Showing posts with label Jose Abreu. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jose Abreu. Show all posts

Monday, July 16, 2018

White Sox (somehow) six games ahead of Royals at All-Star break

Leury Garcia
The first half of the season has been a disaster for the White Sox. They are 33-62, on pace for 106 losses, which would tie the club record set in 1970.

That's no small statement, because the Sox have been around since 1901, and they've only had three 100-loss seasons over those 117 years. We're looking at historic ineptness this summer.

Despite all that, the Sox somehow are not in last place at the All-Star break. In fact, they are six games ahead of the Kansas City Royals (27-68) in the AL Central, after winning two out of three games against the Royals over the weekend at Guaranteed Rate Field.

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

Friday, July 13
White Sox 9, Royals 6: This game had all the elements of a matchup between two teams that are a combined 70 games below .500. There was no shortage of poor pitching and sloppy defense.

The good part for the Sox: home runs by Jose Abreu, Leury Garcia and Omar Narvaez as part of a 14-hit attack. And James Shields (4-10) pitched into the seventh inning without allowing an earned run, although another error by Yoan Moncada in the second cost Shields two runs.

The Sox took a 7-2 lead into the seventh before Shields ran out of gas, and five relief pitchers were needed to cover the final seven outs. The Royals crawled within 7-6 with two outs in the eighth, and they had two men on base when Jorge Bonifacio flied to the warning track in center field for the third out.

Fortunately, Narvaez delivered a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth to provide some breathing room, which Joakim Soria ultimately did not need. The Sox reliever earned his 14th save by retiring the side in order, with two strikeouts, in the ninth.

Saturday, July 14
Royals 5, White Sox 0: The Sox went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position and left nine men on base against Kansas City starter Danny Duffy (5-8) and two relievers. Duffy walked three and allowed four hits over seven shutout innings, and all of the Sox hits were singles.

Give Reynaldo Lopez (4-7) some credit. At least he went 7.2 innings, but he was victimized by two home runs -- one by Bonifacio in the first and the other by the final hitter he faced, Salvador Perez in the eighth.

It was a bad, boring game and one you can just flush away. Lopez forgot to throw a shutout, and the Sox bats were silent.

Sunday, June 15
White Sox 10, Royals 1: Sox bats were anything but silent in the final game of the series. Moncada had a big afternoon, 3 for 4 with three runs scored, and he finished a triple short of the cycle. Daniel Palka opened the scoring in the first inning with a two-run homer and also finished 3 for 4 with three runs scored. Garcia also had a three-hit game.

The support was plenty for Lucas Giolito (6-8), who allowed only two hits over 6.1 innings of shutout ball. He struck out eight and walked three.

For Giolito, the key inning was the first. He walked two and gave up a single to Perez, but Bonifacio was thrown out at the plate by 20 feet on that single, handing Giolito the second out of an inning in which he was struggling to find the plate. The Sox right-hander then struck out Lucas Duda to end the inning without giving up a run, despite throwing 30-plus pitches.

After that, Giolito settled in and dominated the middle innings, while the Sox bludgeoned a ragtag collection of Kansas City relievers.

It was a bad first half, but at least it ended with a lopsided win. That gives everyone something positive to take with them for the four days off over the All-Star break.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Signs of a bad offense: Low OPS

So, I was looking at the White Sox hitting statistics, and with recent slumps by Jose Abreu, Matt Davidson and Daniel Palka -- and Avisail Garcia's return to the disabled list -- the Sox don't have a single hitter with an OPS at or above .800.

Here's what we're looking at for OPS on the current Sox roster:

Davidson: .776
Abreu: .746
Omar Narvaez: .740
Tim Anderson: .723
Yolmer Sanchez: .723
Palka: .711
Yoan Moncada: .710
Kevan Smith: .692
Leury Garcia: .678
Charlie Tilson: .640
Ryan LaMarre: .634
Adam Engel: .591

Yuck.

Well, the Kansas City Royals (26-66) are coming into Chicago this weekend. Maybe that will be the cure for what ails Davidson and other Sox hitters. We shall see.

