White Sox News

Chicago White Sox: Top of the lineup must improve

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Apr 9, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Chicago White Sox batter Adam LaRoche (25) at bat against the Kansas City Royals during the second inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Sure, the Chicago White Sox are 3-5 overall this season, and at one time in this early season they won three games in a row. They’ve also had a four-game losing streak as well this season.

What gives with this revamped roster of players after just eight games this season? With an off day on Thursday, this is a good and convenient time to take a little closer look at exactly what the first four in the order are doing this season.

For the White Sox, one of many reasons to this slow start of the season is the top of the batting order. Of the first four batters of the lineup, just one is batting over the .200 mark, that being first baseman Jose Abreu, the No. 3 batter at .233.

Lead-off hitter Adam Eaton, a .300 hitter in ’14, has a current average of .118, followed by free agent signee Melky Cabrera at .182 in the No. 2 spot of the order. Adam LaRoche bats fourth in the order as the White Sox designated hitter with a .200 average.

This season combined, the four top-of-the-order batters for the White Sox are a combined 22-for-122 for an average of .180 between the four, a group of players who have very good MLB career numbers and successes.

On Wednesday, the White Sox top four batters were a combined 1-for-16, with Abreu having the lone hit against the Cleveland Indians in a 4-2 loss.

In defense of LaRoche, he did draw three walks in that loss and had the third-best on-base percentage of the current White Sox at .355, but do the White Sox want their designated hitter working on drawing walks (he has five this season) or worrying about hitting the baseball into play?

LaRoche, who is replacing former designed hitter Adam Dunn, is on his pace when it comes to striking out, with 13 strikeouts thus far in ’15 in 25 at-bats. Last year with the Washington Nationals, LaRoche struck out 108 times in 140 games (494 at-bats).

FanGraphs.com has LaRoche swinging at 42.1 percent of the pitches he sees this season (21.6 percent of outside pitches he sees).

For Eaton, his early-season struggles are very surprising, especially after his stellar 2014 season where he batted .300 with 146 hits, 76 runs, 43 walks and an on-base percentage of .362.

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FanGraphs.com says Eaton swings at 41.8 percent of pitches out of the strike zone this season, compared to 29.3 percent of the time last season. He’s struck out four times this season.

In eight games (34 at-bats), besides his .118 average, Eaton had four hits (two doubles) with an OBP of .118 as well. Those aren’t numbers that a lead-off hitter for a team should have, but what can the White Sox really do this early in the season?

Apr 9, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Chicago White Sox left fielder Melky Cabrera (53) looks on during batting practice prior to a game against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

The White Sox are going to have to wait out Eaton, LaRoche and even Cabrera, with his .182 average and .182 on-base percentage in the eight games played as well.

Cabrera has just six hits (none for extra bases) in 33 at-bats, swinging at 37.7 percent of pitches out of the strike zone and 45 percent of total pitches he’s seen this season as stated on his FanGraphs.com page.

With Abreu, at least he has two home runs this season to go with his .233 average. He currently has an OBP of .303, with a .500 slugging percentage and .803 OPS. His plate discipline shows Abreu swings at 35.5 percent of outside pitches and 80.7 of pitches inside of the strike zone this season via FanGraphs.com.

Apr 9, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Chicago White Sox first basemen Jose Abreu (79) at bat against the Kansas City Royals during the first inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Compare that to his Rookie of the Year 2014 season, where Abreu swung at a higher percentage of pitches (55.2 percent), but more outside of the strike zone (41.6 percent).

In his eight games played (30 at-bats), Abreu has seven hits, four for extra bases, with two RBIs and seven strikeouts.

With all of those numbers stated, and all of the lack of success this season through eight games out in the open … there is still no reason to be extremely worried with this group of players right now, this early in the season.

Sure, many would like for the top four batters in this order to be playing much better. It comes down to all four of them starting out the season slow, which affects the final outcomes of games, mostly resulting in losses … case in point, the Wednesday 4-2 loss to the Indians.

Remember, the White Sox had the go-ahead run at the plate in Abreu, and he struck out swinging at pitches he should never be swinging at.

Sure, the games mean the same in the standings in April as they do in September, but all teams will go through portions of the season like the White Sox currently are.

Maybe for this club it is a good thing it is happening now, because when they eventually get on a winning streak, White Sox baseball will be enjoyable to watch for the fan base once again.

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