Baseball

BOX SCORES

Game 1: Red Sox 3 – White Sox 4

Game 2: Red Sox 9 – White Sox 8 (10 Innings)

Game 3: Red Sox 1 – White Sox 2

 

In a series where the Sox very easily could’ve taken all 3 games despite some glaring deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball, 2 wins should be considered a  healthy victory, especially since it takes the season series against Boston (which is always nice, because fuck Boston).

In addition, the 2 wins this weekend drops the White Sox’ magic number down to 9 with Cleveland getting No-Hit on Saturday and 4 Hit on Sunday. More importantly than that, everyone stayed healthy over the weekend with Lance Lynn and Carlos Rodon making their returns. Mostly good stuff all around.

 

TO THE BULLETS

 

 

GAME 1

-Jose Abreu didn’t do much in this series except for his second plate appearance on Friday night, where Tanner Houck hung a slider low and away to him and yet he still managed to pull it just to the right of the Sox bullpen for a 3 run shot. It wasn’t a tape measure dinger by any stretch of the imagination, but it was enough to give the Sox a lead they would refuse to relinquish. It also put Jose back on top of the AL lead in RBIs with 107, with Sal Perez and Vladdy Jr right behind him.

-Carlos Rodon returned and fired 5 strong innings, surrendering only a solo shot to Bobby Dalbec in the 5th inning. He struck out 7 and only allowed 5 hits. More importantly his velocity was back up, topping out at just under 98 MPH, where it was only around 95 in his previous start before his 2nd trip to the IL. He also threw 82 pitches in the 5 innings, and said he could’ve gone another but LaRussa smartly called it an early night.

-The bullpen had a solid night except for Ryan Tepera, who struggled with the command of his fastball for the first time in quite awhile. Thankfully Garret Crochet was up to the task, bailing out Tepera by getting Schwarber to fly out, ending the inning. Tepera has been one of the best releivers for the Sox since the trade deadline, so I’m willing to chalk this one up as a fluke.

-The 1-2 punch of Craig Kimbrel and Liam Hendriks shut the door on the Red Sox in the 8th and 9th, though it wasn’t a clean sweep. Kimbrel gave up a leadoff walk in the 8th, and Hendriks a single in the 9th, which was originally an out but overturned by the nerds in NY after a brief review.

-The Sox could’ve made this less of a game, but the trend of stranding a conga line of runners on base continued with 21 left out there to die on the vine. Jose Abreu was the primary culprit, stranding 7 by himself, yet he also accounted for 75% of the Sox offense with his 3rd inning dinger so I guess that evens out. The lack of timely hitting IS a concern however, and needs to be addressed before the calendar flips to October.

GAME 2

-Dylan Cease just very flatly did not have his stuff Saturday night. The issues were different than the ones we’ve seen in the past, where he’s able to get ahead of hitters 0-2 or 1-2 and is unable to put them away. This time he was just missing the zone on the first two pitches of the at-bats and then battled back to a full count, only to lose the hitter on the 7th or 8th pitches of the at bats. I have nothing to back this up other than what I’ve seen, but it appears that Cease has difficulty pitching consistently out of the stretch. Whether this is a release point issue or something else remains to be seen, but I’m sure him and Katz are working on the issue. Either way, he just plain sucked tonight.

-The flip side of that coin is that Michael Kopech looked every bit the world destroyer that he was billed as when the Sox sent Chris Sale to Boston for him and Moncada (also awesome). He faced 7 batters on Saturday night, and struck out 5 of them. His command of his fastball AND his slider was downright filthy, and he was able to mix them to the point of utter confusion for the BoSox hitters. In the 5th inning he got Dalbec to swing at a filthy wipeout slider down and away, then blew away Travis Shaw with a fastball that broke 100 on the gun, then went back to the slider and made Kike Hernandez soil himself. Here’s the 3 pitch strikeout of Shaw, just look at the movement on that 4-seamer:

-Oh look, Grandal and Robert combine for 7 hits on the night while Moncada was on base 4 times. Once Eloy gets his timing back and TA returns to the lineup there should be no excuses for them not to put up at least 5 per game.

-Craig Kimbrel was unable to hold the lead in the 8th, and the White Sox were unable to get Luis Robert in from 2nd after his ground rule double in the 9th. The writing was on the wall for a tough loss, but TLR sealed the deal when he threw Mike Wright to pitch in the 10th where he promptly gave up an RBI single to put Boston ahead.

-The Sox didn’t help their case in the bottom half of the inning, however. With runners on 1st and 3rd and nobody out, Leury Garcia struck out on 3 straight pitches. Tony then brought in Danny Mendick to pinch hit for Gavin Sheets (which was fine, though I would’ve preferred Vaughn but whatever) who promptly struck out. Then Goodwin had his shot but was unable to get Eloy in from 3rd, grounding out softly to end the game. Fart Noise.

GAME 3

-This game had each team with 4 hits apiece, and was about as exciting as that implies. It wasn’t even like either team was stranding a bunch on the bases, they just kinda sucked offensively.

-Lance Lynn looked good in his return, however. Another 5 inning stint, only needing 70 pitches to get through them. I realize TLR wants to protect these guys in their first starts back, but it definitely put a strain on the bullpen this weekend.

-Speaking of the pen, Garrett Crochet and Jose Ruiz looked good for their parts. They managed 3 innings between the two of them whilst striking out 2. Crochet looked a bit off, but gutted out his innings and got the ball to Ruiz. Well done, both of them.

-Pitching in his 3rd consecutive game, Craig Kimbrel looked bad. He couldn’t spot his knuckle curve to save his life, walking Rafael Devers on 4 of them to load the bases. Zavala finally called for a fastball against Verdugo, but he got enough of it to get the sac fly in from 3rd to bring the BoSox even. Since coming over from the Cubs at the deadline, Kimbrel has been a pretty mixed bag. Some games he looks unhittable, and others he looks like he couldn’t find the strike zone with a GPS. He’s spoken openly about having difficulties with his mechanics right now, and realistically it’s the perfect time (if there ever was one) for that, since he’s got just under a month to get right. Nobody doubts his stuff, but results matter and as of now they haven’t been there nearly enough.

-Anyways, all Kimbrel’s blown save did was create an opportunity for Leury Legend to make up for his 3 pitch K in the 10th the night before. Ballgame.

 

Next up is a team the Sox haven’t seen since Opening Day, the Los Angeles Angels Of Anaheim And Also Portions Of Disneyland But Not Star Wars Land Because That’s Extra. Their roster looks a bit different since Mike Trout exploded his calf back in June and hasn’t been seen since. The most exciting man in baseball, Shohei Ohtani is still here, as is Jared Walsh. Also the corpse of Justin Upton, and Blonde Nick Madrigal (David Fletcher). Besides those 4, offense is pretty hard to come by for the L-AAA, though they have some interesting pieces in Jo Addell and Brandon Marsh.

The Angels have very little starting pitching outside of Ohtani, since Dylan Bundy turned back into a more-orange pumpkin and Griffin Canning turned out to be Dylan Cease with shittier stuff and somehow worse control. Jose Suarez is probably the best of the bunch right now, having gone 2-0 with one complete game shutout over the last month.

