Boston Red Sox Report Cards: Xander Bogaerts
By Sean Penney
The BoSox Injection staff reflects on the 2016 season by grading each member of the Boston Red Sox based on expectations for them entering the season.
Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts carried over the momentum from last year’s breakout campaign into the first half of the 2016 season.
Bogaerts once again inserted himself into the batting title conversation through the first few months of the season, hitting the break with a .329 batting average. His impressive first half earned him his first career All-Star selection in his age 23 season.
Once we hit the dog days of August, the wheels began to fall off for Bogaerts. His batting average plummeted to .219 for the month as he entered a nosedive that he’d never fully pull out of, posting a .253 average in the second half.
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He would finish the season hitting a very respectable .294, good enough for 16th in the American League, yet that’s a far cry from the territory he had become accustomed to since finishing second in the batting title race in 2015.
By the time the postseason rolled around, Bogaerts looked completely lost at the plate. He whiffed at pitches in the dirt that he normally would have had the restraint to lay off of and the contact he did make typically resulted in a weak ground ball.
Compounding his issues at the plate was a decline in defensive performance. Bogaerts worked hard on his fielding, improving enough to become at least an average defensive shortstop last year. This season he committed a career-high 13 errors, dropping his fielding percentage to .977 compared to .983 a year ago. He also finished with -10 defensive runs saved, next to last among AL shortstops and the worst rating of his career.
Despite the dip in production, there are a lot of positives to take away from Bogaerts’ season. While his batting average was lower, he nearly doubled the number of walks he drew a year ago, resulting in a .356 OBP that was a tick above last year’s. He also saw his power production spike with a career-high 21 home runs and an .802 OPS.
Bogaerts went into a funk at an inopportune time, but his overall numbers were very solid this season.
A career-high in games played and plate appearances may have contributed to his second half swoon, as he was only given three days off after the All-Star break – which wasn’t really a break for Bogaerts given his invitation to San Diego. Bogearts admitted to feeling fatigued during the second half, but tried to battle through it with the Red Sox in a tight division race.
Tired players develop bad habits at the plate, but he has an entire offseason to work on finding his swing again. He has another year of experience navigating a grueling schedule under his belt, which should help him adapt so that he doesn’t wear down as much late in the year.
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Bogaerts didn’t exactly charge full steam ahead through the finish line, but there’s no reason to expect that he won’t return to being among the top handful of shortstops in the game in 2017 and beyond.