It’s a no-brainer that you need hitters who can drive in runs, but that is exactly what the Red Sox lacked this year. Forget the low team batting average and the spotty pitching out of the bullpen. It all turns on driving runs in after the table is set.
Yoenis Cespedes is batting .421 (16-for-38) with runners in scoring position. That’s changed the offense significantly in the last month, even given David Ortiz pitches to hit. There is hope that if one of those guys get to bat with runners in scoring position, something good will happen. Dustin Pedroia can be that kind of hitter when he is well. So is Shane Victorino. After that, no one.
But the Red Sox are now a young, developing team, and we may be able to say that about Xander Bogarts and Mookie Betts and Brock Holt in the future. They are talented young hitters who need some coaching and practice in situational hitting, but they all have the eye for it.
But batting average and power are not enough to score runs and win games. You have to hit when it counts. I question whether Mike Napoli and Daniel Nava and Will Middlebrooks have that skill. They’ll swing at bad pitches even with runners in scoring position. They may hit for average or power, but they are not reliable with RISP. They get desperate and look bad on the low outside or the high inside pitch. Not sure what their future is with the Red Sox, even though I like their desire and intensity.
How do you get that RISP hitting efficiency? I have no idea, but I wish Greg Colbrunn could bring these young players along. I don’t hear anyone giving him credit, so I question whether he is helping in this regard. It seems to me this is a skill that can be taught, even if some players like Cespedes seem to have it innately.
Everything else except starting pitching can be mediocre if you can hit RISP. The Red Sox have been great when they could and awful when they couldn’t. It was probably obvious, but it had to be said.