On Tuesday, August 25th, "the human spark plug," Jacoby Ellsbury, made Red Sox history by getting his 55th stolen base of the season. The previous mark was set by former first base coach Tommy Harper, who had secured the record over the past 35 years. But he knew Ellsbury was going to eventually break it.
Here are some quotes from a recent Boston Herald article, "Harper Welcomes Ellsbury to the Record Book," written by Sean McAdam.
Tommy wasn't at Tuesday's game, but he was watching and here is his comment upon watching the pitch that Ellsbury broke the record on:
“I saw the ball pop out of the catcher’s glove,’’ said Harper this morning. “He got a good jump– I could see that. With Freddy Garcia, he’s pretty slow to the plate. It was a pretty good combination.’’
McAdam then asked how he felt about his 35 year record being broken and here's what he had to say about that:
“I’m glad for him,’’ said Harper. “I was there Sunday. I spoke with Jacoby Sunday. Over the course of the season, I would make some notes and every month or so, we would talk. But lately, he’d been going so well, there was no reason. I wished him luck. I’ve always told people that it’s good to know somebody personally who’s going to break (your record).’’
Harper was then asked about when he first started working with the man who would eventually break his record.
“The minor league people wanted me to work with him,’’ Harper recalled. “He was playing in an intra-squad game. I went over and introduced myself to him and we went from there. I could see right there that he was eager to learn. We just hit it off. He’s a nice person and respectful. I didn’t work with him on technique – just theory, when he should run. I told him about team philosophy.’’
To catch a glimpse of the potential of "the human spark plug," please read what Harper told McAdam about the difference between their two styles.
“His style was a lot different than mine,’’ said Harper. “I got a bigger lead. As an instructor, you can’t make people do what you did. The main goal is to be safe at second. I got a bigger lead and stood a little taller. He has a crouch, like Rickey (Henderson). He stays down and drives from there.’’
To further compare Ellsbury's potential, all one has to do is take a look at his AL base stealing rival, LF Carl Crawford of the Rays, and see how the two players compare statistically so far during this season (2009).
As of today, Ellsbury has a 1 steal lead over Crawford (currently in his eighth season). It is my belief that in the next few seasons, Ellsbury will easily top this season's stolen base totals with improvements made in the following key statistics.
First, Crawford is currently hitting 21 points better than Ellsbury which translates into 10 more hits, which translates into 10 more possibilities to steal. Likewise, Crawford's OBP is also 31 points higher, giving him that many more attempts more than Ellsbury.
So far, the player I like to call "the human spark plug" has been stealing bases at a clip of 11/month, which would put him at 66 or so by the end of the season. What I am speculating is that if Ellsbury can improve upon his BA and OBP like he has shown possible from last season to this one, it is entirely possible to see him gain more opportunities to improve upon his SB numbers because he will be on base more.
Therefore, I can see him stealing 80 or more bases next year and even reaching 100 in a few years from now. We have already seen him steal home against the Yankees, so the sky's the limit, wouldn't you say?