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When Adam Eaton is hot, Gordon Beckham is not

Leadoff man breaks out of slump just as second hitter was due to cool off

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Adam Eaton had a series he needed to have against Kansas City ... and he's about the only White Sox who can say that after a sweep that gave fans little to cheer for.

Eaton went 6-for-10 with four walks over the three-game series, setting a personal best by reaching base five times in the opener (two singles, three walks), and closing the series by going 3-for-4 with a walk. One of those hits on Sunday was a triple to open the bottom half of the first, and he jogged the last 90 feet home when James Shields balked.

It's fitting that Eaton scored without help from his teammates, because the rest of the lineup couldn't get the job done over the weekend. The White Sox posted four runs over three games despite Eaton's best effort, proving that setting the table doesn't necessarily mean you're going to eat.

At least Eaton can put those numbers to good use. He'd returned to his 2013 form since returning (prematurely) from the disabled list, hitting .227/.257/.289 with just four walks to 24 strikeouts over 101 plate appearances entering the weekend. He wasn't doing anything dramatically different, but he lost sense of the strike zone in a lot of small ways -- taking more strikes, chasing more pitches, swinging and missing more often ... all to small degrees, but it added up to a 50-point drop in his OBP (.363 to .313).

After reaching base 10 times in three games, it's on the way back up to .338. That's not quite sterling, but it is above the league average of .321, which restores order to the order somewhat ...

... unless Eaton and Gordon Beckham are merely taking turns. That'd be one of the dumber forms of collusion, but the numbers suggest the game is afoot.

From March 31 to May 2, or the start of the season through Eaton's last pre-DL appearance;

  • Eaton: .276/.363/.378
  • Beckham: .172/.226/.207

From May 3 to March 12, or from the start of Eaton's DL stint through the end of his slump:

  • Eaton: .227/.257/.289
  • Beckham: .320/.359/.469

And now over the weekend:

  • Eaton: 6-for-10, four walks, two strikeouts
  • Beckham: 1-for-11, two walks, three strikeouts, one HBP.

Eaton's success made Beckham's failures hurt more than that line suggests, as he stranded seven runners on Friday, and six more on Sunday. The staggered timing of their streaks and slumps means bad news for Beckham's clutch stats. He's hitting .200 with runners in scoring position, and .310 otherwise.

One could get carried away with that stat and say Beckham gets unhinged when an RBI is on the line, especially if you remember his second plate appearance against Jeremy Guthrie on Friday. But he hit .267 in such situations during Eaton's absence, so chances are he's gravitating toward the mean on a different schedule from the guy hitting ahead of him.

It's fun to roll around alternate theories, but testing it requires Eaton and Beckham to be at or near 100 percent simultaneously, and it's not nearly as interesting to say that's been the problem for both of them all along.