Red Sox manager Alex Cora wants lineup to be swingers

MIAMI, FL - MAY 16: Bench coach Alex Cora
MIAMI, FL - MAY 16: Bench coach Alex Cora /

New Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora will encourage a more aggressive approach at the plate. However, new hitting coach Tim Hyers is an advocate of plate discipline.

Despite the headlines of this article, it has nothing to do with Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich making the ultimate baseball trade, but all about a sudden philosophical switch.  The Boston Red Sox are a team whose offensive foundation is rooted in On Base Percentage (OBP) a clear attachment to Billy Beane and “Money Ball.”

Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald reported on this change of direction as Alex Cora wishes to make his charges more aggressive at the plate.

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Cora cited the idea of missed opportunities since the Red Sox were next to last in the majors in pitches swung at (43.9%) and last in swings on pitches that were strikes (69.8%). The Astros swing percent was 23rd at 45.3%. Cora mentions the idea of a batter “hunting for his pitch.” As a note for his career Cora had a  43.3% in pitches swung at.

Historically, this is not unusual for the Red Sox. In the last three championship years, the Red were last in pitches swung at (43.2%) in 2013 and 2007 (42.3%). In 2004 the Red Sox were 23rd in MLB at 44.2%. Last season the Red Sox were third in MLB in contact at 79.6% with the Astros being first (81.2%).  So, swinging and hitting what you swing at is a nice correlation at least for me and the Astros.

"“We’re going to preach to them to be aggressive – not everybody has to take pitches,” Cora said at his introductory press conference Monday at Fenway Park. “I get it: Work the count. But is it worth it to work the count now? Guys are throwing 98, 99 (mph). So you hunt for a pitch that’s available, and you do damage with it. That’s going to help us out.”"

Examining the various swing and non-swing metrics should always be done with prescription medication and black coffee with an additive. My mind gets as fogged over as my eyes, but I happen to be somewhat dismissive of the idea of suddenly getting aggressive as the key to run production success. Do you encourage the young hitters to be more aggressive or patient? Do hitters take the new mantra and start swinging at anything that is tossed?

"“When do you have to let the guy do damage at the plate? We’re going to do that,” stated Cora. “Obviously there’s other stuff of the game that they’re going to learn, not only from me but from the coaching staff, and we’re going to take advantage of that. And they’re going to be better baseball players, I think. Hopefully they listen to their manager.”"

According to an article by Ian Browne the new Red Sox hitting coach – Tim Hyers – is an advocate of having plate discipline. Hyers was with the Dodgers last season and they posted pitches swung at (43.7%) that was an MLB last-place finish. So, is this discipline versus aggressiveness?

The successful Red Sox teams this century have posted very similar statistics as the 93-win wonders of 2017. Where they have failed is in manufacturing runs and that has been an issue discussed ad nauseam since the retirement of David Ortiz. The Red Sox will undoubtedly rectify that situation with an additional bat or two.

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I would prefer not to have carte blanche approach to Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, Andrew Benintendi and even Mookie Betts to suddenly embrace a change in swing approach.  If you have some thunder in the lineup you will most certainly get some decent pitches to swing at.  The last thing a pitcher wants is to fill the sack with walks as J.D. Martinez awaits an RBI opportunity.