Don’t Count Out Xander Bogaerts From Bouncing Back in 2024

The San Diego Padres struggled mightily in 2023, but Xander Bogaerts seems to be getting an unfair share of the blame.

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 15: Xander Bogaerts #2 of the San Diego Padres looks on between innings against the Oakland Athletics at RingCentral Coliseum on September 15, 2023 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

You feckless, condescending gremlins sitting atop your ivory Baseball Savant towers. I understand the allure of negativity — from the financial incentive, to the possibility we’re all just clinically depressed by the world — but from my unbiased perspective, it’s gotten out of hand. You’re all complicit. Everyone, including this dear ole website, has decided to write off Xander Bogaerts.

As far as I’m concerned, the Bogaerts naysayers should be charged as enemies of the state. Not the state of San Diego. Not the United States. No, I mean enemies of the state of planet earth as we know it. Haha hey hey! Isn’t it SO funny to make fun of the Padres? Didn’t you hear? They were REALLY disappointing last year! Crazy!! They’re actually the only team — ever, in all of history, just look it up — to fall short of expectations.

While the Padres having become the target of every low-hanging-fruit snatchers in baseball is understandable, it feels as if the sentiment has cast a somewhat unfair blemish upon Bogaerts’ ledger in particular.

And while the two examples I’ve shared are more anecdotal than empirical evidence, there does seem to be a considerable amount of pessimism regarding his abilities as a player. 

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And, in fairness, it’s not entirely without merit. In his first season with the Padres, Xander Bogaerts saw a decline in his hard-hit rate (34.3% compared to the 39.5% he had his last year with Boston), an increase in his groundball rate (50.5%, his highest since 2015), and if you’re really nerdy, his second-straight year in which his wOBA mark was significantly lower than his xWOBA.

For a player like Bogaerts, who wasn’t a shining totem of power to begin with, there are reasons to be concerned about how he’ll age over the course of the 11-year, $280 million dollar contract he signed last season. 

But we’re not talking about his age-36 season, we’re talking about 2024. And in the present day, we can find just as many reasons, if not more, to believe that Bogaerts has strong bounce-back potential to shove the non-believers back into the pits of Tartarus where they belong.


Look, you incessant troglodytes. It’s Xander Bogaerts we’re talking about here. There’s a reason why he became one of the biggest stars in the sport. 

From 2018-2022, Bogaerts put together a .300/.373/.507 slash line with a 134 wRC+ and compiled an fWAR of 22.4…not too shabby. Sample size not recent enough? No problem. There are only three shortstops (Francisco Lindor, Dansby Swanson, Trea Turner) and eleven players among all positions with more fWAR than him since 2020. 

It’s also not as if some of Bogaerts’ more in-depth stats alluded to earlier haven’t had their fair share of inconsistency either. His hard hit rate has vacillated before, and the groundball rate has been less-than-ideal in seasons prior to 2023.

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But for years now, Bogaerts finds a way to be as consistent a hitter as anyone in the sport — with a great eye for the ball that doesn’t rely on power that tends to dwindle with age. 

Plus, the one area he has always struggled in is defense. But 2023 showed that his output in 2022 (5 OAA) wasn’t an outlier, as his 3 OAA in San Diego shows the strides he made are here to stay. There’s no reason to believe he won’t be steady at second base, either.

Injuries, Duh

In 2023, Bogaerts dealt with a wrist issue, which is something, in fairness, that he’s been dealing with since his Boston days. But in 2023, the issue was exacerbated after getting hit in that exact area by Spencer Strider. Prior to his wrist getting blasted by a fastball, Bogaerts was slashing .362/.430/.580 with a 178 wRC+ over 79 plate appearances to start the season. 

Following that, his next 79 at-bats were good for a .179/.304/.299 line and a measly wRC+ of 77. His outside and zone contact rates both declined by nearly 10%. Even his pull rate took a noticeable dip around this. All of that, I’d wager, isn’t just a coincidence — and those were just the numbers for the immediate aftermath. How are we to know just how long the injury was plaguing him? 

Truth be told, Bogaerts probably could’ve used an IL stint to help him recover. But that’s the fault of the Padres and their lack of depth, not Mr. X. Everyone loves regaling the public with the note on Trea Turner salvaging his season late in the year after Phillies fans gave him a standing ovation — and almost to such a degree that they’ve ignored how terrible he was before that. 

Bogaerts, for what it’s worth, had a 107 wRC+ in the first half of the season. In the second half, he posted a 137 wRC+ — a mark just shy of the 140 wRC+ that the aforementioned Turner posted that everyone loves to praise all the time. The wrist doesn’t excuse everything, but it’s a good explanation. 

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Losing the Clutch Badge

The story of the 2023 Padres, aside from their enormous payroll and wasting an excellent Juan Soto campaign, was their complete inability to win close games.

Bogaerts was a major part of that, having the ninth-worst wRC+ among all qualified players in high leverage situations (23 wRC+). Furthermore, with runners in scoring position while with the Red Sox, Bogaerts had a career slashline of .284/.362/.469 with a 117 wRC+, while with the Padres last year he hit .191/.310/.340 and an 85 wRC+

Couple that with the fact he mustered a .206 BABIP in such scenarios with the Padres (.318 with Boston), and it’s fair to assume that some bad luck was involved. For a player of Xander Bogaerts’ caliber, such an anemic output in these situations feels like it’s destined for a positive regression.

This isn’t the Dallas Cowboys or James Harden; tracking things like clutch factors or ability to win close games doesn’t seem to translate year to year. And as evidenced by Bogaerts’ time in Boston, he’s certainly capable of it.

Considering that he still managed a 4.4 fWAR (higher than everyone’s hero, Trea Turner (3.8), by the way, it seems like this might’ve been the greatest reason for the cynicism around his season.

Brand New Contract, Brand New City

I can already hear the groans and condescending tone of the Just Baseball Illuminati for me daring to bring this point up, but it bares mentioning all the same.

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Baseball is, despite the occasional effort by the data dorks out there, still a sport featuring humans, not programmable robots that anyone with an internet connection can predict.

There’s something to be said for signing a contract that spans for more than a decade and not just moving away from the team and place you’ve played your entire career, but also changing from the American League to the National League. 

All sorts of new ballparks and new pitchers awaited Bogaerts. You’re telling me that has zero impact?

Less than other factors, sure, but a factor nonetheless. There’s plenty of examples, from random ones like Justin Upton upon initially signing with the Tigers, to recent ones very similar to Bogaerts like Francisco Lindor and Marcus Semien.

Lindor, perhaps one of the eight or so best players in the sport, struggled his first year after moving from Cleveland (American League, in case you forgot) ) to the New York Mets (National League, also in case you forgot). 

Following that disappointing first year, he bounced back in a major way. Marcus Semien hit a worse slump than the Great Depression his first year in Texas, and followed it up with an All-Star season. Even superstar Corey Seager also struggled his first year with Texas (114 wRC+, even worse than Bogaerts 120) and then followed that up with, well, returning to being a superstar. 

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Why can’t the same be true for Bogaerts?

Considering his injury issues, career resume, changing teams and leagues, abnormally poor results with runners in scoring position, and a solid fWAR total despite all of it, a Xander Bogaerts bounceback should be more of an expectation rather than a hope.