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If there was one unifying theme behind the White Sox’s offseason moves, Rick Hahn wanted to put a dent in the home run deficit. Yasmani Grandal, Edwin Encarnación and Nomar Mazara theoretically hit homers, while Dallas Keuchel theoretically kept the ball in the park.
On paper, it should have worked. And setting aside Mazara, it did work, at least within the confines of the 60-game schedule.
|2019||182 (13th)||238 (9th)||-56|
|2020||96 (1st)||71 (6th)||+25|
Until the season’s final fortnight, the White Sox actually led the American League in both categories, and with a little cushion. Here’s a snapshot of where they stood on Sunday, Sept. 13, with the runners-up in parentheses:
I had thought about noting their mastery of both columns, but I figured I’d just be inviting reflexive “jinx” comments by publishing that post before the schedule strengthened. If the White Sox held that margin after that gauntlet, then it’d be worth writing home about.
Sure enough, the White Sox slipped in both departments. They allowed 27 homers over the final 14 games of the season, tied for the worst mark with the Angels second-worst to the Angels. They finished with 18 homers during that time, and while that’s the fourth-best number in the AL, they almost lost their lead to the furiously finishing Yankees, who belted 25 over the final two weeks and finished with 94 homers.
Over the course of a standard 162-game season with the other AL divisions on the slate, I’m guessing the White Sox slip to the top-third in homers hit, and middle of the pack in homers allowed. That remains but a thought exercise, because the White Sox could only play the schedule the league provided them. More than half of their home-run margin came against the Tigers, whom they outhomered 20-7, but what are they going to do? Give some back?
* * * * * * * * *
However it happened, the White Sox hit 96 homers over 60 games. That’s good for a 259-homer pace over a 162-game schedule, and it’s such a distinct outpacing of the previous two seasons (in which the Sox totaled 182 homers each) that the power surge could be felt even with the truncated calendar.
The White Sox avoided getting cheated out of extreme homers, too. Even if there are 150-some homers missing from the mix, the White Sox still managed to cover the full spectrum of homers, especially if you include the output from the three-game wild card series against Oakland. And that I will, because otherwise we’d be ignoring the season’s biggest, boldest blast.
Before we look back on the dingers with distance, here’s a rundown of the other homers on the furthest ends of their respective ranges.
These two homers traveled the same projected difference, but they couldn’t have been hit much differently. Mendick turned, burned, and singed an elevated inner-half fastball into the White Sox bullpen at 108 mph. That’s 15 mph faster than the inside fastball Moncada parachuted into the Kraft Kave for the second-softest homer of the year.
Highest home run: 42 degrees, Yasmani Grandal on Aug. 28
Grandal maximized the White Sox’s most majestic missile. After Alex Colomé suffered his only blown save in the top of the ninth, Grandal started and ended the bottom of the inning with an emphatic bat drop.
Lowest home run: 18 degrees, José Abreu on Sept. 16
Abreu ripped this Jake Odorizzi sinker into the left field seats so hard that the left field seats spit it up and back onto the playing surface.
Fastest home run: 115.5 mph, Luis Robert on Aug. 17
Robert was one of nine MLB players to hit a homer harder than 115 mph. This one could have been concourse-bound had he gotten a little more air under it, but if he’d gotten more air under it, you wouldn’t have heard the baseball’s bloodcurdling scream.
Slowest home run: 92.5 mph, Tim Anderson on Aug. 20
Anderson hit half of his 10 homers against Detroit, and this one represents his tormenting of the Tigers better than any of them. The slider was off the plate. The contact had an expected batting average of .190. Neither mattered.
Now, onto the White Sox’s five longest homers of the year.
No. 4(t): José Abreu
Jason Adam tried to heat a fastball past Abreu up and in, but Abreu smoked it to the top rows of Wrigley Field’s left-center bleachers for the sixth homer and final run of the White Sox’s 10-1 blowout. As impressive as it was, one of his teammates had it beat that night.
No. 4(t): Eloy Jiménez
Right before Danny Duffy threw an 0-1 fastball to Jiménez, Steve Stone noted how deep Kansas City’s outfield were playing him. It turns out Whit Merrifield would’ve had to have started in the shrubbery to have a chance.
No. 3: Luis Robert
It’s hard to render Rex Hudler speechless, but Robert’s demolition of a hanging Jake Newberry slider did the job.
No. 2: Eloy Jiménez
Two innings before Abreu’s solo shot off Adam, Eloy Jiménez took Colin Rea deep in the same direction, except 14 feet farther and a couple rows deeper.
If we limited the sample to the regular season, Jiménez would’ve taken home the distance championship for the second consecutive year. But because there’s no reason to leave postseason homers out of the pageant, he’ll have to settle for runner-up to…
No. 1: Luis Robert
While Robert silenced Hudler with his Kauffman Stadium clout, his bat also went quiet afterward. He hadn’t homered in 90 plate appearances when he strode to the plate in Game 3 of the wild card series. It’s not like opponents pitched him perfectly for four weeks. He missed his share of grooved fastballs and spinning sliders. Mistakes he’d hammered out to left field over his first month in the majors were now popped up to the right side.
He’d shown signs of warming entering the postseason, and contributed singles in each of the first two games in the Coliseum. An 89-mph thigh-high Mike Fiers fastball was all he needed to get back in the home run column.
Robert went 2-for-5 in the finale to wrap up a respectable postseason showing, and it would’ve been fun to see whether this foreshadowed additional highlights in the divisional series. Alas, any other jaw-dropping homers will have to wait until 2021.
(Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire)