Showing posts with label Avisail Garcia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Avisail Garcia. Show all posts

Monday, October 2, 2017

It could have been worse: White Sox finish 2017 with 67-95 record

Jose Abreu
Here's a sentence that I might not type again for the rest of my life: The 2017 White Sox exceeded expectations by finishing 67-95.

Through 118 games, the Sox were 45-73 and appeared to be on their way to 100 losses. And nobody would have been shocked or unhappy if they had lost 100. Established veterans such as Jose Quintana, David Robertson, Todd Frazier and Melky Cabrera were traded in July. Competent bullpen arms such as Tommy Kahnle, Dan Jennings and Anthony Swarzak also were shown the door.

After all that, I never would have guessed the Sox would have a winning September -- they went 15-14 -- nor would I have believed they would go 22-22 in their last 44 games. But that's exactly what they did, and you have to give manager Rick Renteria and his staff some credit. He had guys playing hard and playing the right way all the way up to the very end, and the Sox were able to crawl out of last place while the Detroit Tigers (64-98) tanked and finished with the worst record in the league.

The Sox will draft No. 4 overall in the 2018 entry draft, instead of first, as many had hoped. I can live with that, because their late-season competency wasn't led by a group of mediocre veterans. The younger players who are supposed to be a part of the future -- Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Carson Fulmer -- all had some positive moments that contributed to winning. You want to see that progress and that development. It's the most important thing for a team that is in the Sox's position.

However, in recent weeks, I have heard some Sox fans getting a little too exuberant about the team's hopes for 2018. It has been pointed out that the Minnesota Twins, who were 59-103 at this time a year ago, rebounded to 85-77 and won the second wild card in the American League. That's led some to ask the question, "Why can't the Sox author a similar turnaround next year?"

That's a noble thought, but it's just not likely. Despite some of the positives we've seen as of late, the Sox have very little talent in their bullpen. In order to contend next season, they would have to buy at least three and maybe four relief arms in free agency, and I don't see that being a prudent course of action at this stage. They've committed to the rebuild, so stay the course.

Looking ahead to 2018, here's my best guess at how things might break down at each position:

Catcher: There's a pretty good chance both Kevan Smith and Omar Narvaez are back next year. Smith hit .283, Narvaez hit .277. We haven't seen that sort of offensive competency from Sox catchers since A.J. Pierzynski left, and neither Smith nor Narvaez embarrassed themselves defensively. Both are probably better options at the position than dumpster diving in free agency.

First base: Jose Abreu enjoyed one of his finest seasons in 2017. He hit .304 with 33 home runs and 102 RBIs. He had 343 total bases and posted a .906 OPS. I've often heard people say the Sox should keep Abreu around to be "a mentor and leader" for young Latino players. It is true that Abreu can be that guy, but keeping him on the club just for that reason sells him short. This guy has had 100 or more RBIs for four straight seasons with not a lot of help. Perhaps the Sox should keep him because he's one of the best in the game at his position.

Second base: Moncada's .231 average reflects the struggles he had when he was first called up to the majors. I said we needed to see a hot streak from this guy before the year ended, and sure enough, we saw one. He hit .276 with an .818 OPS and five home runs after Sept. 1. Something to build on for a player who needs to be a core piece in order for the Sox's rebuild to work.

Shortstop: Anderson's second-half OPS (.732) was a full 100 points higher than his first-half OPS (.632), and he hit .327 in September to raise his season batting average to .257. Eight of his 17 home runs and nine of his 15 stolen bases came after Aug. 1. Signs of progress. Next year is a big year for Anderson. He had a good rookie season. He struggled much of his second year before finishing strong. Consider 2018 the tiebreaker season to give us a read on what type of player Anderson truly is.

Third base: As it stands right now, I think Yolmer Sanchez is the guy. He's the best defensive infielder the Sox have, and he hit .267/.319/.413 with 12 home runs and 59 RBIs. That was more production that I ever expected from Sanchez, and he outplayed both Matt Davidson and Tyler Saladino by a wide margin. Sure, Davidson hit 26 home runs, but that's all he does. The .220 batting average and .260 on-base percentage are not impressive, and Davidson doesn't give you much with the glove. Back problems seem to be ruining Saladino's career, as he hit .178 with no home runs in 79 games this year. After a promising 2016, Saladino is perhaps on his way out the door. That's a cautionary tale not to get too excited about Sanchez, I suppose. Long-term, though, I see Sanchez as a valuable bench player on a contender. I think he still can start on next year's Sox team.

