Showing posts with label Justin Morneau. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Justin Morneau. Show all posts

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Remaining free agents: Anyone want a slugger?

Chris Carter
Has anyone else noticed what a bad offseason this has been for free-agent sluggers?

The calendar says February, but there still are plenty of guys out there with home run power that are looking for a contract. Just look up and down this free-agent tracker.

Need a right-handed power bat? Chris Carter, Mike Napoli and Mark Reynolds can be yours, and probably for cheap. In need of some lefty pop? How about Pedro Alvarez, Justin Morneau or Adam Lind? They're available.

Mark Trumbo led the American League in home runs last year with 47 -- 47 home runs! -- but it didn't lead to him breaking the bank in free agency this offseason. He took a three-year deal worth $38.5 million to remain with the Baltimore Orioles.

By way of comparison, the third-best closer on the market this offseason, Mark Melancon, got $62 million over four years from the San Francisco Giants.

It's interesting that guys who pitch one inning are now substantially more valuable in the marketplace than guys who are a threat to hit the ball in the seats every time they step into the batter's box.

Carter had 41 home runs for the Milwaukee Brewers last season. He can't find a job.

I'm wondering if the front office guys are looking at the WAR for these sluggers and feeling as if they just aren't worth an investment. Here is the 2016 WAR for each of the six guys I listed above:

Reynolds: 1.5
Napoli: 1.0
Carter: 0.9
Alvarez: 0.7
Morneau: 0.3
Lind: -0.3

This shows us that these guys provide little or no defensive utility. They are one-dimensional sluggers, and the game is starting to move away from that. There are no big bucks out there for "one-win" players.

I've had some people ask me why Todd Frazier remains on the roster for the rebuilding White Sox. Well, it's probably because front offices don't value sluggers that much anymore. Granted, Frazier had a 3.4 WAR last season, so he's better than the guys listed above, and he has some defensive utility at third base. However, there is no rush to acquire .220 hitters who give you 40 home runs, but also strike out a lot.

If that type of player were desired in the marketplace, Carter would have signed a free-agent contract by the first of the year.

Friday, November 4, 2016

White Sox decline option on Matt Albers, among other roster moves


So long, Matt Albers. We'll always have this photo of me with your jersey at SoxFest.

The first day after the conclusion of the World Series often brings a flurry of minor roster moves around the league, and the White Sox made a handful on Thursday.

Most notably, they declined a $3 million option on Albers for the 2017 season, instead exercising a $250,000 buyout.

Albers, 33, went 2-6 with a 6.31 ERA in 58 appearances this year. He was unscored upon in April, but was absolutely terrible for the rest of the season. Now, he's a free agent, and it wouldn't surprise me if he's spent his last day in the big leagues.

The Sox also reinstated third baseman Matt Davidson (broken foot) and relief pitcher Jake Petricka (hip surgery) from the 60-day disabled list. Outfielder J.B. Shuck was outrighted to Triple-A Charlotte, and relief pitcher Daniel Webb was given his release.

Somewhat strangely, the whitesox.com article on the moves indicates the Sox's 40-man roster now sits at 37 players. By my count, the Sox added two players to the roster (Davidson and Petricka), while subtracting three (Albers, Shuck and Webb).

That should mean the roster is at 39 players ... hmmmm ...

Worth noting: The Sox have a five-day window to negotiate exclusively with potential free agents Alex Avila and Justin Morneau. Perhaps the team has already decided they have no interest in talking to those two players, and their names will be officially subtracted from the 40-man roster when they become free agents in five days. That would take the roster count down to 37.

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.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Why is David Robertson pitching four days in a row?

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

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

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

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

What is the point of that?

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Two wins in Cleveland? Too much to ask of White Sox ...

Danny Salazar
Everything was set up nicely for the White Sox to steal a series win against the first-place Cleveland Indians on Thursday night.

The South Siders had Carlos Rodon going, and he's been pitching well lately. Meanwhile, the Indians were starting Danny Salazar, who had just come off the disabled list with an elbow problem and hadn't had the benefit of a rehab assignment.

Predictably, Salazar looked terrible. He lasted only one inning, during which he walked the bases loaded and gave up a three-run double to Sox designated hitter Justin Morneau.

Alas, the Sox couldn't make that 3-0 lead stick, and the Indians rallied to win 5-4 and take two out of three in the series.

It's disappointing because, with Salazar out early, the Sox had an opportunity to pile on against Cleveland's lesser relievers. But they let the opportunity slip, mustering only run on two hits in the next five innings against the combination of Kyle Crockett and Mike Clevinger. Both those two Indians pitchers have ERAs over 5, but you never would have known it Thursday night.

Still, the Sox got to the bottom of the seventh inning with a 4-2 lead. Rodon once again did his job. He went six innings, allowing two runs on eight hits. He struck out five and walked nobody. It was his third straight quality outing -- all against contenders (Baltimore, Miami, Cleveland) -- and he probably deserved a win.

He didn't get one, because the bullpen couldn't hold on. Chris Beck gave up a run in the seventh to make it 4-3, and Nate Jones bailed him out with a strikeout to end the inning. Unfortunately, Jones was touched for a run in the eighth, ending Rodon's hopes for victory, and it was 4-4 going to the ninth.

The Sox had a chance to score against Cleveland bullpen ace Andrew Miller (7-1) when Jason Coats doubled with two outs in the ninth, but Dioner Navarro flied out to deep center and the score remained tied.

Jacob Turner (1-2) pitched the bottom of the ninth and quickly lost the game, with help from Navarro. Abraham Almonte doubled leading off, advanced to third on Navarro's passed ball and scored on a sacrifice fly to center field by Tyler Naquin.

Ballgame.

It's the same old, same old for the Sox against division opponents. They are 3-9 against the Indians this year, including 1-5 on the road. They are now a combined 11-27 against Cleveland, Detroit and Kansas City.

This sounds like a broken record, I'm sure, but the narrative of the past several seasons has been the Sox's inability to hold their own against the AL Central teams they play all the time.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

White Sox finally get a win vs. Cleveland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Cleveland's Corey Kluber moving up the list of Cy Young candidates

Among American League starting pitchers, I'm not sure I can find a real obvious favorite for Cy Young. The award might go to the pitcher who gets hot over the last six weeks of the season.

One guy to keep an eye on: Cleveland's Corey Kluber.

Corey Kluber
The Indians right-hander picked up his fourth consecutive win Tuesday, when he defeated the White Sox, 3-1.

Kluber is now 5-0 with a 1.80 ERA over his last seven starts. For the season, he's 13-8 with a 3.15 ERA and a league-best 3.01 FIP. He ranks fourth in the league in strikeouts with 163, and he plays for a first-place team.

Yeah, I like his Cy Young chances if he keeps winning.

Thing is, the Sox had their chances Tuesday night. They got seven hits in six innings off Kluber, including four for extra bases. But, as so often has been the case, the big hit was lacking, and Justin Morneau's solo home run in the sixth represented the only run the Sox could muster against the Cleveland ace.

The "beneficiary" of the offensive misery was once again Jose Quintana (9-9). The Sox left-hander allowed just two runs over six innings, but got saddled with another hard-luck loss.

The second Cleveland run wasn't Quintana's fault. He had Rajai Davis picked off in the third inning, but Sox first baseman Jose Abreu threw high and wide of second base. Davis should have been the first out of the inning, but instead he was safe with a "stolen base." (#typicalWhiteSoxnonsense) Two outs later, Mike Napoli's RBI double gave Cleveland a 2-0 lead, and that was all Kluber and the Indians bullpen needed.

Midseason acquisition Andrew Miller worked two scoreless innings of relief, and Cody Allen pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his 23rd save for the Tribe, who enter Wednesday's play with a six-game lead in the AL Central.

The Sox? They've lost 12 out of 18 overall, and have dropped their last seven head-to-head meetings with the Indians. During those games, they've been outscored, 36-13.

Have we mentioned that the Sox have a lot of problems with divisional opponents during the Robin Ventura Era? I believe we have.

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.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Why won't the White Sox play Justin Morneau vs. LHP?

Justin Morneau -- in younger years
The White Sox wasted more good pitching Thursday night, falling 2-1 to the Kansas City Royals.

After starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez left with an injury in the second inning, there was reason to believe this game could get out of hand. It did not, because relievers Michael Ynoa, Carson Fulmer and Tommy Kahnle combined to pitch seven innings of two-run ball.

Ynoa was particularly impressive. He worked three scoreless innings. He struck out three and did not allow a hit.

Too bad the Sox could muster only one run against Kansas City left-hander Danny Duffy, who pitched his first complete game in 97 career starts.

