During his season in exile from the game, Alex Cora still paid close attention to the 2020 Red Sox. One of the things that stood out to him was the team's struggles in key situational at-bats -- with runners in scoring position, or with runners on third and less than two outs.
It was not his imagination: the Red Sox stranded an average of 3.57 baserunners in scoring position per game; only five other teams were worse in that department.
Measuring productive outs -- the ability to move baserunners with an out or score them with the second out of an inning -- finds the Sox 28th out of 30 teams in that regard last season. With baserunners on third and less than two outs, the Red Sox hit .297, ranking them 21st in all of Major League Baseball.
By focusing more on making consistent contact in certain situations, Cora thinks there's room for improvement from the Red Sox offense.
"Infield back, man at third, one out and you don't put the ball in play with two strikes? That's not just another strikeout. That's a bad strikeout,'' said Cora. "You have to put the ball in play. Over the course of a season, you get, like, 30-35 at-bats with men at third and less than two outs. We struggled last year with men in scoring position. Those 30 at-bats, surrender those to the team -- put the ball in play, do something to get that guy in.
"The rest of them, 500-600 at-bats you're going to get, hey, do your thing. But there's X number of at-bats that we want them to give to us. We're going to be preaching that to everybody in the lineup. That's going to be the difference, probably, between winning 84 games or 94 games. That 10 game difference is a lot in this division. Yeah, the value of putting the ball in play is not talked about much and that's something we want.''
Sounds logical, right? And a worthwhile goal.