Who's on First? The Red Sox Leadoff Dilemma

BOSTON - JULY 05:  J.D. Drew #7 of the Boston Red Sox makes the catch for the out as teammate Jacoby Ellsbury #46 looks on in the ninth inning against the Seattle Mariners on July 5, 2009 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. The Red Sox defeated the Mariners 8-4.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Tom RicardoContributor IJuly 7, 2009

The Red Sox are supposed to have the prototypical leadoff hitter. 

Fast with a high OBP in the minors, Ellsbury looked liked he would be manning the one spot in Fenway for years.  However, halfway through the season, the Red Sox have had absolutely no production from the spot in the order with the most plate appearances. 

The .276/.321/.370 line is the worst of all the positions in the order.  The Red Sox are only getting a worse on base percentage out of the nine hole, which includes the pitchers hitting during interleague play.

The year started with local dreamboat Jacoby Ellsbury doing what he seemed destined to do, lead off. 

Ellsbury was hitting .299, but it was an extremely empty average with an OBP of .332 and SLG .370.  Eventually it got so bad that Ellsbury was moved down the order.  Since moving out of the leadoff spot, Ellsbury has had a line of .313/.383/.495.

What changed? 

Well in the leadoff spot, despite Ellsbury saying he was approaching the Abs the same, Ellsbury was trying to force the issue.  He was taking some of the worst swings I have ever seen, trying to slap the ball like Ichiro. 

It was almost as painful as watching Carrot Top trying to do impressions.  Ellsbury also was not patient with the bitches he was getting, thinking since he was the leadoff hitter he had to make things happen. 

He lost all his power and lowered his OBP.  Since moving down, his swing has improved greatly and the results have been staggering.

When the Red Sox realized Ellsbury wasn't the answer, they called up the reigning MVP to take the leadoff spot.  Pedroia does not have amazing speed, but he runs the bases well, has a high OBP, and almost never strikes out (hardest person to strike out in the major league). 

Pedroia, while being the prototypical two hitter, should have been able to handle leadoff. 

Instead, like Ellsbury, Pedroia failed at leadoff. 

The difference is staggering between leadoff Mighty Mouse (.214/.264/.301) and two hole Pedey (.326/.413/.436).  Pedroia, like Ellsbury, was a little too impatient leading off swinging at pitches far earlier in the count then he usually would.

With Pedroia and Ellsbury failing, the Red Sox tried JD Drew, another good around the base paths, high OBP guy.  JD Drew, so far unlike his predecessors, has succeeded in the role of leadoff hitter. 

Over the last six games at leadoff, JD Drew has hit .308/.400/.615. 

But why does JD Drew succeed where others fail? 

The answer comes from the fact JD Drew never changes his batting approach.  Whether he is batting one or nine, or Megan Fox is doing a strip tease in LF, or aliens invade decimating downtown Boston, or there is a two for one special on cases of PBR in the Seven Eleven in Revere, it does not matter to JD Drew. 

JD Drew approaches each AB the same way.  This sometimes drives fans crazy watching him watch a called third strike with the bases loaded.

However, it is this consistency that is bringing some life to the biggest failure of the Red Sox order, the one hole.

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