It’s not much fun to watch Robin Ventura helplessly resigned to his seat in the dugout while his conceptions of sound, fundamental baseball are bastardized before him.
Nor is it fun to watch him blow through the “coach of a bad team” playlist and skip ahead to “team meeting” and “ominously hint at lineup changes” before the midpoint of May. It doesn’t suit anything we’ve heard about his style very well and it highlights how sometimes there’s very little a manager can do to alter performance through intervention.
Here we have the same manager who made more of a show of focusing on the fundamentals than anyone and reaped the rewards last year being party to the most amateurish looking outfit in the league via the same process. Worst yet, even if he could demonstrate control over this defense, he still can’t fix the White Sox.
Hitters who are drifting beyond help
So, Jeff Keppinger is unplayable. It really slipped under the fence for a while since a sputtering hitter who ‘s based his career on barely-above weak contact is harder to pick out than, say, what Adam Dunn was doing in 2011, or what Brent Morel was doing last season.
Yet it’s worst than both. No one’s touching a .183/.180/.198 batting line. Beyond the rapid deterioration in Keppinger’s batting eye and contact rate or the mystifying inability to draw a walk, what could have been more troubling that this moment from Sunday?
It’s a hitter’s count, Keppinger gets a fastball elevated on the inner half from a lefty, squares it up and BLAMMO
Courtesy of TexasLeaguers.com, that may not have been the hardest Keppinger has hit a ball all season, but damn if it’s not a contender.
Keppinger’s nine home runs last season was a career-high, so he’s not expected to be crushing dingers into the stratosphere, but his utter lack of any pop whatsoever is just another massive trouble sign for another guy who has managed to time out completely losing all ability to be a major league hitter upon his debut season on the South Side.
Thanks to Keppinger–and also Tyler Greene–questions about the quality of Gordon Beckham’s adjustments, or the degree of Conor Gillaspie’s ongoing regression become irrelevant. If the Sox have any notion of trying to keep the ship afloat, they can’t play this guy until they’re disavowed of said notion. The standards for starting in the infield are posting an OPS over .400 and throwing the ball to first base, or at least it should be
It’s all been enough to hide from people that Alexei Ramirez is hitting just as poorly as last season.
Speaking of guys who started depreciating the moment they went South of Roosevelt Rd., Adam Dunn was supposed to have spent Sunday installing an adjustment to move his hands up according to Buster Olney. Here’s what he looked like at the end of April.
Now, Monday night
The gist of it is that Dunn was already holding his hands so close to his head that it’s hard to imagine how there could be much improvement, let alone spot it in crude game film.
Adam Dunn spent his entire career on the margins of acceptability in terms of strikeout rate. Since coming to Chicago, he’s been solidly 5% or more above that previous career average the entire time.
The only time at which Dunn seemed capable of compensating for this development is when he start punishing the few balls he could make contact with at a vastly higher rate for the first three months of last year. Since that was never sustainable, he appears to be cooked, and with Paul Konerko piling up garish reviews (Olney called him “overmatched” on Sunday) in addition to one of the worst starts of his career, Robin Ventura is trying to switch around the complimentary pieces of a lineup that has a rotted-out core.
The beauty of the Flowers’ situation is that until the White Sox get legitimately curious about what Josh Phegley is doing in his third year of Tripla-A, there’s really no other plan of action but to play him until the grass dies and the infield dirt blows away.. Hector Gimenez is around almost specificaly because he cannot challenge him, Flowers took a while to get going last season–albeit more due to sporadic play, and until a certain hitting coach convinces him to snap out of his newly found, misplaced aggression at the plate, we’re not really seeing what he can do anyway. A.J. Pierzynski has an OBP under .300 and strained his oblique again, if you’re curious.
It’s not a full picture, but here are three lineup black holes that Robin Ventura has pretty much no recourse to solve, unless being able to slide in Casper Wells against lefties and hope that he and Dayan Viciedo can provide middle of the order production counts as a brilliant counter-move. It’s crafty and inspired, but still might not have the horses to be successful, which is a line that could be use to sum up many good managers.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan