Baseball

James McCann finds himself in a new world of a different kind in 2020: Backup Catcher, staring at the high likelihood of not reaching 100 games played for the first time in his career since his short debut at the end of 2014. McCann’s 2019 was a pleasant surprise, a torrid start helping to see him to setting career highs with 118 GP, 120 hits, 62 R, 26 2B, 18 HR, 60 RBI, 30 BB, .273/.328/.460/.789 batting line en route to an All-Star nod and a place in Sox fan’s hearts. What did he get for his breakout? a one year, $5.4M deal and a seat on the bench behind new starting backstop/pitch framer extraordinaire Yasmani Grandal. I feel like James isn’t gonna like the dip in GP heading into certain free agency this winter…

2019 Stats

.273/.328/.460, 18 HR, 60 RBI

2.3 fWAR, 3.8 bWAR, 1.0 WARP

6.3 BB%, 28.8 K%

.333 wOBA, 109 wRC+ .789 OPS

5 DRS, -10.2 FRAA, 11th-percentile framing

Last Week On Nitro: James found himself non-tendered by his previous employers in Detroit in the winter of 2018. He’d just come out of the worst season of his short career (57 wRC+) and the the Tigers decided the continued rebuild could do with any other backstop, allowing the 2nd-year arbitration eligible McCann to sign a one year, $2.5M contract with the rival White Sox. McCann sure did go about rubbing Detroit’s nose in it, scorching out of the gates on his way to an All-Star appearance and the aforementioned career marks all over the stat sheet. McCann’s intangibles were also deeply felt at the Arrow, with quick comfort and bonds with Lucas Giolito and others on the pitching staff helping to create some consistency and positive clubhouse culture from a position with a great deal of turnover for the Pale Hose. This all earned him another one year pact, avoiding his final arbitration chance for a cool $5.4M.

The bright lights would fade, though. McCann turned in a 133 wRC+ through the first 61 games and slowly reverted back towards his norm in the final 55 with a 83 wRC+ mark and stark regressions everywhere but in the power department (9 HR in each segment). Stark regression (sick fake band name) to his BB/K ratios and BABIP contributed to the swift end to the party and erased the thin veneer masking his near-league worst framing skills. Rick Hahn and Co., in somewhat of a shocker, decided not to bank on McCann finding a way back to his first half season glory and inked C Yasmani Grandal to the richest free agent contract in team history. Thanks for the good will and early season stat spikes, here’s about 40% of the playing time and double the pay for your troubles.

TOO SWEET (WHOOP WHOOP): The good news is we don’t have to try to project what a full McCann follow up might look like on account of having his playing time slashed to pieces. Shortly after the Grandal signing, there were many easily connectable dots to see a fun timeshare to be had between C-1B-DH among those on the roster in the form of McCann, Grandal, Jose Abreu and Zack Collins. McCann likely would have found his way to at least half a season’s worth of games, give or take, or more when you factor in that familiarity with the staff and team already in house. Then Christmas came and Edwin Encarnacion came with it, and any idea of a fun little timeshare with plenty of PT to go around went out the window.

You can safely expect McCann to be more of what he was in Sept/Oct 2019 throughout his reserve role in 2020, and a .250/.315/.460 and a BABIP closer to .300 is a very palatable line to get from your second catcher. Development and the signings of Grandal and EE make relying on McCann’s bat moot, something that even he should be feeling relaxed about, so he can focus on his real deficiencies. The area that McCann can really improve his worth is by becoming something more than literally the bottom of the league in pitch framing.

Those FRAA and 11th-percentile framing ranks are absolutely unacceptable for any team trying to win in the MLB and McCann seemed to realize, whether it was before the Grandal signing or the seconds after it was announced, that he needed to do all he could to improve in this area. He’s taken the steps this offseason to put the time in and work exclusively on his framing, and having a full spring training and season with Grandal will likely help the 31 year old backstop improve his abilities and his market value. Anything he can do to continue to help the development of the young starters and bullpen arms on the pitching staff will help McCann and the team.

YOU FUCKED UP! YOU FUCKED UP!: Keeping with the theme here, the Grandal and EE signings and overall development within the organization has shielded the team against having to deal with a “worst case scenario” involving James McCann. The Sox don’t need the McCann from the first 60 games last year, they don’t need him to sway nearly 20 homers and drive in gobs of runs and set career marks across his stat line. They also don’t need to worry about what to do in the event he craters to 2018 57 wRC+ levels because they actually went out and got ahead of that exact potential problem.

Is this really the White Sox we’re talking about?? The absolute worst case scenario is Grandal going down with a serious injury, McCann reverting to his non-tender campaign offense and failing to have any of the offseason framing work pay off. That would be a real fucking Rube Goldberg machine worth of catastrophes to get us anywhere close to that kind of scenario. No, this is a rare occasion where the Sox put themselves in position to deal with some sort of awful chain of events without having the bottom fall completely out.

McCann would pretty much have to pout to Chris Sale/Adam Eaton Drake LaRoche-era levels for us to hit a “worst case scenario” on his season. Progress!