I guess we shouldn't be surprised given that the Sox fielded this weak lineup:

1. Adam Eaton, CF
2. Tyler Saladino, 3B
3. Melky Cabrera, LF
4. Jose Abreu, DH
5. Todd Frazier, 1B
6. Dioner Navarro, C
7. Tim Anderson, SS
8. Carlos Sanchez, 2B
9. Jason Coats, RF

Noticeable by his absence is Justin Morneau, who has turned out to be a nice addition for the Sox. The veteran is hitting .289/.337/.474 with five doubles, three home runs and nine RBIs in 21 games and 83 plate appearances since his return from the disabled list.

It's a small sample size, but that .811 OPS is better than anybody else on this team.

Given the fact that Morneau has been productive, why is manager Robin Ventura using him as a platoon player? Sure, Duffy is left-handed, and Morneau is left-handed, but what baseball universe are we living in where the light-hitting Sanchez gives the Sox a better chance to win against a pitcher such as Duffy?

Morneau has been allowed only 12 at-bats against left-handed pitching thus far, but he has four hits, including a double and a home run. For his career, he has a slash line of .253/.298/.411 against lefties. That's not world-beating, but it's respectable, and while that .710 OPS pales in comparison to his .891 career OPS against righties, Morneau is a threat every time he steps in the batter's box against either right-handers or left-handers. That's more than we can say for about half the guys listed in the lineup above.

I had one person tell me that Ventura made the right move by sitting Morneau on Thursday, because the Sox are out of the race and they need to "play the kids."

Please.

I could buy that explanation if I actually thought that was what Ventura was doing. But this is a manager who is playing J.B. Shuck over Coats. He's playing Navarro over Omar Narvaez. He's using Matt Albers in high-leverage relief situations instead of Ynoa or Fulmer.

He's not "playing the kids." He's still trying to win games with his veterans. If that's the philosophy he's taking, he needs Morneau to be the DH regardless of who is on the mound. The lineup the Sox trotted out Thursday against Duffy isn't going to cut it.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Anthony Ranaudo's White Sox debut memorable, but unfortunate

Anthony Ranaudo
With Carlos Rodon still stuck on the disabled list, the White Sox turned to Anthony Ranaudo to make a spot start Wednesday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Ranaudo held up his end of the bargain. He carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning and even became the first Sox pitcher to hit a home run since Mark Buehrle in 2009.

But from the sixth inning on, it all unraveled, and the Sox lost 8-1 -- although very little of that damage was Ranaudo's fault.

The Sox led 1-0 into the sixth inning before Kris Bryant ended Ranaudo's no-hit bid and shutout with a solo home run on a 3-1 hanging curve ball. To Ranaudo's credit, he did not get rattled. He retired the next two hitters and got the game into the seventh inning with score tied at 1.

After the first two Sox hitters made outs in the seventh, manager Robin Ventura allowed Ranaudo to hit for himself. I thought that might have been a spot to give Justin Morneau an opportunity to pinch hit against Cubs starter Jason Hammel, but given the Sox's thin bullpen, Ventura decided to try to get another inning out of Ranaudo. A questionable decision, but not indefensible by any means.

It looked like it would work out, initially, as Ranaudo retired Miguel Montero and Addison Russell on groundouts to start the bottom of the inning. That's where things got dicey, and frankly, what occurred the rest of the seventh was not Ranaudo's fault.

The Sox right-hander snapped off beautiful curve ball to Jason Heyward on a 2-2 pitch. It was right at the bottom of the zone and over the plate. It fooled Heyward, and he took it for what should have been strike three, inning over. But catcher Dioner Navarro's lousy framing skills once against cost the Sox. As Navarro caught the pitch, he snapped his glove downward, making it seem like the ball was in the dirt. The Sox didn't get the call, the inning continued, and Heyward walked on the next pitch.

Ranaudo was at 101 pitches at that point, and that should have been the end of his night. Javier Baez was the next Cubs hitter, and Ventura should have gone with one of the power right-handed arms in his bullpen. It would have been nice to see Carson Fulmer, or even Tommy Kahnle, in that spot to give Baez a different look.

Instead, Ranaudo remained, and he hung a 3-2 curve to Baez, who hit one out to give the Cubs the lead for good at 3-1. Then, Ventura emerges from the dugout to make a pitching change.

A day later and a dollar short there, Robin.

Fulmer and Jacob Turner struggled in the bottom of the eighth inning, allowing the Cubs to blow it open with five more runs, but the game was lost with the lousy receiving of Navarro and the questionable decision-making of Ventura in the seventh inning.

Ranaudo deserved a better fate, and to add insult to injury, he was the one who was sent to the minors after the game to make room on the roster for Chris Sale, who is returning from his five-game suspension.

