Thursday, September 20, 2018

White Sox reliever Caleb Frare: Right idea, bad execution

Jason Kipnis
The White Sox lost, 4-1, to the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday night, after Jason Kipnis hit a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth inning.

That's not news -- the Sox are 0-8 at Progressive Field this season. However, they could have had a 1-0 victory if relief pitcher Caleb Frare had followed through with good execution after he had the right idea of what play to make in a bunt situation.

Cleveland had runners on first and second with nobody out in the ninth after Josh Donaldson's infield single and Yandy Diaz's ground ball with eyes.

The next hitter was Melky Cabrera, and he popped up a bunt right back to Frare at the pitcher's mound. The runners had to freeze -- there is no infield fly rule protection on a bunt -- so Frare dropped the ball and threw to third base for what he hoped would start a double play, and potentially a triple play.

Frare didn't make the best throw to third, but that's neither here nor there, because umpires signaled the play dead, called Cabrera out and sent the runners back to their bases.

Why? Because Frare touched the ball and intentionally dropped it. Had he just let the popped-up bunt fall without touching it, he would have been well within his rights to throw to third for a force, and give his team an opportunity to record multiple outs on the play.

Instead, Frare's actions allowed the umpires to invoke little-used Rule 5.09(a)(12), which says an infielder cannot drop a popup intentionally to start a double or triple play:

"An infielder intentionally drops a fair fly ball or line drive, with first, first and second, first and third, or first, second and third base occupied before two are out. The ball is dead and runner or runners shall return to their original base or bases;

"In this situation, the batter is not out if the infielder permits the ball to drop untouched to the ground, except when the Infield Fly rule applies."

So Frare had the right idea. At some point, it must have flashed through his mind, "Don't catch this popup. Get multiple outs." That's the correct thought process, but it wasn't the right execution. He's got to let the ball fall untouched there, and then pick it up and make a throw. The umpires aren't going to let an infielder cheat the system with an intentional drop.

And, of course, after that play went astray, we all know what happened next. Ian Hamilton enters the game, beans Yan Gomes with a pitch to load the bases, and then throws a meatball for Kipnis to hit into the seats.

Another rough loss for the Sox in a season full of them.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Hey, the White Sox scored against Corey Kluber! (But they still lost)

Corey Kluber
Coming into Tuesday night's game, Cleveland Indians ace Corey Kluber had faced the White Sox twice before this season.

On May 30, he tossed six shutout innings, allowing three hits, while striking out 10 and walking none in a 9-1 Indians victory.

On June 20, he pitched seven shutout innings, allowing only one hit. He struck out seven and walked one in a 12-0 Cleveland win.

So, I guess we can take it as progress that the Sox only lost 5-3 to Kluber and the Indians on Tuesday.

It looked as though it was going to be another debacle through five innings. Kluber kept the Sox off the board and had seven strikeouts, and the Indians cuffed around Carlos Rodon to take a 5-0 lead into the sixth.

Surprise, surprise, but the Sox got back into the game. Daniel Palka and Omar Narvaez became the first pair of hitters to homer off Kluber in the same inning all season. Both hit solo shots in the sixth inning to make it 5-2. Doubles by Ryan LaMarre and Yolmer Sanchez in the seventh cut the Cleveland lead to 5-3.

However, the Sox could get no closer. Kluber stranded two runners in the eighth, and Indians reliever Andrew Miller stranded two Sox runners in the ninth to earn his second save of the season.

Kluber (19-7) finished with 11 strikeouts over eight innings. But perhaps there's a moral victory in there that the Sox got three runs on eight hits off him, although I hate moral victories.

For once, I'd like to see the Sox get an actual victory in Cleveland. The South Siders are 3-11 against the Tribe this season, including 0-7 at Progressive Field.

I'll give credit to the Indians for this: They have pounded the weak American League Central all summer long. Cleveland is a combined 44-23 against the Sox, Minnesota Twins, Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals -- including 26-9 at home.

