Notable Numerals: Jacoby Ellsbury, Jonathan Papelbon & More


After taking a week off due to illness, Notable Numerals is back with a bang. During the Spring, I looked at one player each week and went into depth about their career numbers and some recent successes and failures, but as the season progresses, there will be a mix of topics discussed, surrounding stats of all kinds. In order to begin to wrap-up Spring Training, because opening day is Friday for the Red Sox, let’s take a look at some of the most interesting statistics from the past month or so. There are some surprising offensive gems and some awful and horrifying pitching numbers, as well as a few other numbers that might make you think a bit. Without further ado, here is the Spring wrap-up edition of Notable Numerals.

Batting average for Jarrod Saltalamacchia in 13 games this Spring. If there is one player on the Red Sox roster that needs to prove himself early in 2011, it is Salty. All off-season, the chatter was about the Red Sox weakness at the catching position. This Spring, Salty showed he is still young and capable in the batter’s box, driving in 8 RBIs in just 31 at-bats, with 1 home run and a .645 slugging percentage. Realistically, I know he won’t maintain a .432 on-base percentage during the season, but I am a fan of the young catcher and think he could be great. He could be awful also, but appears to be on the right track for the 2011 regular season. Defensively, Salty threw out 2 base-stealers and allowed 7 stolen bases, which isn’t amazing (22.2% success rate on attempted steals), but is slightly better than Victor Martinez and Jason Varitek last season (21% success rate) in a small sample size. Salty did commit 3 errors this off-season, which is a bit concerning.

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Home runs for Jacoby Ellsbury to lead the Red Sox this Spring. If Salty needed to prove himself the most on the Red Sox roster, Ellsbury was a close 2nd. After a year of turmoil, Ells has come out and erased those memories from fans’ minds by hitting .352 this Spring and flashing some surprise power. Ells will be the lead-off hitter as long as he is producing, and the Red Sox would love to see a high on-base percentage as the key to being successful in that role. This Spring, he has a .386 on-base percentage and a whopping .574 slugging percentage in 18 games played (54 at-bats) with 8 RBIs and 3 doubles. I expect a higher extra-base total swaying more towards the doubles and triples once the season begins, because most players don’t try for an extra base and risk injury when the games don’t count. Ells is poised for an extremely strong return year at the top of a powerful and scary lineup.

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Earned runs for Josh Beckett in 20.1 innings pitched so far this Spring. Spring Training can be a difficult time to judge a player’s ability and that especially rings true with pitching. It takes a pitcher several weeks to build up arm strength and begin to command all of his pitches. That being said, you hope for some solid results before the season begins and Beckett has done anything but delivered solid results. Sitting with a 6.64 era and an 0-4 record in 5 starts, Beckett looks healthy, but that’s where the good news ends. He has allowed 19 runs and 3 home runs this Spring with 2 hit-batters, 4 BBs, and 16 Ks in those 5 starts. The only stat I like is the 16 Ks, which is a small bright spot in an otherwise cloudy-looking picture. Being dropped to the #4 starter will motivate Beckett to perform, so I’m not too worried about him once the games begin to count, but only time will tell.

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ERA for Jonathan Papelbon in 7 games so far this Spring. Ouch. Not to sound like a broken record, but if Salty is #1 and Ellsbury is #2 on the list of players that needed to prove themselves this Spring, Pap is #3. With all the question marks surrounding his career worst season in 2010, and then the Red Sox bringing in former closer Bobby Jenks to add depth in the bullpen, Pap was on high alert. For now, he is the Red Sox closer, without hesitation, but if he begins to falter, that job title may begin to change. With Jenks and Daniel Bard waiting in the wings, Pap needs to be at his best and perform at a high level, returning to his old form. The 2009 post-season shook the closer to his core and who knows if he will ever fully return to dominance. Let’s hope 2011 is Pap’s year to emerge back as a dominant closer. This Spring, in 6 innings pitched, Pap has allowed 7 earned runs on 4 hits with 2 hit-batters, 5 BBs, and 5 Ks. He command has been poor, but like I mentioned earlier, Spring is a difficult time to judge a player’s control. The closer role will certainly be a storyline to follow as the season begins on Friday.

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Hits for Nate Spears and Drew Sutton this Spring so far in 50 games played. The 2 young second baseman have had stellar Springs, finishing with strong offensive numbers. Sutton has an impressive .339 average with 2 home runs and 9 RBIs, while Spears has 3 triples, 9 RBIs, and 3 stolen bases without being caught. The infield future for the Red Sox looks strong, especially when you throw in the likes of Oscar Tejeda and Jose Iglesias at shortstop, who hit .360 and .320 respectively with a combined 17 hits in 29 games. The Red Sox have always prided themselves in organizational depth and even after trading away some of the top prospects in the system to bring in Adrian Gonzalez, they still appear to be in a strong position for the future. One or more of these guys could be the next Dustin Pedroia or Kevin Youkilis. What a great thought…

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Tags: Adrian Gonzalez Bobby Jenks Boston Red Sox Bullpen Daniel Bard Drew Sutton Dustin Pedroia Jacoby Ellsbury Jarrod Saltalamacchia Jason Varitek Jonathan Papelbon Jose Iglesias Josh Beckett Kevin Youkilis Nate Spears Notable Numerals Oscar Tejeda Victor Martinez