Week 5: Is Gordon Beckham Good Again? Plus links, NSA, and Mad Men

What if I told you, the best hitter on the White Sox so far this season wasn’t Jose Abreu?

What if I told you, the best hitter on the White Sox is a former hot prospect who was given roughly 38 million chances over five years but did nothing with them?

What if I told you, the best hitter on the White Sox once hit this well, but it was six years ago?

ESPN presents a new 30 for 30: “Hit it like Beckham”. [Yes I know, lame and cheesy]

Okay so they aren’t going to make a 30 for 30 on Beckham because it wouldn’t be interesting and frankly, Beckham’s hot start probably ends badly… but so far… hey! He’s been great!

Beckham’s wOBA of .360 and wRC+ of 128 are tied for the team lead. For the first time in his career, he’s walking a little bit (Beckham did walk at a so-so rate his rookie year in ‘09, he never came close to that walk rate again). And maybe best of all, Beckham’s hot start isn’t being fueled by a high BABIP, it stands at .258 which, sadly, is right around his career average.

Now, Gordon’s only been to the plate 42 times this year, so we’re working with a small sample size. But he’s been good. And I’m not sure you could find a better run in Beckham’s career (excluding his rookie year). So all in all, this is a positive. It’s possible that Beckham, who has seen a steady diet of lefties this year (half his plate appearances), has also made some much needed adjustments. Or maybe, not being a full time starter, he’s not putting as much pressure on himself. Who knows?!?! But whatever he’s doing, it’s working so far.

Digging deeper and looking at Beckham’s batted ball numbers, what really stands out is the uptick in line drives (LD%) and the drop in fly balls (FB%). He’s beating his career numbers in both categories. Basically, Beckham’s making better contact, not necessarily harder contact, just better contact.

Gordon Beckham’s Batted Ball Percentages, 2015 vs Career
(Source: Fangraphs)

Because of the super small sample size both the infield fly ball and home run per fly ball are out of whack. They’ll both regress to the mean as he gets more plate appearances. But the line drive figures are a positive step. But why more line drives now?

Three things are the probable causes: luck, adjustments at the plate, and better plate discipline (or some combination of the three). I can’t really prove luck, though, his BABIP isn't all that high for starters, but there’s a good chance that that’s the reason. I can’t really prove any adjustments at the plate (i.e. fixing the hole in his swing) because I haven’t seen anything that says so. But I can at least somewhat prove that Beckham’s shown better plate discipline.

Beckham’s not swinging more than usual, but he’s making more contact. Specifically, Beckham’s making more contact on balls outside the strike zone (O-Con%), but he’s also swinging at fewer pitches outside the zone (O-Swing%). He’s also slightly swinging more and while making more contact on pitches inside the strike zone. Beckham’s issues have never been hand/eye in nature, he’s always been able to connect with a baseball. His issues have been that he doesn’t make good contact… and his judgement of the strike zone can be iffy.

Gordon Beckham’s PITCHf/x Plate Discipline, 2015 vs Career
(Source: Fangraphs)

I don’t think Gordon Beckham has suddenly turned into 2009 Gordon Beckham. But there are some positive signs so far this year, even with the small sample size. We’re not at the point where Beckham should be taking over third base full time; but he probably should be used against lefties every single time the Sox face one. And if he keeps this up, we may very well see Gordon Beckham become the starter at third around the All-Star break.

Most Interesting Things I’ve Read this Week:
-- April 27, 2015, by Patrick Dubuque: This is beautiful.

-- “I've never done blow, but many of my ex-girlfriends have, and so when Phillip Foss hands me a mirror, a razor, and a gram of white powder, I know what to do. Sort of.” I’m in! I don’t even care if the rest of this article sucks, that’s a great intro!

And the article is great! So read this! Is Chicago the most important culinary city in the US?

