-By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub
In many ways, Xander Bogaerts is the poster boy for the millennial Red Sox, a team that has simultaneously won two division titles and underachieved. We know Bogaerts is a good player. The question is whether he can be great.
And right now, he looks like a wrecking machine.
In case you missed it, Bogaerts hit his second grand slam of the season last night – the Red Sox’ stunning sixth of the season – and Bogaerts’ second slam looked a lot like his first. It was early in the game. The Red Sox had to overcome an early deficit. And it came on a 3-2 count, which is precisely the kind of situation in which Bogaerts has the opposing pitcher dead to rights.
He doesn’t want to walk me. So I’ll look fastball. And I won’t miss it.
And he didn’t.
Look, it’s early. But since coming off the disabled list at the end of last week, Bogaerts has picked up right where he left off. In three games, he’s gone 7-for-13 with a home run, a double and six RBIs. For the season, in 12 games, Bogaerts is batting .412 with three home runs, 11 extra-base hits, 15 RBI, a .745 slugging percentage and a 1.171 OPS. Again, it’s early, but among all major leaguers with at least 50 plate appearances so far, Bogaerts ranks second in the majors in OPS – behind only teammate Mookie Betts.
We covered some of this earlier in the season, but with Bogaerts it’s all about approach. Last year, in precisely the same situation he faced last night, Bogaerts might have been more inclined to shoot for an opposite-field single. But this year? We’re now seeing a more consistent attempt to do damage when he has a pitcher vulnerable, which equates to a killer instinct in the batter’s box.
Sometimes, after all, you’re supposed to go for the knockout.
Here’s Bogaerts’ first grand slam this season. Again, look at where the catcher is stationed (away) and where the pitch ends up (middle-in). Again, look at the count (3-2). Bogaerts is waiting for a fastball that he can drive because he knows the pitcher has nowhere to put him. And when he gets a mistake in location, he doesn’t miss.
Will Bogaerts sacrifice some average for this approach in the long-term? Probably. Maybe. And when a pitcher executes properly, maybe he takes a called third strike … or walks … or hits a fly to the deepest part of Fenway.
All of that said, offense in baseball is often about hitting mistakes. And when opposing pitchers are making them, Xander Bogaerts is doing something he wasn’t doing with regularity before.
He’s making them pay.
And he’s making them pay big.