The White Sox finally won a night game! Until last night’s win, the Sox saved their best performances for the daylight. More good news! The Sox got a two out hit with a runner in scoring position! Dayan Viciedo’s double in the top of the 9th scored the go-ahead run. Paul Konerko scored on a Hector Giminez sac fly, and the Sox wound up beating the Blue Jays in Toronto 4-3.
Dylan Axelrod was perfectly acceptable for a guy who is supposed to eat innings until John Danks comes back. The bullpen kept the Sox in the game.
Even better? There were walks! Glorious walks!
The Sox are still dead last in the league in walks. They have 23 free passes on the season. As a team, the White Sox finally have more walks than Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds. But they are just six walks away from tying the Cubs (29), and seven away from the Kansas City Royals (30).
No White Sox even crack the leaderboard in walks. Alex Rios is 76th in MLB with 5 free passes. But there are a bunch of Sox hitters on the strikeout list. Adam Dunn is 12th. Tyler Flowers is 19th. Alejandro De Aza is 24th. Dayan Viciedo is 35th.
One possible culprit? The White Sox are being “more aggressive” at the plate. That’s all well and good, but to paraphrase Spinal Tap, there’s a fine line between aggressive and hacking. Adam Dunn is Exhibit A. Here’s Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron:
Dunn is correct that he hasn’t historically been an aggressive hitter. He’s swung at just 41.1% of the pitches he’s been thrown since 2002 — the first year BIS recorded plate discipline data — and has only swung at the first pitch of an at-bat 27% of the time. Both of those marks are below the league average, and support what we already knew; Dunn has been a selective hitter whose strategy has been to get himself into hitter’s counts and then swing for the moon.
The 2013 version of Adam Dunn doesn’t resemble that guy at all. Not only has Dunn swung at 50% of the pitches he’s been thrown — a career high by a mile — he’s also swung at the first pitch in 46% of his plate appearances, the seventh highest first-pitch swing rate in all of baseball. For context, Pablo Sandoval is swinging at 48% of first pitches, and Josh Hamilton is swinging at 49%. On the first pitch, Adam Dunn has essentially become an undisciplined hack.
Of the 22 times Dunn has swung at the first pitch this year, he’s put the ball in play 10 times, resulting in one double, one home run, and eight outs. The other 12 swings have either been whiffs or fouls, putting him in an 0-1 count for the at-bat. Combining the outs with the strikes, Dunn’s early aggressiveness has resulted in a poor outcome 91% of the time.
In other words, Adam Dunn is getting away from the approach that made him successful…and it’s not making him successful. Fancy that.
Adam Dunn also led the league in walks. That’s a big part of his game. An Adam Dunn who either hits home runs or gets on base via the walk is a very valuable part of the lineup. If the pitcher knows Dunn is swinging on the first pitch no matter what, Dunn becomes considerably less valuable.
The Sox are 6-8 through 14 games, making this the worst start since 2010, when the Sox were 5-9. That doesn’t mean anything. The 2010 Sox went 25-5 at one point, spent some time in 1st place, and finished the season with 87 wins. The 2013 White Sox certainly have more talent than the 2010 squad (I highly doubt Robin Ventura will employ Omar Vizquel as a DH). They have the ability to rattle off a winning streak or three.
Gordon Beckham emerged from wrist surgery yesterday. He told the world via a tweet:
“I have awoken! This surgery is….OVA. Mercy.”
Beckham has been frustrating to watch, and I would guess that Beckham would agree with that assessment. He’s a very likable guy. If he’s able to string a couple of good seasons together, there’s no reason he can’t be a White Sox ambassador for life. His soon-to-be father in law is former Sox infielder Scott Fletcher (Fletcher was later traded to the Texas Rangers along with Harold Baines. Then owner George W. Bush named his dog Spot Fletcher as a tribute. Spot Fletcher later took up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.).
Beckham has the personality to own the town. He just needs to flash the talent.