Red Sox: Boston has a serious strikeout problem with their young players

DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 3: Bobby Dalbec #29 of the Boston Red Sox walks back to the dugout after striking out against the Detroit Tigers during the ninth inning at Comerica Park on August 3, 2021, in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - AUGUST 3: Bobby Dalbec #29 of the Boston Red Sox walks back to the dugout after striking out against the Detroit Tigers during the ninth inning at Comerica Park on August 3, 2021, in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images) /

Red Sox face a serious problem with the swing and miss

Well, Red Sox Nation, things haven’t quite been going our way since the All-Star Break. The boys have now lost five games in a row allowing Tampa to take first place and the teams below them to gain ground. I think we knew that at some point the bloom was going to fall off the rose and this squad was going to come back down to Earth, but did it have to happen in the span of a week?

As we look at this lineup and try to analyze it with a fine-toothed comb to see what tweaks and alterations can be made, it’s hard to find any. This is the same group of players that dominated the first half and sat in first place for much of the 2021 campaign. Is it just a cold spell that will soon pass? Hopefully. But as I looked at some recent box scores and player stat pages one thing jumped out at me, Boston’s young players love to swing and miss at a lot of pitches.

The Red Sox haven’t been shy in regards to promoting their top talent in recent years with Michael Chavis, Bobby Dalbec, and most recently Jarren Duran all going from “Top-Prospect,” status to the big league. All three have one thing in common and it doesn’t bode well for Boston, they all strikeout, a lot. Each of the three has shown great flashes of promise while also having fits of frustration. What we’ve seen from this trio is that there definitely is a difficulty increase going from Triple-A to the Majors.

I’ll start with the recently departed Chavis as he has the most time in the Majors of the trio. Though he’s now a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Ice Horse was at one time a spark for the Red Sox when they badly needed one. His penchant for high-energy play and hitting balls to the moon made him an instant fan favorite. Unfortunately, the league figured him out pretty quickly and once the opposition knew he couldn’t lay off the high heat, he was dead in the water.

Over his three years in MLB, Ice Horse averaged a 34.6% strikeout rate, that’s not good. Opposing pitchers had him so dialed up that every third trip to the plate was going to be a strikeout. It was tough to see him traded as he seems like a great guy but you can’t have numbers like that on this team. This is a group of killers in the batter’s box and whiffing in a third of your at-bats won’t cut it. This brings me to the next man on my list, Big Bob.

Dalbec was called up for the final month of the 2020 season and was an absolute beast. He set the record for consecutive games with a homer by a rookie and was one of the few things Red Sox Nation had to enjoy last year.

He finished last year with a .253/.359/.600/.959 line with 8 homers and 16 RBI. The thing is, he struck out 39 times in 92 plate appearances, a 42.4% K rate, yikes. Despite that, we were all stoked to see him have a full year with the big club but that excitement has turned into disappointment.

Dalbec has had 300 plate appearances so far in 2021 and is hitting .214/.260/.395/.655 with 11 homers and 40 RBI. Some of those numbers look pretty damn good while the slash is a big concern. But we’re here to talk about strikeouts and my man Bobby Diesel is a fan of swinging and missing.

In those 300 PA, Bobby has whiffed 114 times to the tune of a 38% K%, right on target for what he did in 2020. He can hit the ball to outer space but he more often than not will miss completely. He was brought in as a pinch hitter late last night and what’d he do, you already know.

Finally, we get to the final piece of the puzzle here and that’s Duran. Red Sox Nation was clamoring for Jarren to be called up all season long and I’m one of those that wanted him here. It was hard to deny what he was doing in winter ball and Worcester, but it hasn’t made its way to Boston. He’s followed a very similar path that the previous two went down in that he has had some seriously great moments, but they’re getting overshadowed by the strikeouts.

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Duran has flashed his speed and some power at the plate but it isn’t even a fraction of what we saw with the Woo Sox. The rookie has 48 MLB plate appearances under his belt to this point and is slashing .178/.208/.311/.519 with a homer and 4 RBI. The positive with Duran is that he’s still very young in his MLB tenure having only been in the Majors for 15 games. He has time to turn things around and get back to what made him a monster in Triple-A, but his current 37.5% strikeout rate is a major hindrance.

I’m not a hitting coach and have never sniffed anything close to top-notch baseball, but everyone is eligible to take the eye test and these guys are failing. As good as they can look, and more so for Dalbec and Duran since Chavis has been shipped off, they’re not doing themselves any favors. Jarren and Bobby were pegged as the foundational future for the Red Sox and they still can be, but they have to put the work in. I’m not saying they’re not watching tape and putting in extra time in the batting cage because I guarantee they are, but it isn’t paying off yet.

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The Red Sox are in for the fight of their lives with the Postseason looming on the horizon. Alex Cora will need his young stars to get their bats white-hot and figure out the riddle of the strikeout. I don’t know if the coaching staff needs a wake-up or if it’s something within the developmental system, but the most recent young prospects to get called up all have the same weakness. Boston needs to address this on every level if they want success not just in 2021, but for the foreseeable future.