Random Musings: The Red Sox in the Summer Doldrums

Hunter Golden tries to figure out this switch hitting stuff, yells at Pedoira, praises all the Bogaerts and engages in spats of self-loathing.

Nothing particularly cool to talk about this week, guys – so here’s the stuff that I’m thinking about right now.

Dustin Pedroia isn’t hitting.

I don’t know if his thumb injury acting up again, but the bottom line is that since July 1st, Dustin Pedroia hasn’t been able to hit a beach ball. Over that stretch, he’s posted a paltry .291 wOBA and an ISO of .093. The good news is he’s still walking, not striking out and playing stellar defense, but still – if the Red Sox plan on keeping the division lead, Pedroia’s going to have to come around. In an offense that’s better than the sum of it’s parts, the dependable bats – Ellsbury, Ortiz – and especially Pedroia, are going to have to produce.

Despite the recent narrative, Shane Victorino can still switch hit.

Heading into this season, there was plenty of speculation regarding the amount of money and years given to Victorino – with much of it revolving around a widening platoon spit that began two years ago and became particularly egregious last season.

Fast forward to this year and in spite of his numbers being relatively close vs. lefties & righties, the narrative isn’t that Victorino isn’t hitting from the left side of the plate because he’s hurt – but because he can’t hit there anymore. Problem is – that’s not really the case.

Vs. Lefties .290/.336/.435

Vs. Righties .283/.336/.392

Is that a difference? Sure. A problem? Not really. Switch hitters have different plate approaches according to what side of the plate they so happen to be hitting from. As a righty, Victorino is a dead-pull, low line drive hitter. As a lefty, he’s always been more of a spray hitter, hitting 41% of all of the balls he puts in play to the opposite field. His power is virtually non-existent as a lefty, but that’s not any different from how he’s been his whole career (.399 SLG as a lefty vs righties).

At some point, Victorino will have to full-time it from the right side, but I’m not sure we’re there yet. I’d love to see him continue to switch hit at home, while shying away from it a bit more on the road, as that’s where the splits start to smell a little worse. Cumulatively on the road, he hasn’t been that great, posting a wOBA of .314 one the road vs. .344 at home. A big part of his road woes is due to him not batting exclusively from the right side. Long story short, right-handed pitchers are gobbling him up on the road, but not in Fenway. So let’s back off the switch-hitting a bit, but not entirely. He can still pull it off.

But Jarrod Saltalamacchia can’t. Well, he shouldn’t, at least..

Salty’s offensive performance has been pretty good this year, all things considered. Sure, he strikes out a lot and is sitting on a not-so-sustainable .386 BABIP, but there’s reason to believe his surge this year might be a lot more sustainable than you’ve be led to believe.

For one, while his K% remains sky-high – his BB% has seen a steady uptick the past three years, and is sitting at a perfectly decent 9.6% this season. To boot, we’ve also seen a 4% jump in his LD%, meaning that a chunk of that inflated BABIP is due to talent. In fact, his peripherals seem to point to that, too – as his swing % has dipped each of the past three seasons while his contact% has moved up.

Safe to say, he’s improved at the plate, but the real question here is whether he could be even better. As a righty, he’s got a wOBA of .294. As a lefty, it’s sitting at .367. Especially when it comes to power (.091 as a righty vs. .220 as a lefty),the discrepancy’s huge and let’s face it, much of Salty’s value rests in his power. So with that big a difference, why are we bothering, here? He’s hit .288/.347/.505 vs. righties this year as a LHB. Why not just hit as a lefty? It basically would make him a lower-rent Ryan Howard (when Howard was good) with passable, not good defense.

The #5 hole problem is an easy one to fill

I really don’t get why it’s taken this long for management to settle on the idea of the Jonny Gomes/Daniel Nava platoon behind David Ortiz. Both have incredibly deep platoon splits, but if you combined Gomes’ performance vs. lefties over his career and Nava’s this year vs. righties, you’re looking at a .293/.392/.481 hitter. We don’t want that .878 behind Ortiz because why again? Even when Napoli’s going well, he’s a career average .850 OPS hitter. This platoon is clearly the better option. Put them there and let it be.

Bogaerts, my Bogaerts

I’m happy Bogaerts is up for two reasons:

1.) Stephen Drew is really struggling to hit LHP. How big is the gap? Vs. righties, he’s hitting .276/.369/.466. Vs. lefties, it’s hard to imagine he’s even the same player: .193/.246/.342. Bogaerts, even if he’s middling, should be a significant improvement vs. RHP.

2.) The bottom four guys in the lineup (five guys, when Jonny Gomes is hitting) have K%’s over 23%. It gets really hard to string big innings together if you’re looking as a guaranteed K at the bottom of your lineup nearly every time through. Bogaerts’ 10.9% BB% and not being drunk of strikeouts should help take the edge off.

Oh, and BOGAERTS~!
“When Cherington opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of a fourth living coach say, “Come and see!” I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Bogaerts, and Hades was following close behind them.He was given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by bats, gloves and bases on balls – and by the wild pitches of the earth.” – The Book of Hunter 13: 1-3

Categories: Daniel Nava Dustin Pedroia Jarrod Saltalamacchia Jonny Gomes Mike Napoli Shane Victorino Xander Bogaerts

A world-class baseball nerd, baseball fan, and baseball man, Hunter Golden agreed to terms with Fire Brand of the American League in September of 2012 in exchange for an oversized baby bottle, football helmet filled with cottage cheese and naked pictures of Bea Arthur. In January of 2013, he was named Editor. He likes run-on sentences, enjoys over-using hyphens, and smelling books. When it comes to serious stuff, Hunter is a professional writer (no, really), father of two, Husband of one and whose natural habitat is Western Massachusetts and agreeable parts of Connecticut. Follow him at @hunterGbaseball on Twitter or shoot him an email at [email protected]

2 Responses to “Random Musings: The Red Sox in the Summer Doldrums” Subscribe

  1. Chip buck August 21, 2013 at 2:51 PM #

    The Book of Hunter is crap.  It undermines the entire message of the Bible.  I prefer to rip those pages out and light them on fire.

    • baseballNE August 21, 2013 at 3:14 PM #

      @Chip buck The Bible is actually about baseball. Ryan Dempster even thinks he’s David.