Thursday, August 17, 2017

Jake Petricka provides gut punch in White Sox loss to the Dodgers

Jake Petricka
Two outs away. Eight good innings and one horrible one.

However you want to look at it, the White Sox lost a tough one, 5-4, to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday night.

The Dodgers are 85-34, and there's no shame in losing to them. Everybody loses to the Dodgers. But the Sox had a 4-2 lead with two outs to go in the bottom of the ninth inning, and they did a lot of things right in this particular game. I would have liked to have seen them rewarded with a victory.

Carlos Rodon continued his stretch of terrific pitching. He tossed 7.1 innings of two-run ball and was in line for the victory. The Sox hit four home runs as a team, including two by Nick Delmonico, who has continued to surprise by swinging a great bat since he got called up from Triple-A Charlotte. Leury Garcia and Jose Abreu also homered in this game, and the Sox appeared to be on the verge of handing Yu Darvish his first loss since he was traded to the Dodgers.

Alas, the Sox have traded every competent pitcher in their bullpen, and they couldn't close the deal. We can't blame Juan Minaya. He finished the eighth inning for Rodon. We can't blame Greg Infante, who recorded an out on the only hitter he faced in the ninth.

But Aaron Bummer gave up a single to Cody Bellinger, and then Jake Petricka came in to throw batting practice to Logan Forsythe, Austin Barnes and Yasiel Puig. Those three hitters hung out ropes -- an RBI double into the left-field corner by Forsythe, a bullet single to center by Barnes, then a two-run, game-winning double to the left-center gap by Puig.

In a blink of an eye, Rodon's potential win was gone.

It's been a rough ride for Petricka since he came off the disabled list. He stunk Tuesday night, too, as he was right in the center of the Dodgers' five-run, game-winning rally in the eighth inning.

The past two nights, Petricka has faced eight hitters and retired only two. He's allowed six hits and given up four earned runs.

Yuck.

Petricka is the most accomplished reliever in a bullpen that includes Minaya, Bummer, Infante, Mike Pelfrey, Chris Beck, Dylan Covey and Brad Goldberg. However, injuries have taken their toll on Petricka, and he might actually be the worst pitcher in the Sox bullpen at this moment, past track record nothwithstanding.

Here's how his season statistics rank among the eight relievers on the Sox roster:

ERA: 9.00 (eighth and last)
FIP: 5.77 (third)
WHIP: 2.053 (eighth and last)
H/9: 15.6 (eighth and last)
ERA+: 49 (eighth and last)
Career saves: 16 (first)

I guess that last category is the key one for manager Rick Renteria. Petricka does have high-leverage experience, but his best successes came three years ago, when he had 14 of those 16 saves.

I don't know who the right guy is for closing situations for the Sox. I don't see any good options. I'd give Minaya a shot, because he has the highest K rate (11.8 per nine innings). But I do know that Petricka looks completely incapable of getting the job done for the Sox.

Renteria should ignore the experience factor, trust the recent data and give a chance to somebody else.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Will someone make a waiver deal for Miguel Gonzalez?

Miguel Gonzalez
On the surface, it seems preposterous that a contending team might want to swing a waiver deal for White Sox right-hander Miguel Gonzalez.

Gonzalez's overall numbers are not impressive -- a 6-10 record in 19 starts, to go along with a 4.67 ERA, a 5.01 FIP, a 1.48 WHIP and a rate of 5.13 Ks per 9 innings.

That said, the 33-year-old right-hander has made six starts since coming off the disabled list July 18 -- all against first-place teams -- and he has performed well in five of them.

The latest good Gonzalez outing came Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Although the Sox lost, 6-1, it was not the fault of Gonzalez, who pitched six innings of one-run ball against a Dodgers team that is an incredible 50 games over .500 (84-34).

Here's a look at the past six outings for Gonzalez:

July 18 vs. Dodgers: 6 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 5 Ks, 5 BBs (loss)
July 24 vs. Cubs: 7.1 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 Ks, 3 BBs (win)
July 29 vs Indians: 6 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 4 Ks, 3 BBs (no-decision)
Aug. 3 vs. Red Sox: 1.2 IP, 7 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 0 Ks, 0 BBs (loss)
Aug. 9. vs. Astros: 8 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 Ks, 1 BB (win)
Aug. 15 vs. Dodgers: 6 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4Ks, 3 BBs (no-decision)

That outing against Boston was terrible. We can't pretend that it didn't happen, but it's an outlier when you look at Gonzalez's recent performances. But even with that Red Sox disaster, Gonzalez is 2-2 with a 3.60 ERA during this stretch against six teams that would all be in the playoffs if the season ended today.

That's respectable, and despite his career mediocrity, Gonzalez could represent a back-of-the-rotation upgrade for a couple of teams that are in the playoff hunt.

I'm looking at you, Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Angels.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

White Sox trade Tyler Clippard to the Houston Astros; Dylan Covey comes off DL

Tyler Clippard
Tyler Clippard, we hardly knew ye.

The White Sox on Sunday night traded the veteran reliever to the Houston Astros in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations.

Clippard spent less than a month with the Sox. He was acquired from the New York Yankees, along with three minor-leaguers, on July 19 as part of a seven-player deal that also involved David Robertson, Todd Frazier and Tommy Kahnle.

The 32-year-old right-hander made only 11 appearances with the Sox, but it might have been enough to turn his season around. He was doing poorly with the Yankees -- a 4.95 ERA in 40 appearances -- but he was much better with the Sox, going 1-1 with a 1.80 ERA and two saves over 10 innings in those 11 outings.

Clippard was unscored upon in each of his final eight games with the Sox, and two of those came against Houston. Perhaps the Astros were impressed enough to pull the trigger on the move to acquire Clippard, who already has joined his new team and worked a scoreless inning Monday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

It's unclear at this point what the Sox will get in return. Perhaps it is contingent on how Clippard performs for the Astros. If he continues to pitch well, maybe the Sox will acquire a midlevel prospect of some sort out of the Houston organization. If he reverts to the poor form he showed in New York, perhaps the Sox only get cash.

That's my speculation; I noticed the language describing the deal said a player to be named later OR cash considerations. The "or" is the crucial word, and it leaves open the possibility that the terms of the trade will be finalized at the end of the season.

In the meantime, Clippard's departure creates another hole in the Sox bullpen. It will be filled by right-hander Dylan Covey, who was activated from the 10-day disabled list.

Covey made eight starts at the start of the season for the Sox and went 0-4 with an 8.12 ERA before going on the DL with an oblique strain. He hasn't pitched since May 23, and he'll no doubt be working out of the bullpen this time, with all the spots in the Sox starting rotation set (for now).

The Rule 5 pick pretty much needs to remain on the active roster for the remainder of the year, or else he would have to be offered back to the Oakland Athletics. As long as Covey is healthy, he'll be on the roster and taking his lumps when he does get the opportunity to pitch.

I wouldn't be particularly concerned about the possibility of losing Covey to Oakland, but from the Sox's perspective, I'm sure they are trying to retain as much pitching depth as possible as they go through this painful rebuilding process.

Monday, August 14, 2017

White Sox lose two of three to Kansas City Royals

Reynaldo Lopez
Hey, that winning streak was fun while it lasted, wasn't it? It reached four when the White Sox beat the Kansas City Royals on Friday night, but reality set in over the weekend as Kansas City prevailed in the final two games of the three-game series.

The Sox (45-70) finished their six-game homestand with a 4-2 record, which was a pleasant surprise despite some weekend ugliness. Here's a look back at this latest series.

Friday, Aug. 11
White Sox 6, Royals 3 -- Reynaldo Lopez finally got his opportunity, and he started his Sox career in electrifying fashion. He struck out five of the first eight hitters he faced, and turned in six quality innings.

The rookie right-hander allowed two solo home runs to Kansas City third baseman Mike Moustakas, but he kept the Royals off the board otherwise. He struck out six and walked three in receiving a no-decision.

The game was tied at 2 heading into the bottom of the seventh, when the Sox broke it open with a four-spot. Tim Anderson's two-run homer capped the rally, which also featured a go-ahead RBI triple by Adam Engel. The center fielder became the first Sox player to collect two triples in a game since Alejandro De Aza in 2011.

Aaron Bummer worked two scoreless innings of relief to pick up his first major league win.

Saturday, Aug. 12
Royals 5, White Sox 4 -- Hey, a quality start by James Shields!

Sure, Shields put the Sox in a 3-0 hole after two innings, but he didn't give up anything else over a six-inning outing. And the Sox got him off the hook, eventually rallying to take a 4-3 lead on Leury Garcia's two-run single in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Alas, the lead did not stick.

Reliever Chris Beck did what he does best -- walk people. Bummer relieved after Beck walked Lorenzo Cain to start the the eighth inning, and the rookie left-hander took the loss this time -- serving up a two-run homer to former Sox outfielder Melky Cabrera.

It stunk to see the four-game winning streak come to an end, but this game was an entertaining, back-and-forth contest. You can live with losses such as this one during a rebuilding season.

Sunday, Aug. 13
Royals 14, White Sox 6 -- In contrast, Sunday's loss was not one you could live with. It was a parade of terrible pitching that started with Derek Holland and continued with Mike Pelfrey, Beck, Greg Infante and Brad Goldberg.

Holland (6-12) allowed seven earned runs and didn't make it out of the third inning. Those who followed him weren't much better. Sox pitchers combined to give up 16 hits and walk nine batters in a boring game that took 3 hours, 38 minutes to play.

A fan seated behind me at Sunday's game pointed out that Holland is only here to "eat innings," which is true enough. I would be fine with that if Holland would, you know, actually eat some innings. It's ridiculous for him to get bombed like that and overexpose an inexperienced Sox bullpen. That's been a season-long complaint of mine: veteran innings-eaters failing to eat innings.

There were some positives offensively. Anderson continued his improved hitting with his 13th home run of the season. And rookie Nick Delmonico extended his hitting streak to 10 games, going 1 for 3 with a double and an RBI. Delmonico stung the ball into the right-center field gap three times. He was robbed of a double by Cain in the fifth inning, and robbed of a home run by Alex Gordon in the ninth inning.

Still too early to say whether Delmonico is going to stick in the majors, but he's been having consistent at-bats since he was called up from Triple-A Charlotte.

Friday, August 11, 2017

As we all expected, White Sox sweep Astros

Tim Anderson
The title of this blog entry is intended as sarcasm. So, please, no comments from Astros fans claiming that I'm being disrespectful.

The White Sox entered this week having lost 20 of their past 23 games. The Houston Astros were coming to town with the best record in the American League at 71-40, and their most accomplished pitcher, Dallas Keuchel, was scheduled to pitch Game 1 of the three-game series.

It wasn't looking good.

So, naturally, the Sox rocked Keuchel for eight runs, knocked him out early in an 8-5 victory Tuesday and set the stage for what ultimately would become a three-game series sweep for the South Siders, their first since they swept the Kansas City Royals from April 24 to 26.

Go figure.

We almost never see a Sox starting pitcher make it through eight innings, but stunningly, we saw it happen two nights in a row against a very good Houston lineup. Miguel Gonzalez (6-10) tossed eight innings of one-run ball in a 7-1 Sox victory Wednesday night. That game featured a two-run homer and an RBI double from Tim Anderson.

On Thursday night, left-hander Carlos Rodon continued his encouraging resurgence by throwing eight-innings of two-run ball. He did not get a decision in the Sox's 3-2, 11-inning victory, but he once again pitched deep into a game with an economy of pitches (98), and he walked nobody for the second consecutive outing.

