There's no question Jacoby Ellsbury is among the elite base-stealers baseball. His 70 stolen bases led all the major leagues by a healthy margin, and his success rate of 85 percent shows he's generally not taking unncessary chances.
But that doesn't mean he doesn't still have work to do.
Take last Friday as an example.
Ellsbury doubled to right field to open the bottom of the first on Friday, and it took just one pitch to Dustin Pedroia for him to steal third -- and to come around and score when the throw from Kelly Shoppach sailed into left field. Five pitches into the game, the Red Sox led by a 1-0 score.
Ellsbury had another chance in the third inning. He walked with runners on first and second and no one out, loading the bases for the heart of the Red Sox order. Dustin Pedroia then hit a sacrifice fly and Victor Martinez singled to right field, scoring two runs and bringing Kevin Youkilis to the plate with runners on first and second and just one out.
The Indians knew he was there.
The night before, in fact, he'd stolen second base on the first pitch thrown to Pedroia in the first inning. When he singled to lead off the sixth inning, he took off again -- and Lou Marson threw him out.
This time, second baseman Jamey Carroll was essentially holding Ellsbury on second base. The Indians again were just waiting for him to go -- and he went.
But he didn't get quite the jump he'd gotten in the first inning, and Shoppach made a terrific throw to cut him down.
All of a sudden, the Red Sox had gone from runners on first and second with one out to a runner on first with two outs.
Youkilis walked and Jason Bay followed with a run-scoring double, but Mike Lowell's fly ball to center field ended the inning rather than becoming just a sacrifice fly in the middle of an onslaught of scoring.
"He's done a good job on the bases -- and last night was one of the exceptions," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said the next day. "We talked to him about it. He got their attention. It was first and second, and we've got the middle of the order up and they're in a little bit of trouble. He got their attention, and that's OK. We've got Youk hitting with a lefty that looks like he's got a chance to get into trouble -- and he forced the issue and was out.
"We just tell him, and he goes, 'Yeah, I agree.'"
Ellsbury will have a chance to do to the Angels what Chone Figgins, Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter and others will do to the Red Sox.
But he still has to pick his spots. If he gets too predictable -- and he was too predictable against the Indians, resulting in two outs on the basepaths in two games -- he's going to do more to hurt the Red Sox cause than to help it.