Outfield: I'll go on the record: Keep Avisail Garcia. I know some Sox fans want to "sell high," but they are assuming that clubs out there will want to "buy high." I don't know if there will be any takers at a high price. As Sox fans, we don't necessarily believe Garcia can hit .330 again next year. If we don't believe it, why would rival GMs? I'm in favor of putting Garcia in right field for 2018. He won't hit .330, but I'll settle for .280 with 20 home runs and 80 RBIs. I think he can do that, and while the Sox have outfield prospects in the system, none will be ready for the start of next season. Adam Engel and Leury Garcia will probably vie for playing time in center field. Engel is good with the glove, but can't hit at all, and Leury Garcia keeps getting hurt. They are stopgap solutions, but that's good enough for now. I wouldn't mind seeing the Sox add a stopgap corner outfield veteran to play left field in case Nick Delmonico's surprising late-season performance with the bat is a mirage. Not to mention, Delmonico is subpar with the glove, so I don't know that I want to give him 140 games in left field.

Designated hitter: Would a platoon of Davidson and Delmonico be reasonable to start 2018?

Starting pitching: I think I know three of the five coming into next season: Giolito, Lopez and James Shields. Giolito was better than expected in seven late-season starts, going 3-3 with a 2.38 ERA. The Sox hope he is part of their present and future, so let him pitch. Ditto with Lopez, whose performance (3-3, 4.72 ERA in eight starts) was more uneven than Giolito's, but promising at times. Shields is a veteran with a bad contract, and veterans with bad contracts tend to stay right where they are. Fulmer had a rough season at Triple-A Charlotte, then surprised by going 3-1 with a 3.86 ERA in seven late-season appearances (five starts). I think Fulmer competes for a rotation spot in the spring, but he didn't show enough over the course of the year for me to be confident that he's one of the five for 2018. Carlos Rodon was limited to 12 starts this season because of shoulder problems. Now, he's out six to eight months after shoulder surgery. I never felt the Sox were being truthful about the extent of Rodon's injury. Maybe we'll see him in May or June of next year, or maybe not. You can't count on him, and I think the Sox need to sign two stopgap veterans on short-term deals to fill out the rotation. I've heard Sox fans call for the team to sign a "Derek Holland type." Frankly, I'd prefer a "Miguel Gonzalez type," since Gonzalez did that job for the Sox in 2017, while Holland failed miserably after a respectable first two months.

Relief pitching: Who do you keep from this morass? You can't sign a whole new bullpen, so you gotta keep somebody. I'll keep Juan Minaya, Aaron Bummer and Greg Infante. I'm not overly impressed with any of them, but they are the best of a bad lot. Nate Jones has a contract for next season, and he's coming off a second elbow surgery. Fingers crossed that he can provide some veteran stability, but you can't count on that. Jake Petricka and Zach Putnam are always injured. It's time to move on from them. Beyond that, who knows? Is stinks that Zack Burdi is going to miss 2018 after elbow surgery. He would have been in the major league bullpen, and that would have been one more young guy to watch.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

White Sox avoid infamy, split four games with Detroit

Matt Boyd
The White Sox scored 29 runs through the first three games of their four-game weekend series against the Detroit Tigers.

So, naturally, on Sunday, they went out and nearly got no-hit by one of the worst starting pitchers in the American League -- Detroit left-hander Matt Boyd.

Boyd retired 26 of the first 27 hitters he faced in a 12-0 victory, with Rob Brantly being the only man to reach base on a walk with two outs in the top of the third inning.

Alas, Sox shortstop Tim Anderson broke up the no-hit bid with a two-out double in the top of the ninth. The Sox are lucky the Tigers had a third baseman (Nick Castellanos) playing right field, because a good outfielder might have run down Anderson's liner into the right-center field gap.

Boyd finished with a one-hitter, and that will be forgotten about by next week -- if it hasn't been forgotten about already. No-hitters live forever, and it would have been embarrassing for the Sox to be no-hit by Boyd, who is 6-10 with a 5.33 ERA this season.

Crazy thing is, Boyd had been 0-4 with a 6.13 ERA in eight previous career starts against the Sox. Normally, I look forward to seeing Boyd on the mound, so I have no idea how he managed to pitch a one-hitter in Sunday's game.

Here's a look back at the rest of the series:

Thursday, Sept. 14
White Sox 17, Tigers 7: The Sox pounded 25 hits, including 21 singles, and forced the Tigers to use eight pitchers.

It was a career day for right fielder Avisail Garcia, who went 5 for 5 with a three-run homer and seven RBIs. The top five hitters in the Sox lineup combined for 19 hits. Yoan Moncada had four hits, including a home run, and scored five runs. Jose Abreu had four hits, three runs scored and two RBIs. Anderson went 3 for 7 with two runs scored and two RBIs, and Matt Davidson went 3 for 5 with three RBIs. It was quite an offensive display.

And, Tyler Saladino went 0 for 6. Hey, somebody has gotta make the outs, right?

The Sox got a decent outing from James Shields (4-6), who allowed four runs over six innings and struck out seven. With that kind of run support, even the erstwhile Shields is a good bet to pick up a victory.

Friday, Sept. 15
Tigers 3, White Sox 2: There were two positive signs the Sox could take out of this loss. First and foremost, they got a second consecutive good start from Carson Fulmer.

Fulmer went six innings, allowing one run on four hits. He struck out five and walked only one. The right-hander allowed only one run in six innings in his previous start against the San Francisco Giants, so it's possible Fulmer has found something after struggling for much of the year at Triple-A Charlotte.

Or, perhaps Fulmer just capitalized on pitching against two bad teams in San Francisco and Detroit. His next scheduled start should be against AL West champion Houston, so that might provide a better measure of Fulmer's progress.

The other positive sign? Moncada homered for the second straight game. The prized prospect has been swinging the bat better of late.

The bullpen combination of Al Alburquerque (0-2), Aaron Bummer and Juan Minaya coughed this game up by allowing a run in the bottom of the ninth inning, but what else would you expect from that group?

Saturday, Sept. 16
White Sox 10, Tigers 4: The Sox scored six runs in the first two innings and went on to total 17 hits in a lopsided win.

Anderson went 4 for 5 with two runs scored, Moncada collected two more hits, Nick Delmonico connected for his eighth home run of the season, and Abreu is up to 97 RBIs after he knocked in two more runs in this game.

The run support was useful for right-hander Reynaldo Lopez (2-3), who struggled early but settled in to throw seven innings. The Tigers got three off Lopez in the second inning, but only one the rest of the way.

Lopez, Fulmer and Lucas Giolito all have two wins each since being called up from Charlotte. All of them are at least contenders for rotation spots in the 2018 season.

Sunday, Sept. 17
Tigers 12, White Sox 0: We already talked about this terrible game, so can I just say Dylan Covey is NOT a contender for a rotation spot in the 2018 season and move on?

Thanks.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Avisail Garcia is hitting a lot of singles since coming off the DL

Avisail Garcia
White Sox right fielder Avisail Garcia is second in the American League in hitting with a .322 batting average.

Who would have thought we'd be making that statement on Aug. 29? Garcia continues to perform well above his career norms -- he's a lifetime .272 hitter, and it's not a small sample size. By the end of the week, he will have 2,000 career plate appearances in the big leagues.

Garcia is not going to challenge for the batting title. Houston's Jose Altuve is well ahead of the field with a .356 batting average, but Garcia has been hot since he came off the disabled list Aug. 8.

In his past 16 games, Garcia is 25 for 58. That will pencil out to a .431 batting average. He has at least one hit in 13 of those 16 games. He has eight multi-hit performances, including three three-hit games.

But here's the thing about it: Most of Garcia's hits are singles now. Since coming off the DL, Garcia has only four extra-base hits. All of those are doubles, and the last one came two weeks ago on Aug. 13.

Garcia was sidelined for about two weeks with a sprained thumb, and it's amazing how injuries to hands, thumbs and wrists rob hitters of their power.

Credit Garcia for continuing to get base hits during this period where he likely is not 100 percent healthy, but it's unfortunate that this hot streak has produced only seven RBIs for him.

A modest suggestion for manager Rick Renteria: Flip the batting order and put Garcia third, ahead of Jose Abreu.

For the most part, Abreu has been hitting third, with Garcia fourth. Abreu has seven home runs since Aug. 12, but only 10 RBIs to show for it. The guys hitting first and second haven't been getting on base for Abreu.

Who has been getting on? Well, Garcia has. Put him before Abreu in the lineup, and maybe some of these Garcia singles turn into runs for the Sox, if Abreu can continue to drive the ball off the wall or over it with consistency.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Backtracking a little bit: Avisail Garcia is injured

Avisail Garcia
Amid all the trade news and excessive hype surrounding a noncompetitive Crosstown Classic, I failed to comment on this bit of news: The White Sox's lone All-Star, right fielder Avisail Garcia, went on the disabled list this week with a strained ligament in his right thumb.

We can't say Garcia's absence was the reason the Sox lost, 6-3, to the Cubs on Thursday. His replacement in right field, Willy Garcia, went 1 for 3 with a solo home run off Jon Lester to provide one of the few positives from the game and that series overall.

The bigger issue is we're once again starting to wonder who the real Avisail Garcia is. He had a torrid first two months, but he's been badly regressing in recent weeks. He was in a 1-for-30 slump leading up to his appearance in the All-Star Game.

Immediately after the break, it looked as if he might be emerging from the slump. He went 5 for 13 with a pair of home runs in a three-game set against the Seattle Mariners. His swing seemed to be getting back to where it was at the start of the season.

Alas, Garcia went right back into the slump once Seattle left town. He was 3 for 24 with not a single extra-base hit in the six games before he went onto the disabled list.

Here are Garcia's splits by month:

April: .368/.409/.621, 5 HRs, 20 RBIs
May: .301/.345/.485, 3 HRs, 17 RBIs
June: .293/.340/.444, 3 HRs, 14 RBIs
July: .216/.259/.333, 2 HRs, 3 RBIs

The July decline in production sticks out like, well, a sore thumb. Could these struggles be the result of a nagging injury? Absolutely. Could these struggles be the return of the old, disappointing Avi? Unfortunately, yes. It's hard to tell.

For me, it's hard to pencil Garcia in as one of the core players to lead the way during the Sox rebuilding phase because he has a habit of ending up on the disabled list. This is his fourth full year in the big leagues, and only once has he played in more than 120 games. He still could surpass that plateau this year -- we'll see how long this injury sidelines him. The Sox say two weeks, but based on their track record of fibbing about injuries, that could mean two months. At that point, the season would be almost over.

The question is, what do you do with Avi? Do you hope he gets healthy, hope he finishes up strong, then trade him as a "sell high" guy this offseason before he regresses or gets hurt again? Do you believe the April, May and June Avi is the real Avi and extend his contract, believing he's a significant piece of the outfield puzzle going forward? Or, do you do nothing, and just allow him to be the placeholder right fielder during the rebuild and then move on from him when (hopefully) one of the prospects is ready to replace him?

Friday, June 30, 2017

White Sox likely to have more representation in Futures Game than All-Star Game

Yoan Moncada
White Sox fans will have a reason to watch this year's Futures Game. The rosters were announced Thursday for the annual midsummer showcase, and three Sox prospects made the list: second baseman Yoan Moncada, pitcher Michael Kopech and catcher Zack Collins.

It appears likely the Sox will have more representation in the Futures Game than they will in the All-Star Game itself, with right fielder Avisail Garcia and first baseman Jose Abreu the only two legitimate All-Star candidates on the big-league roster.

Moncada will play for the World team, and will try to defend the MVP honor he won in the Futures Game last season when he still was a member of the Boston Red Sox organization.

This season, Moncada has hit .281/.381/.454 with 10 home runs, 29 RBIs and 15 stolen bases for Triple-A Charlotte. He spent some time on the disabled list with a thumb injury about a month ago, and struggled when he first returned, but he's had a solid season overall and has lived up to the billing as the Sox's No. 1-ranked prospect.

Kopech, the fireballing right-hander who was acquired along with Moncada in the Chris Sale trade, is 4-5 with a 3.72 ERA in 15 starts at Double-A Birmingham. Kopech has demonstrated that he has the raw ability to be an elite pitcher -- he's fanned 97 hitters and allowed only 51 hits in 75 innings for the Barons. However, his control remains a work in progress. He's walked 49, and that's what has prevented him from earning a promotion to Charlotte, despite being selected to the Double-A All-Star Game, and now, Team USA in the Futures Game.

Collins also is on the Team USA roster, and his selection is a little more of a surprise. He's a had a rough season at Class-A Winston-Salem, although he has 10 home runs and leads the league with 56 walks. But his.206/.362/.399 slash line qualifies as a disappointment, and so do the 82 strikeouts in 233 at-bats. However, they say catching is the fastest path to the big leagues, and perhaps there aren't many good catching prospects out there. This is Collins' first full year in pro ball, so there's plenty of time for him to get his career on right track.

Sox salvage split with Yankees

Thanks to the rainy conditions here in Chicago, Thursday night's game didn't end until after 1 a.m. local time, but it ended happily, with the Sox picking up a 4-3 victory over the New York Yankees.

I've been critical of James Shields (2-1), so let's give credit to him for a respectable outing. He fired 6.1 innings of three-run ball and left the mound with the 4-3 lead intact. The big hit of the game came from Willy Garcia, whose two-out, two-run double in the fourth inning put the Sox ahead for good at 4-2.

The Sox bullpen combined to throw 2.2 innings of shutout ball. Closer David Robertson earned his 12th save, striking out New York slugger Aaron Judge with a man on base for the final out.

It's been a tough homestand so far, even with Thursday's win. The Sox are 2-5 with three games to come this weekend against the Texas Rangers.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Two good months in a row for Avisail Garcia

Avisail Garcia
One quick point about White Sox right fielder Avisail Garcia today:

It's June 1, and he's hitting .322/.374/.547 with eight home runs, three triples, a team-best 11 doubles and a team-best 37 RBIs.

He went 2 for 4 on Wednesday in the Sox's 4-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox to cap a second consecutive month in which he hit .300 or better.

April: .368/.409/.621, 5 HRs, 2 3Bs, 3 2Bs, 20 RBIs in 93 plate apperances
May: .301/.345/.485, 3 HRs, 1 3B, 8 2Bs, 17 RBIs in 110 plate appearances

There was no way Garcia was going to sustain that 1.029 OPS he had in April, but that .301 May average and .831 May OPS is still pretty solid work. And it's well above Garcia's career norms of a .267 average and a .722 OPS.

I have to admit, I've been burned by Garcia before. I've had high hopes for him in the past, only to be let down when he goes into one of his patented lengthy slumps. But, this is the first time since he's joined the Sox that he's put together back-to-back months of this quality.

I'm still not 100 percent convinced that he's actually going to be good for a whole season, but let's give credit where credit is due: Garcia has been the most consistent and most productive hitter on the Sox through the first 52 games of the 2017 season.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Ill-advised bunt attempts get in the way of potential White Sox rally

Leury Garcia
Let me preface my comments on Tuesday's 5-4 White Sox loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks with this: There is a time and place to bunt and play for one run. (For instance, the bottom of the ninth inning of a tie game.)

That said, I often see major league managers fall into the trap of giving away outs when they should not be playing for only one run. Sox manager Rick Renteria did just that in the eighth inning Tuesday, and it contributed to the Sox (20-24) dropping a winnable game.

The Diamondbacks brought Jorge De La Rosa in to protect a 5-3 lead in that eighth inning, and he fooled nobody. Jose Abreu homered to pull the Sox within a run. Todd Frazier walked and Melky Cabrera singled, and the Sox were set up with runners on first and second with nobody out.

That brought up Leury Garcia, who is not my favorite player, but the fact of the matter is he is hitting a respectable .288 this season. Thanks to a double switch, the pitcher's spot was due up after Garcia, followed by .182-hitting catcher Kevan Smith.

De La Rosa was laboring, so I liked Garcia's chances of doing something in that situation. Why give a struggling pitcher an out? And the Sox were moving toward a compromised bottom part of the batting order, so Garcia seemed as good a bet as any to come up with the hit the Sox needed. Unfortunately, Renteria called for Garcia to sacrifice bunt. After two failed attempts, he hit a weak grounder to third base. Now, that grounder did advance the runners to second and third, so it had the same effect as the bunt, but Garcia essentially gave away his at-bat. De La Rosa got an out he didn't earn, and some traction in that inning.

That brought up the pitcher's spot, and Avisail Garcia -- who did not start the game because of flu-like symptons -- was sent to the plate to pinch hit. Alas, first base was open. There was no way the Diamondbacks were going to face the .342-hitting Garcia in that situation. The intentional walk was issued, and Renteria's best option off the bench went to waste.

That brought up the right-handed hitting Smith, and gave Arizona manager Torey Lovullo a good reason to remove the left-handed De La Rosa. Lovullo did just that. He brought in right-hander J.J. Hoover. The Sox used Omar Narvaez to pinch hit for Smith, but Hoover struck him out. Then, he struck out Yolmer Sanchez to escape the bases-loaded situation and preserve Arizona's 5-4 lead.

The Sox did not mount a threat in the ninth against Arizona closer Fernando Rodney, so their best chance to score was against De La Rosa, who had nothing going for him out there. Unfortunately, Renteria did not give Leury Garcia a chance to take advantage of that. Instead, he managed the Sox into a situation where Lovullo had good reason to remove a struggling pitcher and replace him with a pitcher who had his stuff together.

Losing proposition for the Sox.

And, there was no reason for Renteria to want the game to be tied. He needed to get the lead in that spot, because the Sox are carrying 13 relievers and playing with a short bench. Starting pitcher Dylan Covey lasted only 2.1 innings in this game, and three Sox relievers already had been used by the eighth inning. Narvaez was the last position player available when he was used in the eighth.

This was not a situation where the Sox wanted to go to extra innings. They needed to win it in regulation, and by playing for the tie, they increased their odds of losing it in regulation. Lose it they did.

Frustrating loss.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

White Sox recover to take three out of four from Seattle Mariners

Avisail Garcia
Now is the perfect time to have the Seattle Mariners come up on your schedule.

There isn't a team in the American League that has dealt with more key injuries than the Mariners. Seattle's best player, second baseman Robinson Cano (quadriceps), is on the disabled list. Eighty percent of the Mariners' starting rotation  -- Felix Hernandez (shoulder), Hisashi Iwakuma (shoulder), James Paxton (forearm) and Drew Smyly (elbow) -- also is on the disabled list.

Teams don't like to make excuses, and they often say injuries are not an excuse. The reality is a little different: If your best dudes get hurt, chances are you're gonna lose. And the Mariners lost three of four to the White Sox this weekend.

