Digging Deeper Into Xander Bogaerts’ Hot Streak

Xander BogaertsXander Bogaerts has been blazing hot the month of September, amassing an exceptional .340/.364/.585 slash line. Finally! The touted-prospect has started to hit like he was anticipated to. Well, actually, he’s hitting better than excepted, but it’s in a very small sample size, of course. However, given how disappointing he’s been this year — not to mention how disappointing this season has been for the Boston Red Sox in general — any sign of life from anyone is a positive. The question for Bogaerts, though, is if he’s really improved or if this is a small sample size mirage. And that question is what I’m attempting to answer.

Instantaneously we can see Bogaerts’ BABIP (batting average on balls in play), at .357 in September, is way above league-average and way above his career .297 BABIP. Now, don’t read too much into it as an indicator of luck because there’s also a possibility he adjusted his approach to hit the ball with more force. And in this case Bogaerts is, indeed, putting better wood on the ball.

This is indicated by his September 33.3 LD% (line drive rate), which is 20.1 percent better than his August percent. Further, his September LD% is an astonishing 12.6% over the league-average (20.7%). It’s impossible that he maintains that percentage over the course of the year, but if he can keep that percentage a good deal over 20 percent, he’ll subsequently put up better numbers. Fangraphs calculates line drives produce 1.26 runs per out, whereas fly ball produce 0.13 runs per out and ground balls 0.05 runs per out.

If that fails to convince you that line drives result in more hits compared to fly and ground balls, let’s take a look at Bogaerts’ line drive percentage month-by-month in juxtapose with his production in those months.

March/April- 22.4 LD%, .765 OPS, 121 wRC+

May- 24.4 LD%, .897 OPS, 152 wRC+

June- 15.7 LD%, .426 OPS, 12 wRC+

July- 19.0 LD%, .595 OPS, 60 wRC+

August- 13.2 LD%, .360 OPS, -3 wRC+

September- 33.3 LD%, .949 OPS, 165 wRC+

The correlation is evident: the more frequently Bogaerts has hit line drives in a month, the more hits he’s gotten in that same time span. This isn’t all luck-driven; in fact, most of it is “X” making better contact on the ball.

Like I said, there’s essentially a zero percent chance he continues hitting line drives at this rate, but it’s not at all unrealistic to see the shortstop hit them at an above-average rate. If so, Xander Bogaerts will blossom into the player he was expected to become.


Xander Bogaerts Returns From 7-Day DL

xander bogaertsAfter not playing for a week, Xander Bogaerts is back with the Boston Red Sox. On Saturday he was activated from the seven-day disabled list after being placed on it on August 25th  retroactive to the 23rd, the last day he played. In response, Boston optioned starter Anthony Ranaudo down to low-A Greenville opting to keep utility man Carlos Rivero on the roster.
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Ranaudo, 24, pitched for Boston on Friday against the Tampa Bay Rays. He tossed six quality innings—allowing three runs on five hits while fanning four—improving his Major League record to 3-0 on the year in three starts. The move is only temporary as Ranaudo will not miss a start nor will he pitch for the Drive. He will be called back up once rosters expand on September 1st.

Bogaerts is particularly struggling lately since pitchers are now throwing him more breaking balls. The month of August had been rough on him as he had collected just seven hits in 66 at-bats good for a .106 batting average.
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The past few months in general have not been overly friendly to Bogaerts either. He is hitting just .158 in his last 241 at-bats. Before then, Bogaerts was in serious Rookie of the Year consideration slashing .304/.397/.438  through his first 53 games of the season. Now, his slash line has been reduced to .223/.293/.333, a far cry from where he once was.
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Now, Bogaerts has a chance to wipe away the past few months of dismal results. He is well-rested and is fighting for his job next season. The 21-year-old has a bright future ahead, but it starts right now. Xander Bogaerts will certainly be a franchise player, but the question at hand is whether or not he can do so immediately. At first the answer appeared to be yes, but his inability to hit the curve says otherwise. He has a great opportunity to boost his numbers over the next month, and needs to do so in order to be a lock for a starting job next year.

Xander Bogaerts Must Hit The Curve To Succeed

MLB: ALCS-Detroit Tigers at Boston Red SoxXander Bogaerts is young, talented, and struggling as of late. According to an article written by Jared Carrabis, the problem for Bogaerts is his inability to hit breaking balls. Since June 1st, the Aruban rookie is hitting .158. When compared to the .304 he hit in March, April and May, the difference is night and day.

Now granted that he is hitting .158 in his last 241 at-bats, the question at hand is whether or not he should start for the Boston Red Sox in 2015. Right now, the chances are not looking so high.
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For Bogaerts, his soft spot has been revealed — he can’t hit the curve.

There have been a number of talented players who have had their careers ruined by such a small blemish. Take Pete Gray for example. Gray who was born with just one arm was an outfielder for the St. Louis Browns (now the Baltimore Orioles) in 1945. He played 77 games for the Browns as a 30-year-old rookie and then his Major League career was over. After the 40th game of his career when he slashed .260/.312/.305 things started to go downhill. Once pitchers really started to expose his weakness which was his inability to hit breaking balls, he was done for. Ending his career with a slash line of .218/.259/.261, breaking balls ruined his career.
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Bogaerts is a completely different case than Pete Gray, but much can be learned from Gray’s story. First of all, Bogaerts has the potential to fix his problem whereas Gray could not because of the way he was born. Also, Gray was 30-years-old whereas Bogaerts is only 21. The relevance of Gray however is the fact that players need to hit the curve to make it in the Major Leagues.
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In case Bogaerts continues to struggle with these pitches, Boston should have some sort of a plan B for shortstop in 2015. Even if it is as simple as Brock Holt or keeping Jonathan Herrera in the organization, shortstop is a position in which Boston needs depth. Although it is clear someday Xander Bogaerts will be a phenomenal Major League Baseball player, he still needs to learn how to either hit breaking balls or not chase them when they are dropping out of the strike zone.