As the Red Sox stumble toward the 2012 MLB finish line, there have a been host of sobering realities for the team, fans and management alike. Will Middlebrooks has been any anything but sobering. In his rookie season, Middlebrooks has quietly put together some very good numbers. So much so that Sox radio broadcasters Dave O’Brien and Joe Castiglione mentioned that if Middlebrooks played the same number of games (149) that Ted Williams played he would have as many home runs 31 as Williams did in his rookie season. Now that’s something to celebrate; The Splendid Splinter and The Soul Patch Kid. I’m giddy.
But what about the other numbers? How does Middlebrooks match up? Is he in the conversation with Williams? In short, no. Middlebrooks is somewhat disadvantaged by his spot in the batting order. Williams regulary batted third or fourth in his rookie season. Middlebrooks has bounced wherever Bobby Valentine needed him, generally in the six or seven hole. That spot in the order simply doesn’t present the same opportunities.
Still and all, it’s clear when comparing Middlebrooks and Williams in all the statistically significant categories, Williams remains clearly head and shoulders better, even when adjusting Middlebrooks’ numbers for the 149 games Williams played in his rookie season.
Williams leads by significant margins in runs, hits, average, on base and slugging percentage. Perhaps most telling and a testament to Williams’ hitting genius are the walks to strikeouts ratio. In 1939 Williams struck out just 64 times. In 73 games Middlebrooks has already struck out 68 times and is on a 149 game pace to strike out 139 times. Conversely, what kept Williams Ks down was his 107 walks in his rookie season. Middlebrooks has walked just 13 times this season and on on pace to walk only 27 times over a 149 game schedule. If you’re not walking very much and you’re batting .292 (Williams batted 327 in his rookie season) then you’re making a lot more outs.
So what does this all mean? It means that Will Middlebrooks is a very good baseball player and that Ted Williams is a once in a generation ballplayer who’s analytical, single-minded focus and scientific approach to hitting when paired with his freakish 20/10 vision, made him arguably the greatest hitter of all time. Williams said when he arrived in Boston from the West coast, “All I want out of life is that when I walk down the street folks will say ‘There goes the greatest hitter who ever lived.’ ”
You got it Kid.
There’s talk on the street, it sounds so familiar
Great expectations, everybody’s watching you
People you meet they all seem to know you
Even your old friends treat you like you’re something new
Johnny come lately, the new kid in town
Everybody loves you so don’t let them down
- New Kid In Town, The Eagles