White Sox rookie center fielder Luis Robert hit safely in 13 of his first 16 games but was 3-for-19 with a double in his last five going into the series opener Monday against the Tigers in Detroit.
It was as good a day as any for a day off, although it caught Robert by surprise. A little slump comes with the territory, he said.
Even for players who rank in the top 12 in baseball in FanGraphs’ wins above replacement. Well, Robert was all by himself at No. 2 a week ago, so there’s that.
Robert saw a lot of sliders early on, but he has seen even more of late. He has had some good, disciplined takes, and he has chased some out of the zone.
Confident and seemingly poised beyond his 23 years, Robert appeared the same way on a Zoom call Monday as he has since summer camp: unfazed.
“Pitchers have been attacking me the same way since the season started,” said Robert, who pinch-hit for Nomar Mazara in the eighth inning of the 5-1 loss and flied out to right. “I didn’t have good results the last few days, but I just have to keep working. It’s nothing different that they’ve done against me.”
A high strikeout rate notwithstanding — 23 whiffs in his first 69 plate appearances — Robert has been so confident in his ability that this recent stretch surprised him a little, he said. He was batting .302/.362/.460 with two home runs through Sunday.
“It’s just baseball; this is just the way it is,” Robert said. “Sometimes you’re having good times and success, and sometimes you’re not getting those good outcomes that you were having before. For me, it’s just trying to be consistent.”
Robert’s first 16 games in the majors have been captivating. He has played center with expansive range and looked comfortable, has showcased premier speed on the bases and is hitting for power and average.
He seems oblivious to the local and national attention he’s getting.
There is no added pressure because of it, that’s for sure.
“I honestly don’t feel that way,” he said. “I just think that I’m the new guy. I know that everybody is trying to talk about me for Rookie of the Year and all that stuff. I just feel like another guy from this team. I don’t feel that pressure or that tension.”
Even though Robert batted .357/.455/.536 in seven games in the leadoff spot, manager Rick Renteria said four days ago that Tim Anderson would take back the spot when he returns from a groin strain — perhaps Tuesday — because of things he has seen in some of Robert’s at-bats. He wants him to thrive on more than just sheer talent.
“There are a couple of at-bats where he walked away from that box kind of scratching his head, going, ‘Man, what just happened there?’ ’’ Renteria said. ‘‘I know I’m not the only one who sees that. He’s still learning; he’s still young.’’
Renteria wanted Robert to take a game to observe from the dugout and converse with the hitting coaches. He’ll be in the lineup Tuesday.
“It’s an opportunity for him to kind of take a step back,” Renteria said. “I’ll probably do the same thing in a couple of days with another player, as well, just to kind of give them a physical break. Right now, it’s Luis. I know he’s not worried. He’s a confident young man.”