Andrew Vaughn’s injury was an accident waiting to happen

(Photo by Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports)

UPDATE: The White Sox are calling Andrew Vaughn’s injury a hip pointer and said he’s projected to return to game action in one to two weeks. This post was published right before the White Sox provided the welcome news, but I’ll just slap this item up top rather than incorporate it into a rewrite because all of the excellent points I made still stand.

Given that Andrew Vaughn injured his hip on a diving catch attempt nearly a year to the date that Eloy Jiménez ruptured a pectoral tendon scaling a wall, there’s a natural urge to connect the two in an instructive manner.

That doesn’t quite connect with me. Sure, they’re corner outfielders with below-average abilities on the same roster, but Vaughn hurt himself on a traditional high-exertion baseball play, whereas Jiménez practically invented a genre of on-field misfortune.

Vaughn’s injury is closer in spirit to the one Toby Hall suffered during spring training of 2007. The White Sox signed Hall to a two-year deal to back up A.J. Pierzynski, but because Pierzynski seldom yielded his time behind the plate, Ozzie Guillen wanted to see what Hall looked like elsewhere. First base didn’t seem like that foreign of an assignment for a catcher despite Hall’s limited history (14 games), but Hall tried diving for a ball in the ninth inning of a spring game, and he ended up tearing his labrum.

“Well, that little dive may have just cost me the season,” Hall said. “I’m just really frustrated right now.”

Williams defended his manager’s decision to play Hall at first. “Actually, his chances of getting hurt at first are far less than they are behind the plate,” Williams said. “As ironic as it is, and as bitter a pill as it is to swallow, I don’t think it adds anything to it just because he was over there.”

Williams is correct in that a catcher faces far more potential injury events in a given game, but there’s a heightened risk of playing a guy with limited athleticism anywhere he’s not accustomed, because such a player might need a longer time to learn body control.

This same debate between “bad luck” and “bad idea” can be held here, some 15 years later. Vaughn has far more experience in the outfield than Hall did at first base, so getting hurt in his second year seems more like something that can happen at any time. Yet Vaughn is still learning right field, and the jump, route and dive betray Vaughn’s limitations at the position.


Perhaps I’m wary of stacking Vaughn’s injury against Jimenez’s because direct comparisons have already resulted in cold comfort. When the bar is set that low, there’s no accomplishment in merely clearing it, and so it’s difficult to gauge whether the improvement meant anything.

Vaughn looked better than Jiménez because he approached the position in a way that tried to limit physical risk. Statcast said he got the second-worst jumps of any qualifying outfielder in 2021, finishing with a bottom-10 reaction time (feet covered in the first 1.5 seconds) and the worst “burst” (feet covered in the second 1.5 seconds). It was a very cautious brand of defense, which is both more understandable and easier to watch in comparison to Jiménez’s avant-garde theater.

The lack of glaring mistakes also kept Vaughn from being underwater on every metric with regards to his 95 games in left field, although “below average” remained the majority ruling.

  • UZR: 2.1
  • OAA: -3
  • DRS: -2

It reminds me of the experience of watching the White Sox go from Dayan Viciedo to Melky Cabrera. Viciedo’s navigation system locked up every time his spikes touched warning track, so Cabrera’s competence by the wall was a sight for sore eyes. On the other hand, Cabrera possessed the same limited athleticism that kept his defense in the red, and it hamstrung his overall contributions to the White Sox, rendering him an average overall player when the White Sox needed considerably more.

Now take those concerns and apply them to right field. Vaughn only played there 110 innings last year, and while that’s a very small sample, every system hated the early returns (extrapolated to match his workload in left):

  • UZR: -9.8
  • OAA: -12
  • DRS: -18

And in that limited body of work, you can find an example of a dive that didn’t meet his hopes.

That play took place on Aug. 15. Vaughn homered earlier that game to raise his line to .263/.333/.459. That .792 OPS represents the peak of the season, after which he hit .133/.220/.167 the rest of the way. That’s also the period of time where he battled back problems ….

… and then you watch the way he hit the ground in both videos above, and everything starts to look less coincidental.


We don’t yet know the extent of Vaughn’s injury; the White Sox are supposed to provide an update later in the day. Regardless of the severity they report, it’s still worth heeding the danger of this episode, because this could very well be the second time he’s hurt himself playing out of position.

But even if it’s the first, it’s always uncomfortable when an instance of bad luck looks exactly like a feared result of poor planning. Vaughn is playing right field because the White Sox for whatever reason are comfortable cutting corners in the corners, and Vaughn presents the most promising in-house combination of strengths that can offset weaknesses. He certainly appeared hellbent on proving that at the plate, going 7-for-15 with a homer, two walks and two strikeouts to start the spring.

