This level of production came out of nowhere.
There are plenty of things out there that get better with age. Wine, art, an old vinyl record. Baseball players typically do not get better with age. Especially ones that are a few years into thirties and have a decent sample size of well below-average hitting.
There is a fine exception to this line of thinking this season though. Eric Sogard, who before this season was more well known for the glasses he wore on the field than his level of play, is that exception. His level of high performance this season becomes more interesting once you consider that his baseball career was hanging by the thinnest of threads.
And Sogard is doing plenty more than just hanging around on a lowly major league roster. In 52 games this season, he has proven to be a valuable, versatile, and well-rounded asset for the Blue Jays, all very good considering that they signed him to a minor league contract. His offensive production has been excellent by second base standards, as his wRC+ and prorated fWAR rank in the top third of qualifiers at that position, reigning higher than the likes of Whit Merrifield, Ozzie Albies, and Cesar Hernandez.
Sogard isn’t too great with the Statcast numbers, with his xwOBA hanging just around league-average and his average exit velocity coming in at a mere 85.2 miles per hour. But there have been major improvements. His xBA is up from his .196 mark of last season, currently sitting at .260. His xSLG has climbed from .280 to .362, all contributing to his large increase in xwOBA (.263 to .311).
There are changes in Sogard’s game that can be easily pointed out too. His hard-hit rate is at a career-high 36.3 percent, matching up with a large increase in fly balls (36.5 percent to 44.8 percent) and minimization of the ground balls (36.5 percent to 31.5 percent).
With the batted ball changes and a fair amount of luck sprinkled in, Sogard is currently pacing to post one of the weirdest breakout seasons ever. Before this year, in eight big league seasons ranging from the age of 24 to 32, Sogard slashed a meager .238/.309/.314 with 11 home runs in 1,743 plate appearances. Among 1,284 hitters in the history of baseball with at least 1,500 plate appearances from the age of 33 or younger, here’s where he ranked in career stats before his age 33 season.
- wOBA: 1262nd
- OBP: 1134th
- SLG: 1244th
- ISO: 1162nd
So yes, it would be factually correct to say that Sogard was a historically bad hitter up until his age 33 season. Now lets take that same sample and point out where he stands among those 1,284 hitters in age 33 production.
- wOBA: 340th
- OBP: 302nd
- SLG: 157th
- ISO: 215th
Quite the change in performance and quite the historic one too. Where Sogard currently stands in separation between pre-age-33 and age-33 production is almost unprecedented. The increase in wRC+ ranks fourth in the history of baseball among qualified hitters.
A big chunk of this boost in offensive numbers comes from his big bump in power. His ISO increase is also in some pretty historical company, ranking fifth all time.
It remains highly unlikely that Sogard will sustain his pace of hitting 30 percent above league-average considering he doesn’t have the peripherals to back up. Though he is an improved player and he can provide value, albeit smaller, if he hits for his projected rest-of-season level of an 87 wRC+. But for now, his historical improvement is keeping his big league career going.