Xander Bogaerts' defense isn't so bad ... is it?

In a four-batter span on June 11 at Fenway Adidas Authentic Tyler Bozak Youth Jersey Park, before a Sunday Night Baseball national TV audience, Xander Bogaerts made three plays that could have won him a starring role in Tom Emanski's next infomercial. First, Bogaerts ranged to his left, slid to stop a hard grounder and bounced a throw to first base. Then, the Boston Red Sox shortstop drifted to his right, played a chopper in the hole on the long hop http://www.authentictorontomapleleafs.com/authentic-tyler-bozak-jersey and fired a strike to first. And finally, he made a full-extension dive to gobble up a grounder up the middle and threw out a slow runner at first. Emanski, the eminent youth baseball coach who stressed the fundamentals of defense in his series of often-advertised instructional videos in the 1990s, couldn't have taught it better. Yet after that game, in which Bogaerts also sailed a high throw to first base on a routine play, he still ranked among the worst defensive shortstops in baseball according to advanced metrics. The 24-year-old grades at 0.6 runs below league average in ultimate zone rating, as calculated by Fangraphs. Defensive runs saved, a measurement developed by Baseball Info Solutions, paints an even harsher picture. Bogaerts rates six runs worse than average, 23rd among 24 qualified shortstops. Only the St. Louis Cardinals' Aledmys Diaz is worse. The Linus Ullmark Womens Jersey numbers seem incongruous with the old-fashioned eye test. Scouts who watch Bogaerts often concur that he's hardly the best defensive shortstop in the majors, but he's far from one of the worst. He also appears to have improved in the past few years, not regressed, as some metrics indicate. And the Red Sox are comfortable enough with Bogaerts' defense that they kept him at shortstop even after calling up Deven Marrero from Triple-A Pawtucket last month. Despite being drafted as a shortstop, the slick-fielding Marrero has been used at third base in place of injured and ineffective Pablo Sandoval. "All I can go by is what my eyes tell me, and I think [Bogaerts] has been very strong," Red Sox manager John Farrell says. "For me, Bogey has done a heck of a job. He's durable. You can count on him. He's a reliable shortstop and an offensive one at the same time. I don't know the factors that go into defensive http://www.officialbuffalosabres.com/Adidas-Linus-Ullmark-Jersey metrics or all the UZR ratings. Sometimes those are alignment-dependent." Indeed, defensive metrics still don't measure everything about a player's proficiency at a position. Plays that occur when a team is aligned in a shift, for instance, don't factor into defensive runs saved. But DRS and other metrics have evolved into a much more reliable evaluation of performance. When it comes to Bogaerts, though, even the stats community acknowledges some disparity between watching him play shortstop and analyzing the numbers. "He definitely looks athletic, and he obviously is athletic," says Scott Spratt, a senior analyst for Baseball Info Solutions. "So, I think the numbers don't quite match up with the expectations when you watch him." A closer look at Bogaerts' defense might reveal a few reasons for that. WHEN BOGAERTS WAS coming up in the minors, and even after he made his major league debut in 2013, scouts wondered if he would remain at shortstop. At 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, he was already big for the position -- and he was seemingly still growing. But as a young player in Aruba, Bogaerts' baseball idol was Derek Jeter, another tall shortstop. Bogaerts patterned his game after Jeter's, right down to the opposite-field approach Authentic Sam Gagner Womens Jersey at the plate. For Bogaerts, shortstop was less a position than an identity. So, when the Red Sox re-signed shortstop Stephen Drew and moved Bogaerts to third base midway through the 2014 season, it was a disappointment. It also caused Bogaerts to redouble his commitment to becoming a better shortstop. He took seriously infield coach Brian Butterfield's challenge to improve his footwork and first-step quickness. He also realized the importance of studying scouting reports on opposing hitters and understanding how Red Sox pitchers were attacking them to best position himself. When the Red Sox moved Bogaerts back to shortstop in 2015, he demonstrated an improvement that was reflected in the metrics. By defensive runs saved, he was only one run worse than average in 1,360 innings compared to nine runs below average in 880 innings in 2014. Moreover, Bogaerts' ultimate zone rating was one run above average compared to 2.7 runs below average in 2014. "He has made a quantum leap from 2014 to now," Butterfield says. Statistically, though, Bogaerts has taken a step back in the past two years. Last season, he was 10 runs http://www.officialcolumbusbluejackets.com/Adidas-Sam-Gagner-Jersey worse than average in defensive runs saved and 2.9 runs below average in ultimate zone rating. In particular, Spratt notes that the metrics show Bogaerts has had more difficulty with balls hit to his right, in the hole between shortstop and third base. After making three plays above the league average on balls to his right in 2015, he made 12 fewer than average last season and eight fewer than average so far this year. By comparison, Bogaerts has been slightly above the league average on balls hit directly at him or up the middle to his left. "What that sometimes can indicate, especially given how much better he's been on the straight-on balls and balls to his left, it could be arm-strength-related," Spratt says. "Another explanation is perhaps he's suboptimally positioning himself over towards second base and that's letting more balls get through [in the hole]. I don't know whether or not that's the case. We don't really have enough information with what we track to really figure that out easily."

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