Showing posts with label James Shields. Show all posts
Showing posts with label James Shields. Show all posts

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Jose Quintana: Still with the White Sox, but hasn't been named Opening Day starter

Jose Quintana
CSN Chicago's Dan Hayes tweeted Wednesday that the White Sox still have not made a decision on their Opening Day starting pitcher. Manager Rick Renteria wants folks to "give him a few more days."

This is unusual, because if you take a look at the Sox's roster, there is no debate about who should be starting the home opener. Jose Quintana is a proven All-Star left-hander, easily one of the top 20 pitchers in the game, and probably top 15. Then, the Sox have four other guys in the rotation. There is substantial drop-off from Quintana to Carlos Rodon and Miguel Gonzalez, and then another drop-off to James Shields and Derek Holland.

So what's the delay in naming Quintana the starter for the first game? There must be something blowing in the wind on the trade market. The only reason for Renteria to start any other pitcher besides Quintana on April 3 would be because Quintana is no longer on the team.

Jeff Passan, Yahoo's MLB columnist, weighed in on Quintana's situation Wednesday, but there's nothing more to his report than the same things we've been reading from the Sox beat reporters all spring: "White Sox scouts are everywhere. They are willing to deal Quintana, but only for the right price, etc., etc. etc."

The teams mentioned as possible suitors are ones that we've been hearing all along -- the Atlanta Braves, the Houston Astros, the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Passan correctly notes the market for front-end pitching is bleak beyond Quintana. He says sources tell him that Milwaukee's Junior Guerra, who enjoyed a breakout season as a 31-year-old rookie (!) in 2016, is the next-best starting pitcher who might be available after Quintana.

And, the market might not be much stronger when we get to the middle of the season. Perhaps Oakland's Sonny Gray gets healthy and rebuilds his value. Perhaps not. Perhaps the Tampa Bay Rays fall out of the race and become more willing to deal Chris Archer. Perhaps not. Even if the Toronto Blue Jays falter, Quintana still would be a more attractive options for a contender than Marco Estrada and Francisco Liriano.

The Sox are biding their time, hoping to get the deal they want, and gambling a little bit that Quintana will remain both healthy and effective until they make a move. The club's inability to commit to Quintana as the Opening Day starter makes it clear to me that there's something going on, but somewhat amazingly in this day and age, whatever is going on has been kept under the radar -- even from well-connected national baseball reporters such as Passan.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, January 30, 2017

Rick Renteria impresses with answers to fan questions at SoxFest

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

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

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

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

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

Some other highlights from the seminar room:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Adam Eaton a Gold Glove finalist, and other assorted White Sox news

Adam Eaton
Catching up on a few White Sox notes from the past few days:

1. Right fielder Adam Eaton has been named a finalist for the American League Gold Glove Award. Eaton led major-league outfielders with 18 assists and was second to Boston's Mookie Betts with 22 defensive runs saved.

Eaton is trying to become the first Sox player to win a Gold Glove since pitcher Jake Peavy won the honor in 2012. The last Sox position player to win a Gold Glove was third baseman Robin Ventura in 1998.

Eaton was a finalist for the award as a center fielder in 2014. The other finalists among right fielders this year are Betts and Houston's George Springer.

Consider Betts the favorite, since he also had a big offensive season (yeah, I know it shouldn't matter, but it does) and plays in Boston.

2. No surprise: Pitcher James Shields will opt in for the final two years of his contract, according to reports.

Shields, who will turn 35 in December, is coming off a terrible season in which he posted a 6-19 record with a 5.85 ERA. After being traded to the American League, his ERA swelled to 6.77 in 22 starts with the Sox, during which he went 4-12.

The right-hander is owed $21 million for each of the next two seasons, although the San Diego Padres are on the hook for $11 million in both 2017 and 2018. That means the Sox will play Shields $10 million next year and the year after that.

There is a $16 million club option for 2019 on Shields, with a $2 million buyout, if he somehow manages to hold his roster spot for that long. The Sox would be on the hook for the buyout.

Great trade, huh?

3. The Sox claimed outfielder Rymer Liriano off waivers from the Milwaukee Brewers.

Liriano, 25, was once a top-100 prospect in the San Diego system, but his skills have never translated to the big-league level.