Monday, July 9, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 2, 2018

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

Monday, June 18, 2018

Two steps back: White Sox swept at home by Detroit Tigers

Nicholas Castellanos
The Detroit Tigers are not a good road team. In fact, they are 13-20 away from Comerica Park.

But you would never know it by their performance at Guaranteed Rate Field this season, where they are 6-0 after sweeping a weekend series from the White Sox. So, the Tigers are 7-20 on the road against teams not named the White Sox.

Pathetic, and frustrating for Sox fans. It's especially frustrating after the Sox had shown signs of progress in June -- taking two out of three from the Brewers, splitting four games with the Twins, taking two out of three from the Red Sox and splitting four games with the Indians.

Now, the Sox go three games without ever taking a lead at home against the middling Tigers. Ugh.

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

Friday, June 15
Tigers 4, White Sox 3: This game was characterized by suspect bullpen management from Rick Renteria.

The Sox trailed, 3-0, through five innings, but Omar Narvaez hit his first home run of the season, a 3-run shot in the sixth, to tie the game.

But for some reason, Renteria blew through relief pitchers Xavier Cedeno, Bruce Rondon and Luis Avilan to get three outs in the top of the seventh inning.

While those three relievers combined to keep the Tigers off the board in the 7th, it was strange that Renteria chose to play matchups when no runner reached scoring position in the inning. It was not a dangerous situation.

Then, Juan Minaya -- who is only in the big leagues because Nate Jones is on the disabled list -- was entrusted to pitch the eighth inning. Of course, Minaya immediately went single, walk to put himself in trouble.

He was allowed to stay in, perhaps because the aforementioned three relievers already had been used, and of course, the Tigers scored a run and won the game.

Head-scratching.

Saturday, June 16
Tigers 7, White Sox 5: Detroit right fielder Nicholas Castellanos was mired in a 1-for-21 slump until Sox right-hander Lucas Giolito took the mound.

Giolito took care of that, allowing a 3-run homer to Castellanos in the third and a two-run homer to him in the fifth. Both home runs came after Giolito had issued a two-out walk.

The Sox trailed, 5-0, going to the bottom of the fifth, but they rallied to tie the game. An RBI double by Tim Anderson, a two-run single by Charlie Tilson and a sacrifice fly by Trayce Thompson highlighted a four-run fifth.

In the sixth, Yolmer Sanchez tripled and scored on a sacrifice fly by Jose Abreu. 5-5 game.

But Abreu missed a big chance in the seventh. He grounded out weakly to third with the bases loaded and two outs. Worse yet, he swung at two bad pitches to open the at-bat, after Detroit reliever Buck Farmer had walked Yoan Moncada and Sanchez to load the bases for Abreu.

It was a rare poor at-bat for the Sox's best hitter.

In the eighth, Detroit only hit one ball out of the infield -- a leadoff single by Victor Martinez -- but the Tigers plated two runs because Rondon walked two guys and misplayed a bunt.

It was a frustrating defeat on what could have been a feel-good day after the Sox erased a five-run deficit.

Sunday, June 17
Tigers 3, White Sox 1: Castellanos continued to punk the Sox. He got a hanging breaking ball from James Shields in the first inning and hit it out for a two-run homer.

That was essentially the game, as the Sox failed to generate much offense against soft-tossing Detroit left-handed Blaine Hardy.

Matt Davidson's team-leading 12th home run of the season provided the only Sox offense in the second inning.

But hey, Shields (2-8) went at least six innings for the 11th consecutive start, and he didn't allow the game to get out of hand.

Increase that trade value, James.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

A nice, clean 14-hitter: White Sox beat Indians

White Sox right-hander Dylan Covey allowed 2.6 home runs per every nine innings in 2017. That was the highest rate among any pitcher who threw at least 70 innings -- although to be fair, Covey threw 70 innings right on the dot during his 0-7 season.

However, things have changed this year. Covey has made six starts with the Sox in 2018, totaling 35.1 innings, and he has yet to allow a home run.

Hmmm. Go figure.

Covey improved to 3-1 on Wednesday as the Sox beat the Cleveland Indians, 3-2.

The former Rule 5 draft pick gave up two runs on 10 hits over seven-plus innings, but they were all singles, and Covey survived because he did not walk a batter. Give the guy this: He's throwing strikes, and he's avoiding the big mistakes that cost him a lot of runs last season.

Sox relievers Jace Fry and Joakim Soria combined to give up four more hits over two innings, so Cleveland ended up outhitting the Sox, 14-4, but the South Siders had the edge in the column that counts.

The Sox only had four hits off Cleveland starter Trevor Bauer, who struck out 12 in 7.2 innings, but those four hits counted.

Tim Anderson walked to lead off the fifth inning, stole second and scored on triple by Charlie Tilson. Trayce Thompson's perfectly executed suicide squeeze brought Tilson home for a 2-0 Sox lead.

The Sox added a run in the sixth. After Jose Abreu doubled, Kevan Smith's two-out single made it 3-0, with Abreu sliding safely into home under a tag after a good throw to the plate by Cleveland right fielder Melky Cabrera.

The Indians got two in the eighth and threatened for more, placing runners on second and third with one out. However, Fry put out the fire with consecutive strikeouts of Cabrera and Jason Kipnis to preserve a 3-2 lead.

Soria allowed two singles in the ninth, but induced a double play off the bat of Michael Brantley to earn his 10th save.

With the win, the Sox (24-42) are now 15-15 in their past 30 games. That doesn't erase the miserable 9-27 start, but games have been more watchable as of late.

Monday, April 30, 2018

White Sox settle for three out of five vs. Kansas City Royals

When is it unsatisfying to win three out of five games in another team's ballpark? When you win the first three, then lose the last two.

Bruce Chen
That was the case this weekend for the White Sox against the Kansas City Royals, but given the Sox's 8-18 overall record, we probably should be happy they finally won a series -- regardless of circumstances or opponent.

Here's a look back at what has happened since we left off:

Friday, April 27
White Sox 7, Royals 4 (11 inn.): Once again, Matt Davidson won a game for the Sox in Kansas City. He went 2 for 5 with two home runs and three RBIs, including a two-run blast in the top of the 11th inning that gave the Sox the lead for good.

Davidson has hit seven home runs at Kauffman Stadium this season -- a new record for a Royals' opponent -- and it's only April 30.

For the season, Davidson is slashing .462/.563/1.308 with seven home runs and 12 RBIs in seven games and 32 plate appearances in the Royals' home ballpark.

I'm guessing Davidson will have the dates Sept. 10-12 circled on his calendar. Those are the remaining three games the Sox have in Kansas City this season.

For several years, the Royals had a mediocre-at-best pitcher named Bruce Chen who owned White Sox hitters. I see Davidson's mastery of the Royals as a sort of payback for Chen.

Davidson is a mediocre-at-best hitter, but he suddenly turns into a dominant force at the sight of Kansas City uniforms. The Sox and their fans have been on the wrong end of this kind of ownership in the past, so we'll take it.

Saturday, April 28
White Sox 8-2, Royals 0-5: Most doubleheaders are split, and this one was no exception.

Surprisingly, Carson Fulmer (2-1) became the first Sox pitcher to reach two wins by tossing seven shutout innings. He allowed four hits, struck out three and walked three. It was a nice display of competence by the right-hander, even if it came against a horrible Kansas City team.

Daniel Palka collected not only his first big-league hit but his first big-league home run, as well, as he went 4 for 5 with three runs scored and three RBIs in the Game 1 win. For the first time this season, the Sox won three in a row.

Naturally, that did not carry over into Game 2, as the Sox were baffled by Kansas City left-hander Eric Skoglund. After Tim Anderson's leadoff homer, Skoglund allowed only hit the rest of his outing as he got through seven innings with a 4-1 lead.

The erstwhile Dylan Covey (0-1) was called up from Triple-A Charlotte to pitch for the Sox, and predictably, he took the loss. Although, to be fair, he ate up six innings and only one of the four runs he allowed was earned.

Sunday, April 29
Royals 5, White Sox 4: This was the most disappointing game of the series, as the Sox squandered an early 2-0 lead that came courtesy of a two-run double by Palka in the fourth inning.

