Friday, April 28, 2017

Latest statistics for notable White Sox prospects

As we come to the end of April, let's take a look at how some notable White Sox prospects have started the season. All statistics are through games of April 27.

Charlotte Knights (9-10, 3rd place in International League South)

Yoan Moncada, 2B: .297/.373./.500, 4 HRs, 5 RBIs, 5 SBs, 27 Ks, 9 BBs, 74 ABs
Nick Delmonico, 3B: .320/.386/.453, 1 HR, 9 RBIs, 0 SBs, 12 Ks, 7 BBs, 75 ABs
Adam Engel, OF: .143/.234/.214, 1 HR, 4 RBIs, 1 SB, 19 Ks, 7 BBs, 56 ABs
Carson Fulmer, RHP: 2-1, 3.52 ERA, 23 IP, 23 H, 10 R, 9 ER, 19 Ks, 5 BBs, 1.22 WHIP
Reynaldo Lopez, RHP: 1-1, 4.87 ERA, 20.1 IP, 20 H, 13 R, 11 ER, 22 Ks, 13 BBs, 1.62 WHIP
Lucas Giolito, RHP: 0-3, 6.63 ERA, 19 IP, 18 H, 15 R, 14 ER, 23 Ks, 11 BBs, 1.53 WHIP
Zack Burdi, RHP: 0-1 with 2 SVs, 3.52 ERA, 7.2 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 13 Ks, 3 BB, 1.30 WHIP

Birmingham Barons (8-13, 4th place in Southern League North)

Trey Michalczewski, 3B: .222/.309/.333, 1 HR, 7 RBIs, 3 SB, 21 Ks, 9 BBs, 72 ABs
Courtney Hawkins, OF: .143/.167/.333, 4 HRs, 8 RBIs, 0 SBs, 35 Ks, 2 BBs, 63 ABs
Michael Kopech, RHP: 1-1, 2.50 ERA, 18 IP, 9 H, 7 R, 5 ER, 28 Ks, 14 BBs, 1.28 WHIP
Spencer Adams, RHP: 0-4, 3.65 ERA, 24.2 IP, 26 H, 12 R, 10 ER, 20Ks, 3 BBs, 1.18 WHIP

Winston-Salem Dash (7-14, 5th place in Carolina League South)

Zack Collins, C: .172/.372/.293, 1 HR, 6 RBIs, 0 SBs, 22 Ks, 19 BBs, 58 ABs
Luis Alexander Basabe, CF: .245/.333/.377, 1 HR, 5 RBIs, 4 SBs, 14Ks, 7 BBs, 53 ABs
Alex Call, OF: .244/.311/.366, 0 HRs, 5 RBIs, 2 SBs, 11 Ks, 3 BBs, 41 ABs

Kannapolis Intimidators (10-10, 4th in South Atlantic League North)

Jameson Fisher, OF: .261/.329/.362, 1 HR, 10 RBIs, 2 SBs, 18 Ks, 6 BBs, 69 ABs
Micker Adolfo, OF: .234/.308/.277, 0 HRs, 1 RBI, 0 SBs, 16 Ks, 1 BB, 47 ABs
Dane Dunning, RHP: 2-0, 0.35 ERA, 26 IP, 13 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 33 Ks, 2 BBs, 0.58 WHIP
Alec Hansen, RHP: 1-1, 4.42 ERA, 18.1 IP, 21 H, 14 R, 9 ER, 21 Ks, 10 BBs, 1.69 WHIP

Thursday, April 27, 2017

White Sox pitcher Jose Quintana has his first win of 2017

Jose Quintana
Here's a sentence I did not think I would type at any point this season: The White Sox are tied for first place entering Thursday's games.

The South Siders completed a three-game sweep of the Kansas City Royals with a 5-2 victory Wednesday, improving their record to 11-9. The Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians also are 11-9, creating a three-way tie atop the AL Central.

Sox left-hander Jose Quintana (1-4) finally got in the win column Wednesday, as he pitched six innings of two-run ball with a season-high 10 strikeouts. It easily was Quintana's best performance so far, as he entered the outing with an uncharacteristic 6.17 ERA and 5.69 FIP in his first four starts.

In fairness to Quintana, the Sox scored only four runs combined for him in those four games, so wins would have been hard to come by even if he had pitched well.

But Wednesday, the Sox handed him a 2-0 lead on RBI doubles from Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier in the first inning. The lead eventually slipped away as the Royals nicked Quintana for single runs in the fifth and sixth innings. With the scored tied at 2, it looked as if Quintana might be destined for a no-decision.

