Why is Mookie Betts hitting leadoff? That’s the subject of today’s post. It’s been taken for granted by Red Sox Nation that Betts is best suited for the leadoff spot. He can hit, he’s fast, and he looks like a leadoff hitter. He’s listed as 5’9″, 180 pounds. So, he’s s a speedy, little guy who can make things happen on the bases. We get it. Betts hitting leadoff made sense for a while…until he became one of the most dangerous power hitters in baseball. That’s right, power hitter. The speedy, little guy is crushing the baseball and the Red Sox are not utilizing his bat to it’s full production by having him hit frequently with no one on base.
Consider this. Here’s where Mookie Betts ranked in the American League in the following power hitting categories as of August 4th:
Doubles: 30 (3rd)
Home Runs: 22 (14th)
RBI: 70 (7th)
Slugging %: .540 (9th)
Total Bases: 244 (1st)
Extra Base Hits: 57 (2nd)
In summary, Betts leads the American League in total bases and is second in extra base hits. Oh yeah, and he has 22 home runs. Does that not classify him as a power hitter? He has 70 RBI as a leadoff hitter. That’s 7th in the AL! How many would he have if he was hitting third or fourth? 80? 90? 95?! The player with the most total bases and second most extra base hits in the AL is hitting with no one on base in his first at bat of every game. In addition, he has multiple at bats where no one is on base because the bottom of the order his hitting in front of him.
Betts just won the American League Player of the Month Award for July. His numbers were excellent. Betts led the league in extra base hits, had a .368 batting average, and hit five home runs. Do you know what stat didn’t stand out? RBI. He had 15 got the month. Not a bad number, but certainly not one that stood out like the others.
Here’s another point. While the numbers above show that Betts stands out from a power hitting standpoint, he doesn’t have a great on base percentage. In fact, his .346 on base percentage ranks 30th in the American League. The players ahead of him include Brett Gardner and Elvis Andrus. In addition, there are five Red Sox players who have a higher on base percentage than Betts. The Red Sox have four players with OBP’s of .369 or higher including David Ortiz, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr, and Dustin Pedroia. Yes, he can steal a base (17 on the year), but considering his power numbers, he is far from a prototypical leadoff hitter. Elite power hitter. Not an elite on base guy.
Here’s another point. The Red Sox offense is struggling and is in need of a spark. Why not put the player with the most total bases in the league in the middle of the lineup to present more opportunity to have him hit with runners on base and best utilize his power?
Who’s best equipt to handle the leadoff spot for the Red Sox? How about the guy with the .369 OBP who doesn’t hit for the same power that Betts does? Dustin Pedroia. And, how about pushing Bogaerts up a spot? He also doesn’t have the same power that Betts does. This would give Betts an opportunity to hit with two top ten on base percentage players in the AL in front of him. Mookie’s extra base hits would be meaningful a lot more often than they are right now!
How about this lineup?
- Pedroia 2B
- Bogaerts SS
- Betts RF
- Ortiz DH
- Ramirez 1B
- Bradley CF
- Shaw 3B
- Leon C
- Benintendi LF
The Red Sox are currently tied for the final Wild Card spot and are three games out of first place. They’re 4-9 in their last thirteen games. Things need to change quickly or it will be another disappointing season on Yawkey Way.
The Red Sox have a potential MVP in Betts who can help lead them to the playoffs.
Maximize the talent!