Showing posts with label Detroit Tigers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Detroit Tigers. Show all posts

Friday, April 7, 2017

Surprise, surprise, James Shields secures first White Sox win of 2017

James Shields gave up 40 home runs last year, including 31 in the 22 starts he made after the White Sox acquired him in a midseason deal with the San Diego Padres.

So, I wasn't expecting good results Thursday when Shields took the mound at Guaranteed Rate Field on a day where the winds were gusting out to right field at 25 to 30 mph. I figured the Detroit Tigers would hit at least three home runs off the veteran right-hander.

Matt Davidson
Well, surprise, surprise. Shields hung in there for 5.1 innings and earned the win in an 11-2 White Sox victory. It wasn't the best pitching performance I've ever seen -- Shields walked five and struck out five -- but he allowed only one run on two hits. He gave up one home run -- a solo shot by Tyler Collins in the second inning -- and it was the Sox hitters who best took advantage of the windy conditions.

The South Siders hit three home runs. The biggest one came from catcher Geovany Soto, whose 3-run shot in the bottom of the third inning gave the Sox a 5-1 lead and knocked Detroit starter Matt Boyd out of the game.

Matt Davidson added a long 3-run homer (estimated at 428 feet) in the bottom of the fourth inning -- his first in a Sox uniform -- off Detroit reliever Anibal Sanchez to make the score 9-1.

For good measure, Soto added a solo shot in the seventh inning for his first two-homer game since 2011.

The most eye-opening thing about Thursday's game was the performance of Davidson, who also tripled, walked and scored three runs as part of a 2-for-3 day as designated hitter.

I'm on record as a Davidson nonbeliever. He's 26 years old, and he still strikes out too much -- despite his prodigious power. That said, I've been wrong about people before, and Davidson should be getting at-bats ahead of Cody Asche, lefty-righty matchups be damned.

This is Asche's fifth year in the big leagues. He already has 1,291 plate appearances under his belt. His career slash line is .240/.298/.384. At this point, I think it is safe to say those numbers reflect who he is. Perhaps he'll stick around for a while because he bats left-handed, but he's a fringe player.

It's possible, maybe even likely, that Davidson is a fringe player as well. However, Davidson has made only 93 plate appearances at the big-league level across parts of four seasons. He's struck out 26 times, which is way too much, and has a slash line of .259/.355/.506.

That's not enough sample size to make any firm judgments. I'd be in favor of letting Davidson play. The Sox aren't going anywhere this year. It's as good a time as any to find out what they have in him, if they have anything at all.

The Sox (1-1) will next host the Minnesota Twins (3-0) for a three-game weekend series at Guaranteed Rate Field. Here are the pitching matchups:

Friday: Derek Holland vs. Phil Hughes
Saturday: Miguel Gonzalez vs. Adalberto Mejia
Sunday: Jose Quintana (0-1) vs. Ervin Santana (1-0)

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Wednesday's White Sox-Tigers game postponed; James Shields starts Thursday

Wednesday afternoon's game between the White Sox and Detroit Tigers was postponed because of rain.

The game will be made up at 4:10 p.m. Friday, May 26, as part of a straight doubleheader.

James Shields, who was scheduled to pitch Wednesday for the Sox, will take his regular turn in Thursday's 1 p.m. series finale against the Tigers, weather permitting. (The forecast still sucks.)

The Tigers are making an adjustment in their rotation. Left-hander Matt Boyd, who was originally supposed to pitch Saturday against the Boston Red Sox, has been moved up to start Thursday's game.

Observations from the first White Sox game of 2017

Jose Quintana
White Sox pitcher Jose Quintana has a reputation for being able to keep the ball in the yard, but he couldn't do it Tuesday.

The Detroit Tigers hit three home runs off Quintana in the first game of the 2017 season, accounting for all their runs in a 6-3 victory over the Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Detroit scored five runs in the top of the second inning, three on a homer by JaCoby Jones and two more on a homer by Nick Castellanos.

Quintana uncharacteristically failed to put hitters away -- Jones hit his home run on a hanging curveball on the seventh pitch of the sequence, and Castellanos hit a fastball out on the sixth pitch of his at-bat. The two long balls turned an early 1-0 Sox lead into a 5-1 deficit.

Detroit's Ian Kinsler added a solo home run in the fourth inning to complete the Tigers' scoring.

