Showing posts with label Tim Anderson. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tim Anderson. 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.

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, June 11, 2018

White Sox knock Red Sox out of first place

Chris Sale
The Boston Red Sox entered this weekend with a 22-9 record at home, and they led the AL East by a half-game over the New York Yankees.

Boston is now 23-11 at home, and a half-game behind the Yankees, after it inexplicably lost two out of three to the White Sox over the weekend. The Red Sox were throwing their three most accomplished pitchers -- Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello -- against the White Sox, which makes the Chicago victory all the more shocking.

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

Friday, June 8
White Sox 1, Red Sox 0: At the start of the season, Dylan Covey (2-1) wasn't on the Sox's 40-man roster. Now, he's won a pitchers' duel against Sale.

Sale did what you would expect: He went eight innings, allowing one run on six hits with 10 strikeouts and only one walk.

Covey did what you wouldn't expect: He tossed six shutout innings, allowing only three hits and one walk while striking out seven. Really, Covey has the same sinker-slider arsenal he had last season when he went 0-7. The difference this year? His fastball is sitting at 93 to 95 mph, instead of 91 to 93. Remarkable that he's had a bit of a velocity jump in his age-26 season.

The Sox's lone run came in the seventh, when Trayce Thompson singled over a drawn-in infield to score Kevan Smith, who hit a bloop ground-rule double earlier in the inning.

Three Sox relievers combined for three scoreless, hitless innings, with Joakim Soria earning his seventh save of the season.

Saturday, June 9
Red Sox 4, White Sox 2: Three Sox errors cost Carlos Rodon two runs in his first start of the season, and that turned out to be the difference in the game.

Rodon's stuff looked better as his outing moved along. He got himself into a first-and-third, no-outs jam in the bottom of the fourth inning, but he struck out Blake Swihart, Jackie Bradley and Andrew Benintendi in succession to escape trouble.

He finished with seven strikeouts and two walks, while allowing four runs (two earned) on six hits over five innings. Alas, two of the six hits were homers -- one by Bradley and the other by J.D. Martinez, and that combined with the errors led to the Sox's demise.

The South Siders scored two runs in the first inning off Price, but the Boston left-hander put up five zeroes after that, and the Red Sox bullpen tossed three innings of scoreless relief.

Sunday, June 10
White Sox 5, Red Sox 2: Tim Anderson had no hits in this game, but his play was one of the biggest factors in the outcome.

The Sox's shortstop worked a two-out, bases-loaded walk in the top of the third inning to put his team ahead for good at 2-1. He saved a run with his glove by ranging deep in the hole to take away a hit from Xander Bogaerts in the fifth. He worked a leadoff walk in the sixth inning, and later scored from second base on a groundout by Thompson, after Porcello tripped while cover first base on the play.

Three big plays by Anderson, two that created runs for the Sox, and one that took away a run from Boston.

Reynaldo Lopez (2-4) picked up the win for the Sox. He pitched 6.1 innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on six hits. He struck out six and walked three.

Jace Fry recorded four outs out of the Sox bullpen, including one with the bases loaded in the seventh and the Sox clinging to the a 3-2 lead.

Daniel Palka's two-out, two-run double in the top of the ninth provided some breathing room, and Soria pitched the bottom half of the inning for his eighth save.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

White Sox select infielder Nick Madrigal with No. 4 pick in MLB draft

In a decision that wasn't surprising, the White Sox selected Oregon State infielder Nick Madrigal with the No. 4 overall pick in Monday's MLB draft.

Madrigal has been playing second base this season, but has played shortstop in the past. His fielding percentage is 1.000, and his offensive slash isn't half-bad either: .406/.470/.586 with three home runs, four triples, seven doubles, 32 RBIs and 32 runs scored in 32 games.

Unlike other Sox prospects, the hit tool seems to be Madrigal's strength. He has only struck out five times in 133 at-bats this season, and some consider him to be the best pure hitter in this year's draft.

Coming into the draft, the debate seemed to be whether the Sox would select Madrigal or Florida pitcher Brady Singer.

Me personally, I'm normally someone who says, "When in doubt, take the pitcher." This time, I broke from the norm and wanted the Sox to take a position player.

From everything I've seen and read, the only pitcher in this year's draft worth a top-5 selection was Auburn right-hander Casey Mize. Detroit took Mize first overall, as expected, and there was never a thought he'd still be on the board for the Sox at No. 4.

I think Singer can be a good pitcher, but I didn't see him as good enough to merit being drafted in the top 5. MLB executives seemed to agree, as Singer fell to Kansas City as the 18th overall selection.

Madrigal was a consensus top-5 pick in every mock draft I saw, so this seems to be a reasonable selection by the Sox.

But he's a middle infielder, you say. What about Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada? Yes, indeed the Sox have a pair of young players in the middle infield that they hope to make cornerstones of their future. However, if Madrigal pans out, and the Sox have too many good players in the middle infield, that's the sort of problem every team would like to have.

And, it's the opposite problem that the Sox have had for most of this decade, which is not enough good players at any position. Thumbs-up for more depth and more options.

Monday, June 4, 2018

White Sox (shockingly) win a series against Milwaukee Brewers

Tim Anderson
Next time a Cubs fan makes a snide remark to me while I'm wearing a White Sox shirt or hat around town -- and believe me, that happens often -- I'll be sure to point out that the Sox did the Cubs a favor by taking two out of three games from the NL Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers over the weekend.

This marks the first time the Sox (18-38) have won a series against a legitimate contender this season, and the Brewers (37-23) saw their division lead over the Cubs trimmed from four games to two.

Here's a look back at the weekend's action:

Friday, June 1
White Sox 8, Brewers 3: The Sox fell behind 3-0 early as starting pitcher Hector Santiago got knocked out in the fourth inning, but the hitters battled back with three runs in the third, three in the sixth and two in the seventh.

The offensive output was satisfying, as the Sox roughed up three Milwaukee relievers who used to play on the South Side of Chicago -- Boone Logan, Matt Albers and Dan Jennings.

Tim Anderson's two-out, two run triple in the sixth off Albers broke a 3-3 tie and gave the Sox the lead for good. Moments later, Omar Narvaez singled home Anderson to make it 6-3.

The Sox tacked on two more in the seventh against Jennings. Meanwhile, the Brewers could not muster a single hit against a combination of five Sox relievers -- Chris Volstad, Luis Avilan, Joakim Soria, Bruce Rondon and Nate Jones -- over the last 5.2 innings of the game. Avilan (2-0) picked up the win.

Saturday, June 2
Brewers 5, White Sox 0: I've been critical of James Shields, but some credit is due to him, despite his 1-6 record.

Sure, he took the loss again Saturday, but he pitched a respectable game. He went seven-plus innings, allowing three runs on eight hits. He struck out six and walked only one. The three runs allowed all came on solo home runs.

Some days, that's good enough to win. Shields has had a lot of games recently where he was good enough to win, and just didn't because of the bad team around him.

Shields has worked seven innings or more in four consecutive starts. He has worked six innings or more in eight consecutive starts. Six of the eight have been quality starts, but none of them have resulted in wins.

Tough luck.

On Saturday, the Sox managed only five hits against the combination of Jhoulys Chacin (4-1) and two Milwaukee relievers. That is not a recipe for success.

Sunday, June 3
White Sox 6, Brewers 1: Albers didn't take the loss in this game -- Milwaukee starter Brent Suter (5-4) did -- but the portly former Sox reliever wore the goat horns once more.

With the score tied at 1, Yolmer Sanchez's leadoff single in the sixth inning sent Suter to the showers in favor of Albers, and two batters later, pinch hitter Daniel Palka launched a 433-foot home run to right field that gave the Sox a 3-1 lead. Adam Engel made it back-to-back homers with a wall scraper that deflected off the glove of Milwaukee center fielder Lorenzo Cain and over the fence. 4-1 Sox.

The Sox got to Jennings again, as well, as they added two runs in the eighth. Sanchez walked and scored on a double by Jose Abreu. Moments later, Engel doubled home Abreu to cap the scoring.

Sox starter Dylan Covey pitched five-plus innings of one-run ball, but he received a no-decision. The win went to Volstad (1-3), who combined with Avilan to get through the sixth inning. Soria, Jace Fry and Chris Beck each pitched scoreless innings to close it out.

You're welcome, Cubs.

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?

Thursday, April 26, 2018

White Sox drop another one-run game to the Mariners

Felix Hernandez
The White Sox don't seem capable of winning a series right now -- they've lost their past six series in a row -- but at least this latest three-game set against the Seattle Mariners was more competitive than some of the others.

After winning the first game, the Sox suffered two one-run losses, including a 4-3 defeat Wednesday afternoon.

The Sox got off to a good start. Yoan Moncada hit Felix Hernandez's first pitch of the game for a solo home run. Yolmer Sanchez hit Hernandez's second pitch of the game for a double, and he scored later in the inning on a broken-bat single by Tim Anderson.

But James Shields (1-3) couldn't hold the early 2-0 lead. Seattle tied it at 2 with two runs in the third. The Sox retook the lead, 3-2, in the bottom of the inning on a bases-loaded groundout by Daniel Palka, who went 0 for 4 in his major league debut.

The Mariners tied it in the fifth on an RBI single by Nelson Cruz and took the lead for good in the sixth when Mike Zunino homered off Shields. Hernandez (3-2) kept the Sox off the board in the middle innings, and the Seattle bullpen tossed three innings of shutout relief.

The Sox dropped to 3-5 in one-run games. They've already lost two 1-0 games this season, including one Tuesday against the Mariners. This is a Sox team that is hitting .198 with runners in scoring position. With two outs and runners in scoring position, they are hitting a meager .161.

For all the justifiable consternation about the pitching staff, the Sox would have a few more wins if they were hitting, say, .230 with runners in scoring position. The overall team batting average is .236, so that shouldn't be too much to ask.

I keep thinking a market correction is coming on this, and while the Sox will never be a winning team this season, they should be able to pull out a few more victories with even a modest increase in production with men on base.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Reynaldo Lopez good, White Sox bullpen bad

Reynaldo Lopez
The White Sox lost for the first time this season Monday night, 4-2 to the Toronto Blue Jays, although it was not Reynaldo Lopez's fault.

The right-hander's 2018 debut was an impressive one. He went six innings, allowing only one run on two hits. One of those hits was a solo home run by Josh Donaldson, the other an infield single by Curtis Granderson that could have just as easily been an error on shortstop Tim Anderson.

Lopez struck out six and walked two, and the Sox led, 2-1, in the seventh inning when he left the game.

Alas, relievers Luis Avilan and Danny Farquhar could not hold the lead. We're told that Avilan is a lefty specialist, but the early returns have not been impressive in a small sample size.

In the season opener, Avilan gave up a ringing double to Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas. On Monday, he walked Granderson, allowing the tying run to reach base. Farquhar entered the game and served up a two-strike meatball to Russell Martin, who hit a two-run homer to put Toronto ahead, 3-2.

I don't like the home run at all, but I like the walk in a one-run game even less. Avilan has to get left-handed batters out -- that's his one purpose on the roster.

Farquhar (1-1) gave up another home run in the eighth inning, this one to Aledmys Diaz, that made it 4-2. I don't think this will be the last time the Sox struggle to get outs in the seventh and eighth innings of close games -- the bullpen is the biggest weakness of the team.

The Sox showed an ability to come from behind in each of their first two games, which is a good habit to get into. However, you can't come back every day, and the Toronto bullpen was up to the task the last two innings of Monday's game.

It's unfortunate, because a two-homer game from Welington Castillo went to waste, not to mention the strong outing from Lopez, whose performance would oftentimes be good enough to earn a win.

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.

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 shortstop Tim Anderson surging in second half

Tim Anderson
There is nothing White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson can do at this point to make his overall 2017 statistics look impressive. He struggled both offensively and defensively throughout the first four months of the season, and his numbers reflect that.

There is no greater example than his error total. Anderson has committed 26 errors this season, the most by any shortstop in the American League. There's no getting around it -- that's a high number.

But here's something that is encouraging: Anderson has committed only four errors in his past 53 games. He committed his 22nd error of the season July 16, in his 80th game.

The average fan is going to look at those 26 errors and declare that Anderson is a poor defender. But aside from a two-error game in Texas on Aug. 19, a closer look reveals that Anderson has been playing a mostly clean shortstop for a good two months.

Corner turned? We'll find out next year, and we can hope.

When Anderson was struggling, I suspected he was taking his poor at-bats into the field with him, which is a tendency among many young players. His improved defense coincides with a late-season offensive resurgence.

Entering Tuesday's play, Anderson is riding a nine-game hit streak in which he has gone 18 for 43 (.419 average) with three doubles, a triple and a home run. He also has stolen six bases in his past nine games, nearly doubling his season total from seven to 13.

Anderson has hit in 12 of his past 13 games, and he has posted a .418/.426/.612 slash line in September.

Garbage-time heroics, you say? Well, perhaps, but Anderson has been trending in the right direction offensively since about Aug. 1, and given the choice, wouldn't we rather see a garbage-time surge than another two months of Anderson flailing about?

Here are Anderson's slash lines by month for the season:

April: .204/.237/.301
May: .319/.319/.500
June: .213/.242/.298
July: .198/.207/.296
August: .259/.272/.500
September: .418/.426/.612

June and July were a wasteland for Anderson, and his overall slash line (.262/.281/.414) suffers as a result of those extended struggles. The September performance is not sustainable, of course, but his performance has looked more like it should now for an extended period.

Some fans will point out that Anderson still is not taking many walks, and his on-base percentage is suffering for it. True enough, but I think we all need to get over the idea that Anderson needs to walk more. He isn't going to walk more. That's not who he is as a player. Accept that as reality.

Anderson has good bat-to-ball skills. He has speed and athleticism. Those tools should allow him to get hits, steal bases and play good defense. We've seen him do those things recently. If he can do that with more consistency next season, I'll be content with him as the Sox's starting shortstop, low walk totals be damned.