The process is in place.
In a 2 game stint against a team clinging to playoff contention with a single fingernail, the Sox walked to the edge of that cliff and stomped squarely on that finger, sending the Reds to the bottom of the sea. Both Reynaldo Lopez and a diminished Carlos Rodon were able to hold a disinterested Cincinnati offense at bay, while Luis Robert continued to put the rest of the league on notice that he’s coming for his seat at the Table Of The Upper Echelon.
In other news, word broke yesterday that Tim Anderson somehow landed himself a 3-game suspension for supposedly “making contact” with umpire Tim Timmons (clearly a fake name) during the benches-clearing fracas stemming from Jose Abreu getting plunked for approximately the 6,548th time this season. In video posted to the internet, you can see Timmons and Timmy (new jazz-fusion group name) face to face but really nothing comes of it. The suspension is being appealed, and won’t affect Timmy’s availability for the postseason. I guess we’ll just wait and see what actually happened down there.
NUMBERS DON’T LIE
-Reynaldo Lopez continues to make a solid case for him to be on the postseason roster with another excellent outing. His 6 innings of 2 hit ball were only slightly marred by an Eugenio Suarez bombshot in the 5th inning. Even better, he only needed 80 pitches to get through 6, showing his newfound efficiency. Nice work.
-Luis Robert had two dingers on the night, the second of which was absolutely murdered and briefly showed up on our radar here at work. He’s been a force of nature recently, and has matured into the world destroyer Rick Hahn was hoping for when he coughed up that international signing money.
WOW! LUIS ROBERT GOT ALL OF THAT ONE! pic.twitter.com/Lb2C21lBzt
— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) September 29, 2021
-In addition to Robert’s two blasts, Yoan Moncada and Gavin Sheets each added solo shots of their own. Sheets is another one who I would say has absolutely earned himself a playoff roster spot, as that kind of insane power from the left side will be very useful going forward.
-Jose Ruiz, Aaron Bummer and Matt Foster all added scoreless innings of relief, and while only 2 of those 3 will be pitching in the postseason it’s good to see.
-Carlos Rodon looked solid in his final tune-up before postseason play, though his velocity was still considerably down. Instead of dominating the Reds lineup with 98-mph fastballs, he kept them off kilter with 85 mph changeups and sliders then occasionally peppering them with a fastball that topped out at 93. Whether or not he was holding back due to the impending playoff pitching he’ll be asked to do (I don’t think this is the case), he was definitely good enough to hold down a depressed Reds offense. Will it be enough next week? We’ll see, but either way his arm strength will be one of the biggest storylines heading into the Astros series.
-Oh look, more dingers from Gavin Sheets.
-Michael Kopech finally got to go more than 2 innings, and made the most of the 3 he was given. The 2 walks weren’t great, but the overall performance is exactly what you’d want to see out of him.
-Leury Legend continued to swing a hot bat, going 2-4 with an RBI and run scored. Once Adam Engel is fully stretched out and ready for the playoffs, it’ll be interesting to see how much Caesar Hernandez actually plays.
Next up is the final series of the regular season. Naturally it’s against the team involved in the bench-clearing incident from the other day. I would fully expect things to be less chippy this time around, and wouldn’t be shocked if both teams start with umpire warnings in effect.
With the Astros 1.5 games ahead of the Sox in the standings, the odds of home field advantage are pretty long. The ultimate goal this weekend is to get out of the series unscathed, so expect to see pretty short outings from Giolito and Lance Lynn. In addition to that, it should be the last appearances for guys like Mike Wright Jr and Matt Foster so just one more time to deal with that. Stay healthy and get through the weekend, then it’s time to fuck up the Asstros.
Let’s Go Sox!
At least Friday night was exciting, right?
In a series that statistically meant much more to the Rays than the Sox, you got the expected effort level from each team. The Sox looked up for this series right until the point that Wander Franco’s ground ball trampolined off the 3rd base bag and turned into a run scoring double Saturday morning. At that exact moment the “Not Interested” neon sign flared on and the weekend was kaput.
