In his first press conference as manager of the Red Sox, Alex Cora spoke about his desire for the Red Sox hitters to be aggressive early in the count. In addition he stressed the need to “hunt for pitches.”
Last season the Red Sox under former hitting coach, Chili Davis, swung at the first pitch 21.1% of the time, easily the lowest percentage in the majors.
Cora mentioned having a balanced approach of working the counts, while also being aggressive. He spoke of a desire to “hunt pitches to do damage” — particularly in no-strike counts — in an effort to drive the ball.
The player that he pointed out could under his and Tim Hyers new approach benefit is that of Xander Bogaerts.
Alex Speier pointed out that Xander Bogaerts ranked 22nd in the majors with a 48.9 percent ground-ball rate. He was also among the most infrequent swingers at first pitches.
When Xander looks healthy, like he was in 2015 and 16, he has the ability to drive the ball to all parts of the field. He easily sprays the ball, pulling the ball to left and going the opposite field in right.
However, this past season Xander’s reduction in power and more ground balls could be due to his dealing with multiple injuries, including being hit on the wrist/hand by a pitch the game right before the All-Star break. Due to the lack of a DL stint, the injury lingered throughout the season and the effects were noticeable.
The hope is that with Tim Hyers now on board, who worked with Xander during his time in the minor leagues, he’ll once again re-discover the line-drive stroke that rewarded him greatly.
Once noted as an above-average power hitter for his position, Red Sox Nation hopes to see Xander find his stroke in 2018.