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Jacoby Ellsbury is ridiculous

Sep 14, 2011, 1:15 PM EDT

Jacoby Ellsbury Getty Images

The Red Sox were supposed to have three MVP candidates, but it’s down to one now: Jacoby Ellsbury went 4-for-5 with his third homer in six games and four runs scored in Tuesday night’s takedown of the Blue Jays, raising his average to .321.

The 28-year-old Ellsbury is up to fifth in the AL in average, ninth with a .380 OBP and sixth with a .546 slugging percentage.  He’s second with 108 runs scored, ninth with 27 homers, ninth with 94 RBI and fourth with 36 steals.  He’s now tied with Gonzalez for the AL lead with 321 total bases.

Ellsbury is seven steals behind the Yankees’ Brett Gardner, so it doesn’t look like he’ll become the first player since Ty Cobb with the 1911 Tigers to lead his league in both total bases and steals.  However, he’s on pace to become the 18th player in major league history with at least 350 total bases and 30 steals and possibly the 10th to have that many total bases and 40 steals.  The last two with 350 total bases and 30 steals were Jimmy Rollins and Hanley Ramirez in 2007.  Alfonso Soriano actually did it three times: 2002, 2003 and 2006.

Ellsbury has been particularly amazing since the beginning of July, hitting .346/.403/.651 with 18 homers, 54 RBI and 53 runs scored in 63 games.   That’s be 47 homers, 139 RBI and 137 runs on a 162-game pace.

I don’t know if that makes him the AL MVP, but I think he’s joined Jose Bautista and Justin Verlander to form a trio that’s a clear notch above the rest of the pack.

  1. purnellmeagrejr - Sep 14, 2011 at 1:24 PM

    Some things you (or at least I) just can’t see coming (Cliff Lee a few years ago, for example.)

  2. Ben - Sep 14, 2011 at 1:34 PM

    Don’t forget his fantastic defense. By UZR and more traditional metrics.

  3. shaggylocks - Sep 14, 2011 at 1:34 PM

    I wish I could track down every idiot Red Sox fan who had access to an internet-enable computer last year and spent all of last season talking shit about Jacoby. I read some really horrible garbage in online comments about him, about how he’s soft and worthless and needs to be traded for a decent lefty reliever while he still has any trade value at all, etc. etc. etc. I’m always amazed at loud, aggressive short-sightedness of some baseball fans on the internet and on talk radio. I don’t think it even registers with them when they’re proven wrong.

    • JBerardi - Sep 14, 2011 at 2:17 PM

      The thing that really boggled my mind last year was how many people wanted to throw the “injury prone” tag on him. Most of those people still wouldn’t be walking right much less playing MLB baseball at an MVP level after getting trucked by Adrian Beltre the way he was…

      Oh, and Dan Shaughnessy is a horrible troll. But what else is new?

    • bigleagues - Sep 14, 2011 at 3:12 PM

      Very few baseball fans know how to critically look at the situation that Ellsbury endured last season – Red Sox fans included.

      Fans pick sides. And Ellsbury didn’t know how to properly defend himself with his words. There was a point last season when he held an impromptu press conference in the dugout, reading from notes he jotted on notebook paper.

      The Boston sports media framed that as a bizarre event and many of the halfwit fans took that as Ellsbury “making excuses”. Several in the media also kept suggesting that Ellsbury was getting heat from fellow teammates. Apparently that was true, but not to the degree it was portrayed.

      In the end Ellsbury ended up being completely correct about his own injury and it was egg on the face for the otherwise well-respected Dr Gill. The whole debacle led to the Red Sox instituting a new policy on how to disseminate injury news.

    • md23rewlz - Sep 14, 2011 at 6:54 PM

      To be fair, there was absolutely nothing in Ellsbury’s career to indicate that this season would happen. In the two full seasons (minus a few games) that he played with Boston in 2008 and 2009, he was an average player. OPS of .729 and and .770 respectively, almost no power (nine home runs and eight home runs respectively), etc etc. I am not a Boston fan, but if he had been traded last year, I doubt ANY Boston fan would really have been in an uproar over it. Again, the guy was just an average player with great speed. There were no indications that this season was going to happen. I guess if you want to say that the naysayers were “proven wrong,” then you can, but at this time last year, what would have been more logical to say, that Ellsbury was an average player with injury concerns, or that he would put up an MVP-caliber season? If you had said the latter, you would have been riding on wishful thinking that just so happened to come through. If you had said the former, you would be basing it on numbers and career performance. What’s the more logical argument? That he’s had a breakout year doesn’t change the fact that this season came out of nowhere. Long story short, I have absolutely no problem with anybody who wanted to trade Ellsbury last year. They wanted to trade him for a reason. Good for him to have the season he’s had, but let’s not pretend that we all saw this coming. Almost nobody did.

