Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Quantifying the White Sox offensive woes

Toronto starting pitcher Drew Hutchison entered Monday night's game against the White Sox with an ERA of 6.06. Naturally, he fired a four-hit shutout in the Blue Jays' 6-0 win over the South Siders. While not feeling well.

Right now, the Sox offense is enough to make you sick to your stomach. They've lost six out of their last eight games to fall to 19-23 on the season. They've scored just 15 runs during that stretch, and have not scored more than three runs in any game during that time.

You look around the league, and you'll see that most teams have a hitter or two performing under expectations. That's baseball. Sometimes guys have slow starts, or bad years. That's just how it goes.

But the Sox? Well, they've got seven of their nine regulars performing below their career norms and below the numbers they posted in 2014. Avisail Garcia is the lone exception. For purposes of this discussion, we'll just exempt second base, because the Sox have played two rookies with little or no track record there throughout the season.

Let's take a look at the on-base plus slugging (OPS) numbers for the eight Sox regulars who do not play second base -- biggest drop-offs listed first:

Only Avisail Garcia has swung the bat well for the White Sox this year.
Melky Cabrera
2015 OPS: .558
2014 OPS: .808
Diff: -.250
Career OPS: .747

Jose Abreu
2015 OPS: .964
2014 OPS: .808
Diff: -.156
Career OPS: .929

Adam Eaton
2015 OPS: .621
2014 OPS: .763
Diff: -.142
Career OPS: .721

Adam LaRoche
2015 OPS: .682
2014 OPS: .817
Diff: -.135
Career OPS: .808

Tyler Flowers
2015 OPS: .559
2014 OPS: .693
Diff: -.134
Career OPS: .660

Alexei Ramirez
2015 OPS: .614
2014 OPS: .713
Diff: -.099
Career OPS: .715

Conor Gillaspie
2015 OPS: .683
2014 OPS: . 752
Diff: -.069
Career OPS: .714

2015 OPS: .821
2014 OPS: .718
Diff: +.103
Career OPS: .746

So, there are basically six players in the Sox everyday lineup whose OPS is down 100 points over where it was last season. That's two-thirds of a lineup that could be characterized as severely underachieving. Remarkable.

Only Garcia is better than he was last season. Only Garcia is performing better than his career average. Everyone else is under career norms, some significantly so.

You would think these guys would eventually come back to their career levels, wouldn't you? There's no sign of that happening right now.

Friday, May 22, 2015

John Danks vs. AL Central: AL Central wins

Whatever good vibes the White Sox generated with their six-game winning streak are gone now, after the team dropped three consecutive games to the last-place Cleveland Indians at U.S. Cellular Field this week.

The latest loss came Thursday night, a 5-2 Cleveland victory that wasn't as close as the final score indicated. The game started at 7:10 p.m. It was basically over by 7:30. Sox starter John Danks gave up four runs in the first inning, including home runs to Nick Swisher and Mike Aviles, and the Indians tacked on another run in the second to seize an early 5-0 edge.

The score remained the same until there were two outs in the bottom of the ninth, when Sox catcher Tyler Flowers hit the traditional, ceremonial meaningless home run to make the score look better in the paper.

The larger trend I took away from this game, though, is that Danks really struggles against AL Central division opponents. The teams than know him best tend to get to him early and often. I checked the numbers, and for the most part, they confirmed my suspicions. Danks is just plain lousy against three of the four teams he pitches against most regularly:

Danks vs. Indians: 5-13, 5.29 ERA
Danks vs. Twins: 7-14, 5.67 ERA
Danks vs. Tigers: 6-10, 5.11 ERA
Danks vs. Royals: 8-1, 2.73 ERA
Danks vs. AL Central: 26-38, 4.83 ERA

The Royals have to be wondering what they are doing wrong. For the Indians, Tigers and Twins, it's a fight at the bat rack when they see Danks is pitching. Those hitters probably can't wait to get to home plate.

Take out the stats against Kansas City, and Danks is 18-37 with a 5.38 ERA against Cleveland, Detroit and Minnesota.

If you're wondering why the Sox can't seem to beat divisional foes these past few years, Danks is among the culprits.

