Ask Nick: Why does Ellsbury always fake a bunt?

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With the Red Sox off to a good start, there’s a better feeling about the team.

We do have some lament about Jose Iglesias being returned to Pawtucket, but there are good feelings about the starting rotation, particularly Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, who may be the two most important players on the team.

Let’s get to your questions in this week’s Mailbag

Why does Jacoby Ellsbury habitually fake a bunt on the first pitch and then take the pitch – usually a strike because the pitchers are hip to it? Is this just a bad habit? If so, why doesn’t a coach or the manager tell Jacoby to stop?
Steve, Sandgate, Vt.

No reason to stop. One of these days, he’ll actually bunt for a base hit. Might as well keep that in the back of the infielders’ mind. Don’t see what harm it does.


Do you think the Sox will draft a pitcher or a position player? For this year, I would opt for the outfielder from Stanford since their pitching for the future appears to be better then in previous years.
Le, Wallingford, Conn.
I think they’ll always draft a pitcher, if he’s considered a top guy, over an outfielder.

When it comes to pitching so far, it seems that the top four starters (minus John Lackey, unfortunately), there has been a surprise in how well they have performed. Could this be John Farrell’s background with this team, or is it the chemistry we sorely lacked the last two seasons?
Dan, Nashua, N.H.
I’m sure John Farrell’s familiarity with Lester and Buchholz has helped. It’s also the two guys finally taking responsibility for their careers. They want to be good. They want to make the big dollars. To do that, you have to be elite pitchers. So far this season, they are elite.

How much longer do you think John Farrell will stay with Jackie Bradley Jr. before he sends him to Pawtucket?
Malcohm, Boise, Idaho
It may very well be linked to David Ortiz’s return sometime soon.


What is your opinion, based on early results, of the Red Sox trade with the Dodgers?
John, Beverly Farms
Terrific. Get rid of $250 million in salaries and get two pitching prospects. Can’t see any downside. We know Adrian Gonzalez is a terrific hitter and fielder. That’s a loss. Carl Crawford is off to a good start after his wrist and elbow injuries, but we know he hated Boston. Josh Beckett is another guy whose time in Boston was over. Some scouts say Allen Webster is the best pitcher in Triple A, and Rubby De La Rosa is still raw but he has a great arm. Very good deal.
It seems to me that the Sox have been copying Billy Beane a bit this past offseason, they just paid a lot more than they had to. They have put some gritty players on the field. But the reason they have started so well is starting pitching. Can you explain the turnaround with this group?
TDM, Montgomery, N.Y.
I think numerous people identified what had to happen for this team to be successful: Lester and Buchholz had to pitch like elite pitchers. They have so far, and therefore we see a 10-4 record. Now I think it’s imperative that 3-5 also pitch well. Dempster has. We haven’t seen enough of Doubront yet, and Aceves gave them a decent start. This was an awful pitching staff last season. So far they’re the best in the AL. How does that turn around? Like I said, combination of a simple, strong approach by pitching coach Juan Nieves, Farrell’s influence, and mostly the personal pride of the pitchers involved. The pieces they picked up have all performed fairly well. So their overall game plan has been executed well for the first dozen games.
I’m wondering if there’s a stat to reflect the havoc that Ellsbury seems to create nearly every time he gets on base. If you could combine, for any player, 1) his bases stolen per “opportunity” (i.e. arrival on base); 2) the pitchers’ WHIP when the player is on base as opposed to their WHIP for all other base runners; 3) chance of an error being committed when that player is on base, as opposed to when any other runner is on; 4) likelihood of coming around to score, following arrival on base … surely Ellsbury would be at the top of the list. How does he do it?
D.L., Raleigh, N.C.
Gifted player. He’s going to let it all hang out this season. This is his moment to make a fortune in the offseason, so he’s going to maximize his abilities and show us everything he has. If he has a season like two years ago, he’ll have his choice of spots to play. Don’t rule out Boston. I’ve been saying this for a while: He likes it here.
I’m really excited about our start, except for Joel Hanrahan. He just gets lit up every time out. Also, I’m not buying the hamstring injury — too convenient! We need to get him turned around, then trade him to Detroit for their Triple A closer.
Roger, Oklahoma City
I think we all questioned the “injury” when it was first revealed. It seems legit. He’s a very accountable guy in my limited time with him, so I don’t think this is a fake. I just don’t know why he went out there after the team knew he was hurt. But if he needs a few days to regroup, then fine. It’s early in the season, they’re in first place. Give him all the time he needs.
Just wondering if you see Mike Carp in the starting lineup for a game sometime soon? If not, what was the purpose of trading for him and keeping him in the majors?
Rhys, Stoneham
Definitely the forgotten guy. When Ortiz returns, not sure there’s a real place for him. We all think Bradley goes back to the minors, but Carp could be a candidate to be designated for assignment because you do have Daniel Nava to back up Mike Napoli at first base.
Several weeks ago, you discussed the possibility of the Sox trading some players at the deadline, but with the idea that this might happen if the Sox were out of contention. Do you think that they might look to trade players like Drew (if Iglesias gives them a better chance to win), Gomes, and Victorino (if a Bradley-Brentz-Nava combo seems superior) even if they are well into the playoff race?
Ben, Phoenix
Nobody gets traded if they’re in the playoff race. The one exception could be Drew since they have Iglesias. Looks like they might be in contention. I know it’s early but the competition all have their own issues right now.
Two related questions. Starting pitchers on their off days are often in the dugout, sometimes not seen in those shots. Where else would they be during the game (no Popeyes jokes here)? Also, tonight they panned the bullpen and all the way at the end were three Japanese men. I am guessing one was a translator. What are the rules about non-coaches in the bullpen and dugout, and are there restrictions about how they dress?
Karl, Santa Clara Calif.
Starting pitchers not pitching should be in the dugout, but for instance, I remember Jon Lester saying that he used to stay in the clubhouse a lot because the Fenway dugout is so small. Pedro Martinez used to do some of his workouts during the game. So there are places they can go, but they should be their rooting their teammates on. As for the Japanese, they do have a Japanese trainer. There are rules for the number of uniformed personnel, but it’s only enforced if the opposing manager makes an issue of it. Last season, assistant pitching coach Randy Niemann was called out by someone in the opposing dugout and he had to spend the game inside the clubhouse.
Fans love Jose Iglesias. He is an extraordinary defensive shortstop. To me, saving runs defensively is as important as scoring runs offensively. It also lowers pitch counts and energizes the team and fans. Nothing special about Drew as a hitter or in the field. What will it take to convince ownership? Is this Ben Cherington’s call?
Dana, Los Angeles
It’s the GM’s call for sure. Jose Iglesias is probably the best shortstop in baseball. But Stephen Drew hasn’t hurt them. He made a great diving stop Monday to save a run. It’s a ball Iglesias would have made an easier play on, but it was a good play nonetheless. As long as Drew makes plays like that, there won’t be an outcry about Iglesias.
This year, the strike zone appears on screen for every pitch, which I like. However, either the zone is not accurate or the umpires are missing an awful lot of pitches both ways. Does no one else notice or is it just me?
Paul, Sterling
I have noticed a lot of misses, too. I guess it’s early for umpires, too.
Why can’t the Red Sox care a little about winning more than money? They send down Jose Iglesias, who was doing a wonderful job at shortstop, but since they paid so much for Drew, he has to play, no matter if he is going to help or not.
Donald, Holiday, Fla.
That’s what it looks like. Drew is a good player, though, so you won’t see a dramatic difference.

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