Lack of home runs not troubling Conor Gillaspie

Lack of home runs not troubling Conor Gillaspie
July 2, 2014, 7:30 pm
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It took Conor Gillaspie 244 trips to the plate to finally hit a home run, but that's partly by design.

Gillaspie belted his first home run of 2014 in the second game of Tuesday's White Sox-Angels doubleheader, serving a Jered Weaver curveball over the left field wall for a two-run shot.

For someone who hit 13 home runs in 2013, his first full season in the majors, Gillaspie's dearth of longballs has been noticeable. But it's the product of a concerted effort by the 26-year-old to make more quality contact after hitting .245 with a .695 OPS in 2013.

Entering Wednesday, Gillaspie had a .317/.360/.432 slash line, so that effort's worked so far.

"Most people would probably agree that squaring two or three balls up a game is better than hitting one out every four or five games. That's my opinion," Gillaspie said. "I just didn't have a very good feeling last year, driving one out but then having two or three games where it looked like I couldn't hit anything.

"I've kind of accepted the fact of what I kind of want to be some day, and that's somebody that can consistently have good at-bats and hit the ball to all fields. That's a lot more satisfying feeling than I had all of last year."

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Gillaspie's been a little less patient at the plate this year, too, but that fits with his overall strategy. He's swinging at about 50 percent of the pitches he sees — up from 45 percent a year ago — and is making more contact (83 percent in 2013, 85 percent in 2014) while taking walks at a lower rate. But he's hitting line drives at a higher rate this year, resulting in more hits that've made up for the dropoff in walks.

In just his second full year in the majors, Gillaspie feels more comfortable being a little more aggressive rather than waiting for the perfect pitch to hit.

"I was like, you know, if I could hit the ball to all fields I think I would have a lot more success than waiting for one pitch to try to hit out," Gillaspie said. "And there's guys that's very good at it, you know, (Adam) Dunn's good at it, (Jose) Abreu's good at it — I mean, he's good at everything. But a guy like Dunner can sit there and take nine pitches, that takes a special skill and something you develop over time.

"For me right now, I'm not quite that good at doing that. I'm trying to use what I have available tool-wise at the moment and trying to stick with that."

That strategy means going with more pitches and trying to hit line drives, which has resulted in 19 doubles so far — already five more than Gillaspie had in about 200 more plate appearances in 2013.

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It helps, too, that Gillaspie's hit third plenty this year, putting him ahead of sluggers in Abreu and Dunn. There's a little less pressure on him to go deep when there's 37 home runs behind him in the lineup.

"He's a contact, line-drive hitter," manager Robin Ventura said. "He does have the ability to hit a few home runs, he did last year. When he hits it good it's going to go. But Conor's not somebody that's going to go up there and try to overswing and hit homers. He's pretty consistent that way."

Gillaspie was stuck in an 0-for-15 slump prior to the second game of Tuesday's doubleheader, but before that he was on a 10-game hitting streak. With that contact-first approach, Gillaspie would seem more likely to go on those streaks, get on base at a good clip and generally make good contact.

Even if it's at the expense of hitting home runs.

"I'm kind of accepting of the fact I might be a better player if I tried to just hit the ball to all fields," Gillaspie said. "And someday that might change, but for now I'm a little bit better at doing that than driving the ball out of the park."