Hector Santiago and Chris Volstad both gave up home runs to Kansas City's Cheslor Cuthbert, who had not previously homered this season. Cuthbert hit a solo shot off Santiago in the fourth and a three-run blast off Volstad in the fifth that gave the Royals a 4-2 lead.

The Sox battled back to tie with a run in the sixth on a triple by Leury Garcia and a run in the seventh on a two-out RBI double by Nick Delmonico. The latter hit scored Jose Abreu, who was hit by a pitch and stole second base.

However, the Sox could not complete the comeback, as Bruce Rondon (1-1) hit the leadoff batter in the bottom of the eighth inning, and the Royals ended up scoring the go-ahead and eventually winning run on a single by Sox nemesis Whit Merrifield.

I guess we couldn't get through a five-game series in Kansas City without Merrifield doing something to beat the Sox at least once, huh?

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

White Sox (mercifully) snap 7-game losing streak with win over Mariners

Jose Abreu -- two HRs Monday night
Seven straight hits to start the game. Five runs in the first inning. Eighteen hits overall.

Who would have saw this coming? The White Sox had only two runs on 15 hits in three games over the weekend against the Houston Astros, but they finally found some offense Monday in a 10-4 win over the Seattle Mariners.

The victory snapped a seven-game losing streak.

Granted, Mike Leake is not anywhere near as good as Justin Verlander or Dallas Keuchel, but the Sox have made pitchers worse than Leake look like perennial All-Stars this season.

But not Monday.  

Yoan Moncada opened the game with a triple that led to the five-run rally. The Sox added two runs in the second and another in the fourth to take an 8-0 lead and knock Leake (2-2) out early.

It was a big night for Moncada and Jose Abreu, as the two combined to go 7 for 10 with three home runs, a triple, a double, six runs scored and four RBIs.

Moncada went 3 for 5 and had a triple, a double and a home run in his first three at-bats. He had two opportunities to hit a single to complete the cycle, but he struck out looking on a pitch that appeared to be outside and flew out to left field in his last two at-bats. It probably didn't help that Seattle used left-hander Wade LeBlanc to mop up -- the switch-hitting Moncada is clearly weaker batting right-handed, which was the case for the two plate appearances in which he did not reach base.

Abreu, meanwhile, raised his batting average to .308 by going 4 for 5. He hit a two-run homer off Leake in the second inning and a solo homer off LeBlanc in the sixth. Abreu now has a team-high six home runs on the season.

This time, Carson Fulmer (1-1) held a big lead. The right-hander has been struggling, but he pitched six innings of three-hit ball to earn the win. A two-run homer by Mike Zunino in the fifth was the only blemish on Fulmer's line. He struck out three and walked only one -- a refreshing change from previous wildness.

Chris Beck allowed two runs and six hits over three innings of relief, but he didn't walk anybody while pitching with a big lead, which also is a refreshing change from previous wildness. Beck earned his first career save.

Garcia to DL; Palka called up

Of course, no Sox game recap can be complete this season without some bad news.

Right fielder Avisail Garcia strained his right hamstring running out a ground ball Monday night and has been placed on the 10-day disabled list.

Outfielder Daniel Palka has been called up to take Garcia's place on the 25-man roster.

It has been a slow start for Garcia this season. A 2-for-34 slump has left him with an unimpressive .233/.250/.315 slash line with one home run and four RBIs in 18 games. Garcia is the only qualifying batter in Major League Baseball who has yet to draw a walk this season.

Palka, 26, is a former Minnesota Twins prospect who was claimed off waivers in the offseason. The left-handed hitter was batting .286/.384/.476 with three home runs, three doubles and seven RBIs in 17 games at Triple-A Charlotte.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Talk about Yoan Moncada masks slow starts by other White Sox players

Avisail Garcia
White Sox second baseman Yoan Moncada has put together two good games in a row this week against the Oakland Athletics.

The Sox have been outscored, 18-3, in the first two games of the three-game set, but Moncada has been a bright spot. He has gone
3 for 7 with a double, a home run, a walk, a sacrifice bunt, two RBIs and two stolen bases.

There's no denying the fact that Moncada is off to a slow start this season. He's struck out a lot -- 28 times in 66 plate appearances -- and his .214/.323/.393 slash line is well below par.

