When the New York Yankees signed Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven-year, $153 million contract before the 2014 season, the team was certainly hoping for a version of the 2011 center fielder: a speedy, defensively-sound player with serious power upside. A prevalent thought was the short porch in Yankee Stadium’s right field might help him regain some of his power after injury-marred seasons in 2012 and 2013.
Following a healthy 2014 — in which the left-hander was able to post a respectable power/speed combination while staying relatively healthy — the 2015 season has seen Ellsbury take a step back. In recent weeks, during the thick of a September pennant race, he’s actually sat against left-handed pitching in favor of Chris Young. These are the depths of the slump that Ellsbury is currently in, and it’s obviously not the return on investment the Yankees had in mind when signing him to a long-term deal.
With New York headed toward a very probable Wild Card berth, it’s time to take a close look at Ellsbury. What are the driving factors behind his current struggles? What is the outlook for the Yankees without his production?
We assign many beginning and end dates to baseball statistics, which is a part of our natural desire to organize things we’re trying to understand. We’re going to do that now, because it’s necessary for us to understand Ellsbury’s season before and after a certain event. The Yankees’ center fielder has had two very different halves — separated by seven weeks on the disabled list with a knee injury — and understanding how they’re different is the first step we’ll take in evaluating his performance.
During the first six weeks of the season, Ellsbury was putting up great leadoff numbers: Although the power stroke wasn’t quite there — he hit only one home run along with a .047 Isolated Power average before May 19 — Ellsbury was still creating runs for his team at a 25% greater rate than a league-average player.
The classic Ellsbury tools were on display during this stage of the season. He was hitting lots of line drives, showing great speed on the base paths and playing sound defense in center field. Between April and the first two weeks of May, the 32-year-old was even walking at a much higher clip than his career norm (11.2% vs. 7.0%). The caveat with those stats, of course, is six weeks is a small sample size, so whether he would have continued his early season production is hard to gauge.
Read the rest at Just A Bit Outside.