Remove him from the context of the White Sox, and everybody can agree that Vaughn wouldn’t and shouldn’t be playing an outfield corner on a standard depth chart. He lacks foot speed and hasn’t shown an ability to make up for it with secondary skills. His lone strength was limiting his liability and not making matters worse. That’s not much to fall back on, because all it takes is one fall forward to create an emergency.

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asinwreck

We have a diagnosis.

Ted Mulvey

Sheets starting in right for today’s game. It would appear the White Sox have not learned their lesson. Not that that’s surprising.

roke1960

You’re absolutely right. Get prepared for a year of Leury playing 130+ games. Unless, of course, he gets injured too.

Last edited 2 years ago by roke1960
roke1960

When I think of the 2022 White Sox and how this season will go, I just can’t help but think “Train Wreck”.

HallofFrank

Why? Vaughn is out for two weeks. This is a classic spring training overreaction. Despite the FO’s best efforts, this is as good as I’ve felt going into a season since ’05-’06.

roke1960

That has nothing to do with it. They did NOTHING to address their depth issues at catcher, right field, starting pitcher. Yes they added Josh Harrison to play 2nd, and added a few more expensive bullpen pieces.
If Grandal goes down for any length of time, if Keuchel struggles (and there’s no way Jerry is going to allow him to reach 160 innings anyway), if Kopech doesn’t adapt to a full time starting role, if they have a couple of injuries to their 4 young studs (Eloy, Robert, Timmy, Yoan), if Harrison is more like his American League self, if Kimbrel continues to be bad, if Kelly doesn’t completely recover. All of those things are entirely possible. Will all or even most of those happen? Probably not. But that’s way too many ifs for a championship-caliber team to have. And with a wiser use of his resources, Hahn could have provided insurance for any of those. But he chose not to. Looking back to November, I couldn’t imagine a worse offseason than this.

HallofFrank

Oh, I agree it was a terrible offseason. This is still an excellent team that pretty much everyone agrees will run away with the division and be a real force in the playoffs—well, except White Sox fans.

To imply it will be a “train wreck” is just… I dunno, hasty? It’s an overreaction of some kind for sure

roke1960

I’m not saying it IS going to be a train wreck. But I’ve been a White Sox fan long enough to know that almost every time they are supposed to have a great year, things just don’t pan out as they should. And the fact that Hahn had a horrific offseason- well, I just can’t help myself. I’ve seen this movie before, and too many times it ends in a train wreck. I sure hope this isn’t one of them.

That being said, I can also see a World Series championship. They have as good a top 6 in the lineup as anyone (except maybe the Dodgers and Jays). Their front of the rotation can be awesome, their bullpen is deep. If they stay healthy, they can beat anyone. It just would have been so easy for Hahn to really make this team a real powerhouse, but he sat on his hands, and when he didn’t, it was mostly superfluous moves.

HallofFrank

I mean, this isn’t 2016. They’ve been really good the last two years. Certainly, there are some “ifs” that would need to come around for the Sox to be in the World Series—but there are a lot more “ifs” for them to be a train wreck.

roke1960

Yes, I agree with everything you say Frank. But I’ve been a White Sox fan for almost 60 years, and they have had 1 season in which they won a playoff series. So my pessimistic side was coming out when I said train wreck. And Hahn could have eliminated a lot of ifs with a good offseason- and he basically solved none of the depth problems they had going into this offseason. So it was train wreck of an offseason, when it absolutely shouldn’t have been. Shame on them.

Trooper Galactus

Aside from maybe health, this team is arguably worse now than it was last season, and that’s not a good feeling coming off a division series shellacking.

HallofFrank

If you consider the team pre-season, this year’s team is better and it’s not arguable. I feel much better going into this season than I did last year, even before the Eloy injury.

Trooper Galactus

I’m comparing where they’re starting now to where they ended last season. They haven’t replaced Rodon. Abreu, Keuchel, Lynn, Leury, and Grandal are getting ever deeper into their 30s. They’ve added a bevy of relievers at great cost to questionable gain. Second base and Right Field are no better off now than before and they still have not added another lefty bat. I don’t see why you would feel better about this team now than last season short of believing a lot of the young guys are gonna turn in healthy career years and the veterans can all keep up peak form.

HallofFrank

Well, if you’ll revisit my earlier claims, I’ve said this is the best I’ve felt going into a season (since ’05-’06). That seems to me entirely reasonable (and I haven’t checked, but I assume bore out by pre-season projections). 

As for comparing them to where they are now vs. the end of last season: there are certainly fair points here and I’m not here to defend this offseason. Please don’t hear that…

…but some of what you’ve said is unfair, too. For one, they did replace Rodón—with Kopech. For good or ill, Graveman is the response to Rodón. Graveman takes Kopech’s spot, who takes Rodón’s spot. You may not like the decision to replace Rodón with Kopech and I do think they could use another insurance arm, but the decision has some merit and not based in fantasy (projection systems love Kopech, for example). I definitely like Kopech more than I did pre-20 Rodón and, frankly, maybe more than end of season Rodón, too—indeed, many Sox fans were clamoring for Kopech to start in the playoffs instead of Rodón.

