Each baseball season brings a clean slate in April and, by mid-July, sometimes the world feels as though it’s been turned upside down. That seems to be the case this season, especially for a young group of South Siders, who have found themselves in the midst of a season that was suppose to propel them into “total rebuild mode” full of lows, yet hasn’t been without it’s fair share of highs.
As we enter into the official second half of the 2017 season this weekend — let’s take a look at the three most surprising outcomes the White Sox have witnessed over the first half of the season.
Coming into the season, White Sox fans had heard the same tale over again. Avisail Garcia looks good, he’s lost some weight, he’s going to have a breakout year. The tape felt broken and so did White Sox fan’s hope for any sort of success out of the promising Venezuelan star entering his age 26 season.
But as it stands at the All-Star Break, Garcia has flourished, showing the longest stretch of consistency the White Sox have seen out of him since he came to the South Side. He’s in the top 10 of AL hitters (min. 300 PA) in batting average, and in the top 20 in OBP and slugging percentage. He’s also sporting his lowest strikeout rate since 2012. The downside? Garcia is clinging tightly to that high BABIP of .371, indicating that a lot of the production that the White Sox are seeing from Garcia could be chalked up to good luck. The good luck has lasted, however. Garcia also has the second lowest walk rate on the team, at just 4.1 percent. But hey, it’s working!
Let’s keep in mind that now superstar bullpen arm Tommy Kahnle didn’t even break camp with the White Sox this season. His control issues continued to rear their ugly head, but due to injury to Sox righty Jake Petricka, Kahnle found himself called up in the midst of making a few noteworthy changes on the mound that lead to huge success. Kahnle always had the heat, he just wasn’t able to harness it. He claims he moved his head toward home plate during his delivery, made a few tweaks with his legs and, boom. It’s the All-Star Break and Kahnle is still sporting a 2.65 ERA in 34 innings pitched. It gets better though. Kahnle’s FIP is currently sitting at 1.56 — good enough to land him at third best in the AL behind Craig Kimbrel and Roberto Osuna. He’s also striking out 15 batters per nine and walking just under two—a far cry from the Kahnle baseball had seen in years past. Sometimes small mechanical tweaks are the key to extraordinary success, and Kahnle has certainly proven that to be true in 2017.
The Matt Davidson Show
After an unfortunate accident in which Matt Davidson fractured his right foot during his major league debut last June, Davidson noted that while rehabbing he had a lot of time to think about his approach at the plate and make some changes.
The high hopes that many had for the young third base prospect began to dwindle as the seasons passed down in Charlotte and Davidson wasn’t able to sustain healthy enough results to merit a spot in the big league roster. Davidson is now 72 games into his first full season in the majors, and if you’d told folks that in 2017 he’d be leading this White Sox team in home runs while holding onto a steady place in the lineup — they simply might not have believed you.
But Davidson leads the team with 18 home runs and, while his batting line is quite lopsided, sitting at just .245/.284/.515, he’s still hitting the ball over the fence with regularity that’s been to the White Sox’s benefit—including a streak in which he homered in four straight games. The downside? Plain and simple — that 41 percent strikeout rate he’s sporting. Eventually teams will learn to adjust to Davidson’s sweet spot, and the home run fest will come to a halt. Unfortunately when that day comes, there isn’t much left to prop of Davidson’s success.
There have been a lot of surprises on the South Side in 2017, including a plethora of starting pitching injuries (something the White Sox are not used to) and the always exciting presence of the talent that’s down on the farm. Perhaps the biggest moment that the White Sox are waiting to roll out though? The arrival of number one prospect Yoan Moncada. Fans will have to wait just a little while longer for that treat, though.