The first adjustments to Andrew Vaughn are here, away

Considering Andrew Vaughn‘s only documented professional experience before this season topped out at 126 decent plate appearances for Winston-Salem in 2019, you have to be impressed with the way he’s earned greater responsibilities in left field.

Vaughn started the season slow, although in part because he didn’t have chances to make up the early deficit thanks to Tony La Russa’s careful allotment of playing time. But thanks to Vaughn’s confidence-inspiring play, a severe injury to Luis Robert, Adam Engel‘s rehab setbacks and lesser-but-present issues with Adam Eaton‘s legs, Vaughn became an everyday starter by the first week of May.

And now we’re starting to see some of the effects of overexposure …

  • April: .255/.364/.362, 12.7% BB, 30.9% K over 55 plate appearances
  • May: .200/.292/.364, 9.2% BB, 24.6% K over 65 plate appearances

… and potential weaknesses against which the White Sox were guarding.

It speaks to Vaughn’s talents that even the May line isn’t without merit, as he’s cut his strikeout rate to below the 25 percent mark that’s respectable for a hitter with power. But the empty at-bats are largely backloaded this month, as he went 3-for-26 with zero walks and 11 strikeouts over the most recent Kansas City and Minnesota series. Two of those hits came in the White Sox’s 16-run explosion on Monday, the one where Minnesota sent lefty J.A. Happ back for more punishment and all the Sox bats put the “laughter” in “slaughter.”

The biggest issue is platoon splits, which look like those of a typical lefty-masher and don’t help the White Sox’s team-wide issue against merely decent right-handed starters.

  • vs. RHP: .197/.267/.276, 6 BB, 24 K over 86 PA
  • vs. LHP: .308/.471/.615, 7 BB, 9 K over 34 PA

When La Russa had the luxury of picking spots for Vaughn, the starts against righties came in games where Vaughn naturally stood a better chance. Vaughn has enjoyed no such curation in May, and now it’s a little easier to see why La Russa was conservative in his April deployment:

  • April vs. RHP: .255/.364/.362 over 55 PA
  • May vs. RHP: .171/.235/.268 over 47 PA

Vaughn ended his April with a whimper, going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts against Shane Bieber. He didn’t get a fourth at-bat because Tony La Russa didn’t want him to face flame-throwing Cleveland righty Emmanuel Clase.

While it’s no crime to have a bad night against Bieber, the way the defending Cy Young winner attacked Vaughn set the template for right-handed pitchers the next month. None of Bieber’s 11 pitches were even inner half, much less inside. Eight of them were sliders, half of which got swinging strikes. When the ninth inning rolled around, it wasn’t a bad idea to sit Vaughn against a closer who throws 101-mph cutters away. Replacing him with Leury García when he represented the tying run was the mistake.

Most righties have followed Bieber’s example since, although fortunately most of them don’t have Bieber’s stuff. Comparing May to April, Vaughn is seeing a big increase in sliders from righties month over month, going from 29 percent in April to 39 percent in May. He’s also seeing a shift in where righties direct their fastballs. The standard playbook is fastballs inside, breaking balls away, but the fastballs are now staying outer half and beyond as well.

APRIL 2021

MAY 2021

And when you include all non-fastballs from right-handed pitchers, you’ll see what he’s going to have to learn to cover in his next batch of adjustments. Here’s the pitch chart from the last two series, over which he’s 3-for-26.

This most recent seven-game stretch we’re discussing started with Brad Keller striking out Vaughn on five pitches, none of which flirted with the inside corner.

And Vaughn saw the most severe example on Tuesday, when Alex Colomé fell behind 3-0 all on pitches away, and after pouring in a strike on a take, resumed throwing fastballs away. Vaughn could barely touch them.

The good news is that Vaughn doesn’t usually look as overwhelmed as he did in these extreme examples. There are a number of at-bats that end after his first or second swing, when he tries to pounce on a location/pitch type he’s anticipating. The problem right now is that most of this contact is going into the ground. A lot of the batted balls come off the bat with some heat, but the lack of lift is why you’re seeing the disparity between Vaughn’s average exit velocity (an impressive 90th percentile) and his production (an unimpressive .688 OPS).

The White Sox open a stretch of 18 games over 17 days tonight in New York against lefty Jordan Montgomery, but he’ll be followed by Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon. After that, the White Sox return to Chicago to face St. Louis and the Cardinals’ righty-heavy rotation. Glass half full, Vaughn will get plenty of chances to work on his weakness, and he seems to possess the natural strength and hitting prowess to overcome it in relatively short order. Glass half empty, La Russa might run out some ugly outfield combinations if Vaughn looks more and more like a guy who didn’t face competitive pitching above A-ball before this year. Hopefully Leury García will continue to look like a guy who won’t inspire so much anger if and when he’s the one coming to the plate instead.

(Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski / USA TODAY Sports)

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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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I’m all for seeing a few more Lamb starts in LF against certain RHP


I guess the question is do you let Vaughn face Gerrit Cole?

Pro: He gets to face an elite pitcher and further hone his skill set

Con: He may draw the collar and hurt our chance of winning in the process

Joliet Orange Sox

It doesn’t make much difference if Vaughn goes 0 for 3 against Cole or someone else goes 0 for 3 against Cole. 😐


If you aren’t going to put Lamb in against a tough RH starter, why is he on the team? Play the smart matchups with your starting squad, and get ready to use your bench liberally when their bullpen enters a close game.