The Sox (18-20) welcome divisional rival Minnesota to the U.S. Cellular Field for a three-game set this weekend. Fortunately, Danks is not slated to pitch in the series. Here are the weekend matchups:

Friday: Jeff Samardzija (3-2, 4.58 ERA) vs. Phil Hughes (3-4, 4.76 ERA)
Saturday: Chris Sale (3-1, 4.36 ERA) vs. Trevor May (2-3, 5.15 ERA)
Sunday: Jose Quintana (2-4, 4.13 ERA) vs. Kyle Gibson (3-3, 2.98 ERA)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Trevor Bauer puts halt to White Sox winning streak

The day after longtime White Sox nemesis Bruce Chen announced his retirement, the South Siders ran into another pitcher who gives them all kinds of trouble.

Unlike Chen, at least we can say Trevor Bauer has good stuff.

The Cleveland right-hander retired the first 11 batters he saw Tuesday and limited the Sox to just one run on four hits over 7.1 innings to spark the Indians to a 3-1 win. Bauer struck out seven and walked three to improve to 3-1 on the season.

This was the third time Sox hitters have seen Bauer this year, and they haven't been able to solve the riddle yet. Here are Bauer's pitching lines in those three starts:

April 15: 6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 8Ks,. 4 BBs
April 20: 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 7Ks, 2 BBs
May 19: 7.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 7Ks, 3 BBs

Add it all up and Bauer is 2-0 with a 1.33 ERA in those three outings. He's struck out 22 and allowed only 12 hits in 20.1 innings.

The loss puts a halt to the Sox's season-best six-game winning streak and drops them back to .500 at 18-18.

Game 3 of this four-game set with the Indians is Wednesday night. The Sox will send rookie left-hander Carlos Rodon to the mound against Cleveland right-hander Shaun Marcum.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Chris Sale vs. Corey Kluber: It lived up to the hype

Two aces took the mound Monday at U.S. Cellular Field with White Sox left-hander Chris Sale going up against Cleveland's Corey Kluber, the reigning Cy Young award winner in the American League.

Neither pitcher figured in the decision, but the matchup did not disappoint. Both pitchers were brilliant:

Kluber: 9 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 12 Ks, 1 BB
Sale: 8 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 7 Ks, 2 BBs

I guess you might give Kluber the slight edge, since he pitched one more inning than Sale and fanned five more batters. But I'm sure Sale won't mind that since the Sox extended their winning streak to six games with a 2-1 win in 10 innings.

The Sox have now won 10 of their last 13 games and have pulled their record above .500 (18-17) for the first time this season.

A game like this is usually decided by one mistake here or there. Both teams played errorless ball, but if there was a mistake made, Cleveland made it in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Sox center fielder Adam Eaton was on third base with two outs when Jose Abreu swung and missed a Kluber breaking ball that was in the dirt and deflected maybe just 10 feet away from home plate. Eaton boldly dashed for home as Cleveland catcher Roberto Perez scrambled to retrieve the ball. Both men dove for home plate and arrived at just the same time. Perez would have tagged Eaton out -- if he had held onto the ball. Instead, he dropped it in his attempt to apply the tag. Eaton scored, tying the game at 1-1.

It remained that way until the bottom of the 10th, when Carlos Sanchez delivered a two-out, game-winning single on an 0-2 pitch from Cleveland reliever Zach McCallister. Pinch runner J.B. Shuck raced around from second base to plate the decisive run.

About the only negative for the Sox: Shuck was pinch running for Avisail Garcia, who somehow tweaked his right knee while drawing a leadoff walk in that 10th inning. Garcia is hitting a team-best .338, so the Sox don't need him going on the shelf for any length of time. I imagine the Sox will be cautious and give Shuck the start in right field Tuesday for the second game of this four-game divisional set.

The pitching matchup for Tuesday won't be quite as marquee as this one was, but it will still be good. Sox lefty Jose Quintana (2-3, 4.39 ERA) will face Cleveland right-hander Trevor Bauer (2-1, 3.67 ERA). I wouldn't be stunned if that one ends up fairly low-scoring, too.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Unfounded 'concerns' about four left-handers in the White Sox rotation likely to resurface

With Carlos Rodon officially in the White Sox starting rotation, the team now features four left-handed starters -- Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and John Danks are the others.

That means it is time to brace ourselves for more Chicago media fiction about how having four left-handers in the rotation is somehow a detriment to a team.

When you read that tripe, don't buy into it. Instead, just reflect back on this past week's results as evidence that this is a nonissue.

The Sox threw two lefties back-to-back Tuesday and Wednesday against the Milwaukee Brewers. Here were the results:
Jose Quintana

Sale: 8 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 11 Ks, 1 BB
Quintana: 7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 10 Ks, 1 BB

Does it seem to you that facing Sale on Tuesday gave the Brewers any tactical advantage when they went up against Quintana on Wednesday? Doesn't look like it to me. Quintana was every bit as effective as Sale was.

Let's go back even earlier. Rodon pitched the second game of a doubleheader against the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday night. Less than 24 hours later, the Reds faced another Sox lefty, Danks. Under the prevailing media theory, the Reds should have been at an advantage against Danks, having faced another lefty in Rodon the previous game. Let's take a look at results:

Rodon: 6 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 8Ks, 4 BBs
Danks: 7 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 4Ks, 3 BBs

Look at that. The Reds didn't do much against either of the two lefties, despite facing them in back-to-back games.

This is why Sox fans should ignore this invented "concern" about having too many left-handers. The Sox's 2005 World Series team had four right-handed pitchers in the rotation, and that never seemed to be an issue. So why would four left-handers be a detriment? Someone is going to have to explain that to me.

Handedness doesn't matter that much. Just give me guys that can pitch. As it stands right now, ironically enough, the one Sox pitcher who is struggling is the lone right-hander, Jeff Samardzija.

Samardzija hasn't been able to get his fastball inside to righties, and as a result, he's allowed 13 extra-base hits to right-handed batters this season (8 doubles, 1 triple, 3 home runs).

Right-handed hitters are slugging .505 against Samardzija for the year. By way of comparison, right-handers slugged just .359 against him last season, and have slugged .378 against him in his career.

That's something to watch when Samardzija takes his next start Sunday, and isn't it interesting that the Sox only righty is having more trouble with right-handed hitters than any of the lefties in the rotation?

The Sox will play a three-game series in Oakland this weekend. Here are the pitching matchups:

Friday: Rodon vs. Jesse Hahn
Saturday: Danks vs. Jesse Chavez
Sunday: Samardzija vs. Scott Kazmir

Thursday, May 14, 2015

White Sox option Micah Johnson to Triple-A Charlotte

The White Sox on Thursday optioned second baseman Micah Johnson to Triple-A Charlotte.

Johnson, who was hitting .270 with no home runs and three RBIs in 27 games, has been the weakest defensive link on a Sox team that has struggled to catch the ball.

The Sox are expected to recall second baseman Carlos Sanchez before Friday's game against the Oakland A's. Sanchez was hitting .344 with two home runs and 17 RBIs in 29 games at Charlotte.

White Sox finally generate some first-inning offense

Avisail Garcia has hit safely in 16 of his last 18 games.
A not-so-fun fact: The White Sox have scored just 10 first-inning runs through their first 31 games. That's the lowest total of any team in the majors.

Better news: Three of those 10 first-inning runs came Wednesday night, and they gave the Sox the jump they needed to come away with a 4-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Sox won consecutive road games for the first time this season and also won their first road series, taking two out of three from the last-place Brewers.

The three-run rally in the first inning featured both small ball and long ball. Adam Eaton started the game by working a walk after a 12-pitch at-bat. He moved to second on a wild pitch, advanced to third on a groundout by Emilio Bonifacio and scored on a sacrifice fly by Melky Cabrera.

Avisail Garcia and Adam LaRoche then hit back-to-back home runs to give the Sox the early 3-0 advantage. That was another in a night of firsts for the Sox -- it was the first time they've gone back-to-back this season.

Sox pitcher Jose Quintana was probably stunned to have three runs of support before he ever took the mound. The Sox lefty entered Wednesday's action with a 2.37 ERA over his previous three starts, but all he had to show for it was two losses.

Blessed with an early lead this time, Quintana made it stand up. He fired seven-plus innings of one-run ball, allowing just three hits and a walk. He struck out 10 batters.

The Sox have received quality starting pitching in four of their last five games. They've also won four of their last five games. Funny how that works, huh?

One other note about Garcia: His 2-for-4 night raised his batting average to .322. The right fielder has hit safely in 16 of his last 18 games. He's had more than one hit in nine of those contests. The 23-year-old has been mostly overlooked, even in Chicago, but he's been the Sox's most consistent hitter to this point in the season.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Chris Sale pitches more like himself; Carlos Rodon added to White Sox rotation

And now for some rare good news White Sox fans ...

Chris Sale pitched like the ace he is Tuesday, putting a stop to the Sox's absurd seven-game road losing streak with a 4-2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.

Sale fired eight innings of two-run ball, allowing just three hits while striking out 11 and walking only one. This was Sale's 19th double-digit strikeout game in just his 91st career start.

We've come to expect this sort of dominance from Sale, but he's been off to a slow start this season after missing most of spring training with a broken foot. In his previous two outings, Sale had allowed 13 earned runs on 16 hits over 8.1 innings. He uncharacteristically walked seven batters over that same stretch.

On Tuesday, Sale did not issue a walk until there were two outs in the eighth, his last inning of work. The command was back, his breaking ball was better on the whole, and his velocity was in the high 90s into the late innings.

It goes without saying, but we'll say it anyway: The Sox need Sale to pitch like this regularly if they have any hope of getting back into contention in the AL Central race.

Rodon moves into rotation

The White Sox also announced Tuesday that prized prospect Carlos Rodon will make his second career start Friday in Oakland and will move into the rotation in place of Hector Noesi.

We probably haven't seen the last of Noesi starting games, as the Sox will keep a close eye on Rodon's innings count.

“There is going to be scheduled periods of breaks, there will be times when he is skipped, there will be times when he has more than the regular four or five days off,” GM Rick Hahn said in an ESPN Chicago article. “But the process of transitioning him into a starter will begin Friday in Oakland.”

That works for me. I didn't want Rodon to continue wasting away in a mop-up bullpen role. The kid is a starting pitcher, and I'm glad the Sox are going to let him start.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Three changes the White Sox could make today that wouldn't cost a thing

Last night, we highlighted the poor defense the White Sox played in the first inning behind starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija. Pitiful glove work sadly has become the norm and not the exception for this Chicago team through the first 29 games of the season.

If you've been watching, you already know that, so I won't pain you with further examples of the problem.

Rather, I'd like to present three changes the Sox could make today that would improve the team and not cost a thing. Note that none of these suggestions involve firing any of the organization men in the dugout.
Carlos Sanchez

  • 2. Move Carlos Rodon permanently into the rotation. Hector Noesi is a two-pitch pitcher. Put him in the bullpen where he belongs.
  • 3. Have Jose Abreu and Adam LaRoche flip roles. LaRoche becomes the primary first baseman. Abreu becomes the designated hitter most days.

I've identified three major problems with this team over the course of this 12-17 start. One of them is the catching situation. Unfortunately, there are no internal solutions, other than crossing your fingers and hoping Tyler Flowers and Geovany Soto play better.

The other two problems are very correctable with the solutions already available in house. One of the two is the back of the starting rotation. It's just not working out with Noesi, who hasn't won a start since Aug. 27, 2014. Rodon is ready and able, so let him pitch. Yes, he will have his ups and downs as all young players do, but I don't think having him pitch mop-up duty in the bullpen helps his development, nor does it help the Sox win games. Putting Rodon in the rotation allows him to not only develop his pitches, it will allow him to impact winning and losing. Based on what I've seen from Rodon, he will help the Sox more than he hurts them.

The biggest flaw on this team -- and it's a fatal one if it doesn't get addressed soon -- is the infield defense. The fan base is howling. They want manager Robin Ventura fired on the grounds that he doesn't emphasize fundamentals enough, and that he doesn't hold players accountable for their poor defense.

But let's take a step back and make an honest assessment of this infield: Abreu at first base, Johnson at second base, Alexei Ramirez at shortstop, and Conor Gillaspie at third base.

I'm sorry, but three of those four men are poor defensive players. All but Ramirez, who will soon turn 34 and is starting to show some regression, are subpar with the glove. People preach about accountability, but Ventura could show these guys the Tom Emanski instructional videos and drill them on fundamentals all day and they still wouldn't be a good defensive infield.

