The Red Sox recent offensive struggles may be costing them in close games that result in losses. 8 of the last 11 Red Sox losses have been by 2 runs or less; and out of those 8 losses, the Red Sox have scored 2 runs or fewer in 4 of them. In the middle of May when Jackie Bradley Jr. was tearing it up during his 29 game hitting streak and Xander Bogaerts was hitting north of .350, it looked like there may not be a game all season where the Red Sox would score less than 5 runs. Now here in August, it’s a completely different story. This offense has struggled to produce as of late and the fix may be as simple as shifting around the batting order.
Let’s start with the top 4 spots. I believe the Red Sox have the right combination of players in Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts, and David Ortiz. The order in which these players bat just needs to be switched around a little bit. My top choice for a leadoff man is Dustin Pedroia. This is for 2 reasons. First of all, he gets on base at a higher clip than Mookie Betts, with a .367 OBP compared to Mookie’s .352 OBP. The objective of your leadoff hitter is to get on base and set the table for the rest of your lineup. It’s been nice to watch Mookie put a quick run up on the board with a leadoff homer, but getting on base is a much higher priority from your leadoff man. Second of all, Pedey hits into A LOT of double plays. He’s already hit into 19 twin killings this year. This is more than any full season in his career except for 2013, when he was playing through a thumb injury all year. If he’s batting leadoff, there are no runners on base so the worst case scenario is 1 out instead of 2. In the 2 hole, I would have Xander Bogaerts. The reason Xander has been struggling lately is because he has tried to pull everything for a home run. Part of this most likely has to do with the pressure of hitting third and wanting to hit for power like a 3 hitter is supposed to. This is a bad habit for Xander because he’s just not a power hitter. If he can go back to being the contact hitter he was until the end of May, he could be a great table setter out of the 2 spot and start contributing to this offense again. (A .284 OBP over his last 15 games just isn't cutting it.) Mookie Betts has displayed the power to hit 3rd in the order. This is not a forced power swing like Bogaerts. Betts naturally has lighting fast hands that can result in a high exit velocity, and therefore the 59 extra base hits (3rd in the MLB) he’s collected this season. He may have the speed of a leadoff hitter, but he can swing it with the best 3 hitters in the game. Of course David Ortiz is staying in the cleanup spot. Big Papi is just the definition of a monster home run waiting to happen.
As far as the bottom of the order, the Red Sox have it pretty much figured out for the time being. Hanley needs to be hitting 5th just so Ortiz isn't getting intentionally walked every time. He may swing for a home run on every pitch, but at least he poses enough of a threat to opposing pitchers to get them to pitch to David. The 6th spot in the order belongs to Jackie Bradley Jr…..for now. With the way that Andrew Benintendi swings the bat, I have faith that he may swing it well enough come September to the point where John Farrell says “the hell with it” and moves Benintendi up in the order. I realize that he’s been in the majors for a week, but good Lord I love watching him at the plate. Travis Shaw will hold on to the 7th spot until Benintendi starts moving up. Major league pitchers have clearly found a hole in Shaw’s swing that needs to be addressed resulting in his team leading 100 strikeouts. On the other hand, when he gets his pitch lately he’s been hitting the ball a long way. The 8th spot at the moment should belong to whoever is catching on any given night. I am a big believer in the 9 hitter being your second leadoff hitter, and Sandy Leon/whoever that god awful new catcher from Texas is are better suited batting 8th. Batting 9th for now is Andrew Benintendi. Watching the way he handles himself at the plate, I believe he has a good enough swing and the exceptional pitch recognition to move up to 6th in the next month in a half. With his speed, in the next year or two I can see him hitting leadoff in front of Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts. However, I can see why you wouldn’t want to put that kind of pressure on him yet.
These few little tweaks to the lineup could make a big difference down the stretch if the Red Sox want to make the playoffs. They really just need to take over the Patriots motto and tell everyone to go out there and “Do Your Job”. The old saying is “If it ain’t broke, don't fix it.” Well this offense is broke, so it’s time for a change. Here’s a final look at what the Red Sox batting order should look like going forward.