Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Observations from the first White Sox game of 2017

Jose Quintana
White Sox pitcher Jose Quintana has a reputation for being able to keep the ball in the yard, but he couldn't do it Tuesday.

The Detroit Tigers hit three home runs off Quintana in the first game of the 2017 season, accounting for all their runs in a 6-3 victory over the Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Detroit scored five runs in the top of the second inning, three on a homer by JaCoby Jones and two more on a homer by Nick Castellanos.

Quintana uncharacteristically failed to put hitters away -- Jones hit his home run on a hanging curveball on the seventh pitch of the sequence, and Castellanos hit a fastball out on the sixth pitch of his at-bat. The two long balls turned an early 1-0 Sox lead into a 5-1 deficit.

Detroit's Ian Kinsler added a solo home run in the fourth inning to complete the Tigers' scoring.

Obviously, Quintana's rough outing and Detroit's home run power were the difference in the game, but here are a couple early observations on new Sox manager Rick Renteria's lineup construction:

1. I like that Tyler Saladino is batting leadoff. The second baseman reached base three times Tuesday, going 2 for 4 with a pair of singles, a walk and a run scored. The Sox do not have an ideal No. 1 hitter on their roster, but for the time being, Saladino represents the best choice. He's been in the league for a year and a half now, he has some speed, and it doesn't seem as if he'll change his approach based upon where he hits in the lineup.

2. I'm glad Renteria resisted the temptation to put rookie Jacob May in the leadoff spot. May was 0 for 4 with two strikeouts Tuesday in his big-league debut, although he did collect his first RBI on a groundout in the ninth inning. Past Sox managers (Ozzie Guillen, cough, cough) would insist upon putting a slap-hitting speedster at the top of the lineup, even if that speedster has a low on-base percentage, strikes out a lot and shouldn't be getting the most at-bats of anyone on the team. In May's case, he should be batting ninth until he gets acclimated to facing major leaguers on a daily basis. Tuesday, he was right where he belonged: batting ninth.

3. That said, I'd like to see Tim Anderson batting a little lower in the lineup for the time being. He strikes out too much to be batting second, and he went 0 for 4 with three Ks in Tuesday's opener. The strikeouts all followed the same pattern -- Anderson fell behind in the count and ended up swinging and missing for strike three on fastballs up and out of the zone. I hope Anderson doesn't get the label of "can't hit it, can't lay off it" when it comes to high fastballs, because that is not a recipe for success. He can ask another ex-Sox infielder who was once highly touted about that (Gordon Beckham, cough, cough). I'd rather have Anderson hit sixth right now. Move Melky Cabrera, who had two doubles off Justin Verlander on Tuesday, up to the No. 2 spot. The good news for Anderson? That high fastball is not a strike, so he doesn't need to be able to hit it. He does, however, need to discipline himself to not swing at that garbage.


  1. The only reason I can see Anderson in the #2 slot is because the position demands controlled aggression. This is what he needs to learn and he'll probably only learn by doing. He's going to have to fail for 6-8 weeks and if he shows no progress, they will move him down. Renteria dropped Starlin Castro to the 6 hole when he took over the Cubs; I expect Renteria will be more cognizant than Robin Ventura.

    It isn't a good sign though. He's the only plyer on the roster who has not taken a walk all year (and by year I mean all the 2017 games including spring training). If he becomes a shortstop version of Adam Dunn, it should be the end of Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn's careers as front office decision makers.

  2. To be honest with you, I think Ken Williams and Rick Hahn are here for as long as Jerry Reinsdorf owns the team. Years of bad drafts and bad signings have not led to their removal, so I'd be surprised if Tim Anderson's success or failure moves the needle one way or the other.

  3. I should have been clearer: it is already Last Chance Ranch for Williams/Hahn. Jerry will be gone some day, but if Tim Anderson turns out to be a bust, neither Williams nor Hahn will ever be trusted with a top-2 front office seat by any other MLB owner. Jerry doesn't mind them gambling with his money even though they have yet to prove they aren't the suckers at the table; nobody else will.