In his past three games -- all against first-place teams (Indians, Red Sox, Astros), Rodon has tossed 22.1 innings and allowed only five runs on 21 hits. That will pencil out to a 2.01 ERA. He has struck out 24 and walked only two in that same span, reducing his season ERA from 6.29 to 4.24.

And, oh yeah, I've buried the lead a little bit here. I didn't mention that everyone's talking about Yoan Moncada after his performance Thursday night. His home run off Houston closer Ken Giles tied the game at 2 in the bottom of the ninth, and then his RBI single in the bottom of the 11th off Francis Martes scored Leury Garcia with the winning run.

Moncada, the Sox's top-ranked prospect, started slowly after being called up from Triple-A Charlotte. But we've seen him come on offensively in the past two series against Boston and Houston. He was 5 for 14 with three walks against the Red Sox, and 4 for 9 with three walks, a home run and a double against the Astros.

During that span, Moncada has raised his batting average from .105 to .213. His on-base percentage is a very respectable .377. The walks have been there all along. The hits are starting to come more frequently.

As for Anderson, he was 0 for 5 with three strikeouts Thursday, but before that, he was on a seven-game hitting streak that saw him go 11 for 31 (.355 average) with three doubles, a triple and two home runs. The solid contact and extra-base hits have suddenly returned to Anderson's game.

The wins over the Astros are nice, but let's be honest, they are inconsequential in the big picture with the Sox sitting at 44-68 overall. What really matters is some better play from some young guys who are supposed to be forming the future core of the team, and that's Rodon, Moncada and Anderson.

Now, we'll get a look at Reynaldo Lopez, who is being called up to make his first start in a Sox uniform Friday against Kansas City. Even if he does poorly, I'd rather see what he can do than watch any more starts from James Shields or Mike Pelfrey.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Rare good news: Two strong outings in a row for Carlos Rodon

Carlos Rodon
The White Sox (41-66) have lost four games in a row and 18 out of their past 21 after their 3-2, 11-inning loss to the Boston Red Sox on Friday night.

Now for some rare good news: Carlos Rodon has pitched really well in his past two starts, including his best outing of the season Friday at Fenway Park.

Here are the recent pitching lines for Rodon:

July 30 vs. Cleveland: 6.2 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 9 Ks, 2 BBs
Aug. 4 at Boston: 7.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 11 Ks, 0 BBs
Total: 14.1 IP, 12 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 20 Ks, 2 BBs

That 10-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio is what I like about Rodon this week. The fastball command is there. The velocity is consistently about 97 mph. The slider is working. He's getting swings and misses, and he's getting outs in a reasonable number of pitches. No walks against Boston; that's what you have to do to give yourself a chance to win. The 11 strikeouts Friday ties a career high.

And it isn't as if these outings have come against crummy teams, either. The Indians lead the AL Central. The Red Sox lead the AL East. Both are likely playoff teams. The Indians rank fourth in the AL in runs scored; the Red Sox rank fifth.

These were good performances against good teams. Too bad Rodon received two no-decisions for his effort. At least the Sox won the game against Cleveland, but it wasn't happening Friday night in Boston. Mitch Moreland hit a walk-off homer off Aaron Bummer (0-2) in the bottom of the 11th to secure the win for the Red Sox.

The beat goes on in terms of the tanking for draft position, but since Rodon is one of the few on the current roster who is supposedly part of the long-term plan, it's nice to see him picking it up out there.

'Why Todd Frazier can't hit anymore'

Todd Frazier (21)
One of the mildly interesting things about blogging on Google: You can look at the analytics and find out how people are hitting your website.

For example, somebody hit this blog this week by Googling the phrase "Why Todd Frazier can't hit anymore."

I chuckled to myself, knowing it was probably a frustrated New York Yankees fan who is just now finding out what White Sox fans already know -- Frazier is in severe decline and pretty darn close to being done at age 31.

Since the seven-player trade between the Sox and Yankees on July 19, Frazier has appeared in 14 games for New York and made 53 plate appearances. He has a grand total of one extra-base hit. (It was a homer.) That's not what you were hoping for, is it Yankee fans?

