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— Where Thinking Red Sox Fans Obsess about the Sox

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   1. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: May 15, 2012 at 08:51 AM (#4131674)
Adrian Gonzalez .gif from 2011 that I had not seen until someone linked it on SoSH:

This is what contact skills look like. I love his (non)reaction.
   2. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: May 15, 2012 at 09:04 AM (#4131682)
Middlebrooks has always conflicted me. Every year I see him in Ft. Myers and you just can't help but be a little ga-ga at the guy, he looks like a baseball player more than anyone else the Red Sox have ever had. Tall, solid, broad shoulders, I've got a little man crush.

But then his game kills me. The high K rate scares the living crap out of me and I am skeptical that he can remain viable.

That has changed this year, he looks like a player who truly is improving. His hands get into the strike zone damned quickly with very little unnecessary movement. For a high K guy he has no hitch at all and so far he hasn't looked like someone who overswings, he just has tremendous strength. I agree about the way the ball comes off his bat. It is similar to JD Drew, with a lot more power than you realize at first blush.

The finer points of his game need some work. His defensive rep is very good so I'll assume he is going to improve but so far he has looked a bit unsteady. He has a strong arm and his hands seem good, it seems like his feet are the issue defensively. I also think he has looked a bit unimpressive on the bases. He's not slow but he seems to not be a particularly intuitive base runner. If that's his biggest flaw, I'm not going to be too concerned.
   3. Xander Posted: May 15, 2012 at 10:00 AM (#4131711)
he looks like a baseball player more than anyone else the Red Sox have ever had
Josh Reddick definitely never had a problem in this regard.
   4. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: May 15, 2012 at 10:16 AM (#4131724)
No disrespect to Reddick, but Middlebrooks looks like an artist's depiction of a baseball player based on over-the-top scouting reports. Dude even has the good face.
   5. Dan Posted: May 15, 2012 at 10:31 AM (#4131734)
Imagine how much fun we'd be having with "The Kids" if we had Reddick's .289/.340/.549, .385 wOBA, 150 wRC+ in RF everyday.

Middlebrooks has been a blast to watch, although it's been surprising how unpolished he has looked on defense. Nearly everything I had read about him from the minors emphasized how good his glove was at third base. He certainly seems to have the tools to be a very good third baseman, so maybe it's just been adjusting to major league parks and the ball coming off of major league bats. But he's made some really awkward looking plays in addition to the errors.

I think Nava is actually a really good fit as a bench bat for the theoretical healthy version of this club as a switch hitter who can play a little OF. Unlike in the past when he seemed to be a switch-hitter in name only, he has actually been hitting reasonably from the right side since last year too, which is another positive development. A switch-hitter who can get on base and occasionally hit a homer is a great complementary player for a team with Aviles at SS and platoons in RF and at C. He's a much better 5th OF for this team as presently constructed than Darnell McDonald is. Guys like Sweeney and Ross can already backup Ellsbury in CF, and Ross is the platoon partner for Sweeney, completely marginalizing someone with McDonald's profile.

With Nava added to this list, this team has a crazy number of lefty throwing outfielders: Ellsbury, Crawford, Sweeney, Ross, Kalish, Nava, and Lars Anderson are all southpaws.
   6. Nasty Nate Posted: May 15, 2012 at 10:36 AM (#4131742)
Dan, is your Bob Lobel "why can't we get players like that" schtick going to continue all season, even if Reddick's stats go down? ...for all of Reddick's career? What are we in for?
   7. Dan Posted: May 15, 2012 at 11:12 AM (#4131784)
Until his HOF induction, obviously.
   8. villageidiom Posted: May 15, 2012 at 11:56 AM (#4131817)
Dan, is your Bob Lobel "why can't we get players like that" schtick going to continue all season, even if Reddick's stats go down? ...for all of Reddick's career? What are we in for?
For balance, any time we get a reminder on Reddick or HealthyLowrie, we should also get an update on Marco Scutaro. But not in the "Kids" thread.
   9. Jittery McFrog Posted: May 15, 2012 at 12:59 PM (#4131909)
I love his (non)reaction.


