Showing posts with label Dayan Viciedo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dayan Viciedo. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

White Sox designate John Danks for assignnment

The White Sox on Tuesday announced their intention to designate veteran left-hander John Danks for assignment.

Danks is 0-4 with a 7.25 ERA in four starts this season, and as we've chronicled previously on this blog, he is the one guy who seems to be holding the Sox back this season. The South Siders enter Wednesday's game against Boston with a 19-8 record, which means they are 19-4 when Danks doesn't pitch.

General manager Rick Hahn indicated right-hander Erik Johnson will be recalled from Triple-A Charlotte to take Danks' spot in the starting rotation. Johnson will start Thursday's game against Boston.

“(Danks) was an important part of some very good White Sox teams,” Hahn told CSNChicago's Dan Hayes. “This is about putting us in the best position to win ballgames going forward. We feel we have a pretty special thing going on in this clubhouse right now. We have the opportunity to build off some of the momentum we already have created for ourselves, and we wanted to put ourselves in the best position to win games going forward.”

There's no question Danks has been a momentum killer during his starts in the early going this year. His appearances have put a stop to a five-game winning streak and a six-game winning streak already. The struggles are part of a longer-term trend since Danks underwent shoulder surgery in August 2012.

He has never been the same pitcher since returning in 2013. In 88 post-surgery starts, he has gone 22-44 with a 4.84 ERA. As a team, the Sox are 32-56 in those 88 games. He's just too big of a liability for a team that is off to a good start and has every intention of trying to win this year.

Letting Danks go will not be cheap. The club is eating the remaining $11.75 million on Danks' contract, which comes as a surprise to many longtime Sox observers, who are used to seeing owner Jerry Reinsdorf insist on getting a return on his investment.

For myself and other Sox fans, the move is refreshing, because it shows the Sox are serious about winning and willing to address problems quickly. In the past, we've seen this organization stick with high-priced players despite poor performance. (Why was Adam Dunn batting third in 2011 when his batting average was well below .200?)

In the past, we've seen this organization stick with struggling players (Tyler Flowers, Dayan Viciedo, Gordon Beckham) long after it became apparent they were never going to be solid, everyday contributors.

Whether the Sox have an internal solution for the No. 5 starter spot remains to be seen. But both the numbers and the eye test show that Danks is no longer capable of pitching at the major-league level. I commend the Sox for recognizing that and moving on.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Gordon Beckham returns to White Sox; Dayan Viciedo designated for assignment

The White Sox announced Wednesday they have agreed with infielder Gordon Beckham on a one-year, $2 million contract.

The club also designated outfielder Dayan Viciedo for assignment, after apparently failing to find any takers on the trade market.

Beckham, 28, was the Sox's first-round draft pick in 2008 and struggled with the bat throughout most of his five-plus seasons with the team. He was traded to the Los Angeles Angels on Aug. 21 and finished 2014 with a .226 average, 27 doubles, nine home runs and 44 RBIs.

We already know Beckham, a lifetime .245 hitter, isn't good enough with the bat to be an everyday second baseman. The good news is the Sox's intention seems to be to use him in a utility role.

“Adding Gordon improves the depth and flexibility of our roster,” Sox general manager Rick Hahn said in a statement. “We are thrilled to have him back. Like Emilio Bonifacio, Gordon brings the ability to play solid defense at multiple positions or play on an everyday basis should the need arise. This also gives [manager] Robin [Ventura] the ability to play matchups more effectively when setting the lineup.”

Ah, matchups.

Most of Beckham's critics probably didn't realize that even at his worst last season he could still hit left-handed pitching. Here are his slash lines from last year:

vs. LHP: .293/.349/.431
vs. RHP: .203/.242/.318

Beckham can hit lefties; Conor Gillaspie can hit righties. There's your third base platoon, Sox fans. We know Beckham is good enough defensively to play anywhere on the infield. His glove is a plus at second base, and it's no worse than average at third base. The Sox could even throw him at shortstop, his college position, in a pinch.

If fans put aside their bias, they can see this signing makes sense -- as long as Beckham is used in a utility role to maximize his strengths. If both Micah Johnson and Carlos Sanchez fail at second base this year and Beckham becomes the everyday player at that spot once more, well, that's not ideal. Cross your fingers and hope that doesn't happen.

With this move, the Sox are about to part ways with Viciedo. The 25-year-old hit .231 with 21 home runs and 58 RBIs last year. He's neither a good fielder nor a good baserunner, and his bat was simply never good enough to overcome his other weaknesses. There didn't seem to be any room for him on the Sox's 2015 roster, and apparently he has no trade value either.

Lastly, Beckham's return gives us another opportunity to cue up "Welcome Back Kotter." That's been happening a lot lately ...

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Jeff Samardzija, Tyler Flowers agree to one-year deals; White Sox have all arbitration-eligible players signed

The White Sox have agreed to contracts with their final two arbitration-eligible players, signing pitcher Jeff Samardzija and catcher Tyler Flowers to one-year deals.

Samardzija, 29, went a combined 7-13 with a 2.99 ERA last season with the Cubs and Oakland Athletics. He was acquired in December to be the No. 2 pitcher in the White Sox rotation behind Chris Sale. Samardzija, who is eligible for free agency next winter, will make $9.8 million in 2015.

Flowers, 28, agreed on a $2.675 million deal. The Sox starting catcher hit .241 with 15 home runs and 50 RBIs last season. He figures to be the guy behind the plate again, unless GM Rick Hahn comes up with another move in the 79 days between now and Opening Day.

The Sox previously agreed to contracts with four other arbitration-eligible players. The salaries all came in right around where MLB Trade Rumors expected them to:

Projected salary: $9.5 million
Actual salary: $9.8 million

Projected salary: $2.1 million
Actual salary: $2.675 million

Hector Noesi:
Projected salary: $1.9 million
Actual salary: $1.95 million

Dayan Viciedo:
Projected salary: $4.4 million
Actual salary: $4.4 million

Javy Guerra:
Projected salary: $1.3 million
Actual salary: $937, 500

Nate Jones:
Projected salary: $600,000
Actual salary: $660,000

Total projected salary for these six players: $19.8 million
Actual salary for these six players: $20.4225 million

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

White Sox agree with Dayan Viciedo on one-year contract

The White Sox on Monday agreed to a one-year, $4.4 million contract with disappointing outfielder Dayan Viciedo, avoiding arbitration.

This news is about as welcome as a fatal chest wound for many White Sox fans, who have grown tired of Viciedo's wild swings, poor plate discipline and lousy defense in the outfield.

The 25-year-old is coming off his worst season in the major leagues, in which he posted a .231/.281/.405 slash line. All three of those figures are career worsts. Viciedo did total 21 home runs and 58 RBIs, but he also struck out more times (122) than he had hits (121).

