Skip to main content

Starting tonight at left-stop....

...Jacoby Ellsbury. Stick with me here. Scutaro will move a little in and to the left. Ellsbury will play behind the dirt - of course! - but not too far off the infield. He'll play the most shallow left field in baseball history. How many balls would get over his head if he played very shallow? And the ones that do, would be doubles or homers, just as they would if he played deeper.

Seriously, it seems that he could play shallow in the Fens. Though, I guess I'll retreat from the short-field post a la softball.

Jacoby Ellsbury's speed in the relatively-small space of Fenway's leftfield might be the end of the single.

Yet, the conventional wisdom remains that the Sox should have a leftfielder who can mash at the plate rather than run in the field. Looking back through the years (here) as far back as I recognize the names, the Sox have really only had one guy who could really run in left: Tommy Harper (1973 and part of '74 years, he was in center in '72) - and maybe Billy Hatcher but he wasn't that fast and he was mostly a center fielder.

While I fully support of sticking the bat of Manny Ramirez or the Splendid Splinter in the shadow of the Green Monster, I think that we tend to look at this a bit backwords. Most people I talk to consider speed in Fenway's left field "a waste". However, while the size of the territory does somewhat mask slowness afoot of lumbering leftfielders, it also allows a swift sprinter in left to cover a rediculous precentage of the field of play.

And there are other advantages to the switch to left. I swear on my Red Sox hat that I will (almost) never again quote uber-evil-agent Scott Boras, but he had an interesting historic point about Ellsbury's switch to left: “The issue is that he’s so athletic offensively, stealing 70 bases and scoring 100 runs. Historically, the guys who do that, they all have to be left fielders because [center field is] just so demanding." Think Tim Raines, Carl Crawford, Lou Brock, Vince Coleman and Rickey being Rickey.

I think this is the right move for the Sox. This makes us a better team and does not set Ellsbury back in his developement - it probably helps in on the bases and lets him focus a little more on hitting. Ellsbury will simply move back whenever Cameron runs out of steam in the next two years.

Comments

Matt Bloomer said…
My friend Gallivan linked to your 2/22 blog entry; great analysis.

Here's some food for thought re: Ellsbury in left; would be interested in your/others' thoughts:

A. Given the relative small size of LF (at Fenway), I think the order of importance in predicting may go: 1) ability to read balls off the bat, 2) first step/quickness and 3) raw speed.

It's probably safe to say (looking at the stolen base numbers) that Ellsbury has elite quickness to go along with his elite speed. I haven't paid attention to his reads enough to give you my take on that part of his game, but my point would be that with so much ground to cover in CF, he could conceivably hide a lot of bad reads because he makes up for it with his speed. He'll have less real estate to make up for any bad reads in LF, so I think that aspect of his defense becomes the most important to consider in predicting how well he'll play the position at Fenway.

B. I think a case can be made for Ellsbury playing deeper because of his speed.

First of all, it's much easier to play balls in front of you versus having to go back for them. Secondly, you want to give yourself angles, particularly to the gap/line. Playing shallow would give him less opportunity to keep uncatchable singles (line drives, ground balls through the infield, etc.) from turning into doubles by getting into the gap or off the walls down the line. Finally, it's easier to both play and read the wall if you're already back there, rather than moving towards it with the fight of the ball.

So, I could potentially see him playing deep and relying on his speed to get to the balls that would be more routine if he played normal depth. There'd still be a similar number of singles that drop-in in front of him, but playing deeper might prevent more extra base hits.
Wally said…
Matt - thanks for stopping by. I think you make some really good points. You're probably right about the second one - and maybe the first - since I've heard the knock on Ellsbury is his ability to go back on balls. The Monster could definitely hide that well. Also, playing deeper should mean fewer high speed collisions with the wall itself which might save a year or two on his career.

Popular posts from this blog

Red Sox Reality: Don't Make Another Trade

The Red Sox simply should not make another trade this season unless it's a long-term solution and a real steal.  Aside from getting Chris Sale straight up for Dan Butler, the Sox should not get involved in another trade.

The Sox actually are about as well situated as they can get on pretty much every front.  That's not to say they are a perfect team, just that the cost of getting anyone who would substantially improve them is prohibitive.

The starting rotation is clearly the spot for which most fans are crying for improvement, with the bullpen a close second.  But in the starting rotation, David Price is one of the best pitchers in baseball and we should expect him to pitch like it.  His high strikeout and low walk totals, and his health, bode well for him.  It looks likely that the Sox' fate with rest on the one game Wild Card playoff, so much of the season really hinges on that one start by Price.  Short of Sale, there's no one available on the market who would be an…

Promotion Pecking Order Isn't Just About Talent or Impact

It's that time of the Major League season: the time when injuries being mounting up for every team, ineffective play forces teams to cut bait, and trades start becoming possible.  The Red Sox have some choices to make and here's what they should do:
They should send young infielder Marco Hernandez back to Pawtucket and, a la Swihart and Betts before him, have him play mostly leftfield.  Clearly the Sox like his bat in the majors now.  He's not going to play regularly on the infield with Brock Holt, Josh Rutledge, and - at shortstop if Bogaerts were to go down - Deven Merrero are all ahead of him as backups. With Swihart down for a while, Holt hurt and struggling with the bat, there is room for Hernandez as the lefthanded sub for Chris Young in left.  Otherwise, I don't see the value in having him on the roster.When they send down Marco, bring up Bryce Brentz.  He's hitting well in Pawtucket, 27 years old, taking up a 40 man roster slot, and seemingly healthy.  He ca…

Chris Sale, Bullpen Reboot, Hot Stove Checklist Addition, Sell High

CHRIS SALE TRADE: The Sox just got ace lefty Chris Sale for America's top prospect Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, another Basabe, and Victor Diaz.  That's a true ace for a potential superstar who clearly needs more seasoning, a golden arm who seemed to be a possible headcase, and two lottery tickets.  This is a very good trade for the Sox. While the Sox would have found room to play Moncada once he was ready, he didn't exactly fill a void with Peddy blocking him at second, Panda getting another shot at 3B this year, and 3B prospects Rafael Devers and Bobby Dalbec - and maybe Michael Chavis - not too far off possibly.  Moncada might not be the biggest pain felt here. After trading Anderson Espinoza for Drew Pomeranz - a trade that is looking worse these days - the trade of Kopech leaves very little high-end pitching talent in the system right now.  There is now a very large drop off after Jason Groome.  Also, the loss of Basabe, Diaz, Dubon and Pennington today just really d…