Tuesday, September 17, 2019

White Sox pitcher Ivan Nova's hot streak is over

Ivan Nova
The White Sox had a bullpen meltdown Sunday, which is a lucky thing for Ivan Nova. Many of us overlooked his bad outing against the Seattle Mariners, a game in which the Sox blew a 10-5 lead and lost, 11-10.

Nova lasted only 3.1 innings, allowing five earned runs on 10 hits. The rough outing was the continuation of what is now a four-game cold streak for the veteran right-hander. This was an inevitable regression, after Nova was one of the hottest pitchers in the league from late July until the last week of August.

From July 22 to Aug. 24, Nova made seven starts. He went 5-1 with a 0.94 ERA. He allowed seven runs, only five earned, on 36 hits over 48 innings pitched. He struck out 25 against only seven walks. He also saved the Sox bullpen by tossing two complete games in that stretch.

Alas, since Aug. 30, Nova is 1-2 with a 9.35 ERA in four starts. He's allowed a whopping 19 runs (18 earned) on 35 hits over 17.1 innings. He's struck out nine and walked five, and only once during that stretch has he made it through the fifth inning.

When Nova was rolling, we heard whispers that the Sox should consider bringing him back next season -- he's a free agent at season's end. Here at The Baseball Kid, we cautioned against that, and we remain against the idea of a new contract for Nova.

In total, this pitcher is 10-12 with a 4.86 ERA over 31 starts. That's below league average in his age-32 season. Why would we believe Nova would be any better than this at age 33 and beyond?

The Sox will tell you that Nova is a "great mentor" for Reynaldo Lopez and other young pitchers, but the fact of the matter is the team needs better production from Nova's spot in the rotation.

We're starting to hear talk from the Sox about being "ready to win" in 2020. If that's the case, it's time to move on from mediocre-at-best rotation pieces such as Nova.

Monday, September 16, 2019

When you have five relievers, you have no relievers

In a different sport, commentators sometimes say, "When you have two quarterbacks, you really have no quarterbacks." The thinking is, if either of your quarterbacks were actually good, he would be playing, and the lesser guy would be sitting on the bench. There wouldn't be a need to toggle back and forth between players.

Likewise, if the White Sox had a reliever available they could trust Sunday, maybe they wouldn't have needed to use five of them in the eighth inning of a ghastly 11-10 loss to the Seattle Mariners.

You see, the Sox's reliable relievers -- Alex Colome, Aaron Bummer and, to a lesser extent, Evan Marshall -- were not available Sunday.

That left the rest of the bullpen to protect a 10-5 lead in the eighth inning. It should have been doable. Hector Santiago had done much of the heavy lifting. He replaced a struggling Ivan Nova in the fourth inning, and he tossed up zeroes in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings.

But Santiago tired in the eighth, allowing a two singles and a walk to start the inning. But the veteran lefty left the mound with the Sox still in decent shape, leading 10-6.

Unfortunately, Kelvin Herrera gave up a three-run homer to Kyle Lewis. 10-9. Then Jace Fry came in and walked the only batter he faced. (Surprise, surprise.) Then Jimmy Cordero faced one batter and struck him out.

Maybe Cordero should have been left in ... nah, why do that when we can go with some more stupid lefty-righty matchups?

Josh Osich entered and finished the eighth inning, but not before walking another batter and surrendering a game-tying single to Mallex Smith. The lefty-on-lefty stuff didn't work there, did it? 10-10 after eight.

The Sox had a pathetic offensive inning in the top of the ninth. Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada and Jose Abreu all swung for the fences. All of them struck out on pitches out of the zone against Austin Adams (2-2). Great discipline, guys.

Jose Ruiz (1-3) became the sixth reliever used in less than two innings in the ninth. Long story short, Anderson and Ryan Cordell made defensive mistakes behind him, an intentional walk was issued to load the bases, and then Ruiz walked in the winning run.

Good job, good effort.

The Sox dropped two out of three in the weekend series to the mighty Mariners (62-88). That means the South Siders have now lost three consecutive series, all to losing teams -- the Angels, Royals and Mariners.

And we're told we should be excited about 2020. Well, you know, you have to have more than four people who can get opposing batters out on your pitching staff in order to contend.

The Sox are now 65-84 on the season. There's a ton of work to be done over the winter to get anywhere near contention, and team brass has no track record as far as signing the right free agents.

