Since then, nobody has regarded Middlebrooks as a "prospect" anymore. Unfortunately for him, and for fans, this assessment is incorrect -- Middlebrooks is very much still a young, developing player. A player who we've seen struggle at the MLB level in 2012, at a time when it would have been quite helpful to have kept Youkilis on the roster so Middlebrooks could be optioned back to Pawtucket to work on his approach at the plate before getting the full time job at third base in 2013. So, thanks a fucking lot Bobby Valentine, you stupid piece of shit.
Even in 2013, we're still dealing with how horribly Valentine managed this team... Sorry for the digression, but I still want to kick that motherfucker square in his pea-sized balls.
Anyway, back to Middlebrooks, let me drudge up his August, 2012 numbers so we can look at them side-by-side with his 2013 numbers
August, 2012: .194 AVG / .286 OBP, 2 HR, 7 RBI
Present, 2013: .195 AVG / .233 OBP, 6 HR, 12 RBI
Both stat lines look eerily similar, don't they? Keep in mind that Middlebrooks had 3 homers and 4 RBI in one game against Toronto in the first week of April -- take that game away, and these stat lines are almost identical save for his on-base percentage, which is remarkably worse.
Why is WMB's OBP worse? Well, let's look at a picture of a strike 3 that WMB swung at last night in the 9th inning.
Pardon the unprofessional appearance here; this is a screencap from my iPhone. Someday, maybe I'll learn how to make fancy moving GIFs... Anyway, we see two things happening here:
- Rangers' Joe Nathan missed his spot with a fastball, throwing it high and away. The pitch was so bad that it could have easily been a passed ball.
- And Will Middlebrooks fucking swung at it anyway.
Here's a still Middlebrooks making contact earlier in the game, flying out to shallow right field with a runner on second:
Rangers' starter Ogondo threw a breaking ball low and away. Middlebrooks started swinging at this slop last season and it would always lead to weak outs, and this behavior at the plate has continued.
Like any hitter worth his salt, Will Middlebrooks can send fastballs flying out of the park. Unfortunately, right now he can't hit anything else with authority. Unless WMB stops swinging at the horrible pitches we saw in the first picture, or learning how to foul off outside breaking balls in the second picture, then he won't be able to work pitchers into a count where they need to throw him a fastball that he can destroy.
As the stats from last August and this season show, the Middlebrooks we see playing now is someone we've seen before. This is a young prospect who still needs to progress before he can achieve at the MLB level. I'm not sure if the Red Sox intended to address this by placing the option/threat of sending him back to Pawtucket on the table, but it's an option that I wouldn't rule out if he continues to struggle with his approach at the plate at the MLB level. Pitchers in the American League have adjusted to Middlebrooks, and he must learn how to readjust and get himself into hitter's counts.