The Indians are 14.5 games up in the division; they've already clinched it. That is not a surprise or an accident.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Tim Anderson showing he will stick as White Sox shortstop

Tim Anderson
What positives can we take out of this lackluster White Sox season that likely will end with about 100 losses?

Here's one: Tim Anderson is proving that he deserves to stay at shortstop over the long haul, quieting critics who have suggested that a move to the outfield is in his future.

Anderson put a stop to the Sox's seven-game losing streak Wednesday night. He hit a two-run homer in the top of the 12th inning to provide the winning margin in Chicago's 4-2 win over the Kansas City Royals. Then, he made a sick play in the bottom of the 12th, ranging deep into the hole to throw out the speedy Whit Merrifield to end the game.

Most fans would like to see Anderson hit a bit better, but right now, he's a streaky hitter who plays plus defense at a premium position. His 2018 WAR is a very respectable 2.8, according to We can live with that, right?

I think so, given some of the other failings the Sox have had in trying to develop position players.

Here's the side-by-side comparison of Anderson's numbers from 2017 to this season:

2017: .257/..276/.402, 17 HRs, 26 2Bs, 4 3Bs, 56 RBIs, 15 SBs, 162 Ks, 13 BBs
2018: .248/.290/.420, 19 HRs, 27 2Bs, 3 3Bs, 62 RBIs, 26 SBs, 137 Ks, 28 BBs

It would be nice to Anderson hit about .270 or .280 one of these days, but let's take what we can get. The on-base percentage is up. The slugging percentage is up. The stolen bases are up. The extra-base hits are up. The walks are up. The strikeouts are down.

The Sox could do a whole helluva lot worse than a 20-20 player with a good glove at shortstop.

Indeed, Anderson is starting to earn praise from the Sox pitching staff for his stellar work in the field. He's committed only five errors since July 1. He ranks sixth in the league in defensive runs saved, and according to, he's tied for the league lead with 16 plays made on balls that have an out probability of 0 percent. His fielding percentage is .970, up from .952 in 2017, and he ranks second in the league with 366 assists -- a sign that he's getting to more balls than a lot of shortstops.

As we come to the end of a difficult and disappointing season, the Sox still have many of the same question marks that they had at this time in 2017:

So on and so forth.

But, at this time last year, we were asking whether Anderson is the shortstop of the present and the future.

I think we have our answer. He is that, so let's move on to other debates and concerns.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Why are the White Sox using Jeanmar Gomez in high-leverage situations?

Jeanmar Gomez
It doesn't matter much that the White Sox lost, 4-3, to the Kansas City Royals on Monday night. And, it doesn't matter much that they lost in a stupid way, with reliever Jeanmar Gomez making a throwing error on a bunt play in the bottom of the 10th inning that allowed Kansas City to score the winning run.

What bothers me is the fact that Gomez was on the mound in the first place. Why is a 30-year-old veteran who is not part of the Sox's future and barely part of their present being allowed to pitch in a high-leverage situation when there are a host of younger, more interesting options available?

The Sox got seven innings out of Lucas Giolito on Monday, and left-hander Jace Fry was the first man out of the bullpen. That's fine, because Fry is a 25-year-old who is under evaluation for a possible long-term relief role.

Once Fry got four outs with the score tied 3-3, the next guy who came in was Gomez. That is inexplicable in September with expanded rosters.

Several relief pitching prospects have been called up from the minor leagues. Right-handers Ian Hamilton, Ryan Burr and Jose Ruiz all are on the roster. So are left-handers Aaron Bummer and Caleb Frare.

With the Sox on a six-game losing streak and hopelessly behind in the standings, these September games are essentially an early jump on spring training 2019.

The fight for bullpen jobs for next season should be underway, and it should not include Gomez. It should, however, include all of the young pitchers mentioned above.

So, put one of them on the mound in the 10th inning of a 3-3 game and see how that pitcher reacts. Even if the guy loses the game, at least we will have learned something.

All we learned last night is something we already knew: that Gomez is washed up and doesn't belong on the 2019 roster. Stop pitching him in high-leverage spots, please.