Jake Lamb is hitting .188 against righties. Hasn’t posted decent MLB numbers since 2017. The fact that he is left handed makes no difference… he is not good vs RHPs, either. To answer your question, I don’t think he belongs on the roster. I’d rather Vaughn get experience vs RHP’s unless they have someone who hits appreciably better against them than he does, which Lamb does not. Call up Goodwin (eventually) or Sheets, there is a pretty decent chance either will hit better than .200 and would be at least semi-viable platoon options for Vaughn vs RHPs. Lamb is not likely to prove an MLB level player against anybody.

As Cirensica

Lamb has a wRC+ of 120 and a OBP of .350 vs RHP. Batting average alone depicts a poor picture as Grandal can attest. Putting Lamb to face RHP is big part of his role, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him facing Cole and even batting 2nd.

Last edited 1 year ago by As Cirensica

Point taken, but he is still getting on base, which could be a plus against Cole. Actually I’m really interested to see how our bats do against Cole.


I actually went to look up the Lamb vs. Vaughn stats to support this view, but they changed my mind. Despite the low average, Lamb’s sporting a 120 wRC+ vs. RHP (he has no PA’s against LHP) this year. His career mark vs. RHP is 108. He’s demonstrably better vs. RHP than Vaughn (in OBP and SLG, too), who’s done almost all of his damage vs. LHP.

I don’t care for Lamb—especially hitting 2nd—but he’s the much better bet against Cole (and RHP in general). And you could argue he’s especially a better play against Cole because he’s shown the ability to run into one lately.


I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I too would like to see Lamb more against certain RHP. Vaughn will get all the starts against lefties, with he and Lamb splitting the starts against righties, with Lamb facing the tougher righties. Leury gets the starts in center, with an occasional spell from Hamilton, Mendick and Engel platoon in right, and Hamilton comes in for defense in the 7th plaing center moving Leury to left. Pretty much how Tony has been doing it for the last few weeks.


Goodwin has hit 3 homers in the minors the past few games, it is possible he is coming around. Still needs to improve his numbers a bit more to get a call up probably. He is a lefty, and has produced decent numbers at MLB level in the past, with some power. If they call him up soon, I could see where they give him some starts and give Vaughn a rest vs tough RHP’s. I think Goodwin is likely going to be better than what we’ve seen from Lamb (or maybe Eaton for that matter). I’m all for Vaughn’s long term development, but at the same time, they are trying to win this year, and need improvements against righties in any way they can find it. Sheets is perhaps another call up candidate who is a lefty that they could stick in the outfield.

That’s the biggest negative to the team of Eloy being out, as he was one of their best hitters vs RHPs even though he is right handed. My biggest concern is facing the Yankees in the fall with Cole and an apparently healthy and rejuvinated Kluber. That’s textbook as to how to beat the Sox. They are probably going to need better options than Vaughn in 2021 against pitchers like that, especially in October, unless Vaughn shows a lot of improvement in a month or two. Yermin is thankfully raking against righties at a .337 clip, with most of his homers coming against them (even if one of them was a sin against God). : )

Last edited 1 year ago by jhomeslice

You’re ignoring the fact that the Yankees won’t advance beyond the first round because they won’t face the Twins.


I mainly figured Goodwin would be playing in place of Leury/Hamilton as well, no? Doesn’t he play CF?


He does play CF. But if they wind up sitting Vaughn against tough RHP’s at some point (I hope Vaughn improves and makes that unnecessary), then Goodwin can certainly play left when Vaughn sits if they have Engel in CF. I think Engel is going to be a lot better than people think once he starts to play, very underrated guy. I think he might wind up playing full time in CF against all pitching if he does OK. Best all around outfielder they have with Robert and Eloy out. He’s certainly better than what they’ve tried so far in CF, which just hasn’t been good.


I wonder about Engel’s playing time as well. He is the best all-around CF after Robert. After a good 2020, wouldn’t be surprised if he gets a chance to play everyday for a time. And La Russa seems to like to give guys more playing time if they show they earn it. All this assuming he gets healthy


Am hoping Goodwin will start to come around and that maybe he started slow coming over from an alternate site.

East Side Pride

Comparing Sox top prospect to lamb ¿ Lamb hasn’t been productive in 5 years, doesn’t & wouldn’t hit 2nd for Any mlb team, except tlr’s. Please stop. Vaughn has very limited experience, as you pointed out, & tlr’s careful allotment hurt him. It’s really trial by fire, but when your starter, backup are banged up, your Top prospect gets Everyday starts, if not please send him down to Charlotte so he can get @ bat reps. He’s going to be a fine mlb fielder & solid hitter, kid has a sweet swing. Much better than Any other option now

Last edited 1 year ago by East Side Pride

Totally agree. Lamb is not a better hitter than Vaughn vs RHP’s, he is terrible. Unless they have a better option, which is going to have to come from Sheets or Goodwin, it makes no sense to sit Vaughn in favor of someone who can’t hit a lick just because he is left handed.


This is factually incorrect:

Lamb is not a better hitter than Vaughn vs RHP’s

vs. RHP:
Vaughn: 86 PA, .197/.267/.276, 57 wRC+, 24 K, 6 BB, 1 HR
Lamb: 40 PA, .188/.350/.406, 120 wRC+, 11 K, 7 BB, 2 HR

If you want to argue that Vaughn should start because he needs the experience even though he’s worse, that’s fine. But Lamb is significantly better vs. RHP this season.

East Side Pride

I’m Not talking about summer solstice after 7pm situational hitting, I’m speaking about all year stats & da Holy Trinity. I much rather see Vaughn hit homers off Chapman. Lamb wouldn’t hit 2nd Anywhere else

East Side Pride

Oh, & Kim. Yes ¡


Great TLR take in the Athletic today by Joe Posnanski in his weekly MLB summary. You’ve probably seen similar views expressed over the last several days, but his is pretty eloquent.

As Cirensica

Thanks for the headsup. Good read.