LOS ANGELES -- White Sox outfielder Alejandro De Aza has had to work very hard to stay upbeat this season.
Though its hard to imagine things getting much worse, De Aza believes it would be were he not to maintain an optimistic mindset. Aside from three home runs in the first three games of the season, De Aza has struggled as much as at any time in his career. Through the team’s first 59 games, De Aza has a .173/.246/.279 slash line with four home runs and 17 RBIs in 200 plate appearances. He also has been picked off three times and has two errors.
Despite those troubles, De Aza remains confident in his ability.
“The main thing is you have to keep your mind positive in everything,” De Aza said. “No matter what happens, just keep your mind positive. Don't get frustrated with that because you start worrying about other things, that's when bad things happen.”
Though he has had his share of rough at-bats (he has 48 strikeouts) De Aza could pen a book on bad luck.
He is striking out more than he did last season, up from 21.8 percent strikeout rate to 24. But De Aza also has hit nearly as many line drives as he did a year ago when he finished with a .264/.323/.405 line and 17 homers. He’s hitting line drives in 23.8 percent of his at-bats, down slightly from 24.7 percent last saeson.
The difference is he has found a lot of gloves in the way.
Normally a .321 batter on balls in play for his career, De Aza has a .209 average on balls that aren’t hit for homers or wind up as strikeouts. He has never hit lower than .318 on balls in play in his career, which means he should rebound or he would go on to one of the unluckiest seasons had by a major leaguer over the past four seasons.
His current BABIP would qualify as the eighth-worst in the majors between 2011-14 if De Aza maintained it.
“Lately he’s been hitting it pretty hard, he’s been hitting into some tough luck,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “Tough luck happens to everybody and you have to be able to fight your way through it and he’s going to have to be able to do that.”
The White Sox have shown faith in De Aza he can rebound despite the misgivings of fans. They saw how he performed in Arizona this spring when he carried a .383/.400/.596 slash line with two homers in 48 plate appearances.
But hitting coach Todd Steverson also knows De Aza is susceptible to forming bad habits in search of hits.
Steverson’s job is to keep De Aza from focusing on negatives because the White Sox still have 103 games on the schedule.
“Being in the hole that he's in, it don't make it any more comfortable the fact that you did everything you're supposed to do and still didn't get a positive result out of it,” Steverson said. “But it's better than just chasing everything knowing you're not going to get as good a result out of that as you are staying the course.
“The negative guy is closer than the positive guy in this game. It is more difficult to stay on the good side of that and kind of go to a defeatist kind of attitude.
“There has never been a pennant won or a final batting average in the first two months of the season. It's about how you finish and he still has an opportunity to finish well.”
De Aza has been a target for fan criticism as he continues to struggle. Ventura said criticism is just part of playing and that it can’t be the outfielder’s focus.
Steverson said De Aza has his good days and bad days in dealing with his slump.
But De Aza said one fact that helps him is trusting that he’s not the first player to get off to a poor start.
“The way I have to think is it doesn't only happen to me, it happens to every hitter that is in the game, was in the game in the past,” De Aza said. “I try to not get frustrated.
“I’d rather make solid contact than a weak one. If I get a hit, OK. But I’d rather make solid contact.
“I will come out of this. I will come out.”