The good news is potential solutions exist, if the Sox would be willing to give them a try. Sanchez is a good fielding second baseman, and he's hitting .369/.394/.500 in Charlotte. Why isn't he in Chicago?

LaRoche is a top-notch fielder, yet the Sox are using him as their primary DH. Why? Team brass probably has a reason. I just don't know what it is.

Make LaRoche-Sanchez-Ramirez-Gillaspie your infield, and all of sudden your defense goes from pitiful to adequate, if not slightly above average. On days Gordon Beckham plays third base in place of Gillaspie, that infield is above average defensively.

Why won't the Sox try it? The organization has an annoying habit of ignoring defense when it comes to lineup and roster decisions. With the Sox, it's offense, offense, offense. Young players are promoted in the minor leagues based upon what they do offensively. Johnson is here because he's perceived as being ready for the big leagues offensively. His slow hands and poor footwork defensively are completely ignored, because the Sox are forever searching for that offensive upside.

It's backfiring, and they are too obstinate to make a change. They ought to reconsider before the season swirls completely down the drain.

Miserable first inning typical of White Sox malaise

This isn't a newsflash, but the White Sox stink on the road.

Sure, they had a nice 4-2 homestand, taking two out of three from both the Detroit Tigers and the Cincinnati Reds, but it's naive to think the Sox's early-season struggles are over until they can resemble a major league team while playing away from the comfortable environs of U.S. Cellular Field.

The Sox fell to 2-12 on the road Monday with a 10-7 loss to the NL Central cellar-dwelling Milwaukee Brewers, and the South Siders wasted no time reminding fans just how bad a team they are. The first inning of this game was disgraceful.  Let's take a moment to review the sad timeline:
  • Milwaukee leadoff hitter Gerardo Parra hit a grounder toward second baseman Micah Johnson, whose lame attempt to backhand the ball was a failure. The ball deflected off Johnson's glove for a "single." The play should have been made. It was not.
  • Parra successfully stole second base, and catcher Geovany Soto's throw was nowhere near the bag. Parra had a good enough jump that he probably would have been safe regardless, but Soto still looked like a fool with his lame toss.
  • Ryan Braun, the second Milwaukee hitter of the game, hit a weak grounder to shortstop that Alexei Ramirez kicked for an error. The play should have been made. It was not. Runners on first and third, no outs.
  • Adam Lind, the third Milwaukee hitter of the game, hit what should have been a double-play ball to Johnson, who was too slow to field it and too slow to get the ball to Ramirez. The Sox did force Braun out at second base, but Lind was needlessly safe at first. The play should have been made. It was not.
  • Sox pitcher Jeff Samardzija hangs a slider to Milwaukee cleanup hitter Carlos Gomez, who homers to put the Brewers up 3-0.
Amazing, isn't it? Four batters into the first inning, and the Sox had already made a handful of glaring miscues. Is it any wonder this team is 12-17?

Samardzija eventually dug the team a 6-0 hole, and to the Sox's credit, they did battle back against inferior Milwaukee pitching to tie the game at 7-7 in the eighth inning.

Alas, reliever Zach Duke had his first bad outing of the year. He gave up three runs, including home runs by Elian Herrera and Khris Davis, in the bottom of the eighth inning. That Milwaukee rally sealed the Sox's fate. It was a fate they deserved after another night on the road of pitiful defense and subpar starting pitching.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Carlos Rodon wins his first MLB start; then John Danks posts his best outing of the season

We said going into the weekend that Carlos Rodon was in position to put pressure on the White Sox's incumbent back-end starters, if he could have a good outing against the Cincinnati Reds in his first major league start.

Rodon delivered a credible performance, going six innings. He allowed just two runs on four hits while striking out eight and walking four. He picked up the victory in an 8-2 Sox win Saturday night in the second game of a doubleheader.

Interestingly, circumstances beyond Rodon's control put some added pressure on him for the outing. The Sox's No. 5 starter, Hector Noesi, was struck by a line drive and had to leave the game in the second inning of the opener of the doubleheader. The Sox ended up running through most of their bullpen in a 10-4 loss, and that meant Rodon had to at least get through five innings and ideally six innings in the second game.

