Showing posts with label Matt Davidson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Matt Davidson. Show all posts

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, June 25, 2018

White Sox salvage split with Oakland with Sunday blowout

Carlos Rodon
Carlos Rodon went eight innings and got the win Sunday. Yoan Moncada had six RBIs as the White Sox trounced the Oakland Athletics, 10-3.

It was cathartic, wasn't it?

The Sox recently have been through another really rough stretch of baseball, but you take the positives where you can, and Sunday's rout to salvage a split of a four-game set with Oakland was one of those days where it was OK to smile.

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

Friday, June 22
Athletics 11, White Sox 2 (Game 1): The Sox entered this series off a 12-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians, and the "clownish" play continued in the opener of a doubleheader.

Sox starter James Shields (2-9) allowed eight runs over 4.2 innings, but only two were earned as the South Siders totaled three errors -- two by Moncada.

Oakland scored four runs in the second inning and four more in the fifth to take an 8-0 lead, so this was one over early and ugly throughout.

White Sox 6, Athletics 4 (Game 2): This probably was the best outing we've seen from Lucas Giolito (5-7) all season, as his fastball was sitting at 95 mph for much of the game, unlike the 91-92 we've become accustomed to in several of his previous starts.

Giolito's line doesn't look all that great: four earned runs allowed in seven plus innings, but he walked off the mound with a 5-2 lead in the eighth. A couple of inherited runners scored that were added to his line.

Give left-handed reliever Xavier Cedeno some credit -- he entered the game with runners on first and third and no outs in the top of the eighth with the Sox clinging to a 5-4 lead. Cedeno pitched out of it, and Tim Anderson added an insurance run in the bottom of the inning with a solo home run.

Anderson went 2 for 4 with a double, a home run and three runs scored.

Saturday, June 23
Athletics 7, White Sox 6: Anderson continued his hot hitting with a three-run homer in the first inning Saturday that staked the Sox to an early 5-0 lead.

Alas, Oakland rallied for the win. Dylan Covey exited in the fifth inning with a groin strain -- the Sox were leading 5-2 at the time -- and the wheels came off from there. Chris Volstad allowed two inherited runners to score, and gave up two earned runs of his own.

Juan Minaya (0-2) took the loss by allowing a run in the eighth, but some poor defense was played behind him. Minaya struck out the first two hitters, and got a routine fly to right off the bat of Stephen Piscotty. OK, maybe it wasn't routine, because Avisail Garcia lost the ball in the sun. It fell for a "double."

Piscotty then scored on a two-out RBI single by Nick Martini that put the A's up, 7-6.

Oakland committed two infield errors in the bottom of the ninth. Despite its efforts to give the game back to the Sox, the South Siders could not take advantage. Matt Davidson grounded into a game-ending double play with two runners on.

Sunday, June 24
White Sox 10, Athletics 3: The turning point came in the top of the fifth inning. Oakland led, 2-0, and had runners on second and third with nobody out.

Rodon was on the ropes, but he punched his way out of it, inducing a weak grounder to third, getting a strikeout, and then a weak popout to second base.

The Sox scored five in the bottom of the inning, highlighted by Moncada's two-out, three run double. The second baseman added three more RBIs with a home run in the bottom of the sixth, as the Sox added five more runs.

Given a 10-2 lead, Rodon cruised through the eighth inning. He only struck out three, but he did not walk a batter -- note to all Sox pitchers, everything works better when you throw strikes.

Sox relievers walked three men in the top of the ninth, and Oakland scored a run, but the Sox effectively ended any doubt about the outcome when Moncada homered in the sixth.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

White Sox infielder Matt Davidson hitting better in recent games

Matt Davidson
The White Sox (24-47) have lost five games in a row, and they appear to be descending back into the seventh sector of hell.

But infielder Matt Davidson has provided a bit of a bright spot. He homered for the second consecutive game Monday, his team-leading 13th home run, as the Sox lost, 6-2, to the Cleveland Indians.

It's good to see Davidson hitting for power after returning from the disabled list. He did not play from May 22 to June 5 because of back spasms, and for some reason, he was thrown right back into the major league lineup without the benefit of a rehab assignment.

In his first seven games after coming off the disabled list, Davidson went 2 for 24 with 14 strikeouts. The slump culminated in back-to-back games in which Davidson went 0 for 4 with four strikeouts June 10 and 11.

