Two White Sox players who experienced some disappointment in the past years as prospects have recently emerged into what seems to be their breakout season. Is it due to their adjustments made in the offseason or their superstitions?
For some, it is a lucky rabbit foot. For others, they need to keep their bats warm with hats for the bats. But for the White Sox, it is the absence of an undershirt and the emergence of a headband.
For some White Sox prospects, the period after the call-up seemed disappointing and made a lot of fans freak out. Prospects like Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo López and Tim Anderson each had their struggles. There was a brief freak-out period for both Carlos Rodón and Yoán Moncada.
So far in this 2019 campaign, Rodon and Moncada have not given a reason for fans to be concerned or yell “bust.” But why? Many think it is because they are finally entering their breakout year which leads into their prime, and this is true. But is there another factor contributing to their newfound success? A superstitious factor?
It is hard to pinpoint exactly when it was Rodón stopped wearing an undershirt, but it was sometime last summer. During about late July or maybe August, he started taking the mound without an undershirt, and it seems to have made a difference.
Due to missing the first few months of the season due to surgery on his throwing-side shoulder, Rodón started his 2018 on June 9.
At July 5, his ERA was 4.29 but gradually went down each start. After that July 5 start, his ERA went down to 3.56. Then 3.38. Then 3.24. He didn’t stop there. August 4 it was 2.94.
His start against Cleveland on August 10 was arguably his best start of 2018. eight innings, four hits, two walks, and five strikeouts. This brought down his ERA to the lowest point of his season, 2.61.
Rodón had a slow September as he ended up spiking his ERA to finish with 4.18, but nonetheless, there was a point when it was that 2.61.
The momentum he lost in September he gained back and applied to the beginning of his 2019. Through five starts, his ERA sits at 2.89. He has struck out 35 allowing only one home run.
His best start so far this year might be his second start, again against Cleveland, when he went six innings allowing only two hits, one run, but it was unearned and struck out nine with only one free pass.
He has not been wearing an undershirt since around June or July of last season. It is clear Rodón found his groove and hopefully he stays in it. Maybe he’s building off the momentum of his 2018 summer, or maybe it is the absence of an undershirt.
To say Moncada’s 2018 was a disappointment would be a tremendous understatement. Leading MLB in strikeouts is not a stat you want to have, especially if you were previously MLB’s number one prospect. Especially if the team you play for now eliminated all hope of contending for a while when they traded their ace for you. Especially if the hopes and dreams of an entire organization rest on your shoulders.
Maybe Moncada was just feeling the pressure to be a star instantly and all the hype and eyes made him nervous. With that being said, it is ignorant to blame Moncada for his 2018 struggles.
But there were silver linings to take from his 2018 and it seems Moncada chose to focus on that instead of his woes.
To start his 2019, through 20 games, Moncada is hitting a slash of .317/.356/.610 with six home runs. Of the 217 strikeouts last season, 85 were him caught looking. So far this season, Moncada is yet to record a backward K.
There are some differences in his game this year compared to last year. His approach is different. Somehow being more aggressive has made him more patient. These stats help break down this weird paradox.
In 2018, 43.8 percent of the pitches thrown to him were strikes. He made contact on 70 percent of those pitches with a swing rate of 41.1 percent. This year so far, 46 percent of the pitches thrown to him have been strikes. He made contact on 74.7 percent of those pitches with a swing rate of 45.8 percent.
He has been swinging more and making more contact while reducing his strikeout percentage 33.4 percent to 25.3 percent from last year to this one so far.
There is another difference in his game from this year compared to last year: the headband. Last season, Moncada did not have one. Opening Day 2019, Moncada sports a white headband and he has not played a game without it.
Is his offensive resurgence due to his change in approach at the plate, or the white headband peaking out under his hat?