The first week of the baseball season is in the books. In one sense it’s the most exciting time of the year. We haven’t watched enough Jose Quintana starts in which he goes 7 innings, giving up two runs and receiving a loss, seen Avisail Garcia strike out enough times, or watched enough bullpen implosions to achieve true apathy for the White Sox. In another sense, the first week of the season is the time in which it’s the hardest to make solid conclusions about players. The excitement over real baseball being played puts us into analysis mode, but the sample sizes remain too small to make worthwhile analysis about. With that said, this article is very much analysis based on a small sample size.
One of the best things about being a rebuilding team with no intention of winning ball games is the ability to give certain players a far more extended look in the big leagues than they would normally receive. There is no better example of this than Matt Davidson. Davidson has had a very tumultuous career in the White Sox minor league system since he was acquired for Addison Reed. After a solid 2013 season at the Diamondbacks Triple-A affiliate (even in an offense-heavy PCL) and a cup of coffee with the big league team in which he was an above average hitter, Davidson hit the biggest crater of his career with Charlotte in 2014.
In the past two seasons since that rock bottom performance, Davidson has progressively gotten better. Most interestingly, Davidson saw a huge drop in strikeout rate (31.7 to 26.4 percent) from 2015 to 2016. His number of home runs subsequently dropped, but his slugging percentage actually went up along with his overall production. In three months of play and 326 plate appearances in Charlotte last year he hit .268/.349/.444 with 10 homers, 9.8 percent walk rate, 26.4 percent strikeout rate, and a .176 ISO. It wasn’t incredible, but it was enough to convince the White Sox to call him up as they continued their collapse into the bottom of the division. Unfortunately for Davidson, his first game of the season ended in disaster as he broke his foot running the bases.
For the first time as a White Sox player, Davidson was looking like the same type of hitter he was in Arizona, back when many considered him one of the Top 100 prospects in the game. All signs were positive, even with expectations tempered because of the previous seasons. Why do we care about this now? Well, Davidson had himself quite a game Thursday in his first game of the season. In true over-analysis fashion, let’s take this plate appearance by plate appearance.
Plate Appearance No. 1
Matt Boyd appeared to be a little wild throughout his entire start, which Davidson must have caught on to very early in the game. He took three straight pitches that got close to reaching the strike zone before taking a belt-high fastball for the first strike of the at bat. Still in a good hitter’s count, Boyd threw him a fastball right down the pipe and he drove it to the right field wall. A slight misplay on the ball allowed Davidson to reach with a triple. Not bad for the first plate appearance of 2017.
Plate Appearance No. 2
Patience is a virtue. It’s definitely one that Davidson had on Thursday. Once again he took pitches to begin the at bat. With a 2-0 count, he whiffed on an inside fastball. That was followed by a take for a ball and another whiff. The plate appearance finished with a low pitch for a walk. In his first two plate appearances he saw a lot of Boyd and was able to get on base both times.
Plate Appearance No. 3
After showing great patience in the first to plate appearances of the season, Davidson drove a belt high fastball from Anibal Sanchez to left center field. It was a no-doubter and it drove in three runs. Not bad.
Plate Appearance No. 4
Davidson once again showed patience in his fourth time at the plate. He took a close pitch for a strike and then took a ball. The plate appearance culminated in him taking a 2-2 knee-high pitch for strike three.
Four plate appearances is about as small of a sample size as it gets. There’s no guarantee that this is the approach or performance that we’ll see from Davidson all year long. In his two appearances since that game, he’s gone 1-for-5 with three strikeouts. However, his performance is certainly something to keep our eyes on.
With the rebuilding season, we find ourselves wondering what exactly there is to watch on this team. Sure, Tim Anderson and Carlos Rodon (if he ever gets healthy) are key parts of the rebuild that have already made it to the big leagues, and Quintana and Jose Abreu are still fun to watch. But other than that there wasn’t a whole lot to look forward to or be interested in. Davidson, however, could change that.
Davidson’s biggest failures in the past have been lack of patience strikeouts, and inability to put the bat on the ball. He showed great patience in the game on Thursday. He hit the ball hard when he got his pitch. He did strikeout. In a few months it may seem silly that we were encouraged by a single good game. Or, maybe this is the start of a rejuvenation for the still somewhat young third baseman. It’s too early to tell, but it sure is fun to think about.
Lead Photo Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports