One up, one down: Yoan Moncada caught looking, caught looking, caught looking, caught looking

But Daniel Palka made it all about him after the game with another late-inning blast

On Thursday afternoon, two noteworthy White Sox trends dominated whatever discourse there is surrounding a battle between two 70-loss teams at the beginning of August.

Yoan Moncada struck out all four times at bat during the Sox’ 6-4 victory over the Royals — all looking, all on fastballs.

Here’s the first:

The second:

The third:

The fourth:

And if you want that charted:

For the most part, Moncada’s tendency to get outguessed with two strikes has been a nagging tendency, perhaps magnified by a cluster of worse-than-borderline calls that went against him. When it happens every other game, it’s difficult to pinpoint why his plate discipline seems to have manifested itself into a bad habit, rather than something that should win out in the long run without much of an adjustment needed.

But after a four-strikeout game that gives him a five-K cushion over Aaron Judge for the league lead in called strike threes with 48, it should be a little easier to stress it. Had it just been the fourth one (a backdoor dart from sidewinding lefty Tim Hill) or the second one (a borderline pitch from Brad Keller), it’d be easier to shrug away as getting beat. But these were the 32nd, 33rd, 34th and 35th times he’s been called out on fastballs this year, and that shouldn’t be the thing locking him up so frequently, especially in RBI situations. On a 3-2 count to start an inning, it’s fine. With a runner on second and two outs, not so much.

“There were a couple of pitches I thought that, yeah, he could’ve put the bat on the ball for sure,” Rick Renteria said after the game. He went on to say that Royals pitchers hit their spots against him, but came back around to say that it’s the kind of game that should rattle around in Moncada’s mind.

It reminds me of Nick Madrigal’s quote about his plate approach:

“In the cage, I try to stay disciplined, but I also try to hit pitches outside the strike zone. Umpires sometimes are all over the place, so I really try to not let them take control and leave it in their hands.”

Moncada is a vastly different hitter, but he could use just a little bit of that.

* * *  * * *  * * *

Fortunately, Daniel Palka provided the palate-cleanser with his third pinch-hit homer of the year, which ties Oscar Gamble in 1977 for the single-season franchise record.

As a pinch hitter, Palka is now 4-for-11 with two walks in 13 plate appearances, which is good for a .364/.462/1.182 line. He has five strikeouts in this sample, but this is the kind of power that makes it easy to accept a trade-off:

It’s also a moment that’s easier to anticipate, and not just from Palka’s posse in the 108 …

… but he’s even front of mind for Jason Benetti in such situations on broadcasts. This team needs any buzz it can get, and his late-game appearances provide one.

Chances are this is small-sample-size excitement a team can eventually plan around — he’s not going to face Jason Hammel every time — but “left-handed thumper” used to be a widely appreciated bench profile until bullpens went to eight relievers. I want to see him get a long audition for that role at a minimum, based on this quote alone:

Daniel Palka had one thing on his mind when he was summoned to pinch hit.

A single probably would have put the ahead, but the big rookie was swinging for the fences.

“One hundred percent, homer,” Palka said. “Seriously. I wanted a ball up I can hit out of the park.”

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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As one who is ignorant to the duties of the modern hitting coach- what is Steverson’s roll in a Moncada fix?

Also, after 5 seasons of Abreu, a BABIP fueled breakout and some short lived hot streaks as the only success stories, I’d hope the Sox take a serious look at a replacement. Overall talent caveat be damned.


I think Palka can be a valuable piece going forward. Having that threat on the bench in the late innings in nice to have.


So Delmonico loses out?


He can be our Matt Stairs right?

“Arrive; hit home run; leave”


Take as many chances on big power hitters as you can. Everyone once in a while you run into a Jesus Aguilar type guy. 


It just seems like Moncada needs to be more aggressive in the zone, or situationally more aggressive in certain counts and situations.  

How hard of an adjustment is that to make? It’s not like he needs to expand his zone but maybe be less selective? 

Eagle Bones

Completely unrelated, but forgot to post earlier in the week. Not sure if anyone else caught this, but on Sunday Hawk was railing on Moneyball for like the 152nd time. I’ve heard him do this before and it really cracks me up that he doesn’t see how ridiculous this is. He continually refers to how stupid “that movie” was. Is he aware of the book? Referencing the movie Moneyball as a true story would be like citing that Will Smith movie about the NFL concussion crisis as proof against the NFL. I’m not sure he even knows the book exists or, if he does, he’s not aware that one is a Hollywood movie that doesn’t claim to be completely factual.


I noticed that and knowing Hawks interesting outlook on advanced stats he might really not know the book even exists.

I do think they should have made some mention of the great core they had on that team though. Unfortunately “cast of misfits and castoffs makes improbable run to playoffs” makes a better Hollywood story than “great core is supplemented by cheap veterans that were valued inefficiently by the market”. I think that’s fine for us fans that know better and the non baseball fans looking for a good movie but some people in the middle I think missed the message. My dad who grew up a big baseball fan but doesn’t know much about newer stats just throws out the term money ball all the time now but doesn’t seem to know the first thing about what it actually means. Oh well it was still a good movie

Lurker Laura

I love the movie, but it does completely ignore the pitching staff and Miguel Tejada. However, any movie that makes dramatic tension out of trading for Ricardo Rincon gets my vote.


It just may be possible — hear me out — that Harrelson is an idiot.


The Madrigal article on the athletic is fascinating.  I’ve never read our heard an approach at the plate that makes more sense than how he describes his.


“left-handed thumper” used to be a widely appreciated bench profile until bullpens went to eight relievers

I prefer a world with more left-handed bench thumpers and fewer eighth relievers.

mr meeseeks

There is absolutely no reason for Moncada to be batting leadoff. With the tools he has he should be batting 5 or 6 every day. Batting him leadoff makes him want to try to draw walks which means he isn’t going to swing at edge of zone pitches which leads to more called 3rd strikes. We know he has patience; what they need to groom is his aggressiveness. Bat him 5 or 6 and let him swing and produce runs, become the Robinson Cano-like player (minus the juice) that everyone talked him up as having the potential to be.


And I was going to suggest that if his results as a left-handed leadoff hitter are like this, there is no good reason why Ricky shouldn’t be hitting Yoan in the leadoff spot against left-handed pitching.


I think the struggles by the players who “matter” has caused some to conflate “occasionally fun player” with “could be part of a winner”.
Sox desperately need strong fineshes from Moncada, Giolito, Anderson, Abreu, Avi and one or 2 ‘Pen arms, as well as good showings from Kopech and Jimenez.


Agreed on the first few, but I don’t think Abreu or Avi “matter” much to the future of this team. They each have one year left. Neither is playing like they’ll be a significant consideration for any team beyond next year.




Swing at anything close with two strikes. Look fastball adjust for the off speed. We all played with players like Moncada who just like to show off their “tools”, but swinging hard on every pitch is all they know how to do. They have no disciplined approach and will fail until they realize that hitting is way more mental than physical. Moncada will never be a Joey Votto or even a Nick Madrigal for that matter. Madrigal hasn’t even struck out yet in professional ball. Time to to explore trades before the rest of the league figures out he’s another Gordon Beckham.


The league hasn’t figured it out yet because they are still enamored with Moncada’s tools. I “figured it out” (giving an educated opinion) because I’m a hitting disciple of Ted Williams. The kids I coach are legitimate, disciplined Division I hitting prospects who with some natural god given talent and luck will becomed major leaguers.


Can the kids you coach smell the burn of the wood bat making contact with the ball?


It’s slightly more tangible than the breeze of a strikeout.


A tad early to say that anyone will never be a Nick Madrigal.


You’re wrong. It’s not too early. C’mon. Madrigal will never slug a high percentage. He will always strike out less than fifty times a year. I guarantee it.


You see, a disciplined approach and commitment to make contact first, is a learned trait that someone of Madrigal’s stature had to commit to in order to succeed in the game of baseball. Madrigal’s tools are not God given. HOFer Jack Morris got it right when he said he’d rather face one power hitter than four straight contact hitters. He’d waste a lot of pitches and be lucky to give up the same number of runs.


