Red Sox throw down: Fred Lynn versus Mookie Betts


The Boston Red Sox have in their center field a young and talented Mookie Betts. In 1975 it was Fred Lynn. Now for a first season throw down comparing both.

The Boston Red Sox have had some amazing center fielders that have drawn attention among which is one Hall of Fame player, Tris Speaker, and several others who have been notable for exceptional defense with some respectable bat contact, such as Jim Piersall and Dom DiMaggio or the combination of power and excellent defense in Tony Armas. Into this mix and celebrating the 40th anniversary of the 1975 championship team is Fred Lynn and a throw down with Mookie Betts. This will be a comparison of their first full seasons with the occasional reference to career notations and a final prediction on Betts future.

Lynn: 1975 stats: 145 G, 103 R, 175 H, 47 2B, 7 3B, 21 HR, 105 RBI, .331/.401/.566
Betts: 2015 stats: 145 G, 92 R, 174 H, 42 2B, 8 3B, 18 HR, 77 RBI, .291/.341/.479


The 1975 Red Sox were the team of the “Gold Dust Twins” of Lynn and Jim Rice. The culmination of a profitable farm system and a roster sprinkled with veteran players ended the three-year dominance of the Oakland A’s and catapulted the Red Sox into that legendary world series against the Cincinnati Reds.

For Lynn, it was an award stash with a Gold Glove, All-Star selection, Rookie of the Year and culminating with his selection as the American League Most Valuable Player. The season for Lynn was as remarkable as the one for Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.

Betts certainly provided consistency and youthful exuberance for the Red Sox. A fan favorite and one of the few bright spots in another disappointing season, but the reward package was barren for Betts. Too many games in 2014 excluded Betts from ROY honors and All-Star will certainly wait until 2016. No GG, either. But there is a certain hidden value – Craig Kimbrel.

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The Red Sox have or had a top prospect in Manuel Margot. Margot is of an MLB caliber with his glove work and has excellent speed with 39 steals in 2015. The bat is in the power development stages, but Margot appears on the path to the majors in a few more seasons. Only there is a giant Jersey barrier in Margot’s way – Betts. Thus Margot became a centerpiece that brings you a Kimbrel.

Edge: Lynn


Lynn is a number three hitter and Betts is a lead-off hitter, so that skewers certain statistical elements, but the numbers are very clear in pointing to Lynn. Both have mid-range power as shown by their home run totals, although Lynn had a performance for the ages one night in Detroit with three home runs and 10 RBI. But Betts has created a soft spot with his ability to torture the New York Yankees with a career six home runs and 16 RBI.

Lynn and Betts are also very similar in they are extra base machines. Lynn led the American League in doubles his rookie season and Betts has that knack and, like Lynn, the speed to get that extra base or the power to hit the gap for two or even three. For home runs, I see both as very similar. Lynn for his career would hover in the 25 home run range, except for one season in which he slammed 39.

Across the statistical board for that one season comparison it is clear that Lynn simply was a better hitter and a more consistent hitter. Lynn hit over .300 each month and Betts did not.

Edge: Lynn


Lynn was an amazing center fielder who would glide for the ball and, like Betts, would have no qualms about a wall being there to impede the main objective – catch the ball. Betts provided some acrobatic highlights for 2015 and some baseball suicidal moments with one resulting in a concussion. Lynn became the deciding factor to pad the walls in Fenway as much as possible. On the fearless scale both come out as high a score as possible.

Betts was a converted infielder and adapted to the outfield – the polar opposite of what Hanley Ramirez did. Lynn was a natural outfielder so the transition was not an issue, but Betts did have moments where lack of experience was clearly demonstrated. Lynn was not flawless, but could outrun the occasional mistakes and had exceptional instincts for going back on a ball or coming in.

A primary function of a center fielder is gap protection and that means the ability to take away balls – especially at Fenway – that go to your right or left. My own eyeball test shows that Betts incorporates this same ability into his skill set and will only improve.

An important aspect of play is changing the ground ball hit up the middle. Weak arms such as Johnny Damon and Jacoby Ellsbury were masterful at this and could prevent the first to third runner. Lynn, who had an above average arm, had a special skill for that aspect of his game. Double digit outfield assists were not unusual in his career. For Betts, his arm is accurate, but generally considered average, but Betts still managed 10 outfield assists for 2015. What surprised me about Betts was a UZR/150 that registered zero.

Edge: Lynn


Lynn had above-average speed, was an extremely smart base runner, had excellent first to third speed and instinctively could turn a single into a double or a double into a triple. In his rookie season, Lynn had ten steals in 15 attempts and for his career Lynn reached double digits in steals on three occasions. The speed component was on display in the outfield where it combined with a natural ability to create an elite center fielder.

Betts is unique in the same class as Ellsbury where he puts defenses on notice. A classic disruptor who is a threat to steal a base – any base – at any time. Betts is also prone to overestimating his ability and making the occasional poor decision resulting in a needless out. Betts had 21 steals in 27 attempts and I believe four caught stealing were simply being picked off base. Betts will be an impact speedster who I expect to easily swipe 35+ bases a season.

Edge: Betts


For Lynn, we know the career stats and they are impressive. When Lynn left Boston the path to the Hall of Fame had Lynn in the driver’s seat and getting an induction speech ready. Then it crashed. Injuries were a key part of it, but also leaving a place (Boston) he should never have left. Lynn has spoken of that on occasion. Lynn’s career was excellent, but no HOF.

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For Betts, I have to get my prediction in order. I also picked Felix Doubront to win 18 games so any prediction I make is one that should have the yellow caution flag out.

Why sell low? Betts will have a career that will be one of the most memorable in Boston baseball history and for all the positive reasons. The skill level and adjustment factor is excellent. Betts has drive and determination along with a quick bat and feet.

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In ten years when you examine the stat sheet on Betts, you will see some bold type designating leading the league in a category. Probably a few on doubles and triples. A few more on runs and two or three on hits – maybe a batting title tossed in.

Edge: Betts