When Tim Anderson’s apparent no-doubt blast was robbed by Tampa Bay left fielder Josh Lowe on Sunday, I chalked it up to a dead zone at Guaranteed Rate Field that had knocked down a number of promising flies during a mostly chilly homestand, José Abreu chief among them. Plus, sometimes Anderson’s follow-through leaves him spinning like he got all of one even when he catches it off the end of the bat, so maybe my eyes misled me in real time.
Then I saw the replay, and nope — he caught it square. Statcast says it was 104.3 mph and 28 degrees off the bat, which usually gets it done in that direction.
Alas, only three things are square (cheese, plates and bears), so that wasn’t good enough to be a run on its own merits.
Later in the game, Gavin Sheets hit a towering blast in the other direction, down the right field line. From the swing, sound and exit velocity (105.3), he appeared to send a hanging slider well into the former Goose Island, but when it landed, it barely cleared the wall.
Usually when 100-plus mph drives don’t go as far as imagined in one field, they tend to travel further to the other corner. But whether it was Anderson to left or Sheets to right, the ball just failed to soar.
It turns out the White Sox are not alone in this department. Sheets hit one of just 15 homers during the 14 games played on Sunday, which analyst Jeremy Frank noted was the lowest single-day total since 2014, and the lowest for an April day with that many games since 1993. Jason Collette of Rotowire noted that Anderson’s drive was the latest example that failed to travel as far as recent history said it should, and we could be in for a major dampening in that category.
Joe Sheehan suggested that the league’s inconsistent baseball manufacturing could be the culprit once again, but this time around, the reduced travel could be a result of the league’s latest attempt to bring stability to this matter — the introduction of humidors to all 30 ballparks. Meredith Wills, the astrophysics PhD who has led a lot of the research into baseball behavior, pointed to that new variable as one worth accounting.
If the conditioning of the baseball is the driving factor in deader flights, then the White Sox and everybody else might have to wait for warmer weather to dull the effects. Until then, it seems like they’re going to have to weather the short-term frustration of having multiple players on the bad-luck list.
And while the baseball data might be too new to design an entire strategy around, it’s encouraging to see that the White Sox are leading the American League in steals without an unsuccessful attempt this season (9-for-9). As Collette went on to note, that’s one way to combat an uncooperative reliance on the long ball.
I’m guessing the White Sox’s aggressiveness on the basepaths is more a result of Luis Robert, Adam Engel and Tim Anderson all enjoying fresh, functioning legs at the same time. That kind of stuff is fun to watch before knowing all the benefits, so there’s certainly no reason to slow down now.
The weather is no doubt a bit part. Their game tonight already cancelled with a high temp in Cleveland of 38. A joke to try and play baseball in weather that cold.
Can only hope that nobody pulls anything between now and warmer weather.
If the league is really trying to put the brakes on home runs, might that make someone like Nick Madrigal, a high-contact hitter with little power, more valuable? Might we regret that trade even more than we already do?
Thus far he has a 86 wRC+. That average for Leury. So, I am not too concerned.
Could be the opposite…If it is harder to drive the ball it will be even harder for a guy like Madrigal who isn’t exactly an exit velocity god to get hits
He’s going to have to sell out to get it to the shortstop.
One thing is that for sure it will help Dallas Keuchel to bounce back.
Silver lining (?)
I don’t think so. The 2019 bouncy ball helped high-contact/limited raw pop hitters the most— Lindor & Bregman for example— so I would tend to think that Madrigal’s more extreme version of that profile would be hurt more than helped by the increased drag 2022 ball. I doubt the league is going to return to the deadball era, and now this means Madrigal tops out at like 3 homers a year… it’s so hard to be a better than average player when you don’t hit for any pop st all besides doubles down the lines and also don’t steal many bases.
I don’t think we should regret the trade at all. Kimbrel didn’t work out but the gamble was worth a Madrigal.
With the game postponed already, what are the odds that Lambert’s turn in the rotation gets skipped?
Could trade a Lambert start for a Giolito/Lynn start down the road.
Sounds like they’re sticking with the original plan.
Do you think TLR and in-house data information analysis might have part on this strategy? Or players are stealing more bases on their own volition? It could be interesting that the team has made progress in looking for competitive advantages such as this as they noticed (perhaps during spring training) that the ball is somewhat a deadball.
It seems like they’ve been stealing in front of Abreu a lot, probably to stay out of the double play.
I think this is the more likely explanation.
So, has anyone else noticed Eloy employing multiple batting stances every game?
The thing I’ve noticed is multiple ground balls every game.
Eloy’s GB% has skyrocketed this year to an unhealthy 71% (Average is around 50%), so there is that. Also, it is darn cold. Also, SSS.
true, SSS. But we saw the same thing last year. just pound sinkers/sliders low and away and he’ll get himself out. But I’ve noticed this year that he puts his front foot in different positions and sometimes stand straighter at the plate at different points in the game. It’s just odd and makes it seem like he’s still not comfortable at the plate.
Maybe Eloy is trying to find rhythm. Some athletes do minor things like that.
Not sure if this is a good analogy, but when I play bowling. I adapt constantly. Tweaking a little here and there, whether the boards have too much oil (fast) or too little (slow). I need a few throws until I find some rhythm and comfort. The first few throws are very different than the ones I make during the middle of a game, and different than the throws I make at the end of the third game.
Maybe Eloy hasn’t found his rhythm yet. So he is tweaking (footing) things a bit. I know Spring Training is designed to help on that, but maybe Eloy is taking a bit more time. He is hitting the ball hard when he makes contact. Soon enough he will start finding gaps.
I love it when company’s experiment in plain sight with the literal core of their business every single year. Keep up the good work, MLB! I look forward watching a bunch of 1-0 14 inning games on Quibi next year!
MLB owns Rawlings. How hard is it to pick a ball and just stick with it? This kind of nonsense opens the door to conspiracy theories.