By Adam Hoge-
(CBS) There are a number of reasons why the White Sox are currently on a 14-2 run and have suddenly catapulted themselves near the top of the American League.
Many will point to the emergence of Dayan Viciedo, who appears to have turned an important corner in his development. Others will point to Alexei Ramirez starting to heat up and some will even point to Orlando Hudson replacing Brent Morel in the lineup — fair or not.
But no factor has been as important as the decision manager Robin Ventura made May 7 in the second game of a day/night doubleheader in Cleveland when he penciled second baseman Gordon Beckham into the No. 2 spot in the order.
At that point in the season, the 2-hole had been renamed the K-hole by many in the media, and fairly so. Hits were rare and strikeouts were piling up at an alarming rate. The White Sox were getting almost zero production in a key spot in the order.
Desperate, Ventura went to Beckham, an unlikely solution who was batting only .213 with a .275 OBP and .613 OPS in 23 games in the No. 9 spot and one game in the No. 8 spot. Logic said Beckham wouldn’t be the answer, but left with no other options, the hope was that the 2-spot would fix Beckham and Beckham would fix the 2-spot. With some luck, two problems would be fixed.
That’s exactly what happened.
In 26 games in the 2-hole — including the last 25 straight — Beckham is batting .266 with a .300 OBP and a .755 OPS. Those numbers aren’t outstanding, but when you compare them to what the White Sox were previously getting from their No. 2 hitters, you can see why the team is 18-7 in their last 25 games and just 13-16 before Beckham was moved into that spot.
All other White Sox 2-hitters are batting just .139 with a .187 OBP and a stunningly low .370 OPS in 28 games. A .370 OPS in such an important spot in the order is nearly impossible to achieve. Beckham’s .755 OPS in that spot in the order shows how great of an improvement he has been.
Before Beckham, White Sox 2-hitters managed just 17 runs, 16 hits, 10 RBIs and amassed 36 strikeouts in 115 at-bats. Beckham has scored 18 runs, tallied 28 hits and 15 RBIs, while striking out just 13 times in 110 at-bats in the 2-spot.
We can narrow down the impact of the lineup switch even further. Beckham’s numbers are even better in the last 16 games, in which the White Sox are 14-2. In his last 16, the second baseman is batting .288 with a .303 OBP and a .851 OPS. He has 14 runs, 21 hits and 12 RBIs in those games.
That’s right, Beckham has more hits and RBIs in his last 16 games than all other White Sox hitters had in the 2-spot earlier in the season.
For Beckham specifically, he has hit six home runs in the 2-spot compared to just 2 in the 8/9-spot and his strikeouts have dipped dramatically. He had 36 strikeouts in 28 games in the 8/9 spots and has just 13 in 26 games in the 2-spot.
Before the season began, I wrote that Gordon Beckham was the ideal 2-hitter for the White Sox (in fact, the only ideal 2-hitter on the roster), but based on his previous struggles, few thought he could deliver there. Even the White Sox wanted to take pressure off him by batting him lower in the order. Left with no other options, Ventura had to give him another crack at the 2-spot and it has paid off for both the second baseman and the team.
Now the question is: can Beckham maintain his success there?
Based on what we have seen from the other 2-hitters, the White Sox’s season might be depending on it.
Adam is the sports editor for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the Bears, White Sox and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHogeCBS and read more of his columns here.