Like a seething Meth Head deep in a paranoid freak-out trying to rid himself of nonexistent demons, the White Sox scouting department loves to take a stab in the dark on players. Fresh off his “breakout” season at age 32 with the Rays, the Sox decided that Jeff Keppinger would be a good option to fill the roll vacated by the free agent loss of “Greek God of Walks” Kevin Youkilis.
Drafted in 2001, Keppinger made his living as a role player on teams jumping around the infield finally getting some playing time with the Rays last year, making the most of that playing time by hitting .325 with an OBP of .367. Unfortunately, Keppinger has been a disappointment for the Sox thus far with a lowly average of .183 and an OBP of .186, he has been one of the reasons for the Sox hitting woes.
#1 – Batting Position – With the Rays last year he hit near the end of the lineup, most often in the 6 hole, but sometimes as high as #2, though in only 3 games. With The Sox Keppinger has been frequently batted in the #2 hole; in fact, the most of any Sox hitter, 26 times in 40 games. Recently he has been moved down in the lineup being replaced by Alexei Ramirez, since the switch the Sox are 6-3, clearly this is all based on small sample sizes, but nonetheless represents patterns.
#2 –Pitches- For some reason the 32 year old break out star has been seeing more fastballs (57.2% in ’12 to 63.9% in ’13) and less sliders (17.7 in ’12 to 11.5 in ’13). Although I’m not certain what this means but this I felt is important to point out. My best assumption is that the league has figured him out and are he is not making the proper adjustments.
#3 –Plate Discipline- He has been swinging at more pitches outside of the strike zone (26.6% in ’12 to 32.0% in ’13) he has also been walking far less (5.7 in ’12 to 0.7 in’13) and striking out far more (7.4% in ‘12 to 10.2% in ’13) which clearly does not bode well.
One statistic I like to look at to judge future performance is Batting average on balls in play (BABIP) typically a hitters BABIP should hover around .300 anything higher and you should assume he will regress back towards the .300 mark and anything lower you should assume he should improve. Last year his BABIP was .332 this year it is at .206 which means it should be on the path to improvement, at some point.
Another thing that leaves me hopeful is the fact that the Sox have decided to start batting him lower in the lineup, which, this year has worked better for him and the Sox lineup overall. Also, if he does continue to falter the Sox have Conor Gillaspie to take his place.
Like I said this is all based on small sample sizes but nonetheless represents patterns.