It's hard to see how Viciedo fits into the plan for the 2015 White Sox. The outfield is set with Melky Cabrera in left field, Adam Eaton in center and Avisail Garcia in right. There's no room at designated hitter, either, with Jose Abreu and Adam LaRoche set to split duties between first base and DH.

Viciedo at this point looks like an overpriced, one-dimensional (to put it charitably) bench player. Accordingly, you would think general manager Rick Hahn will be motivated to try to get Viciedo off his projected 25-man roster.

You also would think the $4.4 million contract would be an impediment to trying to deal Viciedo, but the more I think about it, maybe this will actually help Hahn in his efforts to make a trade. Now that Viciedo's contract for next year is in place, any potential trade partner now knows what the cost will be to acquire this player for the 2015 season. Up until Monday's announcement, any acquiring team would have to worry about Viciedo potentially taking them to arbitration, a process that is notorious for favoring players -- especially when Scott Boras is that player's agent, which is the case with Viciedo.

With cost certainty, maybe it's easier to make a deal. If you're a White Sox fan who wants Viciedo gone, at least you can hope that's the case.

Monday, December 15, 2014

White Sox sign Melky Cabrera to play left field

After the White Sox acquired pitcher Jeff Samardzija last week, we said that wouldn't be enough to make the South Siders a legitimate contender.

We said they needed to press forward and fix other holes, including the ongoing problem in left field. On Saturday night, general manager Rick Hahn addressed the outfield issue, agreeing to terms with Melky Cabrera on a three-year, $42 million contract.

Critics of this move will note Cabrera was busted for PED use while with the San Francisco Giants in 2012. I'm not too concerned about that because the switch-hitter has continued to produce since that incident, suggesting his success wasn't entirely the result of chemical enhancements.

Check out Cabrera's numbers over the past four years:

2011 with the Kansas City Royals: .305/.339/.470, 18 HRs, 87 RBIs
2012 with San Francisco: .346/.390/.516, 11 HRs, 60 RBIs
2013 with the Toronto Blue Jays: .279/.322/.360, 3 HRs, 30 RBIs
2014 with Toronto: .301/.351/.458, 16 HRs, 73 RBIs

Cabrera has hit .300 or better in three of the past four years, with the only exception being his injury-riddled 2013 season where he was limited to 88 games. If he's healthy, he's going to hit.

Here's the thing I like about Cabrera. He doesn't care if there's a left-handed pitcher or a right-handed pitcher on the mound. Here are his platoon splits over the past four seasons:

vs. LHP: 308/..350/.477
vs. RHP: .309/.352/.451

We can see there is more pop in his bat from the right side of the plate, but the batting average and on-base percentage are essentially the same from either side. This is a guy manager Robin Ventura can just pencil in every day in the No. 2 spot in the batting order, regardless of who the opposing pitcher is.

Defensively, Cabrera possesses one of the better throwing arms in the league, although his defense has regressed a bit the past couple years playing on the artificial surface in Toronto.

I think the Sox need to focus on defense when selecting a fourth outfielder, because neither Cabrera nor right fielder Avisail Garcia can play center field, if something should happen to Adam Eaton. Whoever the backup outfielder is must be able to handle center field adequately, which means Dayan Viciedo is going to be shown the door one way or another before next season begins.

We'll see if Hahn can get Viciedo out of town in exchange for the bullpen arm he still needs.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Here's why the Adam LaRoche signing is worth the risk for the White Sox

The deal hasn't been announced yet, but reports over the weekend indicated the White Sox have agreed to terms with first baseman Adam LaRoche on a two-year, $25 million contract. The left-handed slugger is expected to share duties at first base and designated hitter with Jose Abreu.

The signing of LaRoche, 35, has been called foolish in some quarters. While I'm not necessarily printing playoff tickets as a result of this move, I don't blame the Sox for taking the risk on the veteran middle-of-the-order hitter. I'll explain why.

To start off our discussion, let's do some player comparison. Which of these five hitters would you say is the best?:

Player A: .283/.369/.448, 35 2Bs, 13 HRs, 71 RBIs
Player B: .219/.337/.415, 18 2Bs, 22 HRs, 64 RBIs
Player C: .259/.362/.455, 19 2Bs, 26 HRs, 92 RBIs
Player D: .231/.281/.405, 22 2Bs, 21 HRs, 58 RBIs
Player E: .279/.324/.415, 26 2Bs, 16 HRs, 73 RBIs

Without knowing the names of the players (these are all 2014 stats), who would you go with? Maybe Player A? Or how about Player C? I wouldn't take Players B or D. Player B's batting average is too low, and Player D's on-base percentage is by far the worst of the group. For that matter, Player E's OBP leaves something to be desired, as well, and that slugging percentage isn't the greatest either.

For me, I'd have to take Player A. Player A hits for the best average, has the most doubles and is solid in the OBP and slugging components. But Player C is worthwhile, too, because he leads the group in slugging, home runs and RBIs, and is a close second in OBP to Player A.

Player C is LaRoche. Player A is Hanley Ramirez, who just agreed to terms on a four-year, $88 million contract with the Boston Red Sox.

Now, Ramirez never would have fit in with the White Sox' plans. He's a right-handed hitter, and the overly right-handed Sox were looking for a lefty bat. But, I inserted him into this discussion because you could make the case he was the best hitter available in free agency after Victor Martinez re-signed with Detroit.

Ramirez is a better hitter than LaRoche, but not drastically so, and you could argue LaRoche is a better value at $12.5 million per year than the oft-injured Ramirez is at $22 million per year.

Who is Player E, you ask? That would be the other guy the Red Sox are reportedly going to sign: Pablo Sandoval. Boston is giving out a reported $90 million over five years to a guy who had a .739 OPS last year. Good luck with that. Sandoval was a postseason hero in San Francisco, and his fans wear panda suits, but I'm not convinced he's a better hitter over 162 games than LaRoche, who had an .817 OPS in 2014. I do know that LaRoche costs about $5.5 million less a year than Sandoval on the current market.

Player B is Adam Dunn, who was the Sox' DH for most of last season and the guy LaRoche is essentially replacing on the roster. Player D is Dayan Viciedo, who was the Sox' best internal option at DH had the club not acted in free agency. I'm not going to spend any time telling you why LaRoche is better than Dunn and Viciedo. Just look at the numbers and see for yourselves.

The Sox needed an upgrade at DH, preferably a left-handed one, so they signed one. It's not an overpay when you consider the contracts other free-agent hitters such as Ramirez and Sandoval received, and LaRoche is clearly a better option than the players the Sox had internally. That makes the signing worth the risk.

Let me leave you with this parting thought: There were only seven left-handed hitters in Major League Baseball who hit 25 or more home runs in 2014. Only one of those seven was a free agent.

