Tim Anderson’s return takes some stress off left field

CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 17: Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson (7) hits a home run in the first inning of the MLB game between the Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers on August 17, 2020 at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire)

Tim Anderson is who and what drives the White Sox, and yet he’s also easy to take for granted on a day-to-day basis just because some of his shortcomings as a player feed into teamwide deficits. He’s not the only one with an unenviable strikeout-to-walk ratio and proclivity for irritating error, so depending on when the injury bug bites him, a Leury García type can replace him for a week or so with minimal impact.

But if you zoom out, it’s pretty clear a White Sox team needs a maxed out Tim Anderson in order to max out their win percentages. The same can be said for a few other guys — Yoán Moncada and José Abreu chief among them — but Anderson’s willingness to be the energy guy brings a special dynamic to the lineup when he’s going right.

So it was great to see Anderson reintroduce himself to the proceeding with a single on the first pitch he saw, part of a 2-for-5 Thursday that should’ve been a 3-for-5 Thursday, and maybe will be after a scoring review. He hit a couple of balls hard and legged out one that wasn’t, and while he wasn’t tested in the field, he managed to avoid partaking in yet another White Sox error cluster.

* * * * * * * * *

To make room for Anderson on the 26-man roster, the White Sox designated Nick Williams for assignment. I’m not sure whether another team can provide Williams a better opportunity for playing time, so we may not have seen the last from him. For the time being, he occupies a crowded corner of 21st century White Sox history as an underqualified player asked to do way too much for a short amount of time. Every team has to call up replacement-level players, but the White Sox don’t have as much company when it comes to batting them in the heart of the order, and for themselves in crucial situations. Before Williams, it was Nicky Delmonico batting cleanup.

A small part of me wondered whether the White Sox would consider optioning Andrew Vaughn before going the DFA route with their closest semblance of outfield depth, just because Tony La Russa didn’t seem all that keen on playing Vaughn in suboptimal situations. La Russa responded by playing Vaughn in the final two games of the Cleveland series. The game log says Vaughn only went 1-for-7 with three strikeouts, but he had a couple of moments: a double off Zach Plesac and this catch on the warning track Thursday:

Vaughn does little elegantly in left, but he’s faring better than expected, and to the point where we can say his defense is better than his offense with all the double-edged damning that denotes.

Said defensive progress will be tested this weekend in Fenway Park. The Green Monster and sharp corners in left field pose a challenge to even tested types, and they’ve teamed up to confuse younger White Sox outfielders in recent years. Who can forget Delmonico’s spatial issues…

… or Eloy Jiménez’s disorientation?

So even though Vaughn has lost his primary challenger for playing time in left field, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s guaranteed more time than most, at least not this weekend. Vaughn’s handled himself admirably in left and deserves a decent look out there, but his normal defensive positioning would put him behind the Monster’s scoreboard, so he’s going to have to confront angles outside his comfort zone. If La Russa continues to deploy Vaughn conservatively through the weekend, I get it. I’m bracing for a blooper or two myself.

Fortunately, Anderson’s return means that La Russa will have better resources for complementing Vaughn. Leury García’s not going to excite anybody with his 4-for-31 line, but at least he brings a good glove to the equation. Danny Mendick could also theoretically cover some left, in the sense that his nine professional games in left field is nine more than Vaughn had to his name before the season, but the Green Monster-specific issues would also apply to him.

Once the White Sox get through this weekend in Boston, they’ll have a shorter series with a smaller wall with two games in Cleveland, after which they can once again use a homestand in an attempt to establish some normalcy. Adam Engel should be around to do his part.

(Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire)

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GrinnellSteve

My gut tells me Tony is going to give Vaughn an uninterrupted run in left to give him the comfort of consistency and not having to look over his shoulder after every out at the plate. His at-bats don’t generally look clueless or overmatched.

roke1960

Though that’s not likely to happen today. It’s currently 35 degrees with snow in Boston.

