Showing posts with label Chris Sale. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chris Sale. Show all posts

Monday, July 9, 2018

Jose Abreu elected to start All-Star Game despite horrible slump

Jose Abreu
First baseman Jose Abreu will become the first White Sox position player to start for the American League All-Star team since Frank Thomas in 1996.

(The Sox have had three pitchers -- Esteban Loaiza, Mark Buehrle and Chris Sale -- start the midsummer classic in years since.)

I would be more excited for Abreu if he weren't in the midst of the worst slump of his normally consistent and admirable career. In fact, if we were having this conversation about Abreu on June 1, I would have wholeheartedly endorsed his candidacy to be the starting American League first baseman.

Through May, Abreu had posted a slash line of .298/.360/.522 with nine home runs and 19 doubles. Those figures basically are right on par with his career totals of .296/.353/.515.

However, you can't ignore his subpar June and horrible start to July.

Abreu is hitting only .175/.232/.289 over his past 30 games with just two home runs. At one point in time, he was on pace to set a new club record for doubles in a season, but as I type here July 9, Abreu has been stuck on 27 doubles since June 20. Over that same span, he only has two extra-base hits -- a home run on June 27 and a triple on July 1.

This prolonged slump has dragged his season slash line down to a very un-Abreu-like .259/.315/.448.

There have been a couple years in the past where perhaps Abreu should have gotten an All-Star start but did not, so maybe this is a bit of a makeup call, or a reward for career achievement.

And there's no question Abreu is benefiting from a weak crop of AL first basemen this year. Future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera is out for the year. Eric Hosmer signed with the San Diego Padres last offseason and doesn't play in the American League anymore.

Who among AL first basemen really deserves the honor? Oakland's Matt Olson? Toronto's Justin Smoak? Both those men have good power numbers, but they are both .240 hitters. Boston's Mitch Moreland? I guess he's having a decent year, but does anyone really think he's a better player than Abreu?

I wouldn't say that any of these people are slam-dunk All-Stars, but somebody had to be chosen. Turns out Abreu got elected the starter, and Moreland was chosen as a reserve.

Hopefully, Abreu will find his swing sometime in the next week's worth of games. It would be nice to see him have a good showing July 17 in Washington.

Friday, July 6, 2018

White Sox pitchers keep on walking people

Joakim Soria
The White Sox walked the leadoff hitter with a one-run lead in the bottom of the eighth inning Thursday night and got away with it.

Undeterred, they walked the leadoff hitter with a one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth inning, too, and that time the Houston Astros made them pay, rallying for a 4-3 victory.

It capped a night full of walks by Sox pitchers. Carlos Rodon walked six over six innings, and somehow he managed to allow only two runs. Reliever Juan Minaya issued the aforementioned leadoff walk in the eighth, and closer Joakim Soria (0-3) walked two in the ninth and ended up taking the loss.

Walking opposing hitters has become a big part of the Sox's identity, and it's gotten beyond the point of frustration.

Sox pitchers lead the American League with 371 walks as a staff this season, and it's not close. Baltimore ranks a distant second with 308 walks.

This isn't a new problem either: The Sox led the American League with 632 walks issued during the 2017 season -- once again easily outdistancing the Orioles, who issued 579 walks.

Even in 2016, with Chris Sale and Jose Quintana anchoring the top of the rotation, the Sox's walk rate was too high. They were third in the league with 521 walks.

Handing out free baserunners to the opposition is not a recipe for success, especially because the Sox will never be confused with having a good defensive team. Between the walks and errors, self-inflicted wounds have contributed to most of the Sox's 57 losses this season (entering Friday's play).

I'm told that Don Cooper is one of the best pitching coaches in the game. I'm not sure I believe that bit of propaganda at this point, but if Cooper is so great, I call upon him to get the Sox pitching staff back in the strike zone with more frequency.

At the very least, the Sox need to make the opposition earn it more often.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

White Sox right-hander Dylan Covey has turned back into a pumpkin

Remember that brief stretch of glory when people thought White Sox right-hander Dylan Covey was turning the corner as a major league pitcher?

In a period of five starts from May 23 to June 13, Covey went 3-0 with a 1.59 ERA. He beat Chris Sale and the Boston Red Sox, 1-0, on June 8 at Fenway Park. He backed that up with a 3-2 victory over Trevor Bauer and the Cleveland Indians on June 13 at Guaranteed Rate Field.

There was a glimmer of hope, but it looks as though those days are gone.

Covey has gotten shelled over his past four starts. He's 0-3 with a 13.20 ERA. He's allowed 23 runs (22 earned) on 21 hits over 15 innings. He's walked 13 men and struck out only four over that ugly stretch.

The latest Covey implosion occurred Wednesday night. He retired the first nine men he faced against the Cincinnati Reds and took a 3-0 lead into the fourth inning. But, it all went astray the second time through the batting order, as seven of the first eight Reds hitters reached base in the fourth inning.

By the time all was said and done, Covey was removed from the game without finishing the inning, and the Sox trailed, 6-3. They went out to lose, 7-4, and dropped two out of three against the NL Central-worst Reds.

Under normal circumstances, Covey's spot in the starting rotation would be in jeopardy after a horrible stretch such as this. However, with no obvious choice to replace him, chances are he remains in the mix for now.

