By: Jake Perda
It’s no secret that Red Sox left fielder, Andrew Benintendi, has been struggling this year. Since his batting average peaked at .339 on May 9th, Benintendi has hit .116 with a .350 OPS in 20 games. This prolonged slump appears to be due to Benintendi’s recent inability to make solid contact against offspeed pitches, but frankly, I don’t care why he's struggling. The majority of rookies go through their fair share of struggles. In 2014, Xander Bogaerts hit .240. Today, he is the Red Sox team leader in hits, batting average, triples, OPS, and has also won back to back Silver Slugger Awards at shortstop. In Benintendi’s case, what I’m concerned about is the way that the Red Sox have chosen to manage him while he’s been struggling.
John Farrell has chosen to keep Benintendi out of the lineup against left handed starters on multiple occasions. This is illogical. If John Farrell were smart, he’d be able to take a look at the stats and see that Benintendi is hitting .259 against righties, and .258 against lefties. Therefore, it shouldn’t matter who is on the mound when deciding whether or not to put him in the lineup. I realize that Chris Young is supposedly on this team to be a “lefty killer”, but he’s hit .226 in 31 at-bats against left handed pitching this year. That’s certainly not good enough to justify sitting a guy who is supposed to be your left fielder of the present and the future. For better or for worse, Andrew Benintendi should be in the Red Sox lineup every day.
The most irritating part of this whole situation is that when Benintendi has been in the lineup, he has remained in the top half of the batting order. The cleanup spot is supposed to be for the best power hitter in your lineup, not for a struggling rookie who needs to stay focused on just making solid contact. I understand that dropping Benintendi in the order may be a hit to his confidence, but he’d likely see more pitches to hit. This was a big reason that, in 2016, Jackie Bradley Jr. hit .341 out of the 9-hole, and .333 when batting eighth. On the other hand, Jackie hit .263 when batting sixth, .207 when batting fifth, and failed to hit above .200 from any of the top 4 spots in the order. If Benny can look at it as an opportunity to see more pitches to hit, and a break from being seen as a major threat by opposing pitchers, he may learn that hitting out of the bottom of the order could be just the thing to help him bust out of this funk.
To anyone suggesting that the best move is to send Benintendi down to Triple-A, you must be stupid. All young players struggle when they get to majors. Just because Benintendi had ridiculously high expectations set for him, it does not mean that he is a bust for not fulfilling them right away. Again, Xander Bogaerts hit .240 in 2014, and Mookie Betts was hitting .237 on June 12th of 2015. What if they had been sent down? They likely never would have become the players that they are today. The ones who are carrying this team. The only way for young players to learn is through trial and error. If they are not allowed to fail or are not given time to make adjustments, then they will not be able to improve and become the superstars that we expect them to be. Regardless of how painful it may be, the Red Sox are going to have to let Benintendi struggle. If all goes well, the reward will be well worth it.
Photo: (Concord Monitor)