Leury García looks like her old self, and all that that entails

In my 63 years of daily White Sox writing, I have learned to stop the traffic in imperatives and ultimatums. If I say the White Sox shouldn’t, can’t, or shouldn’t be doing something, I guess the White Sox would see that as a challenge.

For example, when the White Sox were about to hire Tony La Russa, I took the tone, “Sure, that would be great if they didn’t!” If I said “ABSOLUTELY NOT” and they barged in, I can also blame Jerry Reinsdorf for all the good it would do. However, when I present my point in the form of a “What if not?” I can treat their subsequent action as an honest response. The White Sox didn’t ignore me when they hired Tony La Russa. No, we are just having a dialogue in the ideas market.

When I wrote that Leury García couldn’t continue playing like he did the first month, of course he could, as many people have informed me on Twitter. Nothing will stop him if that’s what his heart really wants. I thought so more in the broader sense of his tenability as an asset to the White Sox, or any other team for that matter.

I’m happy to report that García has stopped playing the way he was. This post more or less caught him at his early season nadir. He entered a game against Cleveland as a defensive substitute and got a 0 for 2 score with a burst decay, which dropped his line to .163 / .182 / .209. He’s the equivalent of a good batting pitcher to himself, and he often looked like a pitcher, in the sense that he made fun of every possible opportunity.

Since April 20, it’s more or less the Leury García which is essentially an institution on the south side.

Time Pennsylvania AVG OBP SLG BB% K%
4 / 1-4 / 20 45 0.163 0.182 .209 2.2 28.9
Since 80 .292 0.333 0.375 6.3 21.2
2017-20 1282 .275 .310 .392 3.7 22.3

And while you can’t adjust its Statcast chart to specific time intervals, its current number chart shows the progress of digging the first hole.

García will never own those cards, partly because his decay attempts lower his averages, and partly because his cap is low enough for all of these offensive categories. The important thing is whether García shows the ability to make MLB level contacts multiple times per series.

At the start of the season, García looked for every excuse not to swing, as if there were lasting issues following the thumb surgery he had last year. Those bunts were slowing his exit speed, of course, but there were precious few bullets hitting the other side of the spectrum that had a chance to support his approach.

It now has up to 12 batted balls with an exit speed of 100mph or more, and 10 of them have arrived in this latest period that we are discussing, including one in each game in the Twins series. Here is Friday:

Here is Saturday:

Here is Sunday:

And he also had another double Friday which rounded up to 100 mph (99.6).

This is the generally acceptable García as a Plan B for middle positions, and it’s usually the one you can trust with your eyes – or wary, depending on its mode. The pre-2017 García and the García in the first few weeks of the 2021 season tended to sway on area pitches as if they were wearing someone else’s contacts. When he’s in this kind of rut, all the ground he can touch goes straight into the ground. When he puts the bat on the ball with regularity, the utility of his standard contact also increases.

What’s remarkable is that after his game on April 20, he got the next four full days off. Maybe there was an injury issue under his struggles, or maybe he just needed an extended break to clean up his approach, but somehow he made it back to the top of the bench after getting spent the first three weeks looking like someone to hide.

His adequacy will be sorely needed as the White Sox embark on an 18-game, 17-day streak, as with Adam Eaton ineffective against lefties, Andrew Vaughn battles right-handed and Billy Hamiton the only competition at center up to So that Adam Engel can finally go on a rehab assignment, García is likely to appear in the field almost every day. He makes it easier to fill a lineup card no matter how he hits, but it’s a lot easier for fans when he’s fighting in the batter’s box.

(Portrait of Carl Skanberg)

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