The White Sox just signed him.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Adam Eaton returns; Jordan Danks caught in numbers game (again)

White Sox center fielder Adam Eaton is set to return from the disabled list in time for Tuesday's game against the Cleveland Indians. This is good news for everyone associated with the Sox organization.

Well, it's good news for everyone except Jordan Danks, who was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte for the umpteenth time in the past three years to make room for Eaton on the 25-man roster.

Danks' demotion is not based upon poor performance. He has done everything he has been asked to do. He has started 11 of the past 13 Sox games in Eaton's place, and has caught every ball you would expect a center fielder to catch. Offensively, his .289/.317/.368 slash line over that same span is plenty good enough for a player who was providing above-average defense at an up-the-middle position.

This isn't the first time Danks has been demoted for reasons other than performance. He batted .333 with five home runs during spring training this year. He did everything possible to snag a major league roster spot as an extra outfielder. But in March, as he is now, Danks was caught in a numbers game.

There are two reasons for his demotions: 1) He's considered the fifth outfielder on a team that only wants to carry four outfielders, and 2) He has an option remaining. Fairly or not, players who have an option(s) remaining are more likely to lose their roster spot than those who do not.

Eaton and Avisail Garcia are healthy at the same time for the first time since the second week of April. Those two outfielders are part of the Sox' present and future. If they are available, they are going to play. The third outfield spot remains a question mark. At least until the Sept. 1 roster expansion, when Danks will be recalled and Moises Sierra will come off the disabled list, the Sox appear to be going back to the left field plan they started the season with: a platoon with Alejandro De Aza and Dayan Viciedo.

The thing that's interesting about all this is that the coaching staff plays Danks frequently when he's available to them.

Garcia has been back from his four-month stint on the disabled list for eight games, and the most common outfield combination we've seen during that stretch is De Aza in left field, Danks in center field and Garcia in right field.

Manager Robin Ventura had the option of going with Viciedo in left, De Aza in center and Garcia in right, but he only used that combination just one time in those eight games. Danks started the other seven games in center field. Viciedo started just three of those eight games.

With Garcia, Danks, Viciedo and De Aza all available, the coaching staff seemed most comfortable with Danks on the field and Viciedo on the bench. Yet when Eaton becomes available, the guy who has been sitting on the bench (Viciedo) hangs around, while the guy who is playing center field (Danks) is packing his bags for Triple-A.

It makes you wonder if there's somebody in the front office who doesn't want to give up just yet on Viciedo and his tantalizing offensive potential. As we've mentioned before, Garcia's injury gave Viciedo a second chance to prove himself as an everyday player this season. Viciedo has squandered it. We know he's a horrible defensive player. His outfield gaffe on Sunday in New York cost Sox ace Chris Sale and the team a win against the Yankees. He has to hit to justify his roster spot, and his .233/.279/.397 slash line doesn't make the grade.

Viciedo has had 1,705 plate appearances in a White Sox uniform, including at least 470 in each of the past three seasons. Of those three seasons, this is his worst of the three. Much like Gordon Beckham, he's regressed despite receiving ample opportunity to right the ship. Maybe the coaching staff has recognized this, and that's the reason Viciedo was the guy who lost playing time upon Garcia's return. At some point, a player goes from having tantalizing offensive potential to being a bust. The White Sox might be at that stage with Viciedo.

I don't think Danks is an everyday outfielder by any means. He's not a good enough hitter. However, I think he's more likely than Viciedo to stick in the majors as a reserve on the basis of his ability to effectively play all three outfield positions. That versatility is a quality you want in a backup player. Viciedo can't play effectively anywhere on the field, and despite his potential, his offensive results are too marginal to keep him around.

Next year, Danks will be out of options. They won't be able to put him on the Triple-A shuttle again. The next time the Sox are faced with a "Viciedo or Danks" decision, whether that comes in the offseason or next spring, would it be out of line to suggest they keep the player who can handle center field and catch the ball? 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Avisail Garcia's return will create an interesting roster decision for the White Sox

White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia was once believed to be out for the year after tearing the labrum in his shoulder the second week of the season.

However, the timetable for his return keeps accelerating. Garcia is currently 10 for 19 with a home run in five games on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Charlotte, and White Sox manager Robin Ventura has said the 23-year-old could return to the major leagues before the end of the month if he avoids setbacks.

If Garcia stays on track, he'll be back with the White Sox before the Sept. 1 roster expansion, so that means somebody on the current 25-man roster will have to go.

A lot of times in these situations, the club will just tell its backup outfielder to hit the bricks. But for the Sox, it's not that simple in this case. Fourth outfielder Moises Sierra is out of options and cannot be sent back to the minors without first clearing waivers.

It would be a mistake for the Sox to expose Sierra to waivers. There's a good chance he'd be claimed. He has posted a respectable .295./.318/.448 slash line in a reserve role. Defensively, he's the best corner outfielder on the 25-man roster, and he's still only 25 years old.

If you're the White Sox and you're five games below .500 the first week of August, it's time to start thinking about what your team might look like next season. Sierra has shown enough this year that the club should consider bringing him back in 2015 in some capacity, even if it is just in the part-time role he has filled capably this year.

But, if the Sox are going to hold on to Sierra, that means one of three players -- Adam Dunn, Alejandro De Aza or Dayan Viciedo -- has to go when Garcia comes off the DL. Ideally, general manager Rick Hahn would be able to swing a waiver-wire deal to move one of those three players.

Unfortunately, hopes for trading Dunn are getting less and less by the day. The left-handed slugger is mired in an 0-for-15 skid. He did not reach base a single time on the Sox' most recent homestand, and he is hitting just .129 with two home runs over the past two weeks. Jose Abreu is starting to see fewer pitches to hit, because opposing pitchers know Dunn is an automatic out behind him right now.

If Dunn were swinging the bat well, a contender would be able to use him for the last 40 or so games of the season. Unfortunately, that's not the case, and Dunn might stuck playing out the string in Chicago.

Viciedo is the player who benefited most when Garcia went down. The Sox seemed ready to move on from him as an everyday guy coming into the year, but Garcia's injury created a second chance for him to play on a daily basis. He has failed to capitalize. Viciedo is a poor defender, so he needs to hit to justify his roster spot. Despite 14 home runs, his .238/.286/.400 slash has impressed nobody, and in fact, his batting average and slugging percentage are both below his career norms.

Like Sierra, Viciedo has age on his side. He's only 25, but he doesn't seem to be making progress as a hitter. His previous perceived strength -- hitting left-handed pitching -- hasn't been much of a factor. His platoon splits show him as being only slightly better against lefties than he is against righties:

vs. RHP: .236/.276/.398
vs. LHP: .247/.317/.409

Hahn will only be able to move Viciedo if there is another GM who thinks the outfielder might benefit from a change of scenery. There's nothing about Viciedo's game right now that suggests he could help a contender.

That brings us to De Aza, who like Dunn almost certainly will be somewhere other than Chicago when the 2015 season begins. De Aza cannot hit lefties at all this year (.091/.155/.136), but he still gets on base at a respectable clip against right-handed pitching (.283/.349/.416).

And, De Aza has been trending in the right direction over the past two months. He was awful in April and May (.173/.240/.250), but since Sierra was added to the roster, Ventura has been able to limit De Aza's exposure to left-handed pitching.

As a result, De Aza has posted a .327/.375/.455 slash line since June 1.

Yeah, you read that right: De Aza has been almost a .330 hitter for a full one-third of the season.

If there's a team that could use a left-handed bat to help against right-handed pitching, De Aza is a fit. He represents Hahn's best chance to make a waiver-wire deal before Garcia comes off the disabled list.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Gordon Beckham is drowning in his 'prove it' season

Time for another round of player comparison. Each of these four slash lines belongs to an everyday player in the White Sox lineup. Which would you say is the worst?

Player A: .235/.292/.328
Player B: .224/.274/.355
Player C: .235/.307/.361
Player D: .236/.287/.400

If you said B, that means you believe Gordon Beckham is the worst hitter in a Chicago lineup that has its share of weak bats.

Beckham is in the process of playing himself out of town with a painful, soul-crushing slump. He is 1 for 22 since the All-Star break. He is 6 for 66 in the month of July, posting a .091/.127/.136 slash line over that period. He has not hit a home run since June 24.

You can always tell when Beckham is in a terrible spin because White Sox TV announcer Ken "Hawk" Harrelson will always protect him by talking up Beckham's "strong arm" at second base, and by noting the number of double plays the Sox have turned on the season. If you watched the broadcast of Wednesday's 2-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals, you heard Harrelson give that speech no fewer than three times.

But no matter what way you slice it, Beckham is drowning in his "prove it" season, and it's time for the Sox to move on. I can live with fewer double plays being turned if I can have a second baseman with an OBP of more than .274. Beckham is on his way to the worst season of his mediocre (at best) career.  He's been in the big leagues for five years now, and it's folly to assume he's ever going to become more than he is. He's not a prospect anymore.

The Sox have other options, too. Marcus Semien (.241/.338/.454) hasn't exactly been tearing it up in the minor leagues, but Carlos Sanchez (.295/.355/.413) is having a nice year at Triple-A Charlotte. Prospect Micah Johnson (.303/.333/.404) is inching closer to being big-league ready, as well. Any of those three stands a decent-to-good chance of equaling or bettering Beckham's production with the bat, and all would cost less than the $4.1 million the Sox are paying this year for Beckham to hit .224.

There are plenty of trade rumors swirling around Beckham, and perhaps that has contributed to his miserable, seemingly distracted July performance. However, it's hard to tell whether trade rumors are the cause of Beckham's woes, because we've seen prolonged slumps like this from him before. I'm forced to come to the conclusion that he's just a poor hitter, and that the Sox can do better at that position. In fact, they must do better.

It's time to trade Beckham. Get whatever you can get and spend the last two months of the season taking a look at one of the infield prospects from Triple-A. The Sox are 10 games out of first in the AL Central. It's time to start looking toward next year. Beckham is part of the problem, and he's not part of the solution. Is there someone else in the organization who can help? Let's find out.

(For the record, Player A above is Tyler Flowers. Player C is Alejandro De Aza. Player D is Dayan Viciedo.)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

I'll be the jerk who says it: I don't like baseball's replay system

I always cringe when I hear commentators mention that baseball's new instant replay system is "working." Really? It works sometimes, sure, but there are other times when it is aggravating as hell.

I had one of those moments Saturday as I watched the White Sox play the Cleveland Indians. Let it be said the Sox came away with a 6-2 victory, so this isn't going to be one those sour grapes "the umpires cost us the game" blogs. However, a pair of calls went against the Sox in the bottom of the seventh inning that left me shaking my head with regard to this replay system.

The Sox were up 3-0 at the time. There was a man at first with one out. Sox reliever Zach Putnam was pitching to Cleveland catcher Yan Gomes. On a 1-2 count, Putnam bounced a splitter that Gomes swung at and missed. Strike three, right? Nope.

Gomes claimed he had foul-tipped the pitch. He sold it well, and the umpire bought the act. Replay showed he clearly swung and missed. It should have been the second out of the inning. Sox manager Robin Ventura came out to protest, but to no avail. Such calls aren't reviewable under MLB's instant replay system. The umpire's incorrect call stood, and there was nothing anybody could do about it.

The at-bat continued and Gomes hit a sinking liner to left field that Sox outfielder Dayan Viciedo scooped up off the outfield grass. Viciedo claimed he made the catch. He sold it well, and the umpires bought it. They called Gomes out. Only problem was, the call was wrong. Viciedo trapped the ball, and it should have been a base hit.

Cleveland manager Terry Francona protested the call. This one was reviewable, and admittedly, it was correctly reversed. Gomes was awarded first. The inning continued, and the Indians eventually scored a two-out run to slice the Sox lead to 3-1. Reliever Javy Guerra finally struck shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera out with the bases loaded to protect the lead.

If Gomes had been called out on strikes like he should have been, the inning would have been over two batters sooner, and the Indians would not have scored.

Here's where my frustration lies: The system "worked" on that second call when the Indians were wronged. But when the umpire made an incorrect call moments before that hurt the White Sox, the system could do nothing for them. That's irritating.

I hear all the time that the objective of the system is "to get it right." I hear all the time that "we have the technology, so let's use it." Both are noble sentiments. Who could disagree with either? But it seems to me the league only "wants to get it right" and "use the technology" in certain situations.

Why shouldn't the first call with Gomes be reviewable? We have the technology to get it right, no? As a fan, it's really frustrating when the system works for the other team and not for yours. I'm sure fans of all teams, not just the White Sox, have had a moment at some point this season where they've been completely baffled by a replay review (or non-review) that went against their team.

I don't think this system is working as well as many claim it is. As a matter of fact, I would categorize it as a disappointment. It should work better than it does.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Chris Sale dominates Mariners lefties on Fourth of July

Here's a fun fact about White Sox ace Chris Sale: He has four starts this season where he has recorded 10 or more strikeouts while allowing one earned run or less. He is the only White Sox pitcher to accomplish that in the past 100 years, and we've still got almost half a season to go.

Sale latest dominant outing came Friday night in the opener of a three-game series against the Seattle Mariners. The left-hander improved to 8-1 on the season in the Sox' 7-1 victory. It was Sale's second complete game of the year. He struck out a season-high 12, walked nobody and allowed just six hits. The Mariners did not score a run until the ninth inning, when the outcome was no longer in doubt.

