The Boston Red Sox struggle to get on base early in games while Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are struggling in the leadoff role.
The Boston Red Sox have struggled offensively this season. Their team batting average of .257 ranks 10th in the majors, which is not terrible, but they haven’t been the same power offense they were last season. They are outside the top ten in OPS and slugging, categories they led the league in last year.
Although the numbers say that the Red Sox have been OK offensively this season, it seems as if they haven’t been able to score in key games against AL East opponents and good teams. Against the Yankees, Rays, Astros, and Rangers, the Red Sox have batted .229, which is just horrendous and shows that they just can’t compete with the top teams in the AL right now.
Where the problem begins for the Red Sox is at the leadoff position. The Red Sox first batter of the game has a batting average of .086. I’ll say it again. .086. This is worst in the league for leadoff batters behind San Diego, Miami, Seattle, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Oakland, all of who are either at .500 or well below it. The best in the league at leadoff batting average is the Rangers, Rays, Mets, and Brewers.
Although this may seem like a small, insignificant statistic, it shows that the Red Sox can’t start games well. They tend to fall in holes early and not be able to gain ground as the game progresses, and this begins with the leadoff hitter. Their first inning batting average is just .183 when it was .265 last year. It can’t be excused because the top of the lineup has the best hitters in the lineup, and they shouldn’t be batting .183.
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This all starts with Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi. At the beginning of the season, Cora mostly played Benintendi at the leadoff and Betts in the second slot, until he switched it recently. Betts batted leadoff most games last year (81%) and was the league MVP. This year is not the same.
From the leadoff spot, Betts is 7-60 (.117) with 11 strikeouts. Last year, he batted .346 from the leadoff spot. Who knows what could explain his woes this season. In the two spot this season, he is much better with a .318 average. Benintendi is better at the leadoff, batting .267, but still bats slightly better in the two spot (.273).
The leadoff batter woes are a huge problem this season. The first batter for the Red Sox has an average of .225, 3rd worst spot on the team, just ahead of 8th (.223) and 7th (.198). Your leadoff hitter can’t be the third worst hitter on the team when it’s Betts or Benintendi.
For reference, last year’s leadoff hitters batted .332, best on the team by a wide margin.
The solution for this issue should be to bat Benintendi in the leadoff and Betts at second. No one else really has a history of batting first, but Marco Hernandez would be an interesting suitor to try out at the leadoff position for a few games. The blame could be put on the scouting staff as well, as the first few hitters might not be getting the best data on the pitcher they are facing. Whatever it is, it needs to be solved soon.
Although the first batter of the game stat may seem insignificant, it will loosely correlate to more wins. If you get the first batter on base, hits and runs will come, and the Red Sox can start to build leads early in games and start to win consistently.