Obviously, Quintana's rough outing and Detroit's home run power were the difference in the game, but here are a couple early observations on new Sox manager Rick Renteria's lineup construction:

1. I like that Tyler Saladino is batting leadoff. The second baseman reached base three times Tuesday, going 2 for 4 with a pair of singles, a walk and a run scored. The Sox do not have an ideal No. 1 hitter on their roster, but for the time being, Saladino represents the best choice. He's been in the league for a year and a half now, he has some speed, and it doesn't seem as if he'll change his approach based upon where he hits in the lineup.

2. I'm glad Renteria resisted the temptation to put rookie Jacob May in the leadoff spot. May was 0 for 4 with two strikeouts Tuesday in his big-league debut, although he did collect his first RBI on a groundout in the ninth inning. Past Sox managers (Ozzie Guillen, cough, cough) would insist upon putting a slap-hitting speedster at the top of the lineup, even if that speedster has a low on-base percentage, strikes out a lot and shouldn't be getting the most at-bats of anyone on the team. In May's case, he should be batting ninth until he gets acclimated to facing major leaguers on a daily basis. Tuesday, he was right where he belonged: batting ninth.

3. That said, I'd like to see Tim Anderson batting a little lower in the lineup for the time being. He strikes out too much to be batting second, and he went 0 for 4 with three Ks in Tuesday's opener. The strikeouts all followed the same pattern -- Anderson fell behind in the count and ended up swinging and missing for strike three on fastballs up and out of the zone. I hope Anderson doesn't get the label of "can't hit it, can't lay off it" when it comes to high fastballs, because that is not a recipe for success. He can ask another ex-Sox infielder who was once highly touted about that (Gordon Beckham, cough, cough). I'd rather have Anderson hit sixth right now. Move Melky Cabrera, who had two doubles off Justin Verlander on Tuesday, up to the No. 2 spot. The good news for Anderson? That high fastball is not a strike, so he doesn't need to be able to hit it. He does, however, need to discipline himself to not swing at that garbage.

Monday, April 3, 2017

White Sox Opening Day shenanigans predictable

My girlfriend, Jen, and I combined to spend zero dollars on concessions Monday at White Sox Opening Day.

We were talking and looking at the weather forecast Sunday night, and both of us were less than enthusiastic for the home opener vs. the Detroit Tigers -- we had a gut feeling the game was going to get rained out.

And it was rained out.

I just wish the Sox would have told fans that there would be no game at 10 o'clock in the morning, instead of 5 p.m. It would have saved me the trip down to the South Side, fighting traffic and whatnot, to see not one single pitch of baseball.

The last time weather caused the Sox home opener to be postponed? It was in 2009, and on the Sunday night before the scheduled game, the club announced that the game would be played Tuesday, instead of Monday, and fans had time to adjust their schedules accordingly.  That's the right way to do it, and many Sox fans applauded the way the situation was handled.

Alas, times have changed, and that's not the way the Sox do business any longer. In 2009, the Sox were coming off a division championship in 2008. They were only four years removed from winning the World Series. They still had a strong season-ticket holder base. They still were getting decent attendance totals for games other than the home opener and the crosstown series. If some fans couldn't come that Tuesday, hey, no big deal, there would still be quite a few fans there that day and every other day during the season.

Fast forward to 2017, the team hasn't made the playoffs since 2008, hasn't had a winning season since 2012 and has embarked on a rebuilding project that will almost certainly render the club to second-division status for the next three years. Fan apathy is at an all-time high. There are probably only four home games all season that fans are going to show up to -- the home opener, the Mark Buehrle jersey retirement ceremony on June 24 and the two crosstown games.

Knowing this, during our discussion Sunday night, Jen and I both agreed about what was going to happen: There was no way they were going to call the game early. They were going to make sure the crowd of 40,000 came down to the stadium, and they were going to drag it out as long as possible before announcing the game was postponed. Game or no game, they wanted fans to eat, drink and be merry, pay that concession money and line Jerry Reinsdorf's coffers. Because, starting Tuesday, it will be a couple months before you see 40,000 fans at Guaranteed Rate Field again.

We're longtime Sox fans, so we weren't going to fall for that crap. We ate at Rocky's, our favorite Bridgeport bar, before the game. The Sox no doubt made money hand over fist from the fans who didn't know any better, but we didn't give them a dime. Sure, I paid my $20 parking fee, but the ticket says I can turn it in for $20 worth of Comiskey Cash in the event the game is rained out. You can be 100 percent sure I'll be doing just that. No extra profits for Reinsdorf after he wasted my Monday afternoon.

