Elvis Andrus making outsized impact on White Sox for ordinary reasons

With one out during the second inning of the White Sox’s rough-and-tumble victory over the Mariners on Wednesday, Michael Kopech threw six straight out of the zone.

That’s usually the time for a mound visit, but the White Sox didn’t use one of their five, because Elvis Andrus made sure to interpret it too literally to trigger the sensors.

Andrus visited the mound, but only the mound. Kopech stepped off the rubber as though Andrus had something to say, but Andrus kept his head down and gave the rosin bag the most cursory of flips before retreating to his position.

Kopech recovered from the 2-0 count to strike out Adam Frazier, and then he struck out Taylor Trammell to escape the inning without further incident.


Fast-forward to the sixth, when Seby Zavala opened the inning with a smash that leaked through the defense of Eugenio Suarez at third. Andrus followed by working Suarez as though he and Zavala were playing a doubles-against-single tennis match. After Zavala made Suarez retreat behind the baseline, Andrus made Suarez charge the net. Suarez couldn’t get there in time to do anything about it.

On the Seattle broadcast, Andrus earned a Hawk Superlative from Mariners play-by-play guy Dave Sims:

“Andrus and Erick Aybar: Two of the best bunters we’ve seen against the Mariners over the last 10 to 15 years.”


These were minor moments in successful innings, the kind that might go unnoticed if two different White Sox did them, or even one who has been around the whole time. Because Andrus is new, and because he’s been playing as the best possible version of himself since arriving from Oakland, everybody is more attuned to what he is and isn’t doing.

Gordon Beckham described these actions as those of a “winning player,” and that certainly looks the case when the White Sox are winning, whether we’re watching a game like Wednesday’s or a week like this last one. It’s also a little too simplistic of a label considering the White Sox went 2-10 in Andrus’ first dozen starts, and with Tony La Russa and Miguel Cairo, he’s played for seven managers over the last five years.

Lest this sound like nitpicking under a wet blanket, allow me to clear the air:

No. 1: Beckham has improved with reps in the analyst chair, and while he still needs to become more comfortable with silence, he’s appropriately locked in on the action relative to the stakes of the game.

No. 2: It’s not great for the Sox if Andrus deserves so much credit.

This team is the defending AL Central champ, and the Sox were expected to repeat in a walk. They had a Hall of Fame Baseball Person managing the team. Veterans comprise two-thirds of the lineup, and three-fifths of the rotation. They should not need a 12th seasoned player to come over after being honorably discharged from the American League’s worst team and show them how to win.

The White Sox have been in rough-enough shape that they’ve needed multiple players’ meetings to try to get to the heart of what’s hampering them, but Kopech cited all the other veterans who are supposed to be at the center of maintaining standards, not the guy who just got here.

“There’s some strong leadership presence in this locker room,” Michael Kopech said. “There’s a few guys to credit that to. You can say Lance (Lynn), you can say Johnny (Cueto), Polly (AJ Pollock), (Josh) Harrison. A handful of guys with 10-plus years now and they’ve really taken the charge as far as what we need to accomplish as far as the team goes, as far as being supportive to our staff.”

This isn’t to shortchange Andrus, or turn the discussion into a saber-1.0 argument of numbers against intangibles. Instead, I think it speaks to how profoundly flawed the White Sox were/are that a humble addition like Andrus can reveal so much. He brings three things to the table that few others can:

  1. He can handle a premium position.
  2. He understands the speed of the game.
  3. He’s healthy.

If winning teams need to be strong up the middle, the White Sox have spent the year hollowed out. Yasmani Grandal has played the season without legs, Luis Robert is swinging with one hand, and Tim Anderson has dealt with issues with both halves of his body. Throw in season-long struggles for Leury García and Adam Engel, and way too much responsibility falls to first basemen who are masquerading as corner outfielders.

You can see how he’d be such a revelation before even getting to the leadership stuff. He’s hitting .284/.321/.459 and he knows where he and everybody else on the field is supposed to be.