They will have to sign the right free agents, because there are no internal solutions here. Colome and Bummer have had good seasons, but two pitchers does not make a bullpen.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Arrow pointing down: White Sox lose season series to Kansas City Royals

Remember the good ole days, back in mid-July when the White Sox were 42-44 at the All-Star break and the optimists had a leg to stand on?

The Sox were flirting with .500, and even with inevitable second-half regression, we couldn't rule out a 75-win season -- which would have been somewhat tolerable given where this team has been the past couple of years.

Well, there's regression, and then there's falling off a cliff. The Sox (64-82) are 22-38 in the second half, and they'd have to go 11-5 in their last 16 games in order to reach 75 wins.

Fat chance.

During the first half of the season, the Sox played the Kansas City Royals (55-92) 12 times and won eight of those meetings. But since the All-Star break, the Sox have gone a ghastly 1-6 against the lousy Royals.

Kansas City took two out of three this week at Guaranteed Rate Field -- even though they sent Glenn Sparkman and Jorge Lopez to the mound -- and that means the Royals win the season series from the Sox, 10 games to 9.

What an embarrassment. Once again, the Sox rebuild is going in reverse, and there's no rational reason to think this team can contend in 2020. The Sox sent their three most reliable starters to the mound against Kansas City, and they still managed only one win.

Here's a brief look back at the crapfest:

Tuesday, Sept. 10
White Sox 7, Royals 3: The series started off well enough as Eloy Jimenez hit his first career grand slam in the first inning. Adam Engel hit a solo home run in the second, and Yoan Moncada added a two-run, 452-foot homer in the seventh.

That made a winner of Ivan Nova (10-12), who gave up three solo home runs in the first two innings but settled down to get through 5.2 innings with no further damage. Four Sox relievers combined to allow only two hits the rest of the way and close it out.

Jimenez and Moncada homered in the same game for the first time in their careers. For Jimenez, it was his 25th homer, for Moncada his 23rd.

Wednesday, Sept. 11
Royals 8, White Sox 6: Sparkman (4-11) threw a complete-game shutout against the Sox the first week after the All-Star break, and then proceeded to go 0-6 with an 8.32 ERA over his next nine starts. The Royals did not win a single one of those nine games.

But they won this one, with Sparkman allowing three runs over five innings to pick up the victory. Jimenez hit his 26th homer in the first inning, a three-run shot, but the Sox couldn't get anything else done against the Kansas City starter.

Meanwhile, Reynaldo Lopez (9-13) got roughed up, giving up six runs, four homers and nine hits over 4.2 innings. This was not the same Lopez who threw a complete-game one-hitter in his previous start against Cleveland. He slider was hanging, his fastball was not well located, and he didn't seem interested in using his changeup.

At least Jose Abreu hit a two-run homer and increased his league-leading RBI total to 114 in the loss.

Thursday, Sept. 12
Royals 6, White Sox 3: Even with Lucas Giolito on the mound, the Sox can't win. Giolito (14-9) struck out a team-record eight batters in a row at one point, and finished with 12Ks, but he also gave up a crushing 3-run homer to Hunter Dozier in the sixth inning that turned a 2-2 tie into a 5-2 Kansas City lead.

The Sox, of course, scored only two runs off Lopez (4-7) and his 6.09 ERA.

Scraping for something nice to say, Abreu is up to 115 RBIs now after he had a sacrifice fly. And Tim Anderson had his second consecutive two-hit game to keep his league-leading average at .333.

But other than that, the Sox are a disaster right now. Not a single starting pitcher got through the first inning without giving up a run in this series, and the Royals scored 17 runs over three games -- 15 of them on home runs.

This was a pathetic showing in a season full of pathetic showings. All of us here at The Baseball Kid would like to congratulate Rick Hahn on clinching his seventh consecutive losing season as Sox GM.

Rick, if we had our way, you would have been fired long ago. Your rebuild sucks.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

White Sox have two big lineup holes -- I mean, big lineup holes

Leury Garcia
When Leury Garcia lined the second pitch he saw Tuesday night off the top of the right-field fence for a long single, he narrowly missed hitting the fourth home run of the season for White Sox right fielders.

Yes, you read that right. It is not a misprint.

Major League batters have hit 6,085 home runs coming into Wednesday night's play. If 20 home runs are hit in Wednesday night's games -- a good bet -- a new single-season record will be set.

However, only three of those 6,085 home runs have been hit by Sox right fielders. That's pathetic, given that corner outfield is considered an offensive position.

I don't mean to single out Garcia, who has seven home runs and has seen most of his playing time in center field this season. He is a very small contributor to the lack of power in right field -- Jon Jay, Ryan Cordell, Charlie Tilson and Daniel Palka are the main culprits in this outage.