The Sox even went about the business of having the pregame ceremonies during a short break in the rain, right around 3:30. They pulled the tarp back just far enough for the players to have room to stand along the foul lines (see picture). The national anthem was sung. Then the tarp was pulled back just far enough for former Sox outfielder Scott Podsednik to throw out a ceremonial first pitch.

But once that was over, the tarp went back on, to a chorus of boos from fans who did not know better. Jen and I, and our friend, Brian, were not fooled. We've all been Sox fans since we were little kids. We saw the radar on our smartphones. We saw that starting pitchers Jose Quintana and Justin Verlander never came onto the field. Note to novice fans: They aren't serious about playing the game until the pitchers appear and start warming up.

Predictably, they kept the park open and sold concessions for 90 more minutes after the "pregame" ceremonies. Some of us just laughed at the absurdity of it all. Predictable shenanigans. Predictable White Sox money grab. Then, with the rain coming down, they called it.

And, oh, the stadium escalators were turned off after they announced the game was postponed, so everyone had to walk down the ramps in the pouring rain. Thanks for that, Sox. I'm sure they turned off the escalators for "fan safety" or some such nonsense.

For many of us, we've seen it all before, and we're not surprised. And then the Sox wonder why they don't have as many fans as they once did ...

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 5, 2016

Jose Quintana equals career high with ninth win; White Sox top Tigers

Jose Quintana
It's hard to believe White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana has never reached double-digit victories in a season.

He's posted a 3.38 ERA over 140 career starts in his five years in the majors. You would think a pitcher of his quality and consistency would have a better record than 42-42.

Maybe this is the year Quintana finally hits the 10-win plateau and surpasses it. He equaled his career high by collecting his ninth victory of the season Thursday, as the Sox defeated the Detroit Tigers, 6-3.

Quintana (9-8) pitched 7.1 innings, allowing three earned runs on eight hits. He struck out three and walked just one in an efficient 93-pitch outing on a hot day in Detroit.

It didn't hurt to have some run support for a change, as the Sox roughed up Detroit starter Jordan Zimmermann in his return from the disabled list.

The Tigers right-hander was fortunate to allow just one run in the first inning after the Sox loaded the bases with one out. He would not be so lucky in the second inning, as Chicago erupted for five runs. Avisail Garcia started the rally with a solo home run, and Jose Abreu capped it with a two-run homer to left field.

You read that right: Abreu hit a home run, his first since June 23.

That rally handed Quintana an early 6-1 lead, and he stayed in front all afternoon, eventually departing with one out in the eighth after giving up a solo home run to Miguel Cabrera that made the score 6-3.

Nate Jones retired the only two batters he faced to finish the eighth, and closer David Robertson worked around a leadoff single to secure his 26th save in 30 opportunities.

The Sox salvaged the finale of the three-game series against the Tigers and snapped Detroit's eight-game winning streak. Still, it was a miserable eight-game road trip for the South Siders. They limp home with a 2-6 record, and they'll only be home for three days against the Baltimore Orioles.

Then, it's right back on the road for nine more games. The Sox will need to find a way to solve their road woes soon. Even with Thursday's win, they are an abysmal 3-11 away from U.S. Cellular Field since the All-Star break.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Todd Frazier's baffling ninth-inning AB typical of White Sox malaise

Todd Frazier (right)
Doesn't it seem as if White Sox hitters can loft lazy, medium-depth fly balls to the outfield all night long -- until, of course, they need one to produce an important run?

Once there's a runner on third with less than two outs, then it's time to strike out swinging, waving at pitches that are well out of the zone like a blind man.

That's what Sox third baseman Todd Frazier did Wednesday night in the top of the ninth inning. The Sox were trailing the Detroit Tigers, 2-1, but they were threatening with runners at first and third and only one out against Detroit closer Francisco Rodriguez.

Frazier worked himself into a favorable count, 2-1, then inexplicably took a belt-high fastball that was over the outer third of the plate for strike two.

Umm, Todd, what are you looking for? Swing the damn bat!

