Odd future for Beckham's swing kills us all

Odd future for Beckham's swing kills us all
This must be what raising kids and watching them fail is like // Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune

Trends that are ultra-stark in nature tend not to go unnoticed.  So surely there's no new stones being unturned when I say that Gordon Beckham's 2011 at the plate has been a house of disheartening horrors.  Especially not after Thursday night's game where the White Sox managed to center every major scoring opportunity squarely on #15's shoulders, and he failed wildly all four times.  To make it worse, when still-smelling-like-Charlotte Tyler Flowers singled home a run with two outs in the spot in front of Beckham, Steve Stone remarked how he was surprised they pitched to him.  And he was right to be.

To recap (stats through Wednesday, to be friendly):

wOBA: .290 (Career-low and part of a three-year decline)

wRC+: 76 (Career-low and part of a three-year decline)

AVG: .241 (Career-low and part of a three-year decline)

OBP: .299 (Career-low and part of a three-year decline)

SLG: .345 (Career-low and part of a three-year decline)

ISO: .104 (Career-low and part of a three-year decline)

BB%: 5.3 (Career-low and part of a three-year decline)

K%: 20.5 (Career-high and part of a three-year hike)

Infield Fly%: 19.8 (Career-high and part of a three-year hike)

Outside the Zone Swing%: 39.4 (Career-high and part of a three-year hike)

Swinging Strike%: 11.7 (Career-high and part of a three-year hike)

Contact%: 77.4 (Career-low)

Gordon seems to be at his absolute nadir at the moment, and should finish the year a bit better than this, yet these are still some thoroughly damning trends.

Maybe because it's not my money, but Beckham's descent into hell troubles me more than Dunn and Rios.  For one, as barren as the White Sox farm system is, I can spot another plodding middle-of-the-order masher in the organization, there's also guy milling about U.S. Cellular who looks like he can hold down centerfield for the time being, and in a pinch Brent Lillibridge can pretend to be either one.

But Gordon Beckham stands alone at 2nd, representative of organizational plan that clearly banked on placing him there and not reassessing the state of the position for several years.  Tyler Saladino is still only 22 years old after all.

Worse are the implications for the organizational approach.  Adam Dunn's old players skills disappearing act seems like the fluke of the century, and Alex Rios seems capable of wandering into the clouds, but how one of the most celebrated prospects in recent franchise memory has just rapidly deteriorated is so much more puzzling.  His short, compact swing is now loopy and easily exploited with fastballs up, his once above-average eye has morphed into some of the worst judgment in the league.

Prospects bust all the time under the watch of perfectly competent player development teams, but Beckham's initial success and rapid fall doesn't read as him getting exposed, but a steady deterioration in his plate approach that's never been effectively abetted.  Such a mystery means the fingers can be pointed anywhere, and Greg Walker will back me up on that.

If there was something physically wrong with him, it would almost be a relief so long as it wasn't serious.  Just an explanation

Instead, an organization that already treated its minor league talent as a black box at best and a shared delusion suffered by the rest of the league at worst, has one more reason to ponder the perils of the crapshoot that is rearing major league baseball players.

Beckham's 25 years old, and posted an above-average month as recently as May, so writing a post-mortem on him could still be ridiculous.  But how the organization will react to his failure is more likely to offer a new storyline.  Viciedo's summer in Charlotte could be seen as a reaction to Beckham's '09 when the Sox tried to piggy-back on his hot streak to save flagging playoff hopes. or simply an an affirmation of the Sox renewed aversion to filling the lineup with young players and enduring their bumps in the road.

Maybe Dunn and Rios can help in that regard.  2011 has grabbed every concept of competent roster construction the Sox have ever clung to and flung it into the lake.  When metronome sluggers, elite athletes, and top prospects crash at once, maybe it's best to shrug it all off and go about business as usual.  The pile of red flags that is Beckham's plate performance probably spells doom for him, but hopefully the future of the franchise crashing into a glove-only role player can go down as being "just one of those things that happened."


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  • I don't know about the numbers, but the Sox have been abysmal all year in hitting in the clutch. For instance, they were talking about walking Paul, at which time I thought Dunn's next, but it was Quentin and he didn't accomplish anything, either. Beckham hasn't either. I wonder if they are pushing De Aza as the next savior. since he appears to be Rios's successor.

  • In reply to jack:

    The numbers would say you're 100% correct. The White Sox are the worst team in the league in "high-leverage" situations in terms of weighted runs created, and it's not even close. The most recent team I can find that's comparably bad is the '08 Giants. Even weirder is that they were the best in the league in 2010

    De Aza can be the savior in the sense that he's dirt cheap and can play center while the Sox are saddled under Rios' contract. He is 27 though, so we're probably looking at the finished product. It definitely looks like he's worked himself into the 2-hole for the time being.

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