Sunday, June 12, 2016

Xander Bogaerts is the Best Shortstop in Baseball

Boy, it seems like I could write one of these every day for a different Red Sox player. (Well, maybe not for Travis Shaw...but almost everyone.) The Sox are blessed with some incredible talent on the team these days. And it's young talent, when you look at Mookie and JBJ and now Xander. There's a lot to be excited about for Red Sox fans.

Of course, Xander might be the best of the bunch. I looks like he's certainly the most consistent. And, consistent in a good way. Not in a "Well, he has no power, but you can count on his five home runs a year" type of consistent. Look at him compared to the other two I mentioned. Remember when Jackie had that super hot streak, and took over the lead in the American League batting race? Did anyone even know that the person he passed was Xander? Bogaerts was just plugging along, doing his thing while everyone else reached their highest peaks. Right down to having a super long hitting streak just when Bradley had a slightly longer one. He didn't hit three home runs in a game or two in the first two innings like Mookie did...twice. Xander was just there getting his hits and driving in his runs.

He's not an elite defender. But, he's a very good one. You expect him to get to balls and make plays. He may not end up on as many highlight reels as the young outfielders do. But, he does everything you want from him.

Like running the bases. When he went first to third on a groundout to second base yesterday, it was just the latest in a long line of great baselining decisions. I've joked on twitter often that Xander is apparently in scoring position at first base. He's scored from first on a double more than anyone I can remember. They always say that base running is the sort of thing that doesn't show up in a box score. But, Xander is doing it so well, that I think it is. Not just the scoring from first. But, plays like yesterday where he scores on a sacrifice fly after taking that incredible extra base.

Imagine if Jeter had done something like that.

But, really, think about that play. The easy response to it is to say he was planning it all along. He saw the shift, and knew he could give it a try. Mookie did it earlier in the year on a stolen base. But, unlike on a steal, Xander wasn't controlling the play. When you attempt a steal, you know where the play will be. You know where the defenders are. You know that throw is going to second base. You know all that before you run. Xander didn't. He had no idea where the ball was going until it was hit. And even after that, he didn't know how close the play would be since the Twins fumbled around with the ball a bit. He probably should have been out by ten feet. But, he wasn't. He had to decide at the last minute if he was going to have to break up a double play, or not. He had to look to make sure nobody was going to be covering third base. He had to look to make sure that the person taking the throw at second wasn't going to be able to sweep a tag on him as he ran by. He couldn't decide any of that before the play. He could have had an idea. "If the situation presents itself, I'm going to try it..." But, he had to make a lot of decisions on the fly to make sure the situation was there. He never hesitated.

And, here's the interesting question. The play at second was incredibly close. If he slides in like usual, does he make it to the bag in time? I'm not so sure he does. I think the thought of running hard and going to third actually got him to second base in time. 

So, Xander is hitting with some power. He's hitting for a high average. He's driving in runs. He's scoring runs. He's making all the plays in the field. He's stealing bases. He's taking the extra base. He's doing the things that don't show in a box score so well that they're starting to show in the box score. It's easy to see why he's the best shortstop in baseball.

Not sure it's even close.

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