Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo racking up extra-base hits
Boston Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo is piling up extra-base hits.
It was only weeks ago that we worried about the slumping bat of Alex Verdugo struggling to put the ball in the air but the Boston Red Sox outfielder has turned his season around with a scorching hitting streak littered with extra-base hits.
Verdugo didn’t collect his first extra-base hit until he homered in his 10th game of the season. Through his first nine games, Verdugo owned an outrageously high 81 percent ground ball rate that led the majors by a mile. While his ground ball rate remains high, he has since lowered it to a more reasonable 59 percent that drops him out of the top-five highest in the majors.
Fewer balls hit on the ground means the potential for more extra-base hits and Verdugo has been piling them up of late. He’s currently riding a 10-game hitting streak that includes either a double or a home run in each of his last seven games.
Verdugo is the first Red Sox hitter to record at least one extra-base hit in seven consecutive games since Dwight Evans in 1982, per Red Sox Notes.
His batting average has risen from .261 to .284 during this hitting streak and his OPS has increased from .759 to .886 over the last seven games.
Verdugo now ranks second on the team in OPS as well as home runs (5), runs scored (13) and WAR (0.7). He leads all Red Sox hitters with 43 total bases and he’s tied for the team lead with 23 hits. 10 of those hits have gone for extra-bases, trailing only the 11 tallied by J.D. Martinez on the team. That’s impressive considering the slow start Verdugo got off to in that department.
As he gets more comfortable hitting at Fenway Park, the left-handed Verdugo is learning to use the towering green wall in left field to his advantage. Verdugo has always tended to hit a high percentage of his fly balls to the opposite field, an approach that has long served lefties well at Fenway.
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Only three games during his seven-game extra-base hit streak have been played at Fenway but Verdugo has doubled to left in all three of them.
The two home runs Verdugo has hit during his streak were both hit to right field at Yankee Stadium where the dimensions are more favorable for lefties to pull the ball. This shows that Verdugo has been hitting the ball well to both sides and tailoring his approach to his environment.
Verdugo’s Statcast data is still in the process of recovering from his slow start but his metrics are creeping up closer to his career levels. His 84.3 mph exit velocity ranks in the bottom five percent of the league but that’s an improvement over the 80.3 mph he was sitting at a couple of weeks ago. He has also nearly doubled his Hard Hit rate to 33.3% during that span.
Verdugo is a spark plug who brings an infectious energy to a clubhouse demoralized by a lost season. His recent boost in production has completely revised the perception of his performance. Instead of frustrating at-bats ending with a routine ground out, Verdugo is starting to do some damage while emerging as one of the bright spots of this gloomy season.