In Chicago, all bets are off. Think: helium-filled taffy balloons at Alinea, edible menus at Moto, ice-encased old-fashioneds that you crack open with a slingshot at Aviary, psychedelic king crab terrariums at Grace, spruce juice-filled test tubes at Elizabeth, and at EL Ideas, spearmint ice cream that's nitro-frozen to such an intensely frozen hardness that it mimics the texture of a candy cane.  "I do think Chicago is the food capital of America," says Moorman. "It has the most interesting food. The most soulful food. The most thoughtful food."

In other words, maybe the real problem isn’t men faking greater devotion to their jobs. Maybe it’s that too many companies reward the wrong things, favoring the illusion of extraordinary effort over actual productivity.

But the private sector is perfect and efficient and well run!

What I haven’t read:

Hey did you know the NSA phone tapping was ruled illegal last Thursday? Because other than a few articles and headlines on Friday, this kind of important ruling has seemingly been ignored.

Ignored might be too strong of a word, but it did seem that this was a one day story instead of a week long discussion/debate over the fact that the US Government was illegally spying on us. I would expect that if the US Government was illegally spying on all of its citizens, that’d be kind of a big deal, which we’d debate, oh I don’t know, all the time for a few days or weeks.

But we aren’t. And maybe it’s because we already had the debate two years ago when Snowden leaked the story. But even if we did debate ourselves out back then, Thursday’s news was a big story. Again, a court ruled the the US Government was illegally spying on Americans. Think about that… that’s the kind of stuff we’ve always said could “never happen here”. Yet it did for nearly 15 years for reasons that aren’t exactly clear.

Hopefully this provides the juice needed for Congress to strike down certain points of the Patriot Act and reign in the, seemingly, endless authority that the NSA has.



These days, I don’t care about Don Draper all that much. I’m over him. He was interesting for five, even six seasons, but now? Whatever. There are many better stories to tell at this point. Same shit, different day, Don isn’t nearly as interesting as he once was. Dude wants to be on the road, on the move, maybe a hobo, chasing the American Dream* which is more owing nothing to anyone than the home with a white picket fence. So be it. And maybe if Don started this journey, for reals, after Betty and him split, then sure… maybe this would be interesting. But at this point? Don chasing the American Dream is just sort of like whatever, dudes.

*The American Dream is more Huck Finn or the hustler or the hipster or Richard Katz, than it is, say, (let’s keep the Freedom reference going) Walter Berglund. And in that respect, Don’s somewhat filling the role perfectly… always the hustler with dreams of being Huck Finn. However, Don’s also a square. He may look cool, he may even be cool, but he’s not hip**, and well, there’s a difference. Remember Don couldn’t cut it with Midge Daniels way back when; Megan turned him on to “Tomorrow Never Knows”. Hip he never was nor ever will be.

**Please don’t confuse hip with hipster. At one point probably ten years ago there were similarities, now? Not so much.

Side tangents completed… back to the matter at hand… my disinterest in Don doesn’t mean the show isn’t good. I’ve enjoyed the last few episodes, it’s just that the Don stuff brings them down. And now, with only one episode left, it will be interesting to see how Weiner concludes this. I do get the sense that many people, probably myself included, are talking themselves into this season. And it’s possible, even likely, that we look back and say, “yeah, that wasn’t so good”. It’s darn near impossible to stick the landing, so I’m not looking for that as a fan, but the more this goes on, the more I forget why I enjoyed the show so darn much those first four seasons, and the more I wonder if they’ve skated by on those first few seasons and the fact that the show looks so friggin’ good each week. (To echo what many say, much like how the music in Star Wars pushes the movies to another level, the look of Mad Men, I think, has allowed it to go to another level. Mad Men looks so darn good—colors pop, the style is amazing, the nostalgic overload even for those who weren't born then—that it can cover for some of the shows deficiencies).

Hopefully we’ll get some Peggy and Roger, the only two (other than Don) whose stories may be incomplete. It’s possible the Peggy and Roger stories have concluded: Peggy on the rise; Roger plays out the string at McCann, and we don’t see them next week. That’d be a bummer, but it’s possible.

Either way, we have a lot of Don Draper/Dick Whitman coming our way next Sunday. I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

No comments: