Elvis Lives | FanGraphs Baseball

Elvis Lives | FanGraphs Baseball
© David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Elvis Andrus didn’t come to Chicago as a marquee appeal. He wasn’t a industry cut-off date acquisition; moderately, the A’s launched him on August 17, and the White Sox signed him two days later. At the time, it felt notable for a fully unrelated reason why: Andrus had an possibility with the A’s that used to be with regards to vesting, one that may pay him $15 million subsequent yr. The White Sox, in the meantime, had severe intensity problems; with Tim Anderson and Leury Garcia each at the IL, they have been quick on heart infielders, and Andrus used to be the one approach so as to add any person from outdoor the group.

It used to be, in hindsight, a stroke of serendipity. The White Sox have been desperately wanting freely to be had competence. If their spate of accidents had took place 3 weeks previous, they might have had any collection of choices at the industry marketplace. Given the timing, despite the fact that, it used to be Andrus or not anything. If he’d simply performed in addition to he did in Oakland, he’d had been a very good stopgap. Instead, he’s been the sixth-best offensive participant in baseball.

This is, to place it mildly, sudden. From 2018-21, Andrus submit an combination 74 wRC+, hitting .255/.302/.360. Plus protection at shortstop made him no less than playable, however his ideal offensive days gave the impression to be in the back of him. His manufacturing in Oakland this yr used to be itself a resurgence; whilst league offense is down as a complete this yr, Andrus hit for a bit of extra energy than standard whilst getting on base at his stable, near-average clip.

On the Sox, Andrus is hitting .314/.357/.517. He’s hit six house runs in simply 126 plate appearances, just about quadruple his earlier profession price. That’s all of the extra spectacular making an allowance for he performed maximum of his profession within the Rangers’ outdated, homer-happy stadium. Where on the planet did this come from?

In any pattern this small, it’s a for the reason that a part of the solution is randomness. No one’s ever as just right as they’re of their ideal month, and make no mistake, that is Andrus at his ideal. He’s had kind of 5 stretches this sizzling in his whole primary league profession, so it’s now not like he’s by no means carried out like this ahead of, however it’s obviously now not a brand new true skill stage or the rest. Still, it’s value having a look into what he’s doing proper, each as it’s amusing to discuss Andrus being just right and since possibly we’ll be told one thing.

We can rule a couple of issues out temporarily. Andrus hasn’t modified his method on the plate in any important approach. He’s swinging at a slightly consistent price of first pitches, first pitches within the strike zone, fastballs, breaking balls, offspeed pitches, borderline pitches; you title it, his swing price is unchanged, with near-metronomic consistency. He’s swinging quite extra incessantly total, however now not by way of an quantity that may make you assert “wow, that guy changed.” The technical title for this subsequent chart is “a whole lot of nothing”:

Swing Changes? Not Exactly

Team Z-Swing% Heart Swing% Shadow Swing% First Pitch Swing% FB Swing% Secondary Swing%
Oakland 62.2% 65.3% 52.1% 25.9% 45.7% 44.2%
Chicago 62.6% 65.5% 52.4% 27.8% 46.9% 45.8%

A detailed inspection of his swing unearths a identical loss of exchange. You can play alongside at house if you happen to’d like. To make the entirety as identical as imaginable, I decided on two pitches towards the similar pitcher in the similar park. Here’s Andrus at the A’s, taking a hack at a secondary pitch early within the depend at the interior 3rd of the plate:

Now right here he’s at the White Sox, taking a hack at a secondary pitch early within the depend at the interior 3rd of the plate:

Maybe you’re a greater detective than I’m, however I don’t see any significant variations. Andrus’ swing is gorgeous, nearly hypnotic now and then, however he hasn’t overhauled it since becoming a member of the White Sox. That turns out affordable to me; he used to be doing beautiful smartly already in Oakland this yr. Why exchange one thing that’s operating?

If he’s made any swing adjustments, they’ve include two moves within the depend. In Oakland, he most often dropped his leg kick with two moves, however introduced it again in complete counts except he used to be going through a high-velocity pitcher – Dylan Cease, to offer one instance. In Chicago, he’s dropped his leg kick with two moves, and taken it again in complete counts much less regularly. If you assume that is too small of a distinction to subject, I’m with you. Andrus had a 148 wRC+ on complete counts with Oakland, and has a 221 mark in Chicago, in large part because of a .625 BABIP. I don’t assume the swing adjustments can provide an explanation for his fresh just right shape.

But although he hasn’t modified how he swings, he has modified how he affects the ball. When he hits the ball within the air with Chicago, he’s hitting it onerous (95 mph or more difficult, to be actual) 39.6% of the time. That compares to a 29.4% mark in Oakland. It’s now not an enormous pattern, and it’s just a bit over a regular deviation of distinction, so it might be not anything – however it’s no less than someplace to indicate.

Meanwhile, he’s hitting fewer fly balls total. That’s as a result of he’s changed them with line drives, at all times an excellent transfer. It’s now not a in particular repeatable transfer normally, however Andrus’ 23.7% line power price with the White Sox isn’t ludicrous; he’d simply been hitting only a few at the A’s this yr.

Even if you happen to give him complete credit score for all of the batted ball adjustments he’s made, it’s onerous to consider Andrus will stay generating at this price. He’s operating a 20% HR/FB mark, for instance, with a profession mark within the mid unmarried digits. The truism that any one in baseball can do the rest for a month isn’t at all times in truth true, however it undoubtedly applies right here: I believe Andrus is a cast participant, however I don’t assume the house runs are right here to stick, and he most probably gained’t proceed to hit such a lot of line drives.

That leaves him as a quite above-average hitter in my estimation, which remains to be exceptional. How many just right hitters with plus shortstop protection are you able to upload for your group at no prospect value in the midst of a playoff chase? The White Sox pulled off a coup by way of including him, necessarily undoing Tim Anderson’s harm by way of changing his manufacturing within the lineup seamlessly.

When Anderson returns, the Sox could have a troublesome determination to make – however now not that tough. Theoretically, they’ll have to select between taking part in considered one of their longstanding stars and taking part in their present most up to date hitter. In follow, Romy Gonzalez is beginning at 2nd base presently, and I’m beautiful positive that Andrus can deal with 2nd, à los angeles Trea Turner in 2021. They nonetheless face an uphill climb to achieve the playoffs, however no less than they gained’t need to do it whilst leaving a just right hitter at the bench.

Andrus will likely be a loose agent after this season, and I’m hoping he will get a deal he’s pleased with. Sure, they need to see what they have got in Nick Allen, however the A’s beautiful obviously lower him to keep away from any likelihood of triggering his vesting possibility. It clearly wasn’t for efficiency; even if he left the group a month in the past, he’s nonetheless considered one of their best 3 hitters in WAR this season. That’s a rotten transfer, and one who may finally end up ahead of an arbitrator. It simply can have been the closing we heard of Andrus this season.

Instead, he’s long gone from taking part in for a group within the technique of blowing itself as much as a group within the thick of a playoff chase, and being the toast of town in addition. It could be extraordinarily unscientific of me to characteristic his fresh shape to the baseball gods making some kind of level. But whether or not or now not that’s the motive (it’s now not), I will be able to’t lend a hand however smile each and every time I see Andrus pacing his playoff-hopeful teammates. However it has took place, it’s a lovely tale, and a unprecedented ray of hope for a White Sox group that’s handled a sequence of unlucky accidents and headwinds all yr.

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