This season has been so joyless because questions about health have permeated everything. When I was hunting down the evolution of Lance Lynn’s curveball the other day, I realized that most of my research has pertained to trying to figure out when a player got hurt, and what that injury has done to him.

Most of the team’s issues can be boiled down to “Is [player] physically able to complete the tasks at hand?”, and a staggering number of them have not been able to answer that in the affirmative. Andrus might be the rare player who can help others simply because he isn’t overwhelmed with helping himself.

We’ve seen flashes of that elsewhere as of late: Lynn regaining a whole arsenal; Eloy Jiménez coming up with three hits, including a seismic homer; Leury García coming off the bench and stealing a base. We also saw a handful of mistakes in the field that tethers any anticipated improvement to the team’s suffocating .500-ness.

It shouldn’t take a player like Andrus, who only became available after the trade deadline because a tanking team stopped trying even further, to provide the Sox what they’ve been missing all along. The fact that the White Sox were even able to get a player like him was enough of a miracle for one season.

Maybe Andrus’ specific attributes fit the White Sox’s problems so neatly that his impact is outsized, or maybe we’re just catching this story at a specific moment. Ideally, improvements elsewhere would relegate Andrus to a complementary role, where praise of his his intangibles would be charming and quaint rather than alarmingly necessary. The pessimistic view has Andrus regressing to his mean just like everybody else, and the White Sox’s older, bigger problems return to the fore.

With only 25 games remaining, these unknowns will become known in relatively short order. However they’re answered, the Andrus Boost should give everybody who talks and thinks about the White Sox a better idea of what they’d look like with a normal amount of health or injury-management skills, and players playing where they’re supposed to play. Andrus can only help with those things until the season ends. After that, the front office is on its own.

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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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asinwreck

We remember the 1983 Winning Ugly White Sox as a 99-win juggernaut, but they sure didn’t look like it for much of the season. After a loss to the California Angels on June 13, 1983, Tony La Russa’s team dropped 5 games under .500 and 6.5 games behind the Angels. Calls for La Russa’s job grew louder as a talented mix of veterans and young players looked to be falling well off the pace from the year before.

With the trade deadline approaching, Roland Hemond sent Tony Bernazard to the Mariners for pending free agent Julio Cruz. Cruz was known for flashy defense, stealing lots of bases, and a modest but playable bat. La Russa made him the “second leadoff hitter,” batting ninth to team with actual leadoff hitter Rudy Law as a stolen-base tandem.

Almost immediately, the team clicked, running away with the AL West. Though the Orioles ruined their postseason, the good vibes around Cruz lingered. The Sox signed Juice to a long-term contract that was immediately a disaster as Cruz and the Sox had the kind of decline in 1984 that had no trade-deadline turnaround.

Am I wrong to be worried about history repeating itself with Elvis Andrus? He’s not young, and while his perfectly competent play has been a breath of revitalizing air this month, should we be worried about Rick Hahn bringing him back for 2023?

Last edited 2 months ago by asinwreck
texag10

My brain says no. We have Tim starting. Leury is entering year 2 of 3 on his deal. Romy’s clock is ticking and they used an option (I think, still not 100% on that stuff) with Sosa. Mendick will be back next season. Yolbert is waiting in the wings. There are just so many middle infielders either already on the roster or ready and waiting that it would make zero sense to re-sign Andrus. Therefore I am 100% convinced he will get a 4/40 deal and be lauded as our big ticket pickup.

soxfan

Leury’s deal shouldn’t stop anyone else from being signed and the young guys haven’t earned the spot yet.

I consider Andrus along the same lines as Abreu – guys we would like to be able to pass on but should probably re-sign because they’re more reliable/projectible than the guys that would ostensibly replace them. I wouldn’t break the bank for either, but I would support a something like 2/14 and 2/20ish for Andrus and Abreu respectively (with the caveat for Andrus that I’d want to know there were agreed-to positions for him and Anderson).

As Cirensica

Leury’s deal shouldn’t stop Hahn to DFA’ing either.

Augusto Barojas

He hasn’t had an OPS above .700 (aside from 1 year at .707) or a WAR over 2 since 2017. And he will be 35 next year. Perfect fit for the Sox to sign him based on his best 20 game stretch in 5+ years.