In the meantime, let's get the notion out of our heads that Covey is going to be some sort of long-term fixture as a starting pitcher. I started to hear that from some Sox fans when Covey was pitching well, and I never bought it.

We need to call Covey what he is: roster filler. He's here until the Sox minor league system produces somebody better. Nothing more, nothing less.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Grinder Bash 2018 at Guaranteed Rate Field -- let's visit the home clubhouse

Grinder Bash, the White Sox's annual party for season-ticket holders, was sparsely attended Saturday, perhaps because this rebuilding team doesn't have many season-ticket holders anymore.

That's fine. More room for us, and for the first time (at least in the years I've attended this event), fans had access to the home clubhouse.


You can see Yoan Moncada's locker right behind me, near the front of the clubhouse. Not surprisingly, Moncada's locker is between those of Hector Santiago and Jose Abreu, whose locker is just out of frame to the right. The Sox obviously want Moncada hanging around a couple of the veteran Latino players who have been there and done that. Let's hope for the sake of the Sox's rebuild that young Yoan gets it going soon. His batting average is down to .221 entering Monday's play; his on-base percentage is down to .289.


Danny Farquhar's locker remain full and intact, even though he hasn't been around the team as much since suffering a life-threatening brain aneurysm during a game April 20 at Guaranteed Rate Field. Notably, Farquhar has a signed Frank Thomas jersey hanging in his locker. That's a pretty cool piece of memorabilia to have. I think the entire baseball community, not just the White Sox organization and its fans, wishes Farquhar well as he continues to recover from one of the scariest situations I've seen happen at a major league ballpark.


I probably found this funnier than it really is, but I got a kick out of seeing a suitcase in Juan Minaya's locker. This guy has been up and down between the Sox and Triple-A Charlotte all season, and I can't help but wonder if that suitcase is there just in case he gets another tap on the shoulder and another plane ticket to North Carolina. Well, actually, with the way Bruce Rondon has been pitching lately, perhaps Minaya's roster spot is safer than it's been at other points during the season.


Off in the corner, here is James Shields' locker. He has nobody to his left, and nobody to his right. Has he really earned all that personal space? Yeah, he's a veteran and all, but his record is 3-9. In the past, perhaps this roomy part of the clubhouse might have belonged to an accomplished Sox player such as, say, Paul Konerko. It seems as though Shields is the guy who currently gets the royal treatment, deserving or not. Or, perhaps they just make him sit in the corner for not being very good at pitching at this stage of his career.


Here's the view from behind home plate. If you ever want to feel small, go down on the field at a major league stadium on a non-game day when the ballpark is empty. You never realize just how big a place it is until you're down at field level.


One other interesting little note: On the wall in the Sox bullpen, the relief corps keeps track of the number of calls received from the dugout. During the 2017 season, there were 888 calls made to the bullpen during the 81 home games. It looks as though the Sox are on pace to exceed that total this season. So far, 502 calls have been made to the bullpen through 43 home games. That's an average of about 11.6 a game. That puts the Sox on pace for 945.6 calls over an 81-game period. Yes, these are rough days. By way of comparison, the calls during the 2013 season only numbered in the 400s. The 2013 Sox were a bad club -- 99 losses -- but starting pitching was the strength: Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Jake Peavy, the pre-injury Santiago, etc. These days, starting pitching is a weakness, and the bullpen is busy.

The other great thing about Grinder Bash: Free food and drinks, including beer, for those who choose to partake. As I said, the season-ticket base for the Sox is fewer in number than it has ever been, and those of us who have chosen to stick it out through this rebuild have earned a perk such as this.

When all is said and done, it might be one of the more enjoyable days at the ballpark in 2018. After all, we weren't walking back to our cars after a White Sox loss, which has so often been the case during this most trying of seasons.

Monday, June 11, 2018

White Sox knock Red Sox out of first place

Chris Sale
The Boston Red Sox entered this weekend with a 22-9 record at home, and they led the AL East by a half-game over the New York Yankees.

Boston is now 23-11 at home, and a half-game behind the Yankees, after it inexplicably lost two out of three to the White Sox over the weekend. The Red Sox were throwing their three most accomplished pitchers -- Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello -- against the White Sox, which makes the Chicago victory all the more shocking.

Here's a look back at the weekend that was:

Friday, June 8
White Sox 1, Red Sox 0: At the start of the season, Dylan Covey (2-1) wasn't on the Sox's 40-man roster. Now, he's won a pitchers' duel against Sale.

Sale did what you would expect: He went eight innings, allowing one run on six hits with 10 strikeouts and only one walk.

Covey did what you wouldn't expect: He tossed six shutout innings, allowing only three hits and one walk while striking out seven. Really, Covey has the same sinker-slider arsenal he had last season when he went 0-7. The difference this year? His fastball is sitting at 93 to 95 mph, instead of 91 to 93. Remarkable that he's had a bit of a velocity jump in his age-26 season.

The Sox's lone run came in the seventh, when Trayce Thompson singled over a drawn-in infield to score Kevan Smith, who hit a bloop ground-rule double earlier in the inning.

Three Sox relievers combined for three scoreless, hitless innings, with Joakim Soria earning his seventh save of the season.

Saturday, June 9
Red Sox 4, White Sox 2: Three Sox errors cost Carlos Rodon two runs in his first start of the season, and that turned out to be the difference in the game.

Rodon's stuff looked better as his outing moved along. He got himself into a first-and-third, no-outs jam in the bottom of the fourth inning, but he struck out Blake Swihart, Jackie Bradley and Andrew Benintendi in succession to escape trouble.

He finished with seven strikeouts and two walks, while allowing four runs (two earned) on six hits over five innings. Alas, two of the six hits were homers -- one by Bradley and the other by J.D. Martinez, and that combined with the errors led to the Sox's demise.

The South Siders scored two runs in the first inning off Price, but the Boston left-hander put up five zeroes after that, and the Red Sox bullpen tossed three innings of scoreless relief.

Sunday, June 10
White Sox 5, Red Sox 2: Tim Anderson had no hits in this game, but his play was one of the biggest factors in the outcome.

The Sox's shortstop worked a two-out, bases-loaded walk in the top of the third inning to put his team ahead for good at 2-1. He saved a run with his glove by ranging deep in the hole to take away a hit from Xander Bogaerts in the fifth. He worked a leadoff walk in the sixth inning, and later scored from second base on a groundout by Thompson, after Porcello tripped while cover first base on the play.

Three big plays by Anderson, two that created runs for the Sox, and one that took away a run from Boston.

Reynaldo Lopez (2-4) picked up the win for the Sox. He pitched 6.1 innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on six hits. He struck out six and walked three.

Jace Fry recorded four outs out of the Sox bullpen, including one with the bases loaded in the seventh and the Sox clinging to the a 3-2 lead.

Daniel Palka's two-out, two-run double in the top of the ninth provided some breathing room, and Soria pitched the bottom half of the inning for his eighth save.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

New York Yankees win offseason with acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton

Giancarlo Stanton
The first day of the winter meetings Monday was described as "quiet" -- except, of course, for the reigning National League MVP getting traded.

The New York Yankees acquired outfielder Giancarlo Stanton from the Miami Marlins in exchange for second baseman Starlin Castro and two prospects, right-handed pitcher Jorge Guzman and infielder Jose Devers.

Stanton hit 59 home runs for the Marlins in 2017, and he's going from a pitchers' park in Miami to a hitters' paradise at Yankee Stadium. He joins a lineup that already features Aaron Judge, who hit 52 homers last season, and Gary Sanchez, who hit 33 home runs last season.

Yeah, that's some formidable right-handed power there, and you can expect the pundits to tab New York as the favorite to win the American League East in 2018, if not the favorite to win the World Series.

There's no question the Yankees just won the offseason in this trade. There is no possible acquisition that any other team can make that would be bigger than acquiring a league MVP who is coming off a 59-homer season.

But let me tap the brakes on any effort to crown the Yankees now. Remember, the Boston Red Sox won the offseason a year ago at this time with the acquisition of left-handed ace Chris Sale. And although Sale did win 17 games for Boston, and although the Red Sox did win the AL East, they were eliminated from the postseason in the first round by the eventual world champion Houston Astros.

One big, splashy offseason move does not guarantee a championship the following season by any means. There still are questions with the Yankees. Do we think Aaron Boone is going to win a World Series in his first year as a major league manager? I'm not a fan of Joe Girardi, and I don't care that the Yankees let him go, but I'm not convinced Boone is an upgrade.

Will Stanton stay healthy? He was healthy in 2017, all right, but that was only the second time in the past five years that he's appeared in 120 or more games. And will he be as effective if he's asked to DH more frequently? It wouldn't be the first time we've seen an accomplished NL slugger struggle to adjust to a new role.

The other thing I wonder about the Yankees: Can they win a title with Sanchez behind the plate? For all his offensive skill, Sanchez is brutal at one of the most important defensive positions on the field -- if not the most important. I think it's hard to win a world championship with a poor defensive catcher, and Sanchez is that. He had a league-high 16 passed balls last year, to go along with 13 errors. That's terrible.

The Yankees are concerned about Sanchez, too, and I think that's one reason they hired former major league catcher Josh Bard to be Boone's bench coach.

It remains to be seen what this Stanton move will mean, if anything, for the Red Sox. Will they make a big move before these winter meetings are over? 'Tis the season to stay tuned to the MLB Network ...

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A Jose Abreu trade? Never say never, but it's unlikely

Jose Abreu
White Sox general manager Rick Hahn has been asked about the possibility of making another big-splash trade this offseason, which would involve dealing either Jose Abreu or Avisail Garcia.

Predictably, Hahn didn't rule out anything:

“It has to be in play,” Hahn said to reporters. “Everything is in play. Even a couple of years ago when we come to these meetings, there would be all these Chris Sale rumors. The reason for that was we had to keep our options open. There are simply no untouchables. We have to fully vet and understand our players and make an appropriate decision about what is best for the long-term health of the organization.”

Indeed, the Sox are the organization that traded Chris Sale, and if Sale can be dealt, then anyone can be dealt.

But there a few reasons why I think Abreu is likely to remain with the Sox. First and foremost, if a team needs a first baseman, that's one position where there are some reasonable free agent options: Eric Hosmer, Carlos Santana, Logan Morrison, Yonder Alonso.

Wouldn't a club rather sign one of those guys than deal elite prospects to the Sox in exchange for Abreu? I'm thinking yes.

Also, Abreu will be 31 years old when spring training opens. He hasn't shown signs of slowing down, but the free agent first basemen are either younger than him, or in the same age range. Not sure how many clubs in the current marketplace are going to be willing to give up top-50 prospects for a slugger who plays a corner position.

And from Hahn's perspective, if the market doesn't yield top-50 prospects for Abreu, there isn't any incentive to move.

And then there's this:

“His leadership, his role in the clubhouse, the way he plays the game, the example he sets for everyone is important,” Hahn said of Abreu. “It's something that quite frankly may well tilt it so that we value him more than anyone else in the game because we've had the privilege of having him in our clubhouse and know the value that he adds and others are just speculating on that part. Every team in baseball is able to put a value on him based on what he does between the lines. We increase that value to us based on what he does in the clubhouse.”

Somebody has to be the veteran clubhouse presence during the rebuild. That guy is Abreu. In addition to being a good hitter, Abreu brings intangible value, and he's the sort who just might be more valuable to the Sox on the roster than he would be in a trade.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Astros, Dodgers move on to the next round

Alex Bregman
The Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers are the first two teams to advance to the League Championship Series.

Houston defeated the Boston Red Sox, 5-4, on Monday afternoon to win the ALDS, 3-1. Later Monday, the Dodgers defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks, 3-1, to complete a three-game sweep in the NLDS.

The Houston-Boston game probably was the most interesting of the four playoff games played Monday, because both teams had their respective aces, Justin Verlander and Chris Sale, on the mound by the fifth inning.

Houston starter Charlie Morton lasted 4.1 innings. Boston starter Rick Porcello worked only three innings. I found it interesting that neither manager was desperate enough to start his ace in a Game 4, but both managers were desperate enough to use their ace in a relief role.

I was especially surprised to see Verlander on the hill.  The Astros, after all, led the series 2-1. Had they lost, they had a Game 5 in Houston to fall back on, and I would have liked their chances to win with Verlander starting that game.

But Houston manager A.J. Hinch had other thoughts. He pushed his chips to the center of the table to win Game 4, and win it he did.

I wasn't as surprised to see Sale work in relief because, well, it was do-or-die for the Red Sox. If you're gonna die, die with your best on the mound.

Verlander entered in the fifth inning with his team leading, 2-1, but he lost the lead quickly by giving up a two-run homer to Boston left fielder Andrew Benintendi. That ended up being the only hit Verlander allowed over his 2.2 innings of relief, but for a time, it looked as though he was going to take a 3-2 loss.

Sale was brutal in a Game 1 defeat, but he was dealing in the middle innings Monday. The Astros did not get a single hit off him in the fourth, fifth or sixth innings. Sale fanned six and did not walk a batter over his 4.2 innings of relief.

However, the Astros broke through with a two-run eighth inning. Alex Bregman tied it with a home run off Sale to start the inning. Evan Gattis singled sandwiched in between two outs, and Sale was removed from the game with two outs in the top of the eighth and the score tied at 3.

Boston closer Craig Kimbrel was ineffective. He walked the first hitter he faced, George Springer, then gave up an RBI single to Josh Reddick that put the Astros ahead, 4-3. Houston added another run off Kimbrel in the ninth, which proved to be key. Rafael Devers had an inside-the-park home run for the Red Sox in the bottom of the ninth to make it 5-4, but it was not enough.

Give the Astros credit. I always say you're not going to win championships beating up on chump pitchers. You have to go through people, and Houston went through two All-Stars -- Sale and Kimbrel -- to score three late runs Monday.

As a result, they await the winner of the series between the New York Yankees and the Cleveland Indians, which is tied at 2-all. Game 5 is Thursday night.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Chris Sale gets rocked in first career postseason start

Chris Sale
Chris Sale spent more than six years in a White Sox uniform and made five All-Star appearances. There are few complaints one could make about his performance on the South Side, but if there is one, it would be this: Sale fades at the end of seasons.

Sale, who was traded to the Boston Red Sox last offseason, always has been strong out of the gate, and that's one reason he's always on the mound for the American League in the All-Star Game. But it's no secret September is the month when he's most prone to having some struggles.

Here are Sale's career ERAs by month:

April: 2.91
May: 2.57
June: 2.66
July: 2.66
August: 3.22
September: 3.78

Granted, a 3.78 ERA is hardly an embarrassment, but it is indicative of Sale going from a nearly untouchable ace to a league-average mortal late in the season. That's always created some questions about how well Sale would perform if given the opportunity to pitch in the playoffs.

As it turns out, Sale looked was quite mortal Thursday in his postseason debut with the Red Sox, giving up seven runs on nine hits -- including three home runs -- in five innings of Boston's 8-2 loss to the Houston Astros in Game 1 of the ALDS.

It was the continuation of a bizarre late-season pattern for Sale this year. Including Thursday, he's made 12 starts since Aug. 1, and he was lights out in five of them. Four times he allowed no runs. There was another start where he allowed only one run.

However, he's also had four starts where he has allowed five runs or more, and Thursday marked the third occasion when he has allowed seven runs or more.

Bad Sale appeared at the worst possible time, and that is not going to sit well in Boston. The Red Sox were favorites to win in the 2016 American League playoffs, but they were dismissed in three straight games by the Cleveland Indians, largely because of pitching failures by David Price and Rick Porcello.

Boston acquired Sale in December as a response to that. Keep in mind, the Red Sox were a playoff team without Sale. He wasn't brought in to help them win the division. He was brought in specifically to help them win in the postseason. One game and one start does not a series make, but there is going to be a ton of pressure on Sale to deliver should he be fortunate enough to receive another start in this series against the Astros.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

White Sox trade Jose Quintana to Cubs for four prospects

Jose Quintana
Shock and disbelief are reverberating throughout Chicago, after the White Sox traded left-handed pitcher Jose Quintana to the crosstown Cubs on Thursday.

I'm probably not as stunned as some people are. If you watched any of the Sox-Rockies series over the weekend, you might have heard Ken Harrelson and Steve Stone talking about how it would be "crazy" for the Sox not to entertain trade offers from the Cubs.

Harrelson, for better or for worse, has long been regarded as a mouthpiece for Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. Listen carefully to the oracle, and you might be able to read the tea leaves. If Harrelson is talking about a potential Sox-Cubs deal, then you shouldn't be shocked when one occurs.

Let's take a look at the four guys the Sox acquired:

  • Eloy Jimenez, OF -- The best prospect in the Cubs' system, the 20-year-old outfielder is ranked as the No. 5 prospect in the game, according to Baseball America. Jimenez, who was on the World roster for the Futures Game, was hitting 271/.351/.490 with eight home runs and 32 RBI in 42 games with Class-A Myrtle Beach this season. 
  • Dylan Cease, RHP -- The sixth-round pick of the Cubs in 2014, Cease was regarded as the best pitching prospect in the North Siders' system. He is ranked as the No. 83 prospect in the game, according to Baseball America. In 13 starts with Class-A South Bend, Cease had a 2.79 ERA and 1.258 WHIP with 74 strikeouts.
  • Matt Rose, 1B-3B -- The 22-year-old was an 11th-round pick in 2015. Rose had a .227/.281/.481 slash line with 14 home runs and 38 RBIs in 65 games at Myrtle Beach this season.
  • Bryant Flete, IF-OF -- The 24-year-old has played both infield and outfield positions. He was slashing .305/.355/.425 with six home runs and 37 RBIs in 70 games at Myrtle Beach.
People who know me will probably not be surprised that I'm less than enthusiastic about this trade. I'm not going to say that Sox general manager Rick Hahn did not acquire good prospects in this deal -- he did. He said he was looking to get the top two prospects out of an organization in a Quintana trade, and the Cubs clearly met his asking price.

That said, while Jimenez and Cease are high-quality prospects, neither is close to MLB-ready. Both still need significant development time in the minor leagues, and the Sox are going to have to coach these guys up in order for them to reach their potential.

Based upon what you've seen over the past 10 or 15 years, what have the Sox done to earn our faith as fans that they can develop this talent? Very little in my estimation, and that's why I'm less than excited about this haul, just as I wasn't overly enthused about the haul the Sox get in the Chris Sale and Adam Eaton trades.

It's nice to have a highly regarded farm system, but that doesn't amount to a hill of beans if the Sox do not handle these prospects correctly. I will continue to be skeptical until I see results at the major league level, and I think we all understand that it will be a few years before we can make any firm judgments on that.

As I've said before, it's not the rebuild itself that offends me. It's the actors in charge of the rebuild who concern me. The fan base seems to be in favor of this trade, and frankly, I've surprised by the lack of skepticism among Sox fans these days.

In the past, we as a fan base have always been willing to ask tough questions, to not just take things on faith or face value. In this rebuild, we are putting a lot of faith in the same people who brought us Jeff Keppinger, Adam LaRoche, James Shields and assorted other bums.

We can only hope their judgment of young talent, and their development of that young talent, is much better than their judgment on which veteran players to pursue in trades and in free agency. 

Monday, July 3, 2017

2017 White Sox reach season's halfway point

Jose Quintana
The White Sox took two out of three games from the Texas Rangers at Guaranteed Rate Field over the weekend, which puts their record at 36-45 at the halfway point of the season.

Projected out over the full 162 games, they would finish 72-90. That sounds about right given the preseason expectations.

I've always said the 2013 Sox are the worst team I've cheered for in my lifetime -- and that club had the 63-99 record to prove it. This year's team only needs to go 28-53 the second half to top that, and that seems doable, even though some productive veterans are likely to be traded before July is over.

That said, this season has a more painful feel to it than that 2013 campaign, and I think I've finally put my finger on why: The losses this season are as ugly as they come. Perhaps they aren't frequent as they were in 2013, but the brand of baseball is a little bit worse -- especially when it comes to pitching.

You go back and look at the numbers from 2013, and the Sox had three starting pitchers with ERAs below 4 -- Chris Sale (3.07), Jose Quintana (3.51) and Hector Santiago (3.56). The Sox also had Jake Peavy on the team for half the season before he was dealt to the Boston Red Sox, and his ERA (4.28 ERA) was no worse than league average.

