While surveying the White Sox offense, I have been trying to determine the one individual who intrigues me the most. The cliché pick would be Adam Dunn because he is new to the team and he brings a tremendous amount of power to the White Sox offense. The reason I want to avoid discussing Dunn’s importance is because each of his last eight seasons have been duplicates of each other. We know what he brings to the plate. He will likely produce at the same clip that he has the past eight years. Somewhere around 40 home runs and 100 runs batted it. I’m looking for an X factor to the offense. Someone fans are unsure about.
The player I feel falls into this category is Gordon Beckham. Think about it. What have we really learned about Beckham’s offensive traits in his short time in the big leagues? Are there certain statistics we can expect from him on a yearly basis? Sure, he had a great rookie campaign Last year’s season, quite forgettable. He suffered through one of the longest offensive droughts I can remember seeing. On June 8 last year, Beckham was hitting a depressing .199 with no turnaround in sight. Eventually, he did turn it around, managing to raise his average to somewhat respectable .252 by season’s end.
I believe too much was expected of Beckham. I include myself as a person who expected great things. There were plenty of veterans last year that could carry the load. Beckham didn’t need this unnecessary pressure in his first full year. At the then tender age of 23, many believed he was a star in the making and the eventual face of the franchise. Looking back, these assumptions were made after only 378 at-bats in his rookie season. Far too soon to make proclamations of stardom.
Whether you are a pitcher or a hitter, baseball is a game of adjustments. Players must be able to adjust to what the rest of the league is trying to exploit. Usually those who adjust the best are those who succeed. Beckham was unable to make adjustments last year. It is as simple as that. This was evident in his at-bats throughout the first half of the season. He was unable to lay off pitches out of the strike zone, especially high fastballs and breaking balls away. He gave away so many at-bats. It was infuriating. Pitchers continued to exploit these weaknesses until Gordon was finally able to make the necessary adjustments after the All-Star break. The more I think about his struggles last year, the more it makes sense. It was the first time in his baseball life he began questioning himself and his talents. The first time he struggled. When a player has as much success in a particular sport as Gordon did growing up it makes slumps like his difficult to swallow. And it seems the harder you try to get out of it, the deeper hole you dig. This was very evident last season. No player wants to suffer through a first half of the season the way Beckham did last year. In hindsight, that may have been the best thing that he could have happened. So many players suffer through a sophomore slump, but it is how a player responds to it that makes or breaks a career.
Just as last year, Beckham begins the season hitting in the two spot (Hopefully that is the only similarity between the two seasons). In looking at Beckham’s offensive tools, he seems to a solid fit in this role. He’s at his best when he is driving the ball from gap to gap. Personally, I like him the best when he is hitting the ball to right center field. As a hitter, this shows confidence. You trust your hands more and are able to see the ball for a few extra inches. This will only lead to better all around offensive numbers. When locked in, his swing is as smooth and pretty as any right handed hitter. Beckham won’t intimidate with his size and strength, but to my surprise he has shown the ability to generate quite a bit of pop to all fields.
So, what can we expect from Beckham this year? After getting off to a solid start this weekend, collecting five hits in his first 13 at-bats, Beckham looks like he has put the past where it belongs; in the past. The talent and potential are there and that is what intrigues me so much. He can be more than just your ordinary singles and doubles hitter from the two spot in the lineup. I’m not in the business of prognosticating, but an offensive line to the tune of 18 home runs, 80 runs batted in and a .285 average aren’t that far fetched. Any fan would gladly take those types of numbers from their second baseman. It may be weird to say, but all the success he has this year and in the future can directly be linked to one horribly disappointing season. In the meantime, a slump will come, it always does. In fact, It will come more than once. This year he will be ready and able to rebound.