WARR baseball writer Kevin Luchansky writes about the Cubs and the White Sox each week.
Also, check out Kevin’s daily baseball betting picks on NorthSideWire.
Over the past week, the Chicago White Sox managed to chip away at their American League Central rivals and they had a chance to win their third consecutive series today (all against AL Central opponents) hosting the Twins.
But a big nine-run eighth inning and maybe some rainy day depression helped Minnesota squash whatever day dreams the South Siders may have had in a 16-3 pounding.
Sunday provided a bit of a set back, but overall the team has made ground with the teams it still begrudgingly looks up to in the standings, grabbing back a few games back in the Wild Card standings as well. Still there is quite a ways to go in a race that involves at least eight horses.
Following today’s contest, Chicago welcomes the Texas Rangers to town and oh, what a welcome sight they will be. The Rangers — the same Rangers who have been to the playoffs in three of the past four seasons — are 24 games under .500 and sit 24.5 games back from the dominant Athletics in the West division. Also, they’ve thrown their ace, Yu Darvish, today against the Indians, a nice bullet dodged for the Sox.
What I’m saying here is the Sox really need to take advantage of the Rangers, and anything less than a sweep is disappointing at least somewhat, but even more so when you consider the opponents that follow.
Thursday begins a five game road stretch that begins with three in Seattle with that fellow Wild Card competitor and ends with two in San Francisco before coming home to host the AL East’s best in the Blue Jays and Orioles. These series sit as the stretch of the 2014 schedule that could define the season and put an end to any playoff hopes if it goes too poorly.
Player Showcase: Adam Eaton
Since the All-Star break, the Sox offense has really come into its own with several guys playing a big part in the increased run production. In the past two weeks, four regular starters — Jose Abreu, Alexei Ramirez, Adam Eaton and Conor Gillaspie — are hitting .285 or better, with Eaton leading the charge with his ridiculous .464 batting average in 62 plate appearances.
In that 62 plate appearance stretch, Eaton has been the beneficiary of a .510 batting average on balls in play (BABIP), but he also deserves some of that luck for putting solid contact on the ball so often. Eaton, for his career, strikes out in roughly 16 percent of his plate appearances and recently he’s trimmed that number in half to 8.1%.
Put the ball in play consistently and good things will follow. Eaton makes that his mode of operation, and in doing so has been able to score 12 runs, drive in seven and steal three bags these past few weeks.
By average and production, July was certainly Eaton’s best in a White Sox uniform. If he can continue to set the table with guys like Ramirez and Abreu behind him, he’ll find his way onto the AL runs scored leader board in no time. His play this August, especially during the brutal upcoming stretch where those extra runs can make or break you, will be critical. In center field Eaton’s defensive play, most notably his range covering his territory, has also been brilliant at times and that’s a welcome sign for this corps of outfielders that needs the speed and gap coverage.
For the season, Eaton’s average is up to .306 and his weighted runs created (wRC+) is at 117, which registers above average. He’s also just a fraction shy of a full two wins above replacement (WAR), with .9 of that accumulated during the incredible stretch of 62 plate appearances I mentioned earlier.
In a June 6th post from We Talk Fantasy Sports that looked at how all of the leadoff hitters across the majors measured up against each other, Eaton sat at a tie for 17th in batting average of the 20 players compared in the chart. A look at that list with updated stats now shows Eaton with the third best batting average on the list, looking up at only Angel Pagan of the Giants (in only 262 plate appearances) and Jose Altuve’s .339 mark for the Astros.
Eaton also ranks fourth on that list for on-base percentage at .371 and his slugging percentage is 10th at .406.
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