Just a thought: By starting the season at the end of the lineup, Jacoby Ellsbury could become the best leadoff batter in baseball, as well as the game's premier Gold Glove center fielder.
It's true, as Tito says, he is still working on things in spring training; his great 11-pitch at-bat in their last game shows he's developing his plate patience.
The leadoff spot is his, but will he be ready for it on Opening Day, or will he still be finding his groove?
Jed Lowrie, on the other hand, has the hot bat going into the season, with a .469 OBP, staring his spring training where he left off last season before damaging his wrist. In April, he may be a more reliable set up guy for Pedroia, Papi, and Youk.
With Teix a notoriously slow starter and A-Rod in rehab, Tito has a narrow window to maximize the Sox batting order for the first few weeks of the season to get an early lead on the Yanks (with the Sox' Kotsay and Lugo on the IR, it won't come easy). One win over the course of this season could decide the division or the Wild Card.
With Lowrie and Ellsbury book-ending the Sox lineup, Jed's hot bat would get an extra AB per game, while Ellsbury could finish working things out (developing plate patience, building his OBP, etc.), without the added pressure of having to set up Pedroia and Papi.
The second, third, and fourth time around the lineup, Ellsbury would bat in front of Jed, with Ellsbury's base speed primed and ready for RBI machines Lowrie, Pedroia, Papi. This increases the chance of Ellsbury scoring off a single.
Eventually, Jed's bat will cool, and Ellsbury's will heat up. At that point, switch the two. Both ways, the Lowrie-Ellsbury-Pedroia triumvirate represent high on-base potential with aggressive baserunning (80-100 SB?), and many extra base hits to set up the five or six power bats in the lineup.
As of March 23, the following are the spring training stats for Lowrie and Ellsbury:
Lowrie— In 44AB: .432/2/10/.469+.818=1.288, with 7 doubles, 3 triples, 2HR, 36TB, 4BB, 3K, 0/1SB. 10GO/13AO, 0.85%
Ellsbury—In 38AB: .263/1/4/.282 + .447=.729. With 2 doubles, 1 triple, 1HR, 17TB, 1BB, 3K, 19GO/6AO, 3.33%.
After seriously cutting short his learning time in AAA, Tito threw Ellsbury into the deep end last year, but he did extremely well. However, he is, as Tito says, still working on stuff.
We know what Ellsbury can become, and we want him to get there ASAP. Perhaps some time in the No. 9 slot in April will be enough for him to have a great season.