As a whole, the Chicago White Sox had a spectacular first month of the 2014 season at the plate. Records fell as home run bombs flew off the bat of rookie first baseman Jose Abreu, as hits fell into place for shortstop Alexei Ramirez, and as Paul Konerko climbed his way up the White Sox’s record books. Of the plateside feats accomplished by the White Sox, none was more unexpected than the hot start of catcher Tyler Flowers. As May begins, the question remains, can April showers bring more May Flowers?
After hitting .195 last season, Flowers has a slash line of .354/.398/.415 in his 82 plate appearances this season. He ranks second on the White Sox in batting average, two points behind Ramirez, and third in on base percentage, behind Dayan Viciedo and Adam Dunn.
Catching is the most demanding position on the field, from both a physical and a mental standpoint, making excelling on both the offensive and defensive sides of the game especially difficult. Before this season, the story of Flowers’ short career could be summed up as a textbook good field, no hit catcher. His defensive prowess made his offensive deficiencies less important, but still a problem. When the White Sox let A.J. Pierzynski go after the 2012 season, they hoped that Flowers could be their catcher of the future. Flowers’ 2014 rebound from his poor 2013 resurrects and reaffirms these hopes.
Credit several different factors for Flowers’ unexpected emergence at the plate. There’s the season-ending shoulder surgery Flowers had last September, which cleaned up chronic issues that bogged him down for most of the year. Working with new hitting coach Todd Steverson, whose relaxed approach has already made a huge difference for White Sox hitters as a whole, also helped reframe Flowers’ mentality towards his success at the plate. Flowers’ turnaround in part parallels the White Sox’s emphasis that this year is a new year. Last season, Flowers hit .177 in April, exactly half of his .354 clip this year.
With Scott Carroll on the mound tonight against the Cleveland Indians, Flowers will most likely get his first start of May. Historically in his short career, May is actually one of Flowers’ stronger months. He has a career line of .233/.298/.360 in the season’s second month, his third-highest career monthly batting average behind the .255 he’s hit in August and the .264 he now hits in April thanks to this year’s stats. Given his new approach and his history of warming up early, it’s not only possible but probable that Flowers can make it in May.