WARR baseball writer Kevin Luchansky writes about the Cubs and the White Sox weekly for WARR.com.
Also, check out Kevin’s daily baseball betting picks on NorthSideWire.
After a decent first month of the season, the Chicago White Sox and their potent offense limped into month two with four straight losses, until getting back on track with a come-from-behind 4-3 win over Cleveland Sunday afternoon.
Part of the reason the White Sox have plated as many runs as they have — their 159 is second best in the Majors — has been due to the production the Sox have gotten out of their lead-off man, Adam Eaton. The lead-off spot was a sore one last season, but Eaton has made that a distant memory, highlighted by his .363 on base percentage and 20 runs scored.
After getting an urge to know how Eaton’s .363 on-base percentage compares to the league average for leadoff men, I tried to find batting average and on-base percentage figures by lineup slot. While the figures may be out there, the most recent I could find were 2011 numbers. Still, with a league average then of .320, we can see just how impressive Eaton’s mark is.
Unfortunately for the Sox, Eaton was just placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained hamstring. Although the news is disappointing, the silver lining to this is that it is a short period of time and not an injury to his elbow, which has sidelined him before. Eaton becomes the second outfielder to join the DL for the Sox this season, so the 15 days can’t come and go soon enough.
Jordan Danks will likely get most of the action in center field in the interim but the team has also added Moises Sierra on a waivers claim from Toronto. Sierra should be in Cleveland currently with the Sox as they prepare to return to Chicago to face the Cubs in the Crosstown Classic Series, starting tomorrow.
Ramirez Continues to Stand Out
With a team batting average of .266, good for fourth-best in Major League Baseball, the Sox are still liable to snatch a game away from defeat. No one has been a greater contributor to that figure and to Sox wins than shortstop Alexei Ramirez, in spite of his 0-for-4 performance Sunday.
On paper, for Ramirez, no stat is exactly telling a difference of approach this season as compared to last. The only exception is a fairly higher Batting Average with Ball in Play, sitting at a.358 percentage this season after a .308 mark in 2013. That could mean we may see some regression from this hot start, but Ramirez’s career mark of just under .300 suggests that the regression may only be slight.
Ramirez padded his stats this week with a .348 average in his 24 plate appearances prior to Sunday, also driving in two and scoring twice. Overall, he’s way ahead of his AL shortstop counterparts and with a little help from voters outside of the South Side, we might hear Alexei introduced as a starter at the mid-summer classic at Target Field.
Second Base Slumpin’
The White Sox just have to get more production out of second base this season than they are currently getting out of Gordon Beckham. I’ve been hopeful that rookie season Beckham might one day return, but it seems that ship may have sailed.
Through 12 games at Class AA Birmingham, Beckham hit just .163 with one home run. In nine games at the major league level this year, the numbers haven’t been much better — .182 batting average, no home runs, and just one driven in. It’s just a small sample size, but its still a far cry from the excellent rookie season he put together in 2009 with 14 home runs and a .270 batting average.
This could be my Indiana University (proud alum) bias kicking in a bit, but I would love to see the Sox call up second basemen Micah Johnson when the rosters are stretched to 40. Not permanently for the season, as he still needs more time to develop, but some major league at bats could go a long way. Johnson has a decent bat and the type of speed that guarantees he will make an impact when he is eventually called up.
The Sox would have a hard time getting less production from the second base slot if they tried, so why not experiment at this point with one of your top prospects?
No notebook would be complete without mention of Jose Abreu, who is on a tear that seemingly has no end in sight. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’ll spare you the “look at these stats” talk this week, but I do have to add Abreu went deep again today, bringing his MLB-leading total to 12. A few familiar names — Albert Pujols, Adrian Gonzalez and Jose Bautista — hold down the second spot with nine.
Now that Abreu is at 12, his projection for the season is more than 60 home runs. That may not be realistic, but its fun to dream, right?