That pitch was in an ideal location for a hitter to drive the ball into the outfield, if not for a hit, then at least for a game-tying sacrifice fly. Instead, Frazier kept the bat on his shoulder and with that decision, the Sox's best chance to tie the game went by the boards.

On 2-2, Frazier was fortunate to foul off a good Rodriguez breaking ball. Then, he struck out swinging on a changeup down and away that was never close to the plate. What exactly is the approach here? Take fastballs right over the plate and swing at offspeed junk that is out of the zone? That's what it looks like to me.

With two outs, Rodriguez walked Avisail Garcia to load the bases, then retired Dioner Navarro on a routine grounder to second to secure Detroit's eighth consecutive victory -- and the Sox's third consecutive loss.

Another good start by ace left-hander Chris Sale (14-5) went to waste. He pitched his fourth complete game of the season, allowing two earned runs in eight innings while striking out a season-high 10 and walking one.

Detroit's J.D. Martinez came off the bench to homer off Sale in the bottom of the eighth inning, providing the margin of victory.

After Sale was suspended for the jersey-cutting incident a couple weeks back, there were rumors that Sale is tired of the losing culture with the Sox and wants out of Chicago. If that's true, can you blame him?

In Sale's last three starts, he had one game where he threw eight shutout innings and received a no-decision after the bullpen blew the game, then he lost 3-1, and now he's lost 2-1.

And people think Jose Quintana gets no support. The reality is, no White Sox starter gets much support.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Charlie Tilson injured in first game; White Sox outclassed by Tigers

Robin Ventura
We've once again reached that time of year where we separate the die-hards from the fair-weather fans.

The calendar has turned to August. The dog days of the season have arrived. The trading deadline has passed, and the White Sox appear well on their way to their fourth consecutive losing season.

The Sox were outclassed by a division rival Tuesday night -- a common theme during the Robin Ventura era -- losing 11-5 to the Detroit Tigers in the first of a three-game set.

James Shields held the Tigers scoreless through the first four innings, but the Detroit offense erupted for six runs in the fifth. Relievers Matt Albers, Michael Ynoa and Carson Fulmer provided little relief, combining to give up five more runs over three innings of work.

Ho hum, another run-of-the-mill loss, but the real sorrow here is that newly acquired center fielder Charlie Tilson got hurt in his first game with the Sox.

Tilson collected his first major league hit, a single up the middle off Anibal Sanchez, leading off the third inning. Unfortunately, two innings later, he had to be helped off the field after falling awkwardly while chasing Miguel Cabrera's liner into the right-center gap.

The rookie appeared to roll his left ankle as he fell to the ground, although the Sox are calling it a "strained hamstring" for now. By the looks of the injury, it almost certainly is more than that, and Tilson is more than likely headed to the disabled list.

In a strange twist of fate, Tilson becomes the fourth Sox rookie to succumb to injury in his major league debut this season. Kevan Smith (back), Jason Coats (face) and Matt Davidson (foot) also did not make it through their first games.

I have no idea whether Tilson can be part of the solution for the Sox in the outfield, but I would have liked to have seen a 50-plus-game sample size from him here at the end of the year in order to form an opinion. However, if this injury is as serious as I fear, we'll be back to looking at J.B. Shuck in center field by the end of the week. Not good.

Of course, Avisail Garcia came off the bench to replace Tilson and homered in both of his ABs, one of which was a massive 466-foot shot off Detroit reliever Mark Lowe. The Sox keep trying to replace Garcia, but he always seems to find his way back into the lineup through a fluke injury or some other odd occurrence.

It would be just like Garcia to have a fools' gold hot streak during garbage time, wouldn't it?

Friday, June 24, 2016

The bizarre won-loss splits of the 2016 White Sox

These numbers are through games of June 23:

White Sox vs. Cleveland: 2-7 (.222)
White Sox vs. Detroit: 2-4 (.333)
White Sox vs. Kansas City: 2-7 (.222)
White Sox vs. all other teams: 30-19 (.612)
Total: 36-37 (.493)

So, the Sox are a combined 6-18 (.250) against the three teams ahead of them in the AL Central standings. I'd say that sums up why the Sox are in fourth place.

Between now and the All-Star break, the Sox play Toronto (June 25-27), Minnesota (June 28-30), Houston (July 1-3), the New York Yankees (July 4-6) and Atlanta (July 8-10).

