Adam Eaton plays at his own peril

Brian Kersey

White Sox leadoff man lives up to the billing in opening series, although some of it is hazardous to his health

Adam Eaton's first series in a White Sox uniform by the numbers:

  • 15 plate appearances
  • Three hits (one triple)
  • Two walks
  • Three runs scored
  • One sac fly
  • 71 pitches seen (4.73 per plate appearances)

That's generally what the Sox had in mind when they installed him at the top of the lineup before he even suited up for his first spring training game. The Sox wanted a "pest" at the top of the order, and he fits the description so far.

There's another number I'm less thrilled about, even though it's also truth in advertising. Through three games, Eaton has thrown his body around six times in five different ways, all across the necessary-unnecessary spectrum. It's the kind of energy the Sox desired, but it makes me wonder how he's going to hold up, especially since this tally doesn't even include two other semi-dangerous staples of Eaton's game (the stolen base and HBP).

Here's what we've seen so far:

The takeout slide

I already highlighted this from the opener. The good news -- if you can call it that -- is that such slides are more dangerous for the fielder than the runner, unless the runner catches a knee to the head.

Eaton_slide_medium

The self-defeating dive into first

Eaton has run this fool's errand not once ...

Eaton_dive1_medium

... but twice:

Eaton_dive2_medium

There's only one situation in which a dive into first is preferable over running through the bag, and neither of these plays qualify. The science says running always wins, but that doesn't stop truthers like Nick Punto from following such primitive urges.

Maybe the next time he does this, Daryl Boston can give him a Macho Man-style flying elbow drop.

The hustle triple

Diving hard into a base leaves a baserunner vulnerable to a number of injuries, but at least there's a reason to do so around third base.

The drag bunt after the drag bunt attempt

It's one thing to spring a drag bunt on the first pitch when a defense might not be expecting it. It's another thing to try it one pitch after the first attempt went foul.

Eaton_bunt_medium

Eaton doesn't throw his body around here, but I GIF'd this to illustrate a couple points:

  1. He is capable of remaining upright.
  2. This should be the habit he establishes, because he's going to be involved in an above-average amount of close plays at first.

The run-into-the-wall catch

In a play reminiscent of Aaron Rowand, Eaton kept the go-ahead run from crossing the plate when he took extra bases away from Oswaldo Arcia on a deep drive to center.

The slide-into-the-wall noncatch

In a play reminiscent of the one that ruined Jared Mitchell, Eaton tried sliding on the warning track to haul in another deep drive to dead center by Arcia. It didn't work, but at least he survived the play with his ankles intact. Mitchell wasn't so lucky.

Which reminds me: A couple days ago, I was watching a Giants-Diamondbacks game. The Arizona booth was talking up the game of A.J. Pollock, the center fielder who essentially rendered Eaton expendable. When it came to defense, analyst Bob Brenly drew a direct comparison between the two, saying that Eaton covered a similar amount of ground as Pollock, but his tendency to go balls to the wall on every ball to the wall ended up costing the Diamondbacks extra bases on the caroms he couldn't contain. Pollock, the Gallant in this comparison, was a better judge at knowing when to shift to damage control, at least in Brenly's eyes.

(Pollock proved his own kind of toughness on Thursday by catching a flyball in a swarm of bees. Hopefully Eaton doesn't get any ideas.)

Anyway, Brenly's commentary doesn't directly apply here, because the go-ahead run would've scored even if Eaton pulled up, so committing to the catch was the better play. But I figured I would just throw that out there, because given what we've seen through three games, he's probably not going to listen to what the warning track has to say. These kinds of efforts are admirable and exciting in a vacuum, but when lumping them in with the other lunges, dives and collisions he gladly pursues, it seems like a DL stint is inevitable at some point this season. Or this month.

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