Mookie Betts took his game to a new level – Mike Trout’s – in leading Red Sox to World Series

first_imgAlthough Trout remains the consensus best player in the sport, based on the excellence and consistency of his career, Betts has matched or exceeded him for 2018. Betts, 26, is expected to win the AL MVP.“He can do it all on the field,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said earlier this postseason. “He hits for power. He hits for average. He gets on base. He steals bases. He plays good defense.”This season Betts led the majors in batting average (.346), slugging percentage (.640) and runs (129). He also hit 32 homers and stole 30 bases, the first 30-30 season in the American League since Trout in 2012. Betts’ 1.078 OPS was second in the majors to Trout’s 1.088.Betts, however, separated himself with his phenomenal defense in right field. His 20 defensive runs saved were more than double Trout’s eight. Betts is athletic and versatile enough in the field that in the World Series he might also play some center field and even second base, allowing Martinez to move into right field when there’s no DH at Dodger Stadium.Betts’ skill set and performance added up to him leading the majors in WAR, according to both FanGraphs and Baseball-reference. Dodgers hit seven home runs, sweep Colorado Rockies Turns out Mookie Betts might have simply needed J.D. Martinez to push him out of the shadow of Mike Trout.Betts, the Boston Red Sox star outfielder, had for a few years been in the conversation as baseball’s second-best player, including when he finished second to Trout in the American League MVP race in 2016.This year, though, thanks in part to his new partnership with Martinez in the Boston lineup, Betts is not taking a back seat to anyone.Not even Trout. How Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling topped the baseball podcast empire “I could sit here all day and talk about what I’ve learned (from Martinez),” Betts said, “but the most important thing is to trust your work.”Betts has had to trust that the work will pay off once again, as he’s gotten off to a slow start through the first two rounds of the playoffs. He has just eight hits in his 39 at-bats so far, during which Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch likened him to a “ticking time bomb.”If the Dodgers can keep him from going off in the World Series, Betts can still impact the games defensively. Betts robbed Alex Bregman of a homer in Boston’s clincher over the Astros, a day after a controversial fan interference might have prevented him from making a similar spectacular catch at the fence.Even before those catches, Boston lefty David Price said they expect big things from him, whether or not hits are falling.“He’s Mookie Betts,” Price said. “He’s the MVP of our team. He’s the MVP of baseball. So he means a great deal for us. But he knows if he’s not swinging the bat as well as he thinks he should be, he knows that his defense in right field makes up for that. He never takes his at-bats out into the field. He continues to make really good defensive plays and that’s what we need from Mookie.”Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts is athletic and versatile enough defensively that in the World Series he might also play some center field and even second base, allowing teammate J.D. Martinez to move into right field for the games when there’s no DH at Dodger Stadium. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) Cody Bellinger homer gives Dodgers their first walkoff win of season center_img Dodgers’ Max Muncy trying to work his way out of slow start Fire danger is on Dave Roberts’ mind as Dodgers head to San Francisco “Mookie, you can’t take anything away from him,” Trout said on the final day of the Angels’ season. “He’s unbelievable. Both those guys in Boston, with Martinez, they are both great people. Their stats are great, but they are even better people.”When the Red Sox signed Martinez as a free agent and put him in the lineup with Betts, it seems they got more than the sum of the two parts. Both players had their best seasons, helping the Red Sox score the most runs in the league.“I think it was one of those things where our personalities are so similar that we’re just always talking hitting and always wanting to, like, get better and work,” Martinez said. “And so it’s one of those things that it’s almost like – I don’t know how to explain it – it’s like we’re always in the cage together hitting, and we’re always pushing each other in that sense, like, oh, ‘What do you have on this? What do you have on that?’ …“It’s cool because I’ve been on many different teams, and you don’t really find like personalities that are similar when it comes to passion for hitting as when I found him.”Betts, who usually hits leadoff for the Red Sox, had a career OPS of .839 in his first four years. After the 2016 season, when he was runner-up to Trout for MVP, Betts’ average declined from .318 to .264 and his OPS from .897 to .803. He was good, but nowhere near MVP-caliber.Then Martinez joined him.Related Articles Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img

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