It was also not a glorious weekend for the bullpen, as Craig Kimbrel gave up yet another run and then left Aaron Bummer with a bag of shit that he promptly exploded all over the mound. The Sox also trotted out Mike Wright Jr, who is so good at baseball that MLB.COM doesn’t even have a player bio for him.
All told, the Sox gave up 22 runs in 3 games and only scored 11. Not really a recipe for success, but they did manage to scrape out an exciting win Friday and split the season series with the Rays 3-3 so all is not terrible.
To The Pipe Bombs!
NUMBERS DON’T LIE
-Lucas Giolito, welcome back! A very quality start from our guy here, going 7 strong and striking out 8 while only making a single mistake to Ji-man Choi in the 2nd inning (which barely cleared the OF wall). Gio looked in control all game, and probably could’ve at least started the 8th inning but Tony wanted to (rightfully so) get the ball to his lockdown bullpen in the 8th. Unfortunately we know how that went, but it shouldn’t diminish what Lucas was able to do on the mound against a very pesky Rays lineup.
-Tim Anderson, ladies and gentleman. There’s not much else that can be said, so just bask in his glory.
-Yoan Moncada went yard as well, so that should potentially silence his haters for a second or two. But probably not.
-Luis Robert looks like he never left. Having Brian Goodwin around to spell him every few games is a great bonus for the team, and it should hopefully keep Robert at 100% heading into the postseason.
-Ryan Tepera has been as advertised and might end up being a sneakily great addition for Rick Hahn.
-Seby Zavala went yard and Dallas Keuchel had some bad luck but also kinda sucked. That’s it, that’s the game.
Next up the Sox head North of the border and meet up with the Toronto Blue Jays, a team that can pound the shit out of the ball but outside of Robby Ray can’t pitch for shit. George Springer was back for a hot minute then collapsed right back on the IL, so that’s one less issue for the Sox pitchers to worry about, but Vladdy Jr is still there hitting balls to the moon and back. Should be a fun series. A split of the 4 game series should be the bare minimum here, especially with the impending return of Yasmani Grandal. Get it done.
Let’s Go Sox
Baseball can go from deliriously entertaining to soul-crushingly depressing and then back again in the span of a few minutes. It’s the dumbest sport in the world, and I love it with all my heart and despise it with every fiber of my being. There are few teams out there that can encapsulate all of those emotions into one unit but the White Sox do it perfectly, from the highs of Timmy’s walk-off on Thursday night to the grinding lows of Cesar Hernandez’ 3 error fartfest on Sunday there is very little in-between for this squad.
It’ll probably be the death of me, and I’ll be thanking and cursing them all the way to the coroner.
TO THE BULLETS (IN MY BRAIN):
NUMBERS DON’T LIE
-Scientific Fact: corn fields greatly add to the ambient moisture in the air, increasing the humidity in the air by up to 20%. Humid air makes baseballs fly farther, and the Sox proved this true Thursday night by pounding out 4 dingers Thursday night off an Andrew Heaney who’s neon “Not Interested” sign was flashing from the jump in the 1st. Eloy’s 3 run jack was particularly picturesque, disappearing into the corn in right center field. The Big Baby now has 6 dingers and 19 RBI in his 15 games this season. He’s easily the best hitter in the lineup right now, and it shows.
-Lance Lynn’s 5+ innings were the definition of “gutting it out” against a meaty Yankees lineup. While he didn’t have his plus plus stuff on Thursday night, he was able to limit the damage to 2 home runs. He still struck out 7, and other than Judge was largely able to keep the rest of the danger off the board.
-Michael Kopech’s first inning of relief was nasty has hell, prompting a deluge of positive tweets from baseball royalty across the nation. Then the 2nd inning began and he had some trouble with his control, prompting a move to Bummer (who has looked MUCH better since his return from the IL) who took care of business. This is more what we were looking for out of the pen at the beginning of the season.
-Seby Zavala has cemented himself as the backup catcher to Yasmani Grandal when he returns from his minor league Zavala is average at the plate, can’t really block anything in the dirt, and calls and frames a good game. All of those things he does better than Zack Collins, which should probably make him fairly expendable at this point.
-Liam Hendriks did not have a good night either Thursday OR Saturday. His HR rate is concerning, and if it doesn’t come down in the next few weeks TLR might have to seriously look at swapping him and Kimbrel.
-Ladies and Gentlemen, Tim F’n Anderson:
WHAT A DREAM. Tim Anderson walks it off! pic.twitter.com/0GDXW91uKg
— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) August 13, 2021
-Sometimes baseball truly is a game of inches, as this one showed. Eloy and Zack Collins were a combined 4 feet away from turning this one from a nail biter to an absolute blowout. Instead, the Sox came up short and only had a sac fly by Eloy to show for it. Remember when I said baseball was stupid sometimes? Here ya go.
-The Sox stranded runners like it was going out of style on Saturday night, leaving a grand total of 25 standing on the pillows. Not great.
-Dylan Cease is some kind of wizard, because there’s not another person on the planet who can magically turn a 1-2 count into 3-2 as quickly as he can. More of the same tonight, with lots of teases of him being a dominant starter mixed in with an inability to put anyone away. That said, I’d probably take his 5 innings and 6 Ks with 3 ER most nights of the week.
-Kimbrel gave up an absolute lazer beam to Judge tonight on a fastball that caught way too much of the plate. Not nearly as bad as the dinger Liam gave up to Joey Gallo, but this should not be a competition to see who can give up the most bombs anyway. Hendriks is clearly leaving his fastballs up in the zone, but not nearly UP enough. It’s a very fixable issue, just a question of how long it’ll take.
-Jose Abreu tried his damnedest to make up for his rally killing GIDP earlier with his bottom of the 9th heroics. While it was not to be, I’m still stoked that he seems to be busting out of his slump.
-This game sucked, and it’s really hard to put a coat of paint on the ginormous turd the team laid on Sunday. Lucas Giolito struggled mightily the first 2 innings, throwing a combined 60 pitches between them, limiting him to 4 innings. He did strike out 8, so I guess that’s nice.
-Ryan Tepera, Jose Ruiz and Aaron Bummer picked up the slack however, giving the Sox a chance to claw back into the game before LaRussa turned once again to Matt Foster and suddenly the game was even MORE out of reach. I don’t quite get his use there, but whatever.
-Another day of leaving runners on base, with 18 more to add to the total. Andrew Vaughn was particularly guilty on Sunday with 5 total players left hung out to dry. Fart.
-The less said about Cesar Hernandez’ Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day the better. 3 errors and 2 GIDP (one of which ended the game). WHOOF. Be a goldfish, buddy. Be a goldfish.
Next up is a 4 game set against the once again red hot Oakland Athletics who have won 8 of their last 10 games and are attempting to run down the Houston Astros for the top spot in the west. The A’s actually made a splash at the deadline, trading for the guy we all wanted here in Starling Marte. He’s rewarded them for their efforts thus far with a 13 game hitting streak that began just after he got shipped over. The A’s pitching is nails as usual, with former Sox prospect Chris Bassitt leading the charge with a 12-3 record and a 3.06 ERA.
The A’s (shockingly) hit way better on the road than they do in their cavernous ballpark in the East Bay, so the Sox have their work cut out to regain some ground and momentum this week. The schedule doesn’t get any easier after that with Tampa and Toronto on the horizon. With the return of Grandal hopefully imminent, the Sox starters should not be lacking in run support, but hopefully they won’t need much.
It’s pretty amazing how good the Sox record is when they hit 2+ home runs in a game. After this weekend they’re now 21-2 with multiple long balls in a single setting, and yet the team overall is 23rd in the league in that category with a measly 99 dingers. I don’t quite know as a hitting coach how you can preach hitting the long ball more, but maybe it’s something they should…look into? Or maybe not, since the team is 3rd in the league in overall offensive WAR. Whatever, just keep winning.
