Since robbing Coco Crisp of a go-ahead home run June 11, Brent Lillibridge has only seen playing time as a pinch-runner.
"You've gotta find him a spot in the field every day, that's how good he's been playing this year." (via CSN Chicago)
Since Danks proclaimed to the public his manager should find a spot for Lillibridge every day, Lillibridge hasn't played. Lillibridge's production had tailed off in the week leading up to June 11, as the diminutive utilityman was just 4-23 with six walks and eight strikeouts over eight games (seven starts).
June 11 marked the eighth time in 10 games Lillibridge had started in the month. He started five consecutive games June 3-7, then appeared in June 8's game as a pinch-runner. His only true off day of the month was June 10, when he sat out for Sergio Santos' ninth-inning implosion.
The fact that Lillibridge hadn't seen the field until yesterday, when he entered in the ninth inning as a pinch-runner for Adam Dunn, seems a little odd. Especially, too, that Ozzie Guillen, after the June 11 game, called Lillibridge "the best outfielder we have."
And the best outfielder on the White Sox hasn't played since.
To be fair, it's only been a three-game absence from the starting lineup. Maybe Lillibridge would've played in one of the three scheduled games against Minnesota, but Tuesday's rainout that took him out of Guillen's plans. The last time Lillibridge had a three-or-more game absence from the starting lineup was May 8-17, when Lillibridge didn't find him name in the starting lineup for seven consecutive games.
But the last time Lillibridge was out of the lineup for two consecutive games was May 26 and 27. On the third day, Lillibridge rose from the ashes and went 2-5 with a home run against Toronto. Meanwhile, the Sox were shut out by the Twins Thursday and scored one run Wednesday.
So why has Guillen done his best Bartleby the Scrivener impression when it comes to deciding whether to play Lillibridge?
One explanation is that a pair of high-priced players have been swinging the bat better lately. In his first four games after returning from the bench, Alex Rios went 7-16 with one walk and three strikeouts.
But in his last three games, Rios has gone hitless in 10 at-bats with just one walk. Lillibridge's absence could have something to do with Guillen hoping Rios picks up that four-game production again, though.
And then there's Adam Dunn, who is 5-17 with five walks, four strikeouts and two home runs since his benching ended June 9. He's a candidate to sit Saturday against left-hander Zach Duke, but if Dunn is benched at any point this weekend in a National League ballpark it won't be in favor of Lillibridge.
Lillibridge may see some time in center while Rios hits the bench this weekend, so that's good news. But where Lillibridge really should be playing is left field—assuming the Sox aren't willing to call up Dayan Viciedo.
Pierre isn't the worst hitter in baseball anymore. He's having a better offensive season than Rios, Chone Figgins and Dan Uggla, is just as good as Justin Morneau and a hair worse than Hanley Ramirez. But none of those players have anything close to the 308 plate appearances Pierre has. Most of those players have been hurt or identified as offensive liabilities and thus haven't seen the field as much.
But for some reason, Pierre continues to get playing time in the face of two players who deserve it more. Pierre went 1-8 against Minnesota, has a .283 OBP for the month and hasn't attempted a stolen base since June 5—when he was caught stealing.
There's no logical reason why Pierre continues to play, but here we are. Pierre's 308 plate appearances are tied for the sixth-most in baseball, but perhaps more damning is that Pierre has failed to start three of the White Sox 70 games.
Back to Lillibridge. What his benching comes down to is fairly simple: Guillen saw something in Rios that gave him hope, leading to Rios playing through some pretty bad games. And Guillen has suddenly gone gun-shy about benching Pierre for Lillibridge even though it paid off in the form of a game-saving catch June 11.
It's pretty well-established that Pierre is the punching bag for us White Sox bloggers, but dumping him isn't the biggest key to the White Sox's season. Getting Adam Dunn's usual, good production in the lineup—specifically, in the Nos. 3-5 range in the order—is still the biggest key. Dunn needs to be batting fifth instead of A.J. Pierzynski for this team to have a good shot at scoring runs.
The second key then becomes getting better production out of left field. Rios has been pretty awful this season, but I'll take my chances hoping for improvement with the 30-year-old Rios instead of the soon-to-be 34-year-old Pierre.
And it's hardly Pierre's fault he's hit the downslope of his career. It's also not his fault he's playing so much.