Here is the season slash line for Sox right fielders: .212/.270/.272 with three home runs and 35 RBIs.

Yikes. Remember when we used to complain that Avisail Garcia wasn't hitting for enough power? His 19 home runs with Tampa Bay would look pretty good on the South Side right now, don't you think?

This problem is compounded by the fact that Sox designated hitters stink. They've hit .195/.276/.320 with 11 home runs and 55 RBIs.

It's pretty tough to compete when you're getting such poor production out of two offense-oriented positions.

The average big league team has hit 203 home runs this season. The Sox have hit 155. Let's say the Sox need to add one, if not two, middle-of-the-order bats for 2020.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Jose Abreu, Tim Anderson have chance to lead AL in key offensive categories

Jose Abreu
Jose Abreu has a chance to do something no other White Sox hitter has done in my lifetime: lead the American League in RBIs.

Believe it or not, Hall of Famer Frank Thomas never led the league in RBIs. The last Sox player to do it? That would be Dick Allen, who drove in 113 runs during his MVP season of 1972.

Abreu entered Tuesday's game against the Kansas City Royals with 112 RBIs. That's five more than Boston third baseman Rafael Devers. Here's the AL leaderboard:

1. Abreu, CWS, 112
2. Devers, BOS, 107
3. Xander Bogaerts, BOS, 105
4. Mike Trout, LAA, 104
5. Alex Bregman, HOU, 103
6. Jorge Soler, KC, 102

That probably exhausts the list of players who are close enough to possibly win the RBI title. Abreu hasn't been doing it with home runs either. While he leads the Sox with 31, that ranks only 12th best in the AL.

Meanwhile, shortstop Tim Anderson has a chance to win the batting title. He's hitting a league-best .334 entering Tuesday's play. Thomas was the last Sox player to lead the league in hitting. He batted .347 in 1997.

Batting titles have been rare in Sox history -- only Thomas and Luke Appling (1936, 1943) have done it. Here's what the competition looks like for Anderson:

1. Anderson, CWS, .334
2. DJ Lemahieu, NYY, .326
3. Michael Brantley, HOU, .323
4. Hanser Alberto, BAL, .321
5. Devers, BOS, .314

The Sox (63-80) basically are landlocked into third place. With 19 games to go, they are 20 games behind Cleveland (84-61) for second place, and 10.5 games ahead of fourth-place Kansas City (53-91). The Sox are mathematically eliminated from contention, and there's nothing to cheer for in terms of wins and losses.

So, I'd say let's cheer for Abreu and Anderson to finish as league leaders in these offensive categories. What else is there to do over the last three weeks of the season?

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Do networks know the Boston Red Sox aren't going to make the playoffs?

Dave Dombrowski
The Boston Red Sox on Monday fired Dave Dombrowski, their president of baseball operations.

The move comes only 11 months after the Red Sox won 108 games and claimed the 2018 World Series championship. Boston has won the AL East the past three seasons, but it will not be repeating this year.

While the Red Sox were a respectable 79-64 entering Monday's play, they were 17.5 games behind the New York Yankees in the AL East. And, they were eight games out of a wild-card spot with two teams to pass. With only three weeks left in the regular season, they need a miracle to qualify for the 2019 postseason, and we don't believe in miracles here at The Baseball Kid.

So, Dombrowski was fired, because he's handed out some big contracts that didn't net Boston ownership a good return on investment, and he is no longer seen as the right guy to lead the Red Sox moving forward. Standards are high in Boston, and the tolerance for losing is low.

I can recite the Red Sox's problems chapter and verse:
  1. Chris Sale has been a combination of injured and bad all season. He's out for the year with elbow inflammation.
  2. Injuries have limited David Price to 22 starts this season.
  3. Rick Porcello has had a terrible year, with an ERA up near 6.
  4. Postseason hero Nathan Eovaldi was given a big contract as a reward, but he too has been injured and ineffective.
  5. Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly, key Boston relievers a year ago, left the team via free agency. And while neither man has had a great season for their new teams, the Red Sox haven't had a reliable back end of the bullpen. No current Boston reliever has more than 11 saves.
Why do I know all this about the Red Sox? Because they are on TV all the time! On any day of the week, you can find Boston on one of the networks, and the announcers will inevitably touch on the five bullet points listed above.

The Red Sox are completing a four-game series Monday against the Yankees, and literally all four games were televised here -- in Chicago. MLB Network had the New York-Boston game on Friday Night Baseball and Monday Night Baseball.

