Count me among the Kool-Aid drinkers who like Boston’s new outfield. In fact, I think by July we’ll be wondering why the Sox are so darn good.
After all, they won’t have a lot of power in their lineup, nobody knows which pitchers will be harboring secret injuries by then and we won’t be seeing them flashing a lot of leather. Instead, we’ll just watch them racking up wins. Wins that seem to come from nowhere. Stealth wins.
Much ruckus has been raised over Boston’s decision to move Jacoby Ellsbury to left and how it will affect the young outfielder. How will it impact his hitting? His legs? His innermost dreams, his heart’s secret yearnings, his chakras? And I don’t know. But I do have a good guess as to how it will impact Boston’s outfield. Jacoby’s Johnny Damon-esque arm and apparent difficulties reading the ball off the bat should be ameliorated by moving to left. In fact, we already know Ellsbury is better as a corner outfielder than as a center fielder because of his performance there in 2008: His numbers are better in the corners, and the scouts agree that he took more rational routes and used his speed as “an asset, and not just the thing he used to make up for poor jumps,” in the words of Baseball Prospectus.
The new center fielder, Mike Cameron, was B.J. Upton good last year, despite being 11 years Upton’s senior. But while Cameron still puts up stellar defensive numbers, the naked eye may have trouble appreciating his skills; while Ellsbury preferred to position himself deep — seemingly somewhere in the men’s room at the Bleacher Bar — and sprint in to make diving catches, Cameron uses a quick first step, range and positioning to snag batted balls with apparent ease.
Which brings me to J.D. Drew. Now, I know J.D.’s Boston fan club basically consists of Theo Epstein and, well, me, but hear me out. Statistically, Drew was actually baseball’s best defensive right fielder last year. How can that be, when J.D. runs down the ball barely breaking a sweat and wearing the facial expression of someone who’d like to change the channel, if only the remote weren’t juuuuust out of reach? Again, the naked eye deceives us. Drew glides around the outfield so effortlessly that it’s easy to assume he isn’t actually making an effort. But I can’t argue with results, and his speed and arm produce them.
The Sox may not end up making a lot of highlight reels in 2010 — with either their offense or their defense. But they just might end up doing something else: winning. Stealthily.
– Sarah Green also writes for UmpBump.com
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