It’s safe to say the Boston Red Sox have been underwhelming this season. As a Red Sox fan who follows the local media, it’s overwhelming to hear just how underwhelming they have been. If you have followed Boston sports media during this baseball season, you would think the team is tied with the Detroit Tigers for the worst record in the league. In fairness to Boston sports pundits, the team has a wealth of talent that has played below their usual standard for most of the season. This has the local radio shows calling to trade the beloved Mookie Betts, suddenly turning on ace Chris Sale, and openly criticizing manager Alex Cora, not even a year after he was hailed the Bill Belichick of baseball.
Oh, how quickly the tides turn in the city of Boston.
The team has certainly regressed from their magical 2018 season. That’s just the way baseball works sometimes. But the true mystery to me has been Andrew Benintendi. The Red Sox left fielder was coming off a fantastic 2018 season that saw him post a WAR of 4.3 and a wRC+ of 122. These numbers have dipped to a 2.6 and 112, respectively, through 115 games. No, it isn’t the most dramatic decline in the history of baseball, but Benintendi was a key part of Boston’s success in 2018. Of all the players to take a step back this season, I wasn’t necessarily expecting it to come from him.
Traditionally, the critique of Benintendi has been that he is an elite hitter against right-handed pitching and less than stellar against left-handeders. This trend has come to a screeching halt in 2019. Read the rest of this entry »
Andrew Miller has an undeniably nasty slider. As a Red Sox fan, I remember it far too well from the 2016 postseason. Big Papi’s farewell tour didn’t seem all that fair when you consider the way the Red Sox ran into the buzz-saw that was Miller and the Cleveland Indians. Sure, I’m grateful for Miller helping the 2013 version of the Red Sox win a third world title since 2004, but come on Andrew, you had to ruin Papi’s goodbye?
With Miller’s recent signing with the St. Louis Cardinals, I found myself exploring his FanGraphs page. I stumbled upon this article, Andrew Miller on the Evolution of his Slider, and I instantly began to wonder if pitchers had similar experiences developing their sliders in the 2018 season. The first step in this analysis was to evaluate the evolution of Miller’s slider.
What jumps off the page is the change in velocity. Miller saw a 4.6 mph increase in his slider from 2011 to 2012, then another 3 mph added from 2012 to 2013. This in large part had to do with Miller moving from a starting role to a relief role during his time with the Red Sox. Given that information, however, an increase in velocity that drastic not only shows a pitcher’s willingness to adapt, but also a pitcher’s ability to adapt. By observing Miller’s slider splits, we see that ability to adapt almost immediately.
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