By taking 2 of 3 over the weekend, the Sox salvage what could’ve been a complete disaster of a season series against the cast of Stomp. Things looked pretty bleak Friday evening, as it was more of the same against the Astros with Dylan Cease pitching pretty well, but the offense completely shut down by Lance McCullers. Throw in some seriously boneheaded defense by Leury Garcia, and it sure did feel like the Sox were gonna lose all 7 games.
The Sox bats came alive the next night, and Lucas Giolito did his best Gandalf impersonation by tossing a complete game 1-run win.
Carlos Rodon picked up the sword and staff on Sunday and did the same, slaying the Balrog of Mordor (Texas) in 7 solid innings of 1 hit ball. Nothing but praise for the performance of the team Saturday and Sunday, and a great start to the back end of the season. Oh, and the Sox extended Our Beefy Boy Lance Lynn by 2 years with a team option on a 3rd. WOOT.
TO THE BULLETS!
NUMBERS DON’T LIE
-Dylan Cease deserved a better fate than what he ended up with on Friday night, but sometimes that’s how the glorious game of baseball treats you. I’ll take 5 2/3rds of 10K ball against one of the best offenses in the league 10 out of 10 times, and even the 3 runs he gave up were aided and abetted by Leury Garcia. Keep getting this kind of production from him and the rotation is looking even more dangerous than it did in the 1st half.
-Things actually started out pretty awesome in this game, as the Sox were up 1-0 after the first two pitches from McCullers. Timmy smoked a triple into the corner, and was brought home next pitch with a double from Yoan Moncada. Alas, you could’ve turned off the game at that point and not missed anything else as McCullers owned the Sox for the rest of the evening.
-Leury Garcia did not exactly smother himself in glory in this game, failing to cover 2nd base for a force out that could’ve ended the 3rd inning. Later on he cut in front of TA on a grounder, biffing the play and allowing the inning to continue. He also managed to go 0-3 with a strikeout, hammering home the point that an everyday second baseman should be a priority for Rick Hahn in the next few weeks.
-Tough night for Brain Goodwin as well, wearing the Golden Sombrero for the first time this season. He’s still the best move (other than DFA-ing Adam Eaton) that Rick Hahn has made so far this season, and it’s not like anyone else looked great in this game either.
-Not a great first night back for Aaron Bummer, as he was all over the fucking place. Then Jose Ruiz came in to “clean up” the mess, and instead threw a packed baby diaper into a lidless blender. Unless something changes in the next 3 months, there should not be a postseason roster spot for him.
-Lucas Giolito was fantastic in this one, fluctuating between economical and strikeout heavy depending on the situation. His fastball still didn’t have the movement it did last season, but the overall accuracy was back at a premium level. He even threw his curve a few times, which we haven’t seen in awhile. The Astros hitters were completely off balance, and Lucas never let them get a sniff of getting back into the game.
-Almost everybody showed up to hit tonight, and Jake Odorizzi paid the price for it. He didn’t help himself by losing control of the strike zone in the 3rd inning, but by then the damage had already been done with back to back dingers by Zack Collins and Tim Anderson. It only got worse from there for the ‘Stros pitching as Jose Abreu and Gavin Sheets piled on.
-Really the only person who didn’t join in on the hit parade was Andrew Vaughn, but he made great contact all night, and was just barely missing barreling up a few pitches. He’s SOOOO close to exploding all over this league (phrasing).
-Jake Burger hit his first career home run, and it was a BOMB. What an awesome story, and I couldn’t be happier for the guy.
