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Is there anything to Mitch Moreland’s propensity for doubles?

Who needs home runs? Mitch Moreland has doubles.

Pittsburgh Pirates v Boston Red Sox Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

If you were to rank the types of hits you could get as a baseball player it would likely go like this.

  1. Home run
  2. Triple
  3. Double
  4. Single

People love dingers, triples are rare and exciting, doubles are nice and singles are the foundation by which rallies are built. You could make an argument that doubles are just singles that got a graduate degree. It’s not as wonderful to watch as a dinger and doesn’t provide as much speed and drama as a triple. It’s an often overlooked occurrence. While it adds to slugging percentage, people don’t check the back of baseball cards to see how many doubles a guy has.

Mitch Moreland is here to make the double cool again. He has swatted nine two-baggers in his first 11 games (48 plate appearances) with the Red Sox. He set a franchise record on Thursday by doubling in his seventh-straight game, passing a mark set by David Ortiz, Jason Varitek and Bill Regan. Last season, Mitch Moreland hit 21 doubles in 503 plate appearances for the Texas Rangers. The year before that he hit a career-high of 27. So is there anything to this new doubles fetish or is it just a matter of weird luck?

We’ll save the small sample size qualifier here, since this can easily be washed away with that argument, just like Moreland’s 182 wRC+ and .333 batting average. Surprisingly, Moreland is not using the Green Monster as a tennis partner, with only 16.1 percent of his his batted balls going the opposite way. That would be a career low if it were to hold. Moreland is also posting a career-low in batted ball percentage up the middle (29 percent), having hit more than 30 percent of the balls he made contact with to center in his first seven seasons.

I’m sure you are smart enough to figure out where this is going. Moreland is rearing back and launching balls to right field at an incredible rate, especially in comparison to the rest of his career. The 31-year-old has always leaned toward the identity of a pull hitter, with 42.3 percent of his career batted balls sent to right. However, that percentage this year has jumped to nearly 55 percent. (54.8 to be exact). With Moreland’s lack of speed, batting balls off the Monster might actually work against him, as well played balls could easily chop doubles into singles. On the other hand, there is more room out in right field and finding the gap gives anyone a chance at a double.

In addition to the direction of hits, Moreland has done a good job squaring the ball up and making solid contact. His hard hit percentage is on a career-high pace (64.5), which may be unsustainable, but is still indicative of how hot a start he has had. He is also hitting 38.7 percent of balls he makes contact with for fly balls and another 22.6 percent on a line. That’s a large majority especially for a player that has made very little soft contact. (9.7 percent).

Its unlikely that Moreland’s possible new approach will lead to a dip in his home runs as well, which is good news. Although he has only one home run, his isolated power is still through the roof right now (.286) and he’s been a lock for 20 homers the last three years. Someone with that type of track record is going to find the seats if he keeps hitting the ball hard and in the air. Small sample size aside, it is entirely possible that Moreland has adjusted his approach and is trying to pull the ball more, which is leading to more two-baggers and may eventually lead to more home runs.

Before we go, we’ve already put Moreland’s doubles into historical perspective to an extent. But where does this pace leave him. You may remember Mike Lowell stroking double after double in 2006 when he hit a career high 47. That year doesn’t even crack the top 10 single season doubles mark by a Red Sox. The record is 67, which was achieved by Earl Webb in 1931. That’s actually the MLB record if you’re keeping score at home. Dustin Pedroia knocked 54 in his MVP season and David Ortiz and Nomar Garciaparra each had seasons with at least 50. If we assume roughly 510 plate appearances for Moreland (he’s averaged 512 the last three years) and we assume he keeps this pace (he won’t but that’s no fun to talk about) then Moreland will finish with about 96 doubles. Obviously that’s not going to happen, but a new ballpark and a new approach may be able to lift him over his previous career best and make him a more than effective hitter in a lineup that already has plenty of excellent bats.