Alas, the Royals (7-14) are in a deep slump right now -- seven losses in a row -- and they seem to be inventing ways to lose games. A really, really bad pitch by Kansas City starter Nate Karns (0-2) allowed the Sox to grab the lead back in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Karns had been fooling the Sox's right-handed hitters all day with breaking balls in the dirt. Avisail Garcia was retired on pitches down and out of the zone in each of his first two at-bats Wednesday, and in his third at-bat, he swung and missed badly at a Karns breaking pitch that was down, outside and well out of the zone to open the sequence.

You got the feeling that Karns would retire Garcia again if he just stayed with his offspeed pitch. Instead, on the 0-1 count, he thought he'd go ahead and try to sneak a middle-in fastball past Garcia. The Sox right fielder was ready, and he clubbed the pitch 451 feet to center field for a two-run homer that put Chicago ahead, 4-2. Horrible pitch selection by Karns, and even worse execution.

Quintana's day was done after six innings, but he was then in line for the win. Leury Garcia's solo home run in the seventh made it 5-2, and four Sox relievers combined to throw three scoreless innings to put away the game.

David Robertson worked the ninth inning to earn his fifth save in five chances. His ERA is down to 1.17, for all those clubs out there who are in need of bullpen help. (I'm looking at you, Washington Nationals.)

The Sox probably won't stay in first for long. Thursday is an off day, while Detroit and Cleveland are both in action. At least one of them likely will win and drop the Sox down the standings, but it's nice to be at the top -- if only for a day -- during a rebuilding season.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

One thing White Sox manager Rick Renteria did Tuesday that I liked

The White Sox pounded the Kansas City Royals for the second straight night Tuesday, totaling 14 hits in a 10-5 victory.

There were a number of good offensive performances:
  • Todd Frazier had two doubles, a sacrifice fly, three runs scored and three RBIs.
  • Leury Garcia went 3 for 4 with two RBIs and a run scored.
  • Avisail Garcia had three hits, including a double, with two runs scored and an RBI.
  • Omar Narvaez reached base four times with two singles and two walks, plus two RBIs and a run scored.
The Sox finally solved Kansas City ace Danny Duffy (2-1), scoring six runs on nine hits off the left-hander in 4.2 innings.

But all that offense aside, I really liked how Sox manager Rick Renteria kept shaky starting pitcher Dylan Covey on a short leash.

In the ideal world, Covey would be continuing his development in the minor leagues right now. But as a Rule 5 draft pick, he needs to remain on the big league roster or be offered back to the Oakland A's. So, he's serving as the Sox's No. 5 starter for now, and predictably and understandably, he's struggling.

He needed 86 pitches to get through four innings Tuesday night. There was a lot of traffic on the bases while he was in the game: He allowed three hits, walked three and hit a batter. In that context, he's fortunate to only give up two runs in those four innings.

The Sox (10-9) were leading, 4-2, after four innings, and it had to be tempting for Renteria to send Covey back to the mound to try to complete the fifth inning and become eligible for his first major league win.

Wisely, Renteria resisted the temptation. Covey was laboring, so the Sox went to their bullpen. Dan Jennings (2-0), Anthony Swarzak and Nate Jones combined to keep the Royals (7-12) off the scoreboard for the next four innings. Meanwhile, the Sox lead swelled to 10-2 going to the ninth.

Chris Beck, who was recalled Tuesday after Zach Putnam went on the disabled list with elbow inflammation, gave up three runs in the ninth to make the score look more respectable for the Royals.

But, one of the keys to victory was Renteria understanding that sticking with Covey any longer would have led to problems. The bullpen was rested after Miguel Gonzalez provided the Sox with eight quality innings Monday night, and using the relievers to secure that win was the correct move. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Matt Davidson makes case for more playing time

Matt Davidson
The White Sox leader in home runs and RBIs through 18 games is ... Matt Davidson?

Yes, that's correct.

Davidson went 3 for 4 with four RBIs and his team-best fourth home run of the season Monday, leading the Sox (9-9) to a 12-1 win over the Kansas City Royals (7-12).

The 26-year-old has 14 RBIs, which is tied for the team lead with Avisail Garcia, but Davidson has posted that total in only 40 plate appearances, while Garcia has 72 plate appearances.