Tim Anderson is likely to return tomorrow, which makes it the first time all season the White Sox will be fully armed and operational on the offensive side of the ball. The opportunities to pour on the runs against this Angels team will be there, as well as the chance to close the gap for home field in the AL as the Sox try and run down the Astros for it. The brass ring is right there, time to reach up and grab it.

Let’s Go Sox

Baseball

BOX SCORES

Game 1: A’s 2 – White Sox 5

Game 2: A’s 0 – White Sox 9

Game 3: A’s 2 – White Sox 3

Game 4: A’s 5 – White Sox 4

 

For a four game series against a team that has historically kicked the shit out of the White Sox, this was a very nice change of pace. While the starting pitching didn’t exactly blind us with their brilliance, they did enough to turn it over to a bullpen that suddenly seems to be about as dominant as advertised at the beginning of the season. Combine that with Cleveland pooping all over themselves against the Twins, and you get the Sox with an 11.5 game lead after going 4-3 against the Yankees and A’s. With the Rays and Blue Jays on the horizon before they get a break against the Cubs, another 4-3 stint would be more than welcome, and probably enough to put the last 12 nails in Cleveland’s coffin.

Also: Yasmani Grandal is almost back!

 

NUMBERS DON’T LIE

GAME 1

-Dallas Keuchel started off the game looking like he wanted to be anywhere but on the mound on the South Side, as he gave up a leadoff dinger to Matt Olsen (eh, it happens), plunked Josh Harrison (not great), walked Stephen Piscotty (definitely not great), and then walked someone called “Vimael Machin” to load the bases before giving up a single to Mark Canha and a run scoring fielder’s choice to Starling Marte to spot the A’s to a 2 run lead. After this, however, he shut that shit down and went 5 solid innings before giving the ball to Michael Kopech. Gutsy performance for DK (I can use this now since Duncan Keith told the Hawks to get fucked), and really nothing to complain about out of your 5th starter after it looked like it was going to be an early exit.

-Speaking of Michael Kopech…wow. He looked unhittable in his 2 innings, striking out 3 and walking 1 (only because of the shit strike zone of Ron Kulpa) and generally making the A’s hitters look like they were being attacked by bees. I don’t know if the Sox are going to give him anymore spot starts, but I sure would like to see them.

-If Luis Robert can stay healthy, we could have a perennial MVP on our hands. He’s that good.

-Eloy just keeps plugging along, doing his thing. Knocking in runs and keeping his OPS over 1.0, making pitchers look scared of him. He also didn’t spontaneously combust in the outfield, so aces all around.

-Kimbrel and Hendriks righted the ship in a big way, striking out everyone they faced in their 2 total innings. Sickness.

GAME 2

-First and foremost I can’t say how glad I am that Chris Bassitt escaped any permanent damage after Brain Goodwin absolutely smoked a line drive off his cheekbone in the 2nd inning. Bassitt went down in a heap, with blood pouring out from between his fingers into the dust of the mound. It was horrible to see live, and even worse to hear. I don’t blame the A’s for pretty much packing it in after this.

-Credit to Jake Lamb for cleaning what Andrew Vaughn left for him on the table with a 3-run shot to center field. I don’t know how much longer the Sox are going to have room for him, but he’s certainly been a nice surprise.

-Jose Abreu just keeps doing the thing. Another 3 RBI night for Pito, and though his batting average is lower than one might like he’s still raking when it matters.

-If this is the Reynaldo Lopez we’re getting from here on out, I may be ready to get hurt again. He had some great stuff, and was more efficient than I’ve seen him in a long time. He was still under 70 pitches when he got lifted after the 5th, but I get TLR wanting to protect him from going through the order a 3rd time. Good shit.

-Ryan Burr picked right up where ReyLo left off and looked solid the pair of innings he worked. I like his stuff, and if given a chance think he could be “A Thing”

GAME 3

-Gonna be honest here, I missed most of the game because of Stupid Work™ but I did see the clip of Lance Lynn throwing all his accessories to the umpire after the 4th inning and getting tossed. Boss Level shit right there.

-More quality work out of the bullpen again with Ryan Tepera, Garrett Crochet and Aaron Bummer taking care of business before turning things over to a resurgent Liam Hendriks with 1 out in the 8th inning and a 1 run lead. Hendriks never looked under duress in the 1.2 innings he threw, and his slider had more break on it than in weeks past. I declare him healed.

-Ho Hum, another 3 hit game for Luis Robert. How droll. He did manage to make things interesting in the top of the 7th when the grass disintegrated beneath his feet and he fell to his ass and still almost made the catch.

GAME 4

-Dylan Cease came out a house of fire and mowed some chumps down in the first few innings, then…stopped. He gave up a solo shot to Sean Murphy in the 3rd, which…whatever, then completely lost the zone in the 4th inning where he walked in a run. It’s like he completely forgot everything he was doing in the first 3 innings and went back to getting ahead in the count and then filling the count trying to nibble the edges of the zone. His final line wasn’t bad (quality start), he’s just infuriating to watch sometimes.

-Andrew Vaughn smoked himself another dinger today off an 80 MPH curveball, bringing his career total up to 15 with a real shot at 25 for the year. Plus he’s played almost everywhere on the diamond, and I’m thinking the Sox have their own version of Max Muncy now.

-Michael Kopech made one mistake today, but that was all it took to end the Sox’ hopes of a 4 game sweep. He hung an 0-1 slider in the middle of the plate, and Matt Olsen (who else?) didn’t miss it. Live and learn.

-The Sox tried to make it interesting off Lou Trevino in the bottom of the 9th, but Eloy left Jose on 2nd base when he smoked a line drive right at Starling Marte. Can’t get too mad about it based on how well the first 3 games went. Moving on.

 

Next up the Sox have a 3 game set this weekend against the Tampa Bay Rays, who they took 2 of 3 from earlier in June. Looks like the Sox miss the meaty part of the Rays rotation, instead getting the corpse of Michael Wacha and Luis Patiño. Giolito, DK and ReyLo will get the nods against the Rays, who have the ability to single you to death, or bludgeon you with dingers. Let’s hope Gio can keep his stuff up in the zone, and DK down. Take another 2 from them, call it a series and send em packing back to America’s Taint.

 

Let’s Go Sox.

 

 

Baseball

BOX SCORES

Game 1: Cardinals 1 – White Sox 5

Game 2: Cardinals 3 – White Sox 8

Game 3: Cardinals 4 – White Sox 0

 

That was an acceptable palette cleanser from the verp that was this past weekend in the Bronx. The Sox starters were the story of the series, with Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito and Carlos Rodon all notching quality starts en route to taking two of three from the Red Birds. Liam Hendriks seems to have returned to form as well, coming into the legendary 8-3 save situation after Garret “Garbage Time” Crochet (and I mean that with the utmost respect, as he’s too good a pitcher for mop up duty) loaded the bases in the 9th inning on Tuesday night. He struck out the side in true Mariano Rivera fashion to seal the deal, screaming FUCK all the while. My dude.