He made it to the bigs with the Padres in 2014, but couldn't stick, hitting .220 with a .555 OPS in 121 plate appearances in 38 games.

Liriano missed the entire 2016 season after being struck in the face by pitched ball in spring training. The move brings the Sox's 40-man roster back up to 40 players, but this acquisition is for nothing more than organizational depth.

Friday, October 7, 2016

James Shields trade didn't turn out great for San Diego, either

Erik Johnson
This probably won't comfort White Sox fans who have watched James Shields get rocked start after start over the past four months, but the guy the Sox traded for Shields -- Erik Johnson -- is sidelined after Tommy John surgery.

Johnson made just four starts for the San Diego Padres in 2016, going 0-4 with a 9.15 ERA. He allowed a Shields-like 20 earned runs on 32 hits -- including nine home runs -- and five walks in 19.2 innings. He didn't pitch a single game after July 1.

According to a report in Thursday's San Diego Union-Tribune, Johnson will miss the entire 2017 season after the elbow surgery.

The Padres can at least say they got some salary relief from the deal. They paid Johnson the league minimum to sit on the DL, which is not ideal, but it's probably preferable to paying Shields $21 million to go 6-19 with a 5.85 ERA.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Random White Sox thought for Wednesday afternoon

Found this tidbit in an article over at southsidesox.com:

The White Sox have Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Adam Eaton, Carlos Rodon, Jose Abreu, Todd Frazier, Miguel Gonzalez, Tim Anderson and Nate Jones set to make just $50 million combined for the 2017 season.

Given the production of those nine players, that's an amazing value, is it not? That's what is so aggravating about the Sox's continuing struggles: There is clearly a core of quality players already in place, yet the losing carries on unabated.

The article also notes the $10 million owed to James Shields is the only significant contract liability.

If the Sox opt to try to contend next year -- and I have no reason to believe they won't try -- shouldn't they have plenty of money to spend to supplement this core?

I would think so. Of course, I thought that last year, yet the most significant free agent contract handed out by the Sox was the one-year, $5 million deal signed by mediocre outfielder Austin Jackson.

If the Sox aren't going to rebuild, it's time to stop the excuses and open the wallet already. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

White Sox pitcher James Shields will avoid 20-loss season

James Shields
For a change, struggling White Sox pitcher James Shields didn't lose Monday night.

The right-hander picked up his first victory since July 26, firing six innings of one-run ball in a 7-1 Sox win over Shields' former team, the Tampa Bay Rays.

With the victory, Shields improves to 6-18 (4-11 with the Sox) and ensures that he will not be a 20-game loser this season, regardless of the outcome of his final scheduled start Saturday against the Minnesota Twins.

Shields struggled for most of the game. Tampa Bay had multiple base runners in four of the six innings he pitched, but a couple of well-timed double plays and six strikeouts allowed Shields to pitch out of trouble.

I'm still 100 percent opposed to the idea of Shields being in the Sox's rotation for 2017. His 0-4 mark with an 11.42 ERA over six starts in August was more than enough for me to say it's time to move on. But the reality is Shields has two years left on his contract, and the Sox are probably going to trot him to the mound for 32 starts next season, so we're left with hoping the Shields of Monday night appears more often.

It didn't hurt that the Sox had another decent offensive game. Justin Morneau and Carlos Sanchez each hit two-run homers as part of an 11-hit attack. Morneau, Sanchez, Jose Abreu and Omar Narvaez had two hits each. Abreu picked up his 98th RBI, inching closer to reaching the 100-RBI mark for the third straight season. Melky Cabrera collected his 40th double Monday, becoming the first Sox hitter to reach that plateau since Jermaine Dye in 2008.

After a six-game losing streak, the Sox (75-81) have won three straight games and will send ace Chris Sale to the mound Tuesday in the second game of the four-game series with the Rays.

Monday, September 12, 2016

White Sox lose two out of three to Kansas City

Carlos Rodon
Nothing brings out the worst in the White Sox quicker than the sight of Kansas City Royals uniforms in the other dugout. The Sox dropped two out of three at home to Kansas City over the weekend. They have lost all five series they have played against the Royals this season, and are now just 4-11 against Kansas City this year.