Moncada’s heatmap is pretty interesting. Overall, he seems to be able to hit anything in the strike zone. Ahead in the count he’s a monster. Behind in the count he is like most hitters. When he has 2 strikes, he can’t hit. Even Adam Engel’s 2-strike heatmap looks better. So Yoan is as good as out when he has 2 strikes – which leads me to think it is a mental block he has to work to get over.
By contrast, Joey Votto’s heatmap looks almost the same for every count. But you can see he makes adjustments with 2 strikes, Moncada doesn’t make adjustments because he’s already psyched himself out.


Sounds like something a competent hitting coach should be able to help with (the approach more than the mental side).


I am not going to get sucked into demeaning Madrigal. But he’s playing a-ball. You can’t guarantee anything.

Joliet Orange Sox

The Gordon Beckham comparison is quite a bit over the top. Beckham’s career bwar is 5.9 while Moncada’s is already 3.4. Beckham’s careen OPS+ is 81 while Moncada’s is 98. Most importantly Moncada turned 23 at the end of May! There are players who are MLB superstars at 23 (e.g. Trout) but there aren’t many. If the Sox give up on Moncada now, I’m not sure where they are going to find players who meet the impossibly high standard they would be setting.


I’m not talking about Beckham’s career at this point, but about one year into Beckham and Moncada’s career. Compare apples to apples. Beckham was SEC Player of the Year, Golden Spikes finalist, 8th overall selection, shortstop moved to another position, player-voted Rookie of the Year, the comparisons between Beckham’s first year and Moncadas, I still would have taken Beckham after their first years. Sure, Moncada can turn it around. Javy Baez would have been a better example for you to cite how an undisciplined hitter can turn into an MVP candidate. I’m just saying we won’t have the benefit of hindsight before he loses all of his value, he is striking out looking more than Judge who has only one job to do. I never looked at Moncadas to be a replacement level fielding Dave Kingman. Don’t jump on me just because I said explore his trade vaslue now before it’s too late. Avi Garcia had a lot of trade value, as did Beckham, after their first years. Avi was a mini Cabrera.


I don’t fully disagree with you, but taking close fastballs with 2 strikes this many times is probably worse than not running out a line drive caught by the third baseman that the umpire didn’t notice. IOW, there is more reason to bench Moncada for not “protecting the plate” (his typical job) than there is to bench Anderson for not reacting to an umpire’s mistake (a flukey play that happens once or twice a career).


Exploring trades for Moncada would be ridiculous.

Eagle Bones

Votto is a pretty high bar to aim for considering hes pretty much one of a kind. There are a lot of different types of good hitters.


I guess we can’t expect the face of our franchise, one who we traded Chris Sale for, to be like Joey Votto. The headliner in the Chris friggin’ Sale trade was Moncada! Are you a Cub fan on Sox Machine trolling me? I hope Moncada starts listening to Steverson and turns it around. His “selective aggression” theory of hitting is a carbon copy of Ted Williams approach. That doesn’t mean everyone will have the same results as Ted Williams, the splendid splinter, but you can tell which players are committed to that approach. The whole Royals world series winning team had the Williams/ selective aggression approach. Be aggressive in the zone, inside out swings with two strikes.

karkovice squad

Your preferences for what constitutes a good hitter come down to aesthetics. You should take to heart Konerko’s recent comments about changes in the game. There are lots of ways to be valuable. So no, Moncada doesn’t have to have the same batting profile as Votto to be either the face of the franchise or a fair return for Sale.


Yes, because listening to Steverson has helped everyone else so much over the years… 

The theory itself is sound, but the delivery is clearly not working. What they need to do is ship Steverson out of town before he tries to ruin Eloy. 


Eloy back in the Charlotte line-up. Still no Tilson.


Does going 0-5 in one game count as a slump? Because he certainly checked the “Bounces Back Well From a Slump” box if so. 


Good analysis, Jim.