If this is the real Jacoby Ellsbury, he’s pretty damn good.
Ellsbury was the subject of a lot of chatter before this season. We all knew that he was entering his contract year, but his career path made it nearly impossible to predict his future. It seems like as this season gets deeper, we’re gaining a clearer picture of Ellsbury’s true colors, and it’s becoming more and more obvious that he’s one of baseball’s more dynamic players.
Ellsbury racked up four hits and led the Red Sox to a 5-3 victory over the Royals on Saturday. He smacked a pair of RBI doubles, added two singles, stole a base and provided his usual fantastic defense. It was the latest solid effort in what has been an excellent season for the 29-year-old center fielder.
Ellsbury is now hitting .305 with seven home runs, 43 RBIs and a .366 on-base percentage. He leads the majors with 42 stolen bases, and he has only been caught four times, which is good for a 91.3 percent success rate.
The impressive skill set is nothing new. We knew all about Ellsbury’s speed, defense and bat-to-ball ability. However, it was unclear before this season if he’d manage to stay healthy for an entire campaign, and it was difficult to figure out his offensive ceiling.
A lot can obviously change over the final 43 regular season games, but it feels like we’re seeing the real Ellsbury after an offseason of curiosity. He’s not the guy who hit 32 home runs with 105 RBIs in 2011, but he’s also not the guy who hit just .271 and got on base at a .313 clip in 74 games in 2012. Instead, he is — as many predicted — somewhere in the middle, and that’s good enough to rank him among baseball’s elite leadoff hitters.
There were some hiccups earlier this season, and manager John Farrell even admitted at one point that he was considering dropping Ellsbury in the order. Ellsbury turned things around in late May, though, and he’s been in the zone ever since.
“It’s more about timing. We saw a number of balls before he caught fire that he got beat deep in the zone with some fastballs and he just wasn’t getting his front foot down in time,” Farrell said. “As he started to get on base and get some base hits, certainly he relaxed and the confidence grew. He’s in a good place right now and has been in quite a while.”
Ellsbury is hitting .353 (91-for-258) since May 26, and he’s among the AL leaders in a number of statistical categories. He has hit in 88 games this season — most among MLB leadoff hitters — and he’s even begun to show increased power with six home runs since July 11.
It has all come together for Ellsbury, and the turnaround can be traced back to a three-game series in Chicago in late May. But every now and then, you get a performance like Saturday’s, which reinforces just how important he is to the Red Sox’ success this season.
There will come a time after this season when the most frequent numbers tossed around are dollar figures. Right now, he’s helping his cause by demonstrating consistency, durability and explosiveness, and all appear to be a true indication of who Ellsbury is as a player.