Boston Red Sox superstar Mookie Betts has put his sluggish start behind him with a scorching stretch over the last two weeks.
The Red Sox have won eight of their last 12 games since getting swept in a short series in the Bronx. That’s a .667 winning percentage over that span that equates to last year’s 108-win rate. Several factors can be credited for the team’s dramatic turnaround, notably the starting rotation getting back on track, yet the emergence of Betts from his early-season funk can’t go overlooked.
A dreadful 0-for-7 performance over two games against the New York Yankees dropped Betts’ batting average to .200, his lowest point of the season. Sitting at the Mendoza Line seems unfathomable after 19 games for a reigning batting champion.
Betts would bust out of his slump with a pair of hits in each of the next three games when the Red Sox went to Tampa Bay and swept the division-leading Rays. He hasn’t stopped hitting since.
Betts has reached base safely at least once in each of his last 12 games, hitting .432 with a .527 OBP over that span. He has multiple hits in eight of his last 12. While he went without a hit twice during this stretch, Betts drew a total of four walks in those two games.
This recent success isn’t simply a case of Betts finding a few lucky hits to bounce through a hole in the defense. He’s been tearing the cover off the ball. Eight of his last 19 hits have gone for extra bases, including three home runs and five doubles. He’s also scored nine runs and driven in nine more over the last 12 games.
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The torrid stretch has seen Betts’ batting average rise all the way to a respectable .289 for the season. He’s still a bit below his career average but a career-high 13.9 BB% has helped boost his on-base percentage to .394. His slugging percentage is on the rise with all the extra-base hits he’s piling up lately, leading to his OPS crossing the .900 mark for the first time since Opening Day.
The advanced metrics from FanGraphs agree that Betts is returning to All-Star caliber form. He’s risen to 21st in the American League with a .380 wOBA and 25th with 136 wRC+ this season. Those aren’t quite MVP numbers yet they are impressive when you consider where he was at only two weeks ago.
The offensive production from Betts will continue to climb now that he’s found his groove. We no longer have to wonder if the lineup struggling around him means Betts will return to the level of his disappointing 2016 campaign. We can stop questioning manager Alex Cora for his decision to move Betts out of the leadoff spot. Red Sox Nation was ready to panic when the team was toiling in the basement of the AL East while their MVP was struggling at the plate. It seems we’ve finally escaped both nightmare scenarios.
Betts is finally heating up and his production is paying dividends to the Red Sox in the win column. The team buried themselves in a deep hole when they sputtered out of the gate but with Betts leading the way, there’s plenty of time for them to find their way back into the playoff hunt.