But in the past six games, Davidson has found his swing again, going 9 for 23 with three doubles, two home runs and four RBIs. He's still struck out nine times, of course, but the high strikeout totals become more palatable when coupled with power production.

The way the Sox have handled rehab assignments, or the lack thereof, has been confusing to me as of late. Davidson came right back into the major leagues, but Avisail Garcia remains at Triple-A Charlotte after five rehab games.

In five games for the Knights, Garcia is slashing .353/.450/.706 with three doubles, three walks, a home run and six RBIs. It seems to me he's ready to return to the lineup, but the Sox are saying Garcia will play two more games in Charlotte on Tuesday and Wednesday, before a possible return this weekend against the Oakland A's.

Granted, Garcia hasn't played in the majors since April 23 because of a strained right hamstring. So, he missed much more time than Davidson, but if he's feeling good, it's head-scratching why he hasn't been activated.

The Sox had no problem throwing Davidson right into the mix, but they are taking their time with Garcia, for whatever reason.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

James Shields beats Indians, gets first win since March 29

James Shields
I had a sense that Tuesday's pitching matchup provided the White Sox with their best chance to beat the Cleveland Indians in this week's four-game series.

Sure enough, the Sox won Tuesday, 5-1. 

Does it sound weird that I expected to win a James Shields start? Maybe, but my hopes for victory Tuesday were less about Shields and more about the Cleveland starter, Adam Plutko.

Plutko's name is not Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer or Mike Clevinger, and I figured he would be the one Indians starter the Sox could hit.

They hit him all right, as Yoan Moncada and Yolmer Sanchez hit home runs on back-to-back pitches in the bottom of the first inning. Matt Davidson added a pair of RBI doubles -- one in the first and one in the fifth -- and Omar Narvaez contributed an RBI single as the Sox touched up Plutko for five runs over 4.2 innings.

And, oh yeah, credit Shields (2-7) for doing his job. He went seven innings and allowed only one run on four hits. He didn't miss many bats -- only two strikeouts -- but he didn't walk anybody, and he induced a fair amount of weak contact with 14 fly-ball outs.

Shields has pitched six innings or more in each of his past 10 games, and this is his first victory since March 29 -- the season opener in Kansas City. His ERA is down to 4.63, after being at 6.14 after the month of April.

Is Shields emerging as a potential midseason trade candidate? I'm not holding my breath, but Sox fans can hope. He's pitching better now than at any point since he put on a Sox uniform.

Monday, June 4, 2018

White Sox activate Matt Davidson from 10-day DL

Matt Davidson
The White Sox on Monday activated infielder Matt Davidson from the 10-day disabled list and optioned catcher Alfredo Gonzalez and infielder Matt Skole to Triple-A Charlotte.

Davidson, who is hitting .243 with 11 home runs and 28 RBIs in 42 games this season, has been out since May 25 with back spasms.

Gonzalez, who was called up when Welington Castillo was suspended for 80 games for PED usage, went 1 for 9 in his short big-league stint. He collected his first hit and first RBI on Sunday with a game-tying single in the fifth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Skole went 3 for 11 with a solo home run in four games. He became the sixth Sox player in team history to homer in his first major-league game May 28 at Cleveland.

The moves leave the Sox's active roster at 24 men. We'll see two more players added before Tuesday's doubleheader against the Minnesota Twins.

Obviously, one of the two will be a catcher. Both Kevan Smith and Dustin Garneau are on the 40-man roster. We shall see which player gets the call. I predict it will be Smith.

The Sox also can add a "26th man" for the doubleheader. It likely will not be a starting pitcher -- both Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez have had enough rest to pitch Tuesday. I figure we'll see a reliever who is on the 40-man roster, such as Juan Minaya or Greg Infante, but only for a day.

Carlos Rodon likely will be activated from the 60-day disabled list before the week is over, but that probably won't happen Tuesday, since Rodon just pitched for Triple-A Charlotte on his rehab assignment Sunday. I would not be surprised to see him pitch for the Sox on Friday against Boston.

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?

Friday, April 27, 2018

Let's have some fun with small sample sizes (White Sox vs. Royals edition)

Matt Davidson
Sometimes, statistics can be funny in April. A few examples:

(All numbers are through games of April 26)

White Sox home runs this season: 30
White Sox home runs at Guaranteed Rate Field: 8
White Sox home runs at Kauffman Stadium: 12

White Sox wins this season: 6
White Sox wins at Guaranteed Rate Field: 2
White Sox wins at Kauffman Stadium: 3

Matt Davidson home runs this season: 7
Matt Davidson home runs at Guaranteed Rate Field: 1
Matt Davidson home runs at Kauffman Stadium: 5

White Sox runs scored this season: 83
White Sox runs scored at Guaranteed Rate Field: 34
White Sox runs scored at Kauffman Stadium: 24

Why is all this so ridiculous?