The Sox have 12 of the next 15 at home (only the Houston series is on the road), and none of them are against the triumvirate of doom known as Cleveland, Detroit and Kansas City. I'd say it would behoove the Sox to make a run right now, although I still will be skeptical even if they do.

The recipe for a playoff spot *must* include wins over Cleveland, Detroit and Kansas City. The Sox have yet to show us they can win against those teams with any consistency.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Tim Anderson sparks White Sox offense from leadoff spot

Tim Anderson
I was skeptical when the White Sox called up shortstop Tim Anderson from Triple-A Charlotte last week.

Is Anderson really ready for the big leagues, or were the Sox just rushing him up to try to provide a spark for a struggling team?

Well, if the Sox were looking for a spark, they got one from Anderson in this past series against the Detroit Tigers. Manager Robin Ventura moved Anderson into the leadoff spot, and he responded by going 6 for 16 with 10 total bases and four runs scored in the three-game set.

Anderson was 3 for 5 with a triple and three runs scored Wednesday, as the Sox rallied for a 5-3 win over the Tigers and helped ace Chris Sale improve his record to 11-2.

With Anderson's promotion, Adam Eaton has been dropped from the leadoff spot to the No. 2 hole. Eaton's results also took a turn for the better against the Tigers. He went 8 for 14 with a double, a triple, four runs scored in three RBIs in the series.

By way of comparison, Eaton had been 9 for 60 (.150 average) hitting leadoff in his previous 16 games.

The Sox offense plated 23 runs in the series, largely because Anderson and Eaton were both consistently getting on base during the three games. The South Siders won two out of three, taking their first series from a division foe since they swept the last-place Minnesota Twins from May 6 to 8.

Through his first six games, Anderson is 8 for 25 (.320 average) with five runs scored. He has yet to draw his first walk, but he has four extra-base hits (3 doubles, 1 triple) and has only struck out four times.

All the usual caveats about small sample sizes apply, but the Sox have to be encouraged by what they've seen from their top prospect during his first week in the major leagues.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Big comebacks mean little if you lose the next day

Adam Eaton
The White Sox were trailing 7-0 in the bottom of the third inning Monday night against the Detroit Tigers.

Incredibly, they rallied to win, 10-9, in 12 innings on a walk-off single by Adam Eaton. It was the Sox's biggest comeback since June 28, 2002, when they erased an 8-0 deficit to beat the Cubs, 13-9.

The Sox (32-32) had lost 22 out of 30 games coming into Monday, so the popular narrative after this win is going to be this: Is this inspiring, come-from-behind victory going to be the thing that puts the Sox back on track?

Well, maybe. There were plenty of positives to take out of Monday's game. Jose Abreu homered for the second straight game and knocked in three runs. Eaton had a four-hit night, and Brett Lawrie and Avisail Garcia delivered clutch, RBI-producing hits with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Garcia's at-bat was perhaps his best of the season, as he battled back from an 0-2 count before lining a game-tying single to left-center off Detroit closer Francisco Rodriguez.

The Sox and their fans will take the win and be happy about it for sure, but it's worth nothing the Tigers have their ace, Jordan Zimmermann, pitching Tuesday. He'll be opposed by Miguel Gonzalez in the one pitching matchup in this series that does not favor the Sox.

If the Sox lose to Zimmermann, we're right back in that mode where we're talking about losing 23 of 32. If the Sox win tonight, hey, that's two in a row and a rare series win against a divisional foe. There's a big difference between those two mentalities, and it goes to show the momentum from Monday's win can be fleeting if it's not backed up with another victory in Game 2 of the three-game series.


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Robin Ventura's winning percentage is down to .427 against divisional opponents

After a 23-10 start, the White Sox are now reeling, stuck in a freefall that has no end in sight.

They've lost 18 of 24 games. Their record entering Tuesday's play is a mediocre 29-28. Where they once led the AL Central by six games, they now trail the first-place Cleveland Indians by 3.5 games.

Some of these woes can be traced to the Sox's inability to defeat divisional foes, which has been a problem for as long as Robin Ventura has been the manager, if not longer.

The Sox have played 10 of their last 13 games against AL Central opponents. They have gone 1-9 in those 10 games, including nine straight losses. They took the first game of a doubleheader against the Cleveland Indians on May 23, then lost the next three games of the four-game series.

From May 27 to 29, they lost three in a row to the Kansas City Royals, blowing a four-run lead in the seventh inning the first game, a six-run lead in the ninth inning the second game, and a two-run lead in the eighth inning in the finale.