Between the home run and limiting the Cubs to two hits over 6.2 innings, I'd say Ranaudo's debut was a memorable one, but he unfortunately became a victim of the usual White Sox nonsense.

Monday, July 18, 2016

White Sox begin second half with pathetic showing vs. Angels

Hector Santiago
The White Sox couldn't have asked for a worse start to the second half of their season.

They were outscored 16-1 in a three-game series against the last-place Los Angeles Angels. Entering Monday's play, the Sox have scored just one run in their last 41 offensive innings dating back to July 9. They have lost four in a row to slip back below .500 at 45-46, and they are nine games behind the first-place Cleveland Indians in the AL Central.

The Sox also are 5.5 games back in the AL wild-card race, with five teams to pass. That is not good position. Let's have a brief look back at the poor weekend in Los Angeles.

Friday, July 15
Angels 7, White Sox 0: Former Sox lefty Hector Santiago had his way with the South Siders in this game. He struck out five men the first two innings and went on to throw seven innings of shutout ball. He allowed just five hits and walked nobody. He finished with seven strikeouts.

Sox starter Miguel Gonzalez kept his club in the game most of the way. He had allowed only two runs through six innings, but poor defense led to the wheels coming off in the seventh.

First baseman Jose Abreu misplayed a ball off the bat of the Angels' Daniel Nava into a "double," and an error by Tim Anderson put runners on first and third with no outs. The two defensive miscues ended Gonzalez's night and set the table for a five-run Angels rally that saw the Sox burn through three relievers. Anderson committed a second error in the inning that did not help matters.

Saturday, July 16
Angels 1, White Sox 0: I've criticized James Shields quite a bit on this blog, but let's give credit where credit is due: He was outstanding in this game. He pitched a complete game and allowed only two hits. Unfortunately, one of those hits was a leadoff triple by Yunel Escobar in the first inning. Mike Trout got that run home with a RBI groundout, and that was all the Angels needed.

The Sox made Los Angeles starter Matt Shoemaker look like the second coming of Don Drysdale. The right-hander struck out 13 and allowed only six hits in a complete-game shutout.

It was inexcusable, however, that the Sox did not score after Adam Eaton's leadoff double in the ninth inning. Abreu failed to advance the runner with a groundout to shortstop. That was huge because Melky Cabrera followed with a single. Eaton stopped at third on the hit, and he would have scored if Abreu had done something to advance him.

Instead, it was first and third with one out -- still a favorable situation for the Sox -- but neither Todd Frazier nor Justin Morneau could make any contact against the tiring Shoemaker. Both men struck out, securing one of the more unacceptable Sox losses of the season.

Sunday, July 17
Angels 8, White Sox 1: Remember back at SoxFest when I asked Rick Hahn about organizational depth with starting pitching? He said Jacob Turner and Chris Beck were in line as fallback options should anyone in the rotation get injured. My reaction to that was, "Gulp."

Well, Carlos Rodon is on the disabled list, so there was Turner on Sunday, making his first big-league start of the season despite a 4.71 ERA at Triple-A Charlotte.

Results were predictable, as Turner allowed eight runs on seven hits in just four innings of work. He walked three and allowed two titanic home runs by Albert Pujols.

Eaton ended the Sox scoreless streak in the third inning with a two-out RBI double, but the South Siders could muster up nothing else against Jered Weaver, who is 12-2 lifetime against the Sox.

The one bright spot: Two scoreless innings of relief from Carson Fulmer in his big-league debut. The first man Fulmer faced was Pujols, the future Hall of Famer, and he struck him out on three pitches. He showcased his whole arsenal. He grabbed strike one with a fastball, got a swinging strike on changeup with the second pitch, and then Pujols could not check his swing on a slider for strike three.

Fulmer threw 15 of his 21 pitches for strikes. He allowed only one hit. He struck out two and hit a batter. Nice debut overall in an otherwise miserable afternoon for the Sox and their fans.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Carlos Rodon's disappointing first half ends with a dud; Alex Avila heads back to DL; Chris Sale an All-Star

Carlos Rodon
Carlos Rodon is far from the worst player on the White Sox, but he might be the most disappointing.

Many people, including me, thought the young left-hander was poised for a breakout season after a strong finish to his rookie campaign in 2015. Instead, the first half of this year has represented a step backward.

