KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Home runs are the greatest. They’re entertaining, and as the best possible outcome for any hitter in any situation, they are, of course, more than welcomed by any and all hitting coaches, Todd Steverson included.
Steverson sure loved a major-league-record six of them on Opening Day. Of course, he approved of leadoff man Yoan Moncada’s 431-foot homer Saturday, and he knows the White Sox might be 0-2 and not 2-0 without them.
That said, Steverson is always quick to say of the 30-40 home-run hitter, ‘‘What are you doing with the other 550 plate appearances?’’
While homers are in vogue, and as hitters lock in on launch angles in swinging for the fences — a record 6,105 dingers rang out of major-league ballparks in 2017 — Steverson, above all else, wants his Sox to be “tough outs” in 2018.
“I want to see us play the game fundamentally sound every day,” Steverson said. “Home runs, I get it, it’s part of the game now. Launch angle . . . you know what? Guys who can hit beat the guys who swing for launch angle all day long. That’s my opinion, and I’ll stick with it. You have a team that swings for homers all day, good for you. You have a team that knows how to hit all day, I’ll take them over that.’’
And when the homers come with them, icing on the cake.
Jose Abreu led the Sox with 33 homers last season. Matt Davidson, who hit three homers Thursday, was second with 26. With 186 homers, the Sox ranked 25th playing in hitter-friendly Guaranteed Rate Field. They added catcher Welington Castillo, who hit a career-high 20 with the Orioles in 96 games last year, but traded away Todd Frazier during the 2017 season.
What do the Sox have in 2018?
“We have guys that want to hit, want to be hitters,’’ Steverson said. “When a guy comes up to the plate, we want everybody going, ‘Dang, he can hit. The game might be over right now. He’s going to get that guy in.’ Not ‘we can pitch to him, and he’s an out.’ We have a lot more guys on that level of ‘they have to pitch to our guys’ more than ‘we can do this and do that, and he’s out.’ ’’
Davidson, whose focus in 2018 is to be more than a slugger, punched an RBI single to right field in the Sox’ 4-3 victory Saturday. That’s what Steverson likes to see.
The Sox’ lineup — with Moncada and Avisail Garcia at the top and Tim Anderson, Yolmer Sanchez and Adam Engel on the bottom surrounding the less fleet Abreu, Davidson and Castillo — believes it can produce runs with its speed and power.
“It’s a well-balanced lineup with speed, power and the ability to go from first to third,” bench coach Joe McEwing said.
“This team is very athletic,’’ Steverson said. “We can run, steal bases, take extra bases. We have some pop in the lineup — not a tremendous amount in terms of three, four, five guys hitting 30 or 40 a year, but we have some guys who can get some extra-base hits, even triples.’’
What Steverson wants, though, are ultra-competitive at-bats. Tough outs, as they say.
“Up and down the lineup,’’ he said.