Jacoby Ellsbury may not win the American League MVP Award. He may not even finish in the top five. Who knows? However, as we stand here today, hours removed from the Red Sox’ 4-0 loss in Texas, Ellsbury has a chance, with his anticipated return Tuesday night, to zap life into an offense that really seems to need it, and perhaps exemplify to anyone keeping an eye on such things how truly valuable he is to this team.
Boston dropped two of the three games Ellsbury missed since getting hit in the back with a pitch Friday night in Kansas City. It scored a total of 10 runs in that span. Carl Crawford, Darnell McDonald and Ryan Lavarnway were the team leaders with two RBIs apiece. Against C.J. Wilson and three relievers Monday, four different players had singles, and that was it.
The last time Ellsbury was in the lineup, there were seven runs scored on 13 hits, six of them extra-base knocks. That was against a marginal lefty in Jeff Francis, but the correlation with Ellsbury’s absence and some pedestrian offense is notable.
Haters will say that the club struggled offensively before he went out. That’s true. Boston has been held to four runs or less in 15 of its last 20 games. Still, Ellsbury was the lone contributor in some of those lackluster efforts, and often the catalyst when it went the other way. You will recall his three-run homer in a 3-1 win over Tampa Bay last Tuesday, as well as a solo shot in a 6-2 loss later that same day. There was his two-run homer to start a comeback attempt that fell short in Seattle a few days earlier. He had a hit, a walk, a stolen base and a run scored in a 4-3 win in Kansas City on Thursday. Before being plunked the following night, he had another hit, scored another run and drove in what proved to be the decisive run with a sacrifice fly.
Indeed, as the club has seen its numbers plummet in August, including a 144-point drop in OPS, Ellsbury has remained a constant — until his absence that is. His numbers were going to sink just a bit from a July that set the world on fire, but a personal OPS of .849 in August is his second-highest mark for one month this season.
For Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis and Josh Reddick, August has been the worst month in that category. For Dustin Pedroia, Marco Scutaro, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek, it has been the second worst. The exceptions to this rule among regulars are David Ortiz, who is hurt, Crawford, who had nowhere to go but up, and Ellsbury.
Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered Monday. Wilson always dominates the Red Sox, and Ellsbury is not the only missing bat. Youkilis and Ortiz certainly add something, when healthy. But if the jolt that Ellsbury provides upon his expected return Tuesday is significant, and lasting, then you may see the All-Star gain some more consideration in the eyes of those whose job it is to analyze value.
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