Well, the Sox have only played three games this season at Kauffman Stadium against the Royals, while they've played 12 games at Guaranteed Rate Field.

But the Sox have hit more home runs in Kansas City than they have in their home stadium; they've won more games in Kansas City than they have in their home stadium; and hell, almost all of Davidson's season production has occurred in the three games they've played in Kansas City.

Davidson hit three home runs in a 14-7 win on Opening Day, and he hit two more homers Thursday in a 6-3 Sox win.

Obviously, all of this will even out eventually. Perhaps the Royals will turn the tables on the Sox before the weekend is over, but for now, the whole thing is sort of amusing.

Monday, April 23, 2018

White Sox overmatched by defending champion Astros

Danny Farquhar
The White Sox have lost seven in a row and 12 out of 13. They were outscored, 27-2, at home by the defending champion Houston Astros over the weekend, and relief pitcher Danny Farquhar is fighting for his life after collapsing in the dugout Friday night because of a brain hemorrhage.

And, Monday's scheduled starter against the Seattle Mariners, Miguel Gonzalez, has just been placed on the 10-day disabled list with a swollen ERA, errr ... right rotator cuff inflammation.

The Sox purchased the contract of Chris Beck from Triple-A Charlotte and transferred Farquhar to the 60-day disabled list to make room on the 40-man roster. Greg Infante also is back on the Sox, having been recalled Saturday after Farquhar was rushed to the hospital Friday evening.

Reports indicate Farquhar, 31, who has a wife and three children, will need to remain in the hospital for a minimum of three weeks.

Anyone having fun yet this season? I guess it can only get better from here. Here's a look back at the weekend that was:

Friday, April 20
Astros 10, White Sox 0: It would have been foolish to expect a different outcome with James Shields pitching against Justin Verlander, but that doesn't mean it was easy to watch.

Shields hung in there for three innings before the Astros erupted for five runs in the fourth inning. Houston added four more in the sixth against the combination of Shields (1-2) and Farquhar, and obviously, what happened with Farquhar in the dugout after that inning was difficult for all those involved to witness.

The Sox managed only two hits off Verlander (3-0), who fanned five over six scoreless innings. With the game out of reach, the Astros chose not to extend their ace. They used a combination of three relievers that held the South Siders hitless over the last three innings.

Saturday, April 21
Astros 10, White Sox 1: This game was the most disappointing one of the weekend for me, as I had high hopes for Lucas Giolito coming into the season, but he has been dreadful in his first four starts.

He gave up four runs in the first inning Saturday, then walked the bases loaded in the second before allowing a grand slam to Josh Reddick to put the Sox in an 8-0 hole.

For good measure, Giolito walked the first two batters of the third inning before manager Rick Renteria mercifully made a pitching change.

Giolito's final line: 2 IP, 5 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 1 K, 7 BBs, only 32 of 71 pitches thrown for strikes.

Terrible. Giolito's season ERA now sits at 9.00. His WHIP is 1.850.

The Sox managed one run off Houston starter Dallas Keuchel (1-3) in six innings. Newly reacquired outfielder Trayce Thompson hit a solo home run in the fifth.

Sunday, April 22
Astros 7, White Sox 1: I wasn't overly thrilled to see Reynaldo Lopez walk four guys and strike out only two over five innings, but hey, he limited the Astros one run on four hits over that time.

These days, that qualifies as a great start for a Sox pitcher. The South Siders scored their one run in the second inning off Lance McCullers (3-1) on back-to-back doubles by Matt Davidson and Yolmer Sanchez.

Lopez, who reportedly was fighting a stomach bug, needed 100 pitches to get through five innings, but he exited in 1-1 tie.

The Astros put the game away, however, with five runs in the seventh inning off the combination of Aaron Bummer (0-1), Bruce Rondon and Nate Jones.

Bummer took the loss because he gave up a leadoff single to the only batter he faced, but Rondon was the reliever most responsible for the big inning. He faced five batters, retired only one and allowed two hits and two walks.

