Welcome to our 2022 Boston Red Sox in Review series. We’re changing things up a bit this year. For this series, we will only be including players on the active roster, per FanGraphs’ RosterResource page, who had at least 50 plate appearances or 20 innings pitched at the MLB level in 2022. That means no pending free agents or players on the 40-man but not on the MLB roster, with a couple exceptions. These will be rolling out over the next few months, so stay tuned. Today, we will take a look at Trevor Story’s 2022 campaign.
2022 in One Sentence
The Red Sox’s big free agent acquisition of last offseason had really high highs and really low lows across his first campaign in Boston.
Being consistently excellent from start to finish during a MLB season is difficult to do, even for the best players in baseball. Whether you’re an All-Star or a utility player or somewhere in between, you’re bound to have a slump from time to time and you’re also likely to get really hot for a few days or weeks. Oscillating wildly between those two extremes can make for a difficult season to evaluate, as you can’t just take the good and forget the bad or vice versa. A hot streak in late April can’t be taken as gospel compared with a cold spell in early August.
That brings us to Trevor Story’s 2022 campaign at the plate, as Boston’s big free agent acquisition for the 2022 season never seemed to find any level of consistency. He was fantastic when things were going well but really awful when things went wrong. Taken as a whole, Story’s up-and-down campaign ultimately evened out to be fine offensively speaking, with his massive power surges balancing with his strikeout binges to land him at an exactly league average offensive level (100 wRC+).
Sticking with the hitting, the best parts of Story’s 2022 season came during a torrid month of May, and from the end of August to the middle of September, when a left heel contusion landed him on the injured list and ended his campaign early.
That legendary month of May was something else, as Story seemed to break off the rust of his first few weeks in Boston to look like the star who signed a six-year, $140 million deal a few weeks before the regular season began. Across 120 plate appearances in May, Story hit nine home runs, walked 15 times, drove in 32 runs and posted a 128 wRC+. That month alone accounted for a huge chunk of his overall offensive production, as he finished the year with 16 dingers, 32 walks and 66 RBI in total, although two large IL stints certainly kept those numbers down.
Speaking of IL stints, Story was out from mid-July to the end of August with a right hand contusion, but once he got back (and before another malady ended his season entirely), he went on an absolute heater. In fact, from his first game back from injury on Aug. 27 to his last game of the season on Sept. 11, Story slashed .340/.389/.500, good enough for a 150 wRC+. While his May performance had more headline-grabbing appeal due to all those dingers, Story’s end of the season run was arguably more impressive overall, as he slashed only .218/.317/.525 in May.
While Story didn’t maintain that offensive excellence all season (more on that in a minute), he did buoy himself with strong defense and baserunning speed all year. As a multi-tool infielder, Story took the transition from his natural shortstop to second base exceptionally well in Boston. He was in the 96th percentile in outs above average, according to Baseball Savant, while ranking eighth in defensive runs saved among second basemen with at least 50 innings played.
On the basepaths, Story ranked in the 82nd percentile in sprint speed and stole 13 bases without being caught once. He also ranked second on the Red Sox in base running runs above average (2.9) and likely would have been much higher in the league rankings with a full 162-game season with which to work.
The other side of the Two-Face impression that was Story’s offensive performance in 2022 dampened those stellar moments in May and near Labor Day. Story had just a 68 wRC+ in April, and in June and July he wasn’t much better, with a wRC+ of 75. His power also completely left him beyond May, with only seven home runs across the rest of the campaign. Again, long absences due to injury played a role there, but Story didn’t hit his first homer of the season until May 11, going dinger-less in his first 110 plate appearances with the Red Sox, and he followed up his big-time May with only three home runs in June.
Middling batted ball quality played a large role in sapping Story of his power, but his struggles making contact at all were much more concerning. Story has always been a bit of a high strikeout guy, but his 30.8 percent K rate in 2022 was easily his highest mark since 2017 and placed him in the bottom sixth percentile in MLB. The holes in his swing were most glaring against offspeed and breaking stuff, with his struggles against offspeed offerings really jumping off the page compared with previous seasons.
As his strikeouts went up, Story’s walk rate dipped slightly and hovered around league average, landing at 8.1 percent overall. (League average was 8.2 percent). Of course, if we take his May performance out the equation, his plate discipline looks much worse, with Story sporting a walk rate just below six percent from June 1 onward and below seven percent in April.
Best Game or Moment
Story’s barrage of home runs in May was really sparked by his spectacular three home run game against Seattle on May 19. Entering the game with two home runs through his first 140 plate appearances of the year, Story went yard in the bottom of the second and third innings to tie the game at 4-4 and then again in the eighth to extend the Red Sox’s lead to 12-5. All three dingers were of the multi-run variety and Story even threw in a go-ahead single in the sixth for good measure. The good will Story accumulated in this game helped wipe away any memory of his slow start.
The Big Question
How will being away from Coors affect Trevor Story’s OBP?
Some will look at Story’s 2022 numbers and say they are a symptom of going from hitting at Coors Field to hitting at any other ballpark. While there may some truth to that, it’s not as cut and dry, as Story was slightly worse offensively last season than he was this year. However, his on-base percentage did take a notable decline, landing at a career-worst rate of .303. In our One Big Question from before this season, we discussed how high Story’s high batting average on balls in play as a Rockie could dissipate some when he didn’t have the luxury of playing at Coors half of the time, and that bore out to some degree. Story had a BABIP of .309 this season, which was better than his mark last year (.293) but far below his career mark of .333. While Story’s OBP dropping in 2022 can’t just be attributed to his lower BABIP (that high strikeout rate wasn’t doing him any favors), it does seem like there were at least some negative effects and leaving Coors didn’t make it any better.
2023 and Beyond
Even if he did have a less than ideal season at the plate in 2022, Story was still worth more than two wins, thanks to his defensive prowess, base running acumen and hot streaks on offense. His struggles can’t be entirely chalked up to leaving Coors either. It’s likely that signing very late through spring training, changing teams and positions and suffering multiple injuries hampered Story’s hitting prowess this season. However, we also can’t ignore the negatives and just dream about last May, especially since Story is on contract for another five years and may face even more pressure if the Red Sox fail to bring back All-Star shortstop Xander Bogaerts.
In all, Story’s 2022 season was quite a roller coaster. The hope is that at full health and with a bit less uncertainty during the offseason, Story will provide more of the highs and fewer of the lows throughout the rest of his time in Boston.