Red Sox Predictions: Travis Shaw trade ultimately won’t be a mistake

Apr 4, 2017; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Brewers third baseman Travis Shaw (21) high fives teammates in the dugout after scoring a run during the second inning against the Colorado Rockies at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 4, 2017; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Brewers third baseman Travis Shaw (21) high fives teammates in the dugout after scoring a run during the second inning against the Colorado Rockies at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /
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Aug 16, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell (53) speaks with first baseman Travis Shaw (47) during the second inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 16, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell (53) speaks with first baseman Travis Shaw (47) during the second inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports /

Confidence boost under proper management

Why do hitters suddenly go on torrid hot streaks or run into a frigid cold spell? The bat doesn’t get any bigger or smaller; the ball isn’t coming in any different. A big part of it is confidence. When a hitter walks up to the plate expecting to succeed, he sees the ball better and overthinks himself less, and vice versa. It’s human nature – confidence generally spurs performance.

For Travis Shaw last season, some of manager John Farrell’s decisions were a drain on his confidence. Shaw recently went on the Section 10 Podcast with Jared Carrabis, Pete Blackburn and Steve Perrault and spoke candidly about how his relationship with Farrell took him out of his rhythm.

"“The trade for Aaron Hill made me take a step back […] I went from playing 80 games straight to playing three, four days a week just like that. The communication wasn’t there.”"

Some context is necessary here. Shaw started out the 2016 seasons like a comet, maintaining an OPS above .860 through May. Then he hit a wall in June, turning in an OPS of .586.

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The sudden downturn of production worried management enough that on July 8, they went out and acquired Aaron Hill (from the Brewers, coincidentally). However, the trade coincided with Shaw beginning to find his stroke again, as he would turn in an .818 OPS in July.

But the Hill acquisition and the implication of the lack of faith in Shaw had a clear effect on the rest of his season: Shaw would post a .542 OPS in August and a .602 OPS in September as his playing time was drastically reduced.

Now in Milwaukee, Shaw is slated as the everyday third baseman and cleanup hitter – quite the step up from competing for the everyday job with an overpaid, underachieving veteran (Sandoval) and fighting to remain as high as sixth in the order.

"“I get a chance to play everyday, which is all you can ask for and a chance to hit lefties again […] That’s the thing that bothered me the most last year.”"

Shaw brings up another good point here – Farrell loved take him out of the game against lefties for no reason.

In 2015, Shaw slashed .329/.353/.622 against fellow lefties over 82 at-bats. Not only did he hold his own against southpaws, he crushed them. There was no big league evidence to suggest Shaw couldn’t handle them – that is, until Farrell created it by taking away his confidence to hit them.

Not getting the regular looks at lefties, Shaw’s slash line dropped down to .187/.235/.364 against them. So far in 2017, back to an everyday role even when a lefty is on the hill, Shaw is off to a .324/.361/.588 line against southpaws. There may have been other factors at play, but it sure seems like Farrell’s obsession with the right-on-left matchup created a platoon player out of an everyday player.