Gordon Beckham’s 2013 was a story of injury, of change of stance, and even time spent rehabbing at a different position than what he has been playing since he started out with the White Sox organization.
Beckham was projected to be a 20 home run player and .280 or higher average coming out of college. At the age of 22, he was thrown into the majors because the White Sox thought they had seen signs that showed he was ready to perform at such a high level after he had been a college star.
In his first season, he compiled a .270 batting average, 14 home runs and 63 RBI which was a solid year for a rookie. It was also his best season in those categories.
To try to get Beckham back to what they had believed he would become, the White Sox coaching staff decided to try to change his stance by having him squat a little to improve his eye for seeing the ball out of the pitchers hand, and making contact as cleanly as possible. Their plans seem to work for about half the season.
In his first three seasons, Beckham averaged 80 percent contact and that has gone up the last two years, to his highest last year at 85.3 percent. So the plan to get him to make connection with more balls was a success. In fact, his strike out to at bat percentage was the lowest of his career.
Unfortunately the contact he was making in the last two months of the season wasn’t adding up to hits. Beckham started out the season hot. He hit .316 in April before he got hurt 7 games into the season. When he came back he looked like he picked up right where he left off, hitting .308 in June and .303 in July, then the slide began to happen.
In August (.240 average) and September (.210 average) it seemed like Beckham couldn’t do anything right, but the White Sox stood by him. Down the stretch in September, they decided to flip him back and forth in the lineup from second to seventh, eighth and even ninth. Which could’ve also led to his hitting issues in September because players tend to be people of habit and to play with a routine like that could have affected him.
When there were runners in scoring position, Beckham definitely left something to be desired. If there was a runner on first and second he was pretty successful, hitting .320 in those situations. If there was a runner on second or third and any other combination of the bases, he only hit .160. His overall RISP was well below his .264 average of his first four seasons.
While his hitting was on a downhill slide throughout the season, Beckham’s defense did seem to take a little bit of a hit. He tied his second most errors of his career, while playing 230 less innings than that season. You can simply look at June for the answer to why it was so high.
Beckham rehabbed at shortstop during his time in the minors. In June, the first month he came back, he had five of his twelve errors. If anyone has played both positions, they are pretty different. While he did play the position in college, playing it in the majors is a way different animal, and he simply had trouble adjusting. He only had six errors the last three months combined.
In the first three months, Beckham hit over .300 but slid. He didn’t help the team’s need for assistance in getting runners in from scoring position. His defense looked like it digressed but a closer look showed that almost half of his errors came in one month. With all that being said, I’m giving C+. He was only 14 away from his average number of hits per year in his career, while having about 100 less at bats than average.
If you forecasted his numbers for an injury free year, he would have been well above average in doubles (he was already 2 short of average), possibly stolen bases (2 away from a career high), and walks (only 13 shy of a career high).
I took all that and balanced it out with his lack of performance in runners in scoring position to get the grade. He could be one of the key contributors in 2014.