BAH GAWD THAT’S McCANN’S MUSIC!: McCann got his island in the sun moments last summer, and he seems pretty damn pleased with it all. The guy has gotten a bunch of PT, albeit on some pretty atrocious teams, and gotten paid to do so, and he finally might be a part of something special. Would he like to keep playing 110 games/year? Sure. But I bet James McCann is pretty excited to be on a team with playoff aspirations for the first time in his entire career, too.

McCann hasn’t complained or shown any attitude with his change in role, at least not publicly. If he can pitch in a solid OBP and show improvement on his pitch framing he might find himself getting closer to 60+ games. Abreu and EE are going to need days off, Grandal can’t catch 140+. McCann still has plenty to prove for another contract and possibly a shot at a starting gig elsewhere in the future, but he’ll be needed this season with this team. Hopefully he can embrace that and succeed with the at bats and innings he’s given, and if not, well, it’s really just not that big of a deal.

Baseball

Jose Abreu and the White Sox did what we all thought they were going to do and agreed to a multi-year contract in lieu of the qualifying offer the Cuban first baseman accepted just over a week ago. With his countryman Yasmani Grandal now in the fold too, Abreu’s signing makes things more complicated than the QO reality of a few days ago.

The three-year, $50M pact was met with a mostly collective “sure. cool. whatever.” Not everyone was willing to congratulate Abreu and look ahead in what’s become a pretty active early off-season for the Sox, though. A vocal sect of media and fans are a bit sour on going to a three-year commitment with the streaky 32 year-old slugger when the team had him for one year, seemingly the preferred position from an analytical standpoint.

But this deal isn’t really about analytics, and if you can’t see the intangibles at play you’re really not even trying. Abreu and Jerry Reinsdorf apparently have a pretty great relationship, because his new paper represents the same kind of loyalty that Jerry shows his front office. Abreu has done a lot to keep the Sox relevant through the failed runs earlier in the decade and the subsequent tear down and rebuild they find themselves in at the end of it. Declining wRC+ be damned, Jerry decided he was going to welcome Jose into the family.

So is this going to be the regret that the un-silent minority thinks it is? Are the leadership and RBI binges, Cuban mentor/ambassador qualities all enough to justify the term/dollars? Is it really even that much in dollars? What does it mean for the future at first base and DH, specifically Andrew Vaughn?

First, the doom-and-gloom outlook. Yes, Abreu hasn’t been the same hitter the last two years that he was in his first four stateside. He dealt with many a nagging injury in 2018, but his 116 wRC+ across 2018-19 is more than 20 points worse than his 2014-17 average of 139. Sure, a continued decline is a possibility for a slugger on the fringes of his prime. But the underlying numbers say his 2019 wasn’t as bad as the surface suggests (highest hard-hit rate in his career, 2nd highest barrel rate) and FanGraphs Steamer projections have him at 32/89/.332 for 2020. Another addition to the lineup via RF could help improve/protect Abreu further as he ages.

The 3/$50M price looks a bit rough, again, on the surface, but I don’t need to delve further into how Abreu is the heart of this team, looked up to by many of the young players set to take the Sox to the next level. Eloy said he’s like a father. Yeah, an $18M cheerleader doesn’t look great in 2022, but the dollars here are all more complicated than they appear as well. Abreu will collect on that $50M, but he won’t see the last payment of it until 2026 with $4M in deferred money. Add to that a $5M signing bonus, and the deal is actually $11M/’20, $16M/’21, $14M/’18 for 3/$41. This could’ve definitely been worse in terms of loyalty deals, and as stated Abreu might justify this with his bat regardless.

So where does that bat fit across these next three seasons? This is where it gets interesting. The Sox don’t lack for players that will push Abreu through this deal, especially with Grandal onboard through ’23. Abreu, Grandal, James McCann, Zack Collins and Yermin Mercedes look like they’re set to create a timeshare between 1B/DH/C in 2020. 2019 third overall pick Andrew Vaughn looks set to push for work with the big club by the end of 2020 but you can argue they’ve got plenty of cover to keep him in minors regardless, barring injury to at least two of those five; and even that would have to coincide with Vaughn forcing the issue in a major way with his bat. Like with Eloy, Robert, and Nick Madrigal the Sox have shown they’re willing to let the kids marinate. Maybe it’s different if they’re pushing for the playoffs, but that’s a bridge to be crossed when it approaches.

So what of the two years beyond next season? Well, while everyone wants Vaughn, or even Gavin Sheets for that matter, to force the issue we all know nothing is certain. So Vaughn can’t just be expected to be mashing in the MLB by the end of 2020. Given the track record, there are many worse options than having Abreu, with the aforementioned contingent, making up the playing time at first base. This gets real muddy if Eloy can’t stay in the field, but with reports that he’s headed to winterball this week to specifically work on his defense (“his goal is to win a Gold Glove in the MLB” says Hector Gomez) he appears seriously committed to improving that aspect of his game and staying in Left.

