Leg injuries played a part in a bad season for catcher A.J. Ellis, who struggled under the Mendoza Line all year before a strong October finish. While the new Dodgers front office brass try to figure out what they have in Ellis, here is a look back at his 2014 campaign.
What went right
Despite a rough season at the plate, Ellis managed to put up a career-high walk rate of 15.3 percent, walking 53 times in 347 plate appearances, well ahead of his 11.5 percent career rate coming into the season. Even stripping out intentional walks — Ellis hit eighth, just ahead of the pitcher, in 55 of his 89 starts — Ellis put up a walk rate in 2014 of 14 percent compared to 10.6 percent from 2008-2013.
Ellis put up a .426 on-base percentage in June, hitting .279/.426/.302 in 54 plate appearances.
He had a two-home run game down the stretch — see below — but it wasn't much of a trend, with a .583 OPS in September nearly identical to his .577 seasonal mark.
But Ellis came alive in the postseason, going 7-for-13 with a home run, a double and four walks in the NLDS against the Cardinals, hitting .538/.647/.846 in the four-game series. Ellis has an active 10-game postseason hitting streak, one shy of the Dodgers' record ... owned by Carl Crawford.
What went wrong
Ellis had a down year in three areas, with the latter two very likely related to the first.
The catcher missed 34 games in April and May after surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee, then missed 18 games on the disabled list in May and June after most unfortunately spraining his right ankle stepping on backup Drew Butera's mask while celebrating Josh Beckett's no-hitter.
Manager Don Mattingly thought the injuries played an effect in his catcher's poor season, and subsequent revival in the playoffs.
"A.J. had a tough year of getting his legs underneath him, as far as being able to continue to work, continue to do a maintenance program, continue to do his weights. So to me he didn't really have his legs all year long," Mattingly said during the NLDS. "Over probably the last probably eight weeks, six to eight weeks, he's been able to kind of continue to do a weight program, strengthening program where he's able to do his maintenance and to me that's why his swing just kind of is getting better and better."
Those injuries contributed to Ellis playing in just 94 games, by far the fewest in his three years as the Dodgers' primary catcher. There is a bad pattern in the number of starts behind the plate for Ellis beginning with 2012: 128 starts, then 109, then 89.
When Ellis did play, he wasn't very productive at the plate. He still walked but the power wasn't there. Ellis hit just .191/.323/.254 with three home runs and nine doubles in 347 plate appearances. His 68 OPS+ was tied for 18th-worst by a Los Angeles Dodger with at least 300 plate appearances in a season.
Ellis also devolved in throwing out runners, going from nailing 28 of 63 (44.4 percent), near the top of the National League in 2013, to throwing out just 16 of 64 (25 percent) trying to steal, below league average (27.9 percent) in 2014.
Salary: $3.55 million
Ellis had up to $150,000 in performance bonuses — $50,000 each for 110 and 115 starts, and 450 plate appearances — but reached none of them.
Game of the year
Ellis tied a career high with two home runs on Sept. 19 in Chicago, driving in four runs and scoring three times. He joined Roy Campanella (1950, with Brooklyn) as the only Dodgers catchers to hit two home runs in a game at Wrigley Field, and both of Ellis' career two-home-run games have been against the Cubs.
Ellis has four years, 151 days of service time and is eligible for salary arbitration. However, after a down season it is likely the Dodgers try to strike a deal with Ellis without a raise from the $3.55 million he made in 2014. He is projected by MLB Trade Rumors to earn $3.8 million through arbitration.
Otherwise, Ellis is a candidate to be non-tendered by the Dec. 2 deadline to tender 2015 contracts.