Jacoby Ellsbury at a Crossroads

Joe Sheehan thinks young Jacoby Ellsbury’s struggles of late are revealing a weakness in his skill set (Subscription Required):


The Red Sox lost 5-4 to the Rays
last night, falling a game and a half behind the team with the best
record in baseball. (More on them tomorrow.) The Sox lost in part
because Jacoby Ellsbury
failed to reach base in four plate appearances. The game continued what
is a brutal slump for Ellsbury; he has not reached base more than once
in any game since June 15, and his June numbers make Juan Pierre look like…OK, a slightly better Juan Pierre: .245/.265/.327, with 20 strikeouts against three walks.


I want to go back to a piece
I wrote a week ago for CBS Sportsline, which hosts the AL Tout Wars
league. In the piece, I describe a trio of trades I made in an attempt
to salvage my season, and I include the following note:


There’s something else going on here as well. I am utterly convinced
that I got the meat of Ellsbury’s season. His peripherals have spiraled
downward in June, and he has so little power than I suspect pitchers
are starting to just knock the bat out of his hands. With fewer times
on base, and what will probably be a tendency to steal less as the
season wears on, I strongly suspect that Ellsbury won’t get to 60
steals this year. I feel like I traded him at a high point.

Sheehan doesn’t think this means Ellsbury is not going to live up to expectations. Instead, he thinks this is a critical time in the young player’s career. Will he be able to make the adjustments necessary to be the next Johnny Damon. Or is he trending to Melky 4th outfielder status?

28 comments… add one
  • This has been a disturbing trend (to some of us, anyway.) And this is a critical time in his development. To now, he’s been successful because there was no book on him, pitching-wise.
    Not true anymore. Pitchers have learned that if they bust him inside, they’ve got a better shot to get him out. If he can overcome it, he’ll be a very nice, if not better, leadoff hitter. If not, thank God we’ve still got Covelli.

    I'm Bill McNeal July 2, 2008, 1:33 pm
  • Jesus. It’s a month. Let’s calm down a little bit. As Yankee fans say “It’s only June”.

    Brad July 2, 2008, 1:37 pm
  • I was as high as anyone here regarding JE earlier in the season. But these recent trends are very worrisome. He’s doing nothing right with the bat and a lot wrong. It will be interesting to see his development, or lack thereof, the rest of this season.
    The subtle jab at Melky is still too soon, however. He’s a year younger. The Yanks should probably send him down however. He’s not going to get his swing right by sitting on the bench because right now he doesn’t belong in the starting lineup.
    And that speaks to a larger point: Why are teams afraid of sending down young position players who struggle? It used to be a staple. Now it’s thought they can work through the difficulties. Except when they don’t…

    A YF July 2, 2008, 1:38 pm
  • I just think he’s trying to hit for more power than he has. Not that he can’t hit it out, but he has lengthened his swing and tries to crush everything. His swing was so short and sweet, and he forced IFers to be perfect on every AB.
    He needs to get back to what he really is, and things will be fine.

    Brad July 2, 2008, 1:47 pm
  • agreed brad. this kid could get his head straight by putting the ball on the ground and making fielders make plays. speed doesn’t slump.

    sf rod July 2, 2008, 1:49 pm
  • Brad, I hope you’re right.
    And you make a good point. With the exception of JD’s hot three weeks to start the month and Pedro’s recent hot streak, the Red Sox seemingly lived on their starting pitching in June. The offense has really struggled lately, Manny been cold, Jacoby’s been cold, there’s been no Papi. Youkilis has been spotty. Tek has been downright awful at the plate (two ABs last night, six pitches, 2 Ks.)
    And the bullpen has been atrocious when it needs outs. Really, it’s a wonder the team isn’t behind NYY in the standings.
    But the reason for, the raised eyebrows about Jacoby is that we have no book on him. He hasn’t proved he can hit his way out of a slump like Pedroia did last year and again this year.

    I'm Bill McNeal July 2, 2008, 1:51 pm
  • “I just think he’s trying to hit for more power than he has. Not that he can’t hit it out, but he has lengthened his swing and tries to crush everything. He needs to get back to what he really is, and things will be fine.”
    In other words, Corey Patterson.

