Who is the real Will Middlebrooks?
Since his return from a Pawtucket exile, Middlebrooks has hit and hit rather well. His power production has been spot on and his average climbing 50+ points. His stay at “The Bucket” was not one that would make a member of RSN click their heels and shed tears of joy. Middlebrooks had decent, but not up in lights, numbers (.268/10/35) in 45 games. So what has happened? Why the sudden surge?
Is it a hot streak? Entirely possible. When he eventually cools will he be the Middlebrooks of 2012? Could it be the batting slot? Middlebrooks has sunk to the occasional depths of number nine, but this is the Boston Red Sox, and the likes of a Bill Mueller – as in batting champion, have spent considerable time in that slot. Little service time lower, then move around? Is that the reason? Lost in the shuffle? Less pressure? Has he just wised up?
I tend to go with Jim Rice, whose analysis is don’t over think each AB. Be patient and forget the past AB and think about the next. Cut down with two strikes. Really fundamental hitting 101. Might be something to it.
Middlebrooks K% has decreased from 27.8% to 20.2% since his return. His BB% has increased from 4.2% to 10.1%. His plate discipline numbers (O-Swing%/Contact%/Z-Swing%/Contact%) are now aligned with 2012, thanks to his recent surge. Middlebrooks is making contact and having some good power numbers. Through 9/8 his upon return average checked in at .368, with 6 home Runs and 18 RBI.
Whatever happened has resulted in a blessing for RSN. The Nation is notorious for being an impatient lot and that showed with Middlebrooks. His name was often linked, and continues to be, with various trade scenarios. The attitude is one of lets see if his post diaspora performance is an illusion. If not, the Sox will have a solid right hand power bat. What does the future hold?
The latest and greatest addition, Xander Bogaerts, is a possible transfer to third base. So what next? The Sox do have some interesting options. They could get into the Stephen Drew sweepstakes and hire him on at short stop and transfer X-Man to third? That could potentially open up a shift to first for Middlebrooks. The Sox could package him in a deal. If he continues to hit, and hit with power, that would be a difficult move to fathom. Thankfully, they passed on the Michael Young option and gave Middlebrooks another shot.
I see Middlebrooks as having Butch Hobson (circa 1977-79) type numbers. He will provide the prerequisite muscle one expects on the corner.
Middlebrooks may eventually move up in the lineup to afford more protection or, just maybe, stay lower where he is able to stretch out the lineup. Plenty of possibilities as long as he continues to hit.
His resurgence is significant.