Ed. note: This is the newest weekly write-up on the White Sox from our newest contributor to WARR.com, Kevin Luchansky. Expect more from Kevin on the Cubs mid-way through each week and the Sox later in the week.
In the three-plus series’ thus far this season, the White Sox have certainly made the most of their at-bats, pacing the MLB with 70 runs scored entering Saturday, as they sit at the top of nearly every offensive statistical category.
With six players hitting .300 or better, it has been a mostly balanced offensive attack that has allowed the South Siders to split their 10 games with a 6-5 record coming into today.
Even with that balance, it’s been hard to ignore the immediate impact Jose Abreu has made in just his first major league season. In his first 40 at bats, he collected 29 total bases, highlighted by two multi-home run games, while slugging .725. Not a bad rake for a man who hasn’t even benefited from a high batting average on balls in play, (.250) and is just getting acclimated to pitching at the MLB level.
The switch-hitting Abreu has certainly favored one side of the plate, with 75% of his at-bats coming from the right side, but he has shown a little pop from the left side as well with a home run and a single in eight appearances. In addition to that, he’s shown — albeit in a small sample size — that he uses the entire field at the plate. His .385 batting average with runners in scoring position has also helped pad his MLB-leading 14 runs batted in – only 10 less than the San Diego Padres have collected as a team in 2014.
Not to be outdone by any newcomer, shortstop Alexei Ramirez is off to one of the most impressive starts of anyone in the league, highlighted by his .429 batting average. That number is sure to drop a bit, as Ramirez has benefited from an unusually high batting average on ball in play at .412 – nearly 110 points higher than his career average – but he has struck out just twice, drawn three walks and doubled four times.
New Plate Approach Working
Though it is too early to draw conclusions that the White Sox, and new hitting coach Todd Steverson, have made seeing more pitches per plate appearance their mode of operation, it’s clear the guys are making opposing pitchers work.
In the fall, Steverson spoke to MLB.com/White Sox beat reporter Scott Merkin, telling him his team would approach hitting this season with “selective aggressiveness,” explaining that not much good happens when players swing at pitches outside of the strike zone.
Thus far, the Sox have taken the advice to heart, showing patience at the plate while collecting 113 hits, tied for second best in the majors and tops in the American League. Three starters are in the top 35 for average pitches seen per plate appearance, a testament to Severson’s advice, with Marcus Semien leading the way with a 4.5 pitch average. Another member of the top 35, Adam Eaton, has been a great table-setter for the Sox, hitting .310 and leading the team in runs scored with nine.
Alas, Poor Avisail
Unfortunately for the White Sox, Avisail Garcia, one the more impressive cogs in the middle of their lineup, recently tore his labrum and will miss the remainder of the season following his surgery.
Need help to remain positive? Well, although the injury typically takes a full calendar year to rehab, the tear was in Garcia’s left labrum, which isn’t his throwing arm. On top of that, Garcia has to look no further than the North Side of the city to find a player who has come off a year of rehabbing a torn labrum in Ryan Kalish, whose swing and bat speed look relatively unaffected so far.
Still, the blow is a major one for two reasons. One, Garcia provided pop and protection in the middle of the order. And secondly, this would have been Garcia’s first full season in the major leagues – a vital step in his professional development and opportunity to fine tune his skill set without sophomore season pressures.
Opposing the balanced lineup and strong offensive start is an ugly team ERA (5.29) and a WHIP figure above 1.5, meaning, on average, Sox pitching has allowed 1.5 runners to reach base per inning. That’s a concerning figure that certainly has to come down for the Sox to remain competitive in the division, but they’ve been recording strikeouts at a solid clip – 7.9 per nine innings – to help strand some of those base runners.
Still, six quality starts in the first 11 games is nothing for the Sox staff to hang their collective heads about, and it is certainly something to build off of heading into the latter half of the four-game set with division rival Cleveland this weekend.
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