Boston Red Sox: Here’s why Mookie Betts won back-to-back Gold Glove Awards

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 16: Mookie Betts
BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 16: Mookie Betts /

Boston Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts won his second consecutive Gold Glove Award last night, making him the fourth outfielder in Red Sox history to win the award multiple times.

The Boston Red Sox outfield is truly a treat to watch. As an outfielder, I really appreciate great outfield play. I find beauty in routes and reads more than the plays being made. Anyone can make a bad read and save themselves with a dive.

Mookie Betts is an incredible outfielder. I probably don’t need to tell you that because his back to back Gold Gloves have already told you. His 63 runs saved in the past two seasons (1st in MLB) already told you. His highlight reel diving and sliding catches already told you. But what exactly makes Mookie so good?

First, he’s fast. There’s a reason he’s able to steal 25+ bags a year. He’s a fast twitch guy. His muscles are built for explosiveness, and that’s reflected in his outfield play.

When the ball is hit, Mookie goes from stationary to top speed extremely quickly. Think of Mookie like Road Runner when Wile E. Coyote shows up. At the crack of the bat, Mookie is off to the races. More often than not, he reaches his destination before the ball does. Meep meep.

The next thing that stands out about Mookie’s defense are his reads and routes. “Of course he gets good reads Ben, the guy’s a major league outfielder”. Well, you’re right. But have you considered that there are a lot of major league outfielders who don’t have Gold Glove awards? That’s what I thought.

Pure defensive instinct

Mookie’s reads are so good because he’s hyper aware of the park in which he plays.

Every ballpark has its quirks, and Fenway Park is as unique as they come. The Green Monster is the most obvious of Fenway’s idiosyncrasies, but the rest of the outfield is strange too. Mookie patrols right field, which is essentially shaped like the corner of a hockey rink. Pesky’s Pole is only 302 feet from the plate, but right center is about 380 feet.

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen Mookie take a perfect angle to a ground ball down the right field line and hold the runner to a single. In any other park it would be a double.

What separates Mookie, though, are his reads on line drives. Off the bat, Mookie has already accounted for the ball’s natural tail towards the line and takes a direct route to where the ball is going to land. That’s why we see so many glove-side sliding and diving catches, which are extremely risky plays to attempt. When Mookie dives, it’s bad news for the hitter, because he’s got it.

Lastly, we’ve got Mookie’s arm. It’s a blessing and a curse to play in the same outfield as Jackie Bradley Jr.. On the one hand, Jackie will get to anything Mookie doesn’t get to in the gap. On the other hand, he makes everyone else’s arms look like wet noodles.

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Don’t let the man in center mislead you, Mookie has a very strong arm. As I mentioned earlier, Mookie turns doubles into singles with his routes on balls down the line. The other piece of this is his arm. Opposing first base coaches hold their runners up because they’re aware of the caliber throw Mookie is capable of making. Don’t run on the Boston Red Sox outfield, just don’t do it.

If you put these three traits together, you’ve got a Gold Glove Award winning right fielder. Add 24 home runs, 26 steals, and over 100 RBIs? You’ve got an All-Star. That’s what the Red Sox have in Mookie Betts.

Next year, the Red Sox should go for the trifecta. There are a lot of incredible outfielders in the American League, but I think the Red Sox are capable of a clean sweep. Jackie Bradley Jr. got snubbed this year, and Andrew Benintendi will only improve after his rookie season.

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