Mookie Betts leads the Boston Red Sox in home runs after hitting another one Thursday night, but it’s baffling how few he’s hit at Fenway Park.
On the three year anniversary of his major league debut with the Boston Red Sox, Mookie Betts fired a bullet over the wall in left field that clanked off the light tower for a home run.
The solo shot was his team-leading 13th of the season. There’s no significant milestone there and he still ranks only 31st in the the league in home runs. What’s noteworthy about this one is that it was only his second homer of the season at home.
Fenway has historically been viewed as a hitter’s park, although not necessarily a home run haven. The Green Monster lurking in left field is inviting for right-handed hitters but lifting the ball over the towering wall isn’t as easy as the short distance would make it seem. Many fly balls to left field leave a dent in the wall rather than soar over it.
So far in 2017, Fenway ranks 27th in the majors for home runs, according to MLB Park Factors. The lack of home run power in the Red Sox lineup plays a part in that rating but it doesn’t account for it completely.
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As these Park Factors would suggest, Betts has been hitting well at home despite not hitting for power. His .282 average and .365 OBP at Fenway are vastly superior to those same numbers on the road. It’s his slugging percentage that falls off a cliff, dropping from .550 on the road to .416 at home. The league-leader in doubles has piled up plenty of them at Fenway, so it’s the lack of home runs that explains the gap in slugging – and by extension, his OPS.
This wasn’t the case last year. Mookie could hit anywhere during his breakout season in which he made his All-Star debut and finished second on the MVP ballot. We all remember how he turned Camden Yards in Baltimore into his own personal playground last year. As great as he was on the road, he was even better at Fenway.
Including in the home run department. Betts bashed 17 of his 31 home runs at home last year. The previous year saw a similar trend. In 2015, Betts was better at home and hit half of his 18 home runs at Fenway.
This is the first season in his young career that we’ve seen significant splits in Mookie’s home/road power. Players can have off years that buck their usual trends, although that’s less likely for a 24-year old like Betts who is still climbing toward his peak.
What this tells us is that over the course of the season these results are likely to even out. The Red Sox have a home-heavy schedule in the second half, so there will be plenty of opportunities for Betts to pad his home run total at Fenway.
Even if the home run total isn’t where we expected it to be, Betts has still been among the best all-around players in the game. His five-tool skill set allows him to contribute in so many ways that he can help his team win even when his hits aren’t leaving the yard. If last night was a sign that his power at Fenway is on the rise, watch out for Betts in the second half.