Right Size Wrong Shape

IMO, one of Romy, Mendick, Popeye, Sosa or Sanchez should be able to emerge as at least good enough to give you Andrus-level production at 2B next season.

itaita

I think what else sticks out about Elvis (And Cueto fits here too) Is they’re mid season vet pickups that are actually working out. Usually for the Sox they turn into Cesar Hernandez or Jimmy Rollins, guys who are beyond done. Also funny that the Sox dumped Keuchel who in other years you know the team would’ve picked up if the roles were reversed. Ive said it before but this is such a weird cursed year that i dont know what the hell to make of this team going forward no matter who’s in charge.

As Cirensica

Curiously, just curiously, Andrus and Cueto are both coming from outside of the White Sox organization, and both have what all other White Sox players from inside the organization (except Abreu and Vaughn) have lacked at significant times during the season: they are healthy and physically prepared for a 162 games season.

Last edited 2 months ago by As Cirensica
calcetinesblancos

4.His name is Elvis, providing an endless supply of puns.

dwjm3

I knew I was a White Sox when I got excited about Cueto rotating over to cover third and proceeding to tag a guy out. The same thing applies to Elvis, I think we like them largely because they are so fundamentally sound. White Sox player development always feels like it is lacking a bit.

dwjm3

*fan

lifelongjd

Every organization needs a fresh voice or perspective to help defeat complacency.

I think it does speak more about their manager. He provides no spark and hasn’t since game 1 of last season. They won the division last season with shots in the arm from guys like Hamilton, Lamb, and Goodwin. Jim, your point is valid: they shouldn’t need outsiders to come in for leadership or motivation but the last two seasons sure make it seem necessary.

Alfornia Jones

What’s notable with Kopech’s remark is that he doesn’t mention TA, Abreu or Grandal as team leaders. This year seems more like 2004 to me, where they turned the page on a number of players like Carlos Lee, Magglio, Valentin, Loaiza. They had a solid roster, but sometimes it just doesn’t work.

I think TA is a good player, but it is telling when no players or coaches pull you out of the fray after you’ve bumped an umpire. Same with Abreu, he is an historically very good player, but sometimes that doesn’t mean anything toward team success. TA and Abreu might have too much scar tissue from 2016-2019 to be the leaders this team needs. Not sure what they can do with Grandal, but its time to turn the roster over to the next wave.

soxygen

Agreed.

TA looks miserable and that stuff can be contagious…Abreu and Grandal have not been the leaders this team needs this year…Giolito is having a down year and doesn’t seem to have his head straight.

We’ve been fortunate that Cueto, Andrus, Harrison and Lynn have stepped into some “leader-ish” roles, and that some of the younger guys (e.g., Cease, Sheets) seem to be consistent/focused on the task at hand…and Eloy still seems like a fun guy in spite of the injuries…

Bottom line: this is not a roster that I feel very confident about heading into the off-season. Hopefully they are able to add some leaders, professionalism, and youthful energy over the off-season and achieve a better mix in 2023.

metasox

He served three suspensions this season, including the carryover from last season. That alone might keep someone off a “leader” list. I wonder if that kind of thing becomes a distraction or if a change of scenery would be a benefit

a-t

The term used to describe Tim’s effect in the clubhouse has always been “sparkplug”. That doesn’t clash with a suspension or two; he plays with fire and emotion, and by that inspires teammates to do the same. There’s different kinds of leadership to be had, but I think his might have been dimmer this year bc he’s dealing with physical issues and perhaps personal ones as well.

soxygen

He’s been my favorite player for the last couple of seasons…but the word that comes to mind when I see him in the dugout this season is “toxic.” He is not having fun, everyone can see it, and it could be contagious. I hope the team considers moving him, for his benefit and the team’s, though that’s not the sort of move that I have come to expect from this franchise.

That said, it sure was fun when he was clicking so I kinda hope he just gets healthy and happy in Chicago.

