Red Sox should be starting Rafael Devers at third base in ALDS Game 2
Eduardo Nunez will start at third base over Rafael Devers in pivotal game 2. Here’s why this move doesn’t make sense for the Red Sox.
The Boston Red Sox had the opportunity to tweak their lineup by starting Rafael Devers at third base over Eduardo Nunez in Game 2 of the ALDS. Surprisingly, that’s not the direction they are going and that’s a mistake.
Nunez has been a better fielder at the hot corner this season making just four errors in his 45 games (41 starts) at third base this season while posting a .971 fielding percentage at the hot corner. Meanwhile, the 21-year old Devers has had well documented struggles on the defensive side committing 24 errors over 116 games (113 starts) to the tune of a .926 fielding percentage.
However, the reason why Devers should be starting comes down to the bats.
At a quick glance, neither player seems to have a significant advantage on offense with Nunez hitting for a higher batting average this season hitting .265 to Devers’ .240 mark. Meanwhile, Devers has hit for better power with a .433 slugging percentage and smacking 21 home runs against Nunez’s .388 slugging percentage and 10 home runs.
However, a deeper look makes Devers the clear choice. He has enjoyed good success against Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka in his young career, collecting four hits (all singles) with no strikeouts in his ten at-bats. Furthermore, Devers feasts on pitches low in the strike zone (where Tanaka typically pitches) with 8 of his 21 home runs coming on pitches in the lower third of the strike zone.
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On the other other hand, Nunez has not had much success against Tanaka, going 4-for-17 with one double and two strikeouts in his career. Additionally, two of Nunez’s ten home runs have come on pitches in the lower third of the strike zone.
Also, Devers has more postseason success in his career than Nunez. In last years ALDS against the Houston Astros, Devers was one of the few bright spots for the Red Sox as he went four for eleven with two home runs, three runs scored and five RBI’s in the four games against the Astros.
Nunez is 3-for-19 with one home run in his career in the postseason including an 0-for-4 performance last night.
On top of all those numbers, Nunez is a much better base runner with above average speed that can be utilized late in a close game. Nunez can also be used as a pinch-hitter late in games against some of the Yankees tough left-handed relief pitchers like Aroldis Chapman and Zach Britton while also providing more defensive versatility as he has played, second and third base, shortstop and both corner outfield spots.
Nunez may be a better asset for the Red Sox off the bench, which further supports the notion that Devers should be starting this game.