Rodon was shelled in a 9-0 loss to the New York Yankees on Tuesday night at U.S. Cellular Field. He lasted only five innings, giving up a season-high six runs (five earned) on a season-high 12 hits. He struck out just three and walked two. The only inning in which he did not allow a run was the first, and he was fortunate to escape a bases-loaded situation in that inning.

Right now, Rodon is consistently behind in counts. He cannot throw either of his offspeed pitches for strikes consistently. Opposing hitters know the fastball is the only pitch Rodon can get over the plate, and they are feasting on it.

Rodon is going to continue to struggle until he can establish either his slider or his changeup as a pitch that hitters have to honor. In the meantime, his record is 2-7. He hasn't won since May 22. His ERA is up to 4.50, and the Sox are just 5-11 in the 16 games he has started.

Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka silenced the Sox bats Tuesday, so Rodon would have had to have been awful good to have a chance to win this game. However, it's hard for a pitcher to claim non-support when he fails to pitch into the seventh inning and fails to keep his team within striking distance of the opposition.

Avila headed back to disabled list

Sox catcher Alex Avila left Tuesday's game after the fifth inning with a right hamstring strain. Reports after the game indicated Avila is headed back to the 15-day disabled list. This is the same injury that caused Avila to be disabled in late April and into early May.

Avila will have plenty of company on the disabled list, as he joins teammates Austin Jackson, Justin Morneau, Zach Putnam, Jake Petricka, Daniel Webb and Matt Davidson on an increasingly crowded shelf.

The Sox will have to dip into their minor leagues for another catcher before Wednesday's series finale against the Yankees. Kevan Smith (back injury) remains on the DL at Triple-A Charlotte (sensing a theme here?), and the only other catcher on the 40-man roster is recently acquired Alfredo Gonzalez, who is currently in Birmingham and has never played about Double-A.

Omar Narvaez, who was in big league camp during spring training, has been getting the majority of the playing time recently at Charlotte and is another possibility.

Sale headed to All-Star Game

On a brighter note, Sox ace Chris Sale was chosen to represent the American League in the All-Star Game for the fifth consecutive season.

Sale leads the league with 14 wins against just two losses in his 17 starts. He also leads the league in innings pitched (120) and WHIP (0.98) and ranks third with a 2.93 ERA.

It would be surprising if Sale does not get the nod to start the game, although American League manager Ned Yost has not yet announced his decision.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Are the White Sox phasing out Avisail Garcia?

Avisail Garcia
Here is a little-noticed detail from the White Sox's weekend series against the Toronto Blue Jays: Avisail Garcia was not in the starting lineup Saturday or Sunday.

As I was driving to the ballpark Sunday, I heard WLS radio host Connor McKnight say Garcia was "getting another day off." That's a charitable way to say it. If a player is sitting for one game, that's a "day off." If a player is sitting for consecutive games, that player is either injured or the manager is looking for better options.

We saw a couple of interesting lineup constructions from Sox manager Robin Ventura over the weekend. Garcia played Friday as the designated hitter, but we saw Todd Frazier at first base -- Jose Abreu got the day off.

In Saturday's game, Ventura had both of his catchers in the lineup with Alex Avila serving as the designated hitter, and Dioner Navarro behind the plate. The move actually worked. Avila had a home run and a double, and Navarro also homered.

Tyler Saladino got a start at third base Sunday, with Frazier moving to designated hitter. This move also worked. Saladino walked and scored the first run of the game, and he started two slick 5-4-3 double plays that helped Sox ace Chris Sale pick up his 13th win of the season.

There are two conclusions I can draw from these moves: First, Ventura and staff have no use for Jason Coats. And who can blame them? Coats is 1 for 15 in 21 plate appearances since his recall from Triple-A Charlotte. He hasn't shown anything in limited opportunities, and it seems as if he's a waste of a roster spot at this point.

Secondly, Garcia is taking a seat because he has been providing next to nothing in terms of extra-base pop in the designated hitter role. He's a lousy defensive outfielder and a poor base runner, and he's not getting any better with the bat:

Garcia in 2015: .257/.309/.365 with 13 home runs and 59 RBIs in 601 plate appearances
Garcia in 2016: .247/.309/.358 with 5 home runs and 25 RBIs in 236 plate appearances

These are similar slash lines, and even though Garcia is still relatively young at age 25, after 1,334 plate appearances in the majors, you start to believe that he's never going to be much better than he is right now.

And what he is right now is not good enough to be an everyday designated hitter. Garcia's slugging percentage for the month of June is a pathetic .265. He has one extra-base hit (a double) in 75 plate appearances this month. His last home run came May 28, and that's the only long ball he has hit since May 6.

We're talking about a hitter who is 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, and he still hasn't shown he can drive the ball with any consistency, despite receiving more than enough opportunities from the Sox.

It seems as if Ventura has seen enough, and I can't blame him.

Saladino has a .394 slugging percentage this season -- that's 36 points higher than Garcia's slugging percentage. And Saladino provides strong defense at any position on the infield, and he's a threat to steal a base when he gets on. If Garcia is not going to hit the ball off the wall or over it as a designated hitter, then the Sox are a better team with Saladino taking Garcia's spot in the lineup. Quite simply, Saladino can do more things.

The Sox can play Saladino at third and use Frazier as the DH. The Sox can play Saladino at second base and use Brett Lawrie as the DH. The Sox can put Saladino at third, shift Frazier to first and use Abreu as the DH.

Any of these lineup combinations seem more appealing that Garcia as DH at this stage. The Sox, obviously, intend for Justin Morneau to be the DH against right-handed pitching when he comes off the disabled list sometime after the All-Star break. But until that happens, Ventura is probably better off going with a rotating DH, and he showed signs of going in that direction with his lineup construction against Toronto.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Who takes Adam LaRoche's spot on White Sox roster?

Travis Ishikawa
Adam LaRoche hasn't officially announced his retirement yet, but we'll go ahead and assume he's played his last game with the White Sox.

What impact will this have on the roster moving forward?

For starters, it likely means a full-time role for recently signed outfielder Austin Jackson. The best guess here is Jackson is the center fielder, Adam Eaton moves to left field and Melky Cabrera replaces LaRoche as the primary DH. Here's the current projected starting nine, assuming Jimmy Rollins makes the club -- and we have no reason to believe he won't:

C: Alex Avila
1B: Jose Abreu
2B: Brett Lawrie
SS: Rollins
3B: Todd Frazier
LF: Eaton
CF: Jackson
RF: Avisail Garcia
DH: Cabrera

The four bench spots? Well, I think I have a good idea on three of them:

C: Dioner Navarro
IF: Tyler Saladino
OF: J.B. Shuck
UT: ???????????

With LaRoche out of the mix, the battle is on for the 13th and final position player spot on the roster. The Sox are now without an obvious choice for backup first baseman. Traditionally, they've had Abreu DH once or twice a week for the sake of keeping him healthy over the course of a long season. I would expect that trend to continue, but who plays first base on those days?

Frazier has 83 games of MLB experience at first base, and Avila has 24. Those two are options. Or, will the Sox consider bringing Travis Ishikawa north with the team? Ishikawa is mostly a first baseman, although he's played some games as a corner outfielder. He doesn't have much pop -- only 23 home runs in 1,050 MLB plate appearances -- but he is a left-handed hitter. Left-handedness is something the Sox are lacking in terms of position players.

Jerry Sands has gotten some playing time at first base this spring, and he has some power -- 151 home runs in eight minor-league seasons. But, the 28-year-old fits the profile of a Quad-A player, and he's an outfielder by trade. It seems unlikely the Sox will come north with six outfielders on their 25-man roster. Further, they already have plenty of right-handed hitters.

What about Carlos Sanchez? He's a good infielder and would provide defensive versatility. However, Saladino provides those things, as well, making the two redundant on the roster. I wouldn't expect Sanchez to come north unless the 37-year-old Rollins gets hurt, or the club sours on Saladino for some reason. That seems unlikely, since the Sox spoke glowingly of Saladino's defense all offseason.

Then, there's Matt Davidson. Were you ready to write him off after two bad years at Triple-A? Me too. But, he's opened some eyes this spring. He hit two home runs -- including a walk-off shot -- in Tuesday's 8-6 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. He is hitting .455/.478/1.045 with four home runs and only two strikeouts in 23 plate appearances this spring. That isn't enough to erase the woes of the past two seasons, but Davidson is suddenly worth keeping an eye on, just in case he pulls off some sort of career Lazarus act.

There also are outside-the-organization possibilities. The assorted rumors about Andre Ethier, Carlos Gonzalez and Jay Bruce become a little more plausible, with the Sox in need of a left-handed bat and suddenly having $13 million in unexpected savings.

Or, maybe they'll kick the tires on Justin Morneau, who is still a free agent and has health question marks. Wouldn't it be odd to see Morneau in a Sox uniform, given the mutual hatred that existed between him and the Sox during his Minnesota days?