Palka ties White Sox record

Outfielder Daniel Palka hit his 22nd home run of the season in Monday's loss. He now shares the Sox's team record for most home runs by a left-handed hitting rookie with Pete Ward, who hit 22 home runs in 1963.

Palka might end up leading the 2018 Sox in homers. He and Jose Abreu are tied for the team lead going into Tuesday's play. There are 18 games left in the season.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Hard to envision Nicky Delmonico sticking with the 2019 White Sox

The White Sox activated Jose Abreu from the disabled list for Monday night's game against the Kansas City Royals.

The Sox's first baseman and best hitter hasn't played since Aug. 20, and his three-week-long absence opened the door for Nicky Delmonico, Matt Davidson and Daniel Palka to get more consistent playing time.

With Abreu back, one of these guys is likely to sit more often. It's probably going to be Delmonico, who hasn't done enough this season to make his 2017 success seem like anything more than a fluke.

I was reminded of what a rough time Delmonico has been having as I watched Sunday's game, a 1-0 loss to the Los Angeles Angels that capped a gloomy 3-7 homestand for the Sox.

Delmonico was summoned to pinch hit for Ryan LaMarre with runners at the corners and two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. Angels manager Mike Scioscia made an unorthodox countermove, knowing the Sox had no right-handed hitters left on the bench. He pulled his closer -- right-hander Blake Parker -- and replaced him with left-hander Jose Alvarez, who did not have a single save all season.

Well, Alvarez has one save now after striking out Delmonico on five pitches -- all of them breaking balls. The first two pitches were both hangers, begging to be hit hard somewhere, if not into the seats. Despite the lefty-lefty matchup, Delmonico had a great chance to be a hero, but he fouled off both hangers and dug himself an 0-2 hole in the count that he never recovered from.

Missed opportunities have become a trend for Delmonico, as he's been a combination of injured and bad throughout the 2018 season. His season statistics are lingering behind those of Davidson and the surprising Palka, who was an afterthought coming out of spring training.

Delmonico: .215/.301/.389, 8 HRs, 24 RBIs, 11 2Bs, 4 3Bs in 279 ABs
Davidson: .235/.330/.451, 20 HRs, 58 RBIs, 22 2Bs, 0 3Bs in 436 ABs
Palka: .237/.285/.469, 21 HRs, 55 RBIs, 14 2Bs, 3 3Bs, in 382 ABs

None of these three players provide much in the way of defensive utility. Both Delmonico and Palka are substandard corner outfielders. At least Palka has enough arm to play both left and right field. Delmonico never moves off left field, other than the occasional appearance at first base. Davidson is a below-average defender at both corner infield positions.

In short, all three of these men need to hit to justify their roster spots. Davidson and Palka both are flawed players, but they have brought more to the table offensively than Delmonico this season. Palka has the highest batting average and slugging percentage. He has hit a team-best six home runs in the ninth inning. Davidson has the highest on-base percentage. Both Palka and Davidson are challenging Abreu (22 HRs) for the team's home run lead.

Granted, Delmonico has had fewer at-bats -- a broken bone in his hand earlier in the season limited his playing time. But his production just wouldn't compare even if you gave him another 100 to 150 at-bats or so to bring him equal with the opportunities Palka and Davidson have had.

I do not see a roster spot available in 2019 for Delmonico. He can't make the team ahead of other fringe guys such as Davidson and Palka, and with Eloy Jimenez on the horizon and Abreu and Avisail Garcia both likely to return next season, it's looking as though there aren't any more spots for corner outfielders and 1B/DH types, especially ones that can't punish a hanging slider with the game on the line.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Eloy Jimenez's agents could file grievance against White Sox

Eloy Jimenez
White Sox outfield prospect Eloy Jimenez should be in the major leagues right now.

Jimenez has nothing left to do at the Triple-A level, and he has the .365/.406/.604 slash line in 51 games with the Charlotte Knights to prove it.

Jimenez's agents openly wondered in an interview with Fancred Sports' Jon Heyman why their client has yet to be called to Chicago. They are accusing the Sox of prioritizing service time considerations over MLB readiness. A grievance could be filed.

