Showing posts with label David Robertson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label David Robertson. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

David Robertson trade rumors begin anew

David Robertson
The rumors about a potential trade in which the White Sox would send closer David Robertson to the Washington Nationals just won't go away.

The Nationals need a closer, having lost Mark Melancon to the San Francisco Giants in free agency over the offseason. Washington has yet to sign or trade for a suitable replacement, so Robertson does make some sense for them. (I personally think Shawn Kelley might be a better option for the Nationals than a post-peak Robertson, but shhhhh, don't tell them that.)

Reports indicate the Nationals have agreed on a two-year, $21 million deal with catcher Matt Wieters. That move has rekindled the Robertson discussions, because Washington now has three catchers, and the Sox have a hole at that position.

Is anyone prepared to argue that the Sox are set with the catching tandem of Omar Narvaez and Geovany Soto? Nope, me neither. They could use another guy there, because Narvaez only has 34 games of big-league experience, and the 34-year-old Soto comes with health concerns.

The Sox need a catcher. The Nationals have one to deal. The Nationals need a closer. The Sox have one to deal. Yes, you can see the potential fit.

But here's my question: Would either of the two catchers Washington has to deal be a fit for the Sox? With the addition of Wieters, one of Derek Norris or Jose Lobaton needs to go.

Let's cross Lobaton off the list immediately. He's a 32-year-old journeyman. He's been a backup for six of the seven seasons he's been in the majors, including the past three. Acquiring him would be like acquiring a somewhat healthier, somewhat younger version of Soto. That's a waste of time.

What about Norris? This Sporting News report suggests the Sox might "demand" the Nationals include him in any deal for Robertson.

Hmmmm.

Norris is 28, so he's got a few more years left in him than players such as Soto and Lobaton. And he's closer to the top of the list than the bottom when it comes to pitch framing. That said, why would the Sox "demand" a five-year veteran who hit .186 last season be included in a deal for Robertson?

The Sox's stated goal is to stockpile young talent. They are specifically looking to trade veteran assets for younger players. Granted, the declining Robertson is not a good enough trade piece to fetch an elite prospect from another organization, but if he is dealt, I would prefer to see a younger player with some upside coming back to the Sox. If such a trade is not available at the moment, that's fine. Keep Robertson for now. Hopefully he has a good first half, and maybe his value is higher in July.

I would be disappointed in a Robertson-for-Norris deal. If a trade such as that happens, it would suggest the Sox were just trying to get out from underneath the $25 million Robertson is owed over the next two years. Personally, I'd rather keep Robertson than see him traded for nothing more than salary relief and another mediocre veteran.

The modest, short-term upgrade at catcher isn't worth it to me. Bring some young talent back in the trade, or don't bother.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

How might the White Sox pitching staff look when the season starts?

Jose Quintana -- still here
White Sox pitchers and catchers will have their first full workouts Feb. 14 in Glendale, Arizona. It's closer than we think, so let's take a look at how the pitching staff might shake out given the current roster construction.

We'll assume there are no trades between now and Opening Day -- a big assumption, because general manager Rick Hahn made it clear at SoxFest that he's still open to making moves before the season starts.

For a rebuilding club, the Sox look surprisingly set on the pitching side of things. The five projected starting pitchers right now are pretty obvious:

1. Jose Quintana
2. Carlos Rodon
3. Miguel Gonzalez
4. James Shields
5. Derek Holland

In anyone gets injured or traded, Rule 5 draft pick Dylan Covey might get the first shot at taking a spot. The other roster contenders would be two of the three players acquired in the Adam Eaton trade -- Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. However, Hahn indicated a preference to have all the recently acquired prospects start the season in the minor leagues, so we probably will not see Giolito or Lopez in Chicago until later in the 2017 season.

I look for prospects Carson Fulmer and Tyler Danish to potentially get some starts during spring training, but both players are ticketed for the Triple-A rotation in Charlotte when the season starts.

Let's assume the Sox will carry 12 pitchers -- most teams do -- so that means there are seven spots in the bullpen. There isn't a lot of mystery with five out of the seven:
David Robertson -- also still here

1. David Robertson
2. Nate Jones
3. Dan Jennings
4. Jake Petricka
5. Zach Putnam
6. ????
7. ????

Contenders for the last two spots include a quartet of right-handers we saw in Chicago in 2016: Tommy Kahnle, Michael Ynoa, Juan Minaya and Chris Beck.

I'm guessing one of the four makes the club, with Kahnle having the inside track. Unlike the rest of that crew, he had a strong finish to 2016 -- a 0.87 ERA over his final 11 appearances with 11 strikeouts in 10.1 IP.

Why would only one of the four make the team? Well, I'm thinking the Sox want a second left-hander in the bullpen. Jennings is the only left-handed roster lock as a relief pitcher. The door is open for waiver claim Giovanni Soto, who last pitched in the majors with Cleveland in 2015. The 25-year-old's left-handedness is an advantage for him as he battles Ynoa, Minaya and Beck for a roster spot.

But what of the non-roster invitees, you ask? Are there any pitchers that could surprise and make the roster out of spring training?

I'd say keep an eye on the non-rostered lefties, a list that includes Matt Purke, Aaron Bummer, Brian Clark, Jace Fry, David Holmberg and Cory Luebke.

Purke is a familiar name to Sox fans, although his 12 big league outings last season were pretty bad. I'll be interested to see what Bummer has after amateur scouting director Nick Hostetler spoke highly of him at SoxFest. Bummer is hard thrower who missed the 2015 season with Tommy John surgery, and he has fewer than 40 professional innings under his belt. It seems unlikely he'll compete for a roster spot given his inexperience, but he might be the most intriguing name in this group.

Clark is more advanced, having thrown 56 innings across 37 games between Birmingham and Charlotte last year. Fry missed the 2016 season with Tommy John surgery, and has thrown only 61 professional innings. Holmberg has worked mostly as a starter in his career. He made 28 starts between Birmingham and Charlotte last year, and has 167 career starts in the minors. Luebke is a 31-year-old former San Diego Padres prospect who underwent two Tommy John surgeries and missed three seasons from 2013-15.

From that list of six, we'll see if any emerge as a worthy challenger. Personally, I wouldn't count on it. Of course, when do you ever count on non-roster invitees?

Non-rostered right-handed pitchers in camp include Blake Smith, who made five September appearances with the Sox last year; 31-year-old veteran Anthony Swarzak, who had 26 relief appearances with the New York Yankees last year; and 20-year-old prospect Spencer Adams, who split time between Winston-Salem and Birmingham in 2016.

And, oh yeah, Michael Kopech and Zack Burdi are going to be in camp as non-roster players. Heard anything about them lately? How's that for burying the lead?

In all seriousness, Kopech is probably ticketed for High-A Winston-Salem when the season starts, while Burdi will be headed to the Charlotte bullpen, in hopes of one day becoming the White Sox closer.

Neither of these two hyped prospects are going to make the club, but they will generate headlines each and every time they take the mound this spring.

Friday, January 13, 2017

White Sox avoid arbitration with Todd Frazier, Dan Jennings, Jake Petricka

Todd Frazier
The White Sox on Friday avoided arbitration with three players, agreeing to one-year contracts with third baseman Todd Frazier and relief pitchers Dan Jennings and Jake Petricka.

Frazier's deal is worth $12 million. He is coming off a season where he led the team in home runs (40) and stolen bases (15) despite a disappointing .225/.302/.464 slash line. He also ranked second on the Sox with 98 RBIs.

Coming into the offseason, Frazier, 30, was a good bet to be traded before Opening Day -- and maybe he still will be. However, there have been few rumors involving Frazier, and there still are several right-handed power-hitting free agents who remain unsigned (Mike Napoli, Mark Trumbo, Jose Bautista). Until those guys come off the market, there might not be much interest in Frazier -- especially since he is coming off a down season in terms of batting average.

He could eventually be traded for prospects as part of the rebuilding plan. Or maybe he won't be. Essentially, he's the Sox's third baseman until he's not. (How's that for insight?)

Jennings, 29, is coming off one of his better seasons -- a career-high 64 appearances with a 4-3 record and 2.08 ERA. His contract will pay him $1.4 million.

Petricka, 28, appeared in only nine games in 2016 before undergoing season-ending hip surgery. His deal is worth $825,000.

Although the Sox are rebuilding, they might enter the 2017 season with a bullpen that looks very similar to the one from last year. Closer David Robertson, set-up man Nate Jones, Jennings, Petricka and Zach Putnam all remain on the roster.

The only two guys gone from last season are Matt Albers, who was too ineffective to be retained, and Zach Duke, who was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in July.

Right now, the projected bullpen includes the five guys listed above, plus Tommy Kahnle. After that, the Sox still need a second left-hander to go along with Jennings. As it stands, the next-best left-handed option in the organization is 25-year-old Giovanni Soto, a waiver pickup who last pitched in the big leagues with the Cleveland Indians in 2015.

Given that Robertson, Petricka and Putnam are all coming off surgery, we might not see too many changes in the bullpen this offseason -- just because the Sox need to hold onto as much veteran depth as possible to get through 2017. One thing a rebuilding team does not want is for prospects to be forced into big-league duty prematurely because of injuries to veteran stopgaps.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Jansen, Turner deals make Dodgers an unlikely trade partner for White Sox

Kenley Jansen
The Los Angeles Dodgers have agreed with free agent closer Kenley Jansen on a five-year, $80 million contract, sources say.

Jansen, 29, recovered 47 saves and posted a 1.83 ERA and a sparkling 0.670 WHIP for the Dodgers in 2016. He struck out 104 and walked only 11 hitters in 68.2 innings.

Sources also indicate the Dodgers are close to a deal to retain free agent third baseman Justin Turner. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports the sides are discussing a four-year deal in the $64 million range.

Turner, 32, had his best year in 2016, hitting .275/.339/.493 with 27 home runs, 34 doubles and 90 RBIs in a career-best 151 games.

How do these moves affect the White Sox? Well, it means the Dodgers are no longer a likely trading partner for the South Siders, because the Dodgers have no need for two of the players the Sox are trying to trade -- closer David Robertson and third baseman Todd Frazier.

With Jansen's signing, all the major free agent closers are off the board. The New York Yankees signed Aroldis Chapman (5 years, 86.5 million), and the San Francisco Giants picked up Mark Melancon (4 years, $62 million) during the winter meetings last week.

