By MARK SIMON
DHs aren’t carrying their weight as MLB offenses are off to a slow start. Defensive shifting is up considerably, particularly in Toronto where the Blue Jays are using them on almost every batter.
But we’re only a week into the season. Sample sizes are so small. Let’s wait at least another week before jumping to any sort of meaningful conclusions or observations.
And while we do that, let’s look at something fun that only SIS tracks: Home run-robbing catches
Specifically, I want to address White Sox outfielder Adam Engel, who stole another home run on Wednesday, this one from Jesse Winker of the Mariners.
That marked the seventh home run robbery of Engel’s career. Seven is a lot. Engel ranks sixth among active players in home run-robbing catches. And that’s particularly impressive when you look at how often he’s played compared to those who rank ahead of him in number.
There are no cheap home run robberies in Engel’s collection, no instances of going into an outfield corner that had a short porch and just snagging the ball without too much effort. Every one of these catches has required a legitimate leap.
Wednesday’s was arguably the easiest, as he got back to the right field wall with time to spare and timed his leap correctly in order to make the play.
Among the other types of homer-robbing catches in his repertoire are the change-of-direction and one that showed off his NBA-calber ups. The latter came in 2018 and was his third home run robbery within a seven-day span. He’s the only player to have that many in that short a time in the 19 seasons for which we’ve tracked home run takeaways.
In order to keep climbing up the home run robberies list, Engel needs to stay healthy and hit enough to justify his lineup spot. Staying on the field has been a challenge. Engel missed time last season due to both hamstring and shoulder injuries.
But the offense has been there. In his first three seasons, Engel had a .601 OPS. In 2020 and 2021, that jumped to .823. He’s found something in his offensive game that has enabled him to become more than a one-note player.