    I'm Bill McNeal July 2, 2008, 1:52 pm
  • The problem is, like Melky, he’s hurting the team. They would do better to send him down and let him work it out there.
    I still think a benching for Melky is coming. The whole bringing up Justin Christian to only send him down again for Gardner smacks of the manager and GM not being on the same page. The former made sense if they needed an extra OF. The latter seemed to indicate a need for a full-time OF. They’ve been pretty committed to making sure Gardner gets regular ABs. Girardi seems to be on the Torre schedule for getting on board with organizational decisions (see how long it took for Melky to become the CF).

    A YF July 2, 2008, 1:52 pm
  • The problem is, like Melky, he’s hurting the team. They would do better to send him down and let him work it out there.
    I agree, I’d like to see him sent down to regain his old batting style. The problem is that Tito will want to stick with his guns, especially after his patience paid off with Pedroia last year.

    Atheose July 2, 2008, 1:56 pm
  • “Really, it’s a wonder the team isn’t behind NYY in the standings.”
    Well, they aren’t missing 3/5’s of their starting rotation for 1/2 of the year. And Papi = Matsui at this point, except Matsui was having a significantly better year.

    A YF July 2, 2008, 1:56 pm
  • .324 .765
    .313 .681
    .338 .724
    .339 .778
    .379 .856
    .382 .877
    These were Johnny Damon’s OBPs and OPSs his first SIX seasons in the Majors, from ages 21 through 26. And Johnny Damon is a great ballplayer — Ellsbury would be damn lucky to be 90% the player that Damon has been, and even then he’d be a long-term major leaguer playing at a high level, a complete rarity.
    I am worried about Ellsbury for all the reasons that are obvious, but this is the “critical time” in his career? That’s overstating the case, even as his struggles show him to be a player in need of maturing. It doesn’t happen overnight, and Jacoby deserves time, not ridiculous pressure.

    SF July 2, 2008, 2:09 pm
  • And it’s not like the PawSox don’t have deserving reinforcements for LF. Between Van Every (.950 OPS in 262 ABs), Chris Carter (.858 OPS in 314 ABs), and Jeff Bailey (1.003 OPS in 283 ABs), the Sox have OF help for at least a two week mL stint for Ellsbury.
    We already know the Yanks have Christian and Gardner.

    A YF July 2, 2008, 2:14 pm
  • Except Damon was playing for the Royals – not a team hoping to contend. And each year (save that first of 188 ABs) he showed marked improvement. Furthermore, by age 24 (Ellsbury’s now), Damon already had two years under his belt.
    Damon isn’t “great” unless you mean by “great” you mean “league average” (career 103 OPS+).

    A YF July 2, 2008, 2:20 pm
  • I agree A, but two of those there are more helpful not pitching than they are pitching. I refuse to believe that Hughes or Kennedy would have been as good as Rasner has been. Wang, of course, hurts. Also, Joba has pretty much eliminated the need for one of them.

    Brad July 2, 2008, 2:48 pm
  • They’re not sending him down for a bad month. Not when he’s about fourth on the list of stuggling players right now. I say let him play everday, and damn the consequences.

    Brad July 2, 2008, 2:50 pm
  • And, Tito has shown that he has unrivaled loyalty to stick with guys through bad months. He’s not going anywhere right now, or any other time this year. They may bench him for awhile, but he’s not going back to RI anytime this year. They would trade him first if they’re rating of him gets that bad.
    He’ll figure it out – he has too much talent not too.

    Brad July 2, 2008, 2:53 pm
  • “I refuse to believe that Hughes or Kennedy would have been as good as Rasner has been.”
    Then you haven’t been paying attention to Rasner’s recent starts. It’s a specious argument. This year was always about the future with the Yankees, and that future doesn’t include the DFA’d Rasner, Giese, or Ponson. Hughes and IPK would have been given a chance to work things out or they would have been sent down. But 60 IP, between the two, doesn’t make a season. And now the Yanks have no choice.
    By the same logic, though, you should be cheering when Colon returns since he’s obviously that much better than Masterson and Buchholz.

    A YF July 2, 2008, 3:00 pm
  • “Not when he’s about fourth on the list of stuggling players right now.”
    But could they actually demote the other three?
    “I say let him play everday, and damn the consequences.”
    The consequences could mean a playoff spot (see also Melky and the Yankees). That would be a shame with that starting pitching.

