Jacoby Ellsbury’s return to Fenway brings attention to the Boston Red Sox leadoff issues
Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
When Jacoby Ellsbury left Boston to sign with the rival New York Yankees this past offseason, fan reaction was mixed. Some reacted with anger, outraged that Ellsbury had the audacity to sign with the enemy. Others were indifferent, accepting the fact that Ellsbury wasn’t going to get the money he desired in Boston so he had a right to sign elsewhere. But love him or hate him*, you have to admit that the Red Sox are missing his presence at the top of their batting order.
In last night’s game, Ellsbury went 2-5 with two RBI atop the Yankees’ order. In the first at-bat of the game, he tripled high off the wall in center before coming around to score on a Derek Jeter single. He then added a double in the fifth that plated two runs, before scoring on another Jeter single, making me long for the days when it was Dustin Pedroia driving him home.
On the other side of the field, Grady Sizemore had a 0-4 showing atop the Sox order. This was the ninth game in which he was penciled into the leadoff spot and he’s 3-34 in those nine games. But it’s not just him that’s been bad in that spot. John Farrell has tried five others atop the order and, including Sizemore’s numbers, their line reads: 1 HR, 4 RBI, 8 BB, 18 SO, 2 SB, and a slash of .182/.270/.250/.520. Gross.
Ellsbury meanwhile has a slightly more impressive total (prepare to be sad): 0 HR, 8 RBI, 7 BB, 9 SO, 8 SB, and a slash of .342/.395/.479/.875. For those of you who aren’t math majors, that’s an OPS .355 points higher than the group the Sox have trotted to the plate.
The return of Shane Victorino will hopefully help some of the top of the order issues. Personally, I believe he should be immediately plugged into the top spot. Some will argue to give Brock Holt a chance after he went 2-4 in his only game batting leadoff. But with Will Middlebrooks due to return soon, we probably won’t see Holt in the starting lineup for much longer. Regardless of who is in that top spot, Sox fans are going to have to accept that, when healthy, Jacoby Ellsbury is a difference maker whose production is extremely difficult to replace.
*That should probably read like him or hate him. Do you know anyone who truly loved Jacoby Ellsbury? I always liked him, but he wasn’t one of those guys you could make a strong connection with.