Davidson has been the source of much consternation among Sox fans because he hasn't been playing every day. Before Monday's rout, Davidson had not started any of the previous four games.

I can at least understand manager Rick Renteria's logic. In those four games, the Sox faced a strong contingent of right-handed pitchers -- Masahiro Tanaka of the New York Yankees, and then Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar of the Cleveland Indians.

None of those pitchers is a good matchup for Davidson, who has struck out 12 times in his 24 plate appearances against right-handers this season. The flip side to that argument? Davidson also has three home runs against righties, so perhaps he's hot enough right now that "handedness" doesn't matter so much.

Davidson was in there Monday against Kansas City left-hander Jason Vargas (3-1), and he laced an opposite field homer in his first at-bat. But perhaps his best swing came in the bottom of the sixth inning, when he delivered an RBI double on the ninth pitch of an at-bat against Royals reliever Peter Moylan, who is a side-winding right-hander. Davidson fought off a couple tough 3-2 pitches, then found one that he could shoot into the right-center gap for a hit.

Later in the sixth inning, during which the Sox scored eight runs, Davidson hit a two-run single off the left-field wall that had an exit velocity of 110 mph. He hit the ball so hard that he couldn't make a double out of it. That one was off a left-handed pitcher, reliever Travis Wood.

The question for Renteria is this: Does he continue to spot Davidson in matchups that are favorable for him? Or does he take the training wheels off, throw Davidson in there against everybody -- even tough right-handers -- and find out whether this hot start is for real?

When I look at Davidson's slash line of .368/.375/.789, I can't help but think "small sample size." But the longer this goes on, the more calls we are going to hear for more playing time for Davidson. That especially will be the case if the left-handed side of the DH platoon, Cody Asche, continues to struggle. Asche is 2 for 35 and has yet to record an extra-base hit in 38 plate appearances.

We won't know Tuesday whether Renteria is going to change course. The Royals are starting their best pitcher, left-hander Danny Duffy, so that means Davidson is going to play. We'll see what the Sox manager does the next time the team faces a less-than-elite right-hander.

Speaking of right-handers, Miguel Gonzalez (3-0) continues to roll for the Sox. He went eight innings Monday, allowing only one unearned run on two hits. He struck out five and walked one, and lowered his ERA to 2.00 over four starts and 27 innings. He's been the Sox's best pitcher this month. Who would have thought that? 

Monday, April 24, 2017

My April 20 visit to Petco Park in San Diego

Petco Park in San Diego
While on vacation in Southern California, I had the opportunity to take in a game between the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks at Petco Park.

The Padres won, 4-1, behind a solid performance from former White Sox left-hander Clayton Richard, but that's not all that important. I went because I wanted to check out a ballpark I had never visited before, and I must say I came away impressed.

When I visit other parks around the country, I inevitably think to myself, "Man, the Sox could learn a thing or two from how they do things here."

The Padres, much like the Sox, are not contenders this year. They are rebuilding and everybody knows it. The announced crowd was 17,000-and-some people. That attendance figure for a Thursday night is similar to Chicago. There wasn't a lot of interest in the game despite the beautiful weather because, well, there are other things to do in San Diego, and people know the Padres are bad.