The losers in the Jansen sweepstakes -- notably the Washington Nationals and Miami Marlins -- could be potential landing spots for Robertson, who is owed $25 million over the remaining two years of his contract.

Other free agent possibilities for teams shopping for closers include Greg Holland -- who recorded 125 saves from 2013-15 in Kansas City, but did not pitch in 2016 after arm surgery -- and Brad Ziegler, an eight-year veteran with 85 career saves who finished last year in a set-up role with the Boston Red Sox.

If Holland is healthy -- a big if -- his upside is better than Robertson's at this stage, but Robertson's durability makes him less of a risk for teams. Robertson has appeared in at least 60 games for seven consecutive seasons. The same is true for Ziegler -- his stuff isn't as dynamic as a healthy Holland, but he's appeared in 64 games or more for eight consecutive seasons.

If the Dodgers settle up with Turner, we know Frazier won't be traded to Los Angeles, but where might he go?

How about San Francisco? At the end of last season, the Giants were counting on Eduardo Nunez and Conor Gillaspie at third base. It turns out Gillaspie had some big hits for the Giants during the postseason, but as all Sox fans know, Gillaspie is best utilized as a left-handed bench bat, not as an everyday third baseman. Frazier is an upgrade over Nunez or Gillaspie.

Boston also would be a possibility. The Red Sox traded third baseman Travis Shaw to the Milwaukee Brewers to acquire the eighth-inning reliever they needed in Tyler Thornburg. People have been saying that opens the door for Pablo Sandoval to be the Boston third baseman in 2017. OK, I suppose, but do the Red Sox really want to count on 140 to 150 games from Sandoval in a season where they are trying to win a championship? I'm skeptical.

Lastly, don't count out St. Louis. The Cardinals showed they are serious about making a push in 2017 with their five-year, $82 million commitment to center fielder Dexter Fowler. But they still appear to be a bat short. Some of the big free agent hitters out there -- notably Edwin Encarnacion and Mark Trumbo -- are DH types who are more suitable to the American League. Frazier, in contrast, can actually play his position well, and he represents a potential upgrade both offensive and defensively over Jhonny Peralta. Frazier has only one year left on his contract, so the risk would be minimal for St. Louis.

The best available free agent third baseman right now? It's Luis Valbuena. Teams would rather have Frazier, I'm sure.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Some numbers behind Robin Ventura's pitching mismanagement

Robin Ventura
The gripes are all too familiar. We made them routinely for all the years Robin Ventura was managing the White Sox.

He left his starting pitchers in too long, and once he did go to the bullpen, he misused his relievers. He'd use the same reliever three, four days in a row, sometimes even five days out of six. (Remember Addison Reed in August 2013?) He'd used five relievers to get three outs in the seventh or eighth inning, and he was a slave to "handedness"  -- always needing to bring in a left-handed pitcher every time the opponent sent a left-handed batter to the plate.

With that in mind, an article that appeared on South Side Sox this morning interested me, because it pulled out some notes on the Sox from the 2017 Bill James Handbook. These numbers were cited in the article, and they confirmed what we suspected about Ventura all along:

  • The White Sox were one of three teams to use three different relievers 20 times on consecutive days. Those three relievers, not surprisingly, were David Robertson, Nate Jones and Dan Jennings. I complained about the overuse of Robertson and Jones at different points during the season. The Sox would have been the only team with four such relievers had they not traded Zach Duke midseason. The left-hander had 17 appearances on zero days' rest with the Sox, plus nine more such appearances once he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals. Is it any surprise Duke had Tommy John surgery and miss the 2017 season? 
  • Ventura led the American League by using relievers on consecutive days 128 times, and no other manager was even close. James also noted that Ventura led the league in "slow hooks" for the fourth consecutive year and "long outings" for a second.
Indeed, it's not an accident that Ventura presided over four straight losing seasons. We all know the front office shares in the blame, but the manager exacerbated the problems by not properly handling the pitching staff. Should we be stunned the Sox bullpen had injury problems this year? Of course not. Should we be stunned that some pitchers, most notably Robertson and Matt Albers, got worse the second half of the year? Of course not.

The question is whether anything will change in 2017, with bench coach Rick Renteria now elevated to manager, and Don Cooper still entrenched as the Sox pitching coach. These are the same guys who were Ventura's top lieutenants in 2016. Are they smart enough to see that this was a problem?

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Todd Frazier becomes seventh player in White Sox franchise history to reach 40 home runs

Todd Frazier
The "dream" of a .500 season survives for another day. The White Sox (77-81) won their fifth consecutive game Wednesday night, defeating the Tampa Bay Rays, 1-0.

This game featured two rain delays, and cold, wet, windy weather that knocked down its share of flyballs. However, Sox third baseman Todd Frazier connected for a solo home run off Tampa Bay knuckleballer Eddie Gamboa in the bottom of the seventh inning, and that provided the margin of victory.