The offense was present and accounted for in the first two games, and then vanished completely in game 3. Much like the rest of the time when the Sox score 2 or less runs (in which they are a paltry 1-7 in the month of May and 2-10 overall) the outcome was not in their favor, aided and abetted by TLR’s insistence on giving away outs trying to bunt runners over.

Which wasn’t helped by Yermin Mercedes’ inability to hit with RISP on Wednesday, going 0-4 while stranding 10(!) runners on base. Just leaving this out there, but since LaRussa needlessly threw Mercedes under the bus in Minneapolis, he’s slashed .207/.273/.480 with 1 run and 1 RBI as opposed to his slash line in the 8 games before: .344/417/.980 with 4 runs and 8 RBI. It’s one of those “I’m not sayin, I’m just sayin” kinda things. Is it that he’s just slumping right now, or that pitchers have figured him out? Sure, that’s a possibility. The timing is very suspect, however.

Anyways, to the bullets.

 

Numbers Don’t Lie

 

Game 1

-Lance Lynn was a beast in this one, taking a no hitter through 5+ innings, ultimately ending with 7 innings, 3 walks and 4 Ks en route to his 5th win of the season. While TLR was waxing poetically about how “difficult” it was to pitch against his former club, Lynn held no such sentiment, saying “I’m an asshole when I pitch” and declaring the win to be one of the “Most satisfying” of his career.

-Andrew Vaughn blasted his 4th home run of the season off a pretty good changeup by Cards starter Kwang Hyun Kim. He also added a single to bring his average up to .230, a pretty solid feat for a guy who spent about 6 hours total in the minor leagues. The hit tools are very clearly there, and he’s gotten better playing the OF. Good shit.

-Tim Anderson broke out of his mini slump with a 2 run double down the RF line, though he was ultimately gunned down by Molina at 3rd trying to stretch it into a triple. I’m pretty happy with both of those things, as being aggressive on the basepaths like that is Timmy’s M.O.

-Michael Kopech came in to shut the door in the 8th and 9th and looked pretty damn good doing it, striking out half the batters he faced and walking none.

Game 2

-This was billed as a marquee pitching matchup between two former high school teammates who became aces at the big league level. It was…not that. The Cardinals defense were struck by a bad case of The Sucks, and Flaherty tried his damndest to hold it together but in the end gave up 7 runs, 4(!) of which were of the unearned variety. Lucas Giolito looked solid, if unspectacular in his 6 innings of 2 run ball. There was a moment before he came out for the 5th where Ethan Katz and the training staff came out to look at him for some reason, but Lucas waved them off and threw two more. Don’t know what it was about but I guess it bears watching.

-As mentioned above, Garret Crochet’s mystifying usage thus far this season has clearly made him rusty. More garbage time duty tonight turned into a save situation for Liam Hendriks, who mowed down 3 Cardinals to clean up the mess. Crochet has one of the best ERAs in the bullpen, yet we continue to see a bevy of innings pitched by Jose Ruiz (who would have trouble getting ME out). I don’t get the rationale, and it irritates the fuck out of me.

-Nick Madrigal and Jose Abreu made sure the Cards paid a price for the clown show in the field, going 5-8 between the two of them with 5 RBI, including this massive dong by Jose in the 7th inning, estimated at 69-420 feet. Nice.

 

Game 3

-Sure is a shame that we’re only going to get one season of the Ethan Katz-fueled version of Carlos Rodon, as he mowed down 10 Cardinals in dominant fashion. Rodon is the biggest example of just how out of touch with the pitching game Don Cooper had become at the end of his career.

-Unless you’re Billy Hamilton and it’s 85% of your offensive ability, bunting is fucking stupid. Yet here we are, with 3 sac bunts on the day that yielded zero runs. Fuck that shit into the sun, and let these professional hitters swing the fucking bats.

-Adam Eaton left the game with a hamstring injury and is considered day to day, leaving….nobody to play in the outfield. If Eaton is missing a stretch of time, then Rick Hahn is out of excuses and a move has to be made.

-In a scary moment, Michael Kopech stumbled off the mound after a pitch in the 8th and limped off the field. Supposedly the tweak to his ankle is minor and he won’t require a stint on the DL, but I’ll believe that when I see it, considering this team’s luck this year with injuries.

-Aaron Bummer and Jose Ruiz didn’t cover themselves in glory yesterday, quadrupling the Cardinal’s lead between the two of them.

-The Sox hitters were unable to get anything started (or finished for that matter), on their way to their 4th time being shut out this month. A new RF power bat that hits lefty from Seattle might be able to help with that. Who knows?

 

Next up is a 4 game set against another Bird-Themed baseball club, the Baltimore Orioles. As was foretold, they currently sit in the basement of the AL East, but that is fairly misleading as the O’s have the ability to jump on a team in a hurry. Anthony Santander and a cancer-free Trey Mancini have the kind of power to make opposing pitchers pay, and John Means might be a legit ace after his perfect game earlier in the season. Now is not the time to let off the gas, take 3 in the series and move on to Cleveland.

Let’s Go Sox

Baseball

See the source image VS.

Records: Tigers 7-16 / White Sox 12-9

First Pitch: 7:10 Tues-Thurs

TV/Radio: NBCSN and ESPN1000

TIGER UPPERCT! – Bless You Boys

 

Probable Starters

Game 1: Jose Ureña (0-3 4.57 ERA) vs. Lucas Giolito (1-1 5.79 ERA)

Game 2: Casey Mize (1-2 5.23 ERA) vs. Carlos Rodon (3-0 0.47 ERA)

Game 3: Matthew Boyd (2-2 1.82 ERA) vs. Dylan “Sigh” Cease (0-0 4.15 ERA)

 

I don’t hate the Tigers anymore. I really used to, back in the early part of the 2010s. Much like my hatred for the Vancouver Canucks and Red Wings in hockey it’s just sort of fizzled out, leaving behind a feeling of indifference bordering on pity (probably how a lot of other teams felt about the Sox in the late 2010s and how everybody feels about the Hawks now).

A lot of this stems from how MLB teams run their franchises these days. The first time I ever went to Comerica Park in Detroit (beautiful field, BTW. If you can make it up there, you should), the Tigers were playing the Indians and both teams were hell bent on racing to 100 losses that season. The highlight of the game was my buddies and I setting the over/under for total number of errors in the game at 4, and them blowing by it with 9.

A few years later and both teams were in the postseason and the Tigers lost to the Giants in the World Series. Then everyone aged out for Detroit and it was back down the other side of the hill for them. They’re currently at the bottom right side of the dip in their bell curve, waiting to climb on up. There are a lot of solid pieces on this team that just need the major league experience to take that next step.

The biggest part of this for the Tigers is their pitching staff, which in the next few years could rival Cleveland for youth and skill. Tigers GM Al Avila (despite looking like a used car salesman who moonlights as a gameshow host) has done well for himself by compiling a trio of starters with massive upside in Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal and Matt Manning. All three of which have the potential to dominate AL Central hitting for the next decade.

The thing the Tigers are missing at this point is position players. After Spencer Torkelson (now THAT’S a baseball name) and Daz Cameron there isn’t much in the pipeline that will be up in the next year or so unless they make a huge leap from A ball. As for who’s currently on the roster now that could be a piece of that future, Jeimer Candelario and Victor Reyes seem like they could be + players. Candelario arrived from the Cubs in 2017 along with Isaac Paredes for Justin Wilson and Alex Avila. He was essentially handed the starting job at 3rd base from then on, mostly because the Tigers didn’t have any other options. He made a breakthrough last season, slashing .297/.369/.872 and a 136 wRC+ rating. He’s decent enough in the field, and will most likely have to stick at 3B because while Torkelson plays there, long term he profiles (much like our own Andrew Vaughn) as a 1B/DH type.

Another potential piece for the Tigers who mirrors the exciting story of Yermin Mercedes on the South Side is Akil Baddoo. A highly regarded high school player from Georgia, Akil Baddoo, was a 2nd round selection by the Twins in the 2016 draft. With the Twins stacked with OF prospects like Alex Kirilloff, they exposed Baddoo in the Rule 5 draft  last year and the Tigers snatched him up.

He forced his way onto the roster this year with a scorching spring training, then smoked a home run on the first ever pitch he saw in the major leagues. He then went on to hit a grand slam a day later, and walked the team off in the 9th with a pinch hit single after that. Things have gotten a little more difficult since that first week, but he’s still hitting .260 with 4 dingers and 19 batted in. Odds are he’ll end up in a platoon with his difficulty hitting left handed pitching, but he’s the kind of breakout guy the Tigers need to progress to that next level.

As for the Sox, after their sweep of the Texas Rangers this past weekend they’re looking to go on a nice dash this homestand before they have to hit the road again next week. The Tigers present the perfect opportunity to do that, as their young pitching staff has hit a bump in the road early on this season. Casey Mize has had trouble with the long ball, and Jose Ureña has had difficulty with walks in his first few starts. Both stats are the type that the White Sox hitters easily capitalize on, as walks and dingers are kind of their thing. The 3rd projected starter for the Tigers is currently their most successful one, Matthew Boyd. With a 2-2 record and a sub 2 ERA he’s been able to keep the ball in the yard and on the ground, which has eluded him in the past few seasons. The one thing working against him this series is the fact that he’s left handed, and the Sox penchant for skulling left handed pitchers is well known.

The wind is going to be blowing tonight, and the weather warm. The Sox bats are heating up, with 27 runs in their last 4 starts. In that span Jose Abreu has 3 dingers and 6 of his 17 RBIs on the season. Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert are coming around as well, with Moncada raising his average from .180 9 days ago to .258 now. He’s driving the ball to all fields, and knocked out an oppo dinger in game 1 against the Rangers. It will be interesting to see how LaRussa uses Kopech this series, as if Cease is unable yet again to get out of the 4th inning, he realistically could step in especially with Lance Lynn rumored to return on Friday night against Cleveland.

The hitting is there, the pitching is there (minus Dylan Cease on Thursday) and the time is ripe for the Sox to go on a tear and take the top of the division away from the stupid Royals, who nobody believes are going to be able to stay there anyways. The table is set perfectly, all the pieces in place…just need to take advantage of it.

Let’s Go Sox

Baseball

BOX SCORES

Game 1: Rangers 7 – White Sox 9

Game 2: Rangers 1 – White Sox 2

Game 3: Rangers 4 – White Sox 8

 

 

Now that’s more like it.

Every year around this time we as Sox fans start worrying that the offense isn’t going to live up to expectations, and almost every year when the calendar is about to flip from April to May the bats wake up in a barrage of offense and we all collectively slap our foreheads for being so silly. This year is no different, as the Sox offense exploded for 36 hits and 19 runs across this 3 game set against the Rangers. More interestingly out of character is the way the team knocked in those runs.

Game one was the kind of hitting display that makes older fans turgid, with the Sox banging out 16 hits with only a single dinger from Moncada accounting for any of the 9 runs. Game 2 was the classic “Pitcher’s Duel,” with Keuchel and Kyle Gibson locked into a death stare, and the first one to blink was actually Jose Trevino, as he let a passed ball give the Sox the lead 1-0 in the 6th. Madrigal would later walk the Sox off in the 9th with a double over Joey Gallo’s head. The 3rd game was a mix of the previous two, with Jose hitting a two run bomb to kick things off, and Michael Kopech mowing Rangers hitters down with seemingly little effort. It was quite the sight to behold, and with the warmest weather of the season forecast for this week, combined with the 3rd worst team ERA coming to town shit could get wild.

 

TO THE BULLETS!

 

NUMBERS DON’T LIE

 

-I’ve watched a lot of Sox pitching prospects come up and succeed in my time following the team, and there’s never been one who’s raw pitching talent has been on the level of where Michael Kopech currently sits. His stuff is just beyond filthy. Just look at the movement his 97 mph fastball has on this punchout pitch to Joey Gallo:

I understand the need to manage his innings this year and completely support it, but seeing shit like this makes watching Dylan Cease starts that much more difficult.

-Speaking of Cease, nothing has changed since his last go around. He only made it through 3.1 innings, and threw an unholy amount of pitches in the 1st inning, ultimately totaling 86 in that span. His underlying spin rate metrics are ranked quite highly according to Statcast, but he just doesn’t get the outs and is always less than economical about the way he throws his pitches. It’s kind of a mystery, and I’m running out of patience for him to solve it. I’d suggest him being moved to an opener type scenario, but you have to be able to make it once through the rotation to be effective in that scenario.

-Yermin Mercedes continues to be hilariously good at hitting the baseball, going 6-12 in the series with two walks. There’s not much else to say about him, other than the fact that he’s taken the sting out of losing Eloy for 5 months. The Sox are going to have to have him work in the field somewhere, because once they head to Cincinnati next month, they’re gonna need his bat in the lineup. Also, I’d like to try his burger.

-Nick Madrigal is going to annoy the fuck out of opposing teams and their fanbases for the next millennia or so. He came up with two huge hits this series, walking the team off with a double over Gallo’s head in game 2 and a bases clearing triple in the gap in game 3. He’s a pretty divisive figure even amongst Sox fans, but once he gets to the point where he plays more consistent defense I feel he’s going to be a fixture in this lineup for a long time.

-Liam Hendriks screaming “FUCK ME” after giving up a game tying dinger in the top of the 9th in game two was hilariously audible on the broadcast, and Stone had to cover with a “he’s not very happy” comment. I get being pissed at yourself, but Willie Calhoun had no business tomahawking that nipples-high fastball out of the park. 99 times out of 100 that’s a swinging strike. That being said, Hendriks still has given up too many long balls thus far in the season and that bears watching as we go forward.

-Lucas Giolito apparently cut his middle finger trying to open a bottle of water which wasn’t a twist-off. I don’t know what brand of water seals their product in with razor blades, but I’m sure I can’t afford it. At any rate, seems like no cause for alarm with Lucas and he should be back on the mound for the series opener Tuesday night against Detroilet.

-You can SEE Moncada, Abreu and Luis Robert heating up at the plate. All 3 had hits that would’ve been dingers a month from now in warmer weather, and it’s only a matter of time before the middle of that Sox order is giving opposing pitchers night sweats. Love to see it.

-Codi Heuer is turning out to be what everyone assumed Evan Marshall and Aaron Bummer were going to be: the shut down reliever TLR turns to with the game on the line in the 7th and 8th. Awesome stuff.

-The Sox now sit a game and a half behind the Royals (yes, THOSE Royals) for 1st in the Central Division, while the Twins just lost a series to the Pittsburgh Pirates (LOL). Nobody out there believes that this is how it’s gonna go for the rest of the season, but I’m still gonna enjoy the Twins eating shit in the basement for a few more weeks.

-Next up is the Detroit Tigers, who managed to get totally cock punched by the aforementioned Royals this past weekend. They have the 3rd worst team ERA in the league so far, and the weather is supposed to be windy and warm. Strap in, because it looks like the Sox are going streaking.

LFG

 

Baseball

September 5th, 2018. A day that will live in infamy, as it was the last major league start where Michael Kopech took the bump for the White Sox. He only lasted 3-1/3rd innings in a game beset by weather delays. The whole start Kopech just didn’t look right. His velocity was down, and none of his stuff was dancing like we’d seen during his first couple starts. After the game came the news he was going for a scan on his pitching arm, and all of us Sox fans knew in our hearts what that was going to lead to.

Two weeks later he underwent successful Tommy John surgery, putting the final nail in the Shit Coffin that was the Sox 2018 season. It wasn’t so much that he was lost for the rest of 2018, that turd was flushed long before he ever came up from the minors. It was more that he was the only bright spot that year. A reminder to the loyal that while this season may suck, it sucks for a REASON. A brighter future awaits next year. Then in a puff of smoke and 6 hours of elbow surgery that brighter 2019 we dreamed of was gone like a hanging Ross Detwiler curve.

Every five days last season I wondered “man, how different would this game have been if it was Kopech starting instead of Dylan Covey-Detwiler-Despaigne?” How much closer to .500 would they have been if Kopech had been firing 99 mph fastballs and punching out chumps instead of us watching yet another Dylan Covey “sinkerball” penetrate the stratosphere with a 300 mph exit velocity? Now, with the 2020 season (eventually) here, (hopefully) we get to see what kind of devastation a bionic Michael Kopech can unleash upon the league.

 

2018 Stats (AAA Charlotte)

Games Started: 24

7 Wins and 7 Losses

3.70 ERA   1.27 WHIP

170 K  60 BB  9 HR

12.11 K/9 Innings  4.27 BB/9 Innings

3.30 FIP

 

Last Week On Nitro: Since Kopech only started 5 games at the major league level in 2018 (and I’m assuming at least a few of those were with his UCL in tatters) I decided to eschew the normal stats and post what he did at AAA Charlotte in 2018. A few of those things jump out at you, the obvious one being the 170 strikeouts in 120 innings for a 12.11 K/9. That strikeout level is cartoonishly awesome, and I have a hard time getting stats like that playing on rookie level in The Show on PS4 (gamertag Ahota88, come at me) (Actually don’t, I’m not very good at all). For comparison his 12.11 K/9 would’ve tied for 4th in the league last year with Justin Verlander. Granted, those stats came against minor leaguers but hitting stats in AAA have been crazy inflated for the past few years since they switched to the plutonium ball, so it’s not totally dismissive.

The other thing that stands out is the 4.27 walks per nine innings. That’s…not great. It would’ve landed him 3rd from the bottom in all qualified starters last year. Looking a little closer, a majority of those walks came in the first two months of the season where (if you’ll remember, and it was 2018 so I’ll forgive you if you don’t) he was famously struggling with his command. Once the calendar flipped to July, he found his command and never looked back. Up through June, he walked 52 batters and then from July through the end of August when he was called up he only walked 8 in 8 starts. That’s WAAAAY more what we would want to see command wise. I’d also point out that despite the crazy high walk rate, his WHIP was only 1.27 and that’s with getting sub par defense behind him as evident by his 3.30 FIP! If he would’ve kept the walk rate that he had in the last few months of his time in AAA his WHIP would’ve been close to 1, which is pretty bananas.

After his stint skull-punching his way through AAA rosters, he finally got the call from Rick Hahn to the big league team on August 21st against the Twins. In what would become an ongoing theme for his short time in the majors, rain cut that start short. In that brief glimpse, however, we saw more of the same stuff he displayed down in AAA with his fastball touching 99 mph and his slider diving away from right handed hitters. He struck out 4 in 3 and 1/3rd innings, and looked every bit the top prospect arm he was billed as. Sadly for us, a little over a month later he was done and we’ve barely seen him since. Before the league shut down due to the pandemic, he logged a single inning down in spring training. In that single inning, he threw 11 pitches, 4 of which were clocked at over 100 mph. *shocked face emoji*

 

Too Sweet! (WHOOP WHOOP): Best case scenario for Kopech this year? Honestly at this point it will completely depend on how long we are without baseball. I’m sure he’s back home right now throwing into a net or something but if the season was normal the Sox were not planning on having him with the big league team until May at the earliest. If the league starts play at some point in June the possibility exists that he’s on the “opening day” roster as the Sox 6th starter.

If that’s the case, then the best scenario for him is probably 10 starts or so over the course of the shortened season, with 75-90 strikeouts and a 3.10 ERA.  The possibility exists for him to log more innings than that, given Gio Gonzalez’ recent injury history and need for maintenance days. Really, though, as long as he can stay healthy and take the ball every 6 days or so I will consider the 2020 season a win for Michael Kopech and the White Sox.

 

You Fucked Up! You Fucked Up!: Absolute worst case scenario for the Sox here is an injury filled return for Kopech, and he ends up as the White Sox version of Brent Honeywell: infinite talent, but infinite injury. The other issue here is the original Tommy John surgery itself. Pitchers on average are about 78% successful at returning to peak form after a TJ surgery, which while very high, still leaves the possibility that he comes back not as he was.

In this scenario, he’s forced to completely overhaul his approach to challenging hitters. This brings to mind John Danks after his shoulder surgery, and that may have set back Jerry Reinsdorf’s willingness to pay for a pitcher back about a decade. If this were to happen, he goes from a potential ace to maybe a 5th starter or more likely a long reliever. This would make us all very sad, as I don’t want anything other than Kopech destroying the world with 100 mph fastballs.

 

Bah Gawd That’s Kopech’s Music!: If the season starts at some point in June, the odds are either Kopech starts in the bullpen to stretch him out or Ricky Renteria gets with the times and provides him with an opener. In both these scenarios there is no reason not to let him off the chain and have him throw smoke right out of the gate. I would think the Sox are going to try and get him close to 100 innings in a shortened season. A 3.90 ERA with over 100 strikeouts would be acceptable in this situation as long as his velocity and movement is still close to where it was.

In reality, just getting to watch Kopech on the mound again for the first time in almost 20+ months will be enough to put a smile on most Sox fans faces. Shortening the season by a few months and having him ready to go for a late opening day could be the only side benefit of having this awful pandemic sweeping the world. Hopefully we will see him sooner rather than later, and all of you are safe and healthy out there. Cheers!

Baseball

Reynaldo Lopez doesn’t really know what he wants to be. His first full season with the White Sox in 2018 was very up and down, with flashes of greatness. His follow up in 2019 was very up and down, with flashes of greatness. I’m sure that Lopez would like to be more great than not, but man he has a helluva time trying to get there.

Consistency seems to be difficult for Reynaldo to come by, as he can toss a 14K/3 H gem like he did to close April and then five days later open May giving up 6 ER/2 HR. The real problem lies in the fact that the gems are much fewer and farther between than the stinkers, but some underlying indicators as the season wore on give hope that a corner is about to be turned…

2019 Stats

Games Started: 19

33 Games Started 10 Wins and 15 Losses

5.38 ERA   1.46 WHIP 184 IP

169 Ks  65 BB  35 HR

8.3 K/9 Innings  5.04 FIP

2.3 WAR

Last Week on Nitro: As mentioned, the constant for Lopez in 2019 was inconsistency. He managed to erase gains made in 2018 across the board, adding almost a point and a half to his ERA (3.91/5.38), a half a HR/9 (1.19/1.71) and lost 25 points on his park-adjusted ERA- (94/119…higher than 100 is BAD). He suffered from erratic control, spraying per game K, BB and IP totals all across the board all season. In what was expected to be a year with a step or two forward, Lopez stayed mostly running in place (which could probably be perceived as a step back if we’re all being honest).

All hope is not lost, though, as Reynaldo was the lead in a tale of two halves. Lopez was especially rough in the first half of 2019, walking nearly a batter an inning his first month and giving up 23 HR prior to the ASB while turning in a 2018 Giolito-esque 6.34 ERA/1.58 WHIP. Something clicked in late July, though, as Rey was able to right the ship to the tune of a 4.29 ERA/1.31 WHIP while lowering his BB/9 to 2.83 from 3.5 in 86 IP. The HR/9 dropped from 2.11 to 1.26 as he saw a nearly 2 MPH increase on his fastball (94.8/96.2), usually a very strong indicator of an improvement to come. Lopez will look to use the 2nd half springboard to create a constant for himself in 2020…if it ever begins.

Too Sweet! (WHOOP WHOOP): All of those positives from the 2019 2nd half hang around, and combined with a new offseason program Lopez takes a Giolito sized step forward in 2020. So a 5 WAR step is probably asking too much, but what the hell? He’s got the stuff, and the fastball velocity improvement added to the more consistent location of the slider and change add up to a 4 WAR SP on a surprise AL Central force on the South Side. A further look at the numbers suggest that Reynaldo worked with an unlucky BABIP of .325 through the ASB and the .304 mark thereafter is a much more realistic number to expect from opposing hitters.

Really, continuing what worked for Lopez in the 2nd half and working to make his mental approach more consistent would be enough for a lot of Sox faithful. Frustration is the word that comes to mind to best describe Lopez thus far in both his starts and how he appears; if he can change it for himself he can probably change it for fans and the organization as well.

You Fucked Up! You Fucked Up!: Lopez has now turned in two seasons with 1st/2nd half splits that make the upcoming year look encouraging. A third in a row will mean a trend that maaaaaybe he just isn’t going to realize his frontline starter potential, and that’d be quite a disappointment. A FIP and ERA- going in the wrong direction again puts Lopez in a sort of grey area – is he a backend SP, capable of the occasional gem, but not really counted on for much more than eating innings OR is he better suited as a high leverage RP, honing his offerings for 15-25 pitches at a time and looking to add a tick or two more to that FB?

There are some that already believe Lopez should be moved to the bullpen, and with Dallas Keuchel set to be a rotation fixture for at least four year, Lucas Giolito the staff ace, Michael Kopech breathing down his neck and a stable of young arms (or a 2020 FA addition?) possibly a season away time is running out for Rey to control his own destiny. The other scenario is another org thinks they can sort him out and keep him in the rotation, or he thinks that enough of himself and requests a ticket out if the Sox don’t agree. Either way, if Lopez can’t keep the good vibes trending up we’re all gonna wonder a lot about exactly how/if he can help the 2020 club.

Bah Gawd, That’s Reynaldo’s Music!: The Sox finally look like they’ll roll out a more than competent MLB rotation, and they’re planning for Lopez to be a part of that. A full season line mimicking his 2019 2nd half would be more than enough for the Sox, especially a consistent start with the K/BB and HR/9 ratios. The beauty of this season is, if the problems persist the team isn’t exactly SOL. Sure, they may struggle to fill the spot in the rotation in season and it’d definitely be a bummer, but with Kopech, et al, ready to contribute the margin for error is larger than it’s been in half a decade or more.

Would Lopez be willing to move to the ‘pen should things go South? Would he be better there than Carlos Rodon in July if both are healthy? I don’t know! But that possibility could also be the motivation that Lopez needs to get his mind right and fix the mental part of his game. And if it isn’t, well, after three-plus years of the same song and dance likely means Reynaldo just ain’t it…and for the first time in years that might be okay.

Baseball

Now to the consensus #2 starter in the rotation and the Sox second biggest free agent signing of the winter, Dallas Keuchel. 2019 was not the highpoint of Keuchel’s career, nor was it the lowest. He spent the first 3rd of the season on the sidelines, waiting for a suitor for his services after not getting any good offers during the winter (mostly due to the compensatory pick associated with his free agent status.)

Once the Braves finally came calling in June after the cost of the pick expired he signed a one year deal with them worth approximately 21 million. He finally took the mound for them on the 21st of June, and went 8-8 the rest of the way with a bunch of unspectacular but solid numbers. While he’s not the same guy who won the Cy Young with the Trashstros back in 2015 he’s still a valuable pitcher who can keep the ball on the ground and out of the bullpen. Can the Sox take advantage of his specialty? Let’s take a look.

 

2019 Stats

Games Started: 19

8 Wins and 8 Losses

3.75 ERA   1.367 WHIP

91 Ks  40 BB  16 HR

7.3 K/9 Innings  4.72 FIP

0.8 WAR

 

Last Week On Nitro: 2019 was a weird year for Dallas Keuchel. For the entire off-season he sat on the sidelines watching pitchers with far worse pedigrees than him get signed to deals that most would consider beneath his level. A majority of industry folks assumed that this was due to the compensatory draft pick that a team would be required to cough up were they to sign Keuchel to a deal. So he was forced to wait until the pick associated with him dropped off at the beginning of June, and on the other side of that line the Braves were patiently waiting.

It was kind of an odd fit at first look, as the Braves boast what might be the deepest glut of young pitching possibly in the entirety of MLB. Much of that pitching is untested, and the Braves felt that having an excellent veteran like Keuchel in the locker room could help shorten the incubation time on some of those arms considerably. So Keuchel signed with the Braves for $21 mildo (pro-rated for the half season he actually pitched, the total came to just over 13 million actually paid out) and spent a few weeks in AAA before joining the big club at the end of June.

Over the season he went a solid 8-8 with a respectable 3.75 ERA, but the 4.72 FIP behind those numbers shows a lot of batted ball luck, and quite a bit of excellent defense behind him suppressing that ERA. As Fangraphs takes FIP instead of ERA when calculating WAR, his FIP is the biggest reason why he was only worth 0.8 in their eyes. He pitched in 2 postseason games and ended with a no decision in both starts, giving up 4 runs in 9 innings combined.

Too Sweet! (WHOOP WHOOP): Best case scenario for Dallas Keuchel would be for him to find the groove with his sinker again and the Sox infield behind him continue to improve on their minimal gains from last season. For someone like Keuchel who is neither a fireballer (his 4-seamer tops out at about 92 MPH) nor a strikeout pitcher, his pitch to contact style generates a TON of ground balls. Out of the last 5 seasons, he’s second in all starters for ground ball percentage with 59.2%. Only Marcus Stroman has a higher GB% and it was a whopping .3% higher than Keuchel’s.

So for Keuchel to have the kind of success he enjoyed with the Astros, the defense behind him has to be ready to field. Having Nick Madrigal come up at some point (though with the plague we’re all currently dealing with, who knows if/when that will happen) would definitely help as he and Moncada would both be plus defenders behind him. Tim Anderson‘s continued improvement would go MILES to helping Keuchel’s ERA stay below 4. Anderson has been quoted as saying he’s been working hard on his defense this winter. Hopefully that’s true, as with Keuchel on the mound he’s going to see a lot of action.

I would consider the following stat line for Keuchel to be a complete success:

12 wins 9 losses/3.45 ERA/1.18 WHIP/155 K/44BB/3.99 FIP

 

You Fucked Up! You Fucked Up!: Conversely, the worst case scenario for Keuchel is twofold: the Sox defense behind him gets worse, resulting in a ton of unearned runs, and his sinker stops sinking and he becomes an infinitely more expensive version of Dylan Covey. Because when you have a sinkerballer who throws that pitch more than 70% of the time and it doesn’t sink that’s exactly what you get. A whole shitload of balls leave the yard at a very high rate of speed and frequency.

At that point the Sox have to hope that Gio Gonzalez is able to pick up more of the slack, adding a bunch of unnecessary innings to his plate. This causes his pitching arm to go dead in July, forcing Kopech into the rotation much sooner than everyone hoped. This causes more damage to his elbow and he turns into the Sox version of Brent Honeywell: all promise and zero ligaments. Or we all get COVID-19 and the season is canceled, which would fucking suck too.

 

Bah Gawd That’s Keuchel’s Music!: In reality I think we can probably expect a slightly better version of Dallas Keuchel than the Braves got last season. A 3.65 ERA with a 1.20 WHIP and 10-7 record with a 4.10 FIP seems about right. He’s going to have a little trouble with the long ball, especially since it looks like the league won’t fire up until late May at least. That removes the cold weather factor, which usually suppresses home runs during the first month of the season. Plus pitching at the down arrow naturally inflates HR totals due to it’s tiny confines and the heat from the Dan Ryan, which causes air (and baseballs) to rise to the heavens.

All in all the Sox have themselves a solid #3 or 4 starter locked in for the forseeable future, which with the glut of young arms (Cease, Kopech, Dunning, Lopez etc) and one returning high draft pick in Rodon, is exactly what this team needs. Someone to keep the ball on the ground, eat innings, and give the bullpen a rest for the days when the young guys lose command of their fastball and they have to leap to the rescue. All for the low, low price of 18 million per year. Good work if you can find it.

 

Stay healthy out there everybody.

Baseball

With the position players all wrapped up, we come to the spot on the diamond that will matter the most to the playoff hopes of the White Sox, the pitcher’s mound. From where things stand offensively for the Sox with additions made in the off-season, run production is not going to be an issue for the team moving forward. If the Sox truly have deigns of making the playoffs it’s the pitching rotation that’s going to have to step up and mow some people down.

Since we’ve gone all in with the pro wrestling analogies so far, we may as well keep it going. Every good faction in wrestling needs a leader. Evolution had HHH. DX had Shawn Michaels, and the nWo had Kevin Nash. I guess that makes Lucas Giolito the Kevin Nash of the White Sox rotation.

 

2019 Stats

Games Started: 29

14 Wins 9 Losses

3.41 ERA 1.064 WHIP

228 Ks 56 BB 24 HR

11.62 K/9 3.43 FIP

5.1 WAR

 

Last Week On Nitro: 2019 for Lucas Giolito was an amazing leap forward from his status in 2018 as “World’s Worst Starting Pitcher” (at least according to Fangraphs) to “Top 10 Starter In MLB Worthy of Cy Young Votes” (Also according to Fangraphs). He bettered his stats from the previous year in every meaningful category, but none more impressive than his K/9 rate, which jumped from 6.49 to 11.62. Giolito credits this jump to work he did in the previous off-season to completely overhaul his mechanics and delivery to give his fastball more movement and allow more pinpoint accuracy at the top of the strike zone.

The results were nothing less than phenomenal, as his 5.1 WAR was second on the team only to Yoan Moncada‘s 5.7 tally. The stats could’ve been even better, but a lat strain caused him to be shut down early and miss his final 3 starts of the year (2 of which would’ve been against the moribund Tigers offense). That likely cost him a few AL Cy Young votes, but ultimately his progress in 2019 is far more important than any award and he’s cemented as the White Sox ace for the next 5 years unless a resurgent Michael Kopech takes it from him.

Too Sweet! (WHOOP WHOOP): Best case scenario for Lucas Giolito this season is he continues his upward rise towards the top of the American League pitching lists. He’s able to stay healthy, and avoid the post All Star break slump that ended up costing him about a half point of ERA in 2019. He breaks the 275 K plateau, bumping up his WAR for the season to above 6, making him the first Sox player to crack that ceiling since Mark Buherle almost did it in 2005 with a 5.9 season. He also finishes top 3 in AL Cy Young votes, and secures his 2nd All Star Game appearance.

If his delivery arm slot holds up and he’s able to replicate the successes of last season, I’m certain Rick Hahn will reach out to Giolito’s camp and begin discussions for a contract extension. While I don’t think the deal would end up nearly as team friendly as the one signed by Chris Sale back in 2013, there would still be value for both sides of the aisle by having the team buy out his remaining arbitration years. Keeping Giolito in a Sox jersey for as long as possible would reduce the sting of being forced to send the team’s previous young ace away.

You Fucked Up! You Fucked Up!: Worst case scenario for Lucas Giolito has already happened, and it was called the entire 2018 season. I’ll throw up his stats from that godawful year as a comparison to the 2019 ones above:

Lucas Giolito 2018 Statline

Games Started: 32

10 Wins 13 Losses

6.13 ERA 1.48 WHIP

120 K 90 BB 27 HR

6.49 K/9 5.56 FIP

Just looking at those numbers sends a cold shiver down my spine. Having personally watched multiple Giolito starts in 2018, I can say those numbers were all very well deserved. Thankfully, Giolito’s underlying numbers last season supports his turnaround as being genuine. He actually had worse batted ball luck in 2019, based on his .273 vs .268 BABIP numbers. While nothing is impossible, I certainly would bet on the 2019 Lucas Giolito showing up this year as opposed to the 2018 version.

