Tuesday, 22 September 2009

How Jacoby became the 2nd best leadoff man in baseball

All Jeters aside, Jacoby Ellsbury has slowly, quietly emerged as the best leadoff hitter in the AL East - and frankly, if you can make it in the AL East you can make it anywhere (n.b. the opposite is also true; success outside the AL East does not mean success in the AL East - for every Teixeira there is a Burrell).

The rub against Ellsbury has often been that he is vastly over-rated defensively, and yes, there is a great deal of truth to that. For every web-gem there are at least as many instances where, in an attempt to achieve the spectacular, singles become doubles, doubles become triples and so-on and so-forth.

Ellsbury is also considered a weak throwing CF. Again true, but while no-one is confusing him with the likes of BJ Upton or Michael Cuddyer, he is an infinite improvement on Johnny Damon, a man who's inability to throw like one is the stuff of legend (and legendary t-shirts).

The final downside frequently pointed to when it comes to Ellsbury's worth is his impatience at the plate. While its true that having (as of 22/09/09) at .354 OBP to a .303 BA is not exactly stellar it is exactly the same OBP that the more celebrated Brian Roberts is producing and is within .010 of the likes of Carl Crawford.

Right, enough downside.

Ellsbury has 63 SB on the year! That is 4 clear of Crawford, and more that twice as many as Jeter, Hanley Ramirez and Ichiro.

Ellsbury has only struck out 65 times in 580 AB in 2009. That is less than Jeter (84 in 603), way less than Ramirez (95 in 540) and Roberts (99 in 588). Ellsbury has struck out exactly the same amount of times as Ichiro yet has walked 12 times more.

If this wasn't impressive enough Ellsbury is only 26. While his power numbers are currently negliable they may still develop, a la Chase Utley. The idea of Ellsbury as a .300+/.375 guy capable of 20HR 75RBI a year is not beyond the realm of immediate possibility. Add that to the 70+ SB the guy will continue to produce barring injury then you have the most exciting, and perhaps the most valuable leadoff man in baseball today.

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