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Breaking Down Jake Burger’s Breakout on the South Side

by Brian Barry

Although the 2022 Chicago White Sox have endured many impactful injuries and unexpectedly have a losing record to date, Jake Burger has burst onto the scene to provide a much-needed spark.

The emergence of our budding star is catching the attention of Sox fans as well as baseball fans all over the country. Before diving into some of his successes so far in 2022, let’s tip our caps to him as he battled through a lot of adversity to reach this point, displaying the utmost determination and resiliency along the way.

If you are unfamiliar with some of his history, NBC Sports Chicago covered his devastating Achilles injuries in a May 2018 article and Baseball America covered his “refuse to quit” mentality in their October 2020 article.

Let’s take a look at some eye-popping numbers that Jake has posted during this current heater:

To put it bluntly: he is one of, if not the hottest hitter in baseball. He’s attacking with no remorse for the cover of the baseball, as evident by his .838 Slugging Percentage and 1.277 OPS in June. Even his softly-hit balls seem to be finding a hole (nine infield hits).

Jake’s ability to consistently put the barrel on the ball has delivered him the opportunity to play every day for this Sox squad. His Statcast metrics such as average exit velocity, hard-hit percentage, and barrel percentage are all in the 75th percentile or better for major league hitters :

While his scorching hot streak will eventually end, there’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that he deserves plenty of at-bats both now and moving forward. Whether the bulk of those ABs come from third base or from designated hitter remains to be seen. That will likely depend on Yoan Moncada’s health and performance. While many fans of White Sox nation have Moncada takes that are hotter than Jake Burger’s bat, there is no denying that he has underperformed so far this year, to say the least.

However, we’re not here for a Burger versus Moncada discussion, we’re here to spotlight Jake, and deservedly so. Let’s take a quick look at three key areas of his breakout season that stand out: home splits, seeing a starting pitcher for the second time (in-game), and splits versus left-handed pitchers.

Home Splits

To say that Jake loves hitting at Guaranteed Rate Field would be the understatement of the year. Per Sunday’s NBC Sports Chicago’s telecast of White Sox Pre-Game Live, seven of Burger’s eight home runs have come at home. This accompanies a .342 average, .658 slugging percentage, and 1.043 OPS. You’ll find his full home/road splits below:

Home: .342/.386/.658/.1043 in 76 ABs (21 games)

Road: .185/.241/.315/.556 in 54 ABs (16 games)

Because of the small sample size, it’s not worth it to read too much into his dynamic slash lines at home and his mediocre output on the road. The overwhelming odds are that his magnificent metrics at home will regress a solid amount and that he will be able to improve on his numbers away from Guaranteed Rate Field. There isn’t a light-bulb moment here in analyzing these splits, mainly pointing out just how powerful Jake’s bat has been at home. Furthermore, 26 of his 36 hits and 18 of his 23 RBIs have come here in Chicago.

While his current pace is unsustainable for any major league hitter, let’s hope he can continue thriving in his home ballpark for the rest of 2022. Likewise, his at-bats on the road will be something to watch moving forward.

Second Time Seeing a Starter (In-Game)

Again, this very specific statistical evaluation must be prefaced with the fact that it’s a very small sample size for 2022. However, Jake has done a wonderful job in his second plate appearance against that day’s starting pitcher. In the aforementioned scenarios, he is 12-for-27 with 4 HRs, 2 2Bs, 8 RBIs, and 1 BB (29 plate appearances). That equates to an outstanding .444/.483/.963 slash line and a 1.446 OPS. It’s very interesting to see that half of his eight home runs have come when he sees a starter for the second time.

While 29 plate appearances is a tiny piece of the pie in terms of an entire season, what these numbers indicate is that once he sees a starter’s pitching repertoire, he processes it extremely well, comes to his next at-bat with a game plan, and executes. It’s a chess match out there between a pitcher and a hitter, and the fact that Jake is crushing pitchers the second time around is extremely encouraging, especially for a very young hitter (168 career ABs). The ability to make in-game adjustments is an underrated skill for hitters, and Jake seems to be learning quickly.

A former first-round pick, Jake is displaying that he has the raw talent and physical ability to hit at the big-league level, but it’s also nice to see little nuggets like this that show that Jake also possesses a high baseball IQ.

Splits vs LHP

Jake has mashed lefties (a common theme for successful White Sox hitters post-rebuild) in 2022, posting a .400 batting average in 41 plate appearances. Below are the full LHP/RHP splits for the season:

vs. LHP: .400/.463/.800/1.263 in 35 ABs

vs. RHP: .232/.270/.411/.681 in 95 ABs

More than half of his RBIs (12 of his 23) and extra-base hits (eight of his 15) have come against left-handed pitching, which is notable given the disparity in at-bats compared to righties. Statistically speaking, it’s hard to maintain this sort of productivity, so some sort of regression is expected. However, it’s awesome to see him do significant damage when he gets an ideal matchup.

Like many other Sox right-handed hitters, Jake will continue to be penciled into the lineup every day, especially when the starter is lefty. Opposing managers may be fearful of throwing out a southpaw reliever for more than a few pitches as well.

The “Burger Breakout” of 2022 has been one of the best stories in baseball, not just here with the White Sox. The White Sox fanbase seems to be rallying around this comeback kid, in hopes Jake continues to provide the much-needed thunder that other daily lineup fixtures have been unable to provide, for one reason or another.

Cheers to many more “Burger Bombs” in 2022 and beyond!

Follow us on social media @SoxOn35th for more!

Featured Photo: © David Banks / USA TODAY Sports

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Jake Burger has been one of the only bright spots on a very dismal season.
Burger really loves playing. It is obvious as he has overcome injuries and changing positions on the field as well as in the lineup.
He will not continue this pace but it is very refreshing to see a player on this team actually enjoying playing.

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