Alejandro De Aza gave Robin Ventura 585 high-quality plate appearances out of the leadoff spot in 2012, and was one of the few White Sox hitters to finish the season on a strong note.
Which is a little surprising. At numerous points over the course of 2012, it looked like De Aza's season might end early.
De Aza took a disproportionate amount of punishment over the course of the season, although his style of play lends itself to a battering. He leans over the plate to cover the outside corner, and he can check his swing later than most batters, which means he's more likely to turn into an inside pitch. On the basepaths, he puts his head down and dives late into bases, which leaves a lot of body parts exposed to misfortune, whether from a fielder blocking the base, or a throw that's off the mark.
He has a tendency to be a ball magnet, and he draws further attention to it with the James Brown act that follows. His normally pained expression crinkles further, and he'll writhe on the ground or take a knee until Herm Schneider comes out. After a brief consult, De Aza throws off the cape, ready to finish what he started.
This isn't really a criticism of De Aza, because however unusual and occasionally melodramatic his recoveries may be, he bounces back well. Plus, his pain threshold is still likely waaaaaay higher than mine -- I don't really care to find out by letting guys like Matt Moore plunk me -- so I'm not in any position to scold him. Really, I consider it part of his charm.
But enough from me -- you came here to see De Aza in a world of hurt for some reason. I probably haven't captured all of the times he hit the ground, so if you can think of ones I missed, let me know. There are a few less noteworthy GIFs in the text, in the interest of saving a little bit of load time.
De Aza squares up to bunt, only to see a Ryan Cook fastball coming toward him. The pitch makes solid contact with his hand, and worse yet, the umpires confer and rule that he didn't take the bat back, so it's a strike on two levels. Many others suffered in what would be known as The Bunt Binge Game.
The Indians are better known for doling out hand injuries to White Sox hitters, but various members of the Tribe took turns beating up De Aza in May. Lou Marson drilled him in the side with a bad throw (GIF) on May 1, and earlier in this game, Zach McAllister nailed him with a bad pickoff throw at second (GIF), ricocheting off his upper arm and into center field.
This time, Carlos Santana's throw is late and well to the first base side, meaning it hits De Aza squarely on his upper back.
The great thing about this one is that it provides a highly usable GIF for next season:
And the Indians get him once more when Ubaldo Jimenez started off the game with a curveball to the foot.
De Aza would start the next game by taking one for the team when a 95-mph fastball by Matt Moore misses its mark and hits De Aza in a weird place -- around the armpit of his back shoulder.
De Aza is leading off second when J.P. Howell spins and tries to pick him off second. The throw isn't anywhere close to the bag, but it's such a perfect hit to De Aza's knee that Hawk Harrelson is a little skeptical. After all, this was the game where the Rays drilled A.J. Pierzynski, and Jose Quintana was ejected soon after.
In the ninth inning, De Aza is trying to gauge the depth of a Gordon Beckham pop-up. In the middle of his dancing between first and second, he drags his foot, catches a spike and rolls his ankle. He hits the ground, and is doubled off the end the ninth, sending the game into extra innings.
De Aza takes his time going to first after Manny Corpas drills him squarely in the backside, but more because De Aza knows it's on purpose. The Cubs didn't cotton to Alex Rios stealing third with a six-run lead, never mind that the Cubs won the previous game by scoring six runs in an inning.
De Aza fouls an 0-1 Mike Adams fastball off his front kneecap, sending him to the ground for a couple of minutes. He gets back in the box and sees six more pitches (including two more fouls) for a leadoff walk. He steals second, then comes around to score when Kevin Youkilis ropes the ninth pitch of his battle to left field for the game-winner. After the game, Adams, who threw warmup tosses while waiting for play to resume, vents about De Aza's extended recovery time after the game, likening it to "icing the kicker."
Adams would get to see De Aza leave a game later in the month after a violent collision with Alexei Ramirez in short center. This one could have been far worse, as those who remember Tim Raines/Ozzie Guillen and Willie Harris/Magglio Ordonez can attest.
Playing against the Angels, De Aza takes a page out of Mike Trout's playbook when he legs out a double on a liner that drops in Trout's direction. It doesn't exactly end the way De Aza envisions -- he's safe, but he nearly injures his neck when his head collides with Maicer Izturis' knee.
This one could use a still frame to capture the point of impact:
This play didn't look like much when it happened, and even De Aza's grimace didn't set off any unusual alarms ... until Dewayne Wise pinch-hit for him later in the game.
For all the contact-laden plays De Aza withstood over the course of the season, this play was the only one to put him on the disabled list. Go figure.