The Boston Red Sox are off to a historic start and are well equipped to take on any pitcher in Major League Baseball.
It should come as no secret to anyone that the Boston Red Sox have the best record in the MLB. At 17-2, they’re off to the best start in franchise history.
What makes this team particularly exciting isn’t just the number of wins, but the quality of wins as well. Offensive production can be measured using various statistics, but they don’t paint the entire picture of a team’s success.
One thing that is important to look at when determining whether a team is the real deal or not is their competition. Yankees fans and skeptics alike can babble all they want about the weak nature of the team’s opponents, but truth be told the Red Sox have faced (and beaten) some very talented pitchers.
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But what exactly about this team gives them an edge against any opposing pitcher? There’s a number of things.
Ever since Alex Cora became skipper of the Red Sox, they have adopted a new, more aggressive approach at the dish. This approach isn’t just about taking daddy hacks, though. While yes, the team is more aggressive, they are also more disciplined at the plate.
According to Fangraphs, the Red Sox have the second highest swing frequency in the MLB for pitches in the strike zone (70.1%). For pitches out of the zone, the Red Sox are 11th with a 29.8% rate. This discrepancy tells us that the Red Sox are being very aggressive on pitches in the strike zone, and very selective on pitches out of the zone.
In other words, they’re seeing the ball very well and jumping on the pitches they want to hit.
This plate discipline is crucial versus elite level pitching such as Luis Severino and Shohei Ohtani. Sure, Ohtani didn’t have any command, but the Red Sox hardly chased any of the pitches he threw. There’s something to be said about that.
Finally, the statistic that best illustrates the Red Sox stellar plate discipline is their 16.3% strikeout rate. They strike out at a lower clip than anyone else in the majors. This one speaks for itself.
Swing Paths and Quick Hands
When you think of someone with quick hands, you think of Mookie Betts. Right? Who else would you think of? No one? That’s what I thought.
Mookie certainly has some of the fastest hands in the MLB, but right up there with him are Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., and JD Martinez. In fact, Martinez was one of the best hitters in baseball vs. velocity last season.
To go along with quick hands, the Red Sox have a number of hitters who get their bats on plane early, which leads to solid opposite field contact vs. high-velocity arms. The first one that comes to mind is Andrew Benintendi, who has done a really good job going the other way this season.
Joining Benintendi in the flat-bat club is JBJ, Bogaerts, and Eduardo Nunez. These three, along with Benintendi, do a really good job of taking velocity the other way on a line.
Finally, we have our gear-up-and-go guys: Rafael Devers and Hanley Ramirez. I would say Devers struggles with velocity, but then I remember his oppo-bomb off Aroldis Chapman and I lose that thought real quick. Devers and Hanley, however, don’t hit velocity because of their lightning-fast hands. They simply get on-time with the heater and have enough strength and hand-eye coordination to get the head of the bat into the hitting zone.
Having Fun Doing It
Let me preface this by saying that I have no statistics or in-depth analysis to support this bullet point. What I do have is experience on a baseball field and common sense.
The Red Sox are (for the most part) young and having a blast playing the game they love. Part of the fun is the challenge of facing elite pitching. Were the Red Sox nervous about facing Shohei Ohtani? Absolutely not. They were excited to face one of the most exciting young pitchers in the game.
Remember when, as a kid, you’d go to the batting cages and turn the machine as high as it would go, just to see what the velocity was like? That’s the level of excitement the Red Sox have when they see a high-velocity arm on the schedule. Bring it on.
This team is playing the game with all the right emotions and is having fun doing it. Yogi Berra famously said, “baseball is ninety percent mental, and the other half is physical”. This Red Sox team has mastered the mental game, which gives them a huge edge over their opponents.
Sure, there will be bumps in the road. For now, though, the Red Sox are on fire and there’s no sign of them slowing down. They’re well equipped to beat any pitcher in the MLB, and they’ve yet to be overmatched. Go Sox!