2011 A's Retrospective #25: Mark Ellis
Speaking of traded A's who put in years of good work, here's Mark Ellis. As I'm sure you know, because you're a loyal reader, Ellis is my fifth-favorite Athletic position player of all time behind four big slow guys. He's a stylistic outlier on my list, with the only other guys approaching his profile being Mike Bordick and Jorge Velandia. (Lesson, I guess: slick-gloved infielders can get into my good graces if they're really slick-gloved.)
Unfortunately, Ellis had a crummy season. There were 36 second basemen in 2011 who came to the plate at least 300 times, and Ellis finished 34th in True Average. (If you raise the bar to 301 PA's, Ellis was 34th of 35 -- Wilson Valdez, one spot behind, garnered exactly 300 trips this year.) His glove remained apparently fine, coming out eight runs above average by Clay Davenport's figures and 4-5 above by Baseball Prospectus's FRAA, but when your offensive contributions can be fairly (and unfavorably) compared to Luke Hughes's, you'd better be Bill Mazeroski if you want to be a contributor. (Ellis arguably was Mazeroski earlier in his career, but it's likely that he's lost a step these days, though he remains as sure-handed as ever -- three errors in 636 chances is pretty boss.)
2011 was a disappointment, too, not just a bad year, because Ellis put up a .281 TAv in 2010, easily earning his $5.5M salary and making the decision to pick up his 2011 option a simple one. Nobody could (should) have reasonably expected a repeat of 2011, of course, but a year like 2008 (.250 TAv, the usual defense) might have been hoped for. Instead, Oakland got a .212 TAv and a June hamstring strain.
Still, the injury allowed Ellis to be Pipped by Jemile Weeks, who came up when Ellis went on the Disabled List and never went away again, even after Ellis returned from the hurt, rather than simply being shoved aside due to performance. It was as elegant a maneuver on Ellis's part, however unintentional it surely was, as any double play he turned in his nine-year tenure as Oakland's starting second baseman. I'm actually getting a little teary writing this, something I didn't do even when he was traded, because much as Ellis's body didn't let him be a constant on the A's, he was a constant on the A's (his injuries were just part of that constant), and I'll miss him.
He's signed an almost inexplicable two-year deal with the Dodgers in my adopted hometown, so I can theoretically see him as often as I want, but, as appropriate as it may be for the wee South Dakotan to be playing in
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