      • bigleagues - Sep 14, 2011 at 7:16 PM

        I pretty much disagree. Did I or others expect an MVP caliber season like this one from Ellsbury? Probably not. But the expectations going into last season had most people expecting something along the lines of .300, 15-20HR, 100R, 50SB.

        The Red Sox had no problem moving on from Johnny Damon in 2006 because, in large part, they had drafted Ellsbury and viewed him as Damon 2.0 (with a little more speed and an adult male arm from the OF).

        And sure enough Ellsbury arrived at the end of 2007 with a thunderous entrance – hitting .353 with a .902 OPS over the final 33 Games of the regular season. Francona used him sparingly in the Division series and ALCS – before starting him all 4 games in the WS – in which he hit .438 with an 1.188 OPS over 18 PA in 4 Games.

        If anything, 2008 & 2009 were a let down from his 2007 debut (aside from the SB’s) and the hype generated by folks around the Sox. A couple of sportswriters I know were also very high on him after seeing him in the minors and talking with Scouts.

        I think we as average fans often get caught up in minor league numbers and forget that Scouts and coaches are far better at projecting a guys abilities than simply looking at the minor and early ML performance stats.

      • md23rewlz - Sep 14, 2011 at 8:02 PM

        Several points: First, you and I both know that thirty-three games in a rookie year when pitchers haven’t looked at film is a horribly small sample size. There have been a million players who have come up, played well for a stretch, and been nothing more than league-average for their careers, if not worse. To say that thirty-three games should be comparable to two almost completely full seasons when judging a player just doesn’t make sense. I’m not denying that people were high on him when he came up (he was thrown around in the Santana trade talks). I’m saying that he had seemingly established himself as who he was by 2010. He was league-average. Nothing in his numbers indicated a significant jump. Scouts and coaches love tons of guys who bust, too. The list of top prospects who ended up busts is a long, long list. That he’s breaking out now doesn’t vindicate anybody. It’s just evidence that nobody has any clue in baseball. I didn’t hear any scouts or MLB-insiders trumpeting Ellsbury during spring training. Instead, everybody was questioning whether Carl Crawford would make him expendable. I don’t think the people who doubted Ellsbury were “wrong.” Their doubts were based on numbers and based on injuries. They were based on legitimate concrete evidence. What else are we supposed to base our opinions on? Intuition? Are we seriously not allowed to discount any highly hyped younger player who has had multiple average years in the league simply because there’s a chance that they could maybe possibly at some point in time eventually have a good year? I refuse to be shamed for believing Ellsbury was an average player. He’s having a great year, but I was not “wrong.” My judgment in spring training was based on the career numbers he had compiled.

  4. jkay123 - Sep 14, 2011 at 1:38 PM

    so the pedroia for mvp talks have stopped? If cano has a strong couple of weeks it might come down to him and ellbsury. If granderson can get hot as well because he can potentially lead the majors in runs, rbis and homers.

    Ellsbury is having a ridiculous season though and keeping his team in it especially with pop while guys like agone have lost a lot of that in the second half.

  5. cur68 - Sep 14, 2011 at 1:55 PM

    Ellsbury just feasts on mediocre pitching and mistakes. He’s right on top of the plate and barrels up anything in the zone or up and away. The Blue Jays and their limp bullpen had nothing to counter him with last night and Morrow’s only chance, IMO, was to just hit him and put him on. That way he might back off and disrupt his rhythm. Of course Morrow’s control was so bad he would probably miss whatever part of Elssbury’s body he was soft tossing at.

    Meanwhile, today, it’s Lackey’s turn to see what he can do with the Beaver Men. So far 2 – 0 Beaver Wranglers, bottom of 1st @ Fenway. Lackey’s been unlucky with balls in play and at least 1 called ball that was a strike. Ellsbury up 1st to face Romero.

    • cur68 - Sep 14, 2011 at 2:36 PM

      Looks like throwing at him is what Romero had in mind. Up twice, and both times an inside pitch he had to duck or dodge. Shoulda hit him on the 2nd go; he hit a triple. Guy’s inhuman.

    • bigleagues - Sep 14, 2011 at 3:15 PM

      Oh, John Lacking.

    • cur68 - Sep 14, 2011 at 4:18 PM

      Just to rehash an old argument; running into the catcher/blocking the plate. Lawrie trucked Varitek, was out & is now likely injured & out of the game. Had he slid wide, he had a lane, left by Tek; probably would have had a better chance to be safe. Now a major offensive/defensive force for the Jays is listed as day to day with a ‘contusion’. Great. Just effin great.