So, for most of the year, the 2013 Sox had four men in their rotation who could give you a competitive outing. Now, that team couldn't hit worth a damn; they lost 99 games for a reason. But when you went to the park to watch the 2013 Sox, they would typically lose 4-1 and you'd be outta there in two and a half hours.

This year is a different scene, because starting pitching is the biggest weakness for this club. James Shields, of all people, is the only pitcher with an ERA below 4 (3.98), and he's made only six starts this season. Quintana is having a down year (4.45 ERA), and you've got retread veterans Derek Holland (4.52), Mike Pelfrey (4.13) and Miguel Gonzalez (5.15 ERA) hanging around the rotation.

A typical Sox loss this season is characterized by a short outing from a post-peak veteran starter, followed by a parade of middle relievers who struggle to throw strikes, and are lucky to be in the major leagues. By the end of the day, Sox pitchers have thrown about 200 pitches to get through nine innings, and three and a half hours later, you're walking out of the ballpark with a 10-2 loss or a 10-4 loss.

Linked are the box scores to the past two games I've personally attended. Frankly, I'd rather see some decent pitching and have the Sox get beat in a hurry than watch some of these long, drawn-out messes where five or six relievers are used.

I'm one of those fans who stays to the end no matter what, no matter how painful, so I guess the one positive to blowout losses is I can get out of the parking lot much faster when the game is over. (Most people scram early.) But, I can't say that I'm enjoying the baseball I've been seeing this year.

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.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Chris Sale vs. Jose Quintana: More batting practice than pitching duel

Chris Sale
The White Sox unexpectedly roughed up their former teammate, Chris Sale, on Tuesday night.

The Boston left-hander had his worst outing of the season, allowing six runs (five earned) on 10 hits with two walks. He needed 111 pitches just to get through five innings.

Yet Sale (6-2) got the win in Boston's 13-7 victory, because Sox left-hander Jose Quintana was even worse.

Quintana failed to get out of the third inning, allowing seven earned runs on 10 hits, including three home runs, over 2.2 innings. Two of the three homers were hit by a complete stiff, Boston No. 9 hitter Deven Marrero.

Marrero, a .194 hitter even after his Tuesday night outburst, had six RBIs through his first 62 plate appearances this season. He had five RBIs in two plate appearances against Quintana.

The Boston third baseman hit Quintana's final pitch of the night -- a sloppy, get-me-over 3-2 curveball -- for a three-run homer in the top of the third inning. The blast gave the Red Sox a 7-3 lead, and it was arguably the most poorly executed pitch I've seen from a Sox pitcher all season.

Just brutal.

Not that the Sox didn't fight back. They got one in the third on an RBI single by Tim Anderson and two in the fourth on a home run by Todd Frazier to cut Boston's lead to 7-6.

However, Dan Jennings failed to take advantage of a lefty-on-lefty matchup in the fifth, as Jackie Bradley took him deep for a three-run homer to put Boston ahead 10-6. The Sox didn't have another comeback in them after that.

Bradley, the No. 8 hitter in the Boston order, is hitting .214 this season. So, yeah, I'd say it was a night where the Sox were insistent on giving up three-run homers to the absolute worst hitters the Red Sox have to offer. It would be one thing if they were getting their brains beat in by Mookie Betts, who did have a solo home run Tuesday, but it was Bradley and Marrero who combined to beat the Sox.

Hard to accept.

And what the hell is wrong with Quintana, you ask? Well, all seven runs he allowed Tuesday night came with two outs. He can't extricate himself from innings; he can't get key outs when he's pitching out of the stretch. It's hard to be successful that way.

This season, opponents have a .316/.385/.611 slash line against Quintana when they have men on base. By way of comparison, opponents slashed .247/.309/.375 against Quintana with men on base last season.

Significant difference, isn't it? That's the crux of the problem: Quintana cannot execute any of his pitches from the stretch right now. His fastball command is off. His curve is hanging, and he's getting hurt -- even by poor hitters.

Monday, March 13, 2017

White Sox score 14 runs in ninth inning to beat Dodgers

Leury Garcia
Let's be honest: Most spring training games are not worth much analysis. However, it gets your attention when a team scores 14 runs in one inning.

While most of the world was sleeping late Sunday night, the White Sox entered the ninth inning trailing the Los Angeles Dodgers, 3-1. They ended up winning the game, 15-5, after one of the most bizarre half-innings I've ever heard on the radio. (The game was not televised.)

The Sox batted around twice -- sending 18 men to the plate -- and scored 14 runs on only seven hits. A few highlights:

  • Luis Alexander Basabe, an outfielder who was acquired in the Chris Sale deal, had a two-run single to put the Sox ahead, 5-3.
  • Yoan Moncada, the team's top prospect, had a two-run double. Previously in the game, he had struck out in four consecutive plate appearances.
  • Longtime minor-leaguer Jason Bourgeois had five RBIs in the inning. He had a two-run single in his first AB of the rally, and he capped the Sox's scoring with a three-run homer. 
  • The Dodgers committed four errors, walked three men and hit two batters. So, the Sox were gifted nine baserunners, in addition to the seven hits they had.
The Dodgers probably could not have done any worse in that inning if they had just gone out there and lit themselves on fire. Sure, it was a collection of Double-A and Triple-A players on the field, but no professional team should be giving up that many runs in one inning.

That rally capped an interesting Sunday for the Sox, who also lost, 10-8, to the Texas Rangers in the other half of a split-squad day. In that game, the Sox scored all eight of their runs in the sixth inning.

So, to recap, the Sox had 18 offensive innings Sunday. They scored 23 runs, but they did it in the most bizarre fashion possible -- a 14-run inning, an 8-run inning, an inning with a single run scored, plus 15 innings with no runs at all.

I have to admit, I'm getting a little worried that Leury Garcia is going to make the team. He's got a slash line of .419/.500/.919 in 30 spring plate appearances. He had four hits against Texas on Sunday. But he also made two egregious mistakes on the basepaths, and at shortstop, he butchered a rundown play that allowed the Rangers to score a gift run.

I'm getting a little tired of hearing about Garcia's "versatility" being an asset. Sure, he plays multiple positions, but he plays them all poorly, so who cares? And, yes, he has speed, but he makes dumb outs on the bases, so who cares?

We know that Garcia feasts on Triple-A pitching -- he hit .313 at Charlotte in 2016 -- and that's what he's doing in this spring camp. Here's to hoping the Sox are not fooled. This is a player who makes mental mistake after mental mistake and does not belong on the roster. 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Jimmy Rollins says White Sox clubhouse was in 'disarray' last year

Jimmy Rollins
Jimmy Rollins doesn't collect paychecks from the White Sox anymore, which affords him the opportunity to speak honestly about his time on the South Side of Chicago.

Here's a link. Listen for yourself.

Rollins is asked about the bizarre tale of Adam LaRoche, who retired in spring training last year after Sox management decided his teenage son would no longer be allowed in the clubhouse.

The incident divided the team and led to high-profile players such as Chris Sale and Adam Eaton clashing with the front office.

"It was a clubhouse in disarray after that point," Rollins says on the video. "Although we did great (at the start of the season). It’s always a little players versus the front office, but I think just because of the way it was handled -- a lot of the guys that were outspoken are no longer there. They’re in better places if you ask me, but they’re no longer there."

Rollins also used the word "chaos" to describe the situation in Chicago, which gets to the point of why some of us aren't as optimistic about the rebuilding plan that is underway with the Sox. The same front office that was in place during last year's "chaos" and "disarray" is the same front office being entrusted with the future of the organization.

Does that make you comfortable? I'd be more comfortable if the failures of last season had resulted in a change in leadership beyond just the manager's office.

Rollins correctly notes that the outspoken players -- Sale and Eaton -- are no longer with the Sox. Isn't it interesting that they still are the only two key players from last season to be traded? The good soldiers who keep their mouths shut and just play ball -- Jose Abreu, Todd Frazier, Jose Quintana -- they all are still here.

I'm not going to argue that there is any conspiracy at work here. I think the Sox would deal Quintana tomorrow if the right offer came up.

That said, I don't think it's a coincidence that Sale and Eaton were the first established veterans to be told to pack their bags as part of the rebuilding plan.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Rick Renteria impresses with answers to fan questions at SoxFest

Rick Renteria (center)
I went to SoxFest this past weekend without much enthusiasm toward the rebuilding project that is just beginning on the South Side of Chicago.

Guess what? I'm still not excited, but after listening to new White Sox manager Rick Renteria talk this weekend, I feel a little better knowing he will be the man leading the team through a 2017 season that is almost certainly going to be trying and ugly at times.

Renteria has been talking all week about doing things the "White Sox Way," so I stood up in the seminar room Friday night and asked him to elaborate on what the "White Sox Way" is, and to provide me with some examples of the things he wants to do differently than what we've seen in the past.

First, Renteria praised me for asking a good question, then he gave a detailed, specific and thoughtful response. He talked about the need for players to play with maximum effort  -- back up bases, run hard out of the batter's box, etc. He talked about how it was his responsibility to hold players accountable for actions they take or don't take on the field. He talked about the importance of improving in several small but key areas, a better two-strike approach at the plate, better base running, understanding situations in the field, hitting the ball the other way when the situation calls for it -- all things that seemed to be lacking during the Robin Ventura Era.

The paragraph above is just a Cliff Notes version. Renteria spoke for about five minutes after I asked my question, and he gave similarly detailed responses to other questions posed by fans. It was a welcome change from previous SoxFests.

Some other highlights from the seminar room:

1. General manager Rick Hahn said repeatedly that all the prospects acquired in the Chris Sale and Adam Eaton trades are expected to start the season in the minor leagues. He added that the Sox still are actively looking to make more moves before the season begins, with the goal of stockpiling as much young talent as possible. Hahn noted that a deal fell apart for him on Christmas Eve, so yeah, all that Jose Quintana-to-the-Yankees stuff around the holidays probably had some validity to it. It just didn't happen.

2. A fan astutely asked Hahn whether he would try to include the declining and overpriced James Shields in a deal with one of his assets. How would that work? Say Hahn wants to trade Quintana. He could go to a team and say, "You guys want Quintana? Well, you gotta take Shields and his high salary as well." Under such a scenario, the Sox would get less return in prospects for Quintana, but they would be off the hook for Shields' bad contract. Hahn said he would not do that under any circumstance, because his goal is to acquire top young talent, and throwing a liability such as Shields into a trade would defeat that purpose. I was happy to hear Hahn say that. We won't have a repeat of the Mark Teahen situation with Shields.