The Sox (20-22) took the final three games of the series, the last two in blowout fashion. Here's our recap of the weekend that was:

Friday, May 19
White Sox 2, Mariners 1 (10 inn.): It's well-known that Sox ace Jose Quintana has suffered from a lack of run support for years, and the same has held true this season. But, Quintana hasn't been pitching up to his capabilities as of late, as his 4.38 ERA coming into this game would attest. So, he's hasn't been quite as sympathetic of a figure as he has been in the past.

That changed in this game. It was back to business as usual for Quintana. He was brilliant over eight innings, allowing one run on only one hit. He struck out seven and walked one -- and got a no-decision. Typical.

Fortunately, while Quintana did not get the win, the Sox did. Melky Cabrera's two-out, RBI double on an 0-2 slider from Seattle's Tony Zych (2-1) plated the winning run in the top of the 10th inning.

Sox closer David Robertson (3-1) retired all six men he faced over two innings to pick up the win, which snapped a four-game losing streak for the Sox.

Saturday, May 20
White Sox 16, Mariners 1: I doubt the Sox will have a more lopsided win than this one all year. They jumped on Seattle starter Yovani Gallardo (2-4) for four runs in the first inning, highlighted by Avisail Garcia's three-run homer on a first-pitch curve ball, and never let up from there.

The South Siders pounded out 19 hits, and while we've still got three-quarters of a season left to play, it's getting harder and harder to overlook Garcia's performance. He became the first Sox player to total 12 bases in a game since Dan Johnson hit three home runs in the same game on the final day of the 2012 season. Garcia homered in each of his first two plate appearances, then added two doubles for good measure, as he finished 4 for 5 with six RBIs.

Garcia leads the Sox with 34 RBIs, and he is tied for the team lead in homers with eight.

Not even Mike Pelfrey (1-4) could lose this game. The erstwhile veteran pitched six innings of one-run ball to earn his first victory in six starts this season. If you get 16 runs of support, hey, you better win. That's about a whole month's worth of runs for Quintana, you know?

Sunday, May 21
White Sox 8, Mariners 1: Seattle called up right-hander Chris Heston to make his first start of the season, and let's just say it didn't go well. He walked the bases loaded in the first inning, and that led to a five-run outburst for the Sox.

The BABIP gods were with the South Siders in this one, as they got a couple solid base hits in the inning -- a two-run single by Yolmer Sanchez and an RBI single by Matt Davidson -- and two really cheap RBI infield singles -- one by Tim Anderson and the other by Kevan Smith.

Heston didn't deserve any luck, of course, because walking the bases loaded in the first inning is not a recipe for success.

Left-hander Derek Holland (4-3) has been the Sox's most consistent starting pitcher this season, and  he capitalized on having a 5-0 lead before he threw a single pitch with another strong outing. He went eight innings, allowing only a solo home run to Nelson Cruz. The veteran pounded the strike zone, throwing 70 of his 105 pitches for strikes, which is precisely what a pitcher should be doing with a big lead. He fanned six, walked only two and lowered his season ERA to 2.47.

Sanchez extended his hitting streak to 12 games with the first-inning single. Anderson added a solo home run in the third, his fifth of the year, and a three-hit performance raised his batting average to .264.

Monday, May 15, 2017

White Sox win two of three games vs. Padres in clash of rebuilding teams

Todd Frazier
There are some White Sox fans out there who have their hearts set on losing as many games as possible this season, in hopes of getting the No. 1 pick in the 2018 MLB draft.

I hate to tell those folks this, but it's going to be real hard for the Sox or any other team to be worse than the San Diego Padres this year.

The Sox (17-18) took two out of three from the Padres (14-25) at Guaranteed Rate Field over the weekend, and I saw San Diego do some terrible things that I've never seen a major league team do in all the years that I've following the great sport of baseball.

Let's get to some thoughts on the weekend that was:

Friday, May 12
Padres 6, White Sox 3: Even a brutal team such as San Diego is going to win 55 to 60 games, and this was one of those games for the Padres.

They hit three home runs, including two off Sox starter Miguel Gonzalez, who continued his inevitable regression to the mean by allowing five earned runs in five innings. San Diego had a 3-0 lead by the third inning, and offense was scarce for the South Siders.

Five of the nine Sox starters took 0-fers, and the team wasted a multiple homer game by Leury Garcia, who had had three hits. Garcia's two homers accounted for all three Sox runs.

Saturday, May 13
White Sox 5, Padres 4: The Sox trailed, 2-1, going to the bottom of the fourth inning when Jose Abreu reached on an error by San Diego third baseman Ryan Schimpf. Abreu then advanced to second base on a wild pitch by Trevor Cahill. Abreu then advanced to third base on a wild pitch by Trevor Cahill. Abreu then scored the tying run on a wild pitch by Trevor Cahill.