      • proudlycanadian - Sep 14, 2011 at 4:42 PM

        I was out so I missed the play, however the Jays and Romero won. They just love facing Bard.

      • cur68 - Sep 14, 2011 at 5:07 PM

        Yup. A wins a win. Next up the Mighty Mighty Yankees and the great pale dugong known as Bartolo’s Colon v the delivery of Brett “MuttonChops&FauxHawk” Cecil. I hope Lawrie’s in shape for that game. Gonna miss that D @ 3rd.

  6. Mark Armour - Sep 14, 2011 at 2:00 PM

    What is interesting (to me) about the Red Sox is that they have been pretty bad at using their money on free agent signings, but they have had extraordinary ability/luck in having their “good” prospects turning into superstars.

    Youkilis, Pedroia and Ellsbury (maybe Lester) are all at the very high end (or way off the high end) of the rosiest expectations from any prospect mavens at the time they were breaking in. This is not a criticism of the prospect mavens–I think it is a reflection of the Red Sox development staff and process, and perhaps the major league staff as well. Even most Red Sox fans felt (again, this is not a criticism, the fans were using the data available to them) that Youkilis would never hit for power, Pedroia’s swing would be exploited, Ellsbury was soft, had no plate discipline, and could not play center field. Saltalamacchia seems to be putting it together when he could not in two other organizations.

    A current example is Ryan Lavarnway, a catcher that many scouts say cannot catch. The Red Sox seem to think he can develop into a catcher. At this point, you kind of have to give them the benefit of the doubt I think.

    • JBerardi - Sep 14, 2011 at 2:30 PM

      Theo promised the “100 million dollar player development machine”. Well, you’re looking at it.

      Quick comment on Lavarnway. The Red Sox talk a lot about how much they value defense at catcher, but they’ve made remarkable little effort to actually get any defense at catcher. You can talk about Varitek’s pitching calling, but the guy is 58 years old at this point and he doesn’t have a lot of athleticism back there anymore. Victor Martinez has never been a good defensive catcher. Salty was always a bat-first guy who was getting over a case of the yips when they acquired him. They promoted Lavarnway and traded away Tim Federowicz, who many see as one of the top defensive catchers in the minors. They have a team-wide philosophy of ignoring runners on base. Basically, actions speak louder than words, and based on their actions, the Red Sox want a basher at catcher, defense be damned…

      • bigleagues - Sep 14, 2011 at 2:55 PM

        JBerardi

        A lot of what you say is true and I agree with. But Salty has made almost unbelievable strides defensively considering how he was viewed coming into this year. He has a .992 F%, his CS% is 31% and his RF/9 is right at league average.

        The reduced workload and pressure on the 39 year old Varitek has allowed him to have arguably his most productive season in 3 years.

        And I don’t know about you, but I’ll take 27 HR and 33 2B out of my catching tandem as long as they aren’t hurting me defensively.

      • JBerardi - Sep 14, 2011 at 4:31 PM

        “And I don’t know about you, but I’ll take 27 HR and 33 2B out of my catching tandem as long as they aren’t hurting me defensively.”

        What I’m saying is, the Red Sox will take that from their catchers even if they DO have to take a hit on defense. They won’t admit this publicly (which has to do with not exploding the mythology surrounding Captain Jason Varitek’s magical defensive skills), but again, it’s apparent from their actions.

      • bigleagues - Sep 14, 2011 at 7:28 PM

        I understand your point about Varitek, and I think most people do elevate him to a level of catching skill that he never played at. But I also think that only looking at his defensive metrics does not do him justice.

        His legend is born of meticulous preparation. It is something that Schilling marveled at, having said he’d never known a Catcher to study & strategize opposing hitters the way Tek did.

        Fundamentally, he sets up in the right spots, frames pitches exceedingly well and blocks balls. All of that may have come at the expense of arm strength and/or the ability to throw out runners the last several years – but I can tell you this . . . at no time until about 2008 did anyone in Boston wish they had a different Catcher.

        And now he and Gary Tuck’s tutelage have created something from nothing in Salty.

        That said, I acknowledge the Red Sox essentially punting on SB’s – but I doubt Theo would do that without the strong IF defense (save Lowrie) he strives to have in place each season.

    • bigleagues - Sep 14, 2011 at 2:44 PM

      Maybe Lester?

      Among Active Pitchers with at least 150 Starts Lester ranks:

      #1 in Career W/L% (2nd All-Time in Modern Era)
      #6 in ERA+
      #11 in K/9
      - Has a career WAR of 23.1 (tied with Lincecum and the Freak has started 1 more game than Lester).
      - Ranks 21st in Pitching Wins with 11.60 (and just a hair above Cliff Lee who has 96 MORE Career Starts).

