Red Sox hitters have been overly aggressive at the plate

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 27: Bobby Dalbec #29 of the Boston Red Sox in action against the New York Mets at Citi Field on April 27, 2021 in New York City. Boston Red Sox defeated the New York Mets 2-1. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 27: Bobby Dalbec #29 of the Boston Red Sox in action against the New York Mets at Citi Field on April 27, 2021 in New York City. Boston Red Sox defeated the New York Mets 2-1. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /
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Boston Red Sox hitters haven’t been shy about swinging the bat

The Boston Red Sox lineup has been feast or famine so far this season, ranking near the middle of the pack in runs scored through their first 10 games. Boston has scored at least four runs in seven games this season, including twice when they scored at least eight runs, but they are averaging only two runs per game in the other three, all of which resulted in a loss.

Even when this offense has struggled to string together hits, it hasn’t been for a lack of swinging the bat. The Red Sox lineup has been among the most aggressive in the league, which at times can be their downfall.

Boston has the second-highest swing percentage in the majors at 50.8% this season, per FanGraphs. They are swinging at pitches in the zone at a league-leading 73.3% rate but they aren’t making contact frequently enough on those pitches. Their 82.3 Z-Contact%, which measures the percentage of pitches in the strike zone that they make contact on, ranks only 22nd in the majors. That’s a disappointing rate for a team that swings as frequently as the Red Sox.

Red Sox hitters have been too eager to swing at pitches outside of the zone, producing a 35.6 O-Swing% that stands as the second-highest rate in the majors. Some hitters thrive with an aggressive approach because they are capable of making solid contact even when the pitch isn’t a strike. That hasn’t been the case for the majority of this Red Sox lineup, which ranks 22nd with a 58.4 O-Contact% this season. If you aren’t making contact at a high rate on pitches outside of the zone, maybe you should stop chasing those pitches.

The combination of swinging frequently while making contact at a below average rate has led to Boston leading the majors with a 14.1 swinging-strike percentage. The Red Sox aren’t striking out at an alarming rate, sitting near the middle of the pack with a 22.5 K% (17th in the majors). Their free-swinging tendencies mean they aren’t taking many called strikes. Their 14.1 called-strike percentage is the lowest in the majors, so you won’t see many hitters in this lineup turning into a pair of shoes.

While they aren’t letting called strikes pass them by, Boston’s bats also aren’t taking enough pitches outside of the zone. The Red Sox are 28th in the majors with a pitiful 6.7 BB% this season. Despite a loaded lineup full of stars who have a history of getting on base, the impatience they have shown this season has led to an underwhelming .290 on-base percentage that ranks 23rd in the majors.

Sometimes an aggressive approach is warranted. According to the Twitter account Red Sox Stats, Boston is fifth in the majors in swinging at 77% of pitches over the heart of the plate. That’s great, we want them swinging at those pitches.

The approach can also backfire. The Red Sox swing at 59% of pitches in the shadow zone around the edges of the plate, the second-highest rate in the majors. They can’t lay off everything on the edges since some of those pitches will be called a strike but they are less likely to make solid contact when pitchers are painting the corners. Being more selective against those pitches on the edge would lead to improved contact. The Red Sox also swing at 21% of chase or waste pitches, the fifth-worst rate in the majors.

The Red Sox were a free-swinging team last year, raking sixth with a 48.7 Swing%, and still managed to be among the top scoring teams in the majors. They were also among the worst at making contact in the zone with a 83.6 Z-Contact%.

The main difference this year is that they aren’t making contact on pitches outside of the zone. Last year, Boston’s 64.2 O-Contact% was the third-best in the majors. The far lower rate that they are producing in that category this year comes in a very small sample size that is due for some positive regression. However, hitters are less likely to make solid contact on those pitches outside of the zone, which means they should be swinging at those pitches less frequently even if their contact rate improves.

There are certainly circumstances where it pays to be aggressive. If the opposing pitcher is known for pounding the strike zone, hitters need to be prepared to swing. Boston would benefit from finding more of a balance though. Improved patience would help drive up pitch counts, put hitters ahead in better counts and draw more walks.

There’s too much talent in this Red Sox lineup for them to struggle over the course of a full season but until they find more consistency at the plate, their troubling trend of swinging too often is worth monitoring.

Next. Devers is on the best hitting streak of his career. dark