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2 Postgames at Once, and An Ellsbury Examination

Bullet point format engage.

Game 1:

  • We lost 9-5, but it wasn't as close as that may seem.
  • Lester didn't look very good, and had to leave the game when he was hit by a comebacker in his right quad. At the time it occurred, the injury looked much worse to some people. Lester lay on the mound in pain (second scariest sports moment this weekend for me) for a few minutes before limping off the field with a little assistance. He managed to make it to the clubhouse, after a momentary stumble in the tunnel (Papi was playing the role of overly concerned team mom).
  • Joba looked pretty good. I am sad about this. The offense was able to get to the MFY pitching eventually though.
  • Bowden managed to redeem a little of his standing as a prospect. Still has a lot of work to do though.

Game 2:

  • 3-0 MFY
  • Dice-K managed to Houdini his way out of a couple of tight spots, with some help from a super-human effort by Vic to get a diving force out with the bases loaded after Botch Tots dribbled one. Fortunately, Dice-K saved his bad pitching for when the bases were empty, allowing a homer to Cano.
  • The MFY scored a couple more runs off of Wagner, while the offense could barely get hits off CC&Co.
  • Ellsbury managed to muff a couple plays, allowing one to drop in front of him that he should have played, even if Jed had called for it, and missing on a dive after making a horrible read. More on this in a second.
  • Jed played!!!!

So... umm... yeah. There's your postgames, if anyone was dying to read them. Now, time to rant.

Guess what I realized (with help from Drugs) today? Ellsbury isn't that great. He's hitting at a good clip, for sure. I can't argue against that - a .302 batting average is definitely above average. The problems come when we start looking deeper into the stats than the box score templates from the 1950s.

First, there's his meh-inducing .353 OBP. It's not horrible, but it's not quite what we need from a batter who is supposed to be leading off. His slugging has improved from last year, rising from .394 to .419, which is mildly encouraging. What seems to be the problem here is that he was SO impressive in his debut at the end of 2007, posting .394 OBP and .509 SLG in 116 regular season ABs, that we have expected him to be the superstar that stole the job from Coco Crisp in that postseason. Of course, we should have realized that we were judging him based ona very small sample size, but I think we were so infatuated with this kid who burst out of AAA with no apparent slowing down, that we didn't care. Now, he's become a project at the plate, slowly improving on a ~13% Strike Out Rate and making a tiny improvement his Walk Rate, pushing it up a couple tenths of a percent to 7%. We could accept this if he wasn't leading off, getting the most Plate Appearances of any batter in the lineup. We could also accept it if he was able to make up for his average bat with his glove.

Wait, why am I saying "if" when discussing Ells' defense? I mean, he makes all those highlight reel plays all the time - he's always popping up on Web Gems!!!

I hate to break it to some of you, but using Web Gems to evaluate a player is worse than using errors. Both are pretty bad, but at least errors doesn't limit it to the 5 worst plays in baseball on a certain day. Besides, both errors and Gems are subjective judgements - errors are rarely called unless the player makes contact with the ball, forgiving bad jumps or reads and punishing players who try to make plays on balls that are WAY out of their zone. Gems give EXTRA credit to plays that are made after a player messes up the read, it seems sometimes.

Now, the Sabermetric defensive stats aren't perfect, but at least they take opinions out of the matter (for the most part). The most popular and easily accessible stat, UZR, might lose points with some of you after I share this data:

Ells has cost the Sox 12.7 runs so far this season, approximately a little more than a full win.

Now, this is a comparison to the average centerfielder, a talent level that has skyrocketed in the past few seasons. That doesn't make his defensive issues any less of a problem though - if anything, it makes it more pressing. If better talent is available, why are we allowing such a mediocre player to roam one of the most important defensive positions?

He makes horrible reads quite often, doesn't go after balls that he should, appears to be developing an Abreu-like fear of walls at times, and has a noodle arm. He really is not the defensive star that we came to expect (although he was just as bad in the much smaller sample size of 2007 - roughly a -11 UZR/150 in both seasons at CF). I can't help but wonder if we should have traded Ells instead of Coco Crisp this past offseason - especially if we could have gotten more than RamRam. [Oddly, even Coco had a horrible 2008 in the field.]

Someone please tell me why we shouldn't do everything possible to replace Ells. He definitely needs to be lower in the lineup, but I think we might need to trade him and start Josh Reddick next season.