It didn't look good when Rodon walked the first two hitters he saw, but he wiggled out of a first-and-third, no-outs jam without allowing a run and settled in nicely from there.

The Sox needed three relievers to cover the last nine outs -- Jake Petricka, Zach Duke and David Robertson. Duke and Robertson were the only two Sox relievers not used in the blowout loss in the opener, so they were plenty fresh to protect the lead.

The heavy bullpen use on Saturday also put pressure on John Danks, who started Sunday's series finale. Danks had been knocked out in the third inning of his previous start, and a repeat of that performance was simply not an option. The Sox have two pitchers they typically use in long relief -- Scott Carroll, who worked 4.2 innings in Saturday's opener, and Rodon, who obviously started the second game.

That left Danks with no safety net for his start. He had to go six innings and preferably seven. He ended up responding with his best outing of the season: seven innings pitched, with just one run on six hits.

Robertson suffered his first blown save of the season, so Danks did not pick up a win, but there's a good case to be made that the Sox lefty's ability to provide both quality and quantity of innings was the biggest factor in Chicago's 4-3 victory. Only Duke and Robertson were called upon to work in relief, and after the blown save, the Sox scored winning run in the bottom of the ninth on Gordon Beckham's two-out RBI single off Cincinnati closer Aroldis Chapman.

The Sox are just 12-16 overall, but they are 10-5 at home, having taken two out of three games in each of their five home series to this point in the season. Next up, a road trip to Milwaukee and Oakland, where the Sox must do something about their miserable 2-11 record away from U.S. Cellular Field.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Carlos Rodon's start could put Hector Noesi, John Danks on notice

The White Sox failed to sweep Detroit on Thursday, as Tigers left-hander Kyle Lobstein limited the South Siders to just five hits over 7.2 innings to pick up a 4-1 victory.

Given where the Sox are in the standings, it was probably unrealistic to think they could win three straight games against a superior Detroit team. Nevertheless, it was frustrating to watch Sox hitters get mesmerized by another soft-tossing left-hander.

Lobstein's performance and pitching line Thursday reminded me a little bit of what Minnesota's Tommy Milone did to spoil the Sox home opener April 10.

Lobstein on Thursday: 7.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 3 Ks, 2 BBs
Milone on April 10: 7.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 7 Ks, 2 BBs

Milone has since lost his spot in the Minnesota rotation, and I don't know if Lobstein will stay in the Detroit rotation once Justin Verlander comes back from the disabled list. But, if other teams are smart, they'll throw guys like Lobstein and Milone at the Sox at every opportunity. The Sox simply cannot solve soft-tossing lefties.

In any case, up next for the Sox is a three-game interleague series against the Cincinnati Reds. It's hard to envision Chicago getting back in the AL Central race, because the back of its starting rotation is so weak.

The Reds are fortunate to not be facing any of the Sox's top three pitchers. Instead, they'll be getting a look at those back-end starters. Here are the weekend matchups;

Friday: Hector Noesi vs. Jason Marquis
Saturday: Carlos Rodon vs. Johnny Cueto
Sunday: John Danks vs. Michael Lorenzen

Without question, Saturday's game is the marquee matchup. Rodon, the Sox top prospect, will make his first start at the major league level, and he'll be going against the Reds ace. Cueto was a 20-game winner on a losing team in 2014.

Even if Rodon doesn't win, if he fares well, he could put the pressure on Noesi and Danks.

Noesi is 0-3 with a 6.75 ERA in three starts this season. He has lost each of his last six starts dating back to last year. He has yet to make it through the sixth inning in any of his appearances this year. On two occasions, he was knocked out in the fifth inning.

Danks is 1-3 with a 6.20 ERA in five starts. He was knocked out in the third inning his last time out in a 13-3 loss to Minnesota.

Combined, Danks and Noesi are 1-6 with a 6.41 ERA in eight starts. That is not competitive pitching, folks. There is no way a team can contend for a playoff spot when 40 percent of its starting rotation is performing so poorly.

There's an opportunity here for Rodon to potentially knock one of those two poor performers out of the Sox rotation. We'll see if he takes advantage.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

White Sox stun Tigers with improbable comeback

So far, so good for the White Sox in their three-game set with the Detroit Tigers. The South Siders have taken the first two games, and they prevailed, 7-6, in dramatic fashion Wednesday night at U.S. Cellular Field.

