Matt Davidson leads the White Sox in home runs with four.
He’s tied for the team lead in RBIs with 14.
And when it comes to plate appearances, heeeeeeeeeeee’s ...
Depending on how you look at it, that’s either remarkable, or remarkably frustrating, especially since his officemate at DH has spent the year on the other side of the production spectrum:
- Matt Davidson: .368/.375/.789 over 40 PA, 1 BB, 17 K, 229 OPS+
- Cody Asche: .057/.132/.057 over 38 PA, 2 BB, 14 K, -42 OPS+
You can apply that same perspective to Rick Renteria. His decision to sit Davidson for four straight games against a murderer’s row of righties -- Masahiro Tanaka, Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar — was either remarkable for its rigidity or its discipline.
And now you can extend those joint outlooks to Davidson’s four-RBI outburst against the Royals on Monday. Either the triple-short-of-the-cycle night was Davidson hitting Renteria over the head with an obvious folding chair, or Renteria’s slow rollout working exactly as planned.
The fault line that divides the perspective is Davidson’s contact issues against righties. He entered the game with 12 strikeouts in 23 plate appearances against right-handed pitching. Somehow, he also entered with three homers and a 1.000 OPS+. One of these things has to give. Davidson’s track record doesn’t pass the vetting process, and with more than five months remaining in the season, I don’t blame Renteria for wanting to prolong the illusion if a collapse is the more likely outcome.
But I welcome Davidson complicating the decision, like he did in the sixth against Peter Moylan.
Given Davidson’s problems against righties and the sidewinding Moylan’s dominance against them -- he’s a single-purpose implement in Ned Yost’s kitchen — Davidson shouldn’t have put up much of a fight. Instead, he fought off two full-count down-and-in sinkers before Moylan made a mistake on the ninth pitch.
That was his only at-bat against a righty on Monday. Prior to that, Davidson homered and flied out against Jason Vargas, and then he finished his evening by firing a missile into the left-field wall against Travis Wood. He avoided striking out for the first time in a full game this year.
So Davidson advanced his case, but we won’t understand any ramifications today since Danny Duffy is pitching. He’s a lefty who should raise the degree of difficulty for Davidson, but he’s a lefty nevertheless.
Renteria’s flexibility on this matter — or lack thereof — will be seen on Wednesday, when the Royals finish with Nathan Karns, a righty far from the Tanaka/Kluber/Carrasco/Salazar set.
This, and not the Cy Young Candidate Parade we saw last week, should be a more typical sequence for this particular dance between player and manager. Not every righty is going to be a demoralizing matchup on paper, and Renteria will probably be open to going against the grain of the platoon, although he hasn’t yet tipped his hand:
"He's going to keep doing what he needs to do," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. "He's doing it right now. He's playing. He's going to stay working and we're going to get him the opportunities every chance we get like we are now. He doesn't have to do more than he's doing now. He's a part of us and fortunately for us every time he gets in there he does something pretty impactful for us."
I take that to mean a start against Karns is possible. But I could see Renteria rotating Davidson out on Wednesday because lefty Matt Boyd opens the Detroit series on Friday, which reaches the reasonable end of three starts in four games just the same.
Whichever games Renteria chooses early on, I don’t blame him for treating Davidson like a junior-high balsa bridge. There’s still five-sixths of a season to stress-test Davidson’s vulnerabilities, and since reality wasted no time shattering spring illusions surrounding Asche and Jacob May, I don’t have the same itch to reach for barbells after the first few grams produced only minor creaking.
Based on his quotes, Davidson holds a healthy perspective on the deal:
"It feels a whole lot better being here than in Charlotte, so I'm enjoying every single day," Davidson said. "Obviously I want to play, but being here with these guys and being in Chicago is a dream come true."
Look at it this way: The longer you’re mad that Davidson isn’t in the lineup, the better Davidson’s season is going. There’s a tipping point for sure — see the Mets and Michael Conforto -- but that’s still a month or two away. In the meantime, I’ll understand the approach that seeks to ease Davidson through what could be a very painful regression. Whether you’re talking about the player or the team, the forecast says it’s advisable to ration the fun.