The Astros took a 6-1 lead into the bottom of the seventh, and most fans headed to the exits early, knowing a Houston sweep was imminent.

The Sox dropped to 1-8 at home this season, entering this week's three-game series against the Mariners.

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.

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.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Following up: Carson Fulmer stays in race for fifth-starter spot

The White Sox offense produced 20 hits and five walks in a 15-2 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday, but Carson Fulmer's performance still is the story coming out of this game.

Fulmer entered Monday's outing with an unsightly 18.90 Cactus League ERA, but this latest performance will help. The right-hander worked four scoreless, hitless innings. He struck out four and walked three.

Pretty good, right?

Yeah, in comparison to other outings this spring, Fulmer was spectacular. However, I still have reservations about putting him in the starting rotation when the regular season starts.

Fulmer threw 72 pitches Monday, and only 38 of them were for strikes -- a 52.8 percent strike percentage. Velocity was good -- 91 to 94 mph on the fastball -- movement was good -- there's a reason he gave up no hits -- but his command still leaves a lot to be desired.

At one point, spanning the second and third innings, Fulmer missed the strike zone on 15 out of 16 pitches.

After getting the first two outs of the second inning, Fulmer issued a four-pitch walk and fell behind 2-0 to Daniel Descalso before getting a fly out to end the inning.

He started the third inning with a pair of four-pitch walks. After Jarrod Dyson's deep flyout, Fulmer fell behind in the count 3-0 to A.J. Pollock before rallying to record a strikeout. Pollock was caught looking at a 3-2 fastball that might have been low, and given his wildness, Fulmer was fortunate to get a call for the second out. He then got Paul Goldschmidt to fly out to end the Arizona scoring opportunity.

Fulmer navigated a successful fourth inning. He might have come back out for the fifth had the Sox not scored seven runs in the top of that inning. That's too long for a pitcher to sit in a spring training game, so the Sox wisely went to the bullpen.

Fulmer's competition for the rotation spot, Hector Santiago, pitched two scoreless innings of relief in this game, which also featured three-hit performances from Adam Engel and Matt Davidson.

Both Engel and Davidson have hit over .300 this spring, so it appears both will hold their roster spots.

Michael Kopech, however, has been assigned to minor-league camp, as expected, in a roster move made Tuesday.

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.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

White Sox avoid infamy, split four games with Detroit

Matt Boyd
The White Sox scored 29 runs through the first three games of their four-game weekend series against the Detroit Tigers.

So, naturally, on Sunday, they went out and nearly got no-hit by one of the worst starting pitchers in the American League -- Detroit left-hander Matt Boyd.

Boyd retired 26 of the first 27 hitters he faced in a 12-0 victory, with Rob Brantly being the only man to reach base on a walk with two outs in the top of the third inning.

Alas, Sox shortstop Tim Anderson broke up the no-hit bid with a two-out double in the top of the ninth. The Sox are lucky the Tigers had a third baseman (Nick Castellanos) playing right field, because a good outfielder might have run down Anderson's liner into the right-center field gap.

Boyd finished with a one-hitter, and that will be forgotten about by next week -- if it hasn't been forgotten about already. No-hitters live forever, and it would have been embarrassing for the Sox to be no-hit by Boyd, who is 6-10 with a 5.33 ERA this season.

Crazy thing is, Boyd had been 0-4 with a 6.13 ERA in eight previous career starts against the Sox. Normally, I look forward to seeing Boyd on the mound, so I have no idea how he managed to pitch a one-hitter in Sunday's game.

Here's a look back at the rest of the series:

Thursday, Sept. 14
White Sox 17, Tigers 7: The Sox pounded 25 hits, including 21 singles, and forced the Tigers to use eight pitchers.

It was a career day for right fielder Avisail Garcia, who went 5 for 5 with a three-run homer and seven RBIs. The top five hitters in the Sox lineup combined for 19 hits. Yoan Moncada had four hits, including a home run, and scored five runs. Jose Abreu had four hits, three runs scored and two RBIs. Anderson went 3 for 7 with two runs scored and two RBIs, and Matt Davidson went 3 for 5 with three RBIs. It was quite an offensive display.

And, Tyler Saladino went 0 for 6. Hey, somebody has gotta make the outs, right?

The Sox got a decent outing from James Shields (4-6), who allowed four runs over six innings and struck out seven. With that kind of run support, even the erstwhile Shields is a good bet to pick up a victory.

Friday, Sept. 15
Tigers 3, White Sox 2: There were two positive signs the Sox could take out of this loss. First and foremost, they got a second consecutive good start from Carson Fulmer.

Fulmer went six innings, allowing one run on four hits. He struck out five and walked only one. The right-hander allowed only one run in six innings in his previous start against the San Francisco Giants, so it's possible Fulmer has found something after struggling for much of the year at Triple-A Charlotte.

Or, perhaps Fulmer just capitalized on pitching against two bad teams in San Francisco and Detroit. His next scheduled start should be against AL West champion Houston, so that might provide a better measure of Fulmer's progress.

The other positive sign? Moncada homered for the second straight game. The prized prospect has been swinging the bat better of late.

The bullpen combination of Al Alburquerque (0-2), Aaron Bummer and Juan Minaya coughed this game up by allowing a run in the bottom of the ninth inning, but what else would you expect from that group?

Saturday, Sept. 16
White Sox 10, Tigers 4: The Sox scored six runs in the first two innings and went on to total 17 hits in a lopsided win.

Anderson went 4 for 5 with two runs scored, Moncada collected two more hits, Nick Delmonico connected for his eighth home run of the season, and Abreu is up to 97 RBIs after he knocked in two more runs in this game.

The run support was useful for right-hander Reynaldo Lopez (2-3), who struggled early but settled in to throw seven innings. The Tigers got three off Lopez in the second inning, but only one the rest of the way.

Lopez, Fulmer and Lucas Giolito all have two wins each since being called up from Charlotte. All of them are at least contenders for rotation spots in the 2018 season.

Sunday, Sept. 17
Tigers 12, White Sox 0: We already talked about this terrible game, so can I just say Dylan Covey is NOT a contender for a rotation spot in the 2018 season and move on?

Thanks.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Reynaldo Lopez was good; the rest of the White Sox were bad

Carlos Carrasco
The White Sox are 54-84 with 24 games remaining. That's a lot of losses, and it's hard to say any one single game is the worst I've seen this team play this season.

However, Wednesday's 5-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians has to be on the short list.

Yes, the Indians are good. They've won 14 in a row for a reason. And Carlos Carrasco is a good pitcher. He's 14-6 this season for a reason.

But there were some pretty pathetic at-bats turned in by Sox hitters Wednesday, as Carrasco needed only 97 pitches to sail through a complete-game, three-hitter. The Cleveland right-hander was one out away from a shutout, and he faced the minimum 26 batters through 8.2 innings. Adam Engel hit a meaningless solo home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to save the Sox from complete disgrace.

As bad as the Sox offense was, their defense was even worse. Rookie right-hander Reynaldo Lopez (0-3) has three quality starts in his four outings with the Sox, and this performance was probably the best of the bunch. He deserves a handshake for making it through six innings and allowing only one run to the red-hot Indians, especially given the horrible play behind him.

In the first inning, first baseman Matt Davidson booted a grounder that should have been an inning-ending 3-6-3 double play. Lopez bailed him out by getting Edwin Encarnacion to pop out and Carlos Santana to fly out. No runs allowed.

Shortstop Tyler Saladino kicked a ball that should have been a double play in the second inning. The official scorer inexplicably ruled it a "double." Lopez faced a second-and-third, one-out situation for the second inning in a row, and he again escaped with a strikeout and a popout.

In the fourth inning, the Indians loaded the bases with nobody out on a walk and two "singles." One glanced off the glove of Nick Delmonico after the rookie left fielder took a bad route to the ball. The other "single" should have been turned into an out by second baseman Alen Hanson but was not. Lopez was forced to get five outs in the inning. He allowed a sacrifice fly and nothing more, and that was a good job of pitching.

When Lopez left the game, the Sox trailed 1-0 in a game that could have easily been 5-0 or 6-0. The Indians broke it open late against the Chicago bullpen, and the Sox received a well-deserved loss, even though Lopez deserved a better fate.

The Sox are outmanned against the Indians, so to some extent you can live with losses to this Cleveland team. But there was a sloppiness to Wednesday's game that cannot sit well.

Carlos Rodon will get his shot at ending the Cleveland winning streak Thursday night, and with his stuff, he always has a puncher's chance against any lineup. But he's going to need his teammates to catch the ball for him. The Indians have their ace, Corey Kluber (14-4), scheduled to pitch, so Cleveland has good reason to like its chances of extending this win streak to 15. If the Indians are successful, it will be a new franchise record.