May 25, 2021 5 min read

Move Andrew Vaughn up in the White Sox lineup already

Move Andrew Vaughn up in the White Sox lineup already

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Good morning, frents!

And congratulations to Tony La Russa. After more than four decades of managing in the big leagues, he finally has a win over the St. Louis Cardinals to his name.

Of course, last night was the first time in 5,143 career games that he actually managed a regular season game against St. Louis.

Monday's result
Sox 5, Cardinals 1

Today's schedule
Cubs at Pirates (5:35, Marquee)
Cardinals at Sox (7:10, NBCSCH)
Dream at Sky (7, The U)

A change that needs to happen

It's a good thing manager Tony La Russa did the wrong thing when he made the White Sox lineup Monday night. Because when the time came for the Sox to make their move against the Cardinals, rookie slugger Andrew Vaughn was in the right place despite La Russa misarrangement.

Against left-hander Kwang-hyun Kim, the Sox manager put Adam Eaton in the two-hole and Vaughn in the seven-hole, despite access to all sorts of evidence that it should have been the other way around. Well, actually, Eaton should have sat on the bench and Danny Mendick should have started in right field instead (and hit seventh, with Vaughn batting second).

However if La Russa had played it "the right way," Vaughn might not have been set up to execute the turning point of the Sox's 5-1 victory.

Trailing by a run with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning, and with Kim having given the Sox nothing but zeroes so far, Vaughn came to bat with Yermín Mercedes leading off first base. Kim was nearing 100 pitches after averaging 77 in his previous starts and never throwing more than 88. On an 80-degree night on the South Side, having just gone through the middle of the Sox lineup, there was a chance Kim was tiring.

And yet, Cardinals manager Mike Shildt pressed on with Kim after a pause to bring a Korean interpreter to the mound just to make sure. Kim must have told him he was OK. Was he, though?

Vaughn got ahead 2-0 and was ready for a change-up, which he deposited into the left-field bullpen for 2-1 lead. The Sox added on from there and pulled away to back right-handers Lance Lynn and Michael Kopech. But it might not have worked out that way if La Russa had put Vaughn in the two-spot where he belongs. At least that's what TLR must be telling himself.

Why he went with Eaton there is Drake LaRoche's best guess. One would think that Vaughn's Clutch Cargo, ninth-inning home run against notorious left-hander Aroldis Chapman at Yankee Stadium on Sunday afternoon would have made some kind of alarm go off in La Russa's puzzler.

Besides, the alternative is Eaton, who does not produce much against left-handed pitching. He doesn't produce much against any kind of hand, but he's particularly weak against lefties, batting .105/.190/.158 against them coming into Monday's game. It was only 21 plate appearances but they sure didn't seem to be good plate appearances. Eaton's career splits against lefties aren't as weak (.268/.340/.347) but batting second in the order isn't a good spot for that profile, either.

Vaughn's overall numbers (.220/.320/.376) don't scream "hot sauce!" but Vaughn is hitting the ball very hard right now, and has produced great results against left-handers in 39 plate appearances: .290/.436/.645.

Well, those just went up.

Even more promising for the Sox is Vaughn's overall batted-ball profile, which shows a guy who hits the ball harder than most other players in the majors. Vaughn doesn't have enough "batting events" to qualify, but his average exit velocity ranks just outside the top 25 in the 82nd percentile. He's at the 88th percentile for hard-hit percentage, which is anything above 95 mph. All of his percentiles are at least good, if not great. If we were parents and Vaughn was a high-schooler taking tests for college, we'd be very happy with his percentiles. No, you can't have the car this weekend, Andrew.

Vaughn is doing the right things at the plate, and the Sox need him getting more plate appearances, not fewer. Batting second = more trips to the plate.

Not that the Sox have any choice but to play Vaughn in the outfield, but his defense has been much better than all of the worries warranted. He made another nice play in the alley on a fly ball by Dylan Carlson in the sixth.

Thank goodness Leury Garcia ducked out of the way at the last second. Going by general location, it was the center fielder's ball, but as the Sox broadcast noted, based on how the ball was slicing away from Garcia and toward Vaughn, it was easier for the left fielder to make the play. Can you imagine Luis Robert rolling through there like a Panzer? We might have lost Andrew in this hypothetical scenario.

Long story short: Vaughn continues to make the plays in left that he can make. And even if he were a lesser fielder, the Sox still need his bat. And they need it higher. No, higher, Tony, higher.

So, despite TLR failing up by batting Vaughn seventh and having it work out, he needs to start writing in Vaughn's name between Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada. And the Sox seriously need to look for another right fielder, because Eaton seems pretty toasty by now.

  1. A Michael Jordan card sold for $2.1 million at auction over the weekend. Sports Collector Daily
  2. Cubs PA announcer Jeremiah Paprocki got a nice feature on CBS This Morning, complete with a quick cameo from our guy Braggs! CBS
  3. An argument that the Pirates are the Cubs' biggest historical rivals and not the Cardinals. SABR
  4. Charlie Roumeliotis ranks all 11 rookies that played for the Hawks this season. NBC Sports Chicago
  5. A look at Ravinia Brewing's new taproom on Diversey, which includes a fantastic old bar from the 1920s. WGN

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David Brown
Longtime Chicago guy. A professional writer and editor since 1998. Member of Baseball Writers Association of America since 2013.

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