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Monday, May 21, 2012
Leaderboard of week: Patience is a virtue

By Mark Simon

The Dodgers have two megastars who dominate the NL leaderboards across multiple categories in Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw. But there is another Dodgers player who finds himself in some interesting leaderboard company -- catcher A.J. Ellis.

Ellis had his streak of 28 straight games reaching base safely come to an end in Sunday’s win against the Cardinals. That was tied for the third-longest such streak in baseball this season:

Elvis Andrus , Rangers, 32
Bryan LaHair, Cubs, 30
A.J. Ellis, Dodgers, 28
Joey Votto, Reds, 28
Curtis Granderson, Yankees, 28

Ellis’ 0-for-4 on Sunday dropped him into fifth place among the major league leaders in on-base percentage at .446, behind David Wright, Joey Votto, Paul Konerko and Kemp.

It’s impressive that he’s in that group, and what might be even more impressive is how he ended up in that group.

Ellis is hitting .315 in two-strike counts, the second-highest batting average in the majors behind Martin Prado’s .326.

The reason he finds himself in such counts is because he takes pitches more often than anyone else in baseball. Ellis has swung at 31.5 percent of pitches thrown to him. The next-lowest rate is Ben Zobrist’s 34.2 percent. Patience was a virtue on Friday when he drew a walk-off walk to beat the Cardinals.

Ellis has swung at the first pitch of a plate appearance only seven times out of 132 PAs, although he did swing at the first pitch twice in the series against the Cardinals.

Below is a grid that contrasts Ellis with one of baseball’s most notable free swingers, Josh Hamilton. Ellis might not be in Hamilton’s class, but he’s still enjoying a highly satisfying season.

AJ Ellis Heatmap
Compared to Josh Hamilton, A.J. Ellis shows patience even within the strike zone.