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Baseball is a game of patience. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. But, it never feels good to start the season in the basement of a competitive AL East division. Many Red Sox fans, myself included, hoped that Victorino’s arrival to the plate would provide a needed spark. Victorino’s return was an emotional spark, but so far, not an offensive statistical spark.
It is hard to be critical of the popular and charismatic outfielder after only three games. Considering that many MLB players are already into the flow of the season and Victorino just began, no one should be concerned with his .133 batting average, or that fact that he sat during Sunday’s drubbing in Toronto. The only area of concern is that Victorino has struck out in 5 of his 15 at bats this season.
There is not much analysis needed for how much Victorino’s glove helps the Red Sox defensively. But how can he help at the plate? There are two main reasons that Victorino’s return will be valuable for the Red Sox offense moving forward.
1) Victorino provides consistency at the top of the batting order. Yes, all three games so far he has batted second behind Pedroia. That trend probably won’t last considering that Victorino filled in at leadoff in 2013 when Jacoby didn’t play, and last season he typically hit second with Pedroia batting third. That lineup worked. Obviously, someone is missing. Victorino seems like the team’s best leadoff option once he settles into the season. If Victorino fulfills that role, the carousel of different leadoff hitters can come to a halt. Once a solid leadoff option is established, the rest of the Sox batters can enjoy the consistency of a regular spot in the batting order.
2) Victorino will help drive up the pitch count. One of the biggest strengths of the Red Sox as a team last year was their ability to grind the opposing pitching staff to dust. That hasn’t been happening this season. The rest of the order will benefit if by mid May Victorino can get on base after a grueling, tone-setting, eight pitch leadoff at bat. If the Red Sox are going to exhaust opposing pitchers, that had to be established at the top of the order.
Victorino needs, and deserves, some patience before midseason form can be expected. If he is still batting .133 by the end of May (hard to believe) then the Red Sox will seriously need to reconsider the top of the batting order. Jackie Bradley Jr. could be a viable option because of his speed, but he would need to improve his plate discipline and his ability to consistently get on base. The other possible candidate might be Xander Bogaerts, he has shown a consistent ability to get on base which is critical for a leadoff man. His fielding isn’t great and he doesn’t have the speed of Bradley, but Bogaerts has shown an ability to get on base. Both of those leadoff scenarios are less than ideal. Hopefully, in a few weeks, Victorino’s bat and the team’s offensive production will no longer be a concern.