However, I think all the Moncada talk has deflected some criticism away from a couple other Sox hitters who deserve more blame for the team's 4-10 start.

Let's take a look at what happened in the first inning each of the past two nights in Oakland.

On Monday night, Moncada hit the first pitch of the game for a base hit to right field. He stole second base to put himself in scoring position with nobody out.

Did he end up scoring a run to give the Sox an early lead? Of course not.

Avisail Garcia grounded out to move Moncada to third. But Jose Abreu struck out swinging at a bad pitch, and after Matt Davidson walked, Nick Delmonico popped out to the catcher.

Missed opportunity. The Sox lost, 8-1.

On Tuesday night, Moncada saw six pitches and opened the game by drawing a walk. Once again, he stole second base to put himself in scoring position with nobody out.

Did he end up scoring a run to give the Sox an early lead? Of course not.

Garcia struck out, while Abreu and Davidson grounded out.

Missed opportunity. The Sox lost, 10-2.

Moncada set the table. The alleged RBI men are not doing their jobs.

Abreu is hitting .200/.250/.600 with runners in scoring position. Granted, two of the three hits he's had in those situations are home runs, but he's also grounded into two double plays and failed to pick up the easy RBI with a man at third and less than two outs, such as the first-inning situation in Monday's game.

That said, Abreu's clutch numbers make him look like Babe Ruth when compared to Garcia.

Thus far, Garcia is 1 for 15 with runners in scoring position this season. His slash line is .067/.118/.067 in those situations.

Small sample sizes, yes, but let's not point too many fingers at the young Sox second baseman at this stage. If you want to know why the offense is struggling, look no further than the slow starts by the Sox's two most established run producers -- Abreu and Garcia.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Sad offensive numbers for the White Sox in recent games

The only photo I could find of Daniel Mengden ...
So, the White Sox have gone 2-9 with four postponements since the calendar turned to April. And, like most losing streaks, the problem has been of combination of different things.

We've seen bad bullpen work, poor starting pitching and inept defense (three errors in one inning in Monday's 8-1 loss to Oakland!), but most of all, we've seen a teamwide outage in hitting with runners in scoring position.

The Sox went 5 for 10 with runners in scoring position in their season-opening win over the Kansas City Royals. Since that game, they have gone for 12 for 100. You don't need a calculator to know that pencils out to a .120 batting average.

This offense is 3 for 52 with runners in scoring position over the past seven games. I did get out the calculator for that, and it's an .058 batting average. Wouldn't you think a group of major league hitters could do better than that just on accident?

The Sox will never be a good team this year, but the law of averages says they have to be a little better than their 4-9 record indicates, right?

It's one thing to have your bats stuffed up your rear end by Jose Berrios, the talented right-hander of the Minnesota Twins. It's quite another when you're getting owned by Daniel Mengden.

Coming into Monday's game, Mengden was 0-10 with a 6.45 ERA in 13 career starts at the Oakland Coliseum.

He is now 1-10 with a 5.88 ERA in 14 career starts after limiting the Sox to a run on six hits over eight-plus innings. Jose Abreu broke up Mengden's shutout with a solo home run leading off the ninth inning.

Mengden had not made it out of the sixth inning in any of his first three starts of the season, so forgive me if I'm not interested in hearing about how good his stuff was Monday night.

At some point, you stop "tipping your cap" to the opposing pitcher and just say, "This is bad offense."

Friday, March 30, 2018

White Sox tie MLB record with six home runs on Opening Day

Matt Davidson
Let's take a moment to rejoice: It's March 30, and the White Sox are alone in first place in the American League Central Division.

OK, that isn't worth much, but the traditional day off after Opening Day is much more enjoyable when your favorite team's record is 1-0.

I wasn't expecting the Sox to win Thursday, especially with James Shields on the mound, but an offensive onslaught allowed the South Siders to blow out the Kansas City Royals, 14-7.

The Sox hit six home runs on Opening Day, which ties a major league record -- the 1988 New York Mets were the other team to do it. And Matt Davidson became only the fourth player in MLB history to hit three home runs in an opener -- George Bell (1988), Tuffy Rhodes (1994) and Dmitri Young (2005) were the others.

