Mookie Betts of the Boston Red Sox is having an “off” season and a few numbers point out why. Will this be a career pattern?
Just who is the real Mookie Betts? Did Betts’s 2018 MVP season spoil Red Sox Nation and Betts himself? The trajectory of Betts’ career had a momentary glitch in 2017 when his “numbers” were reduced from 2016 when Betts finished second in the MVP race to Mike Trout. The voters were obviously confused regarding the concept of best player and MVP. Redemption came last season for the Red Sox dynamo.
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That was then and this is now and Betts is sinking in comparison to 2018. The two most noticeable categories I can glean in metrics is a significant deterioration in Batting Average Balls In Play (BABIP) which is now .276 compared to an incredible .368 in 2018. The second is Isolated Power (ISO) that has as a major component batting average. Betts is hitting just .260. And within that .260 is another nugget.
Betts for his career just torches left-handed pitching. He is a shark in a pool of bloody sunfish when it comes to lefties. This season Betts is hitting .280 against righties and a mere .211 against lefties. This has happened before. In 2016 Betts hit .264 against southpaws and pummeled right-handers at a .331 clip.
Another mystery is Betts ability to hit leadoff this season with just a .144 average. Last season Betts was almost exclusively in that slot and the results were .346. For his career, Betts has hit .299 when leading off and for reference to this season .312 when hitting second. There is good news regarding defense for Betts.
Betts’ defensive contributions have not languished as Mookie is ranked third among American League right fielders in defensive metrics. As usual, Betts is a run saver with 10 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) with no other player topping four. Expect Gold Glove caliber defense despite an offense that less than spectacular.
So the question arises again at just who the real Betts is? Is this going to be a pattern year to year? I prefer the composite approach which should mean expectations every year for power are in the 25 home run range and 40+ doubles. In every full season, Betts has topped 40 doubles and surprisingly has never led the AL. Betts’ average should be in the .300 range and that may be a struggle this season.
There are two factors for Betts with one being individual and the other team. As an individual Betts’ season could potentially be reflected when he becomes a free agent after the 2020 season. The second is two-fold with the Red Sox offense benefiting from a Betts duplication of 2016 or 2018. A subtext is Betts market value if the Red Sox contemplate a trade.
Betts is a five-tool player and they are exceedingly rare in the game today where all aspects set a player like Betts far apart from their contemporaries. At this point, one tool – batting average – seems to be in a deep slumber, but sometimes a slumber ends and a tour of pitching punishment begins. Maybe it soon will for Betts?