After a brief respite in which the Sox won two of three from the New York Mets in an interleague series, the South Siders were swept in a three-game series against the Detroit Tigers over the weekend. The Sox were outscored 22-9 in the series and generally looked overmatched against a fourth-place Detroit club (which, by the way, is now tied with the Sox for third).

Here's a look at the Sox's divisional record for each season during the Ventura era:

2016: 9-12
2015: 32-44
2014: 33-43
2013: 26-50
2012: 37-35
Total: 137-184

The only winning year against the division was 2012, and even that was skewed because the Sox went 14-4 against the 96-loss Minnesota Twins. They struggled against other divisional foes.

This year, that 9-12 mark is a bit deceiving, as well, because the Sox are 6-0 against a Minnesota club that enters Tuesday's play with a miserable 16-40 record. Against legitimate teams -- such as Cleveland, Kansas City and Detroit -- the Sox are a combined 3-12.

Ventura's winning percentage over four-plus years against his own division is down to .427. Not that his overall winning percentage is very good -- it sits at .462. But the Sox have shown they cannot win critical games under his leadership.

How much longer can the front office allow this to go on? 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Tigers gamble on Justin Upton reversing their decline

Justin Upton
Both Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton are better players than Chris Davis. So, after Davis got paid by the Baltimore Orioles over the weekend, you just had a feeling that Cespedes and Upton would soon get their big paydays, as well.

Cespedes still is on the board as of Tuesday afternoon, but Upton agreed on a six-year, $132.75 million contract with the Detroit Tigers on Monday.

Upton hit .251 with 26 home runs and 81 RBIs for the San Diego Padres last season, and he fills the hole the Tigers had in left field.

But does he make Detroit a legitimate contender? I knew the Tigers would make big splashes this offseason. They are coming off a last-place finish in the AL Central, and their owner, 86-year-old Mike Ilitch, has shown that he's willing to spend his millions on trying to build a winner sometime before he dies.

Here's one problem for the Tigers: Several members of their core (Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez) are aging and coming off years where they've spent time on the disabled list, or played through injury issues.

Here's another problem for the Tigers: Despite an active offseason, they won't be entering 2016 with a better roster than the one they had 12 months ago.

Think about it: They have Jordan Zimmermann instead of David Price. They have Upton instead of Cespedes. They have Cameron Maybin instead of Rajai Davis. They have Francisco Rodriguez instead of Joakim Soria. The rest of their core is the same.

Which of these four would you rather have: Price, Cespedes, Davis and Soria? Or Zimmermann, Upton, Maybin and Rodriguez?

It's close, but I think I would take the group with Price and Cespedes. The Tigers had those guys last year, along with Cabrera, Martinez, Verlander, et al., but after an 11-2 start, they slumped badly. They were back to .500 by the first week of June and never got it going again. They struggled so much, in fact, that former GM Dave Dombrowski broke up the band, dealing Price, Cespedes and Soria to contending teams at the July trading deadline.

Dombrowski was ultimately fired for abandoning the win-now mentality that has existed for years under Ilitch. Normally, I'm a proponent of the win-now philosophy, but there's something to be said for a front office that realizes its window has closed. Dombrowski knew that last year, and he changed gears. Just because ownership dismissed him for that decision does not mean he was wrong.

Even with the addition of Upton, I'm looking at a Detroit roster that has significant question marks, and costs roughly $200 million. For that kind of money, a team should probably be a favorite to win its division. But to me, the Tigers (and everyone else in the AL Central) are still looking up at the Kansas City Royals, and frankly, they aren't as close to the top as they believe they are.

Friday, May 22, 2015

John Danks vs. AL Central: AL Central wins

Whatever good vibes the White Sox generated with their six-game winning streak are gone now, after the team dropped three consecutive games to the last-place Cleveland Indians at U.S. Cellular Field this week.

The latest loss came Thursday night, a 5-2 Cleveland victory that wasn't as close as the final score indicated. The game started at 7:10 p.m. It was basically over by 7:30. Sox starter John Danks gave up four runs in the first inning, including home runs to Nick Swisher and Mike Aviles, and the Indians tacked on another run in the second to seize an early 5-0 edge.

The score remained the same until there were two outs in the bottom of the ninth, when Sox catcher Tyler Flowers hit the traditional, ceremonial meaningless home run to make the score look better in the paper.