Last edited 2 months ago by soxygen
upnorthsox

I think he just needs to get happy again, everything else will take care of itself.

gibby32

Superb piece. It is hard to match the combination of your analysis and writing.

roke1960

I second that. Jim, your stories are not only enjoyable to read, they are so very informative and extremely well-written. As White Sox fans, we are very fortunate to be able to read excellent stories about our favorite team!

a-t

He’s really been revitalized purely statistically speaking in his brief time with the Sox. 122 wRC+, better defense and baserunning, etc., such that he’s been performing at a genuine star level in a small sample size. Have to imagine that he gets much of 2B time when Timmy is back.

Augusto Barojas

One thing Andrus does reveal is how a team with league worst defense suddenly becomes a lot better with a guy who can field at SS. I love Tim, but they have to get better defensively than having him at SS along with a god awful outfield. Giving extra outs and runs to teams in the playoffs will almost certainly prevent them from ever going far in October. I challenge anybody to find a team that has won a title with league worst defense. I don’t know beyond the past 20 years, maybe it’s happened a couple times a lot longer ago. But it sure is a very negative team attribute, esp when the Sox lineup is not exactly murderer’s row. For teams like the Sox where pitching is their biggest strength, catching the ball well sure helps.

Somebody brought up the possibility of him playing 2b when he returns, to allow Andrus to keep playing. Any real chance of that, and would Anderson be good enough defensively to handle the switch? The throw would be shorter which might help, but it would be interesting to see if putting him at 2b would work, or simply result in a big defensive hole somewhere else. I’d like to see how he would do in RF, he can run and would be better than Vaughn or Sheets pretty quickly I would think.

a-t

Andrus would move to 2B at this point in the season, not TA. You don’t lose your position to injury when you’re an established star there, not in this org. I don’t think that Andrus 2B/TA SS vs Andrus SS/TA 2B is much of a difference defensively, but one of those choices would rankle a team star with little reason.

As an addendum: TA’s not been good defensively this year, but OAA/RAA (which I trust the most of the defensive metrics) think he’s been reliably above average at SS for years now, and a little below this year. Probably related to his lower body issues, which should also be healed in addition to his hand. SS is an important position defensively, obviously, but there’s far less improvement to be had there than with the corner outfield.

Last edited 2 months ago by a-t
Joist

One thing Andrus does reveal is how a team with league worst defense suddenly becomes a lot better with a guy who can field at SS.

I don’t know if I agree with this. I saw recently that their defensive numbers are average-to-decent in the infield and awful in the outfield, which makes sense given what we’ve seen this year (a pretty good Moncada and Harrison and a decent Abreu, even if TA hasn’t been what we’d hoped defensively). Meanwhile, the outfield consists of, as Jim says, first basemen pretending to be corner outfielders and AJ Pollock pretending to be a center fielder. Andrus raises the bar of the infield defense, but you still see Vaughn and Sheets constantly letting balls drop that typical outfielders catch easily (like the one on Monday that led to the Mariners’ first run).

As for TA moving to the outfield, I doubt they’d experiment with that at this point in the season. Not even La Russa thinks that Sheets or Vaughn are competent outfielders, but they have to fake it there to get their much-needed bats into the lineup. Maybe TA could play 2nd, but that also seems a little desperate to try in the middle of September in a pennant race.

Last edited 2 months ago by Joist
As Cirensica

Are you saying that Andrus might not be able to play 2B? Maybe I am misreading you.

jorgefabregas

He’s saying that Anderson could hypothetically practice second on a rehab assignment, but Andrus wouldn’t have the chance to practice 2B in a competitive environment outside of major league play.

As Cirensica

I see, that makes sense.

dwjm3

I’m in favor of moving Tim to second next year and signing Dansby Swanson or Trea Turner.

Augusto Barojas

Swanson, Turner, Correa, or Judge should be their answer to the fans to make up for missing out on Machado, Harper, and doing nothing the past two offseasons. I think we all know how likely that is to materialize, but what the heck, in September we can hope for a moment of craziness from Jerry this winter.

a-t

I don’t really get the appeal of Swanson for them in FA. He’s having a career year via a .368 BABIP and way better defense than usual. He’s a good player no doubt, but that profile screams regression next year and overpaying for an outlier career year. Correa I’m ehh on due to health is all.