3. Both Friday night and Saturday morning, fans asked Hahn and Renteria about the role sabermetrics play in decision-making. Renteria said there was no shortage of information for he and his coaches to digest, but I was most impressed when he noted that numbers represent outcomes, and while they can be instructive, it's important to stay ahead of the curve by looking at more than just the past. Renteria noted that he has to trust his eyes and his gut, as well, beyond just absorbing the numbers, and there needs to be an understanding of what individual players can and cannot do in certain situations. Good answer.

In summary, Renteria's words, of course, are merely that. He has to produce results on the field, as well, but he gave the die-hard fans at SoxFest reason to believe he might be the right man for the job.

That's no small statement coming from me, because I was skeptical when Renteria was hired, and critical of Sox management for not conducting a more thorough search.

And, hell, I'm still skeptical, but I'm at least a little more open to the direction they are going based upon what I heard from the new manager over the weekend.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Baseball America's revised list of top 10 White Sox prospects

The White Sox's recent trades of Chris Sale and Adam Eaton netted them seven new players -- all of whom are minor-league prospects. So, it stands to reason the organization's list of top 10 prospects looks far different now than it did at this time last month.

Here's the latest look from Baseball America:

1. Yoan Moncada, 2B/3B
2. Lucas Giolito, RHP
3. Reynaldo Lopez, RHP
4. Zack Collins, C
5. Michael Kopech, RHP
6. Zack Burdi, RHP
7. Luis Alexander Basabe, OF
8. Carson Fulmer, RHP
9. Spencer Adams, RHP
10. Dane Dunning, RHP

Moncada, Kopech and Basabe all were acquired from the Boston Red Sox in the Sale trade. Giolito, Lopez and Dunning all were acquired from the Washington Nationals in the Eaton trade. Collins and Burdi were 2016 Sox draft picks.

That means eight of these 10 players have joined the Sox organization within the past six months. I'm sure this will do a lot for the Sox in terms of where their farm system ranks, although each of the next two seasons likely will feature 90-plus losses on the South Side of Chicago.

It will be interesting to come back to this list in 2019 and see how many of these players panned out.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

White Sox trade outfielder Adam Eaton to Nationals for 3 pitching prospects

Jason Bauman (left) and Adam Eaton at SoxFest 2016.
A day after the White Sox traded their ace pitcher, they dealt the guy who was their best position player in 2016 for three pitching prospects.

Adam Eaton is now the center fielder for the Washington Nationals. In exchange, the Sox have acquired right-handed pitchers Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning.

It's no secret that I did not care for the Chris Sale trade that was made Tuesday, but now that the Sox have committed to a rebuild, they have to go all in on it. You can't just trade Sale and keep the rest of the band together, because that is a path to certain failure. So, against that backdrop, it makes sense to deal Eaton, although it's difficult to see him leave after the fine 2016 season he produced.

Eaton hit .284/.362/.428 in 2016, with 29 doubles, nine triples, 14 home runs, 14 stolen bases, 91 runs scored and 18 outfield assists in 157 games. He was a American League Gold Glove finalist in right field, even though deficiencies with the Sox roster forced him to play 48 games in center field.

There's no question Eaton is a good fit for the Nationals. He's an established leadoff hitter. His presence in center field will allow Washington to move Trea Turner back to his natural position at shortstop, and he helps balance out the lineup. The Nationals have two elite left-handed hitters in Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy. While Eaton is not at the level of those two, he's another quality lefty bat.

Not to mention, Eaton has a team-friendly contract -- five years remaining at the bargain rate of $38 million over the life of the deal. Maybe that's why the Sox were able to get Washington's top three pitching prospects in this trade.

Giolito, 22, is the top-ranked pitching prospect in the game, and the No. 3-rated prospect overall. The former first-round draft pick pitched at three levels in the minors last year, recording 116 strikeouts in 115.1 innings to go along with a 2.97 ERA. He received a late-season promotion to Washington, where he appeared in six games (four starts). He went 0-1 with 6.75 ERA in 21.1 innings.

Lopez, 22, is the No. 38-ranked prospect in baseball, and the No. 3-rated prospect in the Nationals' system. He worked in 11 games (six starts) for Washington last season, going 5-3 with a 4.91 ERA. He was good enough to make the Nationals' postseason roster, and from a White Sox perspective, hey, he's probably already better than James Shields.

Dunning, 21, is a little bit more of a project. He was the Nationals' first-round draft pick and No. 29 overall in 2016. He was the No. 6-rated prospect in the Washington system. He got seven starts in at Low-A Auburn and went 3-2 with a 2.14 ERA.

I never get excited about trading established players for prospects because prospect rankings are just that -- rankings. They mean nothing on the field, and we don't know what these guys are going to do until they get an opportunity.

That said, I somehow feel as if the Sox got a better deal for Eaton than they got for Sale. Maybe it's just because I'm looking at Giolito and Lopez and seeing two guys who could potentially contribute from Day 1 in 2017, whereas the four guys in the Sale deal all look as if they are going to need some more minor-league time.

I doubt Rick Hahn is done dealing yet. There are rumors that Jose Quintana and Todd Frazier could be on the move soon, too. We shall see ...