Opinion

Steve Pearce: Boston Red Sox 2019 Preview

Reigning World Series MVP Steve Pearce is back for another run at a championship. What does 2019 hold for the platoon first baseman?

Boston Red Sox President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski made several great moves in 2018, but none better than his trade for first baseman Steve Pearce. Pearce was initially acquired back on June 29th in exchange for minor leaguer Santiago Espinal. That trade clearly worked out, as the first baseman was one of the best bats in the lineup and ended up winning World Series MVP. Boston brought Pearce back for the 2019 season and look to recapture that 2018 magic.

2019 Boston Red Sox Player Previews

Boston Red Sox 2019 Preview: Steve Pearce

As previously mentioned, Pearce initially arrived in Boston thanks to a midseason trade. At the time, Mitch Moreland was in the midst of a slump and the Red Sox lineup simply could not hit left-handed pitching. Pearce arrived and did everything the Red Sox could have asked for, posting a .279/.394/.507 slash line with an accompanying 143 wRC+ in 165 plate appearances. Normally not known for his glove, Pearce played surprisingly excellent defense with his defensive highlight coming on the final out of the 2018 ALDS.

Pearce did his biggest damage on the largest stages. The 35-year old first baseman had a phenomenal postseason, posting a .289/.426/.658 slash line in 47 plate appearances. This culminated in a dominant World Series effort where Pearce hit three home runs in the final two games to earn World Series MVP. Additionally, Pearce did his best work in the regular season against the New York Yankees. In 29 plate appearances, Pearce posted an absurd .333/.448/1.000 slash line with an accompanying 269 wRC+. Of his eight hits against New York, five left the park.

What to Work On

If Pearce can carry over a similar type of success in 2019, then the Red Sox should have one of the top first basemen in baseball. However, that’s a pretty big ask. Including his time with Toronto, Pearce finished 2018 with a .284/.378/.512 slash line and a 140 wRC+.

That wRC+ is his highest since 2014, so Pearce might not be able to repeat his 2018 heroics. However, it’s not like he’s normally a bad hitter. Pearce finished as a league-average (100 wRC+) or better hitter in five of his last six seasons. Fenway Park’s dimensions, along with most of the ballparks in the AL East, play to his strengths as a hitter, which will obviously help out his final line.

In terms of contact, Pearce has mostly been the same hitter throughout his career. Since 2014, Pearce has always made medium-to-hard contact anywhere from 80.5% of the time to 84.8% of the time. Additionally, his season-long ground ball rate has only fluctuated from 33.6% to 43.8% over that same timeframe. This is remarkable consistency and should lead to consistent production at the plate.

However, that hasn’t happened, and the main reason is batted ball luck. Pearce finished with a BABIP of under .300 in two of the last six seasons. In those seasons, Pearce had a 93 and 100 wRC+. In the four seasons where he had a BABIP over .300, Pearce finished with a 115, 161, 136, and 140 wRC+. We’ve already established that Pearce makes roughly the same type of contact every season, so his final production is typically controlled by batted ball luck.

Overall Projection

Steamer Projections is expecting a good but not great season out of Steve Pearce. The projection website expects Pearce to finish the season with a .266/.344/.470 slash line and a 117 wRC+. Steamer expects Pearce to play in 79 games as part of a timeshare with Mitch Moreland.

These numbers sound right, but if forced to pick a side, I’d say Pearce should exceed these projections. As previously mentioned, Pearce is remarkably consistent at the plate in terms of the type of contact he creates. There’s no reason to expect that to change in 2019. Pearce’s final stat line will ultimately be determined by how lucky he is at the plate, which is something mostly left to chance. Pearce has a .266/.346/.484 slash line and a 126 wRC+ since 2014 with a .291 BABIP. Expect Pearce to finish 2019 with numbers similar to this.

2019 Boston Red Sox Player Previews

Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com
(Oct. 27, 2018 – Source: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images North America)

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