Red Sox: Rafael Devers heats up just in the nick of time
Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers is smoking the ball again. What changed, and can we expect it to continue for the rest of the season?
About a week ago we took a look at Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers. There was news that J.D. Martinez had noticed something about his swing. They worked in the cage on it, and the immediate results suggested a slump busting was in the making. How has he fared since then? Good. The answer is good. How good, you ask? Let’s take a look!
If they worked on the issues the weekend of June 9, we can take Sunday, June 10 as the starting point for any new mechanical adjustments. Since June 10 Devers has a 159 wRC+ with 3 HR in 9 games. That comes along with a .324/.342/.622 triple slash and a 23.7% strikeout rate. Much more like the player most Red Sox fans were hoping for this season. Is this just another peak before a low valley, though?
There are some really encouraging signs.
We know that, struggles and all, Devers has been hitting the ball well and with impressive exit velocities. He has 6.5 Brls/PA on the season, tied for 78th in MLB with Alex Bregman. His average EV is 19th in the majors at 92.3 MPH. He hits the ball hard, and he hits is square. He has also shown an impressive ability to go to the opposite field for power in his very young career. During this stretch, however, it’s been pull power that has dragged him out of his skid.
On fly balls to the pull side he has a wRC+ of 726 over the last 9 games. All three home runs have gone to the pull side, actually. And while we want to see him leveraging that opposite field power, (taking more of the plate away from opposing pitchers) feasting on pitches on the inner half is a great way for a power hitter to produce. When you have the kind of power that Rafael Devers has, and pitchers are willing to come inside on you, it’s your duty to make them pay for it. Force them to seek refuge elsewhere in the zone. Then punish them for that as well. If he’s destroying the ball on the inside part of the plate lately, it just means that’s where they’re pitching him.
This could be related to the closing of his stance.
We know that part of the adjustment Rafael Devers has made is closing his stance a bit. It’s clearly visible in Dan O’Mara’s tweet here:
What does that do for Devers as a hitter? For one, it can speed up his swing and help him to get to inside heat a little faster. It also allows him to cover the outside of the plate more effectively (That’s foreshadowing, folks). And the outside of the plate appears to have been the point of attack for pitchers. Closing his stance caused pitchers to adjust, and it looks like they went off the plate away for the most part, not inside. That may mean he has been getting ahead in counts lately, so let’s take a look at his three home runs.
The first home run in this span came on June 12 against the Orioles. Devers had worked a 2-1 count when starter David Hess went up over the top of the zone and a little bit away. The third pitch of the at bat was well off the plate to the outside.
The second home run was the most eye popping, even if it wasn’t the most impressive by distance or EV:
This one came on a 1-2 count on June 17. The pitch was on the outer half of the plate, about thigh high. There were two pitches thrown off the plate away in this at bat.
Home run number three came in the 6th inning of last night’s game against the Twins. The count was 2-1 when he absolutely obliterated the baseball. This one was actually off the plate away, if you can believe it. And the pitch right before it was way outside.
It’s not what you think!
So pitchers aren’t coming inside on him. Quite the contrary, the hole in his swing was away and pitchers were exploiting the heck out of it. When he closed his stance, he closed that hole. And pitchers haven’t caught up to that yet. So he’s going bridge on pitches on the outer half like it’s going out of style.
And he’s not just scraping balls barely over the wall. He’s hitting absolute rockets. In fact, his home run distances over this stretch have been 396, 408, and 418 feet. The exit velocities were 104.5, 105.8, and 103 MPH. They also weren’t all dead pull shots. The home run from the 12th was just about perfectly between center field and the right field pole. The home run last night was almost far enough over to be a center field shot. With the closed stance, Devers can cover the whole plate and take just about any pitch to any part of the park with power. That hot streak we thought might be coming is here. So strap in and get ready for the ride. It’s gonna be fun.
Next: Red Sox: Could Rafael Devers be traded for Manny Machado?
Have any thoughts on what a hot Rafael Devers does for this team? Chime in with your take in the comments! And keep checking back for updates. We’ll be sure to monitor Devers’ progress as the rest of the season unfolds!