White Sox player wrap-ups - Gordon Beckham

White Sox player wrap-ups - Gordon Beckham
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Hi, Gordon! Seriously, there are a LOT of really funny Beckham photos on the web

I had a sophomore slump once too. 

It happened in college.  I had a good freshman year academically, so I decided I would take on more activities and get a job, and everything would still go as swimmingly as the year before.  I was uh, incorrect.  I got the crappiest of crappy registration times, wound up with a class on Greek and Latin roots in the English language that I wound up dropping and not replacing (because I was really into naps at the time), and a 2nd year Theology class where the TA and I got into a little back and forth about the morality of the U.S. Healthcare system (I'd write an essay on it, she'd give it a 5 out of 15...and repeat).

Being a shiftless layabout was kinda new to me, so I responded to it in erratic ways: showing up to comedy troupe practice drunk, curious choices in women, writing stories where people died and it was supposed to be funny, etc.  The point is, young people have a tendency to take really bizarre left turns at times where it seems like it should be thriving.  And while it seems so easy and so simple for them to just take the next step in the path they've been following all their life, they occasionally need to explore all the wrong steps first (in my case it involved a semester where I watched the Big Lebowski more times than I earned credit hours, in Gordon Beckham's case it meant staring blankly at 90 mph fastballs down the middle).  Take heart though, because things have to get better after going so inexplicably wrong.

Stat Line: .252 BA, .317 OBP, .378 SLG, .695 OPS, 25 2B, 9 HR, 58 R, 49 RBI, 37 BB, 92 SO, 4 SB (40%), .305 wOBA, -0.8 UZR, 0.9 WAR

What did we expect?: Doesn't matter, it was too much.

Unless your expectation was for Gordon to get abducted during a winter vacation in Cancun and Reinsdorf & Williams to wait till mid-August before abandoning their attempts to lowball his kidnappers on the ransom, Beckham's super-duper slump to kick off the first half of the season probably was a disappointment.

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Seriously, there's a lot

I made an earnest attempt to not predict something crazy (an effort I did not make in predicting Carlos Quentin's year), but after the way Gordon began his season in 2009, I thought one incredibly rough transition to major league play was enough for a career.

Um...as far as the 'quoting my horrible season preview piece' gimmick, let's try to gloss over the part where I suggested that Beckham should have played at short over Ramirez.  Some things it's good to own up to (I ate the leftover chicken), some things it isn't (I escaped from federal prison 8 years ago and my real name is Trent).  Here are some selections in italics:

"September never happened, right buddy?"
(I must have meant August, but have I mentioned that I wrote the preview while high on T3 recovering from major surgery?  I've mentioned this in the past month, right?  What? What do you mean 17 times?)

"At mid-summer last year Gordon seemed like a man put on
the Earth to hit in the No. 2 slot and smack timely hits into
right-center."
(Vintage, pre-Sabermetrics analysis from the Feeg)

"He was adequate defensively, with a few more errors than
you'd like at Third Base; a position he was thrust into on a whim
despite never playing. The cagey Sox remedied Beckham's discomfort by
throwing him over to 2nd, another position he hasn't played. I don't
quite think Gordon will break-out this year, but he should have an
effective season depending on how he responds to the league adjusting
to him near the end of last season.
" (Used the same word twice in a sentence...unforgivable)


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a LOT

The result: Jeebus.  It's hard to really get descriptive about the way that Gordon played early because he suffered such a complete and utter breakdown at the plate.  There are players who go through stretches of not getting around on fastballs (see Ramirez, Manny), and players who seem constantly caught in-between (Pierzynski, A.J.), but Beckham just seemed to lose all conception of what he was trying to do at the plate.  A young player chasing bad pitches is one thing, being repeatedly caught staring at hittable balls down the middle is just....really, really strange.  Did he go through a 3-month period of not picking up the ball?  Was he that lacking in confidence?  Is it really possible that he was pressing that much even though he was at the back of the order by mid-May?  The defining image of Beck's 1st half has to be him angrily storming into the dugout, taking the gum out of his mouth and whipping it at the wall, only to have it inexplicably bounce back at him.

Despite his struggles at identifying pitches, his walks and strikeouts slipped noticeably but not catastrophically.  Instead Gordon's power just completely disappeared.  He hit two home runs in his first 266 at-bats, and absolutely no extra-base hits in the month of May.  None!  How does that happen

It's especially mystifying given how much pop Beckham showed once he returned.  He slugged over .530 with an ISO over .220 for two months straight once he returned to form.  Beckham's firebrand months of July and August represented a drastic disassociation with the player named to SI's All-Not-Stars team, and lent a lot of credence to the notion that the first three months of 2010 were just a horrible aberration....which of course, we all really want to believe.


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So damn many

A third straight good month to bring all his offensive stats for the year up to acceptable levels would have really sealed the deal, but Gordon took a pitch to the hand at the end of August that made it painful for him to grip the bat, and painful to watch flail the bat, or fling the bat toward the dugout in disgust after a pop-up.  Of course, with the way Lillibridge closed out the season, it's hard to say whether injured Beckham would've been much worse.

Unfortunately, we have to probably take account of both sides of Beckham's 2010 when thinking about him down the road, but that doesn't mean we can't lean heavily to one of those sides.  It takes a special player (more special than Alex Rios apparently) to clock at over .900 OPS for two months straight in this league, and Gordon has that sort of ability.  There are also players, who have a sort of consistency in their approach that they are effectively 'slump proof'.  At the moment, the only person on the Sox roster who even comes close to such a distinction is Rios, but our merry band of free-swingers is probably the worst example possible....uh, yeah, getting back to it, Gordon is certainly not slump-proof.  He's shown he can run into funks, and go for prolonged stretches without adjusting out of it, and even spiraling further into it with fiery, Pat Burrell-like intensity. 

Love him or leave him: Beckham is young, cheap, and talented, so when discussing whether to keep him, we're obviously doing so on different terms than we discuss Mark Teahen (those terms being: if he's our Opening Day starter, does the sun explode in turn?).

Becks is certainly a very willing defender; his effort-laden style where he tries to make up for range short-comings with being willing to sacrifice his body contrasts humorously with Alexei Ramirez. 

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It almost devalues them

For the time being, he seems to break even at a pretty difficult position, and he's a horrible basethief for some reason, making his value pretty much dependent on his bat.  That said, Gordon is much more potential All-Star for his position than he is a player who will ever be discussed as one of the best hitters in the game.  With his early development, name recognition, and being established around the league as a starting-quality player, he seems like someone who could bring back more than his worth in unproven prospects.

It's just that...how could that possibly be the case after this season?  He had one of the worst 1st halves on anyone in the entire league, and is coming back from an injury.  This would not be selling high, nor is 2nd base a position of strength for the farm system...nor is the farm system an element of strength for the organization.

Let's not give Kenny Williams a reason to pick up Robbie Alomar again, and for pete's sake, I just friggin' bought that obscure Batman-joke baseballreference.com sponsorship for him.


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