We live in a world of overreactions. And giving up on Xander Bogaerts would be just that.
The Boston Red Sox entered the week as the first-place team in the AL East, three games ahead of the New York Yankees. They began their two-game series with the third place Tampa Bay Rays on a six-game win streak. Needless to say, the Red Sox are in a pretty good place, with less than two months remaining in the regular season.
They’ll be in an even better place if Dustin Pedroia can stay off the DL, now that he’s returned from a knee injury. Pedroia was the team’s DH on Tuesday night in Tampa Bay. But as Hanley Ramirez also returns to the lineup after dealing with oblique soreness, the Red Sox have a decision to make: what do they do with Eduardo Nunez?
Since acquired by the Red Sox before the non-waiver trade deadline, Nunez has given the offense a much-needed spark. In his first 10 games with the team — through Tuesday’s win in Tampa, the Red Sox’ seventh straight win — Nunez is hitting .422 with four home runs and 12 RBI.
It would be crazy to ask the guy to hit .400 the rest of the way, but as a career .281 hitter, I think it’s safe to say that Nunez’ bat needs to stay in the Red Sox’ lineup. But where do you put him when everyone is healthy enough to play every day?
One idea that’s out there is to make Nunez the shortstop, and put the struggling Bogaerts on the bench. Well, I’m here to tell you that would be the wrong decision.
Bogaerts hit .163 in the month of July and is hitting below .200 since the All-Star break. That’s obviously not very good.
He’s been dealing with a hand injury this season, and we just saw Nunez start at shortstop instead of Bogaerts as recently as Saturday against the Chicago White Sox. Still, I truly don’t believe giving up on Bogaerts would be the right move. And yes, sticking with Nunez at shortstop for the stretch run would indeed be giving up on Bogaerts. That would be a major overreaction on the Red Sox’ part.
Bogaerts is 24 years old. And as bad as the last month-and-a-half has been for him, he’s still hitting .285 on the season — through Tuesday — which is higher than that of Andrew Benintendi (.272), Mookie Betts (.269), Jackie Bradley Jr. (.261), Ramirez (.250), and Mitch Moreland (.242).
With just six home runs, Bogaerts hasn’t hit for power, but he still has more RBI than Ramirez, a player who is paid $22 million a year to have more than 42 RBI in mid-August. Bogaerts also leads the team in triples with four, third on the team in doubles with 23, and if offensive wins above replacement is a stat for you, then it should be noted that Bogaerts is second on the team in that category at 2.1, behind Betts at 2.2.
Point is, while Bogaerts has had his fair share of struggles since the calendar hit July, he can’t be looked upon as someone who needs to be replaced. Especially if you look at his career numbers post All-Star break.
Since making his MLB debut in 2013, the month of August has been Bogaerts’ worst month. In 86 career games during that month, Bogaerts has a .239 average. But his career average in September, in 93 games, is .291.
So from here on out, Bogaerts needs to be in the lineup, as the Red Sox starting shortstop. If they want to sit Moreland against a lefty, go ahead. Or even if they want to give the kid Rafael Devers some time off if he cools down at the plate, be my guest. But don’t give up on Bogaerts. He hit .294 as an All-Star last year. He hit .320 the year before that. And again, he’s only 24. Let’s not overreact to a slump.
Sure, Nunez needs to play every day. But so does Bogaerts.
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