Xander Bogaerts April-June 2022
Xander Bogaerts has been the best shortstop in baseball for the first three months of this season. He’s slashing .326/.397/.469, which is good for a 145 wRC+, the best at his position, and his defense has been solid enough to combine to give him the most Wins Above Replacement by any shortstop, 3.4, according to Fangraphs. Results matter, and no one has been better than Bogaerts.
It feels like the overwhelming sentiment from media talking heads and fans has been that the Red Sox have committed a crime against the city by not giving him the enormous contract it would have taken to sign him to a contract extension this past offseason, and now Bogaerts is sticking it to them. Just yesterday, Peter Gammons tweeted, “That his contract is not resolved is indefensible.”
There’s no question that Bogaerts has been the tip of the spear with the Red Sox, a leader and the steadiest guy in the organization, who happens to possess the ideal makeup any team could hope for in a star player.
All of that is important, but performance on the field matters most. Anyone that is reading this is likely tuned in to the goings-on in baseball, and as we have seen in the analytics age, when teams are looking forward, what’s going on under the hood is being valued more than past outcomes.
That’s what makes these first three months of Bogaerts’ season so interesting, the results he’s getting don’t seem to align with the underlying metrics. While there’s plenty of time for Bogaerts to go nuclear at the plate and drastically change the look of his metrics —which is a real possibility— this is where things stand as we enter July:
What? How can the shortstop with the best results in the game look that… mediocre? First, let’s look at how we got here:
Bogaerts had his major coming out party when Alex Cora arrived in 2018, he was finally looking to do damage. Between then and now, his age 25-29 seasons, his metrics have generally held or slightly ticked down, with the first real dip coming this year. His outstanding first half has come with only 6 home runs and major decline in his damage metrics.
I usually focus on xwOBA as a player’s overall offensive package (which combines exit velocities and launch angles, strikeouts, and walks). There’s also the damage metrics, Barrel%, HardHit%, xSLG and xISO. Whiff% shows how much contact a player is making. I think of Speed as a quick and dirty metric for a player’s athleticism.
Bogaerts’ .403 BABIP is the highest among 159 qualified batters.
The difference between his batting average (.326) and expected batting average (.267) is the biggest among qualified players.
The difference between his slugging (.469) and expected slugging (.422) is the 4th biggest among qualified players.
How is this happening? It seems Bogaerts’ great year is being fueled by his ground ball results. He already has more ground ball hits this season, 40, than he did in all of last season, 39. Bogaerts’ 40 is tied with Amed Rosario for the most ground ball hits in baseball this year. Andrew Benintendi is 3rd with 37.
It’s easy to spot the outlier here:
His ground ball results won’t continue long term, but they have saved his contract year to this point. Will the final three months of this season show a big rebound of his power and damage on contact? Will his metrics continue to be more on the mediocre level? The Red Sox, and every other team that has money to spend this winter, will be watching closely. Depending on which way his second half goes, I think it will be the difference in tens of millions of dollars, especially for a player that enters free agency at 30-years old.