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.
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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)