Back when I doubled the numbers at the halfway point — or close enough — I noted that you had to round up in order to put Yoán Moncada on a true pace for 10 homers. That remained the case through Saturday, when Moncada went homerless for his 26th consecutive appearance, keeping him stalled at five through 91 team games.
Four games later, Moncada’s on pace for 14 dingers in 2021. He’s homered in three of his last four games, and the White Sox have won each of the three games where he’s gone deep. Correlation doesn’t imply causation, except here.
The thing about Moncada’s homerless drought is that it’s more than mere regression or a reversal of luck. He’d just stopped hitting the ball hard. Here’s a list of the dates where he’d registered exit velocities of 100 mph or higher, in order of exit velocity.
- May 30, 111.3
- May 29, 110.8
- April 12, 109.4
- May 17, 109.3
- April 29, 109.2
- April 23, 108.5
- July 18, 108.3
- May 5, 108.1
- June 20, 107.9
- July 16, 107.8
- May 18, 107.5
- May 18, 107.1
- July 20, 107.4
- April 4, 107.1
- April 11, 107
- May 4, 107
- May 18, 106.8
- May 31, 106.6
- April 8, 106.6
- April 17, 106.5
Of his 20 hardest-hit balls this season, three of them have come since last weekend, including his ringing double off the wall on Tuesday. I’ve marked those in green and bold. The one marked in red and italicized is the only one that represents the period of time covered by Moncada’s homerless drought.
And even then, it’s fair to question that 107.9 mph reading, because it went straight into the ground.
The way Moncada goes about his business makes him a walking contradiction. You need not possess a scouting school diploma to know when he’s operating at full strength, but it’s also hard to know how he’s truly doing most of the time.
If he’s pulling hittable pitches in the air, he’s there. At his best, he braces the top of his helmet after contact as though he’s bracing for replacing a neighbor’s window, as we saw in the sixth inning of Monday’s nightcap against the Twins.
That’s a sight we didn’t see during the homerless drought spanning the last six weeks …
… but now pulling the ball in the air is all he wants to do with his time.
When the results are so disparate, Moncada’s helmet serves as his on-duty light. If you seem him reaching for it, hop on the bandwagon. If it never factors into any of his swings, then he’s not in a state to take you anywhere.
The problem is that results are the only way to know how he’s truly doing. Moncada wore an expression of general discomfort at regular moments during his homerless drought, but then again, he often moves as though his underwear shrunk two sizes in the wash. There were reports of a sinus infection, which isn’t distinct enough from last year’s long-haul COVID-19 symptoms for anybody’s comfort. The hand soreness had a traceable source, while the shoulder soreness is an annoying combination of less visible and longer lasting.
None of the issues knocked him off the field for any length of time, because last year showed that he’s capable of contributing in multiple facets, even in a diminished state. This time around, he ran a .637 OPS during the 26 games without a homer, but he carried a .354 OBP and his defense is generally strong, and that combination is enough for him to keep at it, unless it gets to a point where playing risks making everything worse. Only until Jake Burger’s recent arrival did Tony La Russa have a real replacement worth easing Moncada’s duties.
Add it all up, and there isn’t an easy way to tell if Moncada is doing well until he’s playing well. The good news is he’s playing well. If he can sustain the rejuvenated power, it can allows his finely tuned plate discipline to play up and offer star-level production. He’s already surpassed 3 WAR by both measurements despite all his problems.
If the White Sox were to benefit from that Moncada’s services, then just like the rehabbing Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert, the lineup is in a position to grow far more dynamic even without additional moves. Moncada’s three hits on Tuesday all cleared 100 mph, which hadn’t happened since May 18.
It’d just be nice to have a handle on why Moncada’s best form is so elusive, and whether it stands a chance of being around for the remainder of the season. The sensitive nature of illnesses makes it hard to pry, but curiosity is natural when the team’s biggest difference-maker can look so different himself from week to week.
(Photo by David Banks / USA TODAY Sports)
I don’t think I’ve ever seen Moncada run as fast as he did trying to chase down that foul ball up the line last night. The game ending play was also high effort. Hopefully he keeps feeling good.
I was thinking the same thing about the chase up the line. It is the first time since 2019 I’ve seen Moncada run like that. Very encouraging going forward.
I had the same thought. Though I was also thinking, ‘Don’t pull a hamstring!’
It’s likely a meaningless observation but it seems like Moncada’s first surge of production at the plate corresponded with a move from #4 to #3 in the lineup. This surge seems to correspond with a move to the #2 and #5 spots over the last couple of games.
I would’ve replied with something along of the lines of “Correlation doesn’t imply causation.” which is a rule that I’ve lived by since I finished school but I just learned from Jim that this rule has exceptions. I look forward to the chance to learn when the rule does and doesn’t apply.
I would think the bigger deal is all the days off from the break. There was plenty of talk that Yoan was playing through some things for awhile, which would kind of match seeing the way Grandal getting healthy brought his power back.