Red Sox: Xander Bogaerts showing signs of breaking out of slump

BOSTON, MA - JULY 15: Xander Bogaerts
BOSTON, MA - JULY 15: Xander Bogaerts /

 Since being hit on the hand by an errant fastball, it’s looked like Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts has been lost at the plate. Are his last few games a sign that he’s back to his Silver Slugger ways?

It’s no secret that for the last two months, Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts has not been a good hitter. But what some fans may forget is that before July, Bogaerts was just as hot as ever.

From the start of the season until July 6th, Xander was slashing .308/.361/.455 with six home runs. Sure, the power wasn’t what we were expecting out of a guy who hit 21 dingers last year, but he was pretty much the same hitter we saw in the first half of 2016.

Last year was his breakout year, and through his first 81 games a year ago, he was slashing .332/.390/.475 with nine home runs. Very similar to his start this season.

Then everything changed for Xander. In his first at-bat on July 6, his 80th game of the year, he was struck on the right hand and had to be taken out of the game. He ended up only missing one game, but when he returned to the lineup, he was a different hitter.

It was obvious that his hand was still bothering him as he hit .125 in the two games before the All-Star break. Perhaps the thought around the clubhouse was that since the break would give X some time to rest and recuperate, a DL stint would not be necessary.

Whether John Farrell, Dave Dombrowski, or ever Xander himself made that call, it was wrong.

In the last 15 games of July, Xander would go on to slash .169/.222/.203 with his only extra-base hits being a pair of doubles. Coincidentally perhaps, the Red Sox would go 6-9 in those games, and 6-12 overall in the 18 games Bogey played in after being injured.

It cannot be overstated how important a healthy Bogaerts is to this Red Sox team. July was by far their worst month, due in part to one of their best players struggling so much.

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Things were getting bad for Xander during that stretch. Looking at his strike out rates this season, you can see how drastically being hurt has affected him.

He peaked at a 31.1% K rate in his third game after being injured (which is very, very bad). It took him a whopping 15 games to get back down to an average rate. However, since August 4, his K% has been dropping and his walk percentage has been steadily rising.

The rise in Ks and drop in walks can almost be pinpointed to one thing. Xander’s inability to lay off breaking balls down and away.

Now, I love Bogaerts. He was my favorite Red Sox prospect pretty much since the day the organization signed him. I still rock my No. 72 Bogaerts shirt that I bought the day he was called up in 2013.

Believe me when I tell you that when he’s struggling at the plate, it’s because he can’t lay off the low outside breaking balls. I’ve seen it for years and have lost track of the times I’ve watched him chase an obvious ball in the dirt.

Cleveland exploited this weakness last year in the ALDS as they got Bogaerts to K four times in three games.

Look at the difference in his contact rates on breaking balls before the injury, and after. He’s never made great contact there, but you can really see how much more he was chasing those balls in the bottom of the zone.

This really comes into play when looking at his wRC+. Weighted Runs Created Plus is a stat that most effectively measures a players offensive output. Here’s a really detailed explanation of what it is, and why it’s used. Basically, a wRC+ of 100 is dead average, where anything above 100 is good, and below 100 is bad.

Looking at Xander’s wRC+ for the course of the season and you can probably guess when his injury occurred. Yup, that huge drop started on July 6, and more or less didn’t stop until August 4.

Remember how I said that a wRC+ of less than 100 is bad?  On July 28, Boagarts had a wRC+ of 1.

No wonder people were calling for his head. That is some bad offense.

But it looks like the tide is finally turning for the 24 year old. Over his last 10 games, he’s slashing a solid .270/.341/.378 with one (very important) home run. His 9th inning home run off Cardinal’s closer Trevor Rosenthal was Xander’s first since July 5.

If that’s not a sign that he’s feeling better than I don’t know what is. Rosenthal hadn’t given up a home run since June 7; that was only the third home run he’s allowed all year.

In addition to the home run, Xander has a little three game hitting streak going on right now. With five hits in his last three games, Bogaerts finally looks comfortable at the plate.

According to Jen McCaffrey of, after Wednesday night’s win, Xander discussed how much his injury had been affecting his swing.

"“Man, that definitely hit me hard, you know? I stopped playing well after that, I just couldn’t use my hands. I started creating a lot of bad swings, a lot of bad habits because if I wanted to swing the way I normally swing it would hurt. It’s just trying to get back to that swing that i normally have and hopefully now I can just continue with that. Because it was definitely tough on me.”"

Since the beginning of August the Red Sox are an MLB best 11-2 and certainly part of that is due to one of their best offensive players finding his stroke.

Next: Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers on MLB Network

With 28 of their last 42 games against the AL East this season, the Red Sox will need everyone firing on all cylinders. Xander getting healthy this only the start.