The White Sox could only muster four hits against Fausto Carmona on Wednesday night, and Alejandro De Aza had two of them. The second was a picture-perfect gapper to right-center that had De Aza thinking three from the get-go. He blazed out of the box with his head down, and he took an aggressive corner around first base. The crowd responded with noise; I popped up and talked to my TV.
He had to settle for two, but it wasn't for a lack of effort. In the end, the play just didn't have enough Shin-Soo Choo in it.
De Aza exudes competence and packs a potential for excitement, and that's enough to put a glide in Hawk Harrelson's stride, and a dip in his hip. Sox fans are following suit, and why not? De Aza is hitting .310/.341/.500 in his 44 plate appearances so far. Yes, that's a small sample size, but you can already say he's better than Alex Rios. In Rios' best stretch of 44 plate appearances this year, he has a .818 OPS. De Aza's is .841.
That illustrates just how thoroughly Rios has flatlined throughout this season, because there's even context for this kind of Rios. Even though he collapsed upon joining the club in 2009, he still managed to cobble together an .864 OPS over his final 44 PAs.
Rios is still searching for his first real good 10-day stretch of the season. The scorecard says we're halfway through August, and he can only cling to one bitchin' weekend.
Yet we still can't say this is what it takes to replace a struggling veteran, because, well, Ozzie Guillen continues to play Adam Dunn.
Joe Posnanski, ever fascinated by the depths of Dunn's despair, dissected Dunn's .161 batting average to find out how exactly it happens. Divvying up his playing time into 10-game chunks (which is about 44 plate appearances), Posnanski discovered that Dunn has been nothing if not consistent:
First 10 games: .162
Games 11 to 20: .147
Games 21 to 30: .250
Games 31 to 40: .205
(This included a four-hit game)
Games 41 to 50: .114
Games 51 to 60: .133
Games 61 to 70: .061
Games 71 to 80: .103
Games 71 to 90: .212
Games 91 to 99: .129
I was thinking about this while watching Dan Uggla go on his odds-busting hitting streak. I was thinking how unlikely it is for an every day big league hitter -- especially a previously good hitter like Uggla or Dunn -- to hit THAT low for a season. It has to take almost inconceivable consistency. You can't ever get hot. Ever. And by "hot" I mean even a 10-game stretch of hitting .290 or something.
Arbitrary endpoints hurt Dunn a little bit here, because he did have a legitimate seven-game stretch in May where he hit .414/.455/.759. As it so happens, it gets split right down the middle between games 21 and 40.
But this is how it works with Dunn this year. He forces us to manipulate numbers and observations in hopes that something says he's not as terrible as he's been. But nope, he's been the worst -- and by a large margin. He has been the worst for a while. It turns out that starting the season 0-for-40 against lefties is a hell of a harbinger.
For the 49th time this season, I had a flicker of hope that Dayan Viciedo would be on his way to Chicago. A first look at the Charlotte Knights' box score on Wednesday revealed that he was removed in the fourth inning. He was 1-for-2, and hadn't been hit by a pitch. In fact, he hadn't even come to the plate in the half-inning before he was replaced.
Then I did a rudimentary search for "Dayan Viciedo" on Twitter, and saw this tweet from the Norfolk Tides' account:
Changes for the Knights to accommodate the departure of Dayan Viciedo who was a little shaken up after diving for a ball last inning.
Viciedo, as we're all too well aware, had been recovering from an aggravated thumb, and it looked like he had turned the corner. Prior to this ill-fated defensive attempt, he had three hits in his last nine at-bats, including a double and a homer. He also avoiding striking out, so it certainly looked like he rediscovered his timing.
It's unknown how long Viciedo will be set back now. He could be back in the lineup tomorrow, or he could miss a few days. Either way, Viciedo has suffered two injuries in Charlotte during the time he should have been on a major-league roster.
Forget "All In." Given the events of this season, the White Sox obviously operate under the mantra of DON'T TRUST ANYBODY UNDER 30.
The Sox's chronic mistrust of youth -- or overconfidence in veterans, take your pick -- has reached some scary heights this year. Not only is Rios ineffective at the plate; he's playing center field like he's dreaming about watching himself play center field. Dunn's ineptitude is hellbent on destroying every vestige of self-respectability, but his playing time has never been seriously threatened.
In fact, until De Aza started starting, nobody was truly put on notice. Nobody was considered a true candidate for demotion/release due to the airtight defense of, "You just can't!" That relegated Viciedo to a life of thrashing and bashing in a place where his production didn't matter until he hurt himself. And now he hurt himself again.
The decision-makers instead prioritized maintaining the makeup of the club, which makes little sense when the status quo is so unsatisfying. The fans registered their displeasure in a variety of ways -- voting with their feet, rancorous booing -- which only resulted in a midseason salary dump.
This makes De Aza's emergence as frustrating as it is invigorating. This is the kind of guy Sox fans wanted to see, and he was available all along, but he wasn't allowed to surface until the regulars exhausted the remaining goodwill. Guillen and others defended standing pat by warning us that the replacements might struggle, then backed it up by waiting until they couldn't possibly be worse. Unfortunately, they also waited until Viciedo got hurt.
Now we're left to wonder how this team would look if the Sox thought more of their farm system. De Aza hitting the ground running gives us an idea of what might have been. The picture of what might be is fading.