For two, I do think 2B and RF are better off than before. Josh Harrison is a better bet than Hernandez (or García), even if he’s an uninspiring upgrade. And I definitely feel better about ’22 Vaughn than anyone they played in RF last year, including Eaton, Garcia, and ’21 Vaughn. Again, choosing to roll with Vaughn and Harrison are underwhelming decisions, but they *better* options than what they rolled out last season.

Trooper Galactus

Josh Harrison is 34 and has posted 1.5 fWAR total in the last four seasons combined. Cesar Hernandez is 32 with 8.1 fWAR. I know we had to watch some pretty dog shit play from Cesar while he was here, but I do not understand why anybody is more comfortable with Harrison than Hernandez. He’s not an upgrade, even in the absolutely most generous interpretation of their respective recent track records.

Trooper Galactus

And look, I like Josh Harrison, and he seems like he’s gonna be an entertaining player and a great clubhouse fit, but does NOBODY else look at him and see the sort of Rick Hahn signing who instantly produces negative WAR and is DFA’d before he can cause more damage?

calcetinesblancos

Reading that comment made me reflexively wince. And I hate it because I don’t want to dislike Leury, but I also don’t want him starting regularly.

roke1960

I agree. Leury can be a very valuable part of this team, but not if he is spending weeks at a time starting in the same position. I like Leury too, just not as an everyday starter.

Trooper Galactus

Leury’s been healthy enough to play 130 games exactly once in his career. Hahn signed an almost perennially injured utility player whose value is almost entirely centered around speed and defense entering his 30s to a three-year deal and I’m thinking Romy Gonzalez is probably one of the few prospects who was legit ready to step up to fill a vacated role at the start of the offseason.

GrinnellSteve

Thank you for uncoupling Eloy’s misadventures from Vaughn’s injury.

Willardmarshall

His “avant-garde theater”….

ParisSox

Most classic line ever from Jim imo

Sophist

He’s going toe-to-toe with Szymborski, who described the C next to Collins’ name as fan fiction.

joewho112

So why has no one else signed Conforto? Does he have a team cancer reputation?

Wayne

I had not heard any rumors of clubhouse cancer rep.

  • Overvaluing his worth coming off down season offensively and defensively
  • Qualifying offer depresses value for some teams (~$1.1M in slot money for the White Sox, and the 2nd round pick)
  • Vaccination status (Rumor). Teams that could use LHH (White Sox, Toronto) also seem to be places where vaccinations are most important.

Not sure why he is not going to Texas, based on that being their 4th round slot (already lost top 2 for Semien and Seager).

dwjm3

Pecota has the Texas Rangers as a 70 win team. Conforto is the type of piece you sign more as a finishing piece. His value to us would be a lot greater than it would be to the Rangers.

Trooper Galactus

Their position spots are also relatively strong overall. They need pitching like crazy, which is why they were the first team I thought of for a Kimbrel trade (unfortunately, IKF wound up as a non-option immediately after I wrote it).

BenwithVen

Even then, you get tweets from Heyman or Nightengale about how x player is staying shape or putting on showcases for teams, etc.

The near total radio silence from Conforto’s camp is so strange to me.

calcetinesblancos

At this point I’m convinced Conforto could pull an Andre Dawson with the Sox and Uncle Jerry still wouldn’t sign him.

dongutteridge

Just glad that his recovery time will be a short one.

Like everyone else I’m baffled that the Sox haven’t signed Conforto, that no one has signed him, that he himself isn’t dying to sign and play already and that there’s almost no rumors about it. Weird.

calcetinesblancos

It makes too much sense, and we all know how the Sox brass feels about doing the obvious thing that everyone and their mother can see should happen.

dongutteridge

Well, some team must have offered him a one year deal at a reasonable ($15 mil. ?) price. You would think the guy wants to play baseball.

I don’t get it.

670WMAQtheElder

What about Gardner? LH bat. Veteran. 2021 WAR about the same as Conforto. Is he hurt, is that why he’s unsigned?

jorgefabregas

His projections are lower. He’ll turn 39 during the season. His xStats were lower than Conforto’s last year. I mean sure, he could have a better (or equal) season than Conforto this year. But it’s not a good bet to happen.

itaita

However, Gardner’s TWTW is off the charts.

GrinnellSteve

Gardner has one of the most punchable faces in baseball. He looks like an asshole. Maybe he’s the nicest man this side of Jim Thome, but I have a visceral hatred of the man.

dongutteridge

I really wanted the Sox to get Gardner last year! But, he just wants to play for the Yanks. he might retire if they don’t bring him back. Doubt he has much left anyway at this point.

dwjm3

I take it you haven’t seen Gardner throw the ball. Everybody would be going from first to third with that throwing arm in right field.

