Red Sox News: Andrew Benintendi’s bulking may have cost him in Boston

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JUNE 19: Andrew Benintendi #16 of the Boston Red Sox bats against the Minnesota Twins on June 19, 2019 at the Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Red Sox defeated the Twins 9-4. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JUNE 19: Andrew Benintendi #16 of the Boston Red Sox bats against the Minnesota Twins on June 19, 2019 at the Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Red Sox defeated the Twins 9-4. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images) /

Andrew Benintendi bulked without Red Sox’s permission

The allure of the deep bomb homer is something that many a baseball player has fallen to over the years. Not just for the excitement and adulation for sending a ball to the next area code but for the doors being a power hitter can open in the salary department. Former Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi is a guy who recently went down this path and it may have cost him his future in Boston.

For his time with the Red Sox, Benny was always known as a guy who will get the base hits and then work the base paths. He was always an extremely athletic and agile player during his career but something changed ahead of the 2019 season.

Coming off of winning the World Series in 2018, where his athleticism was a big reason the trophy came home to Boston, Benintendi got big. Now, there are no issues with trying to add some muscle and change up your game, but when the team doesn’t greenlight such a change, you may have some problems.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora was a recent guest on Tony Massarotti’s “The Baseball Hour,” on 98.5 The Sports Hub. The skipper spoke about Benintendi and how changing his body and trying to change his game from what made him successful led him to a lot of the headaches of 2019. Again, adding some bulk to become more of a power hitter is one thing, but putting on so much size that you can’t do what made you special is another. AC spoke about the change in Benny ahead of that season and what may have caused him to go down that road.

"“(Benintendi) made a decision over the winter to get stronger,” Cora told Massarotti. “He did get stronger. People think he was out of shape going into 2019. No, no, no. He actually got stronger, he gained some weight. In between Oct. 28, 2018 — when we won the World Series — and April 1 of the next year, sometime there — I don’t know if it was him or his agent, it wasn’t the organization — decided, you know what, you need to hit home runs.”"

We saw the numbers suffer in both 2019 and 2020 as Benny was on the bigger side and it was a bit tough to watch. A guy who was automatic for any flyball to left field was now moving slower and laboring a little more. Despite his FLD% increasing from ’18-’19, .986 to .989 respectively, it wasn’t as easy. Still, he got the job done and put up the numbers on defense that put him in the top tier of left fielders, but it was his offense that suffered the most.

At the plate, Benny has never been Babe Ruth and I don’t think anyone ever truly wanted him to be, at least on the Red Sox front. From the championship year to his bulked-up season, the lefty saw decreases in every major offensive category while seeing increases in the negative categories.

It was clear that trying to become a power-hitter wasn’t the right gameplan for a player of his style and can easily be classified as a failure. Things got to a point that during this offseason it became big news that he had slimmed back down his college weight.

Let’s take a look at the numbers both pre and post-bulk-up:

  • 2018: .290/.366/.465/.830/16 HR/87 RBI/21 SB/71 BB/106 K
  • 2019: .266/.343/.431/.774/13 HR/68 RBI/10 SB/59 BB/140 K

Saying there was a decline in his offense and actually seeing it are two very different things. Once you put the numbers side by side it’s pretty wild to see the drop-off. There was only a difference of 10 games played as well as he hit 148 in 2018 and 138 in 2019. So the sample size is within a close enough range that we can accurately compare the two seasons without any asterisks.

Two of the metrics jump off the screen at me and it’s the strikeouts and stolen bases. Adding more than 30 more K’s to your ledger is never going to get you anywhere good and that can directly be linked to trying to murder the ball. It’s something that we’ve seen time and time again with power hitters and has become an acceptable trait. If we want to see them crush the ball then we have to accept the fact that they’re going to swing and miss a lot.

"“You could see the swing. You could see the moves,” Cora continued. “It was a different player. It’s not that he’s slow. It was just a different body. His moves became more slower to the baseball. He wasn’t getting on top of the ball. He was trying to hit fly balls. Yeah, if (Benintendi) wants to, he can hit 30 home runs. But he’ll suffer, and we saw it. There was a lot of swings and misses. He became pull-happy.”"

The stolen bases, however, are something that I didn’t realize until I really compared the two seasons. As I mentioned above, Benny was always great at getting on base and working the paths. For his count to be cut entirely in half is something that is just wild to me, but can again be attributed to having more mass and not being to move as well. When he had a slimmer frame he was able to cruise around the paths, not so much when he’s trying to be “Benny Biceps.”

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Cora would go on to mention that he made it clear to Chaim and anyone he could before the Red Sox traded him that he’d rather have the old Benintendi and not the guy trying to kill the ball. I totally agree with AC as Benny is a far more useful player in the lineup when he’s hitting singles and doubles, drawing walks, and stealing bags left and right. Constantly popping balls up and striking out isn’t something that will put “W’s” on the board and we saw that first hand.

When I say that adding the bulk and trying to change his game may have cost him his future in Boston I’m not necessarily speaking in literal terms. Do I think the team may have been a little upset that he completely flipped the script? Absolutely. Do I think that it’s the reason why Bloom shipped him off? Not necessarily. But I do think with him adding mass and no longer being able to do what got him to the dance he became almost obsolete.

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Boston has plenty of power hitters and they didn’t need to add another one in the lineup. What the Red Sox needed was for Benny to continue doing what he does best and being a pest on the base paths and an annoyance in the batter’s box. If you didn’t get him out then you were either walking him or giving up a hit and then the game started on the bases. Once he began to decline the writing was on the wall for Bloom to find him a new home. Bulking up without the team’s knowledge or permission may not have bought him his ticket out of town, but it may have gotten him to the train station.