The Boston Red Sox are potentially bound for the World Series. There is just one problem: Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. are struggling.
The Boston Red Sox are on a hot streak. In the AL East, they’re four games up on the New York Yankees for first place. As the playoff race stands, the Red Sox would have home-field advantage in the ALDS.
A lot is right over at Fenway Park, but things can never be perfect with the local nine.
Most Red Sox fans look at the security that their team has in the outfield. Andrew Benintendi in left, Jackie Bradley Jr. in center and Mookie Betts in right; the vast majority of teams would kill for one of those player, let alone having all of them. The trio is young, talented and good defensively and offensively.
But at the moment, two of the three aren’t performing up to standards.
Since the beginning of August, Betts is batting a mediocre .245 and Bradley is hitting a much worse .196. To make matters even worse for Betts, he’s only batting .212 with one home run over his past 20 games.
Lately, manager John Farrell has been alternating Betts between the two- and three-spot in the order. In the two-spot, batting average is the key statistic. In the three-spot, home runs and power are the key stats there.
Betts misses the boat on both of them.
Betts is known more for his power than his consistency at the plate, despite having great numbers in both categories last season (31 home runs, .313 batting average). At this point last season, Betts had 28 home runs and was hitting an impressive .316. As it stands this season, Betts is batting .267 with 18 home runs.
The Red Sox rank 27th in MLB with 128 home runs. Betts’ power being down has substantially brought that statistic down.
Another problem for Betts is being behind in the count. When the count is 0-2, he’s batting .105. When the count is 1-2, he’s batting .186. All in all, when the pitcher is ahead, he’s batting .217.
The main problem with all of this is that Betts is supposed to be one of the premier hitters on the team. Last season, he finished second in AL MVP voting. This year was supposed to be the follow-up campaign for Betts that saw him continue his upward trend from 2016.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be going as planned.
For Bradley, the problems are much of the same. Over his past 14 games, he’s batting .194 and over his past 22 games, he’s batting .208. For a guy who’s been batting out of the nine-slot of late, he needs to be getting on base for the top of the order; that’s the entire point of the nine hole. Clearly, JBJ has not been fulfilling the job lately.
Another weakness for JBJ is hitting at Fenway. He’s batting .225 this season at home while batting .284 on the road. If the Red Sox would end up securing home-field in at least the first round, they will need Bradley to be hitting well at home.
It’s home field advantage not home field disadvantage.
Similar to Betts, JBJ also struggles when down in the count. With the count 0-2, JBJ’s batting .070 and when down 1-2, he’s batting .219. Overall, when the pitcher’s ahead, JBJ is batting .194. Without surprise, Bradley leads the team in strikeouts this month with 17.
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To add more fuel to the fire, Bradley’s only hitting .161 in the ninth, which means there’s no real reliability late in games.
This time last season, JBJ was batting .278 with 21 home runs. This season, Bradley only has 13 home runs to go along with a .258 batting average.
Noticing a trend yet?
Both Betts and Bradley were vital parts of last season’s high-ranking offense. This season, the Red Sox’ offense is down in power and not as potent and powerful as it was last year. Yes, it’s obvious that with the loss of David Ortiz, this team’s hitting wasn’t going to be what it was in 2016. Nonetheless, the drop-off from guys like Betts and Bradley hasn’t helped. With the loss of Ortiz, these two guys should be making up for the void, not getting worse.
The numbers for Betts are bad for Betts. The numbers for Bradley are bad for Bradley. They both play different roles in the offense and are called upon to produce differently. For instance, the Red Sox expect a lot more out of Betts at the plate than they do Bradley simply because Betts is just a better hitter. Unfortunately, neither player is hitting to their potential right now.
If the Red Sox would like to get past the ALDS this season, the production out of center and right field need to be better. A 20-year-old stud at third base, a second-year left fielder and a newly-hitting catcher can’t carry a World Series-like offense forever.
That’s why production from Betts and Bradley is so dire.