Hooray for Gordon Beckham's defense

Hooray for Gordon Beckham's defense
Old school fundamentals // Rick Osentoski, US Presswire

The White Sox had an off day on Thursday, so I spent the day away from the newswire hoping to come home and find an easy reaction piece to the White Sox finally adding a new bat to their beleaguered offense just waiting to write itself.


It's not a great time for the Pale Hose.  They just lost fairly brutally to the still-cellar-dwelling-for-this-year-at-least Kansas City Royals, their manager reacted to it like losing to last-place teams is irksome, the pricey DH just gave an update on his existential funk, and the offense is still churning out under 4 runs a game.

The trade deadline is less than 10 days away, and no one knows what the hell management is planning.

Still, we're due for a good story, and say now, that Gordon Beckham is playing some good defense.  Considering the initial hopes that Beckham would be providing goo-gobs of offense at a premium position, it's hard to consider him not a disappointment when he's barely outpacing Juan Pierre for run production and one-fifth of his contact is infield pop-ups.  Yet his transition from just being good enough to stick in the middle infield to a legit asset defensively at the keystone has been an excellent surprise, and has pretty much saved his chances of being a 2-WAR player. 2 WAR being a solid benchmark where a guy can still be justified as a starter.

Beckham's UZR is already up to 3.3 runs above average after being -0.9 for all of 2010, good for a 6.3 UZR per 150 games.  UZR fluctuations over this time period have to be taken with cinder-block size grains of salt, but offer a bit more confidence when they're met with sizable upticks in Runs Saved Plus/Minus, DRS, and Revised Zone Rating like Beckham has.  Hooray for corroborated improvement!  It could still be a blip perchance, but it's fairly unlikely at this point.  Beckham's flashed the arm strength and multi-directional range to make the numbers look believable.

While Beckham has shown a great amount of enthusiasm for ranging to his left, ultimately a great deal of the increased value he's shown in his UZR is tied to avoiding errors.  He's down to only 3 on the season after recording 12 in 2010.  That more than deserves commendation, but is an improvement that lends itself to luck fluctuation more than one might like.  Gordon got two of those in the past two games when he misplayed a squibber Wednesday, and wasn't on the same page with Alexei on a flip out of his glove on Tuesday.  Stuff happens, and the scoring system for errors is kind of stupid after all.  While he hasn't shown a penchant for botching routine plays at any point in his career, players can't just depend on clocking in under 10 errors per season.

Still, if there's a clear benefit to Beckham's hasty promotion, it's that the White Sox infield defense is provided to the peak levels of his athleticism (his early 20's) as he continues to adjust to playing 2nd base.  He doesn't profile as an elite athlete for his position type, but his range score improvements suggest he has a potential to remain an above-average 2nd baseman throughout his arbitration years.


And maybe he'll hit!


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  • I'm confused by the positive nature of this article. I thought you were covering the White Sox.

  • In reply to mdepilla:

    It was meant to be more positive. I tried to pick an undeniably great development, but it really appears that most of his improvement is due to error reduction, which really is open to a lot of fluctuation. Le sigh.

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