I'll be honest: This was an extremely favorable matchup for Sale. It's not that the Mariners aren't a good team. They are, as their 47-39 record will attest. But when I saw the Seattle lineup, I noted the Mariners had six left-handed hitters in there -- James Jones, Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, Logan Morrison, Michael Saunders and Dustin Ackley.

Coming into Friday's action, left-handed hitters were posting an anemic .089/.196/.089 slash line against Sale. In fact, lefties had managed just four hits (all singles) off Sale all season.

Yeah, this wasn't going to end well for the Mariners. But give Seattle credit: its lefties went 4 for 21 in Friday's game, and Cano managed the first extra-base hit for a left-handed hitter off Sale all season. It was a bloop double in the ninth that should have been caught by Sox left fielder Dayan Viciedo, but it still counts.

Nevertheless, the Mariners had no prayer of mounting a consistent attack with that left-hand dominant lineup. As TV analyst Steve Stone noted in the ninth inning on Friday, Seattle could have played this game 20 times and it probably would have lost it all 20 times.

I was looking at the Mariners' roster, and I can't blame manager Lloyd McClendon for stacking his lineup with lefties. He's only got four right-handed hitters on his team. He played three of them -- Corey Hart, Mike Zunino and Willie Bloomquist. The fourth, John Buck, is the backup catcher to Zunino.

McClendon played the cards he had. Against Sale, it was a losing hand.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Doubleheader loss highlights White Sox' pitching holes, questionable management

From 2009 to 2012, there were many times I heard White Sox fans wish for the front office to "blow up" the team's veteran core and start a rebuilding process. My response to those comments was often along the lines of "Be careful what you wish for."

Rebuilding is a hard and oftentimes frustrating process, and Sox fans are learning that this season. It's difficult, because even in a year where you know your team is not going to make the playoffs, you'd like to at least have hope that your team can win the next game on its schedule. But during a rebuilding year, that hope is not always present. There are certain days where you just know your team has little or no chance at victory.

For me, Tuesday was one of those days. The White Sox were scheduled to take on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in a doubleheader at U.S. Cellular Field. Normally, a fan gets excited about 18 innings of baseball in a day, but one look at the pitching matchups for this twinbill was enough to make a Sox fan hold his head in despair.

The Angels, who currently lead the wild card standings in the American League, were throwing their top two pitchers -- Garrett Richards and Jered Weaver. The Sox were countering with their No. 4 and No. 5 starters, two guys who are lucky to be in the big leagues in Hector Noesi and Scott Carroll.

It was impossible to escape the nagging feeling that the Sox were destined to absorb a pounding in this doubleheader. And, indeed, both Noesi and Carroll pitched poorly. The Angels swept the twinbill by 8-4 and 7-5 scores.

Noesi was handed a 3-0 lead in the first inning after Jose Abreu connected for his 26th home run of the season, but he couldn't hold it. In fact, Noesi embarrassed himself and the team by walking seven men in 5-plus innings. He allowed five earned runs. Meanwhile, Richards settled in and gave his team eight quality innings, and the Sox never had much of a prayer -- despite the promising start.

The good news for the Sox was they only had to use two relief pitchers -- Ronald Belisario and Daniel Webb -- to eat up the last four innings of the game. Given the circumstances, it could have been worse, and the Sox' bullpen was still in relatively good shape going into the nightcap.

As expected, Carroll struggled in Game 2. He gave up three runs in the second inning to put the Sox in an early hole, and by the sixth inning, the Angels were out to a seemingly comfortable 6-2 lead. However, the Sox fought back with three runs in the bottom half of that inning. Dayan Viciedo's two-run homer cut the deficit to 6-5. The Sox had the potential tying run on third base and the potential go-ahead run on first before the Angels escaped the inning.

Weaver had entered Tuesday's contest with an 8-2 record and a lifetime 1.70 ERA against Chicago. On this day, the Sox touched him up for five runs over 5.2 innings. That's good offensive production against a quality, top-of-the-rotation pitcher.

Going into the seventh inning, the Sox trailed by just one run, and I figured they would take Carroll out of the game. None of their three best relievers -- Jake Petricka, Javy Guerra or Zach Putnam -- had pitched in Game 1. All were rested and ready.

Alas, Carroll was inexplicably allowed to start the seventh inning. No, his pitch count wasn't high. He hadn't reached 80 pitches yet. But, he hadn't been effective, and the top of the Los Angeles batting order was due up.

Naturally, Carroll walked Kole Calhoun and Mike Trout back-to-back to start the inning. Finally, Petricka was summoned from the bullpen. He allowed one inherited runner to score before extricating the Sox from a bases-loaded mess, and the damage was done. The Angels had scored an insurance run, and the good vibes from the three-run rally the Sox had the previous inning were snuffed. Los Angeles had little difficulty closing out the win from there.

You see, it's hard enough to win when you only have three legitimate major league starting pitchers on your roster. The Sox came into Tuesday on a three-game winning streak, because Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and John Danks had all won their most recent starts against the Toronto Blue Jays over the weekend.

But when Noesi, or Carroll, or Andre Rienzo take the mound, this team is asking way too much of its offense. You can't expect to be consistently competitive when you send bums like these to the mound.

The problem is made even worse when the manager and the pitching coach continually push their luck, trying to coax one more inning out of a struggling starting pitcher who hasn't earned the right to be out there. Would the Sox have won Game 2 had Carroll been pulled after six innings? Probably not, but it doesn't take a genius to see they would have had a better chance had Petricka been allowed to start his own inning in the seventh.

That's what being a manager is all about -- giving your team the best chance to win. Robin Ventura and Don Cooper should have been happy Carroll got through six innings, given the subpar stuff he was featuring. Instead, they got greedy and asked him to try to get through seven. It wasn't happening, and as a fan, bad management only adds to the frustration of having to watch a pitching staff full of gaping holes.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Dayan Viciedo, Tyler Flowers dragging down White Sox offense

After getting swept by the Kansas City Royals over the weekend, the White Sox (33-37) have now lost a season-high four games in a row and are a season-worst four games below .500.

The Sox have scored a total of six runs combined in those four losses. In the three-game sweep at the hands of Kansas City, the South Siders went 3 for 32 with runners in scoring position. They stranded 13 runners alone in Sunday afternoon's 6-3 loss to the Royals.

Indeed, the Sox are struggling to knock in a big run right now. No single player is to blame for that. It's a team-wide problem. Overall, the Sox have been trending the wrong way offensively for about a month. They were the league's best offensive team in April, but they've since fallen to fifth in the league in runs scored (304) and seventh in runs per game (4.34).

Those are still respectable totals, especially coming off a 2013 season when the Sox scored the fewest runs in the American League. But, there's no question the offense was clicking early in the season much better than it is now.

Looking at some longer-term trends, there are two Sox hitters in particular who were good early in the season, but have fallen off a cliff over the past month or six weeks: outfielder Dayan Viciedo and catcher Tyler Flowers.

