It’s undeniable that Alec Bohm and Didi Gregorius have both been major disappointments thus far. On Opening Day, Bohm and Gregorius were the 5th and 6th hitters in the lineup behind Hoskins, Harper, and Realmuto. They were expected to be major RBI guys, driving in the Phillies’ three best hitters, and, in turn, they were expected to get on base for Jean Segura hitting behind them. Going into the season, ZiPS projected Bohm and Gregorius to be worth 2.8 WAR and 2.6 WAR, respectively.
Instead, we’re 60 games into the season and Didi Gregorius has been worth 0.0 fWAR in just 32 games played. Alec Bohm has played in 59 games (one less than team-leader Rhys Hoskins), but he’s been worth a dismal -0.6 fWAR. At the beginning of the season, we talked a lot about the black hole in center field, but it turns out that the left side of the infield has been the Phillies’ real problem.
So yeah, things have been really bad so far. But on a more positive note, it’s hard to imagine that things will continue to be this bad going forward. Didi Gregorius is a major league veteran with several strong seasons under his belt, and, at 31 years old, his bat shouldn’t be dead quite yet. Alec Bohm was a highly touted prospect, and at just 24 years old, he still has all the tools necessary to blossom into a great hitter.
Production so far
Prior to landing on the injured list, Didi Gregorius was hitting .229/.266/.364 with a 69 wRC+ in 32 games. Bohm is currently hitting .216/.260/.305 with a 56 wRC+ in 59 games.
Bohm has been pretty consistently bad all year. As you can see from the graph below, he’s only had one ten-game stretch all season where he was an above-average hitter.
Gregorius, on the other hand, has been a bit more up and down. He started the year off well, and he also looked to be on an upward swing before he landed on the IL.
One of the main reasons that both players have struggled this season is an uncharacteristically high strikeout rate and low walk rate. Gregorius has been striking out 20.3% of the time this year and walking in just 3.9% of his plate appearances. His career averages are 14.3% and 5.9%. Bohm has been striking out at a 27.7% clip and walking at a 6.1% rate. Last year, he had a 20% K% and an 8.9% BB%.
Bohm’s walk rate has been trending upwards as of late, which is a good sign. Unfortunately, he’s still striking out far too often.
Meanwhile, Gregorius’ surprisingly high strikeout rate seems to be the result of a ton of strikeouts at the beginning of the year. In the twenty or so games leading up to his placement on the injured list, it seemed like he might be returning to his typical career rate.
So far, the data seems to favor Gregorius. His overall numbers are better, and they’re also skewed by a couple of periods of slumping, whereas Bohm has struggled all season long. However, Alec Bohm has had the much better season if you look at the expected statistics on Baseball Savant.
Didi Gregorius has an xwOBA of just .234 this season, which is even worse than his .269 wOBA. Bohm, on the other hand, has a .307 xwOBA, which is significantly better than his .249 wOBA. Moreover, Bohm’s xwOBA on contact is .401, which means if he can find a way to reduce his strikeouts, he should be a much better hitter. Didi has an xwOBA on contact of just .269, which means his high strikeout rate isn’t the only thing holding him back. He just hasn’t been making good contact.
In Didi’s defense, he has a track record of out-performing his xwOBA. Since 2015, he has a .322 wOBA and just a .288 xwOBA. Furthermore, Didi only has 128 plate appearances this season. According to this piece from ESPN, exit velocity and launch angle (which are used to calculate xwOBA) take 156 PA to both stabilize. Lastly, we also don’t know exactly how long Gregorius had been playing through his elbow injury, and that certainly could have been sapping his exit velocity.
So who should we expect more from going forward?
The Case for Didi
- He’s a veteran with a track record of success, and he’s still only 31 years old.
- He has had good stretches this season; his numbers are skewed by one really terrible slump.
- He has a history of outperforming his xwOBA.
- He’s arguably the more valuable defensive player (especially with a healthy elbow).
The Case for Bohm
- He’s making much better contact and has much better Statcast numbers.
- His BB% is trending upwards.
- He has the higher ceiling as a hitter.
- He is young and healthy.
The way I see it, there’s no clear answer to the question I posed in the title of this article. Luckily, there doesn’t actually have to be a “winner” here. While it's interesting to compare the two players, they’re not really in competition with one another. Ideally, both of them will improve. While there’s cause to be concerned about both players, there is also plenty of reason to be optimistic.
Who will play better for the rest of the season?
This poll is closed
Both will play well
Neither will show much improvement