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

Friday, Sept. 9
White Sox 7, Royals 2: The late-season surge continues for left-hander Carlos Rodon, who settled down after a shaky first inning to win his fourth consecutive start and fifth straight decision.

Rodon (7-8) went six innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on six hits. He struck out nine and walked two while lowering his ERA to 3.80. He punctuated his outing by striking out Royals outfielder Paulo Orlando on a nasty slider with the bases loaded in the sixth inning.

Rodon is now 5-0 with a 1.85 ERA since Aug. 1, a period spanning seven starts. He continues to be a bright spot in an otherwise miserable second half for the Sox.

The Sox offense did have a good showing Friday night, seven runs without the benefit of a home run. The South Siders pounded out 13 hits, and all nine players in the starting lineup either scored a run or drove in a run. Tyler Saladino continued a prolonged hot streak, as he went 3 for 4 with two RBIs.

Saturday, Sept. 10
Royals 6, White Sox 5: Can anyone explain to me why the Sox are suddenly using Chris Beck in a high-leverage role? The right-handed reliever has appeared in five of the last seven games, despite a 7.41 ERA and no real evidence of major league competency.

After a rare decent start by James Shields, Beck was summoned to protect a 4-3 lead in the seventh inning and did not get the job done. He gave up a one-out single to Christian Colon, who was pinch run for by Terrence Gore. The speedy Gore spooked the Sox bench and Beck by his mere presence on the bases. The Sox called for two consecutive pitchouts. Gore stole second base anyway, and Beck walked light-hitting Jarrod Dyson after the "brain trust" foolishly ran the count to 2-0 with the useless pitchouts.

After being issued the free pass, Dyson scored the go-ahead run on Whit Merrifield's two-run double (#typicalWhiteSoxnonsense), and Kansas City never trailed again.

The Sox were behind 6-4 going into the bottom of the ninth. They scored one run off Royals closer Wade Davis, but Jose Abreu and Justin Morneau struck out consecutively with runners at first and third, ending the comeback attempt.

Sunday, Sept. 11
Royals 2, White Sox 0: Ace Chris Sale struck out 12 and became the first Sox pitcher in 20 years to throw eight or more innings in five consecutive starts.

Didn't matter, because for all of Sale's brilliance, the rest of the team stinks.

The Royals got solo home runs from Kendrys Morales and Eric Hosmer, and starting pitcher Ian Kennedy and three Kansas City relievers combined to limit the Sox to just two hits -- both singles by Adam Eaton, one in the first and one in the ninth.

The Sox had another crack at Davis in the ninth, who allowed Eaton's second single and walked Melky Cabrera to put the potential winning run at home plate. But once again, Abreu lined out to right field and Morneau struck out swinging, allowing Kansas City to escape town with another in a long line of series wins over Chicago.

Here are some interesting splits on Sale:
Before the All-Star break: 14-3, 3.38 ERA
Since the All-Star break: 1-5, 2.82 ERA

Sale was chosen to start the All-Star game because of his strong first-half performance. He's been even better the second half, but you'd never know it based upon the won-loss statistics.

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.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

James Shields gets a moral victory in loss to Philadelphia

James Shields
The Philadelphia Phillies entered Wednesday's game against the White Sox as the only team in baseball with a team on-base percentage (.299) below .300.

Sox right-hander James Shields entered Wednesday's game with a 7.62 ERA over his first 14 starts with Chicago.

Bad pitching vs. bad hitting. The movable object against the resistible force. Who would win this Battle of Titans?

As it turns out, bad hitting prevailed. The Phillies didn't exactly light up Shields the way the rest of the league has this season, but they did enough to beat the Sox, 5-3, and split the brief two-game series.

Shields (5-16) went six innings, allowing four runs on seven hits. He struck out six and walked none, so his peripherals were better, although he once again gave up two home runs. They were both solo shots, one to Cesar Hernandez in the third, the other on a fat, hanging breaking ball to Tommy Joseph on an 0-2 count with two outs in the sixth. Shields also gave up three doubles, for a total of five extra-base hits, so there was no shortage of hard contact.

