Thunder down under? Red Sox revamp bottom of order with focus on punishers
Tomase: Bottom of Red Sox's revamped lineup could offer a power punch that originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The image of an eight or nine hitter didn't change much in the first 110 years of baseball.
Small. Scrappy. A hard blow. Fast. On the best rosters, they acted as a poor man's "second leadoff hitter". At mediocre they have worn out a path back to the shelter. The second baseman of the Hall of Fame, Bill Mazeroski, finished eighth for much of his career. Potential Hall of Fame shortstop Omar Vizquel made nearly 700 appearances and finished ninth.
However, in the past five years the game has changed. Managers and front offices want lineups that are full of threats and have the ability to leave the park between one and nine. For example, the twins would not have beaten a record of 307 home runs in 2019 without the staggering 36 home runs they received from 8th place on their order. In the same year the 306 Homer Yankees picked up 34 bombs from 7th hole and 24 from 9 holes.
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Red Sox manager Alex Cora knows everything about what was once expected from an eight or nine hit. He's spent most of his career there doing all the little things - getting runners going, working, sacrificing himself to create RBI situations for the top of the line.
But it's a new game and the Red Sox seem to have prioritized power in the bottom third of their order. If the season started today they could beat Franchy Cordero, Hunter Renfroe and Bobby Dalbec seven-eight-nine. The possibilities are amazing.
"We may have two guys in eighth or ninth place that they could run into ... I won't say a number ... but they could run into a lot of home runs," Cora said. "If we have to redeem runs at the end of the line-up this way, so be it. One stroke, one run, we'll take it."
Renfroe already has a 33 homer season. Dalbec set a rookie record for the fastest homer series in five games to open his career while shooting eight long balls in just 92 record appearances. Cordero once started a 489-foot homer and could have the strongest power potential of the three, although he hasn't shown it yet.
Add it all up and at the end of the order there may not be many barrels made, but a rating can be a quick result.
The lower third of the Red Sox's beat order could deal a blow in 2021.
"There's something to be said when you have a line-up that doesn't give a pitcher any breaks. If you get to the bottom of that order, you take a pitch and it could end up in your seats," said chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom. "I like that ominously, but it wasn't necessarily something on purpose. We were just trying to get the most effective players we could."
This is a relative deviation from the past seasons. From 2019 to 2020, the Red Sox took 10th, 9th and 11th place in their order of the bottom three places in the home races and were thus at the top of the American League. They benefited from a couple of power surges from center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and catcher Christian Vazquez, which extended their line-up.
Maybe there will be more of them in 2021.
"The game has changed a lot since I've been there, and before that where you see the whole game now, lineups where anyone can hit the ball over the fence, and how you approach a lineup as a pitcher approaching, especially in a close game, "said Bloom.
"Sometimes this power comes with compromises, but if at any point in the game you can threaten to put up an awkward number and you don't just have to walk from station to station, you have the option of clearing the bases, which can help . " . "
This is a fundamental change from Cora's game days. He put up his best numbers from the nine-hole, where he hit with a base percentage of 0.352 to 0.281, making him the de facto second lead-off hitter before the line-up flipped.
"What they asked of us, the little boys, was like, 'Put together a good shot,'" Cora said. "You were happy with bats with eight and nine bats, even if you make a mistake. But where we are with this team it will be very different. ... I'm looking forward to seeing the guys down there causing damage . "
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Boston Red Sox
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