Monday, December 27, 2010

Give 'em Ell 'sbury!

In case you're curious, I count pitches on both sides of the plate.

The signing of Crawford made Ellsbury one of the tradable guys in the majors:

  • He could start on most teams
  • He's cheap
  • The Sox don't really need him

  • Sure, both Cameron and Drew are injury prone. But Kalish is close and both Nava and Reddick can fill in nicely. And don't you think that the Sox could have gotten Grienke for Ellsbury, Doubront + someone?

    But I came to praise Ells, not to, um, bury him.

    Most Boston press has forecast the top of the order to be Ellsbury, Pedoroia, Crawford. That seems wrong to me. According to Keith Hernandez' excellent book, the lead-off position will come to the plate 50 more times than the number 2 position, in a given season. The leadoff will come to the plate 100 more times than the number 3 position.

    So your lead-off hitter really ought to earn those extra appearances. Does Ellsbury deserve 100 more than Crawford? Not a chance. You'd essentially be rewarding Ellsbury for being just as fast, but having less power. Frankly, I'd rather see Crawford lead-off and Ellsbury drop down to 9th.

    Right, right. Not to bury him.

    So if Ellsbury hasn't earned the lead-off spot in the past, why should I praise him? Here's why. From 2008 into 2009, he became more patient at the plate. Far more often, he ran the count full. Far more often, he took the first pitch for a strike. It didn't show up in his OBP, which remained 55 points above his batting average. But it showed up in his pitch count. If he becomes more choosy he will see the benefits for years to come.

    I'm looking forward to seeing Ellsbury's next full season. I don't think that we've seen his best yet.

    Incidentally, if the differential between batting average and on base is any judge of utility as a lead-off hitter, Crawford ain't so hot. He only gets 30 points. So who should lead off? How about anybody:

    Ortiz: 100-120
    Drew: 100-120
    Gonzales: 80-130
    Youk: 80-120
    Pedroia: ~80
    Cameron: 70-90
    Scutaro: 60-90
    Varitek: 60-80

    Truth be told, you probably care more about OBP than differential, but I think that most of these guys still look better than Ellsbury...


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