You know, Jacoby Ellsbury has a pretty good point:
"Everybody talks that you need to walk more, but they need to throw you balls (for that to happen)," Ellsbury said. "If you’re fast they’re not throwing you many balls. They don’t want you on the basepaths. As a fast player, as a leadoff guy, they’re not going to pitch around me. It makes it tough to walk. If you go up trying to walk you get down in the count. If the pitch is there you have to be swinging at it. You can’t be taking (good) pitches just to walk.
"The biggest thing for me is quality at-bats. I can’t control what they’re doing."
Ellsbury does have a good point. Pitchers would like to see Ellsbury, the No. 2 basestealer in baseball, on the basepaths as little as possible. Hence they are going to throw more strikes. Sure, he's hitting the ball three times out of 10, but they're not going to give him the free passes.
However, the best way to debunk this argument is to look at the OBP of other great base stealers. And I'll start with the best of all time, Rickey Henderson.
Henderson's career line:
G SB CS BB AVG OBP
3081 1406 335 2190 .279 .401
I love Jacoby, but he's pretty much flat out wrong here. If Henderson had a .279 lifetime average and a .300 lifetime on base percentage, then Jacoby has a really, really good point. But unless pitchers didn't understand this theory in the 80s -- the, "don't let fast guys on base theory" -- then his arguement doesn't hold too much weight.
Just for the heck of it, let's look at other great basestealers this season:
TM NAME SB/CS BA OBP DIF
TBR Crawford 31/2 .319 .381 +62
BOS Ellsbury 22/6 .304 .342 +38
LAA Figgins 20/4 .295 .376 +81
HOU Bourn 17/4 .290 .362 +72
TBR Upton 16/3 .212 .306 +94
LAA Abreu 15/0 .294 .392 +98
I think Red Sox fans would be happy if Ellsbury had a +62 or, even better, a +98 AVG/OBP differential. At this point in the season, Ellsbury sports a +38 -- that just doesn't get the job done. It's nice that he's hitting .304, but we also need him to get on base by at least a +60 in my mind (more, of course, would be ideal). Then -- and only then -- maybe we'll see him in the leadoff spot.
But Ellsbury's theory? Busted.