Beyond the Batter's Box Opinion

What’s gotten into Xander Bogaerts?

Xander Bogaerts’s swing change leads to hot first month

Featured image courtesy of Zimbio.com:(April 29th 2018-Source: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images North America)

After the first month of the season, the Boston Red Sox lineup is firing on all cylinders with a few bumps in the road. The story early on has been Mookie Betts‘s success in the lead-off spot, but let’s not forget Xander Bogaerts. While Bogaerts was injured in the second half of the 2017 season, he had a disappointing finish. Despite his ankle injury this month, he has come into the 2018 season with a vengeance and it could be thanks to his new swing change.

The Red Sox commitment to analytics could be the reason why Bogaerts has come out of the gates hot this month. Boston hired Alex Cora as their new manager and Tim Hyers as their new hitting coach.

Both of them are analytically-minded. Cora slotted Betts in the lead off spot as an analytical move, while Hyers will help Boston’s lineup follow the launch angle revolution that has taken over baseball.

Like I said, Bogaerts was injured in the second half of last season, suffering a left sore thumb injury and  finished the 2017 season with a rather unexciting .273/.343/.403 batting line with a .746 OPS.

If you look at Bogaerts’s career, his 2015-2017 seasons look good at first glance. After all, he won two Silver Sluggers and an All-Star appearance, but don’t be fooled!If you delve into his advanced stats you will see that the quality of contact he was getting on his batted balls in play were subpar. 

Let us start by looking at his quality of contact:

Year Bad Contact Good Contact Optimal Contact Power Contact Exit Velocity
 2015  52.70%  47.40%  19.60%  18.00%  87.7
 2016  52.80%  47.20%  20.40%  19.80%  89.2
 2017  56.70%  43.20%  21.90%  18.30%  87.3
 2018  33.30%  66.70%  53.40%  40.00%  94.0
(calltothepen.com,Boston Red Sox: Did Xander Bogaerts change his swing?)

Xander was awarded a Silver Slugger in 2015 and 2016, but he was creating bad contact on more than half the balls he put in play.

His exit velocity remained in the upper 80’s, which is good, but it’s not nearly good as his current average 94-mph exit velocity. Granted, it is a fairly small sample, so this is something to keep an eye on going forward.

In 2015, his bad contact resulted in a 52.9% ground ball, but only 11.1% of those ground balls resulted in hits. Meanwhile, Bogaerts only ran a 25.8% FB, with 5.8% of those fly balls resulted in homeruns.

In 2016, X hit more homeruns but still was not producing good contact.

He was able to get his ground ball percentage down to 45.5% but he was only able to squeak out hit 9.5% of the time that year.  He brought up his fly ball rate to 35.5% and hit more home runs at a 11.1% FB/HR clip but he also struggled with infield fly balls,  turning in a 17.8% IFFB percentage.

Xander produced the same quality of contact in  2017 as he did in’15 and ’16.

Now we arrive at 2018! I know, up until this point I was roasting Xander, but here comes the charm. Bogaerts has put up great numbers, on top of,  producing great analytical numbers.

In the first month of this season, Bogaerts has made good contact on 66.7% of the balls he has put in play, and it has carried over into his other advanced stats.

This season he has converted more ground balls into infield hits, and his fly balls are turning into home runs. His GB percentage is 31.6% and is getting hits at a 16.7% clip.

He holds a 39.5% FB percentage and is converting those fly balls into home runs at a 11.7% rate.

What has changed this year that Bogaerts did not have the past three years?

A good launch angle:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(sonsofsamhorn.com,The Red Sox Join The Launch Angle Revolution!)

Launch angle has a huge influence on the probability of a batted ball being a hit or not. The optimal launch angle is 0 to 40 degrees.

Anything less than 0 degrees is a “dribbler”or ground ball, and anything above 40 degrees is a pop fly.

Hyers has also worked with Bogaerts on his posture.  Bogaerts is more upright in his stance and is starting to drive his weight towards his back foot at the beginning of his swing in order to produce more power. He has also worked on loading his hands more in order to promote an upper-cut in his swing.

X has enjoyed a hot start with his new swing. He contributed a three-hit game against the Kansas City Royals in a 10-6 win on Monday, including a grand slam in the 3rd inning. The underlying stats are phenomenal for Bogey. As such, there is no reason to think his hot start will not persist. He is a different hitter in 2018 than in years past. More importantly, though, he is a better hitter.

 

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