Here I go writing about Xander Bogaerts’ power again. Last week, we all took a journey through the X-Man’s increasing ability to send pitches over outfield walls. We looked at his superior isolated power, his improved slugging percentage, his dedication to turning on balls and his rise in hard hit rate.
Then he went out and hit three more home runs in the next five games. Somehow, his BABIP was at .154 during those games, but he still managed those dingers, providing for a wOBA of .390 and wRC+ of 147. Now, that’s a super-tiny-micro sample, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves, but this newfound power is proving to be more than just something that scratched my statistical curiosity in mid-June.
Further fueled by his last week of dingers, Bogaerts has made an impressive change in how he elevates the ball. He has hit more fly balls before, reaching a fly ball rate of 41.3 percent in 2014, but he only hit 12 home runs that season. He already has that many in 2018 and will undoubtedly hit more, even if its not another three by the time I write about him again. That’s because as his fly ball rate has spiked up once again, his home run per fly ball rate has finally come along for the ride, reaching 18.5% through Monday.
That is the highest mark of his career and, should it hold all season, would mark just the second time he has held a reading above 15 percent for a full year. The other time was 2013 when he we have a sample size of 50 plate appearances to look at. That’s hardly enough to be an informative amount of information. What we’re seeing this year, which has come over 247 plate appearances, is clearly a more reliable sample, especially as it pertains to projecting future performance.
Along with hitting more balls in the air and hitting them further, Bogaerts has shown a better ability to handle different pitches and to punish offerings other than fastballs. While nine of his 12 home runs this season have come against some variety of fastball, the rest have come against breaking or offspeed pitches. He had only two such home runs on non-fastball pitches last season, when he also tended to jump on balls on the lower inner half, matching his profile for the majority of his career. This year he is covering the plate better and not shying away from driving elevated pitches.
As Bogaerts has made more of an effort to hit for power, some other areas have suffered to a degree. He is striking out more than he has in the last four years and that has predictably led to fewer walks. With a BABIP of .307, he’s also getting unlucky on some of the contact he is making that doesn’t land in the stands, but that can also be a symptom of hitting more balls in the air since some of those are going to be caught. Even with those caveats thrown in, Bogaerts is currently sitting on a career-high in wOBA and wRC+, which may not hold at their current levels, but would have to drop pretty precipitously to fall below those of past seasons.
If you’re looking for a conclusion to this, here it is: Bogaerts is a power hitter now or at least more so than he ever has been before.
I’m not the only one that’s noticed Bogaerts’ improvement this season. (Chad Finn; Boston Globe)
We’re entering that time of year when trade rumors get bandied about. The Red Sox are usually busy on the market, and finding a top notch reliever should be a priority. (Christopher Smith; MassLive)
Imagine being worth $3 billion. The Red Sox won’t have to just imagine before the year is out. (Trefis Team; Forbes)
Mike Olt was able to bring a little brightness to his family when he hit a home run for his mother. (Harold Rivera; The Athletic) ($$)