The home run was the 40th of the season for Frazier, extending a career high, and he became the seventh player in Sox franchise history to reach 40 home runs in a single season. Here are the others:

Sox right-hander Miguel Gonzalez (5-8) concluded a sneaky-good season with his best outing of the year Wednesday. He worked 8.1 scoreless innings, despite having to sit for 97 minutes because of a rain delay in the third inning. Gonzalez allowed just three hits, struck out five and walked nobody. He threw 71 of his 102 pitches for strikes, and that allowed him to get some quick outs in the pitcher-friendly conditions.

Gonzalez finishes his season with a 3.73 ERA. Fifteen of his 23 starts were quality. Like most of the Sox rotation, he pitched better than his record indicates, and I don't think anyone can complain about his performance this year.

His 102nd pitch Wednesday was a hanging slider that Logan Forsythe hit for a single to left with one out in the top of the ninth. At that point, closer David Robertson was summoned. He needed one pitch to record his 37th save in 44 chances, inducing Kevin Kiermaier to hit into a game-ending double play.

Monday, September 26, 2016

White Sox (temporarily) prevent Indians from clinching AL Central

Carlos Rodon
The Cleveland Indians would have the AL Central Division title wrapped up if they had won either of their last two games against the White Sox over the weekend.

Instead, the Sox surprised them with back-to-back victories and a rare series win in Cleveland. The Indians' magic number remains at 1 heading into Monday's action.

Here's a look back at the weekend in Cleveland:

Friday, September 23
Indians 10, White Sox 4: The Sox were in decent shape halfway through this game. They had a 4-2 lead headed to the bottom of the fifth inning, after a pair of two-run homers -- one by Melky Cabrera in the first inning and the other by Avisail Garcia in the fifth.

But the wheels came off for Sox starter Miguel Gonzalez (4-8) in the bottom of the fifth. The Tribe touched Gonzalez and reliever Juan Minaya up for four runs to take a 6-4 lead, and for good measure, they added four more in the sixth off the relief combination of Minaya and Dan Jennings.

Blessed with a 10-4 lead, Cleveland starter Trevor Bauer (12-8) got two outs deep in the eighth inning and picked up the win.

The Sox lost outfielder Adam Eaton for the rest of the series after he crashed into the center field wall hauling in a line drive off the bat of Cleveland catcher Roberto Perez in the fifth inning.

Saturday, September 24
White Sox 8, Indians 1: The Sox have scored a few more runs for Jose Quintana (13-11) the second half of the season, and this was the lastest example. A two-spot in the first inning gave Quintana the lead before he ever took the mound, and that had to be comforting for him, because he did not have his best stuff.

The left-hander worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning, and kept the Indians to just one run in the second inning, when the Tribe left runners at second and third.

The Sox added single runs in the fifth and sixth innings -- Todd Frazier hit his 39th homer of the season in the sixth -- and then broke it open with a four-run hit parade in the eighth inning. Carlos Sanchez and Jose Abreu each had three-hit games to back Quintana, who nursed the lead through six innings.

Tommy Kahnle, Jennings, Nate Jones and David Robertson combined for three innings of scoreless relief to give the Sox just their second victory at Cleveland this season.

Sunday, September 25
White Sox 3, Indians 0: Cleveland entered the day with its magic number at 2, needing a win and a Detroit loss to clinch the division. The Tigers lost, 12-9, to Kansas City, but the Indians couldn't hold up their end of the deal.

Left-hander Carlos Rodon (8-10) turned in one of the finest performances by a Sox starting pitcher all season. He went eight shutout innings, allowing just two hits (both singles), and tied his career high with 11 strikeouts.

Frazier went 1 for 3 with a single, a walk, two stolen bases and two runs scored. Each of the two steals led directly to a run. Sanchez drove him home with a single in the fifth; Omar Narvaez knocked him in with a single in the ninth.

Those three runs were ample for Rodon, who needed just one inning of help from the bullpen. Robertson provided it with one of his most impressive performances in months. The closer earned his 36th save by striking out Cleveland's 3-4-5 hitters -- Jose Ramirez, Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana -- in succession, all on nasty curve balls.

The Sox (74-81) now come home to conclude the season. They've got four games with Tampa Bay and three with Minnesota at U.S. Cellular Field this week.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Why is David Robertson pitching four days in a row?

David Robertson
I don't much care for the Detroit Tigers, so I was happy the White Sox recovered from a Labor Day loss to take two out of three games at U.S. Cellular Field this week.

The Sox won, 2-0, on Tuesday as Miguel Gonzalez came off the disabled list to fire 6.1 innings of shutout ball. Jose Abreu backed him with his 23rd home run of the season.

A fourth-run eighth inning Wednesday lifted the Sox to a come-from-behind 7-4 win. The Sox trailed, 4-3, entering the inning. Abreu singled and scored the tying run on a double by Justin Morneau. Avisail Garcia delivered a go-ahead RBI single, and Tyler Saladino and Adam Eaton tacked on RBI hits.

But here's what I didn't like about this series: Closer David Robertson pitched four straight days.

What is the point of that?

This is September. The rosters are expanded. There are plenty of other relievers available. The Sox are out of the pennant race. While Robertson is one of the few reliable relievers the Sox have, there's no reason to be pushing him this hard in relatively meaningless games.

Robertson blew a save Sunday in an extra-inning win over the Minnesota Twins. He pitched a 1-2-3 10th inning in Monday's loss to the Tigers. And he picked up his 34th and 35th saves of the season in games Tuesday and Wednesday, although he was shaky in both outings.

