The White Sox offense still isn't getting out of its own way, but it's doing enough to take two of three from the Indians despite these pitching matchups:
- Monday: John Danks vs. Trevor Bauer
- Tuesday: Hector Noesi vs. Carlos Carrasco
- Wednesday: Jeff Samardzija vs. Corey Kluber
On paper, the White Sox appeared to be holding the shorter straw all three days. Still, they won the series, and somehow hit the Cy Young-winning Kluber the hardest. So it's hard to complain at the moment, and there are signs of life that make optimism more than wishcasting.
For instance, there's Adam Eaton, who spent the first week struggling in part due to a string of tough plate appearances. Nine days ago, he started 81 percent of his plate appearances with strike one. Now, that's down to 66 percent, and not by coincidence, he's starting to see positive results. After a 2-for-5 day on Wednesday, he's reached base 11 times over his last six games.
Better yet, Wednesday marked his first multi-run game of the season. He had four of them at this point last year, so hopefully a crooked number in this column is a bellwether for better days ahead.
Eaton has earned a fair amount of leeway for a slow start, because we have a good idea of what's supposed to be happening to and with him. With other guys, it's not quite as clear.
Take Micah Johnson, who also collected two hits on Wednesday. He's now the owner of a modest five-game hitting streak. Its effects on his numbers are more than modest, as he's raised both his batting average and on-base percentage more than 100 points. At .351, his OBP is right where you'd want it to be for an entire season, especially as Eaton's starting to hit, and Melky Cabrera is showing signs of life himself.
Johnson's improvement is legitimate in one sense. His ground-ball rate has skyrocketed, from 36 percent a week ago to 59 percent after Wednesday, and it probably needs to stay above 50 percent until or unless he can start ripping line drives to the pull field (he doesn't have a fly ball to right yet), because opponents have been able to shift him in the outfield somewhat. The stolen-base game is stirring, with a couple successful attempts, a no-harm failure on Wednesday, and no other issues on the basepaths.
The question is whether he can sustain the batted-ball success as the league adjusts to him. And it's a big one, just because of his defensive shortcomings. You can see during stretches like these why the Sox think he can outhit his glove, even in his rookie season, but I'm prepared for a season-long battle between his Jekyll and Hyde sides.
(And that's not necessarily unique to him, because over in Oakland, they're having the same debate over Marcus Semien, whose six errors have triggered complaints about his hands.)
What is unique to Johnson's situation -- the longer he looks like a capable regular, the more Robin Ventura can use Gordon Beckham as a complement to Conor Gillaspie. Gillaspie's off to a slow start, but Ventura's been able to cushion the blow with targeted usage of Beckham, including pinch-running/defensive replacement duties, during which Beckham made this play in the seventh on Wednesday.
There may come a time where a sea change in the depth chart is required, but right now, we can enjoy the boost that honest-to-goodness MLB-caliber bench players provide. They give the manager an ability to get a different look on the field without having to tear apart the depth chart. Ventura seems to be having fun with it. I agree with this sentiment ...
So far Ventura has actually used Beckham really responsibly.— Nick Schaefer (@Nick_TCS) April 22, 2015
... and it's nice to see Ventura rewarded for good decision-making with Beckham's play. Hopefully the rest of the team will start picking it up to make him look smarter elsewhere.