Unlike last season, Gordon Beckham has been unable to follow a slow start with a red-hot second half.
Before this season started, the theory was that Beckham’s ability to recovery from a three-month slump to start 2010 would end up being an important learning lesson. He now had the knowledge to not only come out of a slump but to avoid panic because he knew it wouldn’t last forever.
Instead, Beckham seems to have regressed even further. Once expected to develop year-after-year following an impressive start to his career, that’s not how it has worked thus far.
He drove in 63 runs with 14 homers in 103 games of his rookie season in 2009 and then drove in 49 runs with nine homers in 131 games last season. This year, he’s on pace to drive in 47 runs with 12 homers.
At 24, he’s in just his fourth professional season, so his development is not complete by any means, but there are those in baseball circles that believe he probably won’t reach the level of stardom once projected for the first-round pick (eighth overall).
For now, Beckham is coping by telling himself that the current bumps in the road are just part of that development.
“It’s part of the process,” Beckham said. “I wish it didn’t take this long or wasn’t happening now but I have to find a way to help this team. It’s not about me. It’s not about my stats or anything like that. We have to win this division and I know if I can get going I can help to be a force to help win it. That’s the main goal.”
Beckham’s defense has been as good as anybody in baseball at second base (he’s tied with Boston’s Dustin Pedroia for the best fielding percentage in the AL at .993). But the White Sox already have an infielder in Brent Morel who was supposed to give solid defense at the expense of offense.
Beckham started the season in the No. 2 spot in the lineup, but is now being used in the No. 9 spot below Morel.
General manager Kenny Williams seems to believe that Beckham’s problems are self-inflicted.
“With his current approach, I think they're going to continue to expose his weakness,” Williams said last week. “As I've told him in the past, this is nothing he hasn't heard from me in the past. I liked the swing coming out of the University of Georgia, the one that we saw when he first got here to the big leagues here where he was able to drive the ball and pound it into the right-center field gap.”
His tendency to swing at high pitches is likely a byproduct of his desire to drive the ball instead of spraying it to all fields.
“It’s a matter of not swinging at balls, just swing at strikes,” Beckham said. “If I can just swing at strikes I’ll be fine. But when you’re 0-2 and you got there by swinging at two balls, it’s really hard to hit.”
His current struggles are as pronounced as they have been all season. He is 0-for-6 in the current series against the Mariners and 1-for-12 on the road trip. Over his last 14 games he is 6-for-46 (.130).
He entered Sunday’s game with a .236 batting average, a .338 slugging percentage and a .294 on-base percentage, all well below his career marks at the start of the season (.260/.416/.331).
“I realize at the end of the season my stats won’t be what everybody thought they would be or what I thought they would be,” Beckham said. “I just have to go out and (know) it’s not about me now, it’s about winning games.”