Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts is heating up at the plate
The American League batting title race will be tightly contested in the final full month of the regular season and Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts has officially entered the chat.
Or rather, re-entered it.
Near the end of a scorching June, Bogaerts’ batting average was sitting above the .330 mark. He was still firmly in the mix for the batting title entering the All-Star break when he was hitting .316. About a month later, we were starting to wonder if the star shortstop was drifting toward his worst season since 2017.
Bogaerts spent most of August mired in a miserable slump. From the first of the month through August 23, Bogaerts hit a meager .203 with a .577 OPS and only five extra-base hits in 18 games. His second-half slide dropped his batting average for the season down to .298, the lowest it had been since April 17.
As we reached the final week of the month, Bogaerts began heating up again. He has recorded multiple hits in four consecutive games and in six of his last seven games. After only managing three homers between June and the end of July, he homered four times in August, capping off a historic month with his sixth career grand slam. As he found his swing, his batting average jumped 10 points during that stretch, from .298 to .308.
Bogaerts now sits third in the American League in batting average, a mere percentage point behind Chicago’s José Abreu (.309).
The Red Sox wrapped up a series on Wednesday against the Minnesota Twins in which they faced the current league leader, Luis Arraez. He went 4-for-12 in the three-game series against Boston’s pitching staff but he left the series with the same .318 average that he entered with. Bogaerts was able to gain some ground in the race by going 6-for-12 in the series in Minnesota.
Arraez faded a bit in August, hitting .269 for the month. Since August 21, he has seen his batting average dip from .330 to .318. If Bogaerts gained 10 points on his batting average over the same span that Arraez lost more than 10, surely there’s plenty of time for Bogaerts to close the 10-point gap that still stands between them with over a month remaining on the schedule.
Of course, Bogaerts has to contend with others beyond Arraez. Abreu is riding a four-game hitting streak of his own and he hit .333 in August. The AL has six hitters who currently own a batting average of at least .300, with Andrés Giménez (.302), Nathaniel Lowe (.301) and Andrew Benintendi (.300) lurking behind Bogaerts.
Bogaerts has his work cut out for him if he’s going to earn his first batting title, but he’s firmly in the race. And historically, he’s done his best hitting early in the season, but he owns a solid .296 average for his career in September/October.
The way that he was trending for the majority of August, there was legitimate concern that Bogaerts was destroying his value with a second-half slump ahead of his potential venture into free agency. Between his lack of power this season and a dwindling batting average, would Bogaerts reconsider exercising his opt-out on the heels of a disappointing season? That debate will be definitively put to rest if his current hitting streak vaults him toward a strong finish. The power is still diminished compared to previous seasons, but Bogaerts remains among the league leaders in doubles and has already tied last year’s season total in two-baggers.
Bouncing back in the batting average department should calm any concerns about a down season. He still has a strong case for earning his fifth Silver Slugger award. A batting title would be the feather in his cap that would ensure the big payday he deserves this winter.