The days of Will Middlebrooks being a burden in the Red Sox lineup are long gone. After an atrocious start to the season which led to a call down to AAA, Middlebrooks has risen up from the ashes and quietly become a major contributor to the Red Sox lineup.
Since his August 10 call-up from Pawtucket, Middlebrooks has raised his average from .192 to a more respectable .237. During this period, Middlebrooks has managed to reach base in every start but two. He’s hitting .350 since the All-Star break and his power numbers have returned too, as he’s on pace to surpass his home run totals from last year.
Prior to his offensive surge, Middlebrooks struggled mightily in the first half of the season. His only highlight came off the field when he tweeted, “Messed with the wrong city” after the Marathon attacks. However, the tweet exemplified his leadership and professionalism, a characteristic of Middlebrooks which has also been demonstrated by his willingness to hit from the No. 9 spot.
Most players who have hit in the heart of the order in their career, would not be too thrilled about hitting dead last in the order. However, Middlebrooks has embraced his role in the bottom of the order, racking up an OPS of 1.178.
Middlebrooks’ domination from the 9-spot is reminiscent of Bill Mueller a decade ago, who embraced his role to the point where he became somewhat of a baseball anomaly – a batting champion hitting last in the order.
Perhaps the best course of action for the Red Sox is to keep Middlebrooks at that spot. He seems to be comfortable there and there’s no better way to return to the top of the lineup than with men on base. It’s like having a secret weapon in the playoffs. And hey – there’s also something to be said for a guy who wants to be here, is willing to accept his role and is more focused on helping this team win than where he’s hitting. After three consecutive seasons of immense disappointment, some of which was due to some difficult personality clashes – it’s refreshing to see.
Needless to say, the Red Sox have to be relieved that Middlebrooks has rediscovered his stroke at the plate again. Last month at this time, there were many questions at third base as the Red Sox would rotate between Brandon Snyder and Brock Holt, who both struggled. This prompted the team to call up Middlebrooks. Now, the Red Sox can consider the hot corner as a strength as they have added yet another hot bat to an already potent lineup.