In two, probably three games this World Series, Red Sox manager Alex Cora is going to have to get particularly creative with his lineup.
Boston is set to take on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Fall Classic, and games 3-5 of the series will take place at Dodger Stadium. Because of that, he’ll have to find a way to get J.D. Martinez’s bat into the lineup in the National League park.
But that won’t be easy. Andrew Benintendi has been reliable both at the plate and in the field, Jackie Bradley Jr.’s defense can’t be removed (and it helps that he’s gone scorched earth on offense lately) and Mookie Betts needs to stay in the lineup for obvious reasons. As such, it’s been entertained that perhaps Betts could play second base in those games.
Second base hardly is foreign to Betts, he was brought up through the minors as both a second baseman and an outfielder. He played the position for six innings this season against the New York Yankees when Ian Kinsler left the game with an injury, but otherwise he’s called right field his home most nights.
But if you go back to 2014 (we know, it seems like ages ago), Betts actually logged 14 games at second in the month of September. With that in mind, we figured this probably is a proper time to revisit (and by that we mean go down a Baseball Reference rabbit hole) how he did in those games, even if it was a little over four years ago.
Betts played his first Major League Baseball game at second on Sept. 13 in a loss to the Kansas City Royals. That was game 149 of the season, and he proceeded to play each remaining game there. Between extra innings and games where he didn’t have to play in the field during the ninth, he logged 122 innings at the position.
Over his time at second, he had 66 defensive chances. With those opportunities he made 25 putouts, 38 assists and three errors.
The three errors, you ask?
The first came in a 4-0 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sept. 16. Josh Harrison hit an infield single to Betts, but the then-21-year-old made an errant throw to first that allowed Harrison to reach second.
The second miscue, which took place in a Sept. 23 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, came as Betts tried to turn a double play. Evan Longoria grounded to shortstop Jemile Weeks, who flipped to Betts. But as Betts tried to get Longoria at first, his throw went awry, which allowed Longoria to reach second.
Betts’ final error of the year came in a 3-2 loss to the Yankees on Sept. 26. Again, this one came on a double play attempt. With runners on first and second with one out, John Ryan Murphy grounded to shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who threw it to Betts at second. After getting the out, Betts’ poor throw resulted in an error, which allowed Francisco Cervelli to score from second base.
While Betts had some struggles turning double plays, he did turn seven over those 14 games. All told, he finished the year with a .955 fielding percentage.
So what does that mean for the upcoming series? Well, it would be something of a gamble for a few reasons. For one, even though Betts routinely takes ground balls at the position, that doesn’t mean he’s ready to be relied upon fully at the position. However, if keeping all the necessary bats in the lineup means Betts plays second, that honestly isn’t the worst situation.
The other potential concern is him getting hurt at second. One thing he doesn’t have to contend with in right field is guys (see: Manny Machado) performing an especially nasty takeout slide to try and break up a double play. You never want to see anyone get hurt, but losing Betts because someone went in studs up on him would put Cora and Co. in a pretty bad spot.
At the root of it, though, Betts is a remarkable athlete, and all things considered he could more than hold his own there. Sure, that very well could result in some potential snafus, but the history says throwing was more the problem for him than fielding. Is it possible that experience, even if it is in the outfield, will help alleviate those issues? Who knows.
Cora has a pretty big decision in front of him. But with all the pros and cons weighed, slotting Betts in at second seems like it may end up being the most logical decision once the Red Sox hit the West Coast.
Thumbnail photo via Peter G. Aiken/USA TODAY Sports Images