A friend texted me an interesting question back on Saturday prior to the Chicago White Sox game against the Tigers. He asked if game one of the American League Divisional Series was to have begun that night would I go with Cesar Hernandez or Leury Garcia at second base against the Houston Astros.
I thought of it as a bit silly based on the fact that the Sox have made the move to acquire Hernandez from Cleveland after losing Nick Madrigal for the season due to a hamstring injury in June. Madrigal and reliever Cody Heuer would then be turned into Chicago Cubs following a deal to bring in Craig Kimbrel at the trade deadline. However, after taking a closer look at the numbers, I wasn’t as dismissive of the question.
Since making his debut on July 30th, Hernandez’s batting average has virtually not changed, going from .234 to .232. But, over the last 28 days he has hit .270 with 10 runs driven in. The Sox thought he would bring some power with him when he came over, however, of his 21 homers this year only three have come while playing for the White Sox. The 2020 Gold Glove winner has been steady in the field but has managed as many strikeouts as hits (45) in 194 at-bats.
On the other hand, Garcia has been swinging a hot bat posting a .317/.364/.488 with two homers and eight RBI in those same 28 days. While not a Gold Glove candidate, he did post a .972 fielding percentage in his 36 games as a second sacker.
The Chicago White Sox are in good hands for the second base position in the playoffs.
When the White Sox opens up play on Thursday against the Astros in Texas they will face predominantly right-handed starting pitching led by Zack Greinke and Lance McCullers. Against righties, Garcia has hit .261 with four homers and 34 RBI to Hernandez’s .239, eight homers, and 37 runs driven in.
An interesting disparity comes in how each player has hit on the road. Garcia has put up a line of .296/.357/.413 to Hernandez .221/.290/.354. Could this come into play when setting the lineup for either of the first two games in Houston?
Manager Tony LaRussa and his staff will look over a number of factors when considering matchups for his lineup. While Hernandez has been penciled in at second for most of the time he has been in Chicago (and probably will for the playoffs), La Russa can take comfort in knowing that he has a more than capable backup in Garcia.