Turner & Judge, give ‘em blank checks. Though the top prospects looking good in the middle infield and RF make it less pressing than last season.

Augusto Barojas

I agree Turner and Judge are the top 2 of that group, though I would be more than happy with any of the 4. Colas not having played a game at AAA yet probably makes 2024 the soonest to expect any major contribution from him. And he isn’t likely to be Aaron Judge, to keep it real.

It would be inexcusable for them to start yet another season without a legit RF on their roster. But we get what we get, no matter what we all think they should do. Judge looks like he will get 60+ bombs, it would probably take a case of tequila and some cocaine for Jerry to pay what it would take to sign him! Not to mention the Yankees probably are pretty incentivized by their fan base to keep him.

a-t

I think projecting Colas to be ready by mid 2023 is reasonable given what he’s done at AA, and I would think he gets a real chance in ST next to make the opening day roster. I agree they should sign a real RF, but given that Colas looks like a pretty good bet to be an above-average starter there, the prudent thing in my eyes for RF would be to offer a 1-year pillow contract to Conforto or Gallo. Signing stars to huge contracts is great, but cheap good young players shouldn’t be blocked if the aim is long-term success.

upnorthsox

Colas or whoever could also play LF it’s not like we have that position locked down. Conforto on a one year would be ideal I suppose but you might have to wait until training camp to sign him. Do you really want to wait that long? Recency bias maybe but I’m warming up to Haniger atm.

a-t

Yeah, a short-term deal for a competent corner OF, like Pollock was supposed to be, should be sufficient. I favor Conforto/Gallo over Haniger mostly for handedness reasons, especially since Pollock has been an extreme splits guy this year.

soxygen

Andrew Vaughn looks like a pretty good bet to be an above average starter at 1B next year. It would be a shame if he is blocked by someone more expensive.

NancyFaustsOrgan

Years ago, the talk was that Tim Anderson’s bad defense would ultimately land him as our CF. What if he (next season) took over as our RF?

Last edited 2 months ago by NancyFaustsOrgan
a-t

zero reason to move a star middle infielder to a corner outfield spot lol. all that does is lessen the value you get out of him

Canyonero

If Mookie Betts can be content playing right field, it ought to be acceptable for TA. It will not happen, but count me among those who wish Tim were playing anywhere else but short. Actually wouldn’t mind if he played on a different team. He is not a “star” defensively. It is telling indeed that Andrus, a guy past his prime who was cast off by one of the worst teams in the league, has come in and had “an outsized impact” at shortstop. It’s hard to be a good defensive team when you are mediocre at one of the most important defensive positions on the field.

gibby32

Elvis was only “cast off” because of the option in his contract, and while he may be past his prime, he is still excellent defensively. Tim has had a rough year defensively,. but was excellent last year. My guess is that the 30-year old Tim (Andrus is 35) will rebound defensively next year. Having said that, I do not oppose thinking about options. Whether it is a 2023 free agent shortstop signing, or Colson Montgomery in 2024, thinking about Tim changing positions is not out of the realm of possibility. It has happened with respect to many prior to Tim.

yinkadoubledare

Oh nooooooooooo

GrinnellSteve

He saw the success the team is having and wants to be able to take credit for it…

Major buzzkill.

soxygen

Of course LaRussa will be back next week.

As Cirensica

and maybe even next year

Now…if you excuse me, I am gonna sat in a corner and bawl

roke1960

That just can’t happen.

Foulkelore

I wish they’d say he’s day-to-day. I’d have more confidence he isn’t coming back any time soon.

calcetinesblancos

Can someone please explain to me what we did to deserve this? Nobody is rooting for La Russa to be sick, but he was bad before he got sick. His illness has nothing to do with the fact that he was awful before he left.

dwjm3

It is all about Jerry. He wants LaRussa and that is all that matters in his book. He is a selfish man.

dwjm3

The black cloud rolls back into town. Jerry didn’t like all the happiness in the fanbase lately