Bobby Dalbec is a hitter. That’s what he is at all times believed, anyway, steadfastly and with out reservation. And any participant who hit 8 residence runs in his first 23 video games after which, the following season, had a month just like the one Bobby Dalbac had in August 2021 — one other 7 residence runs accompanying a ridiculous .339/.431/.774 slash line — would in all probability imagine the identical.
But it is also laborious to imagine that Bobby Dalbec is not beginning to face some doubt. Sandwiched round that sizzling begin and that one sizzling month, it has been nothing however ache. For the primary 4 months of the 2021 season earlier than that August, he was, by many statistical measures, one of many very worst hitters in baseball, close to the underside of the league in each on-base share and batting common, and lifeless final within the league in strikeout price. The subsequent 12 months, the new month by no means got here in any respect. He completed the 2022 season with an OPS+ of simply 80, which might have been the fifth-worst in all of baseball had he certified; his 33.4% strikeout share would have been second-worst.
And furthermore, it looks as if Bobby Dalbec won’t be the kind of athlete who can so simply bury doubt within the backside of his psychological closet. Rather, he appears significantly attuned to the human situation. He’s talked overtly about his struggles to silence negativity; he says he is needed to cease studying something written about him; his philanthropy facilities round psychological well being advocacy. It’s straightforward to think about that Bobby Dalbec is getting ready for the 2023 season as a determined man — determined to show he belongs, determined to win a job, determined to carry onto his dream.
Desperate males do determined issues. When confronted with a “damp, drizzly November of the soul,” Herman Melville (a person who, BTW, wrote his masterpiece within the birthplace of baseball— shoutout to the Berkshires) would take to the ocean. But Bobby Dalbec does not have to inexperienced hand his manner from New Bedford to the Pacific. He’s obtained another choice: Bobby Dalbec can pitch.
The first time Alex Cora ever noticed Bobby Dalbec on a baseball subject was within the 2016 College World Series, when Cora was within the sales space for ESPN. Dalbec, taking part in for Arizona towards Oklahoma State, was the participant of the sport. He achieved this even if he did not make a single plate look, as a result of what he did as a substitute, was strike out 12 batters over 8 innings, whereas permitting only a single run. Dalbec the school pitcher had a whole arsenal, with a fastball within the mid-90s and a change-up that, in line with his supervisor, was already a Major League caliber pitch. And Cora mentioned on the air that very day, that he noticed Dalbec as a pitcher.
But Bobby Dalbec was a hitter, or so he believed. “I knew I at all times needed to hit,” he would say later. “I knew I might hit and believed in myself being a place participant.” The perception is admirable. But whereas he should consider himself as an on a regular basis participant, opposition massive league pitchers appear to suppose in any other case.
Could he even make the swap again to the mound at this level? The thought of heading again to the decrease minors to reinvent himself at age 28 in all probability is not very interesting. The man presently tied with Roger Clemens on high of the all-time Red Sox wins record famously made the swap to pitching after failing as a hitter, however he did so when he was simply 22 years previous—not, as Bobby Dalbec is now, somebody in his late-20s who’s already tasted massive league success. Dalbec’s path of least resistance again to the 26-man roster appears extra more likely to contain closing the holes in his swing than spending just a few years educating himself to change into a beginning pitcher.
But possibly there is a third choice. Maybe Bobby Dalbec can change into a two-way participant, particularly a DH/aid pitcher.
One of the largest obstacles standing in the way in which of a contemporary revival of two-way gamers is solely juggling the logistics of all of it. For potential beginning pitchers, the difficulty is balancing relaxation between begins with time within the subject and on the plate. For two-way relievers who play the sector like Michael Lorenzen, the logistical difficulty is discovering time to heat up within the bullpen in the midst of a sport. If it might ever be potential (not to mention optimum) for a two-way participant to often hit and pitch in the identical sport, doing in order a DH/late-inning reliever is the probably path.
From the Red Sox perspective, this plan in all probability seems to be like an unlikely lengthy shot. And to be clear: it’s. But it is also true that Bobby Dalbec does not actually have a spot on the Red Sox proper now, both in 2023 or going ahead. If there may be to be a subsequent nice Red Sox group someday within the subsequent three-to-four years, the 2 positions Dalbec performs — first base and third — will probably be occupied by Triston Casas and Rafael Devers, respectively. And Dalbec’s near-complete incapacity to hit righties guidelines him out as a full-time DH, even when he does determine issues out towards lefties. But if he might spend the majority of his time within the bullpen, whereas additionally DHing towards lefties and being obtainable to pitch in aid, he is perhaps value a roster spot. The Sox don’t have anything to lose.
From Dalbec’s perspective, taking up the added stress of attempting to pitch whereas additionally fixing his swing in all probability seems too daunting of a process — significantly in gentle of the truth that he is been clear that he prefers to hit. Unlike the Red Sox, Dalbec does have one thing to lose in trying this, at the least within the sense that he in all probability nonetheless believes it is potential to regain his kind on the plate and would possibly concern that pitching will take him away from that.
But possibly Bobby Dalbec wants what Melville wanted: a metaphorical journey to the ocean if not a literal one. Maybe taking up this new problem might function a reset on his baseball life. For now, he nonetheless has one thing to lose, however he won’t for for much longer.