Ah, the peaks and valleys of baseball.
The Chicago White Sox are quite familiar with the treacherous nature of this process. Despite holding a more than comfortable lead in the American League Central throughout most of the season, they’ve seen their fair share of individual ups and downs.
As is usually the hallmark of such situations, what’s set them apart from their counterparts has been Chicago’s ability to either bounce back quickly from missteps or adopt a next-man-up mentality to keep the train moving. We’ve seen both instances play out this season.
We addressed Yoán Moncada’s battle to find a plane battle to find a plane. The pitching staff has dealt with its own inconsistencies. All struggles are natural developments over 162 games.
Currently, White Sox outfielder Eloy Jiménez is who finds himself lost in the caverns of unproductivity.
For a guy with stratospheric heights of potential who was expected to be an offensive stalwart in 2021, a torn pectoral muscle in spring training that kept him sidelined through late July put the brakes on that storyline fast.
Upon his return to the Sox on July 26, the 24-year-old immediately snapped back into form, hitting .302/.320/.552 with six home runs and six doubles (135 wRC+) over his first 100 plate appearances.
But that success seemed to serve as a reminder to opposing pitching staffs, and thus they directed themselves back to the vulnerabilities in Jiménez’s approach — and those vulnerabilities have been exploited. This is baseball, after all.
As evidenced by Jiménez’s 17.5% swinging-strike rate and 42.7% O-Swing rate (fifth and eighth-most in MLB), as well as his susceptibility to the changeup (.000 BA during that tear), there’s a known formula to keep this slugger at bay — even in the face of a red-hot stretch.
In the weeks since — sandwiched around a foul line drive into Chicago’s dugout and off of his knee last week — Eloy’s levels of production have dropped off a cliff. Over 72 plate appearances from August 25 through Thursday, Jiménez is hitting just .190/.292/.317.
Oddly enough, Jiménez’s O-Swing rate has improved to 33.3% over this downturn and his whiff rate decreased to 13.5% — both substantial steps up from his peripherals during that aforementioned hot stretch, but extremely strange to see considering the rut he’s been stuck in.
Jiménez’s .233 batting average on balls in play through this slump (despite an average exit velocity of nearly a mile per hour faster compared to his hot stretch; 91.2 mph from 90.5 mph) likely has a whole lot to do with the skid. That’s just plain unlucky and, taking his .314 career BABIP into consideration, most certainly shouldn’t be expected to endure.
Clearly, Jiménez is making adjustments, as a player of his caliber does when things go south. He enters Friday on a three-game hitting streak, with doubles in consecutive games. So the embers are definitely burning.
And luckily, the White Sox haven’t really been left impatiently waiting for Eloy to regain his rhythm. This group is kinda an offensive powerhouse, if you haven’t noticed: Over the last 30 days, Luis Robert (.371/.405/.590, 174 wRC+), Moncada (.354/.452/.519, 171 wRC+), Yasmani Grandal (.412/.523/.824, 255 wRC+; what?), Leury García (.369/.403/.554), José Abreu (.286/.385/.480), and Tim Anderson (.297/.316/.432) have taken care of the heavy lifting.
Once Eloy Jiménez finds his footing again, watch out.