Frazier has compiled a slash line of .182/.321/.250 with the Yankees. I know, the usual caveats about small sample sizes apply, but I hate to tell you New York folks that this really isn't unusual for Frazier. His slash line for the season is .204/.327/.407, so while I think Frazier still will hit a few home runs between now and the end of the season, if you're waiting for more consistent production, none is forthcoming.

This isn't really a slump for Frazier. Rather, it's a continuation of struggles that have occurred ever since the veteran third baseman moved from the National League to the American League. He's slashing .218/.311/.444 since he was traded to the White Sox from the Cincinnati Reds before the start of the 2016 season.

Last year, I looked by Frazier's .225 batting average to some extent, because he clubbed 40 home runs and drove in 98 runs for the Sox. Sure, he didn't have a lot of hits, but at least there were some big hits, and there was some decent run production.

This year, I didn't feel as though many of the 16 home runs Frazier hit for the Sox mattered much, and obviously, he will not be reaching the 40-homer plateau this season.

It's too bad Frazier stinks now. I've heard good things about the kind of guy he is, and my impressions of him from SoxFest the past couple years were positive. They say he's good in the clubhouse, and I have no reason to doubt that's true.

However, Frazier's on-field performance was disappointing during his tenure with the Sox, and I expect that to continue in New York.

I saw the Yankees held him out of the lineup Thursday in their 5-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians. Probably smart, because Frazier can't hit Corey Kluber worth a damn anyway (2 for 23 lifetime). But the sad reality is Frazier can't hit most guys anymore, and it's for the best that the Sox have moved on from him.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

It was 'Sickly Lineup Wednesday' at Guaranteed Rate Field

J.A. Happ
We have entered what I believe will be the darkest days of White Sox's rebuild -- from now until the end of the 2017 season. The roster is depleted through both trades and injuries, and the South Siders will be outmanned in every game they play for the rest of the year.

That's going to be true even against other also-rans such as the Toronto Blue Jays, who took two out of three from the Sox this week at Guaranteed Rate Field. The Jays beat the Sox, 5-1, on Wednesday, and it would have been embarrassing for Toronto had it not won.

Take a look at the sickly Sox lineup trotted out there against Toronto starter J.A. Happ:

1. Tim Anderson, SS
2. Tyler Saladino, 3B
3. Jose Abreu, 1B
4. Kevan Smith, C
5. Nick Delmonico, LF
6. Leury Garcia, RF
7. Yolmer Sanchez, 2B
8. Alen Hanson, DH
9. Adam Engel, CF

Kevan Smith as cleanup hitter? Oh boy. You can't blame Sox manager Rick Renteria. He had only 10 healthy position players for this game. The only guy not in his lineup was the other catcher on the roster, Omar Narvaez.

Second baseman Yoan Moncada is day to day with a right quad bruise suffered in a nasty collision Monday night with right fielder Willy Garcia. That incident sent Garcia to the seven-day concussion list. The Sox already were minus their All-Star right fielder, Avisail Garcia. And Matt Davidson, who had two game-winning hits in as many days Sunday and Monday, also is day to day with a bruised right wrist after being hit by a pitch Tuesday night.

The Sox players who were not traded already have their work cut out for them trying to stay competitive in games, and the job has been made that much harder by this recent rash of injuries.

Happ (4-8) had been struggling coming into Wednesday, but he mostly cruised against this short-handed Sox lineup. He went seven innings, allowing one run. He struck out 10 and walked one for his first win since July 4. In his previous three games, he had 10 strikeouts *combined* in 17 innings.

But the Sox racked up 14 strikeouts against Happ and four Toronto relievers, and there was one stretch where 10 Sox batters in a row did not put the ball in play -- it was nothing but strikeouts and walks.

There's really not a whole helluva lot to analyze or talk about with this team at the moment. They are depleted. They are going to lose and lose a lot. There's no point in getting upset about it. As fans, we'll just have to wear it in the short run.