We all know that Andrew Benintendi will endure some growing pains early in his career, especially as pitchers learn to adjust to his tendencies. But if Wednesday night is any indication, it shouldn’t take him too long to make his own adjustments.
The heralded Boston Red Sox prospect made his first major league start in Seattle, where he collected hits No. 1 and 2 of what he and Red Sox fans hope will be an excellent career. After a groundout and a strikeout in his big league debut Tuesday night, Benintendi bounced back and wasted no time picking up the milestone knocks.
In Benintendi’s first at-bat Wednesday night, the left-handed hitting outfielder laced Hisashi Iwakuma’s pitch to left field — a textbook piece of hitting that shows how advanced Benintendi’s feel for hitting is, even at age 22.
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Even the most casual baseball observer can look at that swing and realize they’re seeing something special. When you break it down, as NESN did during Benintendi’s second at-bat, you gain an even greater appreciation for what he can do with a bat in his hands.
As Steve Lyons pointed out on the NESN telecast, “Look at where that pitch is, but look at where his eyes and head are: right down the barrel of the bat.”
For as difficult and complicated as baseball can be, it does come back to the three simple “Bull Durham” principles: You throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball. And it doesn’t get any simpler than “see the ball, hit the ball.” After all, how many times are young players told to keep their eyes on the ball?
Look at what Benintendi’s doing with his eyes, his hands and his bat. They’re all in line. He’s seeing the ball as he makes contact. It’s a work of art.
Which brings us to Exhibit B.
And again, from Lyons: “Look at the balance. He’s not out front. You can draw a line from his head through his back knee, and that ball is shot into left field.”
We took Lyons’ advice and got a closer look with help from the NESN.com telestrator (aka Microsoft Paint).
We’ve added that white line down the middle that more or less cuts Benintendi’s body in half. It’s just like Lyons said. His head and his back knee line up just about perfectly. And not only that, but look at where his hands are. They’re moving out front, but the rest of his body still is back, even as he’s midway through his swing. It’s an ideal weight transfer, all the way down to his stiff front leg and not leaning at all on his back leg.
So that’s all impressive, but what makes this even more fun to look at is when you consider the pitch. Look at the screen shot below — we’ve circled the ball.
Benintendi had to go down and get that pitch — an 83 mph splitter — and still was able to hit it hard. According to Baseball Savant, that line-drive single left the bat with a 75 mph exit velocity — not bad, all things considered.
We’re not even taking into account the mental approach here, either. The hit came on the second pitch of the at-bat. The first pitch was an 89 mph fastball up and in that caught the inside corner and straightened up Benintendi. It was a nasty pitch. Yet Benintendi swung at the second pitch like he was expecting Iwakuma to try to change eye levels. That’s what the pitcher did and Benintendi was ready.
It’s important not to get too carried away with any early success Benintendi has. Major league pitchers are the best in the world because not only do they have the best stuff, but they’re also able to make adjustments and make those adjustments quickly.
But as Benintendi showed Wednesday night, he’s not in over his head in the big leagues. It should be a joy to watch him mature as a hitter.
Thumbnail photo via Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports Images