When you think of a high powered offense, a few traits often come to mind; a table setter, a professional hitter, power at the clean up spot, and depth at the bottom of the order.
Looking more closely at this season, the Red Sox offense has been a top five unit. Scoring 472 runs with a .792 team OPS is impressive, especially considering the slow start of David Ortiz, extended slumps by Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, and Jason Bay.
Looking up and down the lineup, the Red Sox have top ten OPS from all spots in the lineup aside from two. With David Ortiz’ monumental slump to start the season while in the three hole, it shouldn’t be a surprise that #3 is was one of the culprits.
The other culprit? The leadoff spot. I’m clearly not the first to point out the struggles the Red Sox have had at the leadoff spot this week and by no means do I want to rehash what others, more eloquent than I, have written on the subject.
“Entering Sunday, the average American League team was getting a .277 average, .349 OBP and .413 slugging mark from the leadoff spot this year. The Sox were well short of those marks, with a .258 average (8th among the A.L.’s 14 teams), .309 OBP (13th) and .357 slugging (13th) prior to Drew’s oh-fer on Sunday.”
Let’s just put it this way, Julio Lugo was the best leadoff hitter the Red Sox had this season. Albeit in only, three games, Lugo’s .500 OBP and 1.115 OPS…ok…I can’t even finish the sentence with a straight face…
The scary thing, it’s really not far from the truth. Jacoby Ellsbury handled the mantle out of the gate but the Red Sox were concerned with his .320 OBP. Ellsbury’s OBP is good for 36th out of the 40 batters who have had more than fifty at bats at the top of the lineup this season.
He’s not the mature hitter, taking pitches, working counts, getting on base that Johnny Damon was. That concern pushed Ellsbury to the bottom third of the line up where to his credit he’s done well (.286 BA, .361 OBP, .798 OPS).
Meanwhile, some good hitters…very good hitters…in Dustin Pedroia and J.D. Drew have out and out struggled in the leadoff spot since Ellsbury vacated it.
Last night, Ellsbury was slotted in the leadoff spot (0-2 at the time of this column’s writing). Given the consutruction of this lineup and the perception that others, namely Drew and Pedroia are better suited for previous spots in the batting order, the leadoff spot is Ellsbury’s to own.
As dynamic as Ellsbury is, and he was valuable in his time at the bottom of the order, Ellsbury’s future with this team resides in his value at the top of the order. Billed often early in his career as a replacement to Johnny Damon both in the field and at the top of the lineup, Ellsbury needs to live up to that billing and it starts now. If my read on the situation is accurate, Francona has given Ellsbury a little leash with this reign at the top. This is his time to prove that the top is where he belongs.
With the Red Sox offense slumping of late, there couldn’t come a better time for them to field their Opening Day starting nine for only the third time this season. But as important as a healthy cast of the expected characters is to the offense getting on a roll, Jacoby Ellsbury becoming the table setter may just be the secret to this offenses success.
Categories: Jacoby Ellsbury