Detroit appeared to be cruising toward victory, up 6-3 in the eighth inning. Heck, the Sox had two outs and nobody on in the bottom of that eighth inning, but six straight hits off Tigers reliever Joba Chamberlain turned the game around.

Micah Johnson and Adam Eaton hit back-to-back singles to set the table for Melky Cabrera, who couldn't have picked a better time to hit his first home run in a Sox uniform. Cabrera turned on a 2-1 slider from Chamberlain, knocking it over the right-field wall for a three-run blast that tied the game at 6.

Surprisingly, Detroit didn't seem inclined to remove the rattled Chamberlain from the mound. The rally started anew with a single by Jose Abreu, who advanced to third on a single by Adam LaRoche. That set the table for Avisail Garcia, who put himself in an 0-2 hole by swinging wildly at a couple of Chamberlain sliders. But after a couple foul balls and two pitches out of the zone, Garcia found a 2-2 slider to his liking and lined it into into center field for an RBI single that gave the Sox a 7-6 lead.

Garcia also played a key role in protecting that lead in the top of the ninth inning.

With one out, Sox closer David Robertson gave up a single to Nick Castellanos. James McCann followed with another single to right, and pinch runner Andrew Romine scampered from first to third. Garcia fired the ball in quickly to try to get Romine at third, which wasn't going to happen, but Garcia hit the cutoff man, shortstop Alexei Ramirez, who cut the throw and fired to first to get McCann, who had rounded the bag too aggressively. 

After Abreu put the tag on McCann, the tying run was still on third in the person of Romine, but two were out. Robertson retired Jose Iglesias on a routine grounder to Johnson to secure the win and his fifth save in as many opportunities.

With the win, the Sox (10-14) are still five games behind Detroit (17-11) in the AL Central, but hey, it's better than being seven games back -- as the Sox were when this series began.

Monday, May 4, 2015

It may be early May, but it's getting late for the White Sox

The White Sox embarrassed themselves over the weekend.

The Minnesota Twins, who were picked to finish last in the AL Central by everyone, outscored the Sox 31-8 over four games and swept the series.

The Sox committed four errors in Sunday's 13-3 loss, and there could have easily been five or six errors charged had it not been for some hometown-friendly scorekeeping in Minnesota.

Let's credit Sox radio broadcaster Ed Farmer, who said on air Sunday, "This has been the worse exhibition of people playing baseball that I've seen in my 20 years in the booth."

I'm not a big fan of Farmer's work, but I applaud him for being the only person associated with the White Sox willing to tell it like it is. The team is in disarray, and they deserved to be criticized.

Contrast that with the TV booth, where Ken Harrelson continues to insist the Sox "are a good team playing bad baseball."

Hearing such nonsense only adds to the frustration of fans, who have seen no evidence the Sox are "a good team." The South Siders lost 99 games in 2013; they lost 89 games in 2014; and this season has looked like an extension of that misery to this point. Sorry, Hawk, but there is no track record of success here for the organization or the fans to fall back upon.

The Sox have stunk for more than two years, and they will be considered a bad team until they prove otherwise. There comes a point where you cross the line from being "in a slump" to just being a bad team doing the things that bad teams do. Right now, I'd say the Sox are getting very close to being written off as another bad team.

After Monday's off day, they welcome the first-place Detroit Tigers for a three-game set at U.S. Cellular Field.

The Tigers are seven games ahead of the last-place Sox entering Monday's play, so a Detroit sweep would leave Chicago 10 games out and gasping for air. The Sox have to respond right now, and believe it or not, they are catching a break with the pitching matchups for this series:

Tuesday: Jeff Samardzija vs. Shane Greene
Wednesday: Chris Sale vs. Alfredo Simon
Thursday: Jose Quintana vs. Kyle Lobstein

The Sox are sending their three best starters to the mound, while the Tigers will pitch the back end of their rotation. The Sox will not see Detroit ace David Price, nor will they see No. 2 starter Anibal Sanchez. Justin Verlander remains on the DL.

This is set up for the Sox to right the ship and get a series win. They better, or the fan base might jump off the wagon entirely. There isn't much time left for excuses. Results need to improve immediately.