What Story brings to the Red Sox lineup
Ok, so let’s address the elephant in the room: Trevor Story has called Coors Field home for his entire big league career. The Colorado ballpark is easily the most hitter-friendly ballpark in the major leagues, and many of the Rockies hitters have drastic home/road splits. Story has been no different, compiling a career .972 OPS at home compared to a mediocre .752 OPS on the road.
Yet the thing about calling Coors Field home for 81 games is that it becomes much harder to hit on the road. In the high altitude of Colorado, breaking balls don’t have the same depth and fastballs have the same run. While that makes it easier to hit in Coors, it makes it difficult to adjust when going on the road where pitch breaks return to normal.
As a result, many hitters who have drastic home/road splits become far less platoon-ish when they move to another ballclub. Two recent Rockies stars, DJ LeMahieu and Nolan Arenado, had the same splits as Story during their time in Colorado only to see the issue disappear when they changed clubs.
Road OPS while with the Rockies: .793
Road OPS while with the Cardinals: .885
D.J LeMahieu while with the Rockies: .673
D.J LeMahieu while with the Yankees: .784
This doesn’t necessarily mean that the same will happen to Story, but it does show that it would be foolish to assume that Story’s offensive success was just a result of playing in the high altitude.
Another reason for hope about Story’s offensive performance is that he has shown the ability to make adjustments. Story entered the league in 2016 with an all-or-nothing approach, slugging an incredible .567 but also striking out a whopping 31.3% of the time. That total grew to 34.4% in 2017, but this time, he wasn’t able to power his way through it. His slugging percentage dipped to .457, and he hit three fewer homers despite nearly 100 more plate appearances.
It was clear that a league-leading strikeout total wasn’t going to work for Story and that making better and more consistent contact was pertinent to take his game to the next level. He took that step in 2018, cutting his strikeout rate to a much more manageable 25.6%. The results on the rest of his game were immediate. His batting average jumped from .239 to .291, he hit a career-high 37 home runs, and he won his first Silver Slugger award.
Story’s strikeout rate has continued to fall as he’s gained more experience, reaching a career-low rate of 23.4% last year. Yet that’s about the only good thing you can say about Story’s 2021 season, as he posted his worst average (.251), on-base percentage (.329), and slugging percentage (.801) since his disastrous 2017 campaign.
The good news for Story is that the underlying metrics don’t point to a drastic fall-off in performance. His strikeout and walk rates were right in line with his career numbers, as were his average exit velocity, hard-hit percentages, and average launch angle . His barrel percentage was actually his highest since 2018, a span that includes his top-15 MVP finish seasons of 2019 and 2020. The main culprit appears to be a .293 BABIP, which easily set a career-low and points to the bad luck Story experienced last year.
Another thing working in Story’s favor is his batted ball tendencies. Story has some of the best pull power in the game, and he has a swing perfectly made for Fenway Park. Statcast projects that if Story had played all 162 games in Fenway, Story would have hit 38 home runs. That total is double what he would have hit if he played all 162 in Coors Field.
The biggest question surrounding Story’s first season in Boston is how he fits in the Red Sox lineup. It’s tricky to identify precisely where Story would be most productive, as he has both the speed to hit at the top of an order and the power to hit in the middle. Alex Cora seems to love the Devers-Bogaerts-Martinez combination, meaning that Story would likely bat second before those three or fifth behind them. My bet would be that he bats second before Devers as to not to have three right-handed hitters in a row.
There are things you can nitpick about Story’s offensive profile, but in all, there’s a lot to feel good about if you’re a Red So fan. His ability to cut his strikeout rate by nearly 10% has allowed his elite power to play up even more, and his capability to both lift the ball and pull it with authority will do wonders in Fenway Park. He may never put up the numbers he did in the high altitude of Colorado, but an .850 OPS and 30 home runs for the foreseeable future seems like a safe bet.