Boston Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi has seen his production take a dive in the second half and they need him to turn it around by the postseason.
Lineups don’t get much better than the top half of the Boston Red Sox batting order, which has led the team to the top of the leader boards in nearly every offensive category. Most of the attention has focused on MVP candidates Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez but the hitter slotted in between the two superstars has been a vital cog in this offensive machine. In order for this lineup to fire on all cylinders, they need Andrew Benintendi to perform.
That hasn’t happened lately with Benintendi stumbling through a second-half slump. The 24-year old is hitting .267 with a .709 OPS since the break compared to .297 with a .897 OPS in the first half. Benintendi was considered by many to be an All-Star snub who came up just short on the Final Vote ballot but he’s performed far below the expectations of a star ever since.
A September slide has dragged Benny’s numbers further into the mud. Benintendi his hitting .250 with a .587 OPS this month. That OPS barely cracks the top-100 American League hitters with 50+ at-bats in September and represents nearly a 200 point drop from the .771 OPS he posted in August, which stands as his lowest mark in any full month this season.
Last year, we saw Benintendi hit 20 home runs and steal 20 bases. Joining the 20/20 club again seemed to be a lock following his strong first half. Benintendi already has the 20 steals but meeting the home run benchmark is looking like a long shot. He has only homered twice since the break, leaving him with only 16 entering the day. A bulked up Benny was expected to see his power production take a leap this year but it hasn’t happened.
Benintendi’s slump takes a toll on his teammate around him. He drove in 57 runs in the first half, which tied for 16th in the league at the time. This run production from the No. 2 spot in the lineup helped boost Betts toward the top of the league in runs scored. Benintendi only has six RBI so far this month, putting him on pace for his lowest output in any full month.
Martinez is running away with the league lead in RBI in large part due to having high on-base percentage hitters in front of him. Benintendi has been a significant part of that with a .364 OBP that ties him for 12th in the league this season. Or at least he was a significant part of that. Not so much lately with a .290 OBP in September.
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The Red Sox still own the best lineup in baseball but they’ve been mediocre down the stretch. Boston is 9th in the league with 86 runs scored in September. They are also sixth in batting average (.253), fifth in OBP (.328), 11th in slugging (.397), and eighth in OPS (.725). Many teams would be thrilled to have an offense produce those numbers but not this team.
In fairness, we can’t lay all the blame for this late-season fade on Benintendi. With the division locked up, the Red Sox have been resting a lot of players this month. September roster expansion has given them the luxury of plugging in several hitters who aren’t typically part of their normal lineup. A bit of a drop-off should be expected with an infusion of Triple-A bats in the lineup.
Once the postseason begins, Boston will go back to using the lineups we’re familiar with, which means Benintendi batting second. There’s enough firepower in this lineup to put up crooked numbers against the dominant pitching staffs they will face in October but they need their No. 2 hitter to return to his first half form.
Benintendi has about a week left to break out of his slump before the postseason begins. A juggernaut offense can afford to have a hole or two at the bottom of the order but not in the second spot. Whether or not Benintendi can get back on track will be one of the biggest questions looming over the Red Sox heading into the playoffs.