Baseball

While I know most of these have been pretty positive grades so far (other than Adam Eaton obviously), can you really blame me? This Sox team has been a pleasant surprise from the jump, and when you lead the division by 8 games at the break there’s not too much room for complaining.

So believe me when I say this next group isn’t going to get much in the way of complaints either. The starting pitching staff for the Sox has been far and away the most consistent and effective group of the entire bunch, and are largely responsible for the position the team finds itself in right now.

Really the only thing that could be an issue for the Sox going forward is the same one that everybody is facing: the league cracking down on the use of sticky substances by pitchers. Will it affect the rotation? Has it already? We shall see…

 

LANCE LYNN

Games Started: 16 / 9-3 record

1.99 ERA / 1.04 WHIP / 3.20 FIP

105 K / 31 BB / 3.39 K to BB Ratio

2.5 WAR

When Rick Hahn sent Dane Dunning to the Rangers this past off-season for our Big Beefy Boy, it was the type of move one makes when they have expectations of winning at least the division. The early returns on that deal have been quite promising, as the above number indicate.

Despite missing a few weeks with a strained trapezius muscle, Lynn has been the most consistent pitcher in the Sox rotation. He’s made it to the 5th inning or beyond in 13 of his 16 starts, and only given up more than 3 runs once. He’s also added “slapdick motherfucker” into the lexicon of Sox fans everywhere, and for that we all must be eternally grateful. He’s a bulldog on the mound, which occasionally leads to him throwing too many pitches, but otherwise there’s not really much to complain about here. Lance Lynn has come in and done the job exactly as advertised, and should be extended by the club at their earliest convenience (read: probably never).

GRADE: A

LUCAS GIOLITO

Games Started: 18 / 7-6 record

4.15 ERA / 1.17 WHIP / 3.99 FIP

125 K / 33 BB / 3.79 K to BB Ratio

2.0 WAR

Lucas Giolito has had an up and down year control-wise, as is evidenced by his unusually high ERA. While he has not reverted to the complete pumpkin he was in 2018 (he has the exact same amount of strikeouts right now in half as many games), the long ball has resurfaced as an issue for him. A lot of that comes from Lucas preferring to work up in the strike zone, with him being one of the few pitchers who’s willing to throw the changeup higher in the zone. The issue when you work up in the zone is if you miss your spots, the ball tends to go a LONG way. The way you avoid that when you work up in the zone is your pitches have to have good movement on them, and that’s attained by having a good spin rate (you see where I’m going with this).

The chart above shows the average spin rate for all of his pitches over the 2021 season. While this doesn’t guarantee that he was using some type of substance, it does lead one in that direction. Despite the loss in spin rate, his K% rate has remained pretty steady. Really the only thing to glean from this is pitches that would’ve moved more out of the zone and been more difficult to barrel up for hitters are being hit harder at a higher rate. Giolito’s mechanics are still solid, he’s just going to have to adjust the way he approaches batters now, and he’s already mentioned he wants to use the curveball and slider more than he was. He’ll be fine, there’s just going to be an adjustment period.

Also, fuck Josh Donaldson

GRADE: B

CARLOS RODÓN

Games Started: 15 / 7-3 Record (1 No-Hitter)

2.31 ERA / 0.96 WHIP / 2.35 FIP

130 K / 26 BB / 5.00 K to BB Ratio

3.6 WAR

What started as a depth signing on the cheap turned into what I would call the co-ace of the White Sox starting staff, and it’s impressive as all hell to see. Rick Hahn was panned by many (myself included) when it seemed he was punting again on the 5th starter position this past December by bringing back Rodón and having him battle it out with Reynaldo Lopez for the final spot. What ended up happening is that ‘Los seems to have finally put it all together, mashing that up with being healthy for the first time in years and turned it into an All Star nomination and ultimately some Cy Young votes.

What changed? Obviously being healthy played a huge role, as it allows him to throw the slider much harder than he’s been able to in the past 4 years. The added velocity has caused the pitch to become almost unhittable, as batters have gone from a .250 average against it to a mere .106, and only slugging .133 off it. No solid contact = results. He’s also throwing his fastball more, up from 50% to almost 60%, another instance of the added velocity. All told, it’s turned Carlos into a monster and it’s gonna make him a lot of money in the off-season, hopefully with the White Sox (stares in Jerry Reinsdorf).

GRADE: A+

Dallas Keuchel

Games Started: 17 / 7-3 Record

4.25 ERA / 1.38 WHIP / 4.73 FIP

58 K / 31 BB / 1.87 K to BB Ratio

0.7 WAR

Dallas Keuchel has not had a terrible year, but neither has it been a very effective one. In the past, he was known for keeping the ball down in the zone and creating weak contact with his sinker. This usually allowed him to eat quite a few innings and save the bullpen for other, strike-heavier pitchers. That’s not the case this year. His lack of precision has led to him not making it past the 5th inning in over half of his starts. His splits as he progresses multiple times through the order get worse and worse as the season goes along, with him facing people for the 3rd time particularly brutal as hitters have a .328 average against him as opposed to a .218 one the first time through.

I can’t quite put my finger on what the issue is here either. His underlying metrics are pretty similar to what he’s had in the past, though his HR/9 has taken quite the jump from last year’s half season. His BABIP doesn’t imply bad luck, and his FIP implies that he’s actually getting decent D behind him. Whatever the reason, he needs to figure it out because every inning that Michael Kopech mows down the competition Keuchel becomes more and more unnecessary. Best case scenario for him would be a 6-man rotation to allow Kopech to ease back into the role and Rodon to preserve his arm. As a 5th starter, Keuchel is fine. With better options on the horizon, however, his time may be limited.

