By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
I won't pretend to have the answers for why Xander Bogaerts has dropped off after the All-Star break in recent years. But, just speaking to the reality of the situation here. For two seasons in a row, the Boston Red Sox shortstop has fallen off a cliff around the time the calendar flips to August and September.
Here's his chance to stop a possible coincidence from becoming a trend.
It's unfair to just blankly declare that Bogaerts Doesn't Show Up™ in the second half. Is two seasons enough to define a player? His 2018 so far should prove that no, it isn't. And his 2015 season, his first as the full-time shortstop, is proof that he's capable of doing the opposite; he went from a .750 OPS in the first half (defined by Baseball-Reference.com as pre-All-Star break) to .803 in the second, including an .876 OPS over a September/October tear.
His 2016 and 2017 seasons, however, tell the disconcerting story that, fair or not, has become part of Bogaerts' identity. Here are his batting average and OPS numbers from before and after the All-Star break in those seasons:
Pre-All-Star: .329 AVG, .863 OPS
Post-All-Star: .253 AVG, .729 OPS
Pre-All-Star: .303 AVG, .806 OPS
Post-All-Star: .235 AVG, .671 OPS
Bogaerts suffered virtually the same drop in percentage points (134 vs. 135) in his OPS in the first and second halves of those seasons. He's been remarkably consistent in his drop-offs.
But still, it's only two seasons. A third season in a row with a similar spiral would start to point to a pattern, and a disturbing one for one of the Red Sox' most important young talents. The 2015 season, however, is an indication that Bogaerts could at least keep his current pace going. He hit the 2018 break with 16 homers, 64 RBIs, and an .889 OPS - all career-bests at this point in the season.
Even more promising is that Bogaerts did that in just 79 games. Over a 162-game season, that's a pace of 33 homers and 131 RBIs. He also missed 15 games with a foot injury, and received regular rest for another four. The dude is raking like never before in his career, and that's also due in large part to the team's new aggressive approach at the plate. Maybe that, plus his added rest, will also translate to a better second half of 2018.
Friday marks the first opportunity for Bogaerts to subvert expectations based on the last two years. His 2015 season, at the very least, gives a shred of hope that he can.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].