Can Andrew Benintendi be the Red Sox walking man?
By Rick McNair
The Boston Red Sox may have a walking man in the development stages as Andrew Benintendi gets free passes. Will he be the new “Walking Man?”
As a kid following the Red Sox I just hated Eddie Yost. Yost was a leadoff hitter, third baseman, lifetime .254 hitter in 2109 games, hit .276 at Fenway Park and had the unique nickname of “The Walking Man.” The reason is obvious, and Yost led the American League in walks six times while playing primarily for Washington and Detroit.
The older me started to reflect on just how accomplished Yost was with the simple skill of waiting out a pitcher. As a fan it would frustrate to see numerous Red Sox hurlers – some with excellent control – suddenly issue a walk to a player who never hit .300. My hate became respect and admiration.
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Yost twice led the American League in On Base Percentage (OBP) and had a .394 career OBP. Considering his lifetime batting average that is an accomplishment to be admired. Yost almost exclusively hit leadoff. No surprise with that OBP, but Yost never stole more than nine bases, so he was far from a burner on the base paths.
Andrew Benintendi may be channeling Yost in the early going with nine walks. Last season Benintendi had 70 walks and 122 strikeouts. Yost whiffed 912 times in his career, so contact was also present. Benintendi hit .271 in 2017 and posted a .352 OBP – two figures I and probably all RSN expect to increase.
Benintendi has started 2018 with walks and not hits. The average with the small early season sample is well under .200, but the walks are an impressive nine. With Hanley Ramirez, J.D. Martinez and Xander Bogaerts entrenched in the order after Benintendi the number of walks may decrease and the average increase as pitchers attempt to keep bases as clean as possible.
"“A walk is as good as a hit.” – old baseball axiom."
Plate awareness, patience, looking for a ball in the zone and other terms apply to becoming a good hitter. Some are fortunate to have innate qualities in that area and then they build upon that base. Some never develop the skill – hence the Mendoza Line. Benintendi is still in the development stages of his career, but the early results are very promising. The kid simply knows how to hit.
Patience reverberates through the lineup. The more pitches you manage to accumulate in each at-bat the quicker you may see an early pitching exit. Last season Benintendi had 3.85 Pitches Per Plate Appearance (P/PA). This season (through 4/6) the figure has increased to 4.13 P/PA. Jackie Bradley, despite the early season slump, leads the team with a 4.48 P/PA.
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Benintendi will never be in the rarefied zone of “The Walking Man,” but 100+ walks is not out of reach. Last season Benintendi scored 84 runs and as his average and ability to reach base escalates that figure will increase. Expect 100+ runs to be the norm.