Josh Phegley has hit two home runs in 11 plate appearances! And he actually got a good grip on a ball and threw behind a runner for a pick off at first. Those are good things! Good things a White Sox player did!
It’s always preferable to have a call-up hit the ground running and do a bunch of exciting things to demonstrate why he’s with the team even while inevitably rough adjustments to the major league level are taking place. Giving Phegley extended playing time is a lot easier to justify when he’s not immediately running even with Tyler Flowers. An initial spark can do a lot to cover up what might otherwise be interpreted as a symbolic ‘packing it in’ move.
Phegley can hit the ball out of the park, which is an encouraging confirmation to start, but definitely something the guy he replaced can do as well. There’s pretty much no knowing anything at this point and there are problems that have yet to emerge.
One thing is for sure from first look–Phegley is hacking. He took a cut on over 70% of the pitches in his first two games, was first-pitch hunting on his home run Monday night, as well as in his seventh inning at-bat and he got and used a 3-0 greenlight in the other. He’s jumping all over fastballs and has been made to look foolish on pretty much anything off-speed. That’s to be expected for a call-up trying to make an impact, but it’s definitely an adjustment that’s waiting for him down the road. Eagerness is rare on this roster, but things to be exploited are not/
Translating his power arm into actual basestealers thrown out is another issue, but a teamwide de-emphasis on holding runners on does not seem to have done him any favors.
About that 3-0 greenlight:
“Yeah, let him swing the bat,” manager Robin Ventura said. “He’s swinging it pretty good. At that point, we didn’t have much really going. Let him swing it. You will learn and find out if he can do that in the future.”
I was never much in the camp to rush to test out if Phegley’s hot streak had any juice to it, but if the Sox were desperate enough to allow the rookie to be aggressive with a runner on second and one out, maybe they should have called him up sooner. Blake Tekotte in the on deck circle could have been a factor, but given the organization’s fear of the double play, it probably should not be shocking that they erred on the side of aggression.
Anything to Beckham?
After a 1-4 Monday night, Gordon Beckham is hitting a nice and easy .338/.364/.426 on the season. It’s easily the proudest batting line on the White Sox roster. As Nick Schaefer pointed out over two weeks ago, the lack of power or secondary means of getting on base dampers enthusiasm. Beckham only has a scant 144 plate appearances on the season, but if you stacked this mini-resurgence against his still not very good 2012 season, there’s less power, less walks, with the only real positive change being an 137-point jump in his batting average on balls in play.
If you’ve ever seen “batting average on balls in play” written on a baseball blog before, it’s easy to figure what’s coming next. Beckham shouldn’t be able to count on as many balls to fall in for hits going forward. More than last year, perhaps, since his 2012 BABIP was a over 30 points below his still young career’s average, but there’s more than a little luck in Beckham hitting .338.
However, one of the reasons Beckham has always had a hard time hitting for average in the past is pop-ups, which despite the antics of the White Sox defense, are as good as automatic outs at the major league level. For his career, 14.2% of the balls Beckham’s put in play have been infield pop-ups. That’s about 4.5% above league-average. As was true for every other aspect of his game, it completely cratered in 2011, when Beckham popped up 21% of the balls he put in play. Sunday, Beckham fouled out to third in the eighth inning, to give him his first infield pop-up of the season.
“Absolutely nowhere close” would be a polite way of describing how close Beckham is to proving that his decrease (down to nearly 2%) in pop-ups is for real and not a fluke, but along with rippling line-drives, eliminating some of his useless contact has been the difference. He likely has not become one of the ten best in baseball at avoiding it overnight, though.
To pull the arbitrary endpoint that makes him look the worst, Rios entered Monday night hitting .226/.271/.296 from May 22 on. The White Sox have gone 13-27 over that time.
That span includes only a single home run and nine extra-base hits in a quarter of a season’s worth (or more) of plate appearances. With Adam Dunn hitting .239/.344/.529, the two of them are passing ships in the night. Each has good quarter-years to point to but neither has the full profile to make them anything beyond a trade target opposing teams would have to talk themselves into.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan