McCovey Chronicles will be covering news from around the league all season long with our new daily MLB Chronicles column.
Later this month, Eric Sogard will turn 33. As a middle infielder, reaching that age is a bit like turning 30 in the Logan’s Run universe. Sometimes, second basemen can age gracefully like Robinson Cano or get even better like Jed Lowrie. But Sogard is a career .243/.315/.328 hitter. He had compiled 2.1 fWAR over parts of eight seasons in the majors.
It’ inevitable that at some point, a trapezoidal robot will come to take him away and reincarnate him into another fringey second baseman with high contact. Sogard, however, is doing everything he can to prevent that from happening.
Through 68 plate appearances, Sogard is hitting .375/.470/.696. His 210 wRC+ ranks first among second basemen with at least 50 plate appearances. He’s outpaced rookie Michael Chavis who has also gotten off to a torrid start and is 10 years younger.
Sogard has already hit four home runs, setting a new career high. That’s probably as much a reflection of the home run environment as it is of Sogard’s talent. Two of Sogard’s home runs were hit at just 95 mph, including the homer he hit off Jeff Samardzija in Toronto. Statcast is less impressed with Sogard’s start. His hard hit rate is just 26.4 percent and his average exit velocity is just 83.6 mph (league average is 87.4). That adds up to a very good, but not otherworldly xwOBA of .360.
Of course, he’s gotten lucky. One does not simply become Barry Bonds. I don’t know how much longer Sogard can keep this up. The power is almost certainly a mirage, but in the last three years, Sogard has taken a more disciplined approach at the plate. He’s always swung less often at pitches, but since 2017, he has only swung at a little over a third of pitches thrown.
This helped him out in 2017 when he put together his only prior above average season at the plate. He didn’t hit for power, but he just about tripled his walk rate. That success didn’t carry through in 2018 when his batted ball luck all but abandoned him.
If Sogard can keep drawing walks and putting the ball in play, he could OBP his way to competence. He’s already almost had the best season of his career in a little more than two weeks of games. If he’s just normal Eric Sogard for the rest of the season, he could coast his way to All-Star consideration. Or he could just keep mashing dingers because it’s 2019 and Sogard hitting 30 bombs wouldn’t be the weirdest thing that could happen.