There were plenty of guys up and down the lineup who had trouble with Steven Wright's knuckleball last night. And give credit where credit is due, he threw a lot of good ones. But nobody had a worse night at the plate than Jacoby Ellsbury. He took a silver sombrero with 3 strikeouts in his first 3 plate appearances against Wright and had the bad luck GIDP in his last. He swung and missed at a lot of pitches and didn't seem like he was picking up the ball at all. Those struggles were the continuation of a stretch of pretty poor hitting from Ellsbury. As I mentioned in the recap, he's 6-38 with 13 strikeouts in his last 10 games and he really hasn't produced much since coming off the DL 4 weeks ago. Ellsbury hit just .215/.247/.354 in July and is at .133/.222/.333 in limited August PA. His post-DL slump has been overshadowed by the incredibly strong performance from the rest of the lineup, but on nights like last night it really sticks out. We saw Ellsbury go hot and cold last year. What's the deal this time?
It could be nothing more than some bad luck. Ellsbury had a .231 BABIP in July after hovering around .380 over the first 2 months, and a check of his monthly contact splits shows that there hasn't been much variation in his LD, FB, or GB rates or hit location percentages. His hard contact rate was down to 17.9% in July after being in the low 20s in April and May, but he's bounced back with a 33.3% rate to start August.
If there is anything to point to as a problem area, it may be the drastic decrease in walks in July. After posting healthy BB rates of 10.4% and 12.2% in April and May respectively, Ellsbury dropped to 3.4% last month while his K rate increased to 16.1%. This could have been a byproduct of getting back into a regular hitting groove after so much time off, and when paired with the contact and BABIP splits suggests that this slump is bad luck more than anything.
It is worth noting that Ellsbury has hit 3 home runs since coming after the DL after hitting 1 in the first 2 months of the season, so there's little reason to expect that he's dealing with any lingering injury effects. There's also little reason to think that something is seriously wrong with Ellsbury's swing or approach based on the numbers. He isn't getting the hits he got in previous months, but it doesn't take much to turn bad luck around.