The Red Sox pitching staff generally looks deep and ready, but the hitting looks sick, especially in the outfield. A lot of undercutting and lazy fly balls, with the exception of Jackie Bradley who is not even making contact. Probably an issue of timing, because the hitters with the long swings are struggling, like David Ortiz, Johnny Gomes and Mike Napoli. Daniel Nava is not having the spring he did last year, either.
From a fans’ view it seems like Dave Middlebrooks has learned something that all the big swingers could study–hit where it’s pitched and let the ball travel to the opposite field when necessary. You see the same measured swings from Grady Sizemore and A J Pierczinski, just trying to put the ball in play. If you can get two-thirds of your line-up swinging this way, you have an offense. Even David Ortiz has shown he can take the ball to right, befuddling the over-shift. So why can’t the whole line-up take this approach, as they work on their timing?
I’ve always thought the Yankees were better at moving base-runners a base or two at a time. Since the big boppers like Alex Rodriguez and Mark Texeira have been sidelined, their offense has produced by consistency, more than power. But they had big run-scoring innings even with this incremental offense. They show patience at the plate with their swings, as well as their takes. This year they have stocked up with Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann and with Texiera returning, but I doubt you will see the over-swinging that some teams depend on to score runs.
Mike Napoli is the only Red Sox player who relies on the big swing to create offense. He is going to strike out a lot and hit his share of homers. He may try to strike out less this year, but he will undoubtedly lead the team in K’s and homers at the same time. What you see is what you get with Napoli.
But the rest of the line-up, especially David Ortiz, are adaptable to what they are thrown. They are professional hitters, and it’s what made them World Champions. Maybe we will see more of that when the season begins. But it will be sad if they continue to flail and pop out or strike out, when they could be producing like a team. It would be exciting to see Sizemore and Pedroia on base and Ortiz driving them in with an opposite field hit. The home runs can come later.
The Red Sox pitching is poised to have a spring of quality outings. It would great if the hitting would support them, even with three or four hard-earned runs.
Some really short-sighted advice on Jackie Bradley: keep him and start him. We need hitters.
With so much speculation about Bradley’s need for experience and what the future salary implications will be, I thought it was time for some here-and-now thinking. Who in this line-up is currently hitting consistently? Ortiz? Pedroia? Ellsbury? Middlebrooks? Not so much. But Bradley? Oh yeah.
In a week, someone will need to get on base and score runs. Who has been doing that this spring? Bradley. The Sox will need some potent left-handed batters. Anyone answering that description in camp this spring? Oh yeah, Bradley!
We know this is a re-building year, so why not bring up players with a future with the Sox? Why not play the hot hand? Maybe he won’t be ready, but then someone has to move once Ortiz comes off the disabled list. That would be the moment of truth for Jackie Bradley. By then he will be indispensable or a work in progress.
Last spring I made the same plea for my favorite underdog: Pedro Ciriaco. The Sox waited till mid-season to bring him up, and he instantly delivered. He hit, he ran, he played the whole infield. Why didn’t that merit coming up in April with the major league team? I can tell you why. There was this veteran free agent infielder, who seemed like a sure thing. He was gone in July.
The Red Sox treat rookies like vintage wine. They will play no prospect before his time. I don’t subscribe to the vintner theory of developing ball players. You should play them to see if it is time. Middlebrooks was not thought to be ready for the big leagues. Then they had to play him to replace Youkilis at third. Whaddya know? The guy could hit!
With the hitters sputtering out of the gate, the Red Sox will need speed, defense and pitching to win games in April. Bradley can supply two of those and who knows? Maybe the guy can hit! Let’s find out if it is his time.