Welcome to this week’s edition of Read Sox. We’ll look into why Xander Bogaerts isn’t hitting, what the return of Andrew Benintendi means and more.
We’re in year three of Xander Bogaerts’ career in Boston, and so far he’s been exceptional. He’s been in the spotlight as one of the Sox best prospects for quite some time, arriving on the scene wearing #72 and taking a 3-2 slider from Max Scherzer in Game 6 of the 2013 ALCS that was definitely a ball and not a strike at all, nope, good call ump.
Since then, he’s quickly grown into one of the best young hitters in the game, and while the power hasn’t developed at the rate people expected it to, he’s been a 4-win player in each of the last two seasons. This season, he picked up where he left off, hitting .329/.388/.474 with a 130 wRC+ over 394 at bats in the first half. Then… he stopped. Through the second half of this year (251 at bats as of last night), Bogaerts is only hitting .254/.307/.401 with a 85 wRC+. So what happened?
Our own Matt Collins talked about it over at Over The Monster. The crux of it: Bogaerts hasn’t made the right adjustments to how pitchers have changed pitching to him. Through a litany of GIF’d zone plots, he shows how Bogaerts has started swinging — and missing — at pitches away. Over at ESPN, Scott Lauber speaks more about that adjustment — or lack thereof. Bogaerts tells Lauber about the frustration that’s come with not being able to go to the opposite field as easily as he could last year, and the adjustment he and Chili Davis are trying to make.
The drop off, according to Collins, Lauber, FanGraphs and most likely you, who have watched him with your eyes, is (as you know) staggering. In the first half, Bogaerts was hitting 27 percent of his balls to the opposite field. That number’s dropped eight percentage points so far in the second half and is currently sitting at 19 percent for the season. In comparison, if you’re into such things, both his Pull% and Cent% have gone up four percentage points each. Just because we’re in the gritty numbers part of this paragraph, I’ll go ahead and mention that his K% went from 14.6 in the first half to 20.7 in the second. While he’s also never been one for taking a walk, his BB% has dropped two points.
Brian MacPherson at the Providence Journal talked about Bogaerts’ slump at length, specifically about how the shortstop is still trying to attack outside pitches with the same swing he used to pull the ones he got on the inner half. Bogaerts is on pace to have 74 more plate appearances this season, according to Baseball Prospectus, which would give him roughly 60 more at-bats than he had last year. The Red Sox, if you didn’t hear, had a grueling second half (and even in the first half, his lack of rest was a seemingly continual discussion) so it’s conceivable that he’s just really tired. Playing in 140-150 baseball games a year is a lot. Unfortunately, with the team in the thick of a pennant race, there’s not a lot of time to rest your All-Star shortstop.
Andrew Benintendi and his perfect head of hair have returned from the DL. Ben Buchanan explains why that’s obviously a good thing. Personally, a Benintendi-Bradley-Betts outfield is too fun for me to root for a Benintendi-Chris Young platoon dynamic, but Buchanan makes a good argument for the why that’s probably the move. With that said, the Orioles are all of a sudden only one game behind in the standings, and while the Sox would love to bring Benintendi back slowly, how much time in a very-real, very-scary pennant race can you commit to slowly bringing back an outfielder who was hitting .324/.365/.485? If you want to back #FireFarrell, by all means, do it, but I for one am glad that he’s making that decision and not me. I will be over here backing #ImGladFarrellsMakingThatDecisionAndNotMe while hoping that overly-wordy, forced-joke of a hashtag doesn’t come back to bite me later (lookin’ at you, bullpen).
I also recently wrote that “at worst, Yoan Moncada is a pinch runner” so now I feel like I owe you all a personal hand-written apology. The learning curve is a steep one, Emily McCarthy writes. Should the Red Sox make the playoffs, it’s hard to imagine seeing Moncada have the type of impact that Jacoby Ellsbury did in ’07 or Bogaerts did in ’13. Nine straight strikeouts and a base-running blunder was certainly an eye sore, albeit probably an overhyped one. He could still provide some speed during the postseason and somehow here I am once again telling you that at worst, Yoan Moncada is a pinch runner so that’ll wrap it up.
Photo by USA Today Sports Images