Red Sox doubling down with penchant for hitting doubles
By Rick McNair
The Boston Red Sox lineup is on a tear – just ask the New York Yankees. A big part of that lineup is the ability to hit doubles and that they have done with relish.
There are statistical variants that have long fascinated me as a version of baseball shiny keys and one notable one is doubles. Watching the Boston Red Sox play baseball at Fenway Park, you become accustomed to doubles as the park is certainly conducive for the two-bagger.
The Red Sox have a long history of American League leaders in doubles with the last being David Ortiz who banged out an impressive 48 in his 2016 farewell season. That was the only season Ortiz managed to lead the league, but he went for 40+ in four other seasons including 52 in 2007.
Ortiz is a lumbering slugger who will not be confused with Usain Bolt, but sluggers – lumbering or not – are prone to collecting doubles by the bushel full. What doesn’t go out of the park often rattles around a power alley until said slugger is successfully sequestered at second base. Speed is not necessarily a prerequisite for doubles, but hitting the ball hard is and the Red Sox have had that in abundance through the years. This season it is the mother load.
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Boston has two players – Rafael Devers and Xander Bogaerts vying for the league lead at 36. Close behind is Andrew Benintendi and Mookie Betts. Of significant note, Betts is working on a string of four straight 40+ doubles seasons. If one is into projections, that will be five straight in a few months with Benintendi joining him. Bogaerts and Devers are a lock for 50+.
The Red Sox are also on a streak as a team regarding doubles. The last time the Red Sox did not lead the American League was 2015 – a forgettable season. Since then they are baseball clockwork and are on track for another team victory. Back to Fenway.
The quirky park is built for doubles, but is it reflected in the aggregate statistics? This season, Boston hammered out 235 doubles and have 143 at Fenway. Last season it was 209 of 355 at home. Then comes 2017. The Red Sox hit 346 doubles, but 161 at Fenway Park. Does Fenway help? The answer is apparent, but being a good to great hitter helps far more.
The Red Sox hold one individual MLB record at that is Earl Webb hitting 67 doubles in 1931. The Red Sox finished sixth that season which may have represented a resurgence after six straight last-place nightmares, but in 1932 they got back in the groove and were dead last.
Webb will not be found in the plaque area of the Baseball Hall of Fame since 1931 was “his “ year and the others regrettably forgettable. Webb had 39 of his doubles at Fenway while hitting a career-high .333, but by 1934 the lefty hitter was gone from baseball. Was 67 an anomaly? Considering his previous doubles high was 30 you have the answer.
The Red Sox offense is certainly both hot and formidable and a key part is the ringing doubles especially by Devers. Devers has cleaned up in July and now leads the AL in hits, doubles, and total bases. Every game likely produces a hard hit ball or balls that even when outs are hit on the button.