Boston Red Sox Report Cards: Travis Shaw


Now that the 2015 season is in the books, the BoSox Injection staff will hand out their final report cards, grading the performances of each member of the Boston Red Sox roster based on their expectations entering the season.

TRAVIS SHAW . A-. . First Baseman.

2015 Stats: .274/.331/.491, .822 OPS, 13 HR, 0 SB, 57 K, 18 BB

Friedrich Nietzche once famously stated that “there are no facts, only interpretations”, a quote likely best saved for discussing innocuous topics such as baseball rather than answering university entrance examination questions. The curious case of Travis Shaw and his breakout year of 2015 seem to back up the idea. Facts, as seen by advanced sabermetrics of his time in Triple A Pawtucket, indicated a middle of the road contributor with no shining qualities who is likely to be only an average or perhaps below average hitter.

Scouts praised Shaw for his baseball brain and his strong frame and work ethic. Despite this seemingly perfect marriage of brawn and brain, little seemed to be produced for only very vaguely defined reasons. When Shaw exploded into Boston for keeps in August, the results came as from as far out of the left field as the balls he crushed.

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Up and down all year, with mixed results, the 1st of August was the 1st of Sir Shaw of Clutchville’s reign at the neglected Boston first base, left without an owner since Mike Napoli took his beard to Texas. Shaw had a 4 for 4 night with a double, single and two homers as the Sox ran riot on the Tampa Bay Rays to the tune of 11 runs, Shaw alone scoring 5 of them.

I’ve heard commentators say “Have a day Travis Shaw!” so much since that it feels almost synonymous with his name. His contributions have been impactful and plentiful enough that some time around early to mid-September the talk was less about Travis Shaw having a day and more about him having a season, in 2016.

Amazing given that all the facts seemingly pointed away from just such an interpretation. Shaw came up from Pawtucket hitting only .249 with a mere 5 homers in 322 appearances at the plate. In Boston, by 42 he had equaled it and had done so against some of the best pitchers around, including going yard off reigning American League Cy Young winner Corey Kluber.

Shaw would eventually settle down, though never managed to slump to the level that was predicted based on his stats from Triple A. When asked about this by the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo, Shaw said;

"“There’s a lot more data available to you up here. You can see pitchers’ tendencies on video and how they’re pitching you. You can make adjustments on the fly because of it.”"

Whatever the reason, Shaw has more than proven he has value with his bat, what narrative do the facts show about his glove? Solidly average. A 1.1 WAR and .993 Fielding Percentage allowing 3 errors in 55 games. This is unlikely to get him the golden glove, or even bronze glove, but it’s certainly passable at worst. See, for first base, even an average defense is acceptable if it is supplemented by a capable offense. As for third base, the jury is out whether Travis could play adequately there as in the minors, but it’s not unthinkable.

Ok so ultimately, Travis Shaw didn’t break the records and is all too easily overshadowed in the company of Betts, Bogaerts and Pedroia. Even so, this was a player that with his own two hands changed the script. A potential ceiling of a bench contributor changed the narrative and, use him or trade him, new Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski would be a fool to pass up the opportunity. At the very least, it certainly seems as if Shaw did enough this year to put him in consideration for a platoon of First Base. From the humble beginnings and lowly estimations, isn’t this turnaround in fortunes the most unlikely fact of all?

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