The Saturday Game of the Week on FS1? Yep, New York at Boston.

Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN? Yep, New York at Boston.

Meanwhile, there were four weekend series in Major League Baseball that were more compelling and more vital to the playoff races: Indians-Twins, Nationals-Braves, Brewers-Cubs and Phillies-Mets.

I know the Red Sox are defending champions. I know they play in a big market. I know they are a TV draw. But can't these networks flex to some other games? This is September, and there is plenty of meaningful baseball being played, and this year it just doesn't involve Boston.

If the Red Sox were in it, Dombrowski probably wouldn't be getting fired.

Monday, September 9, 2019

White Sox salvage 1 out of 3 against Los Angeles Angels

Tim Anderson is leading the AL in hitting.
The White Sox kicked away a winnable series at Guaranteed Rate Field over the weekend, losing two out of three games to the Los Angeles Angels.

It's disappointing because the Angels (67-77) had lost 11 out of 13 games coming into the series, and Mike Trout left in the middle of Friday's game and didn't play the rest of the weekend. This was a favorable situation for the Sox (63-80), and they failed to take advantage.

But, the win Sunday was the Sox's 63rd of the season, which means they will not duplicate last year's 100-loss campaign. So, at least there's that.

Here's a look back at the weekend that was:

Friday, Sept. 6
Angels 5, White Sox 4: The Sox had been 49-1 this season when leading after seven innings. Make it 50-2, as relievers Aaron Bummer and Alex Colome combined to let this one get away.

Lucas Giolito was seeking his 15th victory of the season, and he did not disappoint, turning in another strong outing. He went seven innings, allowing two runs on only three hits. He struck out six and walked one. Tim Anderson backed Giolito with a two-run homer, and the Sox led, 4-2, going into the eighth inning.

But that's when Bummer walked pinch-hitter Taylor Ward, and two batters later, gave up a two-run homer to Brian Goodwin, who had taken over in center field after Trout left the game with a foot injury. The blast tied the game at 4.

Colome entered to try to preserve the tie in the ninth, but Justin Upton homered on the first pitch of the inning to put the Angels ahead to stay. The Sox could get nothing done against Los Angeles closer Hansel Robles (5-0), who retired all six batters he faced over the final two innings.

Daniel Palka struck out looking to end the game. He is now 1 for 54 this season.

Saturday, Sept. 7
Angels 8, White Sox 7: What will it take for the Sox to stop using Dylan Covey as a starting pitcher? Covey (1-8) was shelled for seven earned runs on seven hits over just 2.2 innings. His ERA is 7.69. It's baffling that this "experiment" has not ended yet. For goodness sake, put Hector Santiago out there. He usually can at least get to the fifth inning before having a meltdown on the mound.

The Sox trailed 7-2 when Covey left in the third inning, and they tried to come back. But, the hole was too deep. Jose Abreu's 30th home run of the season, a 3-run shot in the seventh inning, brought the Sox to within a run. However, they were unable to mount a threat in either of the last two innings, with Robles nailing down his 20th save.

Anderson went 2 for 5 with a double, an RBI and two runs scored. The Sox shortstop got the day off Sunday, so he exits this series with a .334 batting average. He leads the American League in hitting. New York's DJ LeMahieu was second at .328 entering Sunday's play.

Sunday, Sept. 8
White Sox 5, Angels 1: It wasn't a great day for Sox rookie Dylan Cease, but it could have been worse. Cease needed 36 pitches to get through the first inning, and 30 more to get through the second. However, the Angels managed only one run in those two innings and left the bases loaded both times.

The pitch count caught up with Cease, as he lasted only 3.1 innings. He allowed the one run on four hits with five walks and four strikeouts. Fortunately, the Sox bullpen bounced back from Friday's debacle. Josh Osich (2-0), Bummer and Colome combined for 5.2 innings of one-hit relief.

Osich allowed one hit over 2.2 scoreless innings. Bummer allowed only a walk in two innings, and Colome worked a 1-2-3 ninth.

Abreu hit his 31st home run of the season in the third inning to give the Sox the lead for good. The slugger now has a career-high 112 RBIs.

Danny Mendick also connected for his first career home run. The 25-year-old September call-up started at shortstop with Anderson getting the day off, and he has not looked out of place thus far. Mendick is 5 for 14 in five games, three of them starts.

The Sox will get an off day Monday before hosting the Kansas City Royals for a three-game series Tuesday through Thursday.