The larger trend I took away from this game, though, is that Danks really struggles against AL Central division opponents. The teams than know him best tend to get to him early and often. I checked the numbers, and for the most part, they confirmed my suspicions. Danks is just plain lousy against three of the four teams he pitches against most regularly:

Danks vs. Indians: 5-13, 5.29 ERA
Danks vs. Twins: 7-14, 5.67 ERA
Danks vs. Tigers: 6-10, 5.11 ERA
Danks vs. Royals: 8-1, 2.73 ERA
Danks vs. AL Central: 26-38, 4.83 ERA

The Royals have to be wondering what they are doing wrong. For the Indians, Tigers and Twins, it's a fight at the bat rack when they see Danks is pitching. Those hitters probably can't wait to get to home plate.

Take out the stats against Kansas City, and Danks is 18-37 with a 5.38 ERA against Cleveland, Detroit and Minnesota.

If you're wondering why the Sox can't seem to beat divisional foes these past few years, Danks is among the culprits.

The Sox (18-20) welcome divisional rival Minnesota to the U.S. Cellular Field for a three-game set this weekend. Fortunately, Danks is not slated to pitch in the series. Here are the weekend matchups:

Friday: Jeff Samardzija (3-2, 4.58 ERA) vs. Phil Hughes (3-4, 4.76 ERA)
Saturday: Chris Sale (3-1, 4.36 ERA) vs. Trevor May (2-3, 5.15 ERA)
Sunday: Jose Quintana (2-4, 4.13 ERA) vs. Kyle Gibson (3-3, 2.98 ERA)

Friday, May 8, 2015

Carlos Rodon's start could put Hector Noesi, John Danks on notice

The White Sox failed to sweep Detroit on Thursday, as Tigers left-hander Kyle Lobstein limited the South Siders to just five hits over 7.2 innings to pick up a 4-1 victory.

Given where the Sox are in the standings, it was probably unrealistic to think they could win three straight games against a superior Detroit team. Nevertheless, it was frustrating to watch Sox hitters get mesmerized by another soft-tossing left-hander.

Lobstein's performance and pitching line Thursday reminded me a little bit of what Minnesota's Tommy Milone did to spoil the Sox home opener April 10.

Lobstein on Thursday: 7.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 3 Ks, 2 BBs
Milone on April 10: 7.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 7 Ks, 2 BBs

Milone has since lost his spot in the Minnesota rotation, and I don't know if Lobstein will stay in the Detroit rotation once Justin Verlander comes back from the disabled list. But, if other teams are smart, they'll throw guys like Lobstein and Milone at the Sox at every opportunity. The Sox simply cannot solve soft-tossing lefties.

In any case, up next for the Sox is a three-game interleague series against the Cincinnati Reds. It's hard to envision Chicago getting back in the AL Central race, because the back of its starting rotation is so weak.

The Reds are fortunate to not be facing any of the Sox's top three pitchers. Instead, they'll be getting a look at those back-end starters. Here are the weekend matchups;

Friday: Hector Noesi vs. Jason Marquis
Saturday: Carlos Rodon vs. Johnny Cueto
Sunday: John Danks vs. Michael Lorenzen

Without question, Saturday's game is the marquee matchup. Rodon, the Sox top prospect, will make his first start at the major league level, and he'll be going against the Reds ace. Cueto was a 20-game winner on a losing team in 2014.

Even if Rodon doesn't win, if he fares well, he could put the pressure on Noesi and Danks.

Noesi is 0-3 with a 6.75 ERA in three starts this season. He has lost each of his last six starts dating back to last year. He has yet to make it through the sixth inning in any of his appearances this year. On two occasions, he was knocked out in the fifth inning.

Danks is 1-3 with a 6.20 ERA in five starts. He was knocked out in the third inning his last time out in a 13-3 loss to Minnesota.

Combined, Danks and Noesi are 1-6 with a 6.41 ERA in eight starts. That is not competitive pitching, folks. There is no way a team can contend for a playoff spot when 40 percent of its starting rotation is performing so poorly.

There's an opportunity here for Rodon to potentially knock one of those two poor performers out of the Sox rotation. We'll see if he takes advantage.


