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Why Has Ellsbury Hit the Skids?

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Big part of the New York Yankees offense that needs to get going is Jacoby Ellsbury. He’s been in a pretty bad slump that’s gone a bit under the radar with all the injuries grabbing the headlines. But Ellsbury’s batting average has taken a huge dip the last few weeks to .272. He did record his first multi-hit game since May 7 yesterday going 2-for-6. Although the month of May has not been to friendly to him. His tripleslash this month is .217/.316/.304, after having an April slash of .312/.369/.452 in 103 at-bats, and being one of the hottest hitters in the league. In his last ten games he’s had just four hits, only one of those being an extra base hit, and over the last two weeks he’s just 5-for-49. Stolen base numbers aren’t were they should be either, he’s tied with Brett Gardner for the team high 11 stolen bases. Now that could easily explained by not getting hits, but he’s still able to get on base. He is second behind Yangervis Solarte with 17 base on balls. If you dig a little deeper his advanced metrics don’t look so great, he has an 0.8 oWAR, -0.3 dWAR and 0.4 WAR overall. Not very Ellsbury like is it?

Manager Joe Girardi has moved him down to the three hole, which could be the issue. Since Carlos Beltran has been sidelined with his elbow injury Girardi has seemed to settle with an everyday lineup he kind of likes which has Ellsbury batting third. Going back prior to that Girardi has had him batting third little while now and really doesn’t have much to show for it, just 3 RBI this month and 14 total this year. Common sense would dictate that he’s not the prototypical number three hitter, and he really doesn’t have the power numbers this year either. Could it be he’s just not comfortable batting there, and that’s the reason he’s struggling? Or is it something else?

There have been some rumors floating around that Ellsbury isn’t 100%, and honestly most of the team isn’t healthy lately. He could be dealing with a possible hand injury, some say it’s a finger or his wrist. Ellsbury has made no inclination or statements to the press that he might be hurt, but his swings might suggest otherwise. His defense doesn’t seem to be suffering, hes made some spectacular plays in center, but some of those catches have sent him flying into the outfield walls and diving around in the outfield. Maybe that’s where a mystery injury occurred. Again its only speculation that he might be hurt. Getting back to his swing, Ellsbury has had some bad hacks lately, resulting in a lot of swings and misses. His strikeout numbers aren’t that bad, just 31K in 162 plate appearances. Those numbers are not far off from his career strikeout rate, but he has seen a spike in strikeouts this month. 15K so far compared to 16K in all of April.

Source: FanGraphs

Prior to yesterday’s game hitting instructor Kevin Long sat down with and watched film of Ellsbury’s season at-bats. Long apparently noticed something with Ellsbury’s mechanics. There seemed to be a hitch in his swing, Long gave him some pointers and in extra innings he finally got a few hits. “He was just late and late and late,” Long said. “When a guy struggles, I feel like I’ve got to be in here and find something for him.” We all know it just takes a few good at-bats for a player to break a slump hopefully yesterday was the start he needed. Ellsbury knows he is in a funk, as long as it’s not any kind of injury that’s hampering his swing, one would think its just a matter of time before Ellsbury gets his groove back. Ellsbury was brought here to be the main catalyst for the Yankees offense.  If things don’t improve the ideal thing for Girardi to do is move him back into the leadoff spot, where he ultimately belongs. Ellsbury is .272/.346/.389 with 1 HR, 14 RBI, 18 BB and 44 H this season.