GrinnellSteve

Yeah, it looks grim there today. Any word on who will start whenever they play? If it turns into a doubleheader, they can call up Lambert or Stiever.

roke1960

Cease tested negative, so Tony is planning on him starting if they play today. In a DH, I would just go with Kopech/Crochet in a 7 inning game.

Trooper Galactus

Now THAT would be interesting!

GrinnellSteve

Is it clear he’s out of the woods? I’d hate to end up like the Astros. We’ve already had our fill of injuries.

shaggy65

I haven’t seen Tony give an uninterrupted run to any player at any position other than 1B and CF

Trooper Galactus

I really don’t like to nit-pick on a play he made, but Vaughn’s “good plays” generally seem to be a product of his poor defensive skills. For the above, he looks like he takes a bad route, slows down at an inopportune moment, winds up poorly positioned, then has to contort his body to make an awkward catch. It’s not exactly something that inspires confidence that he’s any better than Eloy except maybe in that he seems less liable to play with a reckless abandon that will land him on the IL.

Trooper Galactus

Granted, but it hardly makes me believe he belongs out there any more than they did.

Root Cause

Adequate or not, Vaughn may look better than Eloy after 5 months. And Eloy will need time to knock off the rust and prove he can play the fence after this injury. That eye test will have some chirping for Vaughn and we may not get a 3rd choice.

Trooper Galactus

The core problem (in my opinion) remains that the two guys in this scenario who will be vying for playing time in left field don’t really have any business playing left field.

soxfan

They have business playing left field if they’re raking. Jimenez can be a butcher in left if he’s going to hit 35 dingers. Vaughn isn’t going to wow anyone in LF but if he just makes the routine plays and keeps balls in front of him to the extent he can, then it’s up to his bat to keep him in the lineup.

Trooper Galactus

Them being shoehorned into the lineup by being thrown into left field is not an argument for either belonging in left field. It’s being done out of necessity due to a lack of depth anywhere except 1B/DH-types whose value requires them to slug to make up for being a net negative on defense. And sorry, I don’t think Vaughn looks good out there at all.

35Shields

You’re right. I chuckled when I saw that “highlight”. It’s a nice recovery but if he doesn’t stutter-step at the end because he doesn’t know where the wall is, then he would have made that play comfortably.

Ultimately, a lot of our judgements about Vaughn are just grading on a curve. You here about a 1B/DH type rookie getting thrown into LF where he’s never played before and you expect he won’t have the athleticism or experience to avoid an unmitigated disaster.

The fact that his defense has only been shaky definitely beats that very low bar. Maybe he really improves (after all, he’s only played ~60 innings in the outfield) and becomes passable. Unless that happens though, he has no business playing the position.

Trooper Galactus

I agree that improvement is possible, but the fact we’re talking about a guy playing left field every day when he never played the position before this year is rather an indictment of the organization’s total failure to develop depth.

seven11

Or some bad luck with injuries to Eloy, Engel and Anderson (causing Garcia to have to play short)

joewho112

Off topic but I found this very interesting: They are going to experiment in the Atlantic League with

A. moving the mound back 1 foot
B. Removing the DH when the starting pitcher is pulled

The second one would be pretty radical for team construction, player value, and in-game strategy.

https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2021/04/mlb-move-mound-back-double-hook-dh-atlantic-league.html

Joliet Orange Sox

Just think what the double hook rule would do for the careers of relief pitchers who are good hitters like Terry Forster and … (I’m sure there is somebody else but I root for a team that plays in a league where pitchers haven’t batted in a long time).

joewho112

Especially because it’s not like there is a reserve of pitchers who can go 7+ inning that teams would turn to. Those guys already have jobs. It kills the opener, I guess.

Michael Kenny

It also makes it harder to come back if your starter throws a clunker. Pulling Plesac on Wednesday would’ve meant losing Franmil Reyes.

Last edited 2 years ago by Michael Kenny
awkwardsilence

I assume it is to prevent openers.