GRADE: C

Dylan Cease

Games Started: 18 / 7-4 Record

4.11 ERA / 1.27 WHIP / 3.68 FIP

117K / 39 BB / 3.00 K to BB Ratio

2.0 WAR

Ahhh Dylan Cease, the pitcher that drives me crazier than any other on the roster. You can see the tools, and when his stuff is on, he’s nigh unhittable. He has little issue getting ahead in the count, with 0-2 and 1-2 counts the norm. Instead of putting away the hitter, the nibbling begins and before too long it’s either a full count or a walk. He throws way too many pitches, and puts himself in situations where there’s little margin for error.

He’s also one of the pitchers who’s spin rate has dropped fairly precipitously in the past months, though it hasn’t made as much of a difference in the way he approaches batters. His FIP implies he’s had some bad luck behind him defensively, but some of that can be attributed to the fact that he’s also the slowest pitcher on the roster, and that can lull a defense to sleep.

Ultimately I’m splitting hairs, as Cease is fine as a 4th starter. His stuff has potential to improve, and most of his issues are more approach related as opposed to mechanical. Carlos Rodon is proof that sometimes it takes starters longer to bake in the oven, and we should keep that in mind when it comes to Dylan.

GRADE: B

Baseball

BOX SCORES

Game 1: White Sox 8 – Tigers 2

Game 2: White Sox 5 – Tigers 11

Game 3: White Sox 5 – Tigers 6

 

It’s not too often in a 3 game series where a team is able to pot 18 runs and yet still lose 2 of the 3 games, but the Sox pitching staff found a way this holiday weekend. Both Dallas Keuchel and Lucas Giolito had rough outings, which were just bad enough to be too much for the offense to overcome. Even Lance Lynn, who got the lone win for the weekend, needed almost 120 pitches to get through 6 innings.

This continues a disturbing trend for the White Sox starters the last couple of weeks where they’ve labored through the 5 to 6 innings they’ve been tasked with finishing, usually throwing an excess of 100 pitches to get there. While the temperature has skyrocketed in that timeframe, I’m concerned that’s not the only reason the difficulties are rearing their heads.

To the bullets:

 

NUMBERS DON’T LIE

Game 1

-While the final score makes it look like the Sox pummeled the Tigers into submission, the reality is that the game was much closer until they dropped 5 runs on the head of Bryan Garcia in the top of the 9th inning. After jumping on prized rookie starter Casey Mize in the 1st inning, it seemed that the Sox were indeed going to nuke the Tigers from orbit, but the bats went silent after that 1st inning and Mize escaped with just the 2 earned runs.

-Gavin Sheets was part of that barrage in the top of the 9th when he smoked a 3 run dinger off Buck Farmer on a nipples high fastball. It was an impressive show of power for a kid in his 5th career MLB start. Here’s hoping his splits improve against left handed pitching, because if he can show that right field will be his standard spot on the diamond, the Sox may have found something here.

-Andrew Vaughn has officially heated up. His difficulties hitting right handed pitching have melted away in the hot summer sun, as he’s slashed .317/.348/.933 since the middle of June. In addition to the hitting, he’s actually turned into a solid defender in left field as he made a great diving stop on Friday night to get Lance Lynn out of a jam he worked himself into:

-Lance Lynn needed 120 pitches to get through 6 innings on a hot summer night, but he was able to get the job done. Were he pitching against a team other than the Tigers this start probably would’ve ended differently, but here we are and we’ll take it.

-Jake Burger had two hits in his first ever major league game, and it was simply awesome to see him out there after what he went through the past 3 years. He had a great postgame interview with Jason Benetti, and it sure did get dusty in my living room all of a sudden watching it. Good for him.

GAME 2

-Dallas Keuchel looked more like 2019 Dylan Cease in this start, throwing way too many pitches and walking waaaaay too many people. After the game he didn’t exactly help his cause by complaining about how the outfield defense is positioned too deep to take care of bloops and liners. Was he hurt by Billy Hamilton’s poorly timed dive that lead to an inside the park home run? Yep. Was his start ultimately undone by defensive positioning in the OF? Nope. It was undone by shitty pitching. Deal with it and move on.

-The strike zone by home plate umpire Tom Hallion was absolutely atrocious in this game, directly leading to 2 additional runs being walked in by Ryan Burr, who was nails in his relief appearance. This ultimately led to pitching coach Ethan Katz being ejected in the 5th by Hallion, when he murmured something derogatory in his direction. How Hallion heard him is a mystery to me, as Katz is so mild mannered it would be difficult to hear him in an empty library. Grandpa Tony shuffled out to defend the honor of his coach by saying a few words to Hallion, then creakily huffing back to the dugout to resume his nap.

-Some of this was directly related to just how bad Zack Collins is at framing pitches. On the first strikeout for Burr that was called a walk, the 4-seam fastball was in the zone but after Collins caught it his mitt carried it outside. There were a few instances where Keuchel had low strikes called balls because Zack couldn’t bring it up in a timely manner. Pitch framing is an art, and Collins can definitely get better at it. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

-Jace Fry came back up from Charlotte to get shellacked by the Tigers in his 1.1 innings of work. I’m guessing he was probably on Travelocity in the locker room booking his flight back down after the game.

-Tim Anderson and Jose Abreu combined for 4 hits total, and both look like they’re starting to get back into a groove. The Sox are going to need it, since Yasmani Grandal left the game early with a tight calf muscle.

-Game 2 for Jake Burger was much less notable, as he went 0-4 with 2 K’s. It’s a learning process, folks.

GAME 3

-The spin rate on Lucas Giolito’s fastball was down some 200 RPMs yet again, causing it to be very hittable in the main part of the strike zone. Conversely the spin rate on his changeup went up, making THAT pitch more hittable as well. I think it’s pretty safe to say that Lucas was using some combination of substance on his pitches, and is now going to have an adjustment period where he’s forced to rely more on the location of his fastball and change as opposed to the movement of it. He’s talented enough to make it work, but this might not be the last clunker before he figures it out.

-Jose Abreu did everything in his power to try and drag the Sox back into the game, absolutely crushing an 88 mph slider that Gregory Soto left over the middle of the plate. It ultimately didn’t mean much to the game with the Sox falling short, but seeing Jose read the slider and not only make solid contact, but nuke it, is a very good sign going forward.

-Andrew Vaughn came to the plate with the tying run on 1st and absolutely smoked a first pitch fastball opposite field, but unfortunately right at Robbie Grossman to end the game.

-Codi Heuer has now gone his last 7 appearances with only giving up 1 run, while striking out 8. His feel for his changeup has clearly come back, as that pitch has had the bottom dropping out of it more than it had in the first month of the season. This is a great thing, because with Bummer and Marshall out for the foreseeable future, he may be the bridge to Hendriks in the 9th.

-Danny Mendick pinch hit for Gavin Sheets in the 9th with 1 on and nobody out. I get the splits for Soto are favorable for the Sox going lefty/righty, but I really wanted to see how the kid handled the at bat in a high pressure situation.

 

Ultimately, losing 2 of 3 to the Tigers didn’t hurt the Sox at all, since Cleveland got swept by Houston over the weekend. The Sox are in “stay afloat” mode until reinforcements can be brought in the form of Eloy and Luis Robert returning from the IL, or outside the organization via trade. The way it stands now, the Sox need at least a reliever or two, and a second baseman. While the article on MLB Trade Rumors saying the Sox were interested in Trevor Story was nice to see, it’s also kind of common sense. The Sox absolutely SHOULD be interested in Story, but being interested in him and actually pulling the trigger on a deal are two totally different things all together. I wouldn’t get my hopes up, personally. The splash trade at the deadline is so far away from Rick Hahn’s MO that it’s almost out of the realm of possibility.

Let’s just concentrate on beating the shit out of Donaldson and the Twins this week. That’s obviously assuming that he can stay healthy enough for a week straight to make it on the field.

Let’s Go Sox

Baseball

BOX SCORES

Game 1: Rays 5 – White Sox 2

Game 2: Rays 0 – White Sox 3

Game 3: Rays 7 – White Sox 8

 

Despite the comments in the press from the players that this was just another series in June, this felt a little more…edgy for the Sox than the Rays. With players dropping like flies over the first few months of the season and their merely average win percentage against teams with winning records this felt like a chance for the Sox to make a statement. Doing so without the services of Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal and Michael Kopech was an extremely tall order, and the fact that the team took 2 of 3 from the Rays is pretty goddamn impressive.

It’s hard to not get excited about this team right now, and if Rick Hahn makes a few solid moves leading up to the deadline they could (GULP) become a legitimate contender for the AL Pennant. It’s weird to have this kind of hope and excitement about a franchise that’s done nothing but grind our hopes into dust the last decade, and I still am kinda waiting for the other shoe to drop…but STILL. Excitement!

 

 

Numbers Don’t Lie

Game 1:

-The biggest story coming out of this game doesn’t involve any Sox players (yet), as Tyler Glasnow was pulled in the 5th inning after feeling a twang in his elbow. After further evaluation, it turns out he has a partial tear of the UCL ligament, which is pretty much death for any pitcher. The more interesting part was his assertion that the tear was partially caused by the fact that MLB has issued a league-wide ban on any sticky substance for pitchers. This is a pretty complex issue, despite some of the blanket statements by people on twitter dot com that he’s a cheater and that’s what he deserves the reality is that with MLB using a hammer when they should be using a scalpel they’re creating a cascade of issues that may cost some pitchers time on the IL.

-Lance Lynn had the same issues that Lucas Giolito had his last start, where his stuff was there but a few pitches were left up in the zone and punished over the wall. Other than the 2 mistakes he made, Lynn looked like the ace he is. Nothing to see here, other than his amazing quote at the end of the game:

-The batting average of Yermin Mercedes continues to plummet earthward as he went 0-4 with 3 strikeouts in the game. He hasn’t looked himself in a few weeks, and with the positive Eloy news coming out Monday he may be K-ing his way out of a roster spot.

-You’re not gonna win many games when your 3-7 hitters go 0-infinity, but credit to the Rays bullpen for picking up the slack once Glasnow died. They’re the type of unit that can simply dominate a series in the postseason, and it’s scary to think the Sox could see them in the 1st round.

-Garret Crochet gave up a dinger, bringing his ERA up to 0.81. Total bust.

Game 2

-Adam Engel nuked a 98 mph fastball over the bullpen in left. Can you imagine what a platoon of him and Joc Pedersen would’ve looked like for the Sox outfield? Instead we’re left with the corpse of Adam Eaton. GOOD CALL.

-Dallas Keuchel had his good stuff tonight, spotting his sinker at the bottom of the zone and forcing the Rays to pound the ball into the dirt. His final line of 7 IP, 4 hits, 1BB, 5K’s is the atypical start from him and it was great to see him back in form. Not bad for a 5th starter, eh?

-Jose Abreu and Yermin looked all out of sorts against McClanahan tonight, as neither of them could pick up the spin on his breaking ball. Jose is now 0-8 in the 1st 2 games of the series, and Yermin is…still not good.

-Aaron Bummer came in and gave up a leadoff double, then slammed the door shut after that for his 10th hold of the season. Getting him and Evan Marshall back up to snuff will be key in the 2nd half of the season, and this was a good start.

-Liam Hendriks rebounded nicely from his rain soaked blown save. Still would’ve rather had a $30 million dollar right fielder, but that’s not gonna stop me from enjoying him on the team. Fun shit.

Game 3

-Jose Abreu got shit started right against Ryan Yarborough (who had come into the game pitching very solidly having only given up 10 runs in his previous 35 innings pitched) by lacing a line drive HR over the head of Manuel Margot. It was his only hit of the series, but way to make it count.

-Lucas Giolito once again was bitten by the long ball. He certainly didn’t pitch poorly by any stretch of the imagination (quality start and should’ve had the win) but that’s now 6 dingers given up in half of June, when he only gave up 5 in the entire month of May. Definitely bears watching.

-The bullpen implosion shows the issues they have with consistency right now. Bummer and Marshall will look unhittable for a stretch of two or three games, and then get their fucking doors blown off. Looking at the other dugout you see a bullpen of guys who are consistent as hell, and in the playoffs that’s what you need. Once Kopech comes back, him and Crochet need to be the 8th inning guys going forward until Bummer and Marshall get back to form.

-Danny Mendick tried to make up for his error in the 8th with a leadoff double in the 9th, but the strike zone of home plate ump Fieldin Culbreth became 3 feet wide. It was an inexplicable change to the strike zone in a critical portion of the game, and he’d actually done pretty well up until that point. Robot umps, plz.

-Yasmani Grandal walks, and then he REALLY walks (it off) with a game winning screamer down the RF line. Is he the best .152 hitter of all time? Yes. Is he not of this world? Quite Possibly.

 

Next up is another stout test for the Sox with 4 against the Houston Astros. While their pitching isn’t quite what it once was, they have enough weapons at the plate to be in the top tier in all offensive categories. By taking 4 of 6 against the Rays and Blue Jays the Sox have already done enough to consider this portion of the schedule a success. Splitting with Houston or better would just be the cherry on top. With Moncada supposedly coming back tonight, I certainly wouldn’t bet against them.

Let’s Go Sox

Baseball

Game 1 Box Score
Game 2 Box Score
Game 3 Box Score

 

In case it wasn’t made clear by the 7000 times Jason Benetti waxed poetically about how fun it would be for these two teams to meet in the post-season, the Sox and Jays put on quite a series at 35th & Shields over the past few days with the Sox winning two of three, though not without further injury cost. Both of these teams boast some outstanding young hitters, and also a healthy collection of beefy boys on each roster, and all of it was on full display. Though where the Sox were able to separate themselves over the course of three games was most notably the pitching from both the bullpen and the starters was able to outlast the Jays hitters and give the Sox bats enough time in games 1 and 3 to get to the soft underbelly of the Jays’ pen.

Game 1

An early game of the year candidate against Robbie Ray’s pronounced ass crack and Monica-Seles-level grunts, counterpart Carlos Rodon didn’t have the stuff that has become the standard for him through the first part of this season, and seemingly started every inning with a runner on 2nd base. But HARD CARL was able to sweatily wriggle out of almost all of it through the course if his five twitchy innings, and the Notorious TLR had his best game of the season pulling all of the right levers building a bridge to Hendriks in the 9th through Ruiz, Marshall, and Crochet, the pitcher of record. The pen only allowed two hits in their 12 outs of work, and kept the powerful bats of the Jays at bay, and Evan Marshall in particular had a key strikeout of the absolutely terrifying Vlad Guerrero Jr to end the 7th.

At the plate Andrew Vaughn was the star of the evening, finally denting Ray with a solo shot, and then nearly put the game out of reach on his own with a deep bases loaded sacrifice fly. A two run triple from Leury Garcia added some insurance, and it would be more than the back end of the bullpen would need.

Game 2

On Wednesday night Lance Lynn, or as Ozzie calls him “LASS LEEN”, gave his customary efficient 7 innings of his wide variety of different fastballs that kept all but Randal Grichuk off balance, whose solo homer tied the game after the Sox grabbed one in the first on a Yoan RBI single. As a mirror image of the night previous, everything went to hell in soft fashion against Aaron Bummer in the 8th who managed to only get one official out, with a key dropped third strike where rookie Riley Adams was able take first base to keep their rally going. A walk to Vladito and his extremely rude cheeks brought in tying run, and the Jays kept the line moving after that.

More discouraging however, is the fact that Nick Madrigal tore his hamstring while sprinting down to first base on a grounder. Nicky Versteeg has been infuriating at times with his asinine baserunning decisions and occasional stonehandedness in the field, but no one can deny that his bat-to-ball skill has been a definitely plus for this team in keeping innings alive, especially in the era of gunked up balls flying in at a zillion miles an hour specifically designed to miss bats. It appears Dancin’ Danny Mendick will get first crack at the job in Madrigal’s protracted absence, but this might just be one injury too many and Rick Hahn might finally have to find a solution for this season outside the organ-I-zation. But at least Jose Abreu survived having a bat thrown at him by the home plate umpire.

Game 3

In the rubber match last night, the Sox figured out very early on to take lefty Hyun Jin Ryu oppo from the right batter’s box, as he primarly works away and with off speed stuff. Abreu sliced a double into the right field corner to bring home Yermin who had doubled himself just before, and then the extremely fucking moist Yasmani Grandal reached out and sent one over the right field wall. That three run lead would be more than enough for Dallas Keuchel to work with, as he looked vintage in his quick work and accuracy at the edge of the zone, no doubt helped by some Grandal framework. The Jays would get to within one with RBI singles in the 5th and 6th, but Adam Engel connected for his first hit of the season with an insurance dong to left center, and Abreu would double home TA in the 9th for good measure ahead of another Hendriks save.

Up next for the Southside Nine will be a trip to Detroit where they’ll need to sock away some wins over the weekend before a week straight against some sterner stuff in the Tampa Bay Rays (who sadly will not be wearing their neon ass throwbacks here), and then on to Houston after that. That should be a pretty good indication of just how much help they’re going to need.

Baseball

BOX SCORES

Game 1: Orioles 1 – White Sox 5

Game 2: Orioles 4 – White Sox 7

Game 3: Orioles 1 – White Sox 3

Game 4: Orioles 1 – White Sox 3

 

Punching down on the teams you’re supposed to beat in MLB is what gets you in the playoffs, and that’s exactly what the Sox did this past weekend. Lucas Giolito returned to his old unhittable self, Lance Lynn looked excellent and Dylan Cease brushed off his stinker in NY to get back to form. The only real issue was Dallas Keuchel and his sinker not sinking nearly well enough that resulted in quite a few balls clearing the OF fences at The Down Arrow. Yet the Sox hit enough dingers of their own to make it a moot point, and when you’re winning games with your 5th starter life is pretty good.

Not much else to say about this one, and it’s a holiday so I’m gonna go play a round of golf and enjoy being with my family. You all should do the same, and we can reconvene after the series with Cleveland with hopefully an even bigger lead in the AL Central. Have a good rest of your holiday everyone.

Let’s Go Sox!

Baseball

Twins VS.

 

Records: Twins 12-20 (LOL) White Sox 19-13

First Pitch: Tues/Wed 7:10 Thursday 1:10

TV/Radio: NBCSN and ESPN1000

Ted Talk: Twinkie Town

 

Probable Starters

Game 1: Kenta Maeda (2-2 5.02 ERA) vs. Dylan Cease (2-0 2.37 ERA)

Game 2: J.A. Happ (2-0 1.91 ERA) vs. Dallas Keuchel (1-1 3.79 ERA)

Game 3: Michael Pineda (2-1 2.43 ERA) vs. Carlos Rodon (5-0 0.58 ERA (!!))

 

Ahhh the Twins. The Nashville Predators of the AL Central. The team that has the talent to win the division year in and year out, yet is hilariously unable to win even a game in the postseason. It would be even more hilarious if it usually didn’t come at the expense of the White Sox playoff chances. This year things seem to be upside down, however. The Twins record currently sits at an ugly 12-20, good enough for 4th in the division while the Sox sit atop the pile at 19-13. The Twins, known these past few years for pounding the ball out of the yard (earning them the moniker of Bomba Squad) continue to be offensively gifted, sitting 4th in the AL in total offense right behind the Sox. The pitching is where it all starts going wrong for the Twins. They currently rank dead last in the AL for WAR earned by their pitching staff (the Sox sit 2nd behind NY), and are bottom 3 for all the major categories including K/9, ERA, and FIP.

The starters for Minnesota actually haven’t been as bad as the above indicates, as nobody expects Jose Berrios and Kenta Maeda to have 5+ ERAs for the rest of the season (though to be fair, nobody expects JA Happ to have a sub 2 ERA for the rest of the year either). It’s when the starters come out of the game that the pitching gets truly horrendous. The Twins bullpen is worth a collective -0.6 WAR, and has the most blown saves of any AL team thus far in the season, most of which came from Sox Sleeper Agent Alex Colome who’s 1-3 record with 3 blown saves has done more for the Chicago cause than anyone else on the Minnesota Squad. Anytime I see those stats, my complaints about the start for Liam Hendriks die a quiet death.

On the offensive side of the ball, the long awaited breakout for Byron Buxton seems to have finally happened. In the month of April he absolutely punished the ball, to the tune of a .370/.408/1.180 slash line and a hilarious 226 wRC+ rating. He also crushed 9 home runs and stole 5 bases, which seems kind of low for him but when all the balls you hit leave the yard stolen base opportunities tend to go down. Unfortunately for Buxton and the Twins, the injury bug that has plagued him his entire career reared it’s ugly head last week when he pulled up lame with a grade 2 hip flexor strain (sound familiar?) and will miss a few weeks at least while it heals up.

Nelson Cruz is still doing his thing, slashing .295/.340/.910 with 8 dingers. For a guy pushing 41 years old, that’s impressive as hell. He no longer plays in the field, so the Twins lose him when they head to NL parks (much like the Sox with the Yerminator) but when he’s at the dish there’s nobody on the Twins who can do more damage with Buxton out.

After Buxton, Cruz and Josh Donaldson (when healthy), the drop in production rate is pretty steep for the Twins. Miguel Sano, Mitch Garver, Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler are all under the .250 mark for average, with .480 the highest slugging percentage among them. Prized rookie Alex Kirrillof was called back up a few weeks ago (mysteriously after the service time deadline for another season passed. Weird) and went on a tear for about 10 days before he fucked up his wrist (and my fantasy team). They’re waiting on a second opinion, but season ending surgery is still on the table. Either way, both him and Buxton will be out from this series.

As for the Sox, they look to keep the momentum going on the pitching side of things after the triumphant sweep of the Royals this weekend where Rodon, Lynn and Giolito allowed a combined 4 runs the entire series. The offense did it’s part, banging out 29 hits and plating 21 runs in the series. The Sox jumped all over the Royals prized rookie starter Daniel Lynch by dropping 8 runs on his head and chasing him from the game before he could complete the first inning. The Yerminator had his first career triple on Sunday afternoon, hitting a ball in the gap that Michael Taylor tried to snag with a dive but ended up punting it into the corner. The Yerm ended up a home run short of his first career cycle, but seeing him chug past second for the triple was well worth my time.

Both Dallas Keuchel and Dylan Cease look to build off their excellent starts last time out against Cincinnati, going a combined 13 innings without yielding a run. Cease had his best outing possibly of his career, going 6 strong innings with 11 strikeouts. More importantly he was efficient with his pitches, only walking 3 (which for him is an improvement) and throwing 96 to finish the day. His fastball had more life on it than in previous starts, and he was accurate with it at the top of the zone. Keuchel was back to his old economical self, only striking out 1 but getting everyone else on the Reds to pound the ball in the dirt with his sinker, which looked the best it has since last season. Both guys are going to need to continue this trend, because despite the Twins being in a rut they still have the offensive weapons to make the Sox arms pay the price for mistakes.

Despite being up 7 games on the Twins, now is not the time to take the foot off the gas. I think we all know that the Twins misery is only temporary, and at some point the sleeping giant is going to awaken and climb back up the rankings. The 6 games the Sox have with them in the next 9 days is the perfect chance to put even more distance between them and Minnesota, and making that hole they have to climb out of even deeper. 4 of 6 would be an excellent start, 6 of 6 would be considered euphoric. Bury these fuckers while you have the chance…no mercy.

Let’s Go Sox

Baseball

VS.

Records: White Sox 16-13 / Royals 16-14

First Pitch: Fri 7:10 / Sat 6:10 / Sun 1:10

TV/Radio: NBCSN and ESPN1000

Smoked Brisket: Royals Review

 

Probable Starters

Game 1: Carlos Rodon (4-0 0.72 ERA) vs. Brad Keller (2-3 8.06 ERA)

Game 2: Lance Lynn (2-1 1.82 ERA) vs. Daniel Lynch (0-0 5.79 ERA)

Game 3: Lucas Giolito (1-3 4.99 ERA) vs. Mike Minor (2-1 4.73 ERA)

 

 

Fresh off an idiotic loss to the Reds on Wednesday, the Sox head Southwest to the land of BBQ and Patrick Mahomes for a three game set against the Royals. It seems that the Sox are arriving in KC at an opportune time, as up until about a week ago the Royals sat atop the AL Central Division. One 5 game losing streak later, and now they’re a half game behind the Sox, and Cleveland has jumped everyone into first place.

In reality, none of this should be surprising. The Royals hot start was really nothing more than a mirage of great BABIP and a bullpen punching WAY above it’s weight. Now that statistics have come home to roost, runs have been in short supply and the pen has been getting it’s dick knocked in the dirt for a week.

All that isn’t to say the Royals lineup isn’t dangerous, because there certainly are some deadly spots in it. Sal Perez is still here, and having a resurgent year so far with 7 home runs on the campaign. Carlos Santana is doing his best Yasmani Grandal impression but with a better batting average. He’s currently slashing a very nice .250/.364/.818 on the year with 6 home runs and 21 RBI. He’s also walked as many times as he’s struck out (20), and somehow stolen a base. I can only imagine the shame of Wilson Ramos as he realized that figure slowly shambling between 1st and 2nd was not a mirage and actually Santana stealing his first base in over 2 years.

Whit Merrifield is still here, a cautionary tale still burning through the best years of his career with a perpetually rebuilding team, as is former Cubs project Jorge Soler, who’s power numbers are down precipitously from the last few seasons. Part of that is his current run of bad luck. His BABIP and wOBA are both around .260, while his actual average is hovering at .195. His hard hit percentage is the highest it’s been in his career at 58%, so he appears to be pretty snakebit right now. Here’s hoping that continues, because when he’s connecting the ball tends to go a long way.

As for the Royals starting pitching, the Sox manage to avoid their “ace,” Danny Duffy, who’s currently enjoying something of a renaissance this year. What the Sox get instead is their old enemy Brad Keller. The last time out, the Sox pummeled Keller for 4 runs in 3 innings on the way to a complete game shutout for Lance Lynn. This time around he gets to face Hard Carl and his 0.72 ERA, while Lynn draws the assignment of the Royals top pitching prospect in Daniel Lynch. Saturday will be the second career start for Lynch, who was the Royals first pick in 2018 (and 4th overall). He’s essentially a 3 pitch starter at this point in his career, with a plus fastball and slider with a changeup that he sprinkles in. The one thing he’s got going against him in this series is that he’s a lefty, though without Luis Robert and Eloy in the lineup the Sox aren’t nearly the Nightmare Fuel for lefties they were last season.

For the White Sox, after their split with the Reds a few days ago they’re 6-4 in the last 10 games. Still looking for ways to fill in the gaping hole left behind by the injury to Luis Robert, Rick Hahn did an admirable job signing Brian Goodwin to a minor league deal.  Goodwin in 2019 was a solid contributor for a mostly punchless Angels squad, slashing .262/.326/.796 in 413 plate appearances with 17 dingers. He played solid defense at all outfield positions, and was a 1.8 WAR player. He’ll spend a week or so at Charlotte getting ramped up for the season, but once he arrives he should provide an excellent stopgap for Hahn until he can swing a bigger deal.

Tim Anderson gets to face his nemesis Keller on Friday night for the first time this season since he was out with a hamstring injury the last series. While he only has a career average of .118 against Keller with the one glorious home run, he’s been pretty hot the last 15 games with a .313/.343/.827 slash line. The fact that he has his OBP higher than his average is a great sign for how Timmy is seeing the ball. Sure would like to have him see a hanger from Keller so he can park that shit in their stupid fountain.

As I mentioned above, the Sox are catching the Royals at exactly the right time. Their pitching has been exposed, and most of their hitting has gone cold. The Sox starters seem to have turned it around, and they line up well against KC this weekend. The table is set for a series win, and they’ll need it to keep up with a suddenly scorching hot Cleveland squad. Hopefully the team can put the shenanigans of Wednesday afternoon in the rearview mirror and punch down on a Royals club that is reeling.

Let’s Go Sox.

Baseball

BOX SCORES

Game 1: Cleveland 3 – White Sox 4

Game 2: Cleveland 2 – White Sox 0

Game 3: Cleveland 0 – White Sox 8

Game 4: Cleveland 4 – White Sox 2

 

While part of me REALLLLLY wants to get fired up and bitch about the fact that the Sox had YET ANOTHER chance to put away a team in the rubber match of a series and failed to do it, I’ve decided to take a calmer, more positive approach to this recap. Talk more about what went right than what went wrong. Then if I don’t feel better I’ll throw my laptop off the roof and drop an elbow on it’s remains.

Because in reality, there was a lot to like about the Sox performance this series. The pitching was absolutely fucking nails. Yermin hit another ball that broke orbit and knocked on of Elon’s satellites out of the sky. Moncada seems to be coming out of his slump, and Tim Anderson came back from the DL and promptly smoked 2 hits. Even Adam Eaton was less offensive to me during this series! All good things! We should talk about them, that way you don’t have to think about the Blackhawks getting fucking skulled by the Dead Wings last night.

ANNOUNCER: Aaaand here comes the laptop throw!

 

TO THE BULLETS!

 

NUMBERS DON’T LIE

 

-How cool is it that Carlos Rodon, after having what can only be described as consecutive miserable seasons, came out there and was a shoelace away from a perfect game? It’s not often anyone has to “settle” for a no hitter, but that was definitely the case here. Side note: while I really wanna get mad at Roberto Perez (not just because he looks like a bargain basement Yadi Molina) for not getting out of the way of the backfoot slider, there really wasn’t much chance of him doing that. Throughout the start Rodon was in control of the zone, changing speeds and moving up and down. Much like peak Justin Verlander, his velocity started around 92 and peaked at 98.9 MPH on the 108th pitch of his start. You can’t teach stuff like that, it has to be engrained in you. Through 2 starts, Rodon is 2-0 with 16 strikeouts and a 0.36 WHIP. If this is what a finally healthy Rodon looks like, then I’d like to rescind all the nasty comments I made about his signing back in January. Hard Carl indeed.

-The rest of the Sox pitching was no slouch either. Dallas Keuchel came in on short notice Monday night after Hard Carl’s #2s turned out to not be so hard. He went a solid 5 innings, using only 65 pitches until he hit the invisible force field that prevents him from reaching the 7th inning. The fact that this was on shorter rest than normal leads me to give him a pass on this one, and the bullpen was totally up to the task anyways. Evan Marshall came in with the bags loaded and no outs and managed to hold Cleveland to a single run. Then it was Codi Heuer’s turn to dominate, as he went 2.1 innings only giving up a single hit and striking out 4. He ended up with the win after the Sox managed some Benny Hill shit in the bottom of the 9th.

-The Aces matchup between Lucas Giolito and Shane Bieber did not disappoint. Between the two of them there were 16 innings of shutout ball and 19 strikeouts. Neither team was able to pick up the off-speed stuff, and Bieber’s curveball was the nastiest I’ve ever seen it. LaRussa certainly didn’t help the situation with his lineup, but that’s a discussion for another time. Cleveland was able to pick up the win in the Bozo Buckets Extra Inning Extravaganza after Garret Crochet was unable to field his position on an Eddie Rosario chopper. Regardless, it was an awesome display of pitching from the starters, and one that we hopefully get again this season.

-Lance Lynn pitched great again, and just made one mistake on the afternoon. Unfortunately for the Sox, that mistake was to Jose Ramierz and he absolutely did not miss. Lesson learned.

-Ladies and Gentlemen, I give to you….The Yerminator:

-While I’d love to get pissed off at Andres Gimenez for helping Adam Eaton off the bag at 2nd base yesterday, watching the play a lot of it was caused by the force of Eaton sliding into the bag. Did Gimenez “help” Eaton by giving his momentum a little nudge? Probably. Was it worth Eaton pushing him and causing the benches to clear? Probably not. I understand both sides, but ultimately I feel like it was the right call by Bill Miller.

-You can see Luis Robert and Yoan Moncada seeing the ball better from the box each game that passes. They’re both about to go on a tear, and god help whoever is on the mound when they do.

