Xander Bogaerts was dropped to seventh in the Boston Red Sox’s lineup for Tuesday’s game against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field. It’s where the 21-year-old belongs in the order right now.
There have been times during the Red Sox’s forgettable season when Bogaerts has been the club’s biggest bright spot, and it’s reasonable to think he’ll someday — perhaps sooner rather than later — be a middle-of-the-order presence. Bogaerts’ move down the lineup makes sense for several reasons, though, and manager John Farrell would be wise to test out the new order for at least a few games.
Farrell’s lineup change, of course, is largely predicated on Bogaerts’ struggles. Bogaerts is hitting .096 (5-for-52) over his last 14 games and .162 (12-for-74) in 21 games since shifting to third base upon shortstop Stephen Drew returning to the Red Sox.
One could debate for hours whether Bogaerts’ position change has played a role in his offensive woes, but the numbers are what they are. Even Bogaerts himself acknowledged a couple of weeks ago that it was a “good question” when WEEI.com’s Alex Speier dived into the issue during the Red Sox’s series in Baltimore.
Bogaerts’ full-time shift into the No. 2 hole in the Red Sox’s lineup coincided with Brock Holt’s emergence as Boston’s everyday leadoff hitter and Dustin Pedroia’s move into the No. 3 spot — all occurred May 23. Since then, Holt obviously has become a rock star, but both Bogaerts and Pedroia stand to benefit from assuming a new lineup spot within the Red Sox’s struggling offense.
Bogaerts is hitting .229 (32-for-140) with a .306 on-base percentage in 34 games out of the No. 2 spot this season. Sure, he went on a tear immediately after being thrust into the role full-time, but it’s evident the Red Sox might have placed too much pressure on the young infielder at the first sign of success. (For what it’s worth, Bogaerts is hitting .317 [13-for-41] with a .378 on-base percentage in 11 games out of the No. 7 spot.)
Pedroia has had fairly consistent numbers this season regardless of his lineup spot, but the All-Star second baseman spent much of his career before last season batting out of the No. 2 hole, and he’s currently hitting a career-low .268 with only four homers in 75 games. While Farrell pointed out Monday in Seattle that Pedroia’s decrease in power is largely a product of pitchers pitching him outside more frequently, it’s perfectly reasonable to wonder if a bump in the lineup could do him some good. After all, Pedroia fits the mold of a quintessential No. 2 hitter.
Bogaerts’ move also enables David Ortiz to hit third, where he boasts a .274/.367/.520 slash line with 12 homers and 28 RBIs in 46 games this season. Ortiz has a much-less-impressive .228/.333/.413 slash line with five homers and 18 RBIs in 25 games out of the cleanup spot. Anything geared toward waking up Big Papi on a more consistent basis seems A-OK given his importance.
Still, perhaps the most important number — aside from all the unflattering statistics that highlight Boston’s offensive futility as a team — is that the Red Sox are 8-13 since their season-high seven-game winning streak ended June 2.
Sometimes, a seemingly minor change can create a spark. A lot of pieces within the Red Sox’s struggling offense, including Bogaerts, could use that right now.
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