Still, this was a moral victory for Shields, who had given up six or more earned runs in each of his past four starts. For the first time since Shields beat the Cubs on July 26, he was not a complete disgrace. He was merely kinda bad.

When he walked off the mound for the final time after the top of the sixth inning, the Sox were still in the game, trailing 4-0.

They made in interesting when Dioner Navarro cut the Philadelphia lead in half with a two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth. The Phillies added a run in the eighth to go up 5-2, and held off a Sox rally in the ninth.

Philadelphia closer Jeanmar Gomez gave up an RBI single to Avisail Garcia with two outs in the ninth to make it 5-3. Navarro came to the plate with two men on and a chance to potentially tie the game with an extra-base hit, but this time he grounded out weakly to second to end the proceedings.

Hey, at least the game was watchable, right? Most of the time it is not when Shields takes the mound.

Monday, August 22, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 15, 2016

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

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

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

Here's a recap of how it went down:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a travesty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 8, 2016

White Sox drop two out of three to first-place Orioles

Carlos Rodon
The White Sox threw the back end of their starting rotation against one of the American League's most powerful lineups this weekend at U.S. Cellular Field.

Predictable results ensued, as the hard-hitting Baltimore Orioles maintained their slim lead in the American League East by taking two out of three games from the South Siders.

Let's reflect back on the weekend's action:

Friday, Aug. 5
Orioles 7, White Sox 5: Baltimore never trailed in this game as it jumped on Sox starter Miguel Gonzalez for a run in the second inning and three more in the third to take an early 4-0 lead.

The Sox got two back in the fourth, highlighted by Jose Abreu's 13th home run of the season, and to his credit, Gonzalez (2-6) settled in and kept the score close at 4-2 through six innings.

Unfortunately, attrition has taken its toll on the Sox bullpen, and the unreliable arms now outnumber the reliable ones. That means manager Robin Ventura at times has to roll the dice and hope some lesser relievers can keep games such as this one close in the late innings.

This was one of those times where that completely blew up on the Sox, as Tommy Kahnle allowed three runs on four hits in just one-third of inning. The Orioles increased their lead to 7-2, and wouldn't you know it, the Sox countered with three of their own in the bottom of the inning to make it close again. Too bad Kahnle failed to keep the score at 4-2, huh?

The Sox ran themselves out of the inning in the bottom of the eighth. They scored three runs to make it 7-5, and had runners on second and third with only one out for Adam Eaton. The Sox outfielder grounded out to first for the second out, and Dioner Navarro -- the runner at third -- strayed too far off base and was thrown out trying to get back to bag.

That was a bad baserunning double play, and with it, the Sox squandered their best chance to tie the game. Typical White Sox nonsense.

Saturday, Aug. 6
White Sox 4, Orioles 2: Sox lefty Carlos Rodon got a no-decision in this game, but his performance was the most encouraging part of the win.

Rodon was in big trouble in the top of the first inning with runners on first and third and nobody out -- and a 3-0 count on Baltimore third baseman Manny Machado. Using a fastball that hit 100 mph and a devastating slider, Rodon rallied to strike out Machado. Then, he struck out Mark Trumbo and Steve Pearce to escape the inning with no runs allowed.

Rodon ended up with five consecutive strikeouts after he began the second inning by fanning Chris Davis and J.J. Hardy. He went six innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on five hits. He finished with seven strikeouts and walked just two. He left the mound with the score tied at 2.

The Sox hung a rare loss on Baltimore ace Chris Tillman (14-4) by scoring a run in the seventh on an RBI single by rookie catcher Omar Narvaez. Eaton added his ninth home run of the season for an insurance run in the eighth, making a winner of Nate Jones (5-2), who worked 1.1 innings of scoreless relief.

Closer David Robertson got three outs for his 27th save in 31 opportunities.

Sunday, Aug. 7
Orioles 10, White Sox 2: I had to back off my criticism of the James Shields trade for a little while after he put together six consecutive quality starts. But now that Shields had allowed 14 runs over his last 2.1 innings, I think I can go back to talking about what a stupid decision it was to acquire him.