JAKE BURGER! FIRST CAREER HOME RUN! pic.twitter.com/F9lcJwW03z
— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) July 18, 2021
-Carlos Rodon woke up Sunday morning and chose violence. The Astros hitters could not get a bead on what he was throwing, with poor Yordan Alvarez in particular regretting leaving the hotel room in the morning. All told ‘Los struck out 10, averaging 97 on his 4 seamer, topping out at 100.5 in the 6th inning. He now has 14 starts this season with 8 or more K’s, with nobody else (including Pitching Jesus Jake deGrom) having more than 11.
Carlos Rodón throwing 🔥🔥
And, a Sword. ⚔️ pic.twitter.com/vyBTEhGP0Y
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 18, 2021
-Oh look, another dinger by TA. The power is showing up now, with 14 total bases on the weekend (1 1B, 1 2B 1 3B 2 HR). His BABIP is now at a hilarious .397 on the season, but if you still think the regression monster is coming for him you haven’t been paying attention. He’s just a special hitter with amazing plate coverage.
-Yoan Moncada went yard from the right side of the plate in the 4th inning, firing a laser beam into the 4th row in LF. Keep elevating that ball, and the damage will only grow.
-If it wasn’t hard enough for the Houston offense to deal with Rodon, the next 2 up for them were Michael Kopech and Liam Hendriks to close out the afternoon. Hilarious.
-Awesome catch by Billy Hamilton in the 8th to allow a 1-2-3 inning for Kopech. When it’s crunch time in the playoffs and the Sox need someone to save their bacon in the OF, he’s the guy.
Next up is another 4 games against the goddam Twins. I hate them and I’m sick of them. Grind their bones into dust and bury them at the bottom of the AL Central. Fuck Josh Donaldson and his stupid face.
Let’s Go Sox!
Since we’re now officially halfway through the regular season (sure does feel like it flew by), I figured it would be a good time to take a quick peek and evaluate how everyone has done so far in the season. I’m only going to include players that are currently in the lineup, and not those who have gone on to live at the IL Farm Upstate.
First up today will be the infielders, tomorrow the OF, starters on Thursday and then the bullpen on Friday. Your standard disclaimer applies here that these are only my (correct) opinions, and not any hard and fast conclusions. Discussion is welcome on twitter, which I’m sure will be completely professional and not at all mean-spirited. Unless otherwise noted, all stats courtesy of Fangraphs Dot Com.
9.0% BB Rate / 24.2% K Rate
15 HR / 66 RBI / 45 R
.339 wOBA / 117 wRC+ / 1.2 WAR
On the surface Jose Abreu’s numbers are pretty much in line with what he’s put up in his career, with the exception of his slash line. His walk and strikeout rates are where they should be (with the BB rate actually a career high if this continues), his dinger and RBI totals are on target for career norms and his WAR and wRC+ are right on the money. His average can be explained away by his .294 BABIP as simply bad luck, but what can’t be brushed away is his OPS. Were this to continue through the 2nd half, the .786 mark would be the worst of his career.
The other thing is that for the first time I can ever remember, Jose is failing the eye test. My man is hurt, and whether it’s his knees from trying to carry the team on his back or just a collection of maladies, Jose is feeling the wear and tear maybe more than ever before. The all star break couldn’t have come at a better time for Jose, and Eloy’s pending return even moreso. At this point in his career, what Jose needs is maintenance days off. Andrew Vaughn and Eloy will be able to provide those. With rest, I feel his power numbers will be back to where they typically are for his career.
5.2% BB Rate / 23.6% K Rate
6 HR / 32 RBI / 55 R / 14 SB
.335 wOBA / 114 wRC+ / 2.1 WAR
The first half of the season is what we’ve come to expect from Tim Anderson over the past 2 years. Low walk rate, decent K rate, great contact rate and an excellent batting average. Honestly, Tim looks as good this year as he’s ever been, with the benefit of the difference between his batting average and OBP the highest we’ve ever seen. Tim is seeing the ball well, he’s dangerous on the basepaths, and he’s playing some of the best defense of his career with a UZR rating of 0.6, which would be the highest he’s had since 2016. I have no complaints.
