Wednesday, June 22, 2011

When Jacoby Figured It Out.



After hitting the scene in the 2007 Playoffs, Jacoby was an instant star. With his speed, good looks, and undeniable upside he seemed to be a force to be reckoned with. And after only playing 33 regular season games... he looked to be the favorite for '08 Rookie Of The Year.

Jacoby was off to a hot start in his first full year in the Big Leagues. Ellsbury hit .280 with 3 HR's and 8 Stolen bases (had still yet to be caught stealing). At the All-Star break he was hitting well with a .272 average, 88 hits, and had 35 stolen bases but something seemed to be missing. In the '07 Playoffs Jacoby was unstoppable, he hit .360 and had a 1-1 walk to strikeout ratio, and looked like the next Ricky Henderson, but maybe everyone expected too much too soon. While Jacoby finished 3rd in ROTY voting and put together a very good rookie season (98 runs, 155 hits, .280 BA, and lead the AL in steals with 50) it almost seemed like Sox fans expected more.

Going into '09 it seemed like it was time for Ellsbury to take that step forward and over the first two months he did. Through the first 49 games Jacoby would start 48. He was hitting .299, and looked to be on pace for his first 100 run/ 200 hit season (a benchmark for elite leadoff men.) Ellsbury would finish the season strong but would finish with 94 runs and 188 hits. The progress was their but the slight disappointment still lingered. He once again led the AL in steals, this time with 70, but it still felt like Ellsbury's ceiling wasn't even close to being reached.

2010 came along and all the same expectations were present in Red Sox Nation, only this year Jacoby would play in left field. In theory this was supposed to make room for former Gold Glover Mike Cameron, and save Jacoby's legs for baserunning (ALA Ricky Henderson). After a collision with Third Baseman Adrian Beltre just 6 games into the season, The Sox promising leadoff man found his way onto the DL. Ellsbury would return on May 22nd for just 3 games, then on August 4th for another 8, but on August 13th Jacoby's season would end with only 18 games played, in those injury plagued games he would fail to hit .200. Then after his teammates questioned his toughness and commitment to the team, many of the fans turned on him.

With the off-season signings of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, it seemed likely that Jacoby Ellsbury may be expendable. But GM Theo Epstein made it clear that Jacoby Ellsbury was still an important piece to the Red Sox future success, and despite doubt from all the usual doubters... looks like Theo was right again.

73 games into 2011 and Jacoby Ellsbury just may be the key to Boston's lead in the American League East. Everyone's fantasy puzzle is finally coming together: Jacoby gets on base, gets moved along or steals a bag, then the big bats drive him home. Jacoby has 92 hits, 52 runs, leads the AL with 24 stolen bases, and is hitting a career high .312. 2011 also looks to be the first year of Jacoby the All-Star, looks like the cat is finally out of the bag.

Outside of Jacoby's jump in average he's also seeing a rise in power. 73 games in and Ellsbury is just 1 HR shy of his career high or 9. This along with his improvement in plate patience has lead to a .471 Slugging %, good for 4th best on the team His previous season high was .415. These improvements are what have Jacoby on pace for 203 hits and 118 runs, both potential career highs.

The Sox newly acquired First Baseman Adrian Gonzalez looks to be the early favorite for AL MVP, and is a threat to the Triple Crown. But Gonzo may owe one of his teammates a bit of credit for his ungodly numbers. Of Adrian's MLB leading 68 RBI's, 20 of those runs were scored by none other than Jacoby Ellsbury. If Jacoby isn't getting on base 47% of the time neither Adrian nor The Red Sox are where they currently stand... on top Baseball World.

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