Case for A.J. Ellis

I’ll admit it (raises hand shamefully). I was NOT on the A.J. Ellis bandwagon when the season started. I figured he was the ultimate, lifetime backup catcher and that his pleas for playing time was a bunch of malarkey (I actually used to know someone with the last name Mularkey, so that word always weirds me out).

Watching Spring Training, I’d rue the day we ever set Russell Martin free to the Yankees. And then the 2012 regular season rolled around.

Did anyone in their right minds have A.J. Ellis as one of the best all-around catchers in baseball? If you said “Yes” just now, you are an evil and a heathen and you shall burn in Hellllllllsinki.

Yikes, that was harsh. I hear it’s cold there.

Anyway, as of the day this post is published (I say it that way, because technically I’m FINISHING it on Tuesday, May 22nd. Shhhhhh. But it’s posted as May 20th. Shut up.), Ellis is hitting .321 with a .446 on-base percentage.

Those numbers are good for third and first, respectively, among a loaded class of National League catchers. And the OBP isn’t even remotely close. We Dodger fans have gotten used to Ellis getting on base, one way or another. And he’s a major reason why we are holding the best record in baseball.

Having your number seven hitter getting on base nearly half the time he comes to the plate is an invaluable tool to a successful lineup. It’s a luxury most teams can’t claim, and never will. And despite the gaudy offensive numbers, and the fact that he has almost flawlessly handled the second-best pitching staff in the Majors…nobody knows who the hell A.J. is.

And we’ve all seen it a million times; that’s going to extend to the All-Star voting. With names like Yadier Molina, Brian McCann and Buster Posey, along with breakout seasons from Carlos Ruiz and Jonathan Lucroy, finding a spot on the National League team would be tough for Ellis.

But he absolutely deserves to go. And not in the “please let him in, he’s such a nice guy and he really wants it” type of way. He has played his way into a backup role on that team, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better role player to have on a squad that determines home-field advantage for the World Series.

I’ll tell you what – as a Dodger fan, with my team now a legitimate postseason threat, I feel a hell of a lot more comfortable with Ellis pinch-hitting in the eighth inning of a tie game in the All-Star Game with that home-field advantage on the line than McCann of the Braves and his .254 average.

But history and popularity says, McCann will be in Kansas City in July. Ellis will be at home, enjoying his days off.

Here’s my take on it:

Based on all-around game, Molina is the hands-down starter for the National League. He’s a four-time Gold Glover and now the best hitting catcher in the league (apologies to Ruiz, who is having a great season, but everyone outside of Philly knows this won’t last). McCann and Posey are the big names who should be left out because, though they are having solid seasons, have not been as good all-around as the other four. If three catchers go to the All-Star Game on the N.L. roster, I’m left with Molina, backed up by Ruiz, then Ellis.

If it’s two, I’m torn. Props to Lucroy for stepping up this season, but your 7-RBI game skews the power stats a bit. And you can’t handle the glove as well as my man A.J. While I’d love to see Ruiz earn that All-Star bid, how are you going to ignore a guy who has such a high OBP?

While it’s an unloved stat still, getting on base is the most important part of an offense. Here’s a simple formula for all you math duds out there like me: get on base, move to the next base, score more runs than the other team. That’s the basic idea behind baseball, and nobody is doing it better this year than Ellis.

I know this is a big ol’ waste of time, considering it’s going to be Molina, McCann and Posey in the All-Star Game. But these things must be blogged about, even if just so my poor little head doesn’t explode all over my laptop’s screen.

Just keep the numbers in mind when voting, and cast your vote for the Dodgers’ A.J. Ellis for the 2012 All-Star Game! Our team’s World Series home field depends on it!

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @Jamblinman

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