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Jacoby Ellsbury likely to bat leadoff this season

Mar 19, 2011, 1:27 PM EDT

Boston Red Sox' Ellsbury hits a home run against the Detroti Tigers during the fourth inning of their MLB spring training baseball game in Lakeland, Florida

Jacoby Ellsbury entered spring training with a little something to prove after being limited to just 18 games last season due to fractured ribs. Fortunately for the Red Sox, he’s been the best player in camp thus far.

Ellsbury is batting .429 over his first 35 at-bats this spring, leading the team in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, hits, total bases and runs scored.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona understandably likes what he’s seeing. He told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe this morning that Ellsbury will likely bat leadoff this season.

Some have argued that the Red Sox would be better served to use Dustin Pedroia out of the leadoff spot since he gets on base more often than Ellsbury. Under this scenario, the Red Sox would have Pedroia, Carl Crawford, Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz in the first five spots of the batting order with Jacoby Ellsbury functioning as a second leadoff hitter of sorts out of the No. 9 hole. Assuming the Red Sox have Ellsbury lead off most of the time, we’ll likely see Pedroia second, followed by Crawford, Gonzalez, Youkilis and Ortiz.

One thing’s for sure, you won’t find any managers who have pity for Francona. This lineup has a chance to be a juggernaut, no matter who bats where.

  1. Ari Collins - Mar 19, 2011 at 1:44 PM

    Since Francona really likes alternating lefties and righties, I’d guess we’ll see something like this:

    1 Ellsbury L
    2 Pedroia R
    3 Crawford L
    4 Youkilis R
    5 Gonzalez L
    6 Ortiz L
    7 Scutaro/Lowrie R/S
    8 Drew L
    9 Saltalamacchia S

    It’s impossible to entirely avoid having two lefties in a row in this lineup, though if Francona REALLY wants to mitigate the platoon advantage he could swap 6 and 7 and swap 8 and 9, which pushes the L-L combo to further down the lineup and to hitters that aren’t that great anyway. But I doubt he wants Scutaro batting before Ortiz, so that’s unlikely.

    All of this is guesswork, of course, and ultimately, as you said, doesn’t matter much.

    • Kevin S. - Mar 19, 2011 at 2:02 PM

      Or Carl Crawford could stop being a bitch about leading off, allowing them to go Crawford/Pedroia/Gonzalez/Youk/Drew/Ortiz/Scutaro/Ellsbury/Saltalamacchia. Ellsbury isn’t nearly good enough to hit near the top of this Red Sox lineup.

      • Ari Collins - Mar 19, 2011 at 2:06 PM

        Agreed. But given that that’s not happening, and the general rules of lineup construction that managers follow, we’re stuck with Ellsbury leading off.

        Crawford batting 3rd isn’t bad, though, since 3rd is actually NOT a premium spot, despite what most people think. It’s perfect for someone who’s a very good but not great hitter.

      • Kevin S. - Mar 19, 2011 at 3:18 PM

        I agree as well, and slotted Gonzo in there more because I was assuming we had to work to minimize L/R hitting back-to-back. Another option if we relaxed that, though, would be Crawford/Youk/Drew/Gonzo/Pedroia/Ortiz/Scutaro/Ellsbury/Salty. While Gonzo and Drew both show splits, it’s not like they’re incompetent against lefties – both remain above-average hitters.

      • trevorb06 - Mar 19, 2011 at 5:45 PM

        Good job reading Kevin. This did infact say that Ellsbury was basically going to be the lead off guy. Do you also think the Yankees are going to trade Joba for Felix Hernandez straight up?

      • Kevin S. - Mar 19, 2011 at 6:53 PM

        Good job reading yourself. Ari and I were discussing what we felt would be the best Sox lineups, not what they’d actually do. Ellsbury hitting up top is bowing into the conventional wisdom of “lead off with a no-power speedster.” That doesn’t mean it’s the best move for the Sox.

  2. yankeesgameday - Mar 19, 2011 at 2:38 PM

    Here is the thing about Ellsbury… he was hurt last year so we forget what a potent weapon he is.

    If he can stay healthy all year at the top of what could be the best 1–5 hitters in all of baseball (tied or better than the Yanks) I think he can score 120+ runs, bat well over .300, steal 70 bases again and reach 80+ RBI.

    I started talking about this a week or so ago… His defense is amazing and so I think if Ellsbury can manage to hit more Home Runs this year, think 20. I think he will be in the conversation for MVP. Will he win it? Probably not, but I think he might wind up being in the conversation if Francona bats him leadoff everyday.

  3. yankeesgameday - Mar 19, 2011 at 2:41 PM

    And also… did you see the ESPN 2 game last week betwen the Yanks and Red Sox when Bobby Valentine fumbled on about how Boston fans could never accept Crawford as the #3 hitter because he doens’t fit the IMAGE of Ted Williams or Carl Yastremski?!

  4. Ari Collins - Mar 19, 2011 at 2:56 PM

    Do you ever post anything that’s not about a blog post you made? Bad form, my friend.

    • yankeesgameday - Mar 20, 2011 at 5:12 PM

      I do post plenty of things that aren’t about other blog posts I wrote. And what you won’t know is that I actually checked with Craig in a personal email before I ever started with any links. He said it was cool as long as it was on the topic of the post (which I always stay) and that I don’t over do it… which I really don’t. My only interests are the Yankees, and in a slightly broader sense, the Red Sox, which should make sense to you as it affects the Yanks.

      I don’t go trolling through every post on this site with links randomly. If something comes up that I am already working on Craig said it’s cool if I include a link with my comment. No one is remotely obligated to click anything unless they are interested in what I have said or want a longer addition to the conversation. I have been an active commentor on this site for well over a year, maybe even two years, I can’t remember how long Hardball Talk has been around, but I was here when it was called Circling the Bases.

      I have found that I have more to say than should fit in a normal comment so I started keeping track of things in a blog. I am sorry if you think I am trolling, it is certainly not my intent. And as I mentioned I did ask Craig if he’d mind before I ever started. I am happy to stop.

      • Ari Collins - Mar 20, 2011 at 6:27 PM

        Oh, man, okay, that’s cool. Thought you were just a troll! Carry on, then.

  5. Ari Collins - Mar 19, 2011 at 3:34 PM

    Dave Cameron posted an optimized lineup just yesterday:

    Agree with ESPN’s disclaimer that there’s no way Francona goes with this, but it is a pretty good lineup.

    • Kevin S. - Mar 19, 2011 at 3:38 PM

      Yeah, I know. Just can’t get past the mental block of J.D. Drew leading off, which is weird, because I totally applauded Tito when he stuck Youk at the top of the lineup a couple years ago (well from an objective standpoint anyway – the Yankee fan inside me died a little).

      • Ari Collins - Mar 19, 2011 at 3:54 PM

        I remember him leading off for stretches before, though I couldn’t tell you when or for how long.

    • D.J. Short - Mar 19, 2011 at 4:14 PM

      Interestingly, the only places in the lineup where Drew has had less plate appearances than the leadoff spot are the eighth and ninth spots in the order.

  6. wickedworld123 - Mar 19, 2011 at 6:53 PM

    This lineup is gonna be a nightmare for RHP…

  7. Jack Marshall - Mar 20, 2011 at 11:27 AM

    Gonzo should bat 3rd…get his OBA up front. And he hits lefties very well…he might as well be a righty. I’d have Adrian third, Youk 4th, then Crawford and Papi. Lowrie should DH against lefties anyway.

    • Ari Collins - Mar 20, 2011 at 3:38 PM

      3rd actually makes the least impact among the top-of-the-order spots. This is because in the first inning, they very often come up in low leverage spots. Nobody on and two out is very common, as is one on, one out. They rarely come up with two on and nobody out, and there are some very high leverage situations they (obviously) NEVER face, like the bases loaded, or leading off the inning. Sure, they might come up in better situations later in the game, but ~20% of their PAs are in low leverage situations.

      Hopefully someone very-good-but-not-great hits 3rd, like Pedroia, Ortiz, or Crawford. If Adrian or Youk hits there regularly (which could well happen), it’ll cost Boston some runs.

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