Much of this can be traced back to Ellsbury's catalytic presence in the leadoff role. He turned in the team's first 30 home run, 30 stolen base season in history in 2011, finishing second to Justin Verlander in the MVP voting. He also batted .321, driving in 105 runs and scoring 119 times.
Coming into this year, Ellsbury has averaged nearly 42 stolen bases a season since becoming the full-time center fielder in 2008 — despite missing nearly all of 2010 with various injuries.
But several other leadoff hitters can lay claim to being just as dynamic as Ellsbury.
The Angels' Mike Trout, rated as the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball prior to this season by many places, is in the midst of what could be arguably the greatest rookie season in history. The 20-year-old is leading the American League in hitting at .348 and has 12 home runs to go along with 40 RBIs and 59 runs scored. He's also tied for the major league lead in stolen bases with 30 and has been clocked going from home to first in 3.5 seconds.
Michael Bourn has flown under the radar for much of his career — perhaps as a result of playing for many years in cellar-dwelling Houston — but with his trade last year to the contending Braves, he has become known to many more people. He's stolen no fewer than 52 bases in a season since 2009 and led the National League each of those three years. He won't give you much pop, but with that much speed, he doesn't have to.
Jose Reyes is in the midst of a down year in his first season with the Marlins but has a lengthy track record of being one of the more feared leadoff hitters in the game. He's led the league in triples four times and stolen bases three times, nabbing as many as 78 in 2007 — the most in the majors since Marquis Grissom stole 78 bases in 1992. He's also a batting champ, having hit .337 in 2011 with the Mets to lead the NL, and he has topped the 100 runs scored plateau four times.
Finally, there's Ian Kinsler of the Rangers. Kinsler may seem to be an odd choice to hit first — especially with speedy shortstop Elvis Andrus also in the lineup — but there's no arguing with his talent. Although he comes with a good deal of injury risk, he's managed 30-30 seasons in each of his last two full campaigns and has scored as many as 121 runs in a season. He also doesn't get thrown out on steal attempts very often, with a success rate in those 30-30 seasons of 88.4 percent.
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