Basically, you can’t sort out how to deal with Abreu and his time at 1B/DH and who else is pushing for those ABs until they get there. And the Sox absolutely need him in 2020 at the very least, and at first for the most part. Easing him into more DH time helps the team solve its problems there as well, possibly to the point of moving him there full time by the end of this deal. 30 HR and a 116 wRC+ from the DH position in ’21-22 would be the best DH season Sox fans have seen in…half a decade? longer?

Rick Hahn has also been a pretty complimentary of Zack Collins and Yermin Mercedes since the end of the season, going as far as to protect former AAA Rule 5 draftee Mercedes with a 40-man spot after a strong offensive season in Charlotte’s bandbox of a stadium. Collins very well could find himself in another organization if the right(fielder) fit is available via trade. I’d think they look to dangle guys like Collins, Sheets, Blake Rutherford, players they know have tough paths to real roles with this team that could help improve them elsewhere. If you’re banking of using Abreu as a bridge to Vaughn, six years of control on Collins might be better used by another team, but 2020 will also see the addition of a 26th roster spot – conceivably making room for everyone for a year, at least (whether that space is best used for a 1B/DH/C collective is probably a whole other post).

If you want to get crazy maybe Vaughn himself becomes expendable for a Mookie Betts deal, but I’d sooner expect the Bears to win the Super Bowl this season. Vaughn is a part of the plan moving forward, Abreu deal or not. Collins is the guy who just had his path to more at bats immediately affected by the signings last week. Maybe Abreu invited him to the celebration in Miami before he changes teams. It’s the least he could do for making him expendable.

Baseball

2019 Stats

.186/.307/.349

3 HR 12 RBI

13.7 BB% 38.2 K%

.285 wOBA 77 wRC+ .656 OPS

-4 Defensive Runs Saved

 

Tell Me A Story: While not on the same level of anticipation for the likes of Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez, Zack Collins’ minor league career was watched very closely this season with the expectation he would be up and making a difference with the big club sooner rather than later. The waiting game ended on the 19th of June when Beef Welington went on the IL with some type of brain damage and Collins’ contract was purchased by the White Sox, officially putting him on the 40-man roster.

The expectation among sportswriters, bloggers, and fans alike was that Collins would be getting ample playing time at catcher, first base and designated hitter. What would the point of him being up at the major league level if not to see what he can do? In Collins’ first full game against the Rangers on the 21st of June, he showed just a taste of what he could do by smoking an Ariel Jurado fastball just right of dead center in Arlington (estimated at 445, no cheapie) for his first ever major league hit and home run.

Unfortunately that would be the only highlight of his first stint in the majors, as he played less than half the time before he was sent back down to Charlotte on July 14th. During that three-week span that he was up, Collins only started in seven of a possible 21 games, losing playing time and at-bats to White Sox legends like AJ Reed and Yonder Alonso. Why did the White Sox call up Collins and start his service time clock to park him on the bench 66% of the time? I honestly have no idea, and I have a sneaking suspicion neither does Rick Hahn or Renteria. Hahn would later claim that they saw something wrong with his approach at the plate and banished him back to AAA to work on it.

Credit where it’s due, after being sent down to Charlotte to work on that nebulous issue Collins began to absolutely rake at the plate. He slashed .281/.403(!)/.951 the rest of his time down there until he was inevitably called back up during roster expansion this past September. After being called back up, Collins got consistent playing time the rest of the month, both behind the plate and at 1B. He started out slowly after his return, but caught his stride the last 12 games of the season, hitting .293 with an .882 OPS and just under half of his hits being the extra base variety.

Behind the plate, Collins seemed to struggle to manage the game effectively. Runners stole bases on him at will, only being caught 11% of the time. He was at least able to keep the ball in front of him, however, only accounting for one passed ball which makes him look like a young Pudge Rodriguez compared to Welington Castillo. Granted he only started 6 games at catcher after being recalled, which again is kind of weird considering the Sox would certainly want to see what he has defensively if he’s going to be in the mix for catching in The Future™.

Contract: Team control next season, arbitration eligible 2023. Base salary is $550,000

Welcome Back or Boot In The Ass: Unless there’s a team out there who tosses an offer Rick Hahn’s way that he absolutely cannot ignore, Collins is coming back to the Sox in 2020 and will most likely be with the big club the entire season.

The main question concerning Collins’ playing time will be answered here shortly in December at the winter meetings. If Hahn is able to secure a player like Yasmani Grandal to play with the White Sox in 2020, Zack Collins’ positional future is gonna be in flux. In that scenario, Collins would most likely be splitting time between first base and designated hitter, with occasional starts behind the dish at catcher.

Even if the Sox don’t land Grandal, Hahn will most likely be shopping for a backup catcher as long term profile for Collins doesn’t show much more than occasionally spelling James McCann full time behind the plate. In a perfect world, the Sox sign Grandal and create a rotating conga line between 1B, DH and C for Grandal, Collins and Jose Abreu (who is almost certainly a lock to return.)

If Collins is able to progress at even half the rate Yoan Moncada or Eloy Jimenez has, the Sox will have themselves the kind of player who can get on base at an excellent clip (I don’t expect him to have a +.400 OPB again, but even .370 isn’t out of the question) and occasionally hit for power from the left side of the plate. Guys like that don’t grow on trees, and with some advancement in skill it will be worth the Sox time to try and find a spot in the lineup for him, wherever that may end up being.

