Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Around the Horn: Jacoby Ellsbury

For all of the female fans who cite Ellsbury as their favorite player because "he's, like, so dreamy," there are those of us who rank him somewhat lower, mostly for his inability to hit inside fastballs.  Seriously.  As petty as it seems, I admit to judging young women who call themselves fans and can only name one player on the entire team, and then often don't even know that he plays center field [and occasionally the other outfield positions].  Sorry... just had to get that pet peeve out there...

Anyway, in spite of Ellsbury's aforementioned problems with pitches in tight, I think his sophomore season will be an improvement over the 2008 campaign.  He has been working out at API with teammates Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, and Jed Lowrie, which means that at the very least he'll show up in twenty-six days [TWENTY-SIX DAYS!!!!] in great shape.  He has also said in interviews that he has been doing more baseball-specific training then he has in the past [hopefully this translates to spending the majority of each day in the cage].  Ellsbury's defense, while not normally as lauded as Coco Crisp's, has been very impressive thus far.  The man has yet to make an error in the major leagues, and has made some highlight reel catches, my personal favorite being that September game in Toronto when he made the catch and ran into the bullpen fence, knocking out his contact lens and delaying the game for several minutes [photo at top].

Despite flinging himself all over the field with such reckless abandon, Ellsbury played in more games [145] than anyone on the team except Pedroia [157] and Youk [145].  That said, Ellsbury's batting stats leave something to be desired: the .280 BA is respectable, but the OBP of .336 is lower than expected, as was the OPS of 87.  It was easy to forget that Ellsbury was a rookie in 2008, since he was such a big part of Boston's playoff success in 2007, hitting .438 in the World Series.

The most exciting thing about the young outfielder is, of course, his speed.  Ellsbury led the American League in stolen bases in 2008, with fifty, six more than BJ Upton, who came in second.  Just think what Ellsbury could do of he raised his OBP just 30 points [a reachable goal].  One of the most dynamic young outfielders in the game, Ellsbury looks to be entertaining the Fenway Faithful for the near future.

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