    A YF July 2, 2008, 3:03 pm
  • When did I mention Colon, Masterson or Buchholz, A? I just said that Kennedy and Hughes were downright terrible, and Rasner was at the other end of the spectrum.
    But yes, I am happy that Colon was pitching well – I’d rather keep minor league pitcers there until they’re ready..not way before, because that leads to, well, disappointment and injuries and mental issues.
    My only point was that you can’t claim the Red Sox aren’t behind the Yanks inthe standings because of the pitching issues in NY, when Rasner and Joba have been better than Hughes and Kennedy even thought about being – I never, ever said anything about their combined sixty innings being their season. I just pointed out that they’re better of now than they were then.

    Brad July 2, 2008, 3:10 pm
  • edit: better off now…

    Brad July 2, 2008, 3:14 pm
  • I hardly think that the Red Sox are going to miss the playoffs due to Jacoby’s bad June. I did say that if he doesn’t come around, they’ll bench him and use him as a defensive replacement for Manny and off and on player during the week, but they’re not going to demote him.

    Brad July 2, 2008, 3:16 pm
  • “When did I mention Colon, Masterson or Buchholz, A?”
    By the same standards you’re using, Colon would be a far, far better choice.
    And by Rasner, you do realize he’s at a 91 ERA+ and trending far downwards. Hughes threw 22 innings. IPK threw 38 innings. I can’t see how you’re making a rational comparison based on those samples.
    “I hardly think that the Red Sox are going to miss the playoffs due to Jacoby’s bad June.”
    You said:
    “I say let him play everday, and damn the consequences.”
    To me that means as long as the rest of the season.
    To be clear: How long are you willing to tolerate this level of “production” from him?

    A YF July 2, 2008, 3:26 pm
  • What is it about sprotswriters that make them discuss one bad month like it’s potentially the end of a career? You’d think they’d have learned from their writing off of Pedroia last April.
    It doesn’t help that this piece came out the day Ellsbury got three hits — all on the infield, yes, but that speaks to his enormous strength, one that I think will mitigate struggles as he matures.

    Paul SF July 2, 2008, 3:46 pm
  • “What is it about sprotswriters that make them discuss one bad month like it’s potentially the end of a career?”
    Having to file a story every day?

    A YF July 2, 2008, 3:51 pm
  • A, I wasn’t suggesting that Rasner is better than Hughes (I do however think he’s better than Kennedy), but AT THE TIME, he was pitching better than either of them, so for that short five or six starts, he was in fact better for the team than either of them.
    And yes, at this point, I think you ride Colon until that wave hits the shore because it allows you to have flexibility at the end of the season, when fresh arms are important. Having Colon up, and winning games for them, allows them to use Masterson as a starter and let him develop his game (I still believe that he’s further along than Buchholz, though about half as talented), and be in complete control over Buchholz innings pitched right now.
    Yes, I think Colon is better option. It allows for much more movement later. Perhaps they call up Clay, move Masterson to the pen, or v/v. Colon is doing exactly what the Red Sox want him to do. Not get shelled, and keep a seat warm for them to put Clay into later.

    Brad July 2, 2008, 4:00 pm
  • Not really any different than the Yankees having the ability to call up Hughes (if he can stay healthy for a month or so) and Kennedy later in the year, completely fresh, and ready to pitch.

    Brad July 2, 2008, 4:01 pm
  • The walks are really the big problem, too, which is why it’s odd for Sheehan to be discussing his power. Ellsbury was three hits in two fewer at bats away from replicating his .281 May batting average. If one of those hits was a double, he would have equaled his May output for extra-base hits. That’s the problem with looking at such a small sample. The only noticeable difference between April/May and June for Ellsbury is the drastic drop in his walk rate, which hopefully is a matter of making a few counteradjustments to the measures pitchers have taken against him.

    Paul SF July 2, 2008, 4:08 pm
  • Gardner starting in CF tonight. He’s not up to ride the bench. Funny that Cashman and Girardi had to work that out among themselves, and first by going through Christian. Torre had the same problem communicating with Cashman.

    A YF July 2, 2008, 4:50 pm

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.