Over the last month of the regular season, Xander Bogaerts hit.284/.393/.411. Prior to this, he’d hit .271/.333/.401 for the first five months of the season season. The most notable difference over the past month hasn’t been his slightly heightened batting average, nor extra power reminiscent of his 2016 form, but his ability to take a pitch and get a free pass to first base.
His line over the past month looks pretty similar to his career playoff line - .282/.370/.410, albeit in only played 15 postseason games. From an outside viewpoint, it looks like Xander is in postseason form just on time.
When you talk about Bogaerts in 2017, the first thing that is bound to come up is the disappearance of his power stroke. In 2016, he hit 21 home runs. In 2017, he’s had 10. His slugging percentage has dropped roughly 40 points, his ISO a touch over 20. Yet, according to his batted ball profiles, not a thing is wrong. In fact, according to FanGraphs, he looks to be an even more well-rounded hitter. He’s hitting more line drives, he’s hitting for harder contact and has lessened his soft contact. Further, he’s reined back his pull stroke just enough to hit it into center field a bit more often, making a shift a gamble.
But none of that really answers where the power went. The easy thing to jump to is the many times he’s been hit on the hand over the past two years. But he hasn’t been hit exclusively in the hand (in 2017):
- May 3rd, 2017 - Bogaerts is hit in the back, by Kevin Gausman. (credit to mlb.com)
- May 7th, 2017 - Bogaerts is hit in the back, but only barely, by Ervin Santana
- June 27th, 2017 - Bogaerts is hit on the tip of his left foot, by Hector Santiago
- July 6th, 2017 - Bogaerts is hit on his right hand, by Jacob Faria (credit to MassLive)
- September 14th, 2017 - Bogaerts is hit on his left elbow/side by Santiago Casilla
- September 15th, 2017 - Bogaerts is hit on his left elbow/side by Matt Andriese
In fact, he’s been hit mostly in his back and his leading elbow, including on back to back nights from two completely different teams. Additionally, he’s been hit twice by the Twins and the Rays, each. The Twins HBP were incidental, and didn’t really cause any damage. However, the two times Bogaerts has been hit by the Rays, he visibly reacted with a lot of pain, as one normally does when they are hit in a touchy area, such as the hand or elbow.
Even so, many of these injuries aren’t the kind that would sap a hitter’s power entirely, and the ones that would came later in the season. Prior to his first “serious” injury of 2017, on July 6th, Xander was hitting .308/.361/.455 and had hit 6 home runs in 79 games (12.3 per 162 games). Since July 6th, he’s hit .232/.321/.340, with 4 HR in 68 games (9.5 per 162 games).
So let’s focus first on the early season; Xander Bogaerts was hitting excellently, though not for a whole lot of power. Xander wasn’t injured. His batted ball profiles for the stretch of the beginning of the year to July 5th paint an interesting picture. One third of the time, the contact he made could be described as hard contact. One fifth of the time, his hit was an ideal line drive. There was just one demerit to note, and it was his ground ball tendencies. Half the balls he hit went into the dirt. One of the strengths of Xander’s 2016 campaign was his reduced groundball rates. The first half of 2017 saw a return to a more 2015 look of his game, one where he didn’t hit for a lot of power, but being the prototypical hit machine.
When the injury happened, it was fair to think that his season was in trouble and that the Sox wouldn’t be able to rely on Xander Bogaerts for the rest of the season. But Xander Bogaerts has adapted. He’s still hitting the ball hard. He’s stopped hitting the ball with “soft contact” as often, as well. His line drive rate is acceptable, and he’s stopped hitting the ball into the ground as often. He’s even hit to all fields. Yet, despite his good looking profile, he just hadn’t hit up to snuff. The hand injury was clearly bothering him. He was inconsistent.
So what has changed in September? Outside of being hit on the elbow twice, and being in visible pain in Tampa, again, Xander Bogaerts has hit profoundly well, and had a great single month snapshot of profiles. He’d finally put it all together for 2017. He is hitting the ball hard. He is hitting the ball to all fields. He’s putting the ball in the air, even if he could still do more on this front.
If this is the Xander Bogaerts we see in October, then the Red Sox might have a surprising X-factor in October. How fitting it would be for it to be X-Man himself.