White Sox have confidence in righty-heavy lineup
Club aware of risk in carrying limited lefties, would address issue in season if warranted
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Monday's starting lineup for the White Sox Cactus League game against the Giants featured two left-handed hitters and one switch-hitter.
Of those three starters who could hit from the left side, only Alejandro De Aza will be part of the team's everyday lineup when the South Siders break camp in late March.
It's a dearth of left-handed hitters beyond De Aza and Adam Dunn that caused much consternation among the White Sox fan base during the offseason. It's an issue that stands as one the White Sox don't believe will cost them a chance to compete at the highest level during the course of the 2013 season.
They also won't sugarcoat the potential for problems, especially against tough right-handers.
Detroit's Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Doug Fister, Kansas City's James Shields and Cleveland's Justin Masterson fall into that tough right-hander category within the American League Central alone.
"Everybody that watches and follows the White Sox needs to understand there are going to be some nights where it doesn't look pretty," said White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham of the right-handed-dominant offense. "If you have a guy like Verlander on the mound doing what he's capable of doing, it doesn't really matter who you have in the lineup.
"At the same time, righty on righty is a little more difficult. There are going to be some nights that might be some quick nights where we don't hit very much. We just have to scratch and hope it works out."
Beckham provides one hitter's point of view on this scenario. Jake Peavy paints a similar cautionary picture from the mound, as a top-of-the-rotation right-hander who has faced lineups like the White Sox in the past.
"I'm not going to lie to you, it does make things a tad bit easier on right-handed pitchers," Peavy said. "It's not anything derogatory, but I mean, you see guys, you see the game of baseball, and guys pinch-hit for guys to get the matchup that's a little bit tougher on the pitcher and a little bit better for the hitter.
"That's why you see the moves that are made in games. Then as a starter, when five, six or so guys walk up there and stand in the same side of the box, it does allow you to get into a bit of a groove, a rhythm. Obviously, righty on righty, if that righty is executing his pitches the way he's capable of, it's more difficult for a right-hander [against] a right-handed pitcher.
"At the same time, we do believe in the righties that we have," Peavy said. "We can do enough damage vs. right-handed pitchers, obviously, or we would have went out and addressed the situation."
As a team during the 2012 season, the White Sox hit .252 with a .435 slugging percentage and .320 on-base percentage against left-handed pitchers. They hit .256 with a .417 slugging percentage and .318 on-base percentage against right-handed hurlers. That second stat line received an assist from A.J. Pierzynski, who hit .287 against righties, with 24 homers, 63 RBIs and a .536 slugging percentage.
Pierzynski now finds himself behind the plate for the Texas Rangers.
Dewayne Wise and newly acquired Conor Gillaspie provide the White Sox left-handed-hitting options off the bench. If Gillaspie doesn't make the active roster, then Jordan Danks and his left-handed bat could be in play in reserve.
There certainly was an effort made by the White Sox to find that one extra left-handed impact hitter. Ultimately, those roads traveled didn't yield any sort of payout.
"It would have been easy to go out and get a -- quote, unquote -- left-handed bat and tell people, 'Here we addressed the need,'" White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said. "But if it doesn't fit with the rest of what you are trying to do from a position player standpoint, we would be regretting come the middle of the season.
"Whether due to injury or under performance or whatever else arises, if it needs to be addressed, we'll be aggressive trying to address that need as we have for a number of years. If there is an issue with us being too right-handed and our assessment is off, regardless of the cause, then we will continue to aggressively pursue some solutions even if it's in the middle of the season."
Hahn pointed to two main reasons as to why the White Sox didn't change from this primarily right-handed-hitting lineup. First, a number of their veteran right-handed hitters hit right-handed pitchers pretty well. Paul Konerko posted a .307 average against righties last season, and Alex Rios hit .308 as just a couple of examples.
There also is a strong hope that Dayan Viciedo (.225) and Beckham (.236) improve against right-handers. Viciedo illustrates the second reason in going against incremental change through a left-handed hitter, in that the White Sox don't want to impinge on the development of what could be a dynamic hitter through a platoon situation.
Even with those aforementioned concerns expressed by Peavy and Beckham, they both made clear their belief in this lineup from top to bottom. It's still a supported lineup that is subject to change.
"We do believe our lineup is good enough. I'm not in any way saying [it's not]," Peavy said. "But it is a little tougher road to hoe when you don't have the balance."
"Would it help? I'm sure it will," said White Sox hitting coach Jeff Manto of adding another left-handed hitter. "But it's not going to be one of those things where it's, 'My god, this is the situation.' We aren't going to sit around and point out, 'If this would have been it.' Our hitters are good enough to overcome that."