Let's look at the slash line splits for each of these two players.

April: .348/.410/.528
May: .229/.276/.385
June: .083/.120/.104
Last 28 days: .154/.189/.220
Last 14 days: .100/.143/.125

April: .354/.398/.415
May: .208/.288/.333
June: .067/.152/.267
Last 28 days: .136/.203/.305
Last 14 days: .042/.148/.167

Let's be fair: It was unrealistic to expect either Viciedo or Flowers to continue their April pace. Neither of them has enough talent to hit .300 over a 162-game season, let alone .350. A regression to the mean was expected. However, there's a difference between regressing to the mean and becoming a sinkhole.

Right now, Viciedo and Flowers are both sinkholes. When you have two guys who are hitting .100 or less over a two-week span, or .150 or less over a four-week span, that's like having to send your pitcher up to bat two times every time through the lineup. It's hard to win in the American League when you've got two players who just can't hit at all. Sometimes, you can cover up for one black hole at the bottom of your lineup, but certainly not two.

In Viciedo's case, he's missing a golden opportunity to make himself part of the Sox' future plans. The team was ready to move on from him as an everyday player at the start of the year. Viciedo was scheduled to platoon with Alejandro De Aza in left field when camp broke.

But then everything changed with right fielder Avisail Garcia went down with a season-ending shoulder injury the second week of April. Suddenly, opportunity presented itself for Viciedo. He's getting a chance to play every day and earn his way back into the Sox' good graces. For about two or three weeks in late April and early May, he was capitalizing on that chance. But the last four or five weeks, he's blowing it again -- one big swing-and-a-miss at a time.

Next year, Garcia is going to be back and there's isn't going to be a spot in the outfielder for the defensively challenged Viciedo. There is, however, an opening at designated hitter for the Sox in 2015. By then, Paul Konerko will be enjoying retirement, and presumably, Adam Dunn will be wearing a different uniform. Viciedo could fill that spot, but he has to hit to justify his presence on the roster. He can't field at all, so if he's not hitting, he's not helping. Right now, he's not helping.

In the case of Flowers, I can't say I'm surprised or disappointed he's stopped hitting. His approach at the plate has always been terrible. He had a month of flukish results in April, and now he's back to being the lousy hitter he's always been.

Apparently, the Sox' coaching staff believes Flowers does a good job of handling the pitching staff. At least there's that, if you're looking for a justification to keep him in the lineup. Unlike Viciedo, he might have some defensive value, although I've never been particularly impressed with Flowers' catch-and-throw ability.

The Sox have managed to hang around in the AL Central race to this point. Even now, they are only 5.5 games back entering Monday's play. People ask whether the Sox can contend this year, and I just don't see it.

This is team that has only three legitimate big-league starting pitchers. Their catcher is terrible, and they get little or no production from their corner outfield spots. I expect nothing offensively from Flowers. He's bad with the lumber in his hands. It is what it is.

Viciedo, on the other hand, really shouldn't be this terrible. If the light bulb suddenly goes on for him, the Sox will win more games than we might expect. But with each passing 0 for 4, it's hard to believe Viciedo is going to be anything other than a platoon player, or a weak starting player on a bad club.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Max Scherzer outduels Chris Sale in marquee pitching matchup

There aren't many hitters in the American League who routinely get the best of White Sox ace Chris Sale. Detroit Tigers 1B/DH Victor Martinez can count himself among the few.

Martinez hit a solo home run off Sale in the top of the fifth inning Thursday night at U.S. Cellular Field, and that proved to be the game-winning hit as the Tigers avoided a sweep with a 4-0 win over Chicago.

Martinez is now 13 for 25 (.520) with two home runs in his career against Sale.

The much-anticipated pitching matchup between Sale and reigning Cy Young award winner Max Scherzer did not disappoint.

As we've noted, Justin Verlander is no longer the Detroit ace. Scherzer is, and he delivered the first complete-game shutout of his career (179 starts) on Thursday. The right-hander limited the Sox to just three hits, while striking out eight and walking three. Only twice did Chicago have two baserunners in the same inning. The Sox' best scoring chance came in the fourth when they had runners at second and third with two outs after Conor Gillaspie reached on an error and Alexei Ramirez doubled. However, Scherzer (8-2) retired Dayan Viciedo on a flyout to avoid any damage.

Sale (5-1) once again pitched extremely well. He simply got outpitched in suffering his first loss of the season. He allowed only one run on five hits over seven innings. He struck out 10 hitters (all swinging) and walked none.

Unfortunately for the Sox, Sale had thrown 116 pitches through seven innings and had to be removed from the game. The Tigers scored two runs in the eighth off reliever Jake Petricka and another run in the ninth off Daniel Webb.

But on this night, all Scherzer needed was one run, and the Sox missed a chance to get out the brooms against Detroit for the first time since 2008.

Yes, you read that right. The last time the Sox swept a three-game series against Detroit: April 4-6, 2008. Six years is a long time to go without a sweep against a team you play 18 times every year.

Suffice to say it will be easier for the Sox to beat Detroit once Martinez and his .327 lifetime average against Chicago retire. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Justin Verlander takes a beating from White Sox

As a White Sox fan, I used to dread games when the team would have to face Detroit right-hander and former Cy Young award winner Justin Verlander.

I don't have those pangs of fear anymore.

We discussed it on this blog a couple weeks ago: It looks like Verlander's best days are behind him. And, if that's the case, then Detroit can be had in the AL Central Division race.

When I looked at Wednesday night's matchup between Verlander and Chicago left-hander John Danks, my initial instinct was not "Oh crap," as it might have been two or three years ago. Instead it was, "Hey, the Sox could win this one."

Win it they did, 8-2. The victory means the Sox (33-33) have as many wins as the first-place Tigers (33-28) and are just 2.5 games back in the division race.

However, the main story I took out of this game was Verlander's continuing vulnerability. The Sox touched him up for seven runs on eight hits over 5.2 innings. The erstwhile Detroit ace has now given up five runs or more in five of his past six starts. His ERA over that stretch is 8.72. His season ERA has swelled to 4.61. That's Hector Noesi territory right there.

And, anyone who watched this game knows the Sox should have scored more runs than they did. The South Siders loaded the bases with just one out in the third inning, but neither Conor Gillaspie nor Jose Abreu could knock in a run.

The Sox also got a one-out triple from Adam Eaton in the fifth inning, but failed to score after the Sox center fielder was thrown out at the plate on grounder off the bat of Gordon Beckham.

Verlander found himself in bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the sixth, and this time he did not get off the hook. With the score tied 1-1, Dayan Viciedo grounded into a double play that gave the Sox a one-run lead. The twin killing gave Verlander a great chance to minimize damage and keep his team in the game. Instead, he imploded.

Alejandro De Aza singled in a run. Verlander then walked light-hitting catcher Adrian Nieto and Eaton back-to-back to reload the bases. Beckham ended Verlander's night with a two-run single that put the Sox ahead 5-1.

Detroit summoned Naperville product Ian Krol from the bullpen, and the lefty provided little relief. Gillaspie's two-run double increased the Sox' advantage to 7-1. After an intentional walk to Abreu, Adam Dunn singled to make it 8-1. Chicago cruised to victory from there.

How often do you get a seven-run inning in a game started by Justin Verlander? The answer used to be never. Now, it can be done. The Sox proved it Wednesday night.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Best-laid plans (and platoons) going awry for Sox

One of the big ways the White Sox were hoping to improve their offense this season was by taking a group of guys that were each a net-negative when playing full time, and partnering them with someone who could perhaps compliment the other's weaknesses.

Thus Adam Dunn, who has struggled to hit left-handers, would be joined with Paul Konerko as a two-headed designated hitter. Alejandro De Aza's defense would look better in left field than in center, and with his own slight deficiency against lefties, could maybe be combined with the poor-fielding-but-southpaw-mashing Dayan Viciedo.

Things started out well. Dunn is hitting a respectable .246/.388/.458, even with a recent power outage. Konerko has flailed in his new role (.192/.241/.309), but that was somewhat made up for by Viciedo, for now excelling (.291/.352/.447) while being pressed into a bigger role when right fielder Avisail Garcia was lost for the season.

Unfortunately that's left De Aza to struggle miserably (.190/.248/.306). First he was needed in left field, but even with Moises Sierra (.303/.351/.424) added, De Aza was still the best choice to fill in when center fielder Adam Eaton missed time on the disabled list.

Eaton is back, and De Aza with his track record probably remains the best option to play as a fourth outfielder on this team, at least as long as the Sox are on the fringes of contention. He's otherwise having a season that would have him designated for assignment (which might yet happen).

Now a new crisis has emerged. First baseman Jose Abreu -- the team's best and most exciting hitter -- is headed to the DL. In the meantime, it looks like Dunn and Konerko will be pushed back into the full-time roles in which they struggled to produce value a year ago. And if Viciedo and Sierra both cool off along with that surprising catching tandem of Tyler Flowers and Adrian Nieto?

Things could get ugly fast with Abreu gone.

That's not to say it was the wrong idea for the Sox to try cobbling together something from what they had on hand instead of overpaying for a free agent who might not do any better than a healthy platoon pair. They've been one of the highest-scoring teams in the American League by effectively playing a shell game around injuries and the limitations of the guys populating their roster.

There might just be so many injuries now that the Sox are looking at turning over a series of empty shells.

It goes without saying the Sox hope Abreu is back soon, and that Eaton stays healthy, because the chewing gum that's holding together the rest of the offense is getting stretched too thin.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

When Conor Gillaspie returns from the DL, who will the White Sox send down?

White Sox third baseman Conor Gillaspie is on a rehab assignment at Triple-A Charlotte and could come off the disabled list as soon as Wednesday.

Before suffering a bruised hand, Gillaspie was hitting .302 with 12 RBIs in 16 games. Upon his return, he's going to take over for Marcus Semien as the Sox's regular third baseman. And unlike earlier in the year, there isn't much playing time available for Semien at second base, now that Gordon Beckham is back off the disabled list.

So, what do the Sox do with Semien? Is he the guy they send back to the minors when Gillaspie is activated? Or will outfielder Jordan Danks or all-purpose player Leury Garcia be optioned? It's not an easy call, and there is more than likely some internal debate going on among White Sox brass.

If the fans had their way, Beckham would probably be the guy shown the door -- even with his 4-for-5 performance and go-ahead home run in Tuesday's 5-1 victory over the Cubs at Wrigley Field. The disappointing second baseman has become a bit of a whipping boy for fans on Internet message boards, but let's be realistic: The Sox aren't going to cut Beckham loose now or look to trade him when he's just coming off an injury and his value is at its lowest.

For better or for worse, Beckham is the regular second baseman until at least July. Defensively, he's still the Sox's best option at the position. If he rebuilds his value by midseason, he could be shipped off at the trade deadline to clear a starting spot for either Semien or Micah Johnson. But that's a question for another time.

When Gillaspie returns, one of Semien, Danks or Garcia is going to be gone. Of the three, Danks is perhaps the weakest player, but he needs to remain on the roster for as long as Adam Eaton is on the disabled list. With Eaton on the shelf, Danks is the only good defensive outfielder the Sox have. Without him, you're looking at a starting outfield of Moises Sierra, Alejandro De Aza and Dayan Viciedo -- with Garcia, an infielder by trade, and Adam Dunn, a designated hitter by trade, filling backup roles. Not acceptable. If I'm making the decision, Danks stays despite his ugly .098/.229/.195 slash line.

That leaves Semien and Garcia. A lot of Sox fans would disagree with me here, but I think Semien goes to Charlotte for more playing time. Garcia stays as the backup infielder.

It's tough because Semien has shown a flair for the dramatic this season. He's had some big hits for the Sox -- 15 of his 16 RBIs have come in the sixth inning or later. That said, I can't ignore his.213/.267/.346 slash line, nor can I ignore his league-leading 45 strikeouts.

I like Semien and think he could be an everyday player in the majors at some point in the future. I just don't think that day is today. I don't think he would benefit much from sitting on the major league bench, so I support sending him to Triple-A and having him work on closing some of the holes in that swing. Garcia, to me, will never be more than a utility infielder anyway, so I'm fine with leaving him right where he is.

For me, Semien's development is a greater priority than Garcia's development. He's the better of the two players. Semien's the one who needs the everyday at-bats in my book, so the Sox should put him in a place where he can get them. That place, right now, is Charlotte.

We'll probably find out sometime in the next 48 hours whether the Sox agree with me.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Wins coming easy for Daniel Webb, not so much for Jeff Samardzija

Quick, name the pitcher who leads the White Sox staff in wins ...

It's a tie between relief pitcher Daniel Webb and disabled ace Chris Sale, who hasn't pitched since April 17. Both pitchers are 3-0.

Webb picked up his third win of the season Monday in the Sox's 3-1 victory over the Cubs at Wrigley Field. I make note of this only because I've rarely seen a pitcher do so little work in earning three wins. Webb has recorded a combined total of five outs in those three games. On two occasions, he's picked up a victory after pitching to and retiring just one hitter.

A summary of Webb's three wins:

April 15 vs. Boston -- Webb enters in the top of the ninth inning with the score tied, 1-1, runners on first and second and two outs. He throws one pitch and retires Boston's Mike Carp on a tapper back to the mound. The Sox score an unearned run in the bottom of the ninth and prevail, 2-1. For Webb, one pitch, one win.

May 4 at Cleveland -- Webb comes on with the Sox trailing 3-1 in the bottom of the eighth. He gets two outs quickly, then walks a guy and gives up a single before getting out of the inning with no runs allowed. The Sox score three in the ninth on a home run by Dayan Viciedo. The Sox win, 4-3, and Webb is 2-0.

May 5 at Cubs -- Webb enters in the bottom of the 11th inning with the score tied, 1-1. There are runners on first and second with two outs. He falls behind in the count, 3-0, to Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro before rallying to strike out the free swinging Castro on a high-and-tight fastball. The Sox score two in the 12th, and Webb is rewarded with yet another win for recording a grand total of one out.

Contrast this with Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija, who started Monday's game and went nine innings while allowing just an unearned run in the first inning. Samardzija has been one of the best pitchers in the National League through the first month of the season, and he was masterful against the Sox.

What does he have to show for it? An 0-3 record, despite a 1.62 ERA and despite giving up three runs or less in each of his first seven starts.

Quite a few members of the Chicago media are wondering when poor Samardzija is finally going to be rewarded with a few wins for his fine pitching. My guess is Samardzija will start winning once the Cubs trade him to a contender this July.

If you're Samardzija, there isn't much you can do when you've got a struggling team behind you, other than just keep pitching and hope for a change in luck. It's just humorous that a guy like Webb can have three wins for doing so little, while Samardzija can't catch a break despite being far and away the Cubs' best player to this point in the season.

Friday, May 2, 2014

White Sox can't be disappointed with their April performance

I know a 14-15 record isn't the stuff that championship dreams are made of, but if you're a realistic White Sox fan, you have to be pleased with the way the team has hung in there through the first month of the season.

The Sox spent most of April playing against playoff teams from last season (Boston, Detroit, Cleveland, Tampa Bay), plus a couple other teams that contended in the American League in 2013 (Kansas City, Texas). They endured injuries to key players such as Chris Sale, Avisail Garcia and Nate Jones, yet they stayed afloat against that difficult schedule.

Surprisingly, the South Siders enter May leading the American League in runs scored (154) and hits (275). They are second in the league in batting average (.269), slugging percentage (.431) and OPS (.764). They rank third in doubles (58), triples (6) and  home runs (32). And perhaps the greatest surprise of them all is the Sox managed to get all 16 of their scheduled April home games in without a single postponement.

As the calendar turns to May, here's a look back at the month that was:

The Great News

1. Jose Abreu looks like the real deal: a .270/.336/.617 slash line with 10 home runs, 8 doubles and 32 RBIs. As we've mentioned before, he won't produce like that every month, but there is plenty of reason to believe Abreu is a legitimate middle-of-the-order hitter.

2. Adam Eaton has played like the center fielder and leadoff hitter the Sox have been seeking for several years. Eaton has posted a .364 OBP with 20 runs scored in his first 24 games, and he's saved his pitchers some headaches with some outstanding plays in the outfield.

3. Tyler Flowers, for a change, isn't playing like a stiff. No way he hits .354 all year, but I'd be happy with .254. Flowers has changed his approach. In the past, most of the few hits he had went for extra bases. This year, not so. He's got 29 hits, 26 of which are singles. Last year, Flowers did not collect his 26th single of the season until July 25. Flowers looks to content to just try to get on base and turn the lineup over. Works for me.

The Good News

1. Alexei Ramirez is a different player than he was in 2013. We've talked previously about his hitting (.351/.375/.535). This was by far the best offensive April of his career. But perhaps more importantly, Ramirez has started playing good defense again. He committed only one error in April, after piling up 22 errors last year.

2. Dayan Viciedo has stepped up offensively to fill the void left by Garcia's absence. His slash is .348/.410/.528 with a team-best 11 doubles. Can you remember the last time Viciedo drew 10 walks in a month? That's probably never happened. A more patient approach at the plate has paid dividends. We stop short of putting Viciedo's performance in the "great" category because he's been a butcher in right field. It's fortunate the Sox have Eaton to patrol center field, because the corner outfield spots are weak points for the Sox defensively.

3. Adam Dunn is playing well enough that the Sox might be able to get out from underneath his contract with a midseason trade. Dunn is slashing .269/.402/.513 with five home runs and four doubles. Keep that up for another couple months and some team might want Dunn's bat for the stretch drive.

The Bad News

1.Sale is on the disabled list. The ace went 3-0 with a 2.30 ERA in four starts before being sidelined with a flexor strain in his pitching arm. I'm still not happy with the Sox for allowing Sale to throw 127 pitches on a cold night April 17 against Boston. He hasn't been on the mound since. It goes without saying the Sox can't hang in the race if Sale isn't healthy.

2. Garcia has lost a full year of development due to the torn labrum in his left shoulder. Garcia is a big part of the Sox's rebuilding plan. This was to be the 22-year-old's first full year in the big leagues, but now he faces a lengthy rehab process. It's uncertain what kind of player he will be when he returns. This is the sort of injury that can rob a hitter of some power. It's a concern, no question.

3. The bullpen remains unsettled a month into the season. Matt Lindstrom has been up and down as a closer, and I wouldn't expect him to remain in that role the whole season. The Sox would probably like a younger pitcher, such as Daniel Webb, to step up and grab that role, but it hasn't happened yet. Jones' DL stint isn't helping matters. Left-handed relief has been a weakness, as Donnie Veal was designated for assignment and veteran Scott Downs has struggled. After a rough start, Ronald Belisario has settled down and allowed only one unearned run over his last five outings covering eight innings.

The Ugly News

1. The Sox gambled that Felipe Paulino was healthy enough to be a serviceable veteran arm in their rotation. The gamble is looking like a fail right now as Paulino got lit up for 23 earned runs on 35 hits in 18.1 innings over four starts. Paulino is now on the disabled list with a swollen 11.29 ERA.

2. Walks. The Sox have issued 130 of them, more than any other team in the American League. I hate walks. They are my biggest pet peeve in baseball. There is no defense for the walk. Sure, if you throw the ball over the plate, the batter might hit it hard, but at least you give the defense a chance to make a play. Walks are just a free 90 feet, and they breathe life into the opposition's offense. The Sox have to throw more strikes and get ahead of more hitters.

3. Alejandro De Aza. He hit three home runs the first three games of the season, but that's about the lone bright spot. The .185/.255/.359 slash represents one of the worst months the left fielder has had since joining the Sox. With any luck, he'll heat up with the weather. His bat has been a sore spot.

So, what will May hold? Well, the Sox have 10 games in the next 16 days against the Cubs (9-17), the Diamondbacks (9-22) and the Astros (9-19). Those are three of the four worst teams in baseball entering Friday's play. If the Sox can win six or seven of those 10 games, they can stay in the AL Central race at least until June. If the Sox lose to those teams, well, that obviously would be a disappointment.