Through the first 20 games of the baseball season, few players are hitting the ball better than the current AL batting leader Alexei Ramirez. Although he’s struggled with inconsistency throughout his career, Ramirez has stepped it up for the Chicago White Sox this season, surprising a lot of people with a very impressive start. The shortstop’s batting average and OBP are by far the highest of his career and the 32-year old already has four homers, after hitting just six the previous season.
For a game that Yogi Berra described as 90 percent mental, it seems Alexei may have finally found what it takes to be the star everyone in the Sox organization knew he could become. Despite his immense success so far this season, the White Sox have failed to take notice, leaving Alexei at the bottom of the order in every game thus far, a mistake that will continue to hurt the Sox as the season progresses.
Obviously, with the second most runs scored in baseball and a .500 record it’s hard to say the Sox only problems are on offense. As I wrote last week, pitching and defensive woes have cost this team several victories, preventing the Sox from truly taking the leap to contender. Despite these struggles the team has started off well enough, allowing Detroit a mere one game lead in the division. However, if the team plans on leaning on the offense for much longer they will need to fix up a batting order that remains wildly inconsistent.
There are many reasons the White Sox have scored 109 runs in 20 games (over five runs a game). The Cuban defector Jose Abreu has transitioned seamlessly to the MLB. Adam Dunn has a .439 OBP. Catcher Tyler Flowers is batting .370. Adam Eaton has been a quality leadoff man and everything-man Conor Gillaspie has stepped it up in Gordon Beckham’s absence. But in my mind, no batter has been more vital to the White Sox success than Ramirez, and the team has yet to use him to his full potential.
Despite a batting average of .354 and an OBP of .393, the breakthrough player remains buried at the bottom of the order, a curious decision for a team that relies so much on offensive production. What’s even more peculiar is that the number two spot has provided zero offensive production for the team, becoming a black hole in the batting order.
Through 20 games this season, the White Sox number two hitter has just 15 hits on 89 at bats for an average of .169, remarkable considering how outstanding the team’s run production has been. At some point, Alexei, the ideal combination of power and speed for the job, must be moved to the number two spot solely from a production standpoint. In my mind it should have happened already. With Abreu and Dunn waiting on deck, the top of the order is too important for the team to sacrifice.