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This will be mostly about numbers. If you're looking for solace and comfort after the weekend sweep by the A's, whose road record was 9-25 prior to arriving in town, you won't find it here. The warm, fuzzy words about Mark Buehrle, whose number 56 was retired on Saturday, can be appreciated elsewhere.
No, this will be more about the methods employed last Tuesday when the Sox knocked out 16 hits, including eight for extra bases, in a 9-7 loss to the Twins in Minneapolis. Rick Renteria's outfit also collected four walks while Twins' starter Ervin Santana, who entered the game with a 2.56 ERA, contributed an error, giving the Sox 21 baserunners.
Even though Sox pitching wasn't exactly stellar, you'd think that a team that is 10th in batting with a .261 mark could plate more than seven runs while stranding 14 potential tallies.
But this is the ballclub we're stuck with. Hawk Harrelson says a bunch of silly stuff, but, "Don't tell me what you hit, tell me when you hit it," is something worth investigating with this season's edition of Chicago's American League ballclub.
What's interesting and somewhat puzzling is that as a team the Sox are hitting .265 with runners in scoring position. With two outs in those situations, the mark is .250, not overwhelming but, in this era, acceptable. (The Astros are leading the majors in runs scored, and their average for RISP with two outs is .268.)
Individually, the team has some productive clutch hitters. Jose Abreu is hitting .338 with runners in scoring position. With two outs his average is those situations is a stellar .321. Avi Garcia, the league's second-leading batter with a .331 average, is hitting a robust .347 for RISP and .289 with two outs. Melky Cabrera's numbers are .314 and an eye-opening .393 with two outs. Leury Garcia, presently on the disabled list with a sore finger, has posted .308 and .350. Matt Davidson's numbers are .260 and .238, while Yolmer Sanchez is .269 and .227.
If you've been watching this group, you know where this is leading. Right to third baseman/designated hitter Todd Frazier. Since being acquired from Cincinnati prior to last season, Frazier has been cited as one of the team's leaders, a veteran who puts team first and is a positive influence in the clubhouse. And, despite a .225 batting average last season, Frazier had career highs in home runs (40) and RBI (98) a year ago. He also is more than an adequate third baseman.
That's all laudable, but what Frazier lacks - and there is a history - is the ability to hit in the clutch. Frazier was voted to the National League All-Star team in 2014 and again in 2015, when he was the starting third baseman. He also won the Home Run Derby in 2015 on his home field, the Great American Ball Park.
Yet that same season, Frazier hit just .210 with runners in scoring position and .182 in those instances with two outs. The season prior his numbers were .230 and .188. The Sox must have known this.
And he's continued to be about as productive (or less so) since he moved to the South Side. Last season, the two marks were .169 and .132 while so far this year, he's registered .185 and .148.
He's simply a better hitter with no one on base or a single runner on first.
Now consider that in 60 of the 65 games in which Frazier has appeared this season, he's batted either fourth or fifth in Renteria's lineup. He's primarily hit behind guys with the following on-base percentages: Leury Garcia (.345), Abreu (.343), Cabrera (.327), Avi Garcia (.372), and Sanchez (.329).
So why put Frazier in the lineup behind teammates who get on base with regularity when Frazier is a better hitter - 33 points higher at .218 - with no one in scoring position?
No doubt because of his power and reputation, Frazier easily leads the team in drawing walks with 36, 15 more than anyone else. Avi Garcia, who's been around the .330 mark all year, has walked just 12 times. Chew on that one for a while.
With an on-base percentage of .317 (ninth on the team), wouldn't the lineup be more potent with Frazier hitting, say, no higher than seventh?
Without an effective leadoff man on the other side of town, Anthony Rizzo has been leading off. Maybe Frazier could do that. He'd be assured of at least one at-bat with no one on base, which for him would be an advantage.
Of the 52 home runs Frazier has hit in a Sox uniform, 15 have come leading off an inning. C'mon, Ricky, at least try him at leadoff. It's not like you have Rickey Henderson on the ballclub.
Since Frazier is in the final year of a two-year contract, he's only going to be here for a few more months, if that long. Why not experiment in order to make Todd and the team more productive?
Despite a more-than-respectable team batting average, the Sox rank 22nd in runs scored. Renteria does tamper a bit with his lineup, but has been consistent with Frazier in the four- or five-spot all season. A change would be welcome.
The change we thought might be advantageous - playing at home - was a disaster against Oakland over the weekend. The Sox were outscored 18-5. They were shut out 3-0 on Friday for the fifth time this season. James Shields reverted to last season's form on Saturday, giving up six runs and three homers in the first three innings in a lopsided 10-2 loss. The bullpen couldn't hold a lead on Sunday after a strong outing by Derek Holland. The final was 5-3.
And now the Yankees are in town for four games. Despite losing 10 of their last 12 games, Joe Girardi's club is in a virtual tie with the Red Sox for the top spot in the American League East. They boast the only player, Aaron Judge, in the league with a higher batting average than Avi Garcia - .332 to .331 - but Judge leads everyone with 26 homers. At 6-foot-7 and 280 pounds, if there were any way possible to move back the fences for tonight's game, the Sox might consider it.
A far more plausible and possible move would be a revamped batting order.
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Posted on May 22, 2019