The Padres gave up a run on an E-5 and three wild pitches. I've seen such incompetence before in my days as a high school sports reporter, but I've never seen such buffoonery by a big league club.

The Sox ended up collecting their first walk-off win of the season. With the score tied 4-4 in the bottom of the ninth, San Diego reliever Brad Hand committed a cardinal sin by walking the Sox's No. 9 hitter, Tyler Saladino, to start the inning.

Garcia bunted Saladino into scoring position. Hand jumped ahead of the next hitter, Yolmer Sanchez, 0-2. But, Hand had fallen into a pattern of throwing his breaking ball every time he got into a two-strike count. He got a pair of strikeouts on the curve in the bottom of the eighth inning, but Sanchez appeared to be sitting on it in that situation.

The second baseman smacked one back up the middle for a single, and Saladino scored the winning run on a bang-bang play at the plate.

Sunday, May 14
White Sox 9, Padres 3: For seven innings, this was an aggravating game for Sox fans to watch. The offense was limited to only one run over six innings against the corpse of Jered Weaver, who has an ERA of 6.05 even after baffling Sox hitters throughout the afternoon.

Weaver hasn't won a game all season, and I had heard reports that he would be a candidate for release if he did not pitch well in Chicago. The Sox had a chance to perhaps literally end his career in the bottom of the first inning. Bases loaded, no outs. Alas, Weaver was out of the inning with only one run allowed two pitches later, after Avisail Garcia hit into a run-scoring double play and Todd Frazier grounded out.

No matter, San Diego imploded in the bottom of the eighth inning. The Padres had a 3-1 lead, but they walked five hitters, plunked a batter and committed two errors in that inning. The Sox sprinkled in four hits and parlayed all that into an eight-run outburst that gave them the 9-3 victory.

Melky Cabrera provided the big hit, a two-run single with the bases loaded that put the Sox ahead to stay at 4-3.

Moments later, the Sox had first and third with one out when Saladino popped up a bunt to first baseman Wil Myers. Frazier tagged and scored from third on a ball that traveled about 50 feet in the air to make it 5-3.

Yes, you read that right.

Myers had his back to the play after making the catch, and he casually flipped the ball back to pitcher Brandon Maurer. While the Padres were acting like a bunch of aloof idiots, Frazier tore down the third-base line to score a run. By the time Maurer realized what was happening, he made an errant toss to the plate that allowed Cabrera to advance to second.

The Sox tacked on with an RBI single by Willy Garcia, a two-run double by Leury Garcia and a RBI single by Sanchez.

I've never seen a team at any level give up a run on a pop-up bunt to first base before. Give the Padres credit; they seem hellbent on being the worst team in baseball.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Suddenly, the Royals no longer own Jose Quintana

Jose Quintana
White Sox pitcher Jose Quintana has lost 50 games over his five-plus seasons in the major leagues. Nine of those losses are against the Kansas City Royals.

Coming into the 2017 season, Quintana was 1-9 with a 4.32 ERA in 22 starts against Kansas City.

With that information in hand, it's somewhat surprising that the left-hander has won two games against the Royals in the past week. Quintana followed up a 10-strikeout performance in his previous outing with eight shutout innings Tuesday, leading the Sox to a 6-0 win over Kansas City.

Quintana struck out seven in this game and allowed only four hits -- all singles. He didn't walk anybody until the eighth inning, when he walked two, and that was the only inning where the Royals had a runner reach scoring position. Kansas City placed the leadoff batter on only once in eight innings, and that runner was quickly erased on a 5-4-3 double play in the third.

This was a dominant performance for Quintana (2-4) against a Royals team that has been struggling offensively. Kansas City (8-17) has lost 10 out of 11 games and has scored a league-worst 69 runs through its first 25 games. Safe to say, 2.76 runs a game isn't going to cut it in the American League. The Sox have to hope the Kansas City bats remain quiet for two more games before they get out of town.

Quintana's numbers against the Royals this season? 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA with 17 strikeouts in 14 innings.

Meanwhile, Royals starter Danny Duffy (2-2)  has seen his fortunes against the Sox take a turn for the worse. The hard-throwing lefty has always had success against Chicago. Coming into this season, he was 6-2 with a 3.20 ERA lifetime vs. the Sox.

But Tuesday, he allowed six runs on 10 hits over five innings. Duffy is 0-2 with a 11.17 ERA with only five strikeouts and four walks in 9.2 innings against the Sox this year.

Avisail Garcia continued his hot streak for Chicago, reaching base in all four plate appearances. He was 2 for 2 with a walk, a HBP, two runs scored and an RBI. The Sox also got a three-hit game from Yolmer Sanchez. Geovany Soto added two hits and two RBIs.

