Why John Farrell replaced Xander Bogaerts with a pinch-hitter

July 09, 2014 - 9:53 pm

It's no secret that Xander Bogaerts is slumping. A decision to pinch-hit for him in a pivotal spot in Wednesday night's 5-4 walkoff win over the White Sox gave some insight into the depth of his struggles. The Red Sox rallied in the eighth inning to score three runs after starter Chris Sale was taken out of the game. With his team having pulled within a run of the White Sox with two on and two out in the eighth, manager John Farrell opted to pinch-hit Mike Carp for Bogaerts in the big spot. The matchup made more sense for a bat off the bench, with the right-hander Javy Guerra on the mound. Bogaerts is hitting just .232 with a .332 slugging percentage against same-handed pitchers this season. The move didn't pay off, with Carp grounding out to end the Red Sox threat. While seemingly trivial when looking at the bigger picture of the game, the decision to pinch-hit for Bogaerts signals a couple of things. It alludes to the degree that the infielder is struggling, but also makes it clear that the Red Sox are not in full-on development mode and are still competing to win games. "I think our intent every night is to play the game to win it, and that may cause situations as you saw tonight," Farrell said. "Fortunately we had guys step in and put up quality at-bats. But guys are understanding where we are and we haven't conceded anything, and the bottom line is to go out and win. If that means a matchup is better suited for a guy coming off the bench, we'll look to do that." This was not the first time Bogaerts had been pinch-hit for in his brief major league career. But the only other time came in his sixth major league game and third start. The situation was notably similar to Wednesday night's: two runners on in the eighth inning with two outs. In that game, the Red Sox had knotted the score at 3. Carp was also the pinch-hitter, but rather than grounding out softly to end the inning, he singled in the go-ahead run. Obviously the context was much different back in August of 2013. At that point, Bogaerts had just a couple of games worth of experience under his belt. The Red Sox were 2 1/2 games in first place. Bogaerts was 3-for-9 in his very limited at-bats. But Wednesday night presented a different, more telling situation, one that speaks to just how rough the last month has been for the 21-year-old. Over his last 25 games, dating back to June 8, Bogaerts is hitting just .094. He's drawn four walks in his 101 plate appearances, and has fanned 30 percent of the time. He's put together just one multi-hit game in that span. The merits of a pinch-hitter were clear. With runners in scoring position, Bogaerts is hitting a futile .133/.224/.173, driving in 11 runs in such scenarios. With men on, those numbers rise slightly to .177/.265/.262. With two outs in the inning, he's batting just .165/.229/.289. Obviously, he does not possess an ideal track record when coming up with runners on in the late innings with two outs. While Bogaerts continues to work through his lengthy slump, the first of this kind he's ever endured in professional baseball, the Red Sox have made it clear that they're going to try to win games, even if that means taking out the struggling rookie in key situations. General manager Ben Cherington said prior to Wednesday's game that the team remains committed to the rookie, and that the idea of sending him to the minors hasn't even entered team conversations, but based on Wednesday, it would appear that on the big league roster, his rope is not limitless.