Red Sox center fielder Kiké Hernández
.169/.248/.266, 1 HR, 18 RBI, -0.3 WAR
Despite their overall offensive struggles, the Red Sox feature one of the best middle of the orders in baseball. Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, and J.D Martinez are the only threesome in the game to each be batting over .310, but all to often they are batting with nobody on base, and the main culprit is leadoff hitter Kike Hernandez.
Like Dalbec, the problem with Hernandez is not his approach. The improved patience he exhibited last year has carried over into 2022, as his strikeout and walk rate have remained fairly constant. The issue has been when he does make contact. His average exit velocity has dropped from 90.8 miles per hour to 86.9, and his barrel percentage and hard hit percentage have also dropped significantly.
Hernandez’s struggles have been especially prominent against fastballs. Last year, Hernandez obliterated fastballs to a .282 batting average and a .492 slugging percentage, but those numbers have dropped to .158 and .211 respectively despite no change in whiff rate. Hernandez is simply not squaring pitches he used to obliterate, and there’s no real reason why.
The good news for Hernandez is that he has continued to contribute to the team with his terrific defense. He ranks above average in Statcast’s Outs Above Average metric, and he is again in the 100th percentile in outfielder jumps. Yet the Red Sox were counting on him to at least be a non-zero with the bat, and his struggles at the leadoff spot are a major reason why the Red Sox offense has been so bad this season.