Thursday, September 19, 2013

Mental mistakes compound misery for White Sox

There's an easy explanation for the White Sox' 4-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday afternoon: Starting pitcher John Danks gave up hits to seven of the first 11 batters he faced and put the team in a 4-0 hole after two innings. Not a good start at all.

Danks settled down and retired 16 in a row after that, but the damage had been done. But, if you look a little deeper, you can't help but feel like the Sox would have come back and won that game against the woeful Twins if they had just done the little things right.

For example, take a look at what happened in the bottom of the sixth inning. The Sox were trailing 4-1 at that point when catcher Josh Phegley led off the inning with a double. Here was a golden chance to get at least one run closer. No. 9 hitter Leury Garcia stepped to the plate. Not being a power hitter, Garcia needed to be thinking about hitting a ball to the right side to get Phegley over to third base with less than two out.

Apparently, Garcia was thinking nothing of the sort. He rolled over on a pitch from Minnesota lefty Scott Diamond and hit a chopper to shortstop. Compounding Garcia's poor approach at the plate, Phegley foolishly thought he could make third base on a ground ball that was hit in front of him. The Twins threw him out by half a baseline, and there went an opportunity to cut into the Minnesota lead.

Later in the inning, Alejandro De Aza reached on an error, and Alexei Ramirez hit a deep fly ball to center field. If Phegley had been standing on third base with less than two out, he would have scored on either of those two plays. But, a rotten swing by Garcia and idiotic baserunning by Phegley prevented that from happening. The Sox failed to score in the inning, and they went on to lose by one run.

We've seen the White Sox make dozens of mistakes like this throughout the season. Is it any wonder the team has a 22-33 record in one-run games this year? Some people put the blame on the manager and the coaches for this kind of repetitive buffoonery. But I'll be honest, Robin Ventura and his staff shouldn't have to tell Phegley to stay at second base when a ground ball is hit in front of him to the left side of the infield. That's Baserunning 101, something my coaches taught me in Little League. That's a lesson that should be learned long before a player reaches pro ball.

In my world, mistakes like this are the fault of the player, not the manager or a coach. You're in the major leagues; play the game right.


  1. That 22-33 in one-run games (.400) is actually slightly better than their overall winning percentage to start play today (.395). They must be playing smarter in one-run games!

    Though seriously, I think these mistakes are partly from some younger, less-experienced guys getting playing time. I think their obviousness is also partly because in a bad season, mistakes just stand out more.

    The fielding errors have also been a problem. In some cases, like Alexei Ramirez, he's been muffing a lot of plays, but has still shown plenty of range at his position. In others, like De Aza, he's made more errors and his range has fallen off. Then in the case of guys like Gillaspie, Adam Dunn and Dayan Viciedo, they've been bad, and that's sort of what we should have expected.

  2. I had a conversation with Owczarski about Ramirez not too long ago, and I was telling Jim I don't think Alexei's woes are because of advancing age. The power is down and the errors are up, but his range is still a plus and he has set a career high in stolen bases this season. I don't see any decline in athletic ability there at all. I think Ramirez is just having a bad year defensively. I wouldn't be surprised if he rebounds in that area next season. We'll see whether he's wearing a White Sox uniform in 2014. He's a veteran with value, so he could be on the block in the offseason.

  3. Options at SS also happen to be really bleak for the White Sox, and also around baseball. If they traded Ramirez, they'd have a choice between Leury Garcia, who is a terrific fielder but will probably never hit, and Marcus Semien, who might hit well, but maybe can't stay at the position long-term. Or one of them has to play 2B while the Sox move Beckham back to SS. Especially after the prospect status of Tyler Saladino and Carlos Sanchez took big hits this season.

    The thing that could hinder the Sox getting a good return is that while the free agent market looks like it has a lot of risky SS options, it does have options with some upside. There's Cuban defector Alexander Guerrero. Often-injured guys like Stephen Drew and Rafael Furcal. Yunel Escobar and his attitude problems if his option isn't picked up. Jhonny Peralta, if you think his Biogenesis stuff is behind him and that he can still play the position.

    Even if you can't squint hard enough to see any of those guys as a legit solution at SS, you could maybe try to get by with one of them on the cheap and see if you can contend before using resources to swing a Ramirez trade.

  4. Ramirez has had some off-the-field problems this year. His father-in-law was murdered, and it has apparently affected his play. I'd be fairly optimistic about a return to form for him next season. A lot depends on how high the Sox are on L. Garcia. He can play the position, but I don't like much of anything I've seen from him at the plate.

  5. I think L Garcia will be the fallback option at either SS, if they find a good deal for Ramirez, or the backup plan at CF if the Sox fail to add the outfielder they want, but would still like to move De Aza to left field and trim Viciedo's playing time if he can't pull it together.

    If Garcia could just be competent with a bat in his hands, his glove could make him a fantastic player. Unfortunately, competency might be out of his reach.

    We might get a chance to see, though. He was rushed through the Rangers' system, and hasn't been given the luxury of playing time to establish himself at this level. If the Sox are really going nowhere, he might get that next year.

    We'll see. I guess it still all depends on how the Sox view themselves.