Davidson's performance overshadowed a two-homer game for Tim Anderson. Jose Abreu also homered for the Sox.

Indeed, Sox fans are feeling good today, but they weren't feeling so good at 3:28 p.m. Thursday afternoon, about 13 minutes after the season began. The Sox went three-up, three-down in the top of the first inning against Kansas City starter Danny Duffy, and Shields put the Sox in a 4-0 hole only four batters into the bottom of the first inning.

Lucas Duda's three-run homer put the Royals ahead 4-0, as the first four Kansas City batters recorded hits. Same old Shields, right.

Well, it's no secret I'm not a fan of the 36-year-old veteran, but after that horrible start, the right-hander settled down and gave up nothing over the next five innings. He got through six innings, allowing only the four runs that came across in the first.

If you would have told me Thursday morning that Shields would get through six innings and give up four runs, I would have taken it. So, I'll take it.

Not to mention, Shields was better than Duffy, who fell apart the second time through the batting order. The Kansas City left-hander battled shoulder problems during spring training, so perhaps he just wasn't ready to go more than a few innings. He limited the Sox to one hit through the first three innings, but the roof caved in on him in the fourth.

Avisail Garcia doubled. Abreu homered. Davidson homered. Anderson homered. Yolmer Sanchez walked. Adam Engel singled. Yoan Moncada doubled. All of a sudden, it was 5-4 Sox, and the rout was on from there.

The Sox added three runs in the fifth, three in the seventh and three in the eighth.

The only concern I have from this game is the struggles of relief pitcher Juan Minaya, who gave up two runs and could not finish the ninth inning. Minaya walked a batter and threw two wild pitches in his two-thirds of an inning, and that wildness has been a pattern going back to his last couple of spring training outings.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, he was 9 for 10 in save opportunities down the stretch in 2017, but I don't think he should be the closer now, with Nate Jones healthy and Joakim Soria also on the roster.

It will be interesting to see how manager Rick Renteria uses the bullpen the first time the Sox are in a late-inning, high-leverage situation.

The Sox have two more games with the Royals this weekend, weather permitting. Right-hander Lucas Giolito will pitch for the Sox at 6:15 p.m. Saturday. He'll be opposed by Kansas City right-hander Ian Kennedy. Reynaldo Lopez gets the start for the Sox at 1:15 p.m. Sunday. The Royals will counter with right-hander Jason Hammel.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito pitching well in Cactus League

Perhaps I've spent too much time this spring complaining about James Shields and Carson Fulmer. So, let's talk about one of the positive signs from White Sox camp: Right-hander Lucas Giolito has had a terrific spring.

Giolito's last real tune-up for the regular season happened Tuesday, and he was sharp in a 10-0 victory over the Texas Rangers. He went 6.1 innings and allowed only two hits. He struck out four and walked none, reducing his spring ERA to 2.04. That's impressive anywhere, but especially good in the Cactus League, where the sky is high and breaking balls don't break.

The 23-year-old has 17 strikeouts against four walks in 17.1 innings pitched. He's allowed only 11 hits. Let's hope Giolito's success carries over into the regular season. His performance has been good news in a camp that has been notable mostly because of the nagging injuries suffered by notable players.

(Jose Abreu left Tuesday's game with hamstring tightness. Kevan Smith sprained his ankle. Both are listed as day to day.)

And, hey, the Sox totaled 20 hits for the second consecutive day Tuesday. The games have been locally televised each of the past two days, and the Sox have outscored their opponents by a combined score of 25-2. What's not to like about that? 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The next holiday on the calendar: SoxFest

Jose Abreu ... still not traded
With the holiday season past, it's time to turn our attention to SoxFest, which is scheduled from Jan. 26 to 28 at the Chicago Hilton.

I, of course, will be in attendance, but I doubt anyone is buying hotel passes to hang out with me for the weekend. So, here is a list of more important people who will be appearing at SoxFest.

White Sox players: Jose Abreu, Tim Anderson, Matt Davidson, Nick Delmonico, Adam Engel, Carson Fulmer, Avisail Garcia, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Yoan Moncada, Carlos Rodon, Yolmer Sanchez and Kevan Smith.