-I was under the impression that Dylan Cease had the Rona and would be out this weekend but now according to NBC Chicago he’s been cleared from the COVID-19 protocols and will be available to pitch tonight. Yay, I guess?

-Next up is (maybe) a 4 game series against the Red Sox out in Bahhston. I say maybe because the forecast for the weekend is not very friendly, with a possibility of snow (!) tonight. The Red Sox bats have come alive in the past week, scoring 30 runs in that seven days. TLR has yet to say how he’s going to set his pitching lineup after Rodon got moved around, but if the game gets played I suppose we will see Cease vs Nick Pivetta tonight. Let’s go (white) Sox.

Baseball

Sadly, the title of the post isn’t about my long-unfinished script featuring teenagers trying to get laid one summer while getting into some zany antics at the car wash they all work at. No, it’s about the return of one Adam Cory Eaton to the South side of Chicago, who Rick Hahn signed to a 1 year deal today worth $7 million dollars.

The signing caps a wild 12 hours which saw the Sox send Dane Dunning and Avery Weems (who’s name can be rearranged to spell Weever Yams) to the Rangers for their Ace and professional Bluto cosplayer Lance Lynn. One of these moves I’m all for, the other one not so much.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

ADAM EATON

2020 Stat Line: .226/.285/.669 4 HR, 17 RBI, 22 R, 3 SB, 18.2% K Rate, 75 wRC+

2019 Stat Line: .279/.365/.792 15 HR, 49 RBI, 103 R, 15 SB, 16.2% K Rate, 107 wRC+

Well those are two very different looking lines there, aren’t they? To say that Eaton had anything but a miserable 2020 would be a colossal understatement. He looked completely out of sorts, and had trouble putting the ball in play with any type of power. His contact numbers tanked, and his K rate spiked. The Nats (unsurprisingly) declined his $10.5 million option for 2021 and he became a free agent.

His 2019 was a completely different story, as his ability to get on base consistently led him to 3rd on the Nats in runs scored behind Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto. He was also 3rd on the team in stolen bases, and was average in the OF, manning both corner position spots. More importantly, he was also healthy for the first time in ages, playing more than 100 games (151) for the first time in 4 seasons.

If the White Sox had no history with Eaton, I would be cautiously optimistic about this signing. He’s a very good outfielder when he’s able to stay healthy, and has the ability to get on base and score runs when the bigger bats knock him in.

Yet the Sox and Eaton have a very storied history together, and most of it eye-rollingly annoying. Not that anyone has forgotten the Saga of Child MLB Locker Room Leader Drake LaRoche, of which Eaton was a prime player. Looking back, this was the beginning of the Sox rebuild, whether Kenny Williams wanted to admit it or not. Now, at the end of it all right when the Sox are ready to take the AL Central by storm he’s back, like the Ghost of Lockerooms Past.

As it stands now, I personally feel the Sox locker room is as strong as it’s been since quite possibly 2005. Tim Anderson and Jose Abreu are the leaders from the offensive side, and Lucas Giolito has turned into the Mentor Extraordinaire on the pitching side. The addition of Adam Eaton should hopefully be nothing more than what it is at the face: a slightly better platoon player in RF with Adam Engel.

Lance Lynn

2020 Stats: 6-3/3.32 ERA/89 K/1.06 WHIP/4.19 FIP/1.5 WAR

2019 Stats: 16-11/3.67 ERA/246 K/3.13 FIP/6.8 WAR

On the other side of all of this was the story that broke late last night: that Rick Hahn had sent promising young arm Dane Dunning and Avery Weems (the Sox 6th round selection in 2019) to the Rangers for their ace Lance Lynn.

Looking at Lynn’s stats over the past few years, one thing comes flying out at you. His strikeout numbers jumped huge in 2019, almost 100 Ks more than the 160 he had in 2018. He accomplished this by having TJ surgery in 2016, then moving to the 3rd base side of the rubber in 2017. Oh, and he also started throwing his 4 seam fastball more than any other pitcher in the league. He also managed to add 1.2 mph to his average velocity to the pitch, which is not something that normally happens in 30+ year old pitchers in MLB.

He also increased his control with his cutter, consistently able to throw it away from righties and get swinging strikes, or jam it in on the hands of left handed hitters, blowing up bats and generating weaker contact. The chart below shows clearly his ability to keep the pitch close enough to the zone to force swings (courtesy of Thomas Harrigan @ MLB.COM)

On top of the increased Ks, Lynn eats innings like dots for PacMan. He threw 208 in 2019, the 4th time in his career breaking the 200 inning mark. All this combined makes him a hell of a number 2 starter behind Lucas Giolito, slotting Dallas Keuchel in the 3 spot where he really should’ve been the whole time.

While I really am going to miss Dane Dunning, at best he caps out at a league average 4th starter. The fact that Rick Hahn was able to score someone who was able to put forth stats like that on an abysmal Rangers team is the kind of moves a team who wants to sit at the big boys table makes.

I understand some folks reticence at trading one of the prized prospects collected by Hahn, but ask yourself this question: If the Fernando Tatis Jr trade had never happened, would you still feel the same way about this deal?

The shell shock that some people (rightfully) have about the Tatis trade has lead them to clutch the Sox prospects tighter than Vince McMahon holding onto the idea his wrestlers are independent contractors. It’s an understandable feeling, but one we’re going to have to get past as Dunning will not be the last precious prospect to move on.

Still left for Rick Hahn: solving the closer position, and adding a DH in case Andrew Vaughn isn’t ready for the full time role in 2021. I’m sure I’ll be back here sooner rather than later, so stay tuned.