Amusingly, the Sox enter Wednesday's action still atop the AL Central, although four teams are within a half-game of each other. The Sox are 14-11, Minnesota is 13-11, and Cleveland and Detroit both are 14-12. No team has distinguished itself so far in the division race.

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? 

Friday, April 14, 2017

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)

Monday, April 10, 2017

White Sox lose two out of three to Minnesota Twins

Avisail Garcia
The Minnesota Twins lost a league-worst 103 games last season, but they've surprised the American League with a 5-1 start this year. Minnesota starting pitchers have racked up quality starts in five of the team's first six games, and not surprisingly, all five of those games resulted in wins.

The Twins took two out of three from the White Sox over the weekend at Guaranteed Rate Field. Here are some observations from the series:

Friday, April 8
Twins 3, White Sox 1: If we're being honest with ourselves, we know the Sox are going to struggle offensively. They don't have much power, and they were limited to seven hits (six singles, one double) by Minnesota starter Phil Hughes (1-0) and two relievers in this loss.

Poor defense cost Sox starter Derek Holland (0-1) a gift run in the fourth inning. He tried to pick Robbie Grossman off second base and tossed the ball into center field, allowing Grossman to advance to third. The Minnesota runner later scored when Sox right fielder Avisail Garcia dropped a shallow fly ball that was not nearly deep enough to be a sacrifice fly.

Grossman also scored the go-ahead run in the sixth on a double by Miguel Sano. In the seventh, a leadoff walk to Eduardo Escobar bit Holland, as a double by Chris Gimenez off Sox reliever Nate Jones scored Minnesota's third run.

This game featured Rick Renteria's first glaring managerial mistake of the season. With the Sox trailing 3-1 after eight innings, he put Jacob May in center field in place of Leury Garcia -- presumably for defensive purposes. Naturally, May ended up at the plate after Avisail Garcia and Geovany Soto drew two-out walks with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.

The rookie, who is hitless through five games, was seemingly unaware that the previous two hitters had walked. He swung at the first pitch from Minnesota closer Brandon Kintzler and grounded out to second base to end the game. Fail.

Saturday, April 9
White Sox 6, Twins 2: The Sox executed pretty well offensively in the game, knocking Minnesota starter Adalberto Mejia out of the box early with a run in the first inning and two more in the second.

In both innings, the Sox placed a runner on second base with no outs. Both times, they brought the runner around to score. Tyler Saladino doubled to start the game, advanced to third on a grounder to the right side by Tim Anderson and scored when Melky Cabrera grounded out to short with the Minnesota infield back.

Todd Frazier walked and stole second base in the second inning. Avisail Garcia did the right thing -- he looked to hit the ball to the right side -- and he drove one off the right-field wall for an RBI triple. Garcia scored later in the inning when the Twins botched a rundown off a failed suicide squeeze attempt by Soto.

Sox starter Miguel Gonzalez (1-0) protected the lead through six innings. He gave up a two-run homer to Jason Castro in the sixth, but walked off the mound with a 3-2 lead. Garcia and Soto hit back-to-back homers in the bottom of the sixth to account for three more runs, providing the final margin of victory.

Garcia finished a double short of the cycle. He went 3 for 4 with two runs scored and three RBIs.

Saturday, April 10
Twins 4, White Sox 1: Again, the big hit was lacking for the Sox. They had 11 runners reach base and stranded 10 of them. The good news: They took five walks and had one man reach on an HBP. The bad news: They had only five hits, and all of them were singles.

The lineup had no punch against Minnesota's best pitcher, Ervin Santana (2-0). The right-hander went six innings, and he allowed only two hits.

Sox ace Jose Quintana (0-2) pitched much better than he did in the home opener. He had his typical quality start, allowing two runs on five hits over 6.1 innings. Alas, he left with the Sox trailing 2-0, and had nothing to show for a respectable effort.

Minnesota increased its lead to 4-0 in the eighth when Sano got a not-high-enough fastball from Jones and knocked it over the center field wall for a two-run homer.

The Sox had their chance in the bottom of the eighth inning. They loaded the bases with one out against Minnesota reliever Matt Belisle. But, Matt Davidson basically struck himself out by swinging at a Belisle fastball that was up and out of the zone. It was a rally-killing at-bat, to say the least.

Kintzler entered the game and plunked Avisail Garcia with a pitch to the give the Sox their lone run, but then he struck out Yolmer Sanchez, who flailed helplessly at a pitch in the dirt for strike three.

One area the Sox must improve: They need to cut down on their strikeouts. They are letting pitchers off the hook by swinging at pitches out of the zone in RBI situations. It's a long-standing problem, and part of the problem is they need to get better players. Davidson and Sanchez likely will never be good hitters at the big-league level. But in the meantime, Renteria and his staff need to preach more patience at the plate.