The Sox were trailing 10-0 after three innings, thanks to the latest Shields meltdown. On Sunday, he gave up as many home runs as he recorded outs (four). He lasted just 1.1 innings, allowing eight earned runs on six hits. Not a single one of those hits was cheap.

Machado made a little bit of history by homering three times in three at bats in the first three innings. He drove in seven of Baltimore's 10 runs. The first two homers were off Shields, the last was off Matt Albers.

There were few positives for the Sox, although Abreu homered for the third time in four days. He's up to 14 on the season now.

After three innings, and given the thin nature of the Sox bullpen, I thought this one might end with Baltimore scoring 20-plus runs and the Sox using position players to pitch.

Mercifully, Kahnle, Carson Fulmer and Michael Ynoa combined to throw six innings of garbage-time, scoreless relief.

Don't worry, folks, the Sox will be out from underneath Shields' contract at the end of the 2018 season.

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?

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

White Sox surprisingly quiet at trade deadline

Rick Hahn
Baseball's trading deadline came and went Monday afternoon, and the White Sox didn't do anything besides the Zach Duke deal they made with the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday.

The inactivity is surprising, because GM Rick Hahn previously indicated his frustration with the team being "mired in mediocrity." Such remarks usually signal that changes are coming, but in practice, only one deal was made.

I never expected Hahn to deal any of the Sox's headliners -- Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Adam Eaton and Jose Abreu -- but I did think he would make another trade or two similar to the Duke move. The "next tier" on the Sox roster features some productive veterans who would have value to other teams, and I figured players such as David Robertson, Melky Cabrera, James Shields or Todd Frazier could be on the move.

Instead, the gang is still all here, with the noted exception of Duke.

This has created a significant meltdown among an outraged fan base that is hungry for change. I share in the frustration, but not the outrage. You just have to put the emotions away and think logically here.

I watched MLB Network for most of the afternoon Monday, and much of the speculation centered around Sale. I'm sure the Sox received offers, and I'm sure they listened. But never for one second did I think the Sox would actually pull the trigger.

Why? Well, it because all the trade packages being offered seemed to center solely around prospects. The experts kept talking about Boston offering four top prospects for Sale, with 21-year-old Yoan Moncada being the centerpiece of the deal.

I'm sure Moncada is a fine prospect. He might even be a future star. But, you're not going to give up a five-time All-Star such as Sale in exchange for a package of ifs and maybes, with the centerpiece of the trade being a 21-year-old kid who has played a grand total of 32 games above A-ball. For a guy such as Sale -- and Quintana, for that matter -- you need at least one position player who is going to help you at the major league level right away.

I just don't think that deal is out there at midseason, because contenders are not willing to subtract from their current 25-man roster at this time of year. They are looking to add to what they already have. Once the offseason arrives, teams are more willing to part with major leaguers in a deal, because they have time to acquire somebody else to fill whatever hole(s) they create by making a trade. Those adjustments are much harder to make in-season.

Provided Sale and Quintana stay healthy the rest of the season (always a gamble with pitching), the Sox will be in position to get a better haul later than they would right now.

The free-agent starting pitching crop is very weak this offseason, which would only make Sale and Quintana more valuable in a deal, should the Sox choose the nuclear option and blow the team up this offseason.

I was very surprised there was so few rumors surrounding the Robertson-Cabrera-Shields-Frazier tier of the Sox roster. I feel like similar players from other teams were traded for reasonable prospects, so there should have been some market for these guys. But given the lack of rumors, maybe there wasn't.

No trade at all is better than a bad trade, and if the Sox couldn't get someone who might legitimately be able to help them in the future, there's no reason to dump players just for the sake of dumping. That's an emotional reaction that fans call for, but front offices can't afford to think that way.

There's always the possibility of trading any or all of these guys this offseason. That said, it's fair to say management is on the clock now to do *something* between now and the start of the 2017 season.

You can't come out and say that it's "unacceptable" to be "mired in mediocrity," then serve up another year of the status quo. Things don't necessarily have to change now, but they have to change soon. One thing we all agree on is the current results aren't nearly good enough.