Entering the season, we regarded Avisail Garcia as the White Sox' fulcrum. Jose Abreu and Adam Eaton had arrived, but Garcia's potential remained largely latent. If Garcia could translate his imposing physical presence into a somewhat fearsome hitter, the White Sox rebuilding process had its young and controllable core settled into the top half of the lineup. If he stagnated, the Sox then had to reconsider the team's power supply once again.
Two-thirds of the way into the 2015 season, results alone don't bear this out. When Garcia was at his best early in the season, the White Sox were at their worst. Then Garcia disappeared for two months, over which the White Sox played respectable baseball, by and large. Instead of "As Garcia goes, so go the White Sox," it's been closer to, "Garcia does whatever, and the White Sox do whatever." That's not exactly profound, since you can put any name and/or sentient noun in that phrase and it yields the same accuracy.
Thematically, though, there's now a match between the two. The White Sox have launched a thousand adaptations of this quote:
And now here comes Garcia, doing the same damn thing with an intriguing start to his August.
He entered the month with a line of .217/.273/.291 across June and July. It was weird enough that Adam Eaton passed him in homers, but Carlos Sanchez showed more power, too. Combine that with the difficulties in right field, and there's the recipe for a collapsing star.
Then August starts, and Garcia hits four homers over six games with a calmly drawn walk-off walk in there as well.
If you take Garcia's word for it, it's not mere luck. He says he's working with Todd Steverson to address what's really holding him back:
"I have enough power to hit the ball out of this ballpark," Garcia said. "Just trying to use more of my hands, recognize the pitches because I have been swinging at a lot of bad pitches because my body is in front. When I start my at-bat, all my weight is in the back and then when the pitch is coming all my weight is in the front. I’ve got to be in the middle. Not too much back, not too much front, just in the middle to be successful, to use more of my hands."
His main problem is that his bat head never seems ready to meet the ball, so, hey, maybe he's visualized the problem. But we've seen enough struggling hitters talk about breakthroughs, only to see the flicker of hope doused in short order. A data shortage remains.
If Garcia keeps backing up the talk with actions like the two homers on Monday night, though ...
That really is the attainable version of the ideal Garcia. Matt Shoemaker threw him a rolling slider, and AVI SMAAAAAAAAASH to left field. Shoemaker then threw him a good fastball away, and Garcia hammered it over the wall in right, and several rows deep to boot. Maybe the inside fastball will always challenge Garcia, but if that becomes his only chief weakness inside the strike zone, it should become easier to lay off and avoid lettting pitchers bully him back to the dugout.
One thing at a time, though. Right now, Garcia's tendency to jam himself on breaking balls discouraged me more than anything else about his approach, so patching that flaw makes him eminently more watchable. It's so much better when it's the opposing pitchers who don't want to see the results.