Yes! This year AGon became my new underdemonstrative guy to root for now that JD Drew is gone. He's not as extreme as Drew, but he's got better hitting skills to be undemonstrative about so it still works.
   10. Paxton Crawford Ranch Posted: May 15, 2012 at 02:37 PM (#4132038)
Someone asked Keith Law on Twitter was if he thought Middlebrooks was the best power hitter the Sox have developed since Mo Vaughn. He pooh-poohed it, but I'm not so sure he isn't in the running. The Sox have developed some good hitters over that time, but not a lot of sluggers.

WMB is unlikely to be the player or hitter Nomar was, but I could see him being the better power hitter, defined as say, 25 or 30 homer seasons. Those 229 career homers will be a tough climb though. Hanley would have seemed a pretty easy answer to this question a few years ago, but even before his crummy last season and a quarter, his home run power had started to tail off. Still, he's a good candidate. Trot Nixon had a nice power peak from 2001-2003, but Middlebrooks looks to do better than Trot's 20 hr/162 games average.

If you want to really scare Sox fans with a comp, bring up Shea Hillenbrand. To my surprise, he racked up 108 homers and averaged 19 per 162. Also surprising was that Youkilis only has two 20 homer seasons; Pedroia has one. Not unreasonable that WMB could have more. Lowrie's got decent pop for a SS, but is no one's idea of a power hitter. Reddick has started off hot, but I'd like to see him keep this up for another few hundred ABs before declaring him the best power hitter Boston's developed since Mo.

Which brings me to the guy I think might have the best shot: Anthony Rizzo. He's back to raking at AAA after a tough first stint in the majors, and it's only a matter of time before he gets another shot. Or it could be someone still in the minors, like Lavarnway, Brentz or Bogaerts. Wherever he ranks, I'm looking forward to watching Will Middlebrooks, Red Sox 3B for a long time (even if he has to take a summer vacation to Rhode Island while Youk builds up his trade value).
   11. Mattbert Posted: May 15, 2012 at 02:46 PM (#4132043)
Obviously the answer is Jacoby Ellsbury. 32 jacks, baby!
   12. Dale Sams Posted: May 15, 2012 at 02:54 PM (#4132049)
In 20 PA's, Nava has more walks than Youkilis, Sweeney, Salty and Byrd....and one less than Albert Pujols.

And it's not like Nava is someone people are afraid of. That tells me, he's got a good head on his shoulders and isn't up there 'trying to prove something'. I really hope the guy gets to play full-time somewhere. Even if it were as a full-time DH....and what a crazy body-type to make full-time DH.
   13. Darren Posted: May 15, 2012 at 10:10 PM (#4132441)
He's also been hit 3 times. His OBP reached 773 today.

I brought up the Hillenbrand comp too because he started taking a bunch of pitches at the beginning 03. With the book being that he'd swing at everything, it made him very dangerous, very briefly. Once the pitchers adjusted, he went right back to being Shea Hillenbrand. After watching WMB, this doesn't seem like what's happening, though.

As for his power, you're underselling Nomar. He was consistently a 200 to 250 ISO guy. That's very tough to do.
   14. Paxton Crawford Ranch Posted: May 16, 2012 at 11:39 AM (#4132789)
Hillenbrand actually ended his career with a superficially decent line of 284/321/440. I think Middlebrooks will do better, but I don't think you could be horribly disappointed if he turned into a 760 OPS guy. Of course, a few things brought down Shea's line: he played in a good hitters era, in good hitters parks, and was terrible on defense. He also played from 25-31 so never had much of an introduction or decline phase.
As for his power, you're underselling Nomar. He was consistently a 200 to 250 ISO guy. That's very tough to do.
It depends on what you mean by power hitter. Most fans would probably think of it as a guy who hits home runs. Nomar, especially after the wrist injury, was much more of a doubles guy. But I take your point, beating Nomar's career 208 ISO would be no easy feat for WMB.
   15. SoSH U at work Posted: May 16, 2012 at 11:55 AM (#4132811)
I brought up the Hillenbrand comp too because he started taking a bunch of pitches at the beginning 03. With the book being that he'd swing at everything, it made him very dangerous, very briefly.


