 mph per FanGraphs, so he has a smaller margin for error. His bread and butter pitch is his changeup, which he threw 18.5% of the time in 2010. In those first seven starts, Ely attacked the strike zone with regularity and at one point went 89 straight batters without issuing a walk. Sure, he gave up zero home runs, which wasn't going to continue, but Ely was solid in those first seven games.
After that, Ely snowballed downhill, getting hit hard, which led to more nibbling around the strike zone, falling behind in counts, having to throw more strikes in hitter's counts, and getting hammered some more. It was termed by Joe Torre as a defensive approach to pitching, which allowed hitters to wait on, and tee off on Ely's fastball.
But even with the poor finish, Ely still had a nice season. His peripherals were good, and his 4.38 FIP, 4.24 xFIP, and 4.65 tERA are about what you would expect from a major league fifth starter. That he was something like eighth on the depth chart last year, and that he is seventh at best on the depth chart at the start of this season makes Ely is valuable asset for the Dodgers.
Ely pitched six innings or longer in each of his first seven games; only Don Sutton, with eight, started his Los Angeles Dodger career with more consecutive six-plus inning performances. Ely also pitched a perfect game while at Homewood-Flossmoor High School in Illinois.
With 101 days of service time, Ely has three more seasons of team control, making somewhere near the league minimum of $414,000. Barring injuries, Ely will start 2011 in Triple A, and be available should the Dodgers need a starter in a pinch. Ely has two option years remaining.
|2011 Projections - Age 25 Season|
The Dodgers have as deep of a pitching staff, at the start of a season, as I can remember, but even the best laid plans often go awry. Baseball teams never use just five starters, and most often use eight or more starters in some capacity. If Vicente Padilla is used in short relief outings, it may take a week or so to get his arm built up to be able to start should the Dodgers need him, so Ely could get the call if another starter goes down.
For your Ely predictions, be sure to also include his innings pitched, in addition to his ERA and WHIP. My guess is a 4.58 ERA and 1.271 WHIP in 39 1/3 innings for Ely in 2011.