How “The Thief” has stolen back the spotlight in the Yankees outfield

Jacoby Ellsbury has been labeled as “the 153-million-dollar bust”, “the most expensive fourth outfielder”, and by many on Yankees Twitter, “The Thief,” due to his lucrative contract and relatively poor play over the course of his Yankee tenure. Putting the monstrous contract aside, Ellsbury has displayed the ability of being an extremely talented player with his ability to put the bat on the ball, play phenomenal outfield defense, and cause chaos on the bases during the course of his career in Major League Baseball. Other than flashes of superb defense and the occasional pinch-run situation, Ellsbury has failed to successfully implement his skillset into the Yankees offense in 2017, until the calendar month flipped to September.
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In an offense that heavily relied on putting balls into the seats for run production, the Yankees lineup severely needed a source of lineup balance. Situational hitting, the run game, and executing with runners in scoring position, are three facets of the sport that the Yankees severely struggled with in August. This led to a mediocre record of 14-15 and an average of 4.5 runs per game. While the blame cannot be placed on a single player, center fielder Aaron Hicks struggled mightily in the month of August. His .217 batting average was reminiscent of last year’s struggles, and his .664 OPS was not getting the job done as an everyday player. However, another oblique injury forced Hicks to be placed on the DL for the second time this season. Fortunately, his injury and Clint Frazier’s injury opened the door for the Yankees “fourth outfielder” to get more regular playing time and every day at-bats, and he took the opportunity and, no pun intended, ran with it.

Since the start of September, which is when Aaron Hicks was placed on the DL, Jacoby Ellsbury is absolutely raking. In 19 September contests, he is hitting .429 (24-for-56) with a whopping 1.168 OPS. Nine of his 24 hits have gone for extra bases, and he has consistently displayed the ability to take the extra base on singles and doubles by his teammates. His five stolen bases are the second most he has had in a month this season and there are still ten games left to play. His ability to get on base has been the most crucial component of his game in September. In 72 plate appearances, he has reached base an outstanding 42 times, which puts him at a .543 OBP. Ellsbury even has three intentional walks in the month of September compared to the zero he had prior to the first fall month. During Ellsbury’s resurgence, the Yankees are averaging 6.42 runs per game and have achieved a 14-5 record.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
His production from the bottom of the lineup has helped spark a Yankees offense that was having issues winning baseball games without slugging multiple home runs. Ellsbury has not hit a single home run in the month of September, yet he has a higher OPS than Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius, and Aaron Judge over the past month. Getting on base consistently, putting pressure on opposing pitchers, and coming through in clutch situations wins baseball games for an offense, and this is the offensive approach that Jacoby Ellsbury has successfully implemented in his game.

While it is foolish to expect Ellsbury to keep this type of production up for the near future, the month of September and an opportunity to finally play every day again has allowed Ellsbury to showcase the talents that originally aided him in receiving the aforementioned 153-million-dollar payday back in the 2013-2014 offseason. That player he was in Boston is obviously still within his realm of capabilities, however, it is still uncertain whether or not this month of scorching play was simply a tease or a possible career turnaround. For the time being Ellsbury has in all certainty earned a spot on the playoff roster and, in all likelihood, the start in CF for the Wild Card Game.

Article by: Ryan Thoms


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