Red Sox: Rafael Devers is developing his own Moon shots

BOSTON, MA - JULY 30: Rafael Devers
BOSTON, MA - JULY 30: Rafael Devers /

Rafael Devers of the Boston Red Sox is developing his “Moon shots” to left field just as former Dodger Wally Moon did. With Devers it goes deeper than just an adjustment.

Dredging up history seems all in vogue the last few months, but I will avoid the current herd mentality and concentrate on baseball history. In this instance, it is a connection of the present to the past.  The sudden emergence of Boston Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers reminds me of another left-handed batter who had a knack for finding left field walls – Wally Moon.

During the offseason of 1958, two separate Dodger moments in history happened.  The first is a move from a decaying Brooklyn to the new and fertile Los Angeles area. Owner Walter O’Malley recognized the golden – as in money – possibilities.  The second is the Dodgers made a trade with the Cardinals to get Moon.

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The Dodgers needed a place to play and the only available one that met their needs – meaning plenty of seats – was the Los Angeles Coliseum. But the Coliseum had a problem since configuring it for baseball was an issue.  The Dodgers erected a 42’ high screen in left field – just 251’ from home plate – an inviting target for right-handed power hitters such as Gil Hodges.

Moon realized that right field was not exactly a power alley in this configuration and consulted with his former teammate Stan Musial on how to approach his new playground.  In 1958 the distance to right field was a staggering 440’. Moon developed an “inside out” swing and the rest became a trademark.

Moon took advantage of the left field barrier and fans soon started to call his home runs “Moon shots” for home runs he took the opposite way. Moon hit 19 home runs in 1959 and 14 of them were at home so Moon was certainly onto something.  The Dodgers went on to win the World Series with Moon hitting a home run, but that was in Chicago and not LA.

Devers has burst upon the baseball scene and is gathering national attention. Devers’ home run antics are beginning to mirror that of the Yankees Gary Sanchez in 2016 when Sanchez hit 20 in just 53 games.  Devers is on a pace to come reasonably close to that.

What has intrigued me is his adjustment to the pitching at the major league level.  Devers is not altering his stroke as Moon did, but simply has an ability to go with the pitch.  Three of Devers’ home runs have gone into the Monster Seats – barely. Devers has the strength to simply muscle the ball with authority the other way.

Statistically, the sample for Devers is small, but what stands out to me are three figures.  The first in 43.6% that represents balls hit the opposite way – that go with the pitch thing. The American League average is 24.9%.

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Popups are rally killers – maybe not like a double play, but still one little nugget I don’t like to see.  The Red Sox have a team rate of 8% and Devers is at 5.3%. The team is 14th in the AL and that is a giveaway at-bat – nonproductive.

Lastly is actually hitting the ball without authority or as the stats refer to it “soft.” Soft is the result of some combination of good pitching and poor hitting adjustment. The proverbial weak grounder. The AL average is 18.5% and Devers is 14.5%.

The sample (again) is small but the initial results are encouraging.  Devers has the innate ability to simply take advantage of what he is given. His swing has resulted in fewer – small as it may be – weak outs given away.

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Generally, I give a player a few seasons before I get all gushy about their future. Just think Will Middlebrooks and literally hundreds of others, but there is just something about Devers hitting skills that stamp this kid as something special.