Tim Anderson is leading baseball in batting average, his clip up to .453 after a three-hit night Monday on the South Side. He's hit in all seven games he's played at Guaranteed Rate Field this season, picking up multiple hits in six of them.
Updating Anderson's scorching start to the 2019 campaign is no breaking news to White Sox fans, who through their team's 6-9 beginning to the season have been laser focused on Anderson as the team's brightest spot. But as a good deal of attention goes toward that one stat — deservedly so, considering it's almost .030 points better than the second best hitter in baseball — other successes might be slipping past some fans and observers, things that point to an even brighter future for the White Sox and their starting shortstop than his Ted Williams style start at the plate.
"He's a five-tool guy. There's no way of looking beyond that, he's a five-tool guy," manager Rick Renteria said after Monday's win over the visiting Kansas City Royals. "He can hit for power, he can hit for average, he can field, he can throw, he can run."
Yes, Anderson can indeed do those things, and those skills without the bat in his hand were on display in Monday's victory. He hustled home from second on what was initially ruled an inning-ending double play but then overturned into a run-scoring fielder's choice. That tally was the White Sox first of the game and the beginning of the crawl out of a 3-0 hole. By the end of that fifth inning, the game was tied.
Anderson couldn't prevent Manny Banuelos from issuing a leadoff walk to Billy Hamilton in the seventh, and the Royals' speedster flew by Welington Castillo's errant throw at second base and scored the go-ahead run a few pitches later. Anderson did, though, corral a Castillo throw in the top of the eighth and make an artful tag on the foot of a would-be Kansas City base stealer. In the bottom of that eighth, he smoked a leadoff double off the left-field wall and was aboard when Castillo lifted the game-winning home run over the right-field fence, flipping a White Sox deficit into a White Sox lead that stuck.
Unsurprisingly, Anderson was at the center of the White Sox victory. He's been at the center of the last couple of those. You'll recall his grand slam Sunday afternoon in The Bronx while many of us sat shivering in Chicago. Monday, he heated the South Side up with an array of talents, the latest display of the work he constantly points to as the source of his power in this smoking-hot start to the season.
"It's very important," Anderson replied when asked how important it is for him to be a five-tool player. "I've been working since I got here. These guys feed off my energy, so it's my goal to show up and be ready every day and get this team going.
"I didn't think it was going to be like this. But I'm going to continue to work and try not to let that get to my head. Just block out all the noise and continue to be me and keep having fun, bring a lot of energy to this squad."
It wasn't too long ago that some of the same folks cheering on Anderson's successful start were trying to usher him out of the long-term picture on the South Side. Manny Machado was out there to be had, and importing a four-time All Star would be a premium addition at shortstop, even if that meant moving Anderson elsewhere — on the field or in the league. Anderson wasn't so sure. He told Our Chuck Garfien at SoxFest that while he'd like to play alongside Machado, "shortstop is mine."
"I don’t feel like I have to bow down to nobody. I don’t feel like I just have to give something up what I worked hard for. I would love to play with him, but shortstop is mine," Anderson said in January. "I came too far for these fans to kind of just want me to give it to Machado. I don’t think that’s right, but at the end of the day, I get it. I see both sides, so that’s why I’m here to try and win a championship. The White Sox have been nothing but good to me, so I give them nothing but respect by what they have going on."
To his credit, Anderson's defensive improvement at shortstop was one of the highlights of last year's 100-loss campaign, an improvement everyone, including infield coach Joe McEwing, attributed to Anderson's work.
"I kind of challenged him and said, 'I’m extremely proud of the progress you’ve made, let’s not stop, let’s not stop here, let’s take it to another level,'" McEwing said last year. "'You say you want to be the best. What does that entail, as far as work-wise, maturity-wise, leadership-wise?' I challenge him every day to be that leader, take over the infield, make sure everybody’s in the right spot, communicate constantly with each other. And he’s taken it to that level."
There were plenty of questions surrounding Anderson, independent of Machado, this offseason and during spring training. His defensive improvement was great, same with his 20 home runs and 26 stolen bases in 2018. But this was a guy who slashed just .240/.281/.406 last season. Was that enough to keep him entrenched as the no-doubt shortstop of the future?
There's a lot of 2019 left to go, and hot starts don't always equal season-long success. But so far, Anderson is proving folks wrong once again. Proving that people were wrong to be willing to brush him aside for Machado, wrong to doubt that he will be the shortstop on the next contending White Sox team.
"I kind of knew that off the rip, I was going to be the shortstop," Anderson said Monday night. "I've just been working and determined and confident. Just keep improving. I know how good I want to be, so I don't need nobody to motivate me. I motivate myself. I want to work hard and continue to be me."
Given the small sample sizes, that's the right idea: to keep working, to not be satisfied with just an electric start. Anderson wants an electric season. But everything we've seen from him so far in 2019 has gone toward answering those preseason questions.
Anderson is here. He's hitting. He's running. He's fielding. He's tagging. He's got five tools, and he's using them to prove everyone wrong.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.