16.5% BB Rate / 25.1% K Rate
5 HR/ 39 RBI / 38 R
.357 wOBA / 128 wRC+ / 2.8 WAR
One of the more divisive players on the team (because he’s handsome, you see), Yoan Moncada has put up some of his best statistics everywhere this year but his power numbers. With his line drive percentage the highest of his career (30.5%) and his fly ball percentage the lowest it’s ever been (27.9%) the fact that he’s not elevating the ball as much would make his low dinger total seem accurate. With his hard hit rate sitting just a skosh below his career average of 37% (36.9% to be exact), all it would take to bust out in the dinger department would be to elevate the ball a bit more. With the nagging shoulder issue being the likely culprit for his lack of elevation, the sooner that feels better the more likely the barrage is imminent. The shoulder would also explain why his throws across the infield have been much more wild than in the past. It’s something to keep an eye on, but overall not too concerning.
24.4% BB Rate (LOL) / 26% K Rate
14 HR / 48 RBI / 42 R
.365 wOBA / 134 wRC+ / 1.9 WAR / .199 BABIP (Also LOL)
The other divisive player amongst the fanbase is our (currently injured) #1 catcher Yaz. He’s an easy target for people who think that batting average is the end all be all for baseball stats. Looking at everything else however, and he’s actually one of the best hitters on the team behind target #2 of the Meatball Masses, Yoan Moncada. With his hilariously low BABIP and insanely high BB rate, Grandal was due to have a massive market correction to his batting average. Sadly the Sox let him continue to play with a bum calf muscle, which when tight can tug on the tendons of the knee and most likely lead to one of them shredding. With a 4-6 week timeframe for his return, I decided to keep him on the list. Here’s hoping his robo-knee can handle the load the rest of the way for the Sox when he returns at the beginning of September, as his pitch framing numbers are sorely missed.
12.3% BB Rate / 33.2% K Rate
3 HR / 21 RBI / 17 R
.317 wOBA / 102 wRC+ / -0.2 WAR
As the current replacement for Yasmani Grandal, Zack Collins has thus far left something to be desired. While he has put up decent power numbers in the limited times that he’s started behind the plate, his strikeout rate combine with his dismal defensive and framing numbers should give Rick Hahn pause before he skips this position when looking for help at the trade deadline. Collins is fine for a backup catcher spot, but so far he hasn’t proven to be able to handle the day to day duties of managing a pitching rotation from behind the dish. He’ll have the first few weeks after the All Star break to prove he belongs there, and hopefully with everyday starts things will begin to improve for him.
11.4% BB Rate / 25% K Rate
2 HR / 17 RBI / 12 R
.272 wOBA / 72 wRC+ / .03 WAR
Danny Mendick has done an acceptable job manning 2B in the absence of Nick Madrigal after his hamstring exploded a few weeks ago. He plays plus defense around the infield with an average of a 1.2 UZR rating, and doesn’t kill you at the plate. He’s not an every day player, however, and I believe that Rick Hahn has 2B pegged as his trade deadline priority. With Trevor Story or Adam Frazier (hopefully) manning that spot going forward, Mendick can spell the rest of the infield when they need a day off.
If there were ever a series that perfectly encapsulated the occasional drudge that is the middle of the season in Major League Baseball this one was it. The White Sox offense has had a “Not Interested” sign in the window for a little over a week now, and it showed. With only Yasmani Grandal willing to work a few counts into his favor, the Pirates pitching staff (Team ERA 4.75, 7th worst in baseball) consistently put Sox hitters behind in the count where they were immediately in defense mode, generating weak contact.
The Sox offense is clearly pressing right now, and with runs at a premium the onus is going to be on the pitching staff more than ever before in the season. With a few exceptions, they answered the bell in this two game stretch, definitely giving the team a chance to win both games. They’re gonna be needed until the hitters get back to where they need to be, or reinforcements arrive via trade.
To the bullets!
NUMBERS DON’T LIE
-Adam Frazier had himself a nