Xander 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.