Mark Ellis was a solid player with the Oakland A’s, although his career is relatively forgotten amongst the stars of recent history.
Despite the Oakland A’s run of success over the past 20 years, they still had periods where they struggled. In particular, the A’s from 2007 through 2011 were amongst the worst of that time frame, with their 81-81 record in 2010 the best of that era. It is a time that tends to be overlooked in the fandom, that time between the genius of MoneyBall and the current stretch of success.
During those first two seasons in 2007 and 2008, Mark Ellis was the A’s best player. He was considered a borderline All Star based on his bWAR, as he paced the team with a 4.8 and 4.0 bWAR respectively in those seasons.
While he was a solid hitter, a good portion of those marks came from his defense. Although he never won a Gold Glove, Ellis had five seasons where he was in the top five in defensive WAR in his career. He twice led the league in fielding percentage at second, and in 2005, led all AL second basemen with 11 runs saved.
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Ellis was also a solid hitter. Again, he never made an All Star team or won any major awards, but that does not detract from his production. He finished tenth in the AL with a .316 batting average in 2005, a year after missing the entire 2004 season with a torn labrum. Possessing decent power and speed, he produced a solid .265/.331/.397 batting line in his nine seasons with the A’s, hitting 204 doubles and 86 homers while stealing 62 bases.
With the A’s continuing to struggle in 2011, Ellis was traded to the Rockies. In return, the A’s received reliever Bruce Billings and outfielder Eliezer Mesa. Billings made just three appearances with the A’s, allowing nine runs, seven earned, on eight hits and six walks in five innings. Mesa never reached the majors, topping out in AA before he was let go.
In the end, Ellis was a solid player, the type that winning teams have on their roster. While he was never a star, he was the type of player that would have succeeded on a strong team, the perfect support player who did all the little things needed to win. The problem was that, when Ellis was in his prime, the A’s were not that type of team any longer. He was one of the better players on the roster, something that illustrated their struggles during that time.
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Mark Ellis was a better player than he may be remembered as. It was just that his peak came during a down time for the Oakland A’s.