Baseball

2019 Stats

.209/.267/.417

12 HR 41 RBI

6.4 BB% 29.5 K%

.287 wOBA 78 wRC+ .684 OPS

-10 Defensive Runs Saved (ouch)

 

Tell Me A Story: Ahhh Beef Welington. The latest in the long line of White Sox free agent signings that made me go “I like it!” and ended with “give this asshole to Elon Musk and let him fire him to the moon.” Almost immediately his two-year, $15 million dollar contract proved to be a ginormous mistake when he was busted for PEDs in May of 2018. This resulted in an 80-game suspension that lasted till the middle of September, after which he hit a very pedestrian .241/.293/.478.

Castillo said he was going to double down on his efforts over the winter to make sure the Sox got their money’s worth out of him. Undeterred, Rick Hahn came up with a Plan B in the form of James McCann, which turned out to be a very wise move indeed. Castillo came out of the gate in April sputtering, only managing to hit .204 while McCann blasted everything thrown at him. It wasn’t long after where Castillo began to lose more and more playing time to McCann, essentially relegated to being Reynaldo Lopez’ personal catcher before long.

Castillo was brought aboard the team strictly for his ability to hit for power, which while not ending up as Yonder Alonso-levels of shitty, was still not what the Sox thought they’d be getting when they signed him to the deal. In 2017 with the Orioles he hit .282 with 20 home runs with a 25% K-rate. With the Sox, his K-rate spiked to 29% and he only managed to hit 12 bombs. His career line drive rate of 21% was merely wishful thinking in 2019 as it fell to a career low 16.5%. His hard hit rate also dropped about 6% during his tenure with the Sox. I’m not going to say the lack of PEDs in his system resulted in this power dip, but I’m also not not saying it.

His defense became an issue as well. In the past, Castillo was a bat-first defender but had posted a few years with a positive DRS score, most recently in 2017 with the Diamondbacks when he was a +3. In the month of September in 2018 he managed a -6, and then in 2019 it all fell apart. Any ball in the dirt or above his shoulders was going to the backstop, and he made the entire thing look like he was being attacked by a swarm of bees.

The Sox were in the bottom 3rd of the league in allowing passed balls with 13. A whopping nine of them were attributed to Castillo. When you consider the fact that he was only the primary catcher in less than a quarter of the games the Sox played, that’s pretty fucking terrible.

Contract: Team option for 2020 at $8 million dollars with a $500,000 buyout, which the Sox will exercise.

Welcome Back Or Boot In The Ass: Big ole boot in the ass for this one. The Sox will exercise the $500,000 buyout for Castillo’s last year and send him on down the road like sad Bruce Banner in the Hulk TV show. With Zack Collins and James McCann available for catching duties and the looming possibility of Yasmani Grandal being available it makes zero sense to keep Big Beef Welington around. I’d say it’s been fun, but that would only be true if I were comparing it to the time Yonder Alonso spent here. Hard pass on both.

Previous Sox Reviews

James McCann

 

 

Baseball

2019 Stats

.273/.328/.461

18HR, 60 RBI

6.3 BB% 28.8 K%

.333 wOBA 109 wRC+ .789 OPS

5.0 Defensive Runs Saved

Tell Me A Story: Well lets kick this thing off with the best thing Rick Hahn did during the off-season, which was sign James McCann to a 1-year deal at a value of $2.5 million dollars (with an additional year of arbitration control for the White Sox). When this move was initially announced during the winter meetings back in December, I was supremely disappointed as Yasmani Grandal was still just sitting out there, like Fry’s dog in the Jurassic Bark episode of Futurama waiting for someone to sign him. Up to that point Grandal had better stats in pretty much every category available to us including the all-important framing ones. At the end of the season? Well Grandal still outperformed him in most categories except defensively where he was a -1.6 DRS, but the differences between the two were not the chasm I assumed they would be at the start of the season.

McCann started out the first half of the season pretty gangbusters, as he pelted opposing pitchers to the tune of .317/.374/.883 with 9 dingers through the end of June. This performance earned him his first ever All-Star nomination and the rave reviews of his teammates. You all know what happened next, however. After the All Star game McCann’s stats went plummeting off a cliff, resulting in a .224/.273/.667 line through the end of August. At this point folks began to question whether or not McCann was the real deal (and rightly so). He was able to lock things in again in September, however, and brought things back to a more respectable .242/.324/.763 to close out the campaign.

Whether or not McCann was pressing during July and August to justify his All Star selection we will never know, but one interesting thing popped up to me. McCann has been given a lot of credit to the turnaround of one Lucas Giolito this season. When I looked at their game logs for the first half of the season when McCann was raking at the plate, Giolito was doing the same on the mound. Then after the All Star break ended and McCann dove into his swoon at the plate, Giolito similarly fell off as well, though not to the extent that McCann did. It may be coincidence but it’s definitely worth noting.

Either way, Giolito credits James McCann for a good portion of his turnaround this season, and it’s certainly hard to deny the results. Giolito was an absolute mess by any measure last season, and turned into the Must See TV Ace Of The Future™ this season that we all know and love. Stuff like that can’t be discounted in the slightest. Defensively, McCann was above average this year in every category compared to most of his past seasons except for runners gunned down attempting to steal. He was 5th in the AL with 17 catches, which was a low for him. The Sox were 3rd best in the AL catching category with McCann behind the dish, which is a marked improvement from the previous half decade.

CONTRACT: One year of arbitration left, then unrestricted free agent in 2021. Would expect a raise of about 1.5 million this off season if the Sox tender him (They Will)

Welcome Back Or Boot In The Ass: Unless the Sox think that Zack Collins is the catcher of The Future™ and will be able to play 100+ games behind the dish (they don’t), then expect the Sox to tender him this off-season and then work out a long term deal with him shortly thereafter. Doing so would not hinder you from offering up a contract to Yasmani Grandal if you so desired.

Bringing in Grandal could create a rotating quadfecta at 1B and C, with Abreu, Collins, McCann and Grandal each taking time at C/1B/DH as the year goes along (Abreu won’t catch obviously). Even if they don’t get Grandal, McCann has proven enough this year to deserve another look behind the plate as the primary catcher. With Beef Wellington gone this winter the Sox will need a catcher to spell McCann if they don’t think Collins can play that many games back there.

I would think a 4 year deal at 4.5 million each would most likely be enough to buy McCann out of his last year of arbitration and keep him working with the young Sox pitching staff for seasons to come. With Michael Kopech returning from Tommy John surgery very soon and Carlos Rodon/Dane Dunning shortly thereafter, having a calming presence behind the plate goes a long way towards solidifying the rotation.

The other option would be to tender him, then flip him for whatever you could get at the winter meetings if you think you need to sell high on him or that this year was a fluke. With the progress Giolito made this year, I think this is very unlikely. The Sox got the most production out of the catcher position since Carlton Fisk hung up his cleats, and I don’t think they’re likely to give that away, which is totally fine with me. Besides, it would be really hard to replicate the FAR (Fashion Against Replacement) he brought to the clubhouse this year.

Baseball

BOX SCORES

Game 1: Sox 7 – Angels 8

Game 2: Sox 7 – Angels 2

Game 3: Sox 5 – Angels 6

Game 4: Sox 2 – Angels 9

 

Smited? Smote? I dunno, but “cast back into hell” also works for the way the Angels pummeled the Sox pen this weekend. This is one of those series where if Rick Hahn had any interest in making the Sox good this year this series is at minimum a split and most likely they take 3 of 4. It’s frustrating because it doesn’t have to be this way, and doubly so because the front office doesn’t seem to care what we think. Meanwhile Zack Collins, Luis Robert, and to a lesser extent Nick Madrigal continue to steal the lunch money of the middle school children in AAA and would be almost instant upgrades over players on the major league roster but instead we get to sit here and scream at the rain. Tiger isn’t going to change his stripes just because we want him to put a better product on the field, but I digress.

I actually had pretty high hopes for this series based on the way the Sox had played against the Astros, and losing 3 of 4 to an Angels team that’s had trouble getting anyone out since the calendar flipped to August definitely hurts. That being said, if you sift through the rubble there are actually a few positives to take away from this fetid pile of baseball excrement. Let’s take a look, shall we?

 

 

NUMBERS DON’T LIE

 

-I said in the preview that if the Sox hit and the starters were able to hold the Mighty Trout off the scoreboard they would stand a good chance of winning this series or at least splitting. Well, that turned into somewhat of a mixed bag for results. Lucas Giolito picked up where he left off, going 6 strong innings and striking out 11 Halos en route to the only win of the series for the Sox. It’s good to see that the bumps in the road he encountered just before the All Star Game are now merely a memory, as the last 2 lineups he’s faced have been stiff challenges. On the other side of that coin, Reynaldo Lopez couldn’t get Mike Trout out to save his life. That in and of itself is not much of a shock, as the number of pitchers who have the same distinction could fill up the Cook County phone book. What was unfortunate for Lopez was that the offense didn’t show up until after he left, and the fact that he had to leave was because Wellington Castillo is a burning clown car behind home plate. Lopez had multiple chances to get out of the 5th inning unscathed but Castillo got crossed up twice behind the plate and it kept the inning alive and 3 runs scored. Castillo has been hitting better of late but he’s just plain terrible behind the plate and I have seen enough.

-Dylan Cease pitched decently today, but made a few mistakes with his curve and they haven’t landed yet. He still struck out 6 and looked in command of his stuff for the most part, though Trout got the day off so take that for what you will. I still feel like Cease is going to end the year on a tear and get everybody excited for him in spring training where he will get bit by a brown recluse spider and his pitching arm will become necrotic and need to be amputated.

-Hector Santiago was fine and his 4.2 innings were fine until Evan Marshall showed up and did his best Rick Ankiel In The 2000 NLDS impression and walked everybody including the churro guy working behind 3rd base. Marshall’s peripherals have been teetering lately, and the axe finally fell this series. He managed to get 1 guy out in the 2 games he appeared in. Meanwhile he walked 3 and plunked one. He only got charged for 1 ER Saturday night thanks to a Goins error, but we all know it was his fault and he should feel bad.

-James McCann has shaken off the malaise of late July and early August to get back to mashing dongs. Eloy likewise had a very good series going yard twice and notching his first career triple, scoring (who else) McCann. Abreu and Timmy continue to hit as well, and the imminent return of Yoan Moncada bodes well for this offense going forward.

-Game 4 of this series the Sox looked like they wanted to be anywhere but SoCal, and played accordingly. I can only hope they’re a little more geared up to face the Twins this week or it could be ugly.

-The rotating cast of characters in the booth with Jason Benetti this weekend was very entertaining. I enjoy Benetti and Stone quite a bit, but switching things up occasionally can be fun and this was. Listening to Bill Walton call his first ever MLB game was the equivalent of watching your buddy get shitfaced for the first time and laughing at him trying to strike up a conversation with the water fountain outside your dorm. Ozzie is entertaining as ever, but also has some quality insight that’s delivered in the way that only Ozzie can. Ken Tremendous (AKA Michael Schur of Parks and Rec, The Office, and The Good Place fame) was very very good, and I would absolutely like to have him be the permanent substitute for Stone any time he’s away. Alas, he’s a busy man so this was probably a one off, but awesome all the same.

-The other thing this weekend did was prove that Jason Benetti is an excellent announcer, as he was able to adjust his style constantly and keep the broadcast not only listenable but very fun. If you haven’t heard him call basketball games for ESPN, he’s excellent there too. My fear is that the NFL is going to realize that and lure him away from the Sox with big money, but for now I’m just going to enjoy it while it lasts.

-Next up for the Sox is the fucking Twins again. God I hate them.

Baseball

BOX SCORES

Game 1: Sox 2 – Astros 6

Game 2: Sox 4 – Astros 1

Game 3: Sox 13 – Astros 9

 

 

Raise your hand if you thought the Sox would win the season series against the best team in baseball by taking 4 out of the 7 games and scoring 33 total runs against them. Bullshit, put your arm back down and go sit in the back. Well, if nothing else the Sox like to make me look stupid (not a hard thing to do, but still) after I fretted about the Astros raining death down upon them this series. Granted the Sox got a little lucky with Gerrit Cole exploding his hammy in the bullpen before game 2, and Alex Bregman not being able to go at all on Tuesday night, but you know what? Credit where it’s due, the Sox took advantage of all of that and came away with a pretty solid series win all told.  Sometimes baseball is weird, sometimes it’s stupid, and sometimes it’s pretty damn fun. Then sometimes it’s all 3 of those things and the Sox take the season series from the AL’s best team.

LET ME IN

 

NUMBERS DON’T LIE

-Let’s start with the Sox pitching, shall we? Dylan Cease went game one and took the only loss of all the starters, which includes Ross Detwiler (remember when I said baseball was stupid?). Despite getting hung with the L and walking more people than he struck out, this might have been his best outing in awhile. He gave up a leadoff bomb to George Springer, then a single to Altuve and a double to Michael Brantley (remember when the Sox didn’t want him in the off season?) to bring up Yordan Alvarez. Renteria got all galaxy-brained and issued the intentional pass to him, bringing up Yuli Gurriel, who bounced into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning. He gave up another solo shot in the 3rd to Altuve, then proceeded to retire 11 Astros in a row before Wellington Castillo did his best Benny Hill impersonation behind the plate, allowing 12 passed balls and letting the game get out of hand. I don’t mind the 5 walks Cease issued (2 of which were of the intentional variety), as nobody works the zone better or strikes out less than the Astros. This was a building block start for Cease, no doubt about it. I’m excited to see where he goes from here.

-Ivan Nova went the distance and gave up 1 unearned run to the best offense in baseball (remember when I said baseball was weird sometimes?). He kept the ball down all night, threw first pitch strikes, and kept the Astros hitters on their heels. This will probably last long enough for Hahn to give him an extension, then he’ll turn back into a pumpkin. For now though, I’m gonna enjoy the ride in the new Chevy Nova.

-Tim Anderson had a Tuesday night to forget, going 0-8 and committing 2 errors in the field, one of which was the only run the Astros scored in the second game. Tim tried using his athletic ability instead of setting his feet and threw the ball about 8 rows deep over Matt Skole’s head. He didn’t let it get him down today, however. He went 4 for 5 with 2 doubles and a triple. More please!

-Eloy hit a ball 6,000 feet today and knocked a dude unconscious who was drinking a Modelo on the fan deck. The best part was Jake Marisnick going back to the wall and making a jump at the ball, only to have it land about 40 feet past and 20 feet up from him. Smooth.

-Don’t look now, but Jose Abreu may be heating up again, going 6-11 with 4 RBI and more importantly 2 walks. Just in time for Yoan Moncada to come back and give him some space. It also helps when…

-James McCann decides to drop it like its May again, going 4-9 with the series clinching grand slam on an 0-2 count from a hanging slider off legit shutdown reliever Ryan Pressly. He doesn’t make mistakes to right handed hitters very often, and McCann made him pay dearly for it. Awesome stuff.

-Ryan Goins can stay when Nick Madrigal and Luis Robert finally get called up. I’m kinda done with Yolmer.

-Next up is a 4 hour plane ride out to sunny California to visit Mike Trout and the Los Angeles Angels of Disneyland. Bastards will probably get to ride all the new Star Wars rides before I do. Let’s see if the Sox can build on this great series or if they slide right back into the Sarlacc Pit.

ONWARD

 

 

Baseball

Game 1 Box Score: White Sox 7, Tigers 4

Game 2 Box Score: White Sox 5, Tigers 3

Game 3 Box Score: Tigers 10, White Sox 6

Game 4 Box Score: White Sox 8, Tigers 1

Of course the contingent of asshole White Sox fans on this blog would leave a Sox-Tigers recap for me. Because what the fuck do you learn about a team when they’re playing a softball team from a company that’s already been liquidated? There might not be one useful player in the everyday lineup for the Tigers, and only a couple on the pitching staff. This team is headed for an end of season that will scare children for years. I guess it’s better than where the Sox were last week, getting their dick kicked in by the Mets. But apparently everyone is getting their dick kicked in by the Mets now. That’s a thing we’re just letting happen as a society. Anyway, I’ll do my best.

-I guess you have to rejoice that Dylan Cease didn’t back up against this lineup, if that were even possible. And he only walked one in five innings, but he still needed 101 pitches to get through those five innings. Cease is still relying on trying to power through ABs and counts, which is not a long term strategy for success. It’s fine against the decommissioned county fair of the Tigers, but against actual teams he’s still going to have problems.

-Second of a double-header with these teams, where Hector Santiago and Dylan Covey pitched, and they throw in an hour rain delay. Who said the gods didn’t have a sense of humor?

-Have yourself a series, Tim Anderson. Nine hits in three games, as he didn’t play in the nightcap Tuesday. I guess if I was really picky I would point out that only one was for extra-bases, and Anderson has to hit a ton of fucking singles to be a productive hitter and even that might just make you Juan Pierre and you don’t want him to be Juan Pierre, but let’s leave that for another time.

-Ivan Nova keeps rolling, which means…nothing? I guess it’s nothing.

-Signs of life from James McCann? Seven hits in three games for him, and maybe returning to where he was was something of an inspiration. That gives him a .409 average in August after a .173 July.

-Still, striking out seven times in three innings against a returning Spencer Turnbull, really the only pitcher the Sox saw, is less than encouraging.

The important thing is that it’s over and we can move on with our lives. Let’s do that.

 

Baseball

Game 1 Box Score: White Sox 4, Phillies 3 (15)

Game 2 Box Score: Phillies 3, White Sox 2

Game 3 Box Score: White Sox 10, Phillies 5

No matter where the Sox rebuild goes, how long it takes, Sox fans will have the night that it took two innings to get a position player pitching, got a runner thrown out at home from left by another pitcher, and nearly completed the feat again in the 15th. The Phillies basically waved the white flag on that game, and it still took the Sox a couple attempts to accept the surrender. That’s the good stuff.

In the end, the Sox have only muddled the NL East/Wildcard picture more by getting swept the Mets but then going on the road taking two of three from the Phillies. Also, the Phillies are a goddamn mess. They can’t hit, two-fifths of their rotation is now in the pen, and their manager might be a lunatic. But then when is anything with the Phillies ever sane?

Let’s clean this one up too.

-The Sox got another decent start from Ivan Nova, which now seems like a waste. Nova didn’t pitch well enough soon enough to be flipped for anything useful at the deadline, and now one wonders if those starts and innings could go to anyone who might be here when the Sox are playing games that matter again. Cease is already up, There really isn’t anyone else. Guess you just enjoy the show.

-The offense is still a tough watch without Moncada. They put up 10 runs off scrapheap rescue Drew Smyly, yes, but a sweep was possible and 15 innings weren’t necessary on Friday.

Which means a little talk about Eloy Jimenez. Parroting what Joe Sheehan had to say in his newsletter, but Eloy came up in the 8th last night against Nick Pivetta with a chance to win the game, and Pivetta never more than a couple pitches away from self-immolation. And Eloy never had a chance. He swung at three curves he didn’t come within a foot of, and that’s happened too often. There is still all the potential in the world, but a .294 OBP is what it is. He gets enough walks, and that will improve more, but there are times when you have to get the bat on the ball. He’s a long way from that yet.

-Shouldn’t the Phillies be better than this? They only have three hitters you need to worry about, and Harper is barely qualifying as that right now as the Sox got him out in every big situation they needed to, other than his one homer. There are a lot of outs on this team, there’s only one starter you fear now that Eflin became ash, and the pen is a mess too. Not one functioning unit here?

-When Ryan Goins is taking your best ABs, you know that’s a problem.

-James McCann dropped to 7th in the lineup on Sunday, though with Ricky Renteria that might be what he thinks is cleanup considering how long Tim Anderson was there. It’s been a constant slide for McCann since June 1, which is throwing some plans into flux. He could use a finish here.

