Baseball

With the position players done, we move on to the starting pitching staff where we begin with what might be the biggest success story in White Sox (pitching) history. More on this after the stats jump. To The K-Mobile!

 

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

 

Tell Me A Story: In 2018, Lucas Giolito was the worst starter in all of Major League Baseball. That’s not hyperbole at all, it’s a statistical fact according to Fangraphs. Out of  57 pitchers who met innings pitched requirements, Giolito ranked 57th. Having personally watched a few of his starts live last season, it was a ranking well earned.

With that in mind, expectations for this season were not very high. When he started the first five games of the season with a 5.32 ERA, most were ready to write him off as not a viable core piece for The Future™ being built by Rick Hahn.

Then he went and ripped off nine-straight starts where he didn’t give up more than three runs and struck out at least seven batters. Even more impressive was the improvement of his control, only walking 16 batters in those nine starts. His changeup was electric, with the kind of downward motion that Johan Santana used to beguile Sox hitters with. His fastball was located in the upper reaches of the zone, just at the spot where a hitter can’t possibly catch up to it but it still looks like it could be a strike.

He had one burp (unfortunately) against the Cubs where he gave up six, but he rolled into the All-Star break with an 11-3 record and a 3.15 ERA. This was easily good enough for him to be selected to his first ever All Star game (along with the guy he credits for some of his improvement, James McCann), and ranked him as the 2nd best pitcher in the AL after future White Sox signee (I hope) Gerrit Cole.

After the All Star break ended, Giolito ran into some trouble. From the middle of July till the end of August his walks-per-9 spiked from around 1.55 to almost 2.50. The changeup that was dancing so well at the end of July was just spinning in the middle of the zone and getting pummeled by opposing hitters. Most pitchers that like to live at the top of the zone are susceptible to the long ball, but as long as their out pitch moves out of the zone it’s a line they can walk. That wasn’t happening in Gio’s case, and the results were showing.

As is his way, Giolito dove into the Sox video archives of his starts and dissected his mechanics to find out what his issues were with the release point in his change that were causing it to get slaughtered. Whatever he found, it worked. From his start against the A’s on August 11th (where he gave up two in six innings and took the L while striking out 13) to when the Sox pulled the plug on him in the middle of September with a lat strain Giolito had a 3.33 ERA in seven starts while striking out 70 and only walking 10.

From the 57th starter in the league last season to the 10th overall this year, Giolito is deserving of a few Cy Young votes, and is one of the three players nominated for Comeback Player of the Year Award. He’s also become the surprise gem in the Sox pitching rotation of The Future™. The most impressive thing about Gio’s stats this year (other than the BB and K rates) is the fact that very little of his success is due to batted-ball luck. His FIP is 3.43, which is only .02 higher then his actual ERA, and his BABIP sits at a cool .275, where in comparison Gerrit Cole’s is at .273.

Credit to Giolito for not imploding in on himself like a dwarf star and becoming the latest in a long list of high hype pitchers that never live up to expectations. After the disaster that the 2018 season was for him, his hard work in the off-season should be the boilerplate for Sox pitchers, and something that Reynaldo Lopez should look to emulate this winter.

Contract: Giolito earned $573,000 in 2019 and is under team control in 2020. After that the arbitration years kick in and things will get exponentially more expensive. Look for Rick Hahn to attempt to buy him out of his arbitration years like the Sox did with Tim Anderson and Eloy with a 5-6 year extension.

Welcome Back Or Boot In The Ass: This isn’t even a consideration, as Giolito has become the ace that the Sox have been looking to develop since before Chris Sale suited up. As a certified member of The Future™, Giolito will be here for the long haul and should become the Obi-Wan Kenobi of the Sox starting rotation from here on out, teaching the young Padawans his secret Jedi pitching ways. Sorry, just watched the new Star Wars trailer for the 300th time and am still buzzing.

Baseball

Now we come to another key member of The Future™ who had himself a breakout year, Yoan Moncada. Not only did he bust out at the plate (ending up the 4th best hitter in the AL behind Timmy, DJ LeMahieu and Michael Brantley) but also in the field, transitioning pretty seamlessly from the cornerstone position to the hot corner. Let’s dig in, shall we?

 

2019 Stats

.315/.367/.548

Vs LHP .299 Vs RHP .322

7.2 BB% 27.5 K%

25 HR 79 RBI 81 R

.379 wOBA 141 wRC+ 5.7 WAR

Defensive Runs Saved -6 UZR +4.3

 

Tell Me A Story: Questions, questions, questions. Coming into the 2019 season, all Moncada had around him were questions.  In 2018 he slashed .235/.315/.714 and lead the AL in strikeouts which lead to question after question about whether or not Moncada should abandon switch hitting, about his aggressiveness at the plate and whether or not he took too many called 3rd strikes, all the way to his preparation level for his defensive play. There were even a few members of Sox Twitter (depression level: Joker) who had doubts about his hustle level during the season.

Moncada apparently heard all of these questions himself, as in the off-season he headed to Arizona to work with hitting coach Todd Steverson for the Long Dark of winter. During those months, he spent a considerable amount of time on his swing mechanics and working on being more aggressive at the plate. In addition to that, in the middle of his off-season workouts he found out from Ricks Hahn and Renteria that the Sox were going to move him back to 3rd base, which was his original position when he was drafted out of Cuba by the Red Sox. That’s a lot to deal with for someone who was admittedly struggling under the pressure of being ranked the best prospect in baseball and being the cornerstone of a trade involving a potential hall of fame pitcher.

