Baron: Andrew Vaughn: From 'quiet hands' success to ... quiet

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Andrew Vaughn is congratulated for his home run against Kansas City Aug. 3 at Guaranteed Rate Field.

    Andrew Vaughn is congratulated for his home run against Kansas City Aug. 3 at Guaranteed Rate Field. Associated Press

 
By Matt Baron
Daily Herald correspondent
Updated 9/13/2021 2:45 PM

Four weeks ago, White Sox rookie outfielder Andrew Vaughn was vying for the second-best OPS (on base percentage plus slugging percentage) on the club, behind only Jose Abreu.

He was thriving against left-handed pitching, with an OPS of 1.057 -- for context, nobody in the Major Leagues with enough qualified plate appearances has an overall OPS that high.

 

Now, Vaughn's OPS of .723 is fifth best for the Sox, and three points below the Major League standard. That's what 4 hits in 50 at bats will do, a slump that has caused Vaughn's batting average to plunge 23 points to .240.

Perhaps even more significantly, he is the latest of the Sox walking wounded.

Sore legs sidelined him for the entire three-game series against the Boston Red Sox. Manager Tony La Russa said it is uncertain how soon Vaughn will become available.

"He's got some issues on both legs," La Russa said Sunday. "It's hard for him to swing and he can't run."

Not long ago, it was another body part -- his hands -- that were instrumental in a resurgence that brought Vaughn prominently into the AL Rooke of the Year discussion.

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A FanGraphs' analysis by Luke Hooper gives a solid overview of his success from late June to the middle of August.

One key to Vaughn's success: "quiet hands," meaning Vaughn was keeping it simpler in gearing up his swing. Now, he's simply gone quiet at the plate: On Aug. 19, he had 15 homers and 42 RBI; today he's at 15 and 45.

One promising indicator is that he's been the victim of some BABIP (batting average on balls in play) bad luck: Vaughn's 12 whiffs over those last 50 at bats is virtually identical to his overall season rate.

Leadoff logjam

With Sox shortstop Tim Anderson's expected return Tuesday, the squad has a good problem: How to make room at the top of the batting order, where Anderson has been slotted all season.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Center fielder Luis Robert has thrived as the leadoff hitter, batting .311 (14-for-45) in 10 games, though without a home run. He has been even more lethal batting second, with 5 home runs and 13 RBI, to go with a .329 average, in 20 games.

"Luis has been outstanding (batting) first, he's been outstanding second," said La Russa. "He won't be far down (in the order). He's too much on his game."

Third baseman Yoan Moncada has been hitting well in the No. 2 spot, but he likely will get moved down in the order to make room for an even hotter Robert. In 2021, Moncada has fluctuated between the second and sixth slot, though he's batted third 45 percent of the time -- more than any other place in the lineup.

"Too many good players," La Russa quipped.

Engel expected back soon

Last Tuesday, outfielder Adam Engel (left shoulder inflammation) began a rehab assignment with the Charlotte Knights, the organization's Triple A affiliate. He is expected to rejoin the team sometime after it begins a series Friday at Texas.

Engel has a career-best .844 OPS this year for the Sox, over 200 points more than his prior norm, but injuries have limited him to 33 games and 121 plate appearances.

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