Tomase: The old-school Sox offense might just save baseball originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
We all know what a chore it has been to watch baseball since the start of the launch angle revolution. The nadir might've been Game 3 of the 2018 World Series, when the Dodgers and Red Sox played forever before L.A. mercifully walked things off in the 18th inning.
What should've been an instant classic instead landed immediately in the trash. Can you remember a single play between Jackie Bradley's game-tying homer in the eighth and Max Muncy's game-winner? I can recall but one: Ian Kinsler throwing away what should've been the final out of the 13th inning to guarantee the game would last over seven hours.
In extra innings, the teams combined for 16 strikeouts and eight hits. May we collectively be anesthetized before being subjected to such "drama" again.
At first glance, not much has changed this season. Strikeouts are once again not just up, but topping more than one per inning for the first time ever. Batting average is once again not just down, but has never been lower, not even during 1968's Year of the Pitcher.
Then along come the Red Sox, who seem to be on a one-team quest to save the game.
They improved to 11-6 on Monday with an 11-4 thrashing of the White Sox and All-Star right-hander Lucas Giolito that included 17 hits and three home runs.
In the process they improved their baseball-best batting average to .288, more than 50 points above the all-time low league average of .233. They're scoring runs in a time warp, stringing together line drives and walks, hitting the ball the other way, and keeping the line moving.
It's a far more entertaining product than the three boring outcomes sludgefest that baseball has become, and it raises a tantalizing possibility -- could the Red Sox and their throwback approach inspire enough copycats to start leading the game out of the darkness?
"We bang," said outfielder Alex Verdugo recently, and do they ever.
Their 96 runs lead baseball, as do their 165 hits and 40 doubles. Their 21 homers rank seventh, so it's not like they don't slug, but outside of a six-homer blitzkrieg in Baltimore a couple of weeks ago, that's not really how they're winning, either.
More typical is how they walloped Giolito during a six-run first inning. Kiké Hernández led off with a solo homer and then the next five batters reached thusly: two opposite-field singles, two pulled singles, one bunt single. After a groundout scored one run, Franchy Cordero drove in two with a single the other way and Bobby Dalbec worked a 14-pitch walk to cement that it wasn't going to be Giolito's day.
"It started with Enrique and then the line kept moving," manager Alex Cora said. "It was probably the best inning of this short season, line drive after drive, quality at-bat after quality at-bat against a good pitcher, one of the best in the league, and it was fun to see."
The Red Sox clearly do not feel beholden to one approach, and the diversity of their attack makes them so much more challenging to face than a squad of launch-angle cricketers. They've swung at more first pitches than any team in the American League, and they're not missing mistakes. Per Baseball Savant, they've swung at more meatballs (86 percent) than any team in baseball.
Hernández, the leadoff man, likes to hunt fastballs. No. 2 hitter Alex Verdugo sprays the ball from corner to corner, with a single to left on Thursday on a fastball away and then a long homer over the bullpen on a fastball down and in. J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, and Rafael Devers can hit everything.
Catcher Christian Vazquez provides surprising pop. Second baseman Christian Arroyo is a line-drive hitter. Cordero has shown a surprisingly ability to go the other way. Dalbec and Hunter Renfroe should eventually bring power to the bottom of the order. Super utility Marwin Gonzalez leads the team in walks.
This brand of baseball is so much better to watch than walk-K-homer-K-K, with balls consistently in play, runners going first to third, and rallies actually sustainable. The Red Sox are putting nearly 27 percent of their balls into play to the opposite field, good for eighth in baseball, and suggesting more than just a once-size-fits-all attack aimed at the moon.
It's the way things used to be, and let's hope the formula entices rivals to play copycat. Baseball needs excitement, and the Red Sox are showing the way.