The acquisition of veteran catcher Yasmani Grandal was the first move of the 2019-20 offseason for the Chicago White Sox. A blockbuster signing at that, as Grandal’s four-year, $73 million dollar deal stands as the most lucrative free-agent contract in franchise history.
Monetary impacts aside, the aggressive courting and acquisition of the All-Star backstop was the first sign that the White Sox’s rebuilding process had progressed to the next chapter. By now we all know the story of the labor that led to the delivery, that Grandal diligently scouted the White Sox roster and pitching staff in an attempt to be sure that he was going somewhere that would provide him a shot at competing for a World Series Championship in the not-so-distant future.
‘‘He wanted video on [our] starting pitchers, so he could start figuring out how he could potentially get them better,’’ Rick Hahn said. ‘‘This is before we’ve exchanged an offer. Yasmani had his own timetable.’’
Of course, the rest of the team that Grandal tabbed as a group on the brink of contention followed Grandal’s vision before he was able to. The beginning of the season wasn’t kind to Grandal at all as he scuffled out of the gates while the rest of the offense soared into the top spots in nearly every offensive category in the American League, vaulting the team into the thick of a pennant race for the first time in nearly a decade.
In his first five games with the team Grandal managed just two hits in 21 plate appearances with his new club, and save for an eight game stretch in which Grandal slashed .333/.417/.433 from August 1 to August 9, Grandal endured a pretty miserable start to the 2020 campaign thereafter.
After his abbreviated run of good fortune to open the month of August, Grandal turned in a .200/.333/.467 slash line with four home runs and just five RBI.
During a mid-August weekend series with the St. Louis Cardinals, Grandal offered up an explanation regarding his struggles at the plate. Grandal cited not having video to rely on when trying to make in-game adjustments from at-bat to at-bat, and noted that it has significantly slowed down the process of him learning a new league and group of opponents.
But despite the fact that Grandal was lacking a resource that he relied upon so heavily in previous years, he made no excuses for his poor play, calling his .210 batting average at that point in the season, “terrible.”
“Hopefully the luck turns my way in the next few weeks and we get it rolling,” Grandal said. “As of right now, I’m still trying to figure out.”
Figure it out he did.
Through Grandal’s first six games in September, he owns a .381/.500/.762/1.262 slash line. In his last 15 games (since the White Sox dropped a double-header to St. Louis on August 15) Grandal is slashing .296/.394/.693 with six home runs, 11 RBI, 10 walks, and an OPS of 1.037.
While nothing has changed on the in-game video front, it’s clear that Grandal has made adjustments, and his splits suggest that he’s becoming more comfortable making these adjustments from at-bat to at-bat as he has historically done.
|VS. SP (1ST TIME)||30||.133/.156/.133/.290||0||1||1||11||-18|
|VS. SP (2ND TIME)||24||.208/.367/.208/.575||0||2||6||8||58|
|VS. SP (3RD TIME)||15||.400/.471/.867/1.337||2||5||2||4||238|
In Grandal’s first trip to the plate he’s been downright awful with an 11-1 K/BB rate and an OPS+ of -18. As the game progresses, his success rate spikes in his second and third time seeing the starting pitcher, and in his fourth plate appearance against opposing bullpens Grandal is doing damage to the tune of a 209 OPS+.
Despite the dismal start to the 2020 season Grandal has raised his average to .257, his on-base percentage to .372, and is sporting a 127 OPS+ to go along with six home runs and 20 RBI in 113 at-bats.
This is what a catcher of Grandal’s caliber does, he makes adjustments on the fly. This is why the White Sox dished out their largest free-agent contract in franchise history to make Grandal one of the cornerstones of their competitive window.
Grandal’s adjustments came at the perfect time with the White Sox in the middle of a three-team pennant race with just three weeks until the end of the regular season. Entering play on Thursday (the White Sox last scheduled off day of the regular season) the White Sox hold a slim lead over the Cleveland Indians (1.0) and the Minnesota Twins (1.5) and play both of them four more times in the final weeks of the season.
Featured Photo: AP Photo/Orlin Wagner