Frankly, I agree with Jimenez's agents, and I'm annoyed by Sox fans who are lining up behind management. This is ridiculous. I don't care about the 2025 payroll. I care about my team getting better and winning some games.

I'm a fan, not a front office dweeb, and I want the Sox to put the best team on the field on a daily basis. For me, that means Jimenez should be playing left field and batting either third or fourth on the South Side of Chicago this weekend against the Boston Red Sox.

I have no interest, NONE, in trying to save owner Jerry Reinsdorf money a few years down the road.

If young players such as Jimenez and Michael Kopech do what the Sox and their fans hope they will do, they will deserve to make more money somewhere down the road. I don't begrudge them that.

Not to mention, the Sox would be slowing Jimenez's development by not letting him face major league pitching in September. Let him see how he matches up now, and then he can assess the things he needs to work on going into the 2019 season.

I see no reason for the Sox to "punt" the 2019 season. The AL Central is weak, and if everything goes right, hey, maybe they can be a surprised contender. But that will not happen if they are going to hold back prospects who are ready in order to manipulate service time.

Enough of this stuff. Call up Jimenez.

Sox win first series in New York since 2005

It's too bad we have to complain about the Sox's front office today, when we could be celebrating a series win over the New York Yankees.

Ryan LaMarre, of all people, went 3 for 4 with a home run and four RBIs to lead the Sox to a 4-1 win over the Yankees on Wednesday.

The Sox took two out of three, and that's the first series win for the team in New York since the world championship season of 2005.

No world championship is forthcoming this season, of course, but it's always nice to beat the Yankees.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Lack of right-handed relief options at issue for White Sox

Rick Renteria
Sometimes I feel as though White Sox manager Rick Renteria trusts mediocre, right-handed relief pitcher Juan Minaya way more than he should.

But, every time I feel that way, I stop myself and say, "Well, if not Minaya, then who?"

In fairness to Minaya, let's first point out that he got his job done in Monday's 6-2 victory over the New York Yankees. Minaya relieved Carlos Rodon, who pitched another strong game and earned the win, in the eighth inning and retired five of the six hitters he faced.

Minaya threw 16 of his 23 pitches for strikes Monday. He allowed only a harmless single and never made you feel as though the Sox's lead was in jeopardy. Xavier Cedeno ended up getting the last out of the game, in what was a good night for the bullpen and the Sox as a whole.

Fast-forward to Tuesday night in New York. The Sox had the lead, 4-2, going into the bottom of the eighth inning. Minaya, once again, was summoned from the bullpen.

I cringed, knowing that Minaya had a multi-inning outing the night before, and I figured his stuff would not be the same.

It was not.

Minaya faced two batters. He gave up a rope of a single to Giancarlo Stanton and a long home run to Aaron Hicks. Bye-bye lead, 4-4 tie.

The Yankees won, 5-4, on a home run by Neil Walker off Dylan Covey (4-12) in the bottom of the ninth.

I'd like to blame Minaya for this loss, but he is who he is. He's an inconsistent reliever with a 4.18 season ERA. He's dominant at times, but horrible at others, and he shouldn't be considered the best right-handed relief option on a team. Really, he should be pitching in the sixth or seventh inning, not the eighth or ninth.

I'd like to blame Renteria, too, but what other right-handed relief options does he have?

Jeanmar Gomez is a veteran, but his 4.50 ERA and 1.429 WHIP do not inspire confidence. Thyago Vieira and Ryan Burr have a combined 11 big league appearances between them. Are they ready to pitch in a high-leverage situation at Yankee Stadium? Not really. Then there's Covey, who was used Tuesday in a big spot, and he lost the game, so there's that.

It was a tough loss to take Tuesday, because the Sox led, 4-0, as late as the sixth inning. However, their weaknesses in the bullpen showed up while playing a superior team. What can you do? You just have to grin and bear it for 30 more games, hope the good Minaya shows up more than the bad Minaya and hope the front office gives Renteria a deeper stable of relief arms for the 2019 season.