BOSTON—Jacoby Ellsbury will see and hear a lot of this in the coming weeks, questions about whether he can duplicate his MVP-worthy performance in 2011.
Dan Szymborski of Baseball Think Factory weighed in on the subject on ESPN Insider. Here are his thoughts:
2011 Projected OPS: .733
Actual OPS: .928
Thanks to the literally legendary collapse of the Red Sox in the final weeks of the season, Ellsbury's breakout 2011 will be one of the few things fans will look back on positively. Not only did Ellsbury come back well from a 2010 ruined by injury, but he hit 32 home runs, a number nobody saw coming.
Historically, when players have had these kinds of home run breakouts, their follow-up seasons have been a mixed bag. However, players have generally kept quite a bit of improvement from even the flukiest-looking home run totals. While Ellsbury might not hit 30 again, it's extremely likely he'll continue to hit more than the 10 he was hitting just a few years ago. ZiPS projects a decline to 16 home runs, but that's with only 560 projected plate appearances -- if Ellsbury gets 732 plate appearances, he should hit 20 again.
Another encouraging sign is the impressive uptick in his defensive statistics in center. While defensive numbers should be taken with a very large grain of salt in the short term, there's a lot more reason to like his defense than before.
2012 projection: .290/.345/.457, 16 HR, 62 RBIs, 40 SB