      Other than that I agree with the rest of what you wrote!

      • Mark Armour - Sep 14, 2011 at 2:54 PM

        When I said “maybe Lester” I was not suggesting he was not a star. The issue is how far he exceeded expectations, so my comment had more to do with how well he was valued. A lot of people thought Lester would end up being a top-flight pitcher when he was in the minors.

        Thinking it through, the doubts about Lester began after he made it to the majors. Despite battling cancer and still pitching effectively in the majors in 2006 and 2007, there was a lot of disappointment among fans until early 2008 when he threw he no-hitter.

      • bigleagues - Sep 14, 2011 at 7:38 PM

        Mark,

        Fair enough.

        I have to say I have learned something the last few days in a couple of Red Sox themed posts – the perception of Red Sox players outside of Boston can be far different than what we know about them in Boston. I guess that can be true in a lot of places . . . but a lot of people seem surprised about Ellsbury and Pedroia – when the Sox never wavered in stating that they believed both were top flight Major Leaguers.

        And I guess that could also be the result of Lowell, Portland and Pawtucket all being within the New England ecosystem.

        I’ll agree to being as surprised as anyone about Youk though. I saw him play several times in the minors. And I never once thought he’d be more than a decent hitting starting 2B or a good utility player. And almost no one disagreed with that assessment. In fact Youk has stated that he took advantage of every trip to the ML club to learn and improve – and without that experience and very gradual rise to the Majors he wouldn’t have been the player he has been.

    • bigleagues - Sep 14, 2011 at 2:56 PM

      The Red Sox seem to think he can develop into a catcher.

      Or Papi’s replacement.

  7. southpaw2k - Sep 14, 2011 at 2:03 PM

    Oh, so THAT’S what you mean by including a guy “in the conversation” of being named MVP!

  8. yankeesgameday - Sep 14, 2011 at 2:13 PM

    Whatever, I predicted Ellsbury would be in the mvp hunt on my defunct blog back in spring training and was roundly mocked. I’m frakking Kreskin compared to all these “baseball” folks.

    http://baseballgameday.blogspot.com/2011/03/red-sox-vs-detroit-summary-and-ellsbury.html

  9. stoutfiles - Sep 14, 2011 at 2:22 PM

    8 planets to collect!

    Tatooine
    Death Star – (Interceptor is bad choice, they weren’t used till VI.)

    and predictions:

    Bespin – (Mini Cloud Car and Cloud Car pilot)
    Hoth – (Mini AT-AT and AT-AT pilot)
    Endor – (Mini AT-ST and AT-ST pilot)
    Dagobah – (Mini X-wing and training Luke)
    Yavin IV – (Mini Y-wing and Rebel Pilot
    Alderaan – (Mini Tantive IV and Antilles)

  10. daisycutter1 - Sep 14, 2011 at 2:47 PM

    I’m not sure how to ask this without sounding accusatory, so I’ll just keep it open-ended and hope that a Sox fan or someone who’s followed Ellsbury’s career can answer…

    Where did Ellsbury’s power this year come from?

    His OBP is a little higher than recent years, but his SLG is far higher…except for a few AA games in 2007 and his brief stint after being called up to the big club late that same season. And, he blew out his back last year, right?

    Is it a new stance? Did he change his approach at the plate?

    • yankeesgameday - Sep 14, 2011 at 3:04 PM

      You don’t need strength to hit home runs. You need bat spee, a great eye to square up the ball and the right kind of arc to your swing to get a little lift. Ellsbury always had all of that but he has finally stayed healthy and has now been around the league long enough where he knows the pitchers.

      Add experience to his natural tools and hard work and it was inevitable he would have this power surge.

    • bigleagues - Sep 14, 2011 at 3:04 PM

      He had a repeated trouble with a broken rib that was never allowed to heal properly. and trying to return too quickly (allegedly a pace that was set by Red Sox team doctors and at odds with how Ellsbury felt – and eventually Ellsbury’s own handpicked Dr.) set off a chain of events that resulted in the rib basically breaking again.

      The power comes from his ridiculously lean body and his exceptionally quick stroke through the strikezone. He is bigger than he looks at about 6’1″ and 185 lbs.

      He is a classic case of someone who doesn’t look to hit it out of the park, rather he looks to drive the ball in hopes of finding a gap or part of a wall so he take advantage of his speed. He was projected as someone with the ability to hit .300 and hit 20 HR.

  11. pisano - Sep 14, 2011 at 5:53 PM

    I’ll say one thing, if Boston’s going to keep him he’s gonna cost a ton of money. I’ll bet the other teams are hoping to swoop in on him when he’s a free agent. He’s a real game breaker, this guy does it all. Good luck Jacoby, life is going to be very very good to you.

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