Knowing that Robertson has two years and $25 million remaining on his contract, I would not be doing anything that puts extra wear and tear on his arm. If the Sox were pushing for a playoff spot, you could justify the workload. However, that's just not the case here.

The Sox need to protect their assets and make sure they have a healthy Robertson going into the offseason.

This overuse is yet another reason the Sox need to move on from manager Robin Ventura. He just doesn't seem to have a feel for what is going on.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Chris Sale, Justin Verlander cancel each other out for second time in a week

Chris Sale
Chris Sale and Justin Verlander have locked up in a battle of aces twice in the last week. The result has been the same both times: Both men pitched well, canceling each other out. The games became a battle of bullpens, and the Detroit Tigers defeated the White Sox both times.

Here are the lines from the two matchups:

Aug. 31
Sale: 8 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 6 Ks, 4 BBs
Verlander: 7 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ERs, 9 Ks, 0 BBs

Sept. 5
Sale: 8 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 8Ks, 0 BBs
Verlander: 7 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 11 Ks, 1 BB

The two pitchers battled to a 2-2 draw Aug. 31 before the Tigers won, 3-2, when Sox closer David Robertson coughed up a run in the bottom of the ninth.

The Labor Day game was similar, with the two pitchers battling to a 2-2 deadlock into the late innings. This one went extras. The Tigers prevailed when Justin Upton hit a 3-run homer off Sox reliever Chris Beck in the top of the 11th inning. The Sox got one back in the bottom of the inning, but Detroit held on, 5-3.

This has to be maddening for Sale, who obviously had a tougher task facing the Tiger lineup than Verlander did facing the Sox lineup. Detroit has many more tougher outs, so you can make the case that Sale pitched better. He also lasted one more inning than Verlander did in each of the two games.

Still, no wins for Sale. The ace left-hander has posted quality starts in eight of his nine outings since the All-Star break. He has gone eight innings or more in each of his past four starts, and eight innings or more in five of his past seven.

He has been rewarded with a grand total of one win. He's stuck at 15-7, and probably is falling out of the Cy Young race with each no-decision.

#typicalWhiteSoxnonsense

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Surprise! White Sox swept again by divisional opponent

The winning stops for the White Sox whenever they play a AL Central opponent, especially if they happen to be playing that opponent on the road.

A few days ago, there was actually some optimism that the Sox could pull their record up to .500 and maybe salvage a winning season. They had a 6-3 homestand, and they looked good in taking three out of four games from the wild-card contending Seattle Mariners over the weekend.

Consider those good vibes erased, however, after the Sox (63-69) got swept in a three-game series against the Detroit Tigers.

Again.

Since I last blogged, the Sox dropped two games in a 24-hour span. They blew a 3-0 lead on Tuesday night and ended up losing 8-4. On Wednesday afternoon, Chris Sale and Justin Verlander locked up in a entertaining pitcher's duel. Neither man figured in the decision. Sale took a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the eighth, but Detroit scored a two-out run to take Verlander off the hook. The Tigers then won, 3-2, on a sacrifice fly against David Robertson in the ninth.

The Sox had at least a two-run lead at some point in all three games in Detroit. They lost them all.

For the season, Chicago went 1-8 in its nine games at Detroit. Overall, the Sox are 3-18 in road games against AL Central opponents Cleveland, Detroit and Kansas City. Even if you include home games, the Sox are a pathetic 11-29 against those three teams.

That poor record continues to befuddle, especially when you consider how well the Sox have done against contending teams in the AL East and AL West. They are a combined 26-19 against Texas, Toronto, Baltimore, Boston, Houston, Seattle and New York -- those seven clubs all have winning records, and the Sox have more than held their own.

However, the Sox are embarrassingly bad against the teams they most need to beat -- Cleveland, Detroit and Kansas City. Divisional teams are always very familiar with one another, and that familiarity seems to help other teams but work against the Sox.

The only conclusion we can come to here is that the Sox are being out-scouted and out-coached, and somebody needs to be fired for it. If they were truly that talent-deficient, wouldn't they be losing against all or most of the good teams in the American League, as well? I believe so.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Maybe the White Sox should give Nate Jones a break

Nate Jones
White Sox relief pitcher Nate Jones is tied for the American League lead with 62 appearances.

The team is asking a lot from him, especially since this is his first full season back after he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2014. Whether the Sox want to admit it or not, they are out of the pennant race, and they would be well-advised not to overuse Jones over the final 32 games of the season, which are relatively meaningless.

Jones has been the Sox's best reliever this season, and it's not close. It's important to get him through this season healthy, because he could be a valuable member of the Sox's 2017 bullpen, or he could be traded for something of value as part of a rebuilding plan this offseason.

Unfortunately, Sox brass doesn't seem to be giving any consideration to that strategy. They still are selling out to try to win games, and they are being reckless in the process. Jones was on the mound for the third straight game Monday night in Detroit, and he failed to protect a 3-2 lead in the eighth inning. Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a two-run homer off him that lifted the Tigers to a 4-3 win.

You can see where the problem is here. The Sox have eight relief pitchers on their roster, and only three of them belong in the major leagues: Jones, David Robertson and Dan Jennings. The Sox play a lot of close games, and Robin Ventura -- who is on an expiring contract and is managing for his job -- keeps calling for the only relievers he trusts. Even on days where Jones doesn't get in the game, it seems like he's warming up at some point.

The seeds for Monday's loss were sown in Saturday night's game. The Sox took a 9-2 lead into the ninth inning. Jacob Turner, one of the five Sox relievers that does not belong in the major leagues, could not close it out. Seattle scored a run and had the bases loaded with only one out. Jones relieved and got a double play to extricate the team from that mess, but the point is he never should have appeared in that game. Somebody else should have been able to get two outs with a six-run lead. It's just not that hard.

Jones was rightfully used in the eighth inning with a 2-1 lead Sunday, and he got the job done as part of a 4-1 Sox win. It's one thing to use a guy back-to-back days, but three in a row during garbage time is unnecessary, especially for a pitcher with an extensive injury history. I would have been OK with Jones being out there Monday if he had not been used Saturday, but he was foolishly and needlessly used in a lopsided win against the Mariners.

Who knows? If Jones gets the night off Saturday, maybe he's a little fresher and able to protect the lead Monday.

It's too bad, because the Sox got a rare quality start from James Shields on Monday. He went six innings and allowed only two runs. It would have been nice to finish that one off, but the Sox have way too many holes in their pitching staff to have visions of a September run.

The smart play here is to back the workload down for the pitchers who have value -- Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Robertson and Jones. If that causes the team to lose more games down the stretch, so be it. We can't trust Ventura to do that, sadly, because he's trying to win enough games to convince team brass to let him return in 2017.

For most Sox fans, including me, there's nothing that will convince us that Ventura should be allowed to manage next year's club. He's had his chances. He's overmatched. It's time to move on.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Todd Frazier comes through for White Sox against Seattle bullpen

Todd Frazier
Third baseman Todd Frazier leads the White Sox with 80 RBIs, although you'd never expect that if you looked at his statistics with runners in scoring position.

Frazier has been terrible in those situations this year, 19 for 110, which will pencil out to a .173/.302/.345 slash line.

Those numbers were even worse until Thursday night, when Frazier came through twice in the late innings to lift the Sox to a 7-6, come-from-behind win over the Seattle Mariners.

With the Sox trailing 6-4 in the seventh, Frazier tied the score with a two-out, two-run single off Seattle reliever Steve Cishek. The right-hander got too much of the plate with a 2-0 slider, and Frazier ripped it through the hole between shortstop and third base to plate both Adam Eaton and Tim Anderson.

The score remained tied until the bottom of the ninth. Eaton led off with a bloop single against Seattle reliever Nick Vincent (3-4). Anderson advanced the runner with a sacrifice bunt. The Mariners elected to walk Jose Abreu with first base open -- a wise decision, frankly, since Abreu has been tearing it up in August.

That strategy was foiled, however, when Frazier smacked a Vincent sinker down the left-field line that allowed Eaton to score easily from second base and end the ballgame.

The clutch hits had to be a relief for Frazier, who was 0 for 3 with three strikeouts against Seattle starter James Paxton. He looked terrible on each of those 3Ks, one of which came with runners at first and third and nobody out in the first inning.

But fortunes changed once the Mariner bullpen entered the game, and the rally got Sox starter Anthony Ranaudo off the hook. The right-hander was decent enough for five innings -- the score was tied at 3 headed to the sixth. However, Ranaudo gave up three runs in the sixth and only got one out before having to be removed. It didn't help than Dan Jennings allowed two of his inherited runners to score.

The Sox bullpen kept it close by keeping the Mariners off the board the last three innings, and closer David Robertson (4-2) ended up with the win after he pitched around a one-out walk to post a scoreless ninth inning.

The Sox are 4-2 on the homestand entering Friday's play, with three more to go against Seattle.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Chris Sale, Jose Quintana lift White Sox to series win vs. A's

Chris Sale
Perhaps a three-game set between two fourth-place teams in late August doesn't stir the emotions, but the White Sox finally won a series against an American League opponent over the weekend, taking two out of three from the Oakland Athletics.

The series went about as expected, with Sox pitchers Chris Sale and Jose Quintana winning their respective starts, while James Shields turned in yet another clunker.

Let's review the weekend that was at U.S. Cellular Field:

Friday, Aug. 19
Athletics 9, White Sox 0: The Sox rank last in the American League with 493 runs scored. Oakland is not much better offensively -- the A's are tied with the Royals for 13th in the league with 495 runs. Nevertheless, Oakland hitters had no problems with Shields (5-15).

The Sox right-hander got knocked out in the fifth inning, after allowing seven runs (six earned) on eight hits. He struck out three, walked three and allowed three more home runs.

Shields has now allowed 20 home runs in 69.2 IP since joining the Sox. In fact, he leads the team in home runs allowed, despite spending the first two months of the season in San Diego. Shields is 3-8 with a 7.62 ERA in 14 starts with Chicago.

He has moved into the Jaime Navarro and Todd Ritchie Kingdom of Bad. If you're holding tickets for a game Shields is scheduled to start, I pity you.

The Sox did nothing offensively in this game. Oakland's Kendall Graveman (9-8) needed only 98 pitches to fire a two-hit shutout. He faced 28 batters, one more than the minimum.

It's hard to say whether Graveman was really that good, or if the Sox hitters just gave up after Shields put them in another insurmountable hole.

Saturday, Aug. 20
White Sox 6, Athletics 2: Sale hadn't won a game since July 2. He's had a couple bad outings since then, but he's mostly been the victim of bad relief pitching and lack of run support.

But the ace lefty had few problems in this game, as he fired eight innings of shutout ball to earn his 15th win against six losses. He allowed only three hits -- all singles -- while striking out eight and walking three. Sale allowed two singles in the first inning, but escaped trouble with a double play. He was never threatened again, as Oakland managed just one hit over the next seven innings.

The Sox offense was helpful for a change, touching up Oakland left-hander Ross Detwiler (1-2) for six runs on 10 hits over the first four innings. Jose Abreu's 15th home run of the season got the scoring started in the first inning, and the Sox tacked on with two in the second, two in the third and one in the fourth.

Naturally, the Sox couldn't make it easy in the ninth inning. Nate Jones was summoned to protect a six-run lead, but he struggled. He faced five batters with the following results: home run, popout, single, E-6, single. Suddenly, it was 6-2 with two on and only one out.

With the tying run in the on-deck circle, closer David Robertson was summoned. He collected his 31st save by recording a strikeout and a long flyout to center field.

Sunday, Aug. 21
White Sox 4, Athletics 2: The Sox followed a similar formula to the one they used Saturday night. They handed an early lead to one of their best pitchers, and stayed in front the rest of the afternoon.

The South Siders plated three runs in the bottom of the first inning off Oakland starter Zach Neal (2-3). Justin Morneau had an RBI double, and Todd Frazier added a two-run single as part of his three-hit day.

Abreu added his 16th home run of the season in the fourth inning.

That was enough for Quintana (10-9), who collected his career-high 10th victory. He went seven innings, allowing only a two-run homer to Khris Davis. He allowed eight hits, struck out six and walked one.

The lone walk was to Jake Smolinski leading off the eighth, and that was Quintana's last batter of the afternoon. This time, Jones entered and got the job done. He struck out Oakland's two most dangerous hitters -- Marcus Semien and Davis -- and preserved a 4-2 lead through eight innings.

Robertson gave up a leadoff single in the ninth, but retired the next three hitters in succession -- including one strikeout -- to earn his 32nd save in 38 chances.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

White Sox finally get a win vs. Cleveland

Adam Eaton
The Cleveland Indians were 62-0 when leading after eight innings entering Wednesday night's game against the White Sox.

However, the longer a streak goes, the more likely it is to end. The law of averages in baseball eventually catches up to you.

The Sox ended that 62-game streak -- and their own seven-game losing streak in head-to-head matchups with the Indians -- by scoring five runs in the top of the ninth inning off Cleveland closer Cody Allen.

Adam Eaton's first career grand slam capped the rally, which erased a 7-5 deficit and lifted the Sox to a 10-7 victory.

Allen struck out Justin Morneau to begin the ninth inning, but he would not retire another batter.

Todd Frazier and J.B. Shuck both reached on infield singles, and Tim Anderson drew a walk to load the bases. Kudos to Anderson, who overcame a bogus strike call on 3-1 to reach base. The full-count pitch was close, but also out of the zone, and that one was correctly ruled ball four. It would have been easy for a young hitter such as Anderson to get anxious after having a bad call go against him on the previous pitch, but he maintained his discipline and earned the walk.

Anderson has walked five times in his last 10 games, after drawing just two walks in his previous 47 games. The Sox can hope this means the 23-year-old is starting to get a better grasp of the strike zone.

Dioner Navarro's bloop single made it 7-6, and that set the stage for Eaton. The Sox's right fielder fell behind 0-2 in the count -- both pitches were curve balls --  and he looked foolish on a half-swing for strike two. But Allen went to the well one too many times, throwing Eaton a third straight curve. This time, Eaton waited back nicely and lined it into the right field seats for the go-ahead hit.

David Robertson allowed two base runners in the bottom of the ninth, a leadoff walk and a one-out single. But he struck out Rajai Davis and got a groundout from Brandon Guyer to preserve the lead and earn his 30th save in 36 opportunities.

Jacob Turner (1-1) pitched a scoreless eighth inning to pick up the win. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Rare series win: White Sox take two out of three from Marlins

Billy the Marlin
Is there any solace in beating a National League team?

The White Sox have won only two series since the All-Star break, and both of them have come against NL teams. The South Siders took two out of three closely contested games against the Miami Marlins over the weekend.

Here's a recap of how it went down:

Friday, Aug. 12
White Sox 4, Marlins 2: Left-hander Carlos Rodon has started throwing his changeup again since he returned from the disabled list.

Through his first 16 starts of the season, Rodon threw a grand total of 87 changeups, or 5.4 per game. In his last three starts -- including Friday's -- he's thrown 54 changeups, or 18 per game.

Rodon's last two starts have been excellent, and he picked up his first win since May 22 in this game. He went six innings, allowing just one run on three hits. He struck out four and walked three, and did a good job of protecting the lead after the Sox scored three runs for him in the first two innings.

The common denominator for Rodon (3-8) since his return? Rookie catcher Omar Narvaez. Unlike the veteran catchers on this team, Narvaez has Rodon using all of his pitches, and that seems to help.

Also good news from this game: David Robertson worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning with two strikeouts for his 28th save of the season. Robertson has been struggling, and it's imperative he get back on track if the Sox are going to have any success at all the final month and a half.

Saturday, Aug. 13
White Sox 8, Marlins 7: Have we mentioned that James Shields stinks? Somehow, the rest of the Sox managed to overcome another terrible outing by Shields, who squandered an early 4-0 lead and got knocked out in the fourth inning.

Shields' final line: 3 IP, 10 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 1 HR

His ERA with the Sox is up to 7.34 in 13 starts. We can't say this is bad luck either. His FIP is 7.11, so these horrible statistics are not a fluke. Shields is giving up a ton of hard contact, and the Sox appear to be stuck with another terrible veteran pitcher through the 2018 season.

What a travesty.

On the bright side, the Sox bullpen combined for six scoreless innings in this game, allowing the Sox to rally for the win. A two-run eighth inning was the difference. Justin Morneau's pinch-hit, RBI double tied the game at 7, and then Dioner Navarro scored on a wild pitch to provide the winning run.

Nate Jones had a 1-2-3 eighth inning, and Robertson made it stick in the ninth with his 29th save of the year. Adam Eaton threw out Giancarlo Stanton at second base to end the game. Stanton made an ill-advised decision to try to stretch a single into a double. Not only was he thrown out, but he suffered a groin injury that sent him to the disabled list for his trouble.

Sunday, Aug. 14
Marlins 5, White Sox 4: Chris Sale's bid to win the Cy Young suddenly isn't looking so good after he failed to finish off a potential series sweep.

This game was tied at 3 into the seventh inning before the Sox ace coughed up two runs to take the loss, keeping him winless since July 2.

Sale has had some bad luck since the All-Star break. Robertson has blown two games with two outs in the ninth inning that would have been wins for Sale, and Sale (14-6) has also suffered 2-1 and 3-1 losses that could have easily been wins on another day.

But this one was not the fault of Sale's teammates. He was just bad, giving up five earned runs on eight hits over 6.2 innings against the Marlins' Sunday lineup.

The Sox tried to come back and get him off the hook. Tim Anderson homered in the bottom of the ninth to cut the Miami lead to 5-4. After that, the Sox got three singles from Narvaez, Eaton and Tyler Saladino, but pinch runner Carlos Sanchez was thrown out at home plate trying to score on Saladino's base hit to end the game.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

There isn't much more Jose Quintana can do for the White Sox

Jose Quintana -- hosed again
"It's bad when you try everything and you lose."

That's what White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana had to say after Wednesday's 3-2, 14-inning loss to the Kansas City Royals.

Quintana did what he almost always does -- pitch outstanding baseball. He went 7.1 innings, allowing just one run on five hits with five strikeouts and one walk. His ERA is down to 2.85, which is brilliant in the hard-hitting American League.

Quintana's teammates also did what they almost always do -- find a way to squander his terrific performance.

In many ways, this was the prototypical Quintana no-decision. He took a 1-0 lead into the eighth inning, but the Sox could have had more runs than one. They gave away three outs on the bases, went 2 for 9 with runners in scoring position and stranded 12 runners. They failed to deliver the big hit with men on base in the fifth, seventh and eighth innings.

Inept offense.

Nevertheless, there was Quintana, industriously protecting a slim lead all game long. He got one out into the eighth inning before a double by Paulo Orlando ended his night after 97 pitches. I would argue that Quintana had earned the right to try to pitch around that, but it was a hot night, and manager Robin Ventura elected to go to the bullpen.

It took Nate Jones exactly one pitch to blow Quintana's chance at victory. Cheslor Cuthbert doubled to tie the score. Have I mentioned that the Royals have a lineup full of guys who love to swing at the first pitch? The Sox still haven't figure that out yet. #typicalWhiteSoxnonsense

The Sox had another chance to win the game in the 11th inning after Tim Anderson's two-out RBI single staked them to a 2-1 lead. Alas, closer David Robertson still isn't able to close. He gave the run right back in the bottom of the inning for his fourth blow save in eight chances since the All-Star break.

There have been five meetings between the Sox and Kansas City at Kauffman Stadium this year, and the Sox have had the lead in the seventh inning in all five of them. Yet, their record in those five games is 1-4. It's fitting that both Jones and Robertson were charged with blown saves in this one. You get the feeling the Sox bullpen couldn't protect a 10-run lead against the Royals in that stadium.

After the second Sox lead was blown, the game took on the feel of an inevitable loss. The Sox lost, all right, when Lorenzo Cain delivered a two-out RBI single off the increasingly useless Matt Albers in the bottom of the 14th inning.

One wonders why Albers (2-5) and his 5.91 ERA continue to appear in high-leverage situations. With the Sox out of the race, would it would be wrong to see how a younger pitcher would react in that spot? Carson Fulmer? Even Michael Ynoa?

Of course, it's not uncommon for me to be puzzled by some of the in-game decisions the Sox make. Nothing new under the sun there.