Bobby Dalbec’s season did a 180-degree turn when the Red Sox needed it most. It was good timing for him personally, too.
The 26-year-old had big expectations entering this season after being a bright spot for Boston last year. But inconsistencies at the plate plagued him throughout this campaign — to the point that finding a first baseman was a point of emphasis for the Red Sox at the Major League Baseball trade deadline.
Boston ended up bringing in some new faces to help add some power to the lineup and more options on defense, like Travis Shaw and Kyle Shwarber, who the team hoped would pick up first.
Instead, Dalbec rose to the occasion, seeming to have figured something out in the batter’s box.
Did the competition for his roster spot help improve Dalbec’s confidence, or just a coincidental adjustment? Alex Cora thinks it’s the latter.
“Probably,” the manager said via Zoom ahead of Boston’s game against the Chicago White Sox, when asked if Dalbec felt pressure to keep his place on the team. “But I just believe if competition (got him) on time, thank God. Thank you, competition, you know? It’s just an adjustment, honestly, and we were talking about it the whole time, the whole season. And sometimes it takes a while.”
Dalbec was named the American League Rookie of the Month for his performance in August, where he slashed .339/.431/.774 through 24 games, cashing in on 12 runs, 21 hits, four doubles, a triple, seven home runs and 21 RBIs.
That’s continued in September, as his defense has improved to go along with a .321 batting average in eight games this month.
“He’s done an amazing job being on time,” Cora said. That’s the bottom line. Obviously, last year he was driving the ball to right center, to right field. He hit a lot of home runs that way and this year, there were a lot of empty fly balls to right field. And little by little, he’s been making adjustments. At one point he choked up, but I just believe that now he’s on time. When you do that and you recognize pitches your swing decisions are a lot better. When you’re late, you make every pitch the same — the fastball, the breaking ball, the changeup — everything looks the same. Now there’s separation, and you can see it.”
Dalbec himself confirmed he’s more comfortable with his pitch selection, and doesn’t feel the need to chase in the strike zone.
This hot streak has only brought his average up to a .245, which is a testament to the turnaround he made. But his strikeout-to-walk ratio is something to feel great about.
“The strikeout rate is going down, the walks are going up and obviously, the damage, you see it,” Cora said. “So very happy for him. It’s been a grind.”