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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Half Full or Half Empty?

In a year of almost uniformly good news one of the most confusing seasons by a member of the AL East Champion Boston Red Sox! was had by one Xander Jan Bogaerts.  A 23 year old shortstop who posted 3.7 WAR and a career best OPS with career highs in a variety of categories is a guy who sounds like he had a great year.

But if you are a Red Sox fan you are forgiven if the shape of Xander’s season has you a bit unsettled.  After a blazing start Xander hit the skids in the second half.  To wit;

1st Half - .329/.388/.475
2nd Half - .253/.317/.412

An ugly looking playoff series against Cleveland didn’t change that perception and there is definitely reason to view his season with a bit of concern for the future.  Even that second half version of Xander is a decent enough player but it’s a long way from the first half player and even a long way from the .307/.355/.434 player he has been over the past two seasons.  Digging into the numbers a bit I think there is plenty of reason to believe that Xander will return in 2017 as the .780-.800 OPS player he has been the last couple of years.

At its core his season was strongly defined by his BABIP in a major way.  Here are his month to month numbers;

April - .290/.365/.419
May - .395/.429/.589
June - .324/.377/.438
July - .288/.359/.471
August - .219/.274/.325
September - .241/.331/.420

Let’s take a moment to run those numbers again with some additional columns; BABIP, K rate and BB rate;

April - .290/.365/.419/.342/15.4%/9.6%
May - .395/.429/.589/.444/15.8%/6.0%
June - .324/.377/.438/.360/14.0%/7.9%
July - .288/.359/.471/.305/15.4%/8.5%
August - .219/.274/.325/.256/21.0%/5.6%
September - .241/.331/.420/.280/20.5%/11.0%

The increase in K rate is a bit unsettling but it’s not like he was striking out a lot.  From July through September his K and BB rates were still better than league average (marginally so but still).  One thing I wanted to play with a bit was smoothing out his season based on his .335 overall BABIP;

April - .280/.356/.409
May - .306/.429/.500
June - .305/.377/.419
July - .308/.359/.490
August - .272/.274/.377
September - .277/.331/.455
Total - .291/.331/.443

When you look at it that way his season is a lot more tolerable.  August is a suck-fest of the highest order no matter how you cut it but all in all the season looks reasonable.  What I found encouraging this year was the emergence of his power. I would not be surprised if he is the more consistent power hitter than Mookie Betts as he moves forward and even the slumping version of Bogaerts was slugging home runs.

On the half empty side of things his defense seemed to take a bit of a hit this year.  To my eye his range was a bit reduced.  What struck me though, and this is purely anecdotal, is that as his offensive struggles increased his defense improved.  For a guy who has long been praised for his maturity this is not that surprising but it is nice to get that sort of confirmation.

All in all I tend to see the year for Xander as a glass half full situation.  Maybe he is not going to be the superstar some of us hoped for but if he is a 3.5-4.5 player on a consistent basis that is quite valuable indeed. 

Jose is El Absurd Pollo Posted: October 25, 2016 at 11:48 AM | 1 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. villageidiom Posted: October 25, 2016 at 01:50 PM (#5333576)

The first of those lines is his actual 2016 performance. The second is his smooth-BABIP numbers you quoted above. The third is his ZiPS 2016 preseason projection.

This has been a good year for XB. The shape of it was a little weird, but that happens. Weaker contact - what usually drives BABIP down for prolonged periods - and weaker defense makes me concerned he was enduring an injury of some sort. I hope we don't find him off to a slow start next year and then it's revealed he had an undiagnosed injury dating back to this year. That aside, I assume he'll bounce back next year just fine.

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