Friday, July 8, 2011

It's Been a Career Year

Sports Illustrated

Let's take a trip back in time to the beginning of the 2010 season. It was April 11th, and that night Jacoby Ellsbury collided into Adrian Beltre in foul territory. That collision ended up breaking some of Ellsbury's ribs, and he was out for the majority of the year. The injury was handled horribly, and because the team was very vague about the injury all year, people expected Ellsbury to come back all year. In the end, he ended up playing only 12 games the rest of the year. People around Boston started to question his toughness, and whether or not he was the right man to be playing center field for years to come in a Red Sox uniform.

Fast forward to July 7th, 2011. In the sixth inning, Jacoby Ellsbury put a charge into a ball that just stayed fair as it hooked around Pesky's pole, his eleventh homer of the season. Before this season, his previous career high had been nine. All around, Ellsbury has been putting up career numbers. His triple slash line of .310/.372/.483 are all career highs. He has been one of the biggest reasons for the team's offensive success this year. Everyone is talking about Adrian Gonzalez's 76 RBI this early in the season, but it couldn't happen without Ellsbury. RBI is somewhat a team stat, and Ellsbury getting into scoring position for the number three hitter is a huge part of it.

This season, Ellsbury has looked like a different guy, and was subsequently invited to his first All-Star game, a well-deserved accolade. At this point in the year, he is on pace for 20 home runs, 88 RBI, and 201 hits. As for the two stats that I put the most stock in for guys like Ellsbury, he is on pace for 114 runs and 52 stolen bases. All in all, he has had a great season, and has been slightly over shadowed by Adrian Gonzalez, who is putting on an offensive performance Boston hasn't seen since Manny Ramirez.

There have been a few reasons for Ellsbury's improvement over the season. Firstly, he is walking more than he ever has. He typically walks around 6% of the time, but in 2011 his walk rate has improved almost 8%. Surprisingly, he is also striking out more than he ever has, raising that number up to 15.2%. Still, his BB/K ratio is standing at 0.57, a rate that is consistent with the rest of his career. On balls in play, Ellsbury is hitting .340. That may seem like a high number, but speed guys like him typically have higher BABIP. It is probably due to come down a bit, but not to any extent that will drastically alter his numbers. Finally, one look at this batted ball percentages will tell you the biggest difference for Ellsbury this year. In his career, he has only hit line drives 19% of the time. However, this year his line drive rate has skyrocketed to 24.3%. It is a simple reason for why he is hitting at such a high average, and also partially explains his high BABIP. The more line drives you hit, the more likely that batted ball will fall in for a hit.

With all of this being said, one should expect a slight regression for Ellsbury in the second half, especially his power numbers. He already has a career high in homers, and I would expect him to regress to his typical rate, and finish with around 14-16 for the season. The big thing to look at will be his OBP, runs scored and stolen bases. Also, at the end of the year, see just how high Gonzalez was able to get his RBI total. If it stays at a ridiculous rate, Ellsbury will be at least part of the reason for that.

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