Interestingly, I thought of Hillenbrand when Mikael mentioned how different Middlebrook's contact is. Shea legitimately and consistently hit the ball more solidly than most guys I've seen come up with the Sox (not surprising really, since he was so piss poor at every other facet of the game that he never would have made the big leagues if he didn't have that one skill).

   16. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: May 16, 2012 at 03:07 PM (#4133057)
When Hillenbrand started taking pitches back in April 2003, he seemed to plan not to swing at pitches before the ball left the pitcher's hand, especially on the first pitch of an at-bat. He didn't show real discipline or pitch recognition, and so it was easy for pitchers to beat him once they realized what he doing.

Apparently Youkilis is starting his rehab today. I know I was all confrontationally adverbial about not speculating about who should stay and who should go, but if Youkilis is playing baseball games, it's probably time to start discussing this.** It's kind of funny, given Nava's hot streak, that if Youkilis does get himself ready, the Sox only have room in the lineup for one of the kids. Middlebrooks looks like he still can learn a lot in AAA - his baseball skills are very much a work in progress, and it's a testament to his crazy talent that he can be an effective ballplayer with such underdeveloped skills. The Sox have not suggested they want to find non-3B playing time for Middlebrooks, so it seems likely that he will go back down if Youkilis returns. I find it hard to criticize that call.

**Which definitely means that discussing the topic on Tuesday would have been, um, less than "wildly premature."
   17. Dan Posted: May 16, 2012 at 11:25 PM (#4133643)
After more exposure to seeing how raw and unpolished WMB is on defense even at third base, I agree that it would be a bad idea to start playing him elsewhere. He needs to polish his 3B defense before you could even consider that.
   18. Matt Clement of Alexandria Posted: May 18, 2012 at 09:09 AM (#4134710)
Middlebrooks has sure tanked since I started this thread. 1-for-12 with a single and seven Ks. He's just looked useless at the plate.

His problem, it seems to me, isn't that he's too aggressive. Middlebrooks can lay off pitches out of the zone, but he also lets some hittable pitches go by, and he often lays off borderline pitches regardless of the count. (He really needs to stop doing that. You aren't Mark Bellhorn, kid.) It just seems like he's off-balance, like MLB pitchers are throwing him pitches in sequences he doesn't expect, and he doesn't have the pitch recognition skills to adjust. I did say above that MLB pitchers might get a book on him and his numbers would collapse and his K-rate would spike, and I fear that's what we're seeing happen.

I'd like to see Middlebrooks spend the entire offseason working on pitch recognition. If he could pick up the ball out of the pitcher's hand and have just a league averagish capacity for figuring out where it would end up, he'd be a star.
   19. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: May 18, 2012 at 09:16 AM (#4134714)
He looked very bewildered last night. In his first at bat he ducked out of the way of a pitch that was similar to the "knockdown" pitch that Clemens threw to Manny in 2003. Then he struck out looking when he jumped back from a pitch that never got further inside than the corner and wound up catching a LOT of the plate.
   20. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: May 18, 2012 at 11:29 AM (#4134889)
One thought on Middlebrooks;

.409/.435/1.000
.167/.211/.278

The first set of numbers are his performance up through the moment he left the game in Kansas City with the hammie pull. The second set are his numbers since. Obviously there was some regression to be expected and given his track record that regression was likely to look like the last week. Still, I wouldn't be entirely stunned if he's keeping some discomfort to himself, that would be a perfectly reasonable (if misguided) thing for a kid in his first month of Major League baseball to do.

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