Xander Bogaerts occupies a peculiar space in Red Sox fans’ consciousness. On one hand, he’s an All-Star, a two-time Silver Slugger award winner, and World Series champion. On the other hand, he’s never quite lived up to the lofty expectations that were placed on his shoulders as a top prospect and precocious rookie in 2013. He has shown he can hit, but hasn’t put together the mix of power, batting average, and plate discipline he teased early on…at least not all in one season. Bogaerts’ defense has improved steadily (a testament to how hard he’s worked). However, he’s at best a league average-to-above-average defender at a premium position.
As a result, Bogaerts faded into the background while teammates like Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi (and contemporaries Francisco Lindor and Carlos Correa) have surged past him.
Bogaerts has been doomed to a series of “good but not great” and ultimately unsatisfying seasons. What’s one obvious reason? He has a propensity for a good old-fashioned second half swoon. Based on his performance at the plate since July 15th, Bogaerts looks like he’s headed down that path again.
Bogaerts’ Past Struggles
Bogaerts has tailed off before. The X Man has slashed .268/.325/.393 in 1263 career plate appearances in the second half of the season. That’s a far cry from his career first half numbers. Bogaerts has hit .291/.351/.443 in 1796 plate appearances prior to the break.
It doesn’t help matters that when Bogaerts struggles, his ABs look extra rough due to his high leg kick and wrist-heavy swing. When the Aruba native isn’t feeling it, it’s hard to ignore.
Traditionally, this has been the month where his numbers take a substantial nose dive. Bogaerts has only mustered a .237 batting average and a .629 OPS in August over the course of his career. Explanations can be made for a few of these swoons on a season by season basis. For example, you could argue that he hit the rookie wall in 2014. It was clear last season that a hand injury suffered in early-July hampered the Red Sox shortstop for the rest of the year.
Excuses or not, the trend is clear. And it doesn’t seem to be heading in the right direction anytime soon.
More of The Same
The second half woes have made their way into 2018. Bogaerts started the season hot. He had 21 hits in his first 51 ABs this season, 11 of which were extra base knocks. Then, from May 1st up until the All-Star break, he slashed a respectable (if not eye-popping) .259/.340/.494. His 13 HR in 67 games over that span is a 33 HR pace per 162 games.
Since the break, X has struggled to get started. Despite collecting hits in each of his last three games, he’s hitting just .216/.305/.333 over the last 15 contests. He also hasn’t homered since July 15th. Granted, slumps happen, and 59 PA isn’t what we’d call a large sample size. However, this isn’t an isolated incident, meaning we can draw more truth from those plate appearances than in a vaccuum.
Ultimately, this might all be a moot point. Betts and JD Martinez might just keep raking through the fall and continue taking turns carrying an otherwise potent offense.
Should either of Boston’s anchors falter for an extended period, or enter an ill-timed slump during the postseason, the onus will fall on the Sox’s second tier of stars to keep the line moving and pick up the slack.
Will Bogaerts finally be the guy to do it for a stretch run?
It’s a question that Red Sox fans have been waiting to answer (and one of the few questions remaining for this team). Time will tell if Bogaerts is up to the challenge.