Xander Bogaerts hasn’t looked like himself at the plate this season.
While the longtime Boston Red Sox shortstop is actually having one of the best defensive seasons of his 10-year career, he’s struggled to find his swing all summer long. And on Sunday at the fifth annual Little League Classic, he revealed what he believes to be the root of his struggles at the plate.
Back in late May, Bogaerts and Alex Verdugo collided while going for a pop-up. Bogaerts landed awkwardly on his left elbow and stayed on the ground in visible pain.
Xander Bogaerts reveals his collision with Alex Verdugo back in May is severely impacting his offensive production
While both players stayed in the game at the time, it appears the incident had a significant ripple effect. Over 38 games between Opening Day and that night in May, Bogaerts hit .326/.388/.465 with eight doubles and four home runs. He drew 13 walks and struck out 33 times. Over 78 games since, he’s hitting .286/.361/.429 with 23 doubles and six home runs. For most players, those numbers would still be more than acceptable; not for Bogaerts, though. He’s striking out at the third-highest rate of his career while his home-run rate is down 1.7% and his walk rate is down 1.5%.
On Sunday, Bogaerts revealed to Alex Speier of the Boston Globe (subscription required) that his “frustrating” season has included multiple cortisone shots:
"“I’ve dealt with it a lot since that incident,” said Bogaerts, who said that he ended up receiving cortisone shots in his left shoulder and wrist that addressed the swelling and pain. “I had to do what I had to do. I had to get a shot on both of them.“[Now] I feel pretty OK. [But] the messed up part with that is you start changing your mechanics, where you want to swing to where you don’t feel any pain, or you don’t feel much pain.“Then your swing starts changing. Then when you feel good so you can get back, there are just so many bad habits that have been incorporated. That’s the frustrating thing. You can feel so good in BP and the cage, and as soon as the game starts, the first pitch you see, it’s like, ‘[Expletive], what the hell are you doing?’ Your mind wants to do something but your body is doing something different. That’s also frustrating. There’s just so many bad habits.”"
Despite the collision, Bogaerts still hit well in June: .337/.418/.461, eight doubles, and his sixth home run of the season. But as he says, the swing changes and pain could have compounded over time, and bad habits are hard to break. His numbers in the second half certainly suggest that; he’s hitting .245/.304/.402 since the All-Star break.
The biggest indicator that something has been wrong is the alarming drop in power. Between 2018-21, he averaged 30 home runs per 162 games. Only on Sunday did he hit his 10th of the season. Compare that to the shortened 2020 campaign when he homered 11 times in 56 games.
Cumulatively, Bogaerts will still finish the season as one of the top hitters in the American League, and a leader at his position. Among AL shortstops, he’s second in games played, runs scored, hits, and slugging percentage, and leads the pack in doubles, batting average, and on-base percentage.
And we’re calling this a down year.
Hopefully, Bogaerts’ 10th home run of the season on Sunday was the spark he needed to light the rest of the season up. It was the hardest pitch he’s homered off all season, a blazing 99.2 mph fastball. But regardless, let this serve as a reminder of how unappreciated and undervalued he is when he’s not struggling.