Boston Red Sox players making a run at 2019 individual titles
By Rick McNair
The Boston Red Sox season is being flushed down the baseball toilet, but some excitement does remain. Several players are in the hunt for league statistical titles.
Baseball is a team game but a team’s success is predicated on individual performances. When forces conspire as they have with the Boston Red Sox pitching staff, the results are what has been witnessed for 2019. Now the situation is one that is reminiscent of following a series of tragic Red Sox teams circa 1953-66 and that is the only item of note is personal glory.
The Red Sox offense has boiled and selected players are in the statistical hunt for that bold print – signifying league leadership on their statistical summary for the all too soon to be buried season.
Using the parlance of gamblers, there is one item that is a “lock” in which a Red Sox will walk away with a bold print and that is doubling. The race is one that is being engaged by Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, and a fast closing the gap Andrew Benintendi. Devers and Bogaerts may both reach 50 two-baggers at their current pace.
The scales of doubles leaderships were conveniently tilted when the Detroit Tigers traded Nicholas Castellanos and his 37 doubles to the National League. That cleared the pathway to Red Sox ascension for a category that often reflects power or speed or a combination. For doubles aficionados, the last Red Sox to lead the AL was David Ortiz in his farewell season.
Mookie Betts is running away with the runs scored title with only Devers even giving perfunctory chase. Betts is also the defending champion in this category that back in the days when the baseball was truly a dead ball was considered a premier offensive accomplishment. The back-to-back is also a two-part reflection with the first being Betts’ ability to get on base and the second the thundering lumber that follows Betts.
When you have the season Devers is having, you would expect a smattering of close to or leading situations. Devers is hitting and has been a tussle for several weeks with the Royals Whit Merrifield for league leadership. This appears to be developing into a down to the wire contest that will certainly have me mesmerized.
The next category in which Devers is making a push to win is RBI. The 800-pound gorilla in this contest is all everything Mike Trout who switches places almost daily with Devers. The positive is Devers has opportunity galore with about one-third the walks of Trout and a lineup that has placemarks ready to score when Devers swings away.
Devers is leading in the extra-base hit category over – surprise – Trout! Trout hits home runs – leading the league – and Devers counters with his barrage of doubles. In third place is Bogaerts waiting for a slump to possibly move up.
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In metrics is a “Runs Created” item that has the Red Sox in positions two through four, but in a shocking development, the leader by a significant amount is that fellow Trout again. In fact, Trout just about demolishes any metrics competition including the supposedly all-inclusive WAR.
The Red Sox produce batting championships with a hitter-friendly park and a lineup that is usually conducive to hitters not being pitched around. At this late-season juncture, it is a title for the Yankees DJ LeMahieu to lose. As at-bats accumulate, it takes a few six-for-six efforts to make any inroads and now Devers is vying for the runner-up slot.
One area that Betts is well in front is the number of pitches, but Betts is also just in seventh place on pitches per at-bat. Betts’ walks certainly contribute to that and his runs scored as Betts is third in the American League in walks. Of note is Betts is also going “Old School” with more walks than strikeouts.
Batting Average Balls In Play (BABIP) excludes home runs, but the Red Sox have a player who is third (.362) in Benintendi. This category is rather fluid with former Red Sox Yoan Moncada (.382) leading the AL.
A dubious metrics category is swinging strike percentage (SwStr%) and rookie Michael Chavis is flying away (missing) at 18.6% rate. The good news or counterbalance is Betts being in first place (4.6%). Chavis also may be a future strikeout king but got a late start this season to make a run at the championship.
Fielding is another area that the Red Sox have some notable success. The weekly cutdown of an inventive or foolish runner by Jackie Bradley Jr. has reflected statistically assists. Bradley is in second place among AL outfielders with nine. Close behind is the usual suspects Betts and Benintendi. The Red Sox have no outfielder remotely close to challenging for errors leadership.
I will stop with a deep dive into the metrics before my head explodes as one can just digest a certain about before the brain freezes. The bulk of baseball fans invariably follow the most notable traditional items already mentioned.