White Sox prospects: Jake Burger, Dylan Cease, Zack Collins, Alec Hansen, Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech, Blake Rutherford and Gavin Sheets.

Past White Sox greats: Harold Baines, Carlton Fisk, Bo Jackson, Tim Raines and Frank Thomas.

White Sox broadcasters: Jason Benetti, Ed Farmer, Ken Harrelson, Darrin Jackson and Steve Stone.

White Sox brass: general manager Rick Hahn, assistant GM Jeremy Haber, senior director of baseball operations Dan Fabian, director of player development Chris Getz and director of scouting Nick Hostetler.

As a hotel guest, I will receive a talking Hawk Harrelson bobblehead. Won't that be interesting? Can't wait to go to the fest and talk baseball with my fellow Sox fans.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

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

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

Predictably, Hahn didn't rule out anything:

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then there's this:

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

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

Monday, October 2, 2017

It could have been worse: White Sox finish 2017 with 67-95 record

Jose Abreu
Here's a sentence that I might not type again for the rest of my life: The 2017 White Sox exceeded expectations by finishing 67-95.

Through 118 games, the Sox were 45-73 and appeared to be on their way to 100 losses. And nobody would have been shocked or unhappy if they had lost 100. Established veterans such as Jose Quintana, David Robertson, Todd Frazier and Melky Cabrera were traded in July. Competent bullpen arms such as Tommy Kahnle, Dan Jennings and Anthony Swarzak also were shown the door.

After all that, I never would have guessed the Sox would have a winning September -- they went 15-14 -- nor would I have believed they would go 22-22 in their last 44 games. But that's exactly what they did, and you have to give manager Rick Renteria and his staff some credit. He had guys playing hard and playing the right way all the way up to the very end, and the Sox were able to crawl out of last place while the Detroit Tigers (64-98) tanked and finished with the worst record in the league.

The Sox will draft No. 4 overall in the 2018 entry draft, instead of first, as many had hoped. I can live with that, because their late-season competency wasn't led by a group of mediocre veterans. The younger players who are supposed to be a part of the future -- Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Carson Fulmer -- all had some positive moments that contributed to winning. You want to see that progress and that development. It's the most important thing for a team that is in the Sox's position.

However, in recent weeks, I have heard some Sox fans getting a little too exuberant about the team's hopes for 2018. It has been pointed out that the Minnesota Twins, who were 59-103 at this time a year ago, rebounded to 85-77 and won the second wild card in the American League. That's led some to ask the question, "Why can't the Sox author a similar turnaround next year?"

That's a noble thought, but it's just not likely. Despite some of the positives we've seen as of late, the Sox have very little talent in their bullpen. In order to contend next season, they would have to buy at least three and maybe four relief arms in free agency, and I don't see that being a prudent course of action at this stage. They've committed to the rebuild, so stay the course.

Looking ahead to 2018, here's my best guess at how things might break down at each position:

Catcher: There's a pretty good chance both Kevan Smith and Omar Narvaez are back next year. Smith hit .283, Narvaez hit .277. We haven't seen that sort of offensive competency from Sox catchers since A.J. Pierzynski left, and neither Smith nor Narvaez embarrassed themselves defensively. Both are probably better options at the position than dumpster diving in free agency.

First base: Jose Abreu enjoyed one of his finest seasons in 2017. He hit .304 with 33 home runs and 102 RBIs. He had 343 total bases and posted a .906 OPS. I've often heard people say the Sox should keep Abreu around to be "a mentor and leader" for young Latino players. It is true that Abreu can be that guy, but keeping him on the club just for that reason sells him short. This guy has had 100 or more RBIs for four straight seasons with not a lot of help. Perhaps the Sox should keep him because he's one of the best in the game at his position.

Second base: Moncada's .231 average reflects the struggles he had when he was first called up to the majors. I said we needed to see a hot streak from this guy before the year ended, and sure enough, we saw one. He hit .276 with an .818 OPS and five home runs after Sept. 1. Something to build on for a player who needs to be a core piece in order for the Sox's rebuild to work.

