The problem with Xander Bogaerts is simple and obvious

Getty Images
Eric D. Schabell
Contributing Writer

Everyone knows he is young.

Everyone was excited about Xander Bogaerts first full year on the Red Sox after his exciting contributions to the 2013 postseason.

Bogaerts hit .296 with an .893 OPS in 34 postseason plate appearances last October at the age of 21, but that version seems like so long ago.

Up to May 31 this year, Bogaerts was hitting .304 with an .835 OPS over his first 224 plate appearances. Since June 1, he has become a completely different player, hitting .160 with a .454 OPS over his next 248 plate appearances.

Since moving back to shortstop on August 1, Bogaerts is hitting .107 with a .304 OPS.

What is the problem?

We dug a bit into FanGraphs data around the pitches that Bogaerts is seeing this year in his first full major league season and see a marked increase in the number of sliders he is getting.

From FanGraphs

The number of slider he is seeing went from 10.2% in 2013 to 18.5% up to now in 2014. He is missing more of these pitches so expect that the opposing teams will be giving him more to look at until he starts to hit them. In 2014, Bogaerts is hitting .125 with a .290 OPS against sliders.

If you look at the curveball, he is hitting .118 with a .307 OPS in 2014. So the breaking pitches are eating him alive at the plate, which is pretty clear in the pitch weights overview below (note the slider (wSL), sinker (wSI) and curveball (wCU) rates).

From FanGraphs

These rates are all drastically negative which means he has a glaring hole in his swing that the opposing pitchers are going to continue to plug away at.

Do not worry too much Red Sox Nation, if we can find this kind of data, then the Red Sox and Bogaerts are also aware of it. He will be working on correcting this as every major league hitter has to learn to adjust to the changing patterns of pitches they will see.

Also worth remembering is that Bogaerts has had only 256 Triple-A plate appearances before landing in his first full major league season. To put some perspective on this, Dustin Pedroia had 740 Triple-A plate appearances, just shy of three times as many to learn the ropes before hitting the major leagues.

Sending Bogaerts back to Triple-A is not going to solve this problem, as he has outgrown the pitching down there. The opportunity has presented itself in the torpedoed 2014 season, which gives him another 38 games to work on finding the solution at the major league level.

Nobody said it would be easy.

Post a comment or via twitter @erics_redsox with your thoughts.

More by Eric D. Schabell