Red Sox lineup has turned into a home run hitting powerhouse
By Sean Penney
The Boston Red Sox have gone from worst to first in the power department, transforming a lineup that was a weakness last year.
The Boston Red Sox lineup has been a mirror image of their 2017 version. A year after finishing dead last in the American League in home runs, Boston currently leads the majors in that category.
In addition to the home runs, Boston also leads the league with a .270 batting average and .465 slugging percentage. They trail only the New York Yankees in runs scored and OPS. The Boston bats have woken up from their post-David Ortiz era slumber to reclaim their status as an offensive juggernaut.
It was supposed to be the Yankees tandem of Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge striking fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers with their mammoth power production. They have still been a dangerous pair with 11 home runs apiece but it’s been the Red Sox duo of Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez that has become the best 1-2 punch in baseball.
Betts and Martinez are tied for the league lead with 15 home runs. It’s the first time in franchise history that the Red Sox have had two hitters smash 15+ homers in the first 50 games of a season. These two did it in only 47 games.
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The last team to feature multiple hitters with 15+ home runs within the first 47 games of a season was when Todd Helton and Larry Walker did it for the 2001 Colorado Rockies. Those guys had a bit of help from the pre-humidor Coors Field environment. The last AL teams to do it were the 2000 Mariners (Edgar Martinez and Alex Rodriguez) and 2000 Angels (Mo Vaughn and Troy Glaus).
Martinez has been everything the Red Sox paid for and more. Not only has he anchored the lineup with one of the game’s best power bats, his presence has had a trickle-down effect on the rest of the batting order.
That influence is most evident in Betts, who has moved back to his comfort zone in the leadoff spot with the protection of a heavy hitter lurking behind him in the lineup. It’s not that Betts has been trying to emulate the approach of Martinez. However, he can still learn a few tricks from his new teammate and benefit from his wisdom.
An example came last week when Betts expressed his concerns to Martinez about his 12-game homerless drought.
"“He was just all freaking out,” J.D. Martinez said, per Mass Live’s Christopher Smith. “He’s like, ‘Dude, I’ve got no pop anymore.’ I’m like, ‘Bro, relax. All right? They come in bunches.’ All of a sudden you won’t hit one in two or three weeks and then you hit three or four in a week. Especially him. He’ll come around and hit three in a game.”"
Betts would homer in consecutive games following that conversation. Did the advice from Martinez have a calming effect that helped Betts rediscover his power stroke? It certainly didn’t hurt for the 25-year old to have a veteran to lean on.
There are other factors that have led to Boston’s power improvement. A full season with Rafael Devers, who is third on the team with eight home runs. Xander Bogaerts is crushing the ball as well as he ever has. Andrew Benintendi is heating up.
The young core of this team is thriving with Betts and Martinez leading the way. A lineup that can score runs in bunches can cover for flaws in other areas of the roster.
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The Red Sox enter the day tied with the Yankees at the top of the AL East. Many predicted the revamped Yankees lineup would make them the favorites to win the pennant. As it turns out, Boston’s lineup is just as potent. If Boston’s top bats keep surging then this will continue to be a tight division race until the end.