Boston Red Sox leadoff hitter Mookie Betts is entering historically great territory when it comes to scoring runs for his team.
The Boston Red Sox lineup may not appear as dominant as it was a year ago but the man at the top hasn’t had any problems finding home plate.
Heading into Boston’s final game before the All-Star break, Mookie Betts has tallied a league-leading 76 runs. That ties him with Ted Williams (1949) for the third most in franchise history before the break.
Topping Teddy Ballgame’s 82 runs before the break (1946) isn’t realistic with only Sunday’s game remaining before Betts heads to Cleveland for the Midsummer Classic. A strong performance this afternoon could get Betts to 79 though, tying his personal best from last year and the second best mark in Red Sox history.
Betts compares favorably to some of the best in MLB history when it comes to scoring runs. He’s one of only five players ever to score 75+ runs before the break in three different seasons.
The reigning MVP has taken a bit of heat for a perceived drop off in production this year. That’s partially due to the incredibly high bar that Betts has set for himself but the criticism has been greatly exaggerated.
Many assume Betts is having a poor season at the plate because he’s only hitting .273. Sure, that’s a steep fall from the .346 average that won him a batting title last year but since when is batting average the best way to evaluate a hitter?
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Set the batting average aside for a moment. Betts is striking out slightly less than last season (14.3 K%) and walking at a career-high rate of 16.2 BB%. He has more walks (67) than strikeouts (59). His .294 BABIP is below his career rate and league average, suggesting some positive regression is in order when it comes to his batting average.
We may even be seeing signs of that positive regression this month. Betts is 9-for-19 (.474) in his last five games to raise his average by 12 points. He’s scored 10 runs over that span to vault him onto this exclusive list of run scoring before the break.
The most important role of a leadoff hitter is getting on base and Betts is still doing that at an elite level. His .392 OBP ranks fifth in the league and would be the second-highest mark of his career.
He’s not quite at last year’s MVP level but it was always unreasonable to expect him to meet or exceed one of the greatest seasons by a position player in franchise history.
Leading off for the second-highest scoring team in the league will certainly give you a boost in the run scoring category but you can’t score unless you get on base. Betts is among the best in baseball at doing both.