The other thing that could derail his season would be injuries, but seeing as though he’s already had Tommy John surgery the odds of that recurrence would be pretty low. Other than that, he’s been pretty durable throughout his career with the last few weeks of September being the only extended time missed. Fingers crossed this trend continues.

Bah Gawd That’s Giolito’s Music!: This season is going to be more of the same for Lucas Giolito. I would fully expect any innings restraints to be off him, so barring any major time missed for injury I would think he’d eclipse the 200 inning mark for the first time in his career.

Adding in the new high in innings would also give him the chance to blow past the 250 strikeout line, which when factoring in the framing skills of Yasmani Grandal seems all the more likely (I also feel like I’m going to be talking about Grandal a lot during the pitching portion of the previews, in a very good way).

My final stat line for Giolito looks something like this:

17 w 8 L/3.32 ERA/1.14 WHIP/266K/64 BB/25 HR/3.38 FIP/6.1 WAR

Home runs are always going to be an issue for pitchers who ride the top of the zone like Lucas does, aided and abetted by the bandbox nature of The Down Arrow. As long as he can keep those under 30, I see no reason for a huge jump in any of his peripheral stats. The defense behind him could definitely be an issue, as outside of Luis Robert in center field there isn’t much in the way of plus defenders there until Nick Madrigal makes his triumphant entrance at second base.

With some reinforcements coming in behind Lucas in the rotation, this season looks like it could be the sequel to his triumphant coming out party in 2019. Strap in, everybody. Looks like it’s gonna be a fun year of baseball on the South Side.

 

Baseball

We kick off our 2020 White Sox world takeover season preview series with the most exciting and probably the most impactful free agent signing by the White Sox in any of our lifetimes, Yasmani Grandal. As the first major domino of this past offsesaon to fall by signing bright and early – before Thanksgiving, even – for a club record $73-million over 4 years, Grandal was the first of many signs this winter that the White Sox are serious about winning (or at least serious about looking like they’re serious about winning) in 2020 and also are being taken seriously by big name free agents. Let’s dig into what we can expect from him this year:

2019 Stats (w/ Brewers)

.246/.380/.468, 28 HR, 77 RBI

5.2 fWAR, 2.5 bWAR, 6.1 WARP

17.2 BB%, 22.0 K%

.361 wOBA, 121 wRC+ .848 OPS

1 DRS, 20.1 FRAA, 79th-percentile framing

Last Week on Nitro: Grandal fell prey to baseball’s greedy ass ownership slow offseason problem prior to 2019, with the primary issue being the qualifying offer that the Dodgers extended to him meaning any team that signed him would have to sacrifice a draft pick for his services. That is still one of the stupidest rules in sports, but it exists and is daunting enough to some teams that it truly does scare some suitors off. Despite reports of a multi-year offer coming from the Mets, Grandal viewed that offer as below his market value (and may not want have wanted to play for the Mets, which is wholly understandable) and decided to bet on himself with a 1-year deal worth $18.25-million in Milwaukee.

The bet paid off in spades, as Grandal proved to be one of the most valuable players in baseball according to any WAR metric worth a shit – clearly what I mean is that you should just outright ignore that bWAR number above, as baseball reference has a major problem with valuing defense in their WAR, especially for catchers. He isn’t the world’s best hitter, but he is easily one of the most disciplined in the game, and the walk rate and OBP scream out as evidence. Both were among career highs for him, but you can still expect them to be incredible, but we will more to that in a moment. Overall, Grandal’s 2019 season was another strong one with numbers that were largely consistent with his overall career, and that level of consistency is what should really have you excited.

TOO SWEET (WHOOP WHOOP): The issue with dreaming on Grandal’s offense is that he’s been so damn good and so damn consistent in his career, and is 31 years old, so it’s hard to imagine it getting much better at this point. The main weakness in Grandal’s numbers throughout his career has been his unimpressive batting average, which really only the giargidiniera-soaked masses will bitch about, but in an ideal world you’d see him raise that up from a .246 last year and .241 career to something a bit closer to .260 in 2020. A good place to start would be to work that K-rate down a bit, as even in today’s game and even with his walk numbers, a 22% there is something you’d like to see drop a bit. If he can bring the strikeouts down and the batting average up, that OBP could flirt with damn near .400, and that would be downright erotic.

The real area where Grandal will be a huge upgrade for the Sox, though, is behind the dish. As I detailed in my fully-tumescent write up after the signing, while James McCann had a fine season last year, he was the worst overall framer in the AL season, while Grandal was the best in the Majors according to some publications. So overnight, the Sox go from the worst zone manager in AL to the best. On top of that, he is a well documented elite game planner and has been around some of the best pitchers in the game. Where this is going to prove invaluable is with the likes of Michael Kopech and Dylan Cease, who have some well documented control issues. Helping them improve their approach, delivery, and then stealing strikes behind the dish should serve as a huge boon, and in a best case scenario takes Cease from a struggling rookie last year to approaching his ceiling very quickly.

On top of that, Lucas Giolito is looking to take another step forward and build off a dominant 2019, and Reynaldo Lopez needs to have a bounce back year like Giolito just had. And to add one more log to the fire, looking back at Dallas Keuchel‘s career working with good and bad framers, he is far and away better with good ones (big surprise there). With combination of high-ceiling guys and reliable rotation arms. Grandal receiving all of these guys and helping the Sox rotation improve could allow them to be one of the best in baseball, and that would result in a whole lot of wins.

YOU FUCKED UP! YOU FUCKED UP!: The worst case scenario for Grandal this year is that he goes the way of the Nick Swishers and Adam Dunns of the world, falling off a cliff completely after joining the White Sox. His walk rate falls below 10%, his strikeouts go way the hell up, and all of a sudden the guy can’t tell the strike zone from the seating section formerly known as the Chris Sale K-Zone. Meantime, his framing falls apart and as such the pitching staff sucks ass.

Okay, that’s a bit dramatic. Again, he’s been so consistent in his career it’s a bit difficult to go too far down the idea of either extreme happening, though it’s certainly possible. But given his career numbers, I think the biggest concern when it comes to 2020 being a potential disappointment from Grandal is injuries derailing him. *knocks on wood*

BAH GAWD THAT’S GRANDAL’S MUSIC: At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Grandal’s consistency throughout his career has been so damn reliable that it’s hard to imagine this season being anything other than extremely similar to last year. I would expect a regression in the walk-rate and, as a result, the OBP, but his career tells both should stay around or above 13.5% and .350 respectively. Along with that he’s gonna hit more than 20 but less than 30 homers and a similar number of doubles. He’s even tossed in two triples in each of the last two years, though don’t bet your house on that.

Where I really want to focus my prediction is on the impact he will have with the pitchers. While I don’t necessarily think he will make the hugely sudden difference for Cease and Kopech to go from promising-but-inconsistent to downright dominant right away, I think we are gonna see big improvement from them, though Cease’s may be more recognizable given that he’s gonna be with the big club all year and Kopech won’t. Overall I think Grandal is going to help this rotation be one of the better units in the American League and maybe even the best in the Central. With his bat and defense, you can reasonably expect another season of Grandal being worth more than 4.5 fWAR, and I will happily take that.