But there were several things that were not similar to Chicago that I found refreshing. For example:
  • There is ample street parking around the ballpark, and I think I paid 20 cents to park. That's right: 20 cents, not 20 dollars. The meters are not enforced after 6 p.m., and this particular game started at 6:10. We had a meter with some time remaining on it, and it didn't take much to get across the 6 p.m. threshold.
  • The ushers were friendly and knowledgeable. This is something common at places not named Guaranteed Rate Field, where the ballpark staff grunts at you, can't answer any questions and seems to get off on telling fans what they *can't* do. Petco Park ushers are mostly retired folks working a part-time job, and they were kind and helpful to us as out-of-towners who were not familiar with the ballpark.
  • Petco Park has a hockey-style "wait for the whistle" rule. That means, if you get up to use the restroom or to visit the concession stand, you have to stay on the concourse until there is a break in play, instead of being allowed to walk in front of everyone while the game is going on. Fans are allowed to come and go in between batters or in between innings. That works for me. As a grumpy curmudgeon who just wants to watch the damn game, I love it.
    Me, standing next to Tony Gwynn's retired No. 19
  • The Padres have a Hall of Fame area that is awesome. They have replica plaques for everyone who played for the Padres and is in the baseball Hall of Fame. They have an interactive area with videos and pictures of some of the best moments in Padres history, and they have a film that plays on loop highlighting the great career of Tony Gwynn. The Padres have a very modest  history, but they aren't shy about showing off some of the individual and team accomplishments they've had through the years. On the wall in there, they have a chart showing the top five players in franchise history in various categories. Gwynn is San Diego's leader in every offensive category except home runs (Nate Colbert is first in home runs), and he is the Padres' all-time hits leader by more than 2,000 hits. (Garry Templeton is a distant second.)
  • If you need to exit the ballpark during the game, you can re-enter. How awesome is that? I've always thought the Sox should allow that, especially since we get our share of rain delays in Chicago. (That's something they don't worry about much in San Diego). But as we've discussed before, the Sox have been known to make up rules as they go, and they have all kinds of bizarre rules in the name of "fan safety." Frankly, I've never felt as if I'm in danger at any ballpark in America, other than in Milwaukee, where the fans have an inferiority complex about anyone and anything that comes from Chicago. 
If you're ever in San Diego at the same time as the Padres, I'd recommend taking in a game at Petco. The sight lines are great, even if the team isn't, and the people are friendly and happy to have you there. The locals say Petco is "America's No. 1 ballpark," and it's hard for me to say that, because I haven't seen every ballpark in America, but they are correct that they have a nice place to watch a game.

Friday, April 14, 2017

I'm taking a vacation ...

It's mostly my friends and family who read this blog, so as most of you are probably aware, I'm flying to San Diego for a week's vacation Saturday.

I will take in a Padres-Diamondbacks game while I'm in California, so maybe I'll chime in on that experience here, but blogging will be sporadic -- if not nonexistent -- while I'm gone.

I'll be back April 24. Until then, as always, go Sox!


Surprise! White Sox win a series against defending AL champion Cleveland

Avisail Garcia -- AL's leading hitter as of April 14
We concluded yesterday's blog post by noting that White Sox manager Rick Renteria would be wise to avoid using relievers David Robertson and Nate Jones for a fourth straight game.

Well, guess what? There was never a reason to consider going to high-leverage bullpen guys in Thursday's game, as the Sox rolled to a 10-4 win over the Cleveland Indians.

The Sox (4-4) took two out of three from the defending AL champions and sent the Tribe (4-5) to their fifth loss in their past six games.

Shortstop Tim Anderson hit a home run off Cleveland starter Josh Tomlin (0-2) on the first pitch of the game, and that sparked a five-run first inning for the South Siders. The other four runs were scored after two were out. Matt Davidson hit a three-run, opposite-field homer to make it 4-0. Yolmer Sanchez doubled and scored on a single by Omar Narvaez to cap the rally.

The Sox ended up scoring nine of their 10 runs with two outs, and the trend continued in the second inning when Avisail Garcia delivered a two-run single to make it 7-1 and end Tomlin's night.

Final line for the Cleveland right-hander: 1.2 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 1 BB, 0 Ks, 2 HRs

It was nice to see the Sox knock Tomlin around. He had a 1.83 ERA in three starts and 19.2 IP against Chicago last year. Hey, it's a new season.

With all the early run support, you would have thought Miguel Gonzalez would have been in line for his second win. Alas, the right-hander ran up a high pitch count, walking four men in the first four innings, and he couldn't make it through the fifth after the Tribe scored two runs to cut the lead to 7-3.

Gonzalez allowed three earned runs on eight hits with five strikeouts in 4.2 innings.

Renteria, as we suggested, went to some of his secondary relievers. Anthony Swarzak, Dan Jennings and Tommy Kahnle combined for 4.1 innings of one-run relief. Swarzak (1-0) recorded five outs without allowing a run to pick up his first win as a member of the Sox.

The Sox put the game away with three more two-out runs in the eighth on singles by Jose Abreu, Cody Asche and Garcia.

Unbelievably, Garcia is leading the league in hitting with a .452 average. He also has eight RBIs. Cue the talk about small sample sizes.

The Sox will continue their nine-game road swing with a three-game weekend series in Minnesota. Here are the pitching matchups:

Friday: Dylan Covey (First appearance of 2017) vs. Adalberto Mejia (0-1, 10.80 ERA)
Saturday: Jose Quintana (0-2, 6.17 ERA) vs. Ervin Santana (2-0, 0.69 ERA)
Sunday: James Shields (1-0, 1.69 ERA) vs. Hector Santiago (1-1, 2.38 ERA)