When Will Middlebrooks usurped Kevin Youkilis last season, he got off to a hot start. He put up a .288/.325/.509 (AVG. /OBP/SLG.) slash-line. This was an upgrade to Youkilis’ .235/.336/.409 line. Oh how the tables have turned! So far Middlebooks has mashed six potatoes, but his line sits at .212/.245/.417. Youkilis, before he got hurt, was at .266/.347/.422.
Last year Middlebrooks struck out 24.5% of the time and his walk rate was a low 4.5% (That’s why his OBP was lower than Youk’s despite hitting fifty points better). With those numbers it would have been difficult to maintain his .288 average this season. I expected his average to drop, but not in this freeeeee, free fallin’ style.
Why has this happened? Simple— Middlebrooks is swinging at more pitches out of the strike zone (O-swing %). His rate has gone up from 27.1% last year to 30.2 % this year. If you swing at pitches outside the zone you’re going to have a bad time.
It’s easy to notice this just watching him hit. I’ve seen him multiple times swing at first pitch breaking balls and whiff. He puts himself in a hole right away. Middlebrooks’ lack of discipline is killing him and hurting the Sox lineup. Middlebrooks has said he is going to swing his way out of the slump, he just needs to keep it to pitches inside the zone.
You can’t knock his toughness though. Middlebrooks separated a rib in his collision with David Ross last Tuesday and had been playing through the pain. Since last Tuesday’s collision Middlebrooks has collected five hits, four of them doubles. Perhaps his collision knocked the slump out of him whatever the reason let’s hope he can stay out of it.