Shortstop: Anderson's second-half OPS (.732) was a full 100 points higher than his first-half OPS (.632), and he hit .327 in September to raise his season batting average to .257. Eight of his 17 home runs and nine of his 15 stolen bases came after Aug. 1. Signs of progress. Next year is a big year for Anderson. He had a good rookie season. He struggled much of his second year before finishing strong. Consider 2018 the tiebreaker season to give us a read on what type of player Anderson truly is.

Third base: As it stands right now, I think Yolmer Sanchez is the guy. He's the best defensive infielder the Sox have, and he hit .267/.319/.413 with 12 home runs and 59 RBIs. That was more production that I ever expected from Sanchez, and he outplayed both Matt Davidson and Tyler Saladino by a wide margin. Sure, Davidson hit 26 home runs, but that's all he does. The .220 batting average and .260 on-base percentage are not impressive, and Davidson doesn't give you much with the glove. Back problems seem to be ruining Saladino's career, as he hit .178 with no home runs in 79 games this year. After a promising 2016, Saladino is perhaps on his way out the door. That's a cautionary tale not to get too excited about Sanchez, I suppose. Long-term, though, I see Sanchez as a valuable bench player on a contender. I think he still can start on next year's Sox team.

Outfield: I'll go on the record: Keep Avisail Garcia. I know some Sox fans want to "sell high," but they are assuming that clubs out there will want to "buy high." I don't know if there will be any takers at a high price. As Sox fans, we don't necessarily believe Garcia can hit .330 again next year. If we don't believe it, why would rival GMs? I'm in favor of putting Garcia in right field for 2018. He won't hit .330, but I'll settle for .280 with 20 home runs and 80 RBIs. I think he can do that, and while the Sox have outfield prospects in the system, none will be ready for the start of next season. Adam Engel and Leury Garcia will probably vie for playing time in center field. Engel is good with the glove, but can't hit at all, and Leury Garcia keeps getting hurt. They are stopgap solutions, but that's good enough for now. I wouldn't mind seeing the Sox add a stopgap corner outfield veteran to play left field in case Nick Delmonico's surprising late-season performance with the bat is a mirage. Not to mention, Delmonico is subpar with the glove, so I don't know that I want to give him 140 games in left field.

Designated hitter: Would a platoon of Davidson and Delmonico be reasonable to start 2018?

Starting pitching: I think I know three of the five coming into next season: Giolito, Lopez and James Shields. Giolito was better than expected in seven late-season starts, going 3-3 with a 2.38 ERA. The Sox hope he is part of their present and future, so let him pitch. Ditto with Lopez, whose performance (3-3, 4.72 ERA in eight starts) was more uneven than Giolito's, but promising at times. Shields is a veteran with a bad contract, and veterans with bad contracts tend to stay right where they are. Fulmer had a rough season at Triple-A Charlotte, then surprised by going 3-1 with a 3.86 ERA in seven late-season appearances (five starts). I think Fulmer competes for a rotation spot in the spring, but he didn't show enough over the course of the year for me to be confident that he's one of the five for 2018. Carlos Rodon was limited to 12 starts this season because of shoulder problems. Now, he's out six to eight months after shoulder surgery. I never felt the Sox were being truthful about the extent of Rodon's injury. Maybe we'll see him in May or June of next year, or maybe not. You can't count on him, and I think the Sox need to sign two stopgap veterans on short-term deals to fill out the rotation. I've heard Sox fans call for the team to sign a "Derek Holland type." Frankly, I'd prefer a "Miguel Gonzalez type," since Gonzalez did that job for the Sox in 2017, while Holland failed miserably after a respectable first two months.

Relief pitching: Who do you keep from this morass? You can't sign a whole new bullpen, so you gotta keep somebody. I'll keep Juan Minaya, Aaron Bummer and Greg Infante. I'm not overly impressed with any of them, but they are the best of a bad lot. Nate Jones has a contract for next season, and he's coming off a second elbow surgery. Fingers crossed that he can provide some veteran stability, but you can't count on that. Jake Petricka and Zach Putnam are always injured. It's time to move on from them. Beyond that, who knows? Is stinks that Zack Burdi is going to miss 2018 after elbow surgery. He would have been in the major league bullpen, and that would have been one more young guy to watch.