A year ago, it would have been reasonable for White Sox fans to wonder if Tim Anderson would live up to the expectations put on him.
A first-round pick in the 2013 draft, Anderson represented a key piece of the organization’s rebuilding efforts. Last season, his third in the majors, Anderson batted .240 with a lowly .281 on-base percentage.
But almost a full year later, Anderson has left little doubt that he’s every bit the player the Sox can build a contender around. After going 2-for-5 in an 8-7 loss Saturday to the Angels, Anderson is hitting an American League-leading .334 and has the AL batting title in his sights.
“It’d be a huge accomplishment,” Anderson said. “We made it this far, so why not give it a shot? I’ve got to keep being consistent, keep enjoying and keep having fun with it. The rest will take care of itself.”
The Sox shortstop can join Frank Thomas (1997) and Luke Appling (1936, 1943) as the only players in franchise history to lead the league in hitting.
To win the batting crown, Anderson will need to do two things: reach 502 plate appearances and stave off players such as DJ LeMahieu, Michael Brantley, Hanser Alberto and Rafael Devers, all of whom entered Saturday’s game within 17 points of his average.
The plate-appearances requirement will mean Anderson needs to stay healthy. He missed more than a month with a high ankle sprain and has 446 plate appearances. With 20 games remaining on the schedule, he should have no trouble qualifying so long as he remains an everyday starter.
Keeping ahead of the rest of the league? That just means Anderson will need to keep doing what he’s done all year.
“The main thing was just getting good pitches to hit and laying off all the stuff that they were throwing me last year,” Anderson said, “which was sliders in the other batter’s box. I’m able to pick out a good one and get the barrel to it.”
Bench coach Joe McEwing, who is managing this weekend while Rick Renteria recovers from rotator cuff surgery, said Saturday that a number of factors came together to produce this breakout season.
According to McEwing, Anderson has grown and matured personally and professionally, and he has more awareness of the type of person and player he is. That growth has helped make Anderson a more confident hitter.
“He’s staying well within his realm of what he wants to do at the plate and taking advantage of it,” McEwing said. “If they’re going to give him something on the outer edge, we’ll take a single.”
Starting pitcher Lucas Giolito can certainly speak to the difference a year makes. He has enjoyed a breakout season after a similarly challenging 2018.
“When I look at myself last year, I knew the way I’m pitching now is the way I should be playing,” he said. “[Anderson’s] the same exact way. It took him a couple years to kind of figure some things out, but he knew that he was a high-average hitter. The hand-eye coordination is extraordinary.
“This is kind of just all of us learning, growing, starting to put things together. I know TA’s got it. He’s going to continue to stay with his routine and his work and he’ll finish strong. Can’t wait for the future.”