clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Threading the needle with Andrew Vaughn

Preparing for the future without sacrificing the urgency to win now.

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Detroit Tigers
Getting Andrew Vaughn into upwards of two-thirds of White Sox games this season is the best compromise of a key young player’s development and gunning for a World Series.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

One of Saturday’s hot topics was the fact that Andrew Vaughn, the day after hitting a clutch, go-ahead home run in the ninth inning, was not the lineup for Game 2 of the Tigers-White Sox series.

Chicago was facing Casey Mize, a right-handed pitcher with plus stuff, and Gavin Sheets was slotted into the DH spot. One of the “problems” created by the AJ Pollock acquisition is trying to simultaneously find ABs for Pollock, Vaughn, Sheets, Eloy Jiménez, José Abreu, and even Adam Engel. However, this is a great problem to have, as it should put these players in a much better position to be successful — not only defensively, but in the batter’s box as well.

Vaughn absolutely crushed lefties last year but had major issues with right-handed pitching. Sheets was a righty-masher, something the White Sox lineup sorely needs to balance with the majority of the lineup feasting on lefties.

Vaughn, however, was pushed to the majors so fast that last year’s results will likely be nowhere close to his finished product. Pigeonholing Vaughn as the short-side of a DH platoon with Sheets will do him no favors in learning to hit RHP at a high level. However, Vaughn playing every day while taking his lumps vs righties would be a huge blow to the offensive firepower of a team that looks like it may need to slug its way to a division title.

This truly is a case of needing to compromise between putting the team in the best position to win each game, while also not sacrificing the development of key pieces for future years, namely Vaughn. This year, ≈30% of starting pitchers are left-handed, which would shake out to about 50 of 162 games. Another aspect to keep in mind is keeping everyone fresh for a full, 162-game season, especially with the injury histories of Pollock, Jimenez, and Luis Robert. Baking in an off-day every couple of weeks for these three as well as Abreu will likely be part of the plan. Even with full health, they will likely max out at 150 games each.

Here is an outline for what my plan would look like:

When facing a LHP

39 games: Eloy LF, Pollock RF, Vaughn DH
5 games: Pollock LF, Engel RF, Eloy DH
3 games: Eloy LF, Engel RF, Vaughn DH
3 games: Pollock LF, Engel RF, Vaughn DH

When facing a RHP

46 games: Eloy LF, Pollock RF, Sheets DH
36 games: Eloy LF, Pollock RF, Vaughn DH
12 games: Eloy LF, Pollock RF, Sheets DH, Vaughn 1B
7 games: Eloy LF, García RF, Sheets DH
7 games: García LF, Pollock RF, Sheets DH
2 games: Eloy LF, García RF, Vaughn DH
2 games: García LF, Pollock RF, Vaughn DH

Overall games started

Eloy 150
Pollock 150
Abreu 150
Robert 150
Vaughn 97
Sheets 72
Engel 21 (12 mixed in to spell Robert in CF)
García 18 (OF-specific)

There you have it. Vaughn starts in 60% of games at minimum, getting the necessary at-bats against RHP while setting him, and the rest of the lineup, up for success with the platoon advantage the majority of the time. As inevitable injuries happen and/or Sheets underperforms, Vaughn would likely take on an even larger role.

Let’s hear your opinions on how Tony La Russa should handle this embarrassment of riches offensively!