In examining Brennan Boesch's 2010 season, one sees the easy study in contrast - the scorching hot .387 BABIP fueled start to his season in which he raced off to a .345/.397/.593 start - and the inevitable crash that followed that.
Prior to this season I examined that dichotomy in detail and did my best to project what we could expect from Boesch during the 2011 season, eventually determining that he could become a .250/.330/.500 type of bat. So far in 2011 Brennan has produced a .297/.356/.482 that is higher on batting average and on base percentage, and lower on slugging that I expected, but still right on the OPS line (I projected .830, he's at .838). He's still been a bit BABIP lucky, posting a .318 mark, the difference however, is in the degrees.
Whereas the Boesch from the first half of 2010 was wildly lucky, the Boesch of 2011 is perfectly well within the margins of error. IE: it's possible he could sustain this sort of performance throughout the remainder of the year.
Beyond his lower BABIP however, there are other, more important peripheral metrics that portend sustained success. On the surface we see an improved strikeout rate that's fallen from 21.3% to 17.5%. That's largely due to the fact that he's reduced his frighteningly high 41.1% out-of-zone swing rate to a more manageable 35.0%. That improved plate discipline has allowed Boesch to put more balls in play, resulting in the improved batting average - it's also likely a key contributor to the modest improvement he's made in his walk rate.
Digging deeper into the well of peripheral metrics, we see across the board improvements in the type of contact Boesch is making. For a power hitter like Boesch, who's speed is more average than plus, it's to his advantage to maximize his line drive and fly-ball rates. Line drives of course, fall in for hits far more than any other type of batted ball (around 65% of the time on average) and fly balls turn into home runs far more often, say, ground balls.
This is all intuitive enough of course, but it's also tangible. In this post I explain how and why different types of batted balls are beneficial to different types of hitter. In Brennan's case, his line drive rate has improved from 15.2% to 18.0% while his power-sapping ground ball rate has fallen from 45.1% to just 38.9%.
So far advanced defensive metrics suggest that Boesch is better suited to left field, where he has a +9.4 UZR/150 than right, where his UZR has been negative. With the return of Magglio Ordonez, I suspect that's where he'll receive the bulk of his time. Of course, neither UZR sample size is large enough to give us a definitive view of where he'll be best suited defensively, but he's likely to be at least a league average defender regardless of where he plays.
All of these things, from the lack of a pronounced platoon split, to an improved plate approach, to the improved contact, to the less pronounced BABIP marks all bode well for long-term success and make Brennan less of a curiosity, and more of a player the team can look to build on long-term.