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Saturday, July 24, 2021

Mastrodonato: Have the Red Sox finally found their leadoff man?

The lineup change that can be overlooked is the change that the Red Sox is currently benefiting from the most.

On June 19, manager Alex Cora dropped Kike Hernandez from the leadoff spot to eighth.

Since then, Hernandez has been one of the best in the sport. His .402 on-base percentage in that period was ranked 18th among all eligible big leaguers at the time, while his 1.072 ops was ranked 12th.

He is fourth with nine home runs in a 25-game period for the first time in his career.

But by June, the leadoff experiment was a total disaster.

There’s a reason the Sox were able to nab a 29-year-old who can only play elite defense in two key positions for two years, $14 million. He was mostly used a lefty platoon man who has an above average. 822 OPS against the Left, compared to the below-average .680 OPS against the Right.

Because of this, he had never been an everyday player, batting just over 400 in parts of eight major league seasons.

And the Red Sox wanted him to play and move on every day. It felt like a stretch. And for a while, it was.

For the first three months of the season, it was every bit as bad as it looked on paper. By June 19, Hernandez was hitting .225 with a .279 on-base percentage, making the Red Sox the worst team in baseball to get their leadoff man on base.

Considering how well their middle order had performed, it seemed useless.

Cora experimented with Hernandez at the bottom of the order for five games in early June, but was quickly withdrawn when no one else was working.

Two weeks later the second demotion was the one that clicked.

“I believe he’s not really trying to do too much,” Cora said. “It’s the other way around. He’s working, he’s hunting pitches in a few places, and he’s getting good swings at him.”

Cora moved Hernandez to the bottom of the line in Kansas City and kept him there for the better part of three series.

“It started in Kansas City,” Cora said. “He doesn’t play games in Atlanta, he doesn’t play for three days. Then in Kansas City he started hunting pitches in the zone. He didn’t expand and good things started happening.

When asked how he’s been one of the game’s best power hitters last month, the former Dodgers utility man said, “I don’t know, to be honest with you. No clue. I don’t have any secrets. I just don’t know.” Trying to get good at-bats, take good decisions on the pitch I want to swing on. It’s going well for me right now.”

And while Hernandez is almost twice as likely against the Left as he is against the Right, he has been good enough against the Right in the past month to justify hitting him on the leadoff.

Asked why he is so good against the Left in his career, he said it was a product of his father being left-handed and giving him batting practice as a child.

“I’m very positive that I was a reverse-split guy in the minor leagues,” he said. “I felt like I couldn’t hit a left-handed pitcher, and I moved to L.A. and that was my role,” he said. “My role was to play against a left-handed pitcher. If it’s my job, I have to find some way to get the job done and stay in the big leagues. Now, I’m still hitting on the Left. ”

Over the past month, he has been hitting the right wing as well, with .819 ops versus the right and 1.477 ops against the left.

Cora showed Hernandez more than two months of patience and it was to no avail.

Twice he drops it at the bottom of the order and then comes back. Finally, it looks like she may have found her leadoff guy.


Nation World News Deskhttps://nationworldnews.com
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