The work he put in during the winter was immediately shown off during Cactus League play in March where he posted a 1.110 OPS and clocked a few dingers. Most importantly he looked far more comfortable hitting from the right side of the plate, where quite a few times he looked lost in 2018. The hot spring training carried right over to the regular season where he hit .301 in April and knocked out 6 of his eventual 25 home runs.

His effectiveness from both sides of the plate was worth noting, as he was able to up his average hitting right handed from .209 in 2018 all the way to .299 this year. The strikeouts dropped precipitously as well, going from a league high 217 last year down to a far more respectable 153 this season. His walk rate dropped, but that’s something you would expect from a player actively working on being more aggressive at the plate. Really the only thing missing in Yoan’s offensive game is power from the right side of the plate, which you can see below in his slugging heat charts.

               

 

Defensively, Moncada improved as well moving from 2B to 3rd pretty easily. His DRS score may not show it with an ugly -6 but looking at his Ultimate Zone Rating for his play at 3rd base and it’s positive for the first time ever in his career. Fangraphs also had him as the 4th best overall 3B in the whole league, based on qualifying time. So while DRS is a solid stat, sometimes it does not tell the entire story defensively for a player. His errors also dropped from 29 last season down to 15 for this year. Not too shabby for one off-season of hard work, which should hopefully put to rest the talk of his lack of preparation and hustle.

Moncada did miss some time at the beginning of August with a hamstring strain, and a few games after getting drilled on the knee with a Chris Sale slider the same game where the Sox lost Tim Anderson to the shitty field conditions at Fenway. Overall however, he was able to stay on the field pretty consistently which is what you would hope for your hot corner.

Contract: Under team control through 2020 making $550,000, Arbitration begins in 2021, free agency in 2024. I would expect the Sox to try and buy him out of those arbitration years in a deal similar (but more expensive) to what Tim Anderson and Eloy Jimenez got.

Welcome Back Or Boot In The Ass: Once again, just like Timmy there’s no question that Moncada comes back as perhaps the most important member of The Future™ club. Questions going into next season are all predicated on what Rick Hahn has planned for free agency. While I don’t expect Moncada to be moved in the field again as he’s settled in nicely at 3rd, I wouldn’t completely rule it out should the team make a surprise run at Anthony Rendon should he not re-sign in DC. Other than that, it’s a question of where he hits in the lineup and who is on base for him to drive in. Sky is the limit for Yoan here on out, and it’s gonna be awesome to watch him become the superstar he was advertised to be back when the Sale trade was made. The Red Sox may have won the battle, but I think the White Sox win the war.

 

 

 

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I don’t hate the Tigers anymore. I really used to, back in the early part of this decade. 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.

The Tigers are a bad team, perhaps even historically so. With their current .420 winning percentage (heh) the Tigers fall 3rd on the list of worst teams ever since the league went to 162 games in 1961. The other two teams? Last year’s Orioles and the Tigers again in 2003. Not exactly wonderful company to be in. They’ve already past the 2003 version of themselves by 2 games, and need 2 more to tie Baltimore which seems likely but by no means a guarantee.

Detroit already set a team record this past week by losing 17 consecutive games to Cleveland this season. They won the second meeting between the two teams back on April 10th 4-1, then lost 17 in a row to them to finish the season 1-18 setting the mark in the modern era for record against a divisional opponent.

The Tigers got this bad by basically fielding a team full of less than 1 WAR players and Nick Castellanos, who they then flipped to the Cubs at the deadline as he proceeded to go on a tear the likes of never seen in Detroit. They’re dead last in the league in hitting, and the only team that has had a negative WAR production from their offense. The second worst team is the Marlins, and even they have gotten 2.3 WAR out of their hitters, compared to the -1.5 for the Tigers. If you look up the top hitters by WAR on the Tigers, only 2 players are worth more than 1, and that’s Niko Goodrum (who is out with a groin strain) and Victor Reyes. So thankfully Dylan Covey isn’t scheduled to go during the series, as you don’t wanna let an opponent up off the mat when they’re down.

The pitching staff has actually not been as awful as the hitters, currently 10th in the AL out of 15 teams, so that’s an improvement. They’ve also produced 1100% more WAR than the offense, currently sitting at 10.1 for the season. Matthew Boyd has had a solid season thus far, posting an 8-11 record with a 4.34 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP. He features a solid 4 seam fastball and a plus slider which he uses as his punchout pitch. Boyd gets a lot of swinging strikes with it, almost 36% of the time.

After Boyd it’s Spencer Turnbull (who the Sox will miss), then rookie Tyler Alexander who was called up back in June and had his first start against the Sox, in which he went 5 innings and gave up 2 with 4 Ks in a no-decision. The kid has pitched fairly well since then, going 1-3 with a 4.68 ERA and striking out 27 in 6 starts. He was relegated to long relief for a time during August but is now back starting and will go head to head with Nova Saturday.

As for the Sox, the story continues to be the production of The Future™ in the top half of the lineup. Tim Anderson continues his quest for the AL batting title and sits .006 in front of DJ LeMahieu. Right behind LeMahieu is the outfielder the Sox didn’t want in the off-season, Michael Brantley. Hard charging a few behind him is last year’s favorite bust declaration by Sox Twitter Yoan Moncada, who is tearing the shit out of the ball in September to the tune of a .460/.500/.667 slash line.

Taking the mound for the Pale Hose will be Dylan Cease, Ivan Nova and Reynaldo Lopez who basically comprise the only starts worth watching for the rest of the season. Cease should find the waters a bit calmer against the moribund Tigers offense, and maybe help build some confidence in his fastball location.

On paper this should be an easy series for the Sox, but nothing on paper has ever worked out that way for Rick Hahn and company. I just want a batting title for Timmy, and this pitching staff should help with that goal.

 

Let’s Go Sox.