Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
After a promising debut as a rookie in 2012, Will Middlebrooks underwent an incredibly disappointing 2013 season which saw him lose his job twice and even spend some time in Triple-A Pawtucket. Although many are quick to point out Middlebrooks’ free-swinging plate approach as the sole reason for the down year, he also likely was affected by other factors such as his recovery from the wrist injury which cut his 2012 season short and simple bad luck (he had a .263 BABIP in 374 plate appearances). However, Will Middlebrooks has recently discovered another legitimate problem that almost definitely affected his performance: his vision.
Middlebrooks’ vision isn’t bad by any means. However, Red Sox doctors discovered this spring that he was seeing 20-25 in his right eye and 20-30 in his left eye. In layman’s terms, that means that his vision is slightly below average and while it doesn’t affect Middlebrooks in daily life, that’s a big issue for a professional baseball player.
This spring, Middlebrooks has been experimenting with contact lenses. In the last few weeks, he has been applying eye drops nearly constantly in an attempt to get used to the little plastic lenses in his eyes before the season starts. Taking a look at Middlebrooks’ spring numbers, it seems that he’s had few problems with those little plastic lenses in his eyes; in fact, the exact opposite has been true as the 25-year old slashed .367/.404/.694 with 4 home runs and 9 RBIs this spring.
In a recent interview, Middlebrooks had a few words about the new contact lenses.
"For everyday life, you’d never correct it but for what I do, you need to be able to see the little things. Once I put them in, I could really see the spin on the ball. I was always just reading trajectory of the ball. I was never seeing the spin."
Poor vision obviously was not the only factor in Middlebrooks’ performance last season, but it probably did play into his disappointing year. Hopefully the new contacts added to a fully-recovered wrist and new-and-improved plate approach will lead to a big year for Middlebrooks in 2014. This is a huge year for Middlebrooks and it looks like he has everything on his side as we sit just five hours from the start of the baseball season. The odds are in Middlebrooks’ favor to bounce back from last year, now it’s up to him to take that next step in his career.