Josh Harrison closes out tough April with hope for better May

When the White Sox signed Josh Harrison for one year and $5.5 million, I wanted to like the signing more than I did. I suppose that goes for every Rick Hahn transaction that makes me wrinkle my nose, but specific to Harrison’s case, his on-field personality gave his past adequate production a certain kind of magnetism that fulfilled the whole idea of baseball as entertainment. It just couldn’t salvage the seasons that went wrong for one reason (injuries) or another (bad luck on medium contact).

Also, part of my adverse reaction was due to another signing that was completely out of his hands. Prior to the lockout, the White Sox signed Leury García to a three-year, $15.5 million contract, giving the White Sox two players who were better at filling in at multiple positions than holding down one.

I would’ve been fine if the White Sox merely signed García, at least at the 2022 salary (what the three-year commitment lacked in ambition, it made up for in desperation). I also would’ve been fine if the White Sox just signed Harrison (whose lower open-market earning power showed why the three-year commitment was goofy). Acquiring both for $5.5 million apiece doubled the risk, in that the Sox might spent $11 million without solving a position.

One month in, that certainly seems to be the case.

PlayerPAAVGOBPSLGBBKbWARfWAR
Harrison40.135.200.24318-0.1-0.1
García49.106.143.191212-0.8-0.6
Total89.119.172.214320-0.9-0.7

Granted, a month of WAR is pointless to collect for guys who are short of everyday players, no matter how well it captures the current feel. It allows one to think of Tony La Russa playing García into a -5 WAR season, much like a sommelier who pairs everything on the menu with ipecac. However, as long as Marcus Semien is hitting .157/.226/.217 — and that’s indeed what he’s hitting, yee-ikes — I’d caution against judging any player for their body of work in April 2022.

Still, it’d be nice to have some evidence of what the White Sox could’ve possibly seen in this arrangement, and Harrison did what he could by closing out his month with the kind of game that reminded everybody of his appeal.

Harrison played a big part in Saturday’s 4-0 victory over the Angels, even if he fell outside of the three starts (Vince Velasquez, Luis Robert, Tim Anderson). Harrison singled, he doubled, he got hit by a pitch, and he made a leaping catch at second base to end the game. We’d seen him make a variety of plays around the infield, most notably a leaping catch in shallow left field that required preternatural crash-avoidance abilities, but also dinged up his shoulder in the process.

He missed four games because of it, and while he dealt with a hitless streak before the tumble, it probably assisted him in running it up to 0-for-22 afterward.

Saturday’s game showed welcome signs of life, like a pair of line drives that averaged 100 mph between them. He’d only hit one ball that hard since returning from the injury, and it was a routine grounder to short.

More than the action in his bat, he also seemed to have a spring in his step. When he went from first to third on a pickoff throw that wasn’t caught, he came into the base with a hint of a high step.

And then when he doubled to lead off the fifth, there was no hint about it…

… and the move resonated with his target audience.

And lest anybody accuse him of a me-first approach, he was the first to recognize Luis Robert’s game-breaking homer.

The line drives, the defense, the easy, visible charisma — Harrison’s appeal is blindingly obvious when it’s all going right, and Saturday’s performance was a welcome reminder of the whole package after a muted month, because it wouldn’t be right to high-step back to the dugout on a 6-3 or a strikeout. The man picks his spots.

Both Harrison’s season and time on the South Side are limited to this one month, so we’re still getting a feel for what he has to offer and how he does it. I’m prepared for García to have a four-week stretch that undoes the damage from his first month, no matter how hard it might be to see in the present moment, because he’s fooled me in both directions at various points of his longest-tenured-White-Sox career. I’d still ask why the White Sox felt compelled to commit to three more years of this, even if said somewhat rhetorically.

My initial impression is that he could be a reliable indicator of the health and welfare of the team. If you’re not noticing him, it’s probably been a pretty rough stretch, because he doesn’t seem the type to pass up a celebration, for him or anybody else. Conversely, Saturday represented the glass-half-full outlook at the time of the signing, in which even an average season at second base would help make the White Sox fun as hell. If he ends up being a sort of barometer for the conditions at Guaranteed Rate Field, perhaps Harrison’s Southside jersey can be reworked to represent Canaryville.

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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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chipporter

Well stated

Qubort

That one clip is just another reminder that Vaughn is a liability in the outfield. I know it’s more out of necessity with injuries, but he should really be at 1st or DH when available.

I was excited last week to go a game, partly cause it was my first time seeing Vaughn in person. I was sitting right by 3rd base, so had a pretty good view of him the whole game. He looked uncomfortable/hesitant on every play. Kudos for doing what the team needs, but the team needs to stop pretending having first basemen in the corners doesn’t come with consequences.

HallofFrank

I still don’t mind Vaughn in the OF. I’ll be interested to see where he ends up with defensive metrics. If he’s bottom of the barrel this year, they’ll likely need to make the change. But if he’s this vanilla brand of below average, I’m fine with that—especially if he’s flanked by Robert and Pollock (or Colas/Cespedes). Having that bat in LF leave space for another masher at 1B/DH, which can cover a multitude of defensive sins.

As Cirensica

lifelongjd

The Sox approach to filling their holes is so maddening. Instead of investing $15-20m into one proven commodity, they spend $11m on part time or older players. However, do understand the approach of not investing a large contract into 2b as they have some intriguing prospects coming up. But why they end up with this situation every season is truly mind boggling.
Further, this nonsense with Leury is such a negative drain on the team. Baseball is a game of routine and LaRussa just can’t play our best players on a regular, daily basis.

gibby32

You mean a proven commodity like Semien?

lifelongjd

Well, yes. I would have preferred Semien over Harrison and still would. I get the snark, but don’t think he was ever a real option as he wanted a long term deal.

jhomeslice

I’ll need at least a solid first half from Josh before I am convinced it was not a stupid signing that just typifies how half-ass the Sox are about free agency.

I will say this, there are tons of guys off to terrible starts. Semien as was pointed out is one, Trevor Story isn’t doing much, nor is Adam Frazier. Madrigal struck out 3 times last night and isn’t impressing Cub fans. Baez is doing the best of the guys they could have gotten, I’ve always liked his playing style even if he is a bit of a hotdog at times. But right now, even if they had gotten a better 2b (other than Baez) or held on to Madrigal, it would not have made much difference so far.

Yolbert seems to get at least a hit every game I check, so he should get consideration in a month if he keeps doing so well and Harrison doesn’t carry his good game from yesterday forward.

a-t

This team will be a lot of fun if the Manfred ball doesn’t keep them down the whole year tbh