Last edited 2 years ago by dwjm3
Wayne

Worse than Goodwin.

Trooper Galactus

Signing an almost-40 former All-Star would be so on brand for this team.

jorgefabregas

New kind of fan shaming just dropped

roke1960

Thanks, Tony.

dwjm3

You can see why Jerry is best friends with LaRussa. They are birds of the same prick feather.

Last edited 2 years ago by dwjm3
Joliet Orange Sox

Literally, everyone wants the Sox to get RF help from outside the organization. There are varying levels of disappointment and frustration. Different people have different top priorities (another starter, a second baseman, a right fielder,…). People disagree on whether Vaughn/Sheet/Engel makes RF just a position of concern or a disaster. But no one is actually opposed to going outside the organization for help in RF.

Is TLR saying everyone is not a White Sox fan? I was a Sox fan before TLR was hired the first time. I was a Sox fan when TLR was fired (I hope for the first of two times). I’m still a Sox fan despite TLR being rehired and my plan is to still be a Sox fan when TLR is dead and rotting in the ground. And I’m a Sox fan who wants the Sox to go outside the organization for another RF.

roke1960

My sentiments exactly.

dwjm3

Attacking your fanbase two weeks before you need them to start spending money. This organization is as dumb as they come.

Trooper Galactus

Well, least now I won’t feel bad about doubling down on my recent TLR rant. Fuck that guy.

peanutsNcrackerjack

If I see that Tony says the same thing about catching in the organization, I will lose all respect for him.

You had respect for him?

vince

Tony needs to keep the fanbase’s name out of his f***ing mouth.

a-t

I do not buy that being a good defensive outfielder makes a guy less likely to get hurt playing there. Examples of superlative defender but oft-injured outfielders include, but are not limited to, Buxton, Pillar, and our own dear Robert and Engel. Who leap (gracefully) into walls at their considerable full speeds with concerning frequency, and are also apparently too fast/strong for their own bodies to handle.

Vaughn’s dreadful jump/not screwing up works just fine in Chicago because it’s a quite small outfield with little foul ground, which is why (as has been discussed) it boosts homers and depresses all other types of hits. It wouldn’t work well in, say, Colorado, but Colorado this is not.

RF is different from LF bc the reads off a righty bat are noticeably different, but it isn’t necessarily much harder. I think the slightly below average numbers for Vaughn in left, in 7x the sample size, are a better predictor of his future performance in RF than the bad 110 innings.

TL;DR I think Eloy/Robert/Vaughn is an acceptable but not great defensive outfield, which I am perfectly fine with because they’re likely to hit 100 dingers and average like a 135 wRC+, which is damn good.

a-t

That article also indicates that the increased risk of injury lasts ~30-60 games, which is not very long. Vaughn played 18 games in right last season, and of course that does not include off-season or spring training work in RF, where he already knew he was going to play. This hip pointer is neither long-term nor chronic, at least not for a baseball player.

I just think this article just would’ve made a lot more sense a year ago tbh. I think we White Sox fans are maybe a little hypersensitive to spring training injuries to should-probably-maybe-DH young corner outfielders lol.

GrinnellSteve

Well said.

MikeAndrews2

Three observations: FIrst, with his “encouragement” of fan commentary, TLR may have a future as a sports columnist for Pravda. Second, I do not believe I want to reside in a baseball universe in which Eloy and Vaughn are my corner outfielders. TLR may want to poll his pitching staff on that one.Third, if the Sox were looking only to play senior citizens at second base, they should have first made a call to Jorge Orta, “George” could also play a bit of RF and certainly DH.

Joliet Orange Sox

@MikeAndrews2

I applaud your reluctance to be a self-promoter but another senior citizen option for second base would of course be Mike Andrews! Maybe he can recapture that magic that led the Sox to trade hall-of-famer Luis Aparicio to the Red Sox to acquire him (along with the immortal Luis Alvardo who somehow stuck in the majors for 9 seasons with a career ops+ of 46!). Mike Andrews never played outfield but he did DH. He was in fact the very first DH the Sox ever used.

There are however some possible pitfalls to bringing Mike Andrews back (in addition to the fact that he is (or should I say you are?) 78 years old). First, he had serious problems throwing to first for a while with the White Sox similar to the problems Steve Sax and Chuck Knolbauch later had. It’s been 50 years so I hope he’s worked that out. The other issue is that he demanded his release mid-season in his last season over a salary dispute and that may have left a bad taste in the front office mouth.

So many senior-citizen second basemen to call and so little time with the season starting at the end of next week. I don’t envy Rick Hahn’s busy schedule.

Trooper Galactus

I don’t care that Eddie Collins has been dead for over 70 years, he’d be a great fit.