Today, David Schoenfield of ESPN.com's SweetSpot blog declared the era of bad-mouthing Brennan Boesch to be over. He follows up by saying a good season by Boesch might go a long way toward helping the Tigers win the division. (He has several other suggestions, too. It's a good post, check it out.)
After wrapping a two-run homer around the foul pole in Thursday's 4-1 victory over Seattle, Boesch is hitting .281 with eight home runs on the year. He's drawing enough walks and hitting for enough power to produce an .805 OPS, a figure that may not have had you writing epic poems about Boesch a decade ago but is good enough for 24th in the American League. He's eighth in the league in runs and tied for 18th in RBIs. In 2011 you can win division titles with players like Brennan Boesch.
Wait, does that make Boesch Ilmarinen? But I digress.
I have to say, that's certainly not how Tigers fans view the lineup. He lists Victor Martinez, Alex Avila, Jhonny Peralta and obviously Miguel Cabrera as the other four. The two in the middle of that list do have me worried if they'll be able to keep it up, though.
So I ask: What do you think would make a successful season for Boesch? And do you think we'll ever see a player who finds some form of consistency? Everyone has streaks and slumps, of course. But few seem to have hills and troughs the size of Boesch's.
It is, of course, hard to make any predictions about Boesch. He is yet to play for an entire major league season from start to finish, though he does have more than a season's worth of statistics in his career now. During that span, he's been as hot as anyone in the game, colder than Brandon Inge, back near elite territory, back in Don Kelly land, and now as hot as any batter in June. For his career, Boesch has a .264 average and .758 OPS (.347 wOBA for the sabermetrically inclined).
On the Fox Sports Detroit broadcast a few days ago, they mentioned Boesch changed his approach in early May and suffered for it. Boesch says he was trying to hit for power too much. His strikeout rate went up, walk rate plummeted and he struggled to get on base. One interesting, unexplored area was that he could have been getting a bit unlucky in May, too. Boesch's line drive rate ebbed by about 2%, from 17.7% to 15.7%, his fly ball rate decreased by nearly 4% and he hit an increased number of grounders. The resulting plunge in BABIP to .186 seems too low to me given the batted ball types. But as I wrote, he certainly struggled in other areas and putting the ball on the ground isn't where Boesch earns his reputation.
We can get a baseline for what to expect by glancing at one of the projection systems. ZiPS sees him batting .253 with a .701 OPS for the rest of the season. However, some of its supporting statistics seem out of whack. It has him striking out more than he has either last year or this year, and it has his isolated power lower than at any point since Single-A. So I'm not sure I buy it, to be honest.
Me, I'd like to see him bat about .270 with an OPS of .750 the rest of the year and I guess I'd be happy. Power numbers? I don't really care. Obviously you'd prefer to see him continue at the same rates he has today, but given his past I don't know how likely that is. Really, I'd just like to see him bat naturally. Take what the pitchers give him. Do what he can with it but don't try to hard. Boesch is a big boy. He'll get his home runs too. However, he doesn't have to hit a four-bagger to score a run. He's got Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez batting behind him. Just getting on base dramatically improves the team's chances of scoring a run with those two up.
So back to the question. What do you make of Boesch?