While listening to Sunday’s White Sox game, Darren Jackson mentioned that if Jeff Keppinger got another hit (he didn’t), his batting average would rise to or slightly above .200. DJ was quite enthused about this development saying, “getting to .200 is quite a step, getting some confidence.” All I could think is, “this is what it has come to? Being happy that the “big” off-season acquisition is threatening .200?” Unfortunately it might be.
When I wrote about Keppinger previewing the 2013 season I mentioned that if he played more than a handful of games at second base, the White Sox were in trouble. While that statement seems to be borne out, I wasn’t thinking that keeping Keppinger in the lineup would be the problem. Turns out, the replacement player, Connor Gillaspie has been a pleasant surprise, but more on that later. Jeff Keppinger thus far has been historically bad, most evident in his 141 at bats without a walk. That is some rarefied air. His current line of .197/.205/.423 is remarkable in how inept it is. For a while there Keppinger had a lower OBP than batting average which isn’t the easiest thing to do. He currently sits on a 14 OPS+. I honestly can’t say I’ve ever seen an OPS+ that low and I sat through the 2011 seasons of Adam Dunn and Alex Rios. For some reason, Robin Ventura keeps on trotting him out as the number two hitter, giving him an extra at bat or so every game, or said more precisely an additional opportunity to make an out. When Beckham went down and Gillaspie came in, I thought Gillaspie might take Beckham’s job. As it turns out the Sox are waiting for Beckham to come back so they can sit Keppinger. It isn’t as easy as that, of course. Keppinger is just starting a 3 year contract and I doubt the White Sox want to pay him to sit on the bench.
Unfortunately, it isn’t just his offense. Jeff Keppinger is currently playing to a negative rating on defense as well. He currently sits at a -11 for runs saved and has a 4.12 range factor, compared to the league average of RF of 4.69. For a little perspective, the RF (per game) leader this season is Brian Dozier, with a 5.81. I understand there are flaws in defensive statistics, but even if you put little faith in the numbers, it is quite the contrast. His numbers are better at third base, his RF at third would put him close to the top ten (unfortunately the sample size is too small.) I suppose Keppinger deserves a bit of pass considering he is not playing his best position, but one of the selling points on him was that he could play multiple positions well.
Enter one Connor Gillaspie. He has provided much more bang on the buck than Keppinger. He actually has the third best offensive WAR on the team right now and his line, especially compared to Keppinger’s is pretty solid, .283/.349/.783. His OPS+ is 107 which is also third best on the team. Gillaspie has been a nice little addition to the Sox thus far, not exactly Mike Trout coming in, but the White Sox could be in worse shape when it comes to their replacement infielder. Unfortunately, and I hate to say this, if Connor Gillaspie continues to be the number three person in the line-up, the White Sox are pretty much done. The only other starter to be in the black when it comes to WAR is Viciedo. The rest are all negative, including the big boppers Konerko and Dunn. The long baseball season just seems to be getting longer.