Sophomore Slumping: Will Middlebrooks

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Thursday, May.23/2013

Although Middlebrooks is 24 Years Old and has shown the ability to be productive in the Majors he should still be given a time to continue developing. He was drafted in '07 out of High School where he was a Shortstop/Pitcher and also spent a lot of time playing football. Then he didn't start playing in the Minors until '08 in which he played just 59 Games so he has actually progressed pretty far in a short period of time.

Although Middlebrooks is 24 Years Old and has shown the ability to be productive in the Majors already, he should still be given a time to continue developing. He was drafted in ’07 out of High School where he was a Shortstop/Pitcher and also spent a lot of time playing football. Then he didn’t start playing in the Minors until ’08 in which he played just 59 Games so he has actually progressed pretty far in a short period of time.

By Ryan Dana (MLB Reports Writer and Red Sox Correspondent): 

Entering his second season in Boston, Will Middlebrooks is coming off a productive rookie season despite the turmoil on the team and a season ending wrist injury in which he had to endure.

He hit .288/.325/.509 in 2012 with 15 HRs and 54 RBI in 75 Games. So far in 2013 he has been experiencing the dreaded “Sophomore Slump”. He has hit .208/.243/.423 with 8 HRs and 20 RBI thru 44 games so far this season.

Middlebrooks’ numbers will improve over the course of the season, of this I am certain. However, it is concerning for the Red Sox as they really don’t have any other options at Third Base.

Middlebrooks’ struggles bring to light one of the reasons Jose Iglesias is getting some experience at 2nd and 3rd in Pawtucket. Will Middlebrooks’ job isn’t in jeopardy by any stretch, but it is vital that he performs because he is all they have.

Perhaps as curious as I am about how Middlebrooks bat will continue to develop, I am also intrigued about how his defense will progress. He has some good tools highlighted by a really good arm, but his UZR and DSR have been less than stellar. Just another thing to keep an eye on.

Perhaps as curious as I am about how Middlebrooks bat will continue to develop, I am also intrigued about how his defense will progress. He has some good tools highlighted by a really good arm, but his UZR and DSR have been less than stellar.

After a tough April, things only got tougher after Middlebrooks collided with Catcher David Ross going for a pop up earlier this month. This left Ross with a concussion and Middlebrooks with a separated rib. Will has continued to play in spite of the injury.

While Middlebrooks continues to struggle, there are always positive signs we can look at like the fact that 57.1% of his hits this season have went for extra bases (12 Doubles, 8 HRs, 35 Total Hits). This included a 3 HR game in which he nearly hit a 4th. Just goes to show what he is capable of.

I also look to a former struggling, young Red Sox infielder for hope. Dustin Pedroia was the same age as Middlebrooks was when they made their Red Sox debuts (23 Years Old). Pedroia’s first taste of the Majors was a 31 Game late August call up in ’06 where he hit .191/.258/.303.

Pedroia proceeded to start the ’07 season by batting just .180 in his first 22 Games of that campaign. He went on to win Rookie of the Year that same season while also contributing to a World Series Championship. In ’08 he followed that up with an MVP Award.

I’m sure the struggles Pedroia faced early in his career are a distant memory to a lot of Red Sox fans. I’m also sure that it is something Pedroia never forgets.

Will Middlebrooks will one day use these struggles too, as a reminder of a time where he overcame adversity to reach success. Guys who play hard tend to break out of slumps like this sooner or later.

Luckily for the Red Sox, the rest of their offense and pitching have carried them through a solid first 46 Games of the year. They were off to a scorching hot start this year, but have cooled off a little in recent weeks. A Will Middlebrooks as productive as he was in 2012 would go a long way in reigniting the offense.

This wrist injury was a major disappointment for me last year. Middlebrooks was one of the real bright spots last season.

“This wrist injury was a major disappointment for me last year.” Middlebrooks was one of the real bright spots last season.

Here’s a look at why Middlebrooks may be struggling so far. His BABIP so far this year is .243. Last year it was .335. This is, that his Batting Average on Balls he hits In Play is .092 lower than it was last year. To give you some perspective league average in 2012 was .297.

So you can chalk some of his struggles up to bad luck. While maybe he was a little lucky last year to achieve a pretty high BABIP even though he isn’t overly fast, his BABIP this season is probably too low for him to maintain, which is a good thing. (Think Law of Averages)

You could argue that he just isn’t hitting the ball as well when he makes contact, but the argument doesn’t really hold much weight as his Isolated Power in ’12 was .221 and so far in ’13 is .214. Not a big fluctuation at all, but far above the league average of 2012 which was only .151.

All this basically means is that he is hitting the ball hard when he is putting it in play, but a lot of the ones that were falling in for hits last season, are not this season. If he could just get back to the league average in BABIP his Batting Average would increase significantly, and there is no reason why he can’t do that.

Now for the final piece to the “why is Will Middlebrooks struggling” puzzle. Balls that are NOT put into play. His K% in 2012 was 24.5%. In 2013 his K% is 28.1% so far. Higher than he would like in both cases, but not something that he can’t correct throughout the course of the season. Patience can be learned, and hopefully he will improve on it as time progresses.

My final verdict; yes Will Middlebrooks is experiencing a Sophomore Slump to start 2013. No I do not think it will last the entire season. Some of it is bad luck (significant drop in BABIP) and some is the fact he hasn’t put the ball in play enough (K%).

Be patient Red Sox Nation, as many players have prior to Middlebrooks, he too will break out of his sophomore slump. Look at Mike Trout for example. Trout was the runner-up MVP in 2012 and was off to a poor start in his sophomore campaign this year, but he has recently turned it around. Everything will be fine, just give it time.

Going along with the need for Middlebrooks to continue developing his eye at the plate, he BB% in 2012 was 4.5% and in 2013 it is 3.9%. It is just another area he can improve on to become a more complete hitter. I'll end this post with an inspirational quote. "Wake and Rake!"

Going along with the need for Middlebrooks to continue developing his eye at the plate, he BB% in 2012 was 4.5% and in 2013 it is 3.9%. It is just another area he can improve on to become a more complete hitter. I’ll end this post with an inspirational quote. “Wake and Rake!”

*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com and their partners***

A big thank-you goes out to our baseball writer Ryan Dana for preparing today’s featured article.  Ryan is junior studying physical education with a concentration in coaching at Bridgewater State University. He has been playing baseball since he was 7 and coaching since he was 14. Ryan wants to be a college baseball coach once he graduates. 

Ryan is, and always will be, a diehard Boston Red Sox fan. Secondary to baseball, he is a big health and fitness enthusiast. You can find Ryan on Twitter .

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Posted on May 23, 2013, in MLB Player Profiles, The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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