As Cirensica

1 foot is a lot. I think

joewho112

They based on the increase in fastball velocity. Hitters would have on average the same amount of time to react to a pitch that they used to. I think they said they tested it and pitchers could still throw strikes at the same rate

Trooper Galactus

Solving the problem of pitchers hitting poorly by making worse hitting pitchers hit.

Root Cause

Get the roboump to call balls and strikes first to find out how that affects the game.

2nd, get the minor leagues to get the players in the habit of moving faster than a snail in between pitches. I would try a clock in the minors and hope the discipline becomes a habit to keep it out of the majors.

Joliet Orange Sox

I think the announcers on the Eloy play are an example of a just terrible but common take when they repeatedly call Eloy nonchalant. A lots of sports inaction is due to being in over one’s head and is blamed on a poor attitude. I don’t think Eloy was (is) capable of catching that ball if he just had a little more heart.

Last edited 2 years ago by Joliet Orange Sox
As Cirensica

Bad fielder here = nonchalant fielder over there. That’s lazy broadcasting. That’s like saying Keuchel threw a nonchalant 90 MPH fastball in the middle of the plate instead of a 100 MPH heater

As Cirensica

Game suspended

???? ???? ???? ???? ???? ????

Joliet Orange Sox

Tonight’s postponed game will be made up as part of a doubleheader on Sunday with game one starting at noon. If Jim Kaat were starting Monday morning, the Sox would have a chance to play 3 games (2 of which would only be 7 innings) in a 24-hour period.

MrStealYoBase

Totally unrelated but old friend Ross Detwiler has pitched 4.2 innings for Miami put of the bullpen and has allowed 4 baserunners (2 H, 1 BB, 1 HBP) while striking out 8. Using the slider more than ever.

Might be a target for pitching help at the deadline if Fry doesn’t come back 100%. And having been on the Sox before he’s definitely part of their limited gravitational pull.

dongutteridge

I’m sure that the Sox will address LF at the trade deadline with their acquisition of either Darin Ruf or Matt Joyce.

shaggy65

Am I the only one who thinks Vaughn DOES look overmatched at the plate? Granted, he’s walked enough to prove that he won’t chase a lot of pitches out of the zone. But Cleveland’s pitchers were challenging him with 92mph fastballs right down the middle and he couldn’t connect.

If that’s still the case a week from now I’d option him to make room for Engel. Let Vaughn find his timing against lesser pitchers in Schaumburg/ AAA

Trooper Galactus

This makes me equate Vaughn with A.J. Reed, and I REALLY don’t wanna go there.

HallofFrank

No, I don’t think he looks overmatched. If you take out his first 3 games and only look at the last 5, he’s got a 137 wRC+. The EV is also good, too, at 93 over that time. He’s swinging and missing more than you’d like, but it’s not like his spot in the lineup is underwater right now and there’s lots of room to grow. I’d at least give him until the end of the month—and give him more starts in a row to allow him to get some rhythm.

tommytwonines

It’s a little early to dismiss 38% of someone’s games and focus on a 5-game sample – before the league has even thought about adjusting to what Vaughn does well.

I like Vaughn, but I will take the under on a 137 wRC+ at season’s end. You will too.

Last edited 2 years ago by tommytwonines
HallofFrank

Sure? My point was just that he’s not looked overmatched and he’s already looked better after a rough start.

metasox

It is easy to give hm time when there are no other options but gets tougher when Engel is back.

HallofFrank

Maybe a little but not much. Engel was great last season in limited action but he’s historically been awful against RHP. As long as Vaughn looks decent in LF, I expect he’ll get the bulk of starts against RHP…. which will be most of the starts.

lifelongjd

For me the most frustrating decision from TLR so far is sitting Vaughn for that long stretch. He was playing better and getting acclimated. Then Tony pulls the plug and says something about earning playing time. So he gets out of rhythm and has to think he did something wrong.
Why did the Sox commit a roster (and a shared lineup spot at DH before Eloy went down) spot if they weren’t going to ride with him for at least 15-20 games?