Thursday, May 7, 2015

White Sox stun Tigers with improbable comeback

So far, so good for the White Sox in their three-game set with the Detroit Tigers. The South Siders have taken the first two games, and they prevailed, 7-6, in dramatic fashion Wednesday night at U.S. Cellular Field.

Detroit appeared to be cruising toward victory, up 6-3 in the eighth inning. Heck, the Sox had two outs and nobody on in the bottom of that eighth inning, but six straight hits off Tigers reliever Joba Chamberlain turned the game around.

Micah Johnson and Adam Eaton hit back-to-back singles to set the table for Melky Cabrera, who couldn't have picked a better time to hit his first home run in a Sox uniform. Cabrera turned on a 2-1 slider from Chamberlain, knocking it over the right-field wall for a three-run blast that tied the game at 6.

Surprisingly, Detroit didn't seem inclined to remove the rattled Chamberlain from the mound. The rally started anew with a single by Jose Abreu, who advanced to third on a single by Adam LaRoche. That set the table for Avisail Garcia, who put himself in an 0-2 hole by swinging wildly at a couple of Chamberlain sliders. But after a couple foul balls and two pitches out of the zone, Garcia found a 2-2 slider to his liking and lined it into into center field for an RBI single that gave the Sox a 7-6 lead.

Garcia also played a key role in protecting that lead in the top of the ninth inning.

With one out, Sox closer David Robertson gave up a single to Nick Castellanos. James McCann followed with another single to right, and pinch runner Andrew Romine scampered from first to third. Garcia fired the ball in quickly to try to get Romine at third, which wasn't going to happen, but Garcia hit the cutoff man, shortstop Alexei Ramirez, who cut the throw and fired to first to get McCann, who had rounded the bag too aggressively. 

After Abreu put the tag on McCann, the tying run was still on third in the person of Romine, but two were out. Robertson retired Jose Iglesias on a routine grounder to Johnson to secure the win and his fifth save in as many opportunities.

With the win, the Sox (10-14) are still five games behind Detroit (17-11) in the AL Central, but hey, it's better than being seven games back -- as the Sox were when this series began.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

White Sox juggle starting rotation for weekend series vs. Tigers

Since we last posted, the White Sox split a brief two-game series against the banged-up Cleveland Indians.

The Sox got six solid innings from starting pitcher Jose Quintana on Tuesday, and relievers Dan Jennings, Zach Duke and David Robertson combined to strike out eight batters in a 4-1 Chicago victory in the series opener.

On Wednesday, a combination of poor infield defense and lack of clutch hitting did the Sox in, as they dropped a 4-2 decision to a Cleveland club that is currently missing three regulars (Michael Brantley, Yan Gomes, Nick Swisher) from its lineup.

The series leaves the Sox with a 3-5 record, which isn't completely terrible given an 0-4 start, but it's still not an enviable position -- especially since both the Detroit Tigers (8-1) and Kansas City Royals (7-1) are off to red-hot starts in the American League's Central Division.

That makes this weekend's three-game series in Detroit more crucial for the Sox than most April series would be. The South Siders already are 4.5 games off the pace in the division, and it would be bad news if they were to go into Comerica Park and get swept.

No matter how "early" it is, it's hard to feel good if you fall 7.5 games off the division lead just two weeks into the season. That makes it important the Sox squeeze out at least one win, if not two, against the Tigers.

It won't be easy, because the Tigers have David Price, Anibal Sanchez and Shane Greene lined up to pitch the three games. Price and Sanchez are always tough, and Greene hasn't allowed a run in either of his first two starts of the season -- both Detroit victories.

Perhaps sensing the need to match up, Sox manager Robin Ventura has wisely decided to skip Hector Noesi's turn in the rotation for Friday's game. Instead, Jeff Samardzija will pitch, and I think we can all agree he gives the Sox a better chance than Noesi would against Price, the Detroit ace.

That lines up Sox ace Chris Sale to face Sanchez on Saturday. The Sox haven't announced a starter for Sunday's game yet, but they could (and probably should) go back to Quintana on regular rest for the series finale.

With Detroit playing well and the Sox struggling out of the gate, Ventura simply cannot afford to concede any games to the Tigers by putting the erratic Noesi on the mound.

One other thing to keep an eye on in this series: Detroit has stolen an AL-high 13 bases through its first nine games. Meanwhile, the Sox have surrendered a league-high 11 steals through their eight games.

The Sox had better start holding opposing runners closer this weekend.