Ellsbury's time to stand up and deliver

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. 

Thinking more specifically about recent Red Sox history and the potent offenses past, there have been players within the lineup to hit each of these roles. From Johnny Damon to David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, rounded out with batting champions like Bill Mueller bringing up the tail, the "post-Theo" lineup has been as potent as any in baseball.

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.

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. 

Thinking more specifically about recent Red Sox history and the potent offenses past, there have been players within the lineup to hit each of these roles. From Johnny Damon to David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, rounded out with batting champions like Bill Mueller bringing up the tail, the “post-Theo” lineup has been as potent as any in baseball.

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

8 Responses to “Ellsbury's time to stand up and deliver” Subscribe

  1. Ted July 21, 2009 at 6:22 AM #

    Ellsbury's biggest problem is his inability or perhaps unwillingness to shorten his swing with 2 strikes. He should be using his speed to become a tougher out, put the ball on the ground and pressure the defense, foul off more pitches… These are things good lead-off men do, but Ellsbury looks like he's swinging for the fences all the time, and as a result is constantly fishing for breaking balls in the dirt when he should be protecting the plate.

  2. Sean O July 21, 2009 at 6:27 AM #

    traaaaaade hiiiiiiiim.

  3. Anonymous July 21, 2009 at 8:22 AM #

    Ellsbury is a fine hitter and has done well in the bottom third. Leave him there.
    His speed is more valuable with non-sluggers batting behind him and his low OBP doesn't hurt the team's scoring. We don't need to give a low OBP guy the most plate appearances on the team.
    Put him in position to succeed. If he develops patience and OBP move him to the leadoff spot then if that is really his future with the team.

  4. Ted July 21, 2009 at 9:41 AM #

    I'd like to see more of what Baldelli could do with more starts in center.

  5. Dante July 21, 2009 at 11:17 AM #

    I usually dont agree with Sean O because I think he's irrationally negative for the most part
    but I wouldnt mind trading ellsbury either…if packaged with a high-ceiling pitching prospect, i wonder if he could net a Grady Sizemore type.
    maybe a stretch, but I think his trade value is prob high and I have doubts about him ever walking enough to be a consistent .370-.380 obp guy, which is where the sox need their leadoff hitter to be

  6. Ted July 21, 2009 at 12:43 PM #

    Ellsbury's trade value is likely not very high at all. The minor leagues are full of guys with great speed and good defense who can't get on base. How much would Willy Tavares, Willie Harris, Brett Gardener fetch in a trade? Not much. Ellsbury should be better than all of those guys, but he's not. If he did the things that would make him valuable in a trade, there would be no need to trade him.

  7. Ted July 21, 2009 at 1:00 PM #

    These are the guys we've got and probably the guys were gonna have for the playoff run, and either they'll adjust or the offense won't be enough. Bay is starting to look like little more than a mistake hitter. Just like Ellsbury, he can't seem to lay off breaking balls in the dirt, though he gets pitched on the outer half. The word is out on these guys and every pitcher in the AL smells blood in the water. They both need to shorten up the swings, hit some balls the other way and most importantly, protect the plate on 2 strikes.

  8. Dante July 22, 2009 at 10:44 AM #

    I agree that Ellsbury has been a disappointment offensively thus far in his MLB career
    but I wouldnt categorize him with willie harris, willy tavares or brett gardner..
    i do think the sox will need to upgrade their everyday lineup before next season, and if ellsbury can rebound this season to hit around .300 with a .355 OBP, play Gold Glove caliber defense in CF and steal 80 bases…i think he could be packaged with a top prospect to net a very good everyday player…maybe not a grady sizemore, but someone the sox can build around
    maybe like ellsbury and bowden to cincy (they dont seem to value OBP that much) for a Jay Bruce