-Shouldn’t you assume the one thing a pitcher in left field can do is throw powerfully and accurately?

-The Phillies managed one hit off Carson Fullmer. That alone should probably disqualify you from playoff contention.

Baseball

vs.

Records: White Sox 46-60 Phillies 57-51

GAMETIMES: Friday-Saturday 6:05 pm, Sunday 12:05 pm

TV: NBCSN Friday/Sunday, WGN Saturday

Gabe Kapler – Still Here, Still Beefy: The Good Phight 

The Phillies have to be excited to welcome in the White Sox after seeing what the inept Mets were just able to do to the Pale Hose in Chicago earlier this week. Hell, everyone with the Sox coming up on the schedule has to eager for their arrival. At 4-16 since the break, the White Sox are who we thought they were before a few first half flashes had some of the fan base dreaming on a Wild Card run. The Phightin’s are what those Sox fans had hoped for, as they come into the weekend firmly in the discussion for a playoff spot in the NL albeit tied with 1/3 of the league for that right. They’re 7-4 in their last 11 to help pull into said tie, but that includes six wins against SF, DET and PIT with a series loss to NL East leaders ATL sandwiched in the middle. There will be no David Robertson revenge game as his season was finally, mercifully ended yesterday with the announcement of elbow surgery on the horizon.

The Phillies will not only be pleased to see the White Sox stumble into town having just been blanked by their rivals in New York, but they’ll also miss Lucas Giolito and take favorable match ups on Friday and Saturday with Ivan Nova and the return of BIG BOSS Ross Detwiler before getting a resurgent Reynaldo Lopez on Sunday afternoon. The Phaithful will get their first glance at new acquisition Jason Vargas in the opener, who has been quietly much better of late. Considering his 2019 campaign began with 13 earned runs and 35 base runners allowed in six April appearances and a flirtation with being both DFA’d and murdered by half of New York, a stretch of 3 ER or less in all but one start since April 13 makes him a solid addition for the stretch run. He’s posted two quality starts in his last three, coming one out away from a clean sweep in that time. They’ll round out the weekend with pitching acquisition #2 in Drew Smyly taking his third turn since joining the rotation, looking for his own streak of three consecutive quality starts. Staff Ace Aaron Nola takes the ball in between, looking to continue recent success. He had his best month of the season posting a 2.52 ERA with 43 strikeouts in 39.1 July innings.

The Philly offense is currently all over the map. In the aforementioned 7-4 run, they’ve scored six runs or more in four games while putting up four or fewer in the other seven. That struggle for consistent runs is a theme throughout the year, as they’re the only other NL team in that tight Wild Card race with a negative run differential at -16, one better than the Brewers. They’ve relied on the long ball to carry them to victory, with J.T. Realmuto and Rhys Hoskins the heroes of late. $330M man Bryce Harper hasn’t exactly been the force Philadelphia had planned on when they signed him in the spring, but July did see his best splits thus far for AVG, OBP, OPS and wRC+. He also carries a very appealing 138 wRC+ at home and will likely increase that number against the soft underbelly of the Sox rotation.

Speaking of that rotation, what can really be said to this point that hasn’t already? Nova is just going through the motions, with the simple hope he can make it five or more innings to keep from having to exhaust the bullpen like they are in any non-Giolito/Lopez starts. Detwiler takes this turn after Dylan Covey failed to get a single out last Sunday, so while that bar is pretty easy to clear the second half of the season is all about continuing to lower the bar for this sad excuse of a starting five or six. Lopez represents the best hope of the weekend having turned his season around since the break. He’s allowed a total of six earned runs over his last four starts, a major improvement over the nearly four he averaged per start for his first 18 of the season. This probably has a lot to do with a season-best 19% K-BB ratio in July, so if he can keep pumping strikes he can carry the success into August.

The Chicago offense continues it’s downward spiral into the deepest reaches of hell, ranking dead last in the entire league in runs (55), Home Runs (15), Total Bases (226) and all of AVG/SLG/OPS (.602!) for the holy trinity of suck. Jose Abreu and James McCann are the biggest offenders here, as they come in at a combined five XBH (4 HR) and .210/.175 OBP, respectively. McCann has been especially horrific in July, posting a THIRTY-FOUR, 3-4, wRC+ for the month. That is….atrocious. The team sorely missed Eloy Jimenez and Tim Anderson for most of this paltry stretch, but even in return they’ve been more hurtful than helpful with two hits over seven combined games since coming of the IL. Add to that Yoan Moncada and his 33 total bases/.821 OPS landing on the IL earlier this week and….you get the picture. Everyone sucks, more so than usual, and the one guy that hasn’t sucked got hurt. White Sox baseball, CATCH THE FEVER.

The Phillies should expect to take this series and take it going away, and even if their bats can’t solve Nova, Detwiler or Lopez they might be fine with a combined five runs for the series if they can spread ’em out. That’s all it’d have taken the Mets in three games earlier this week. The White Sox COULD have taken this slide and turned it on it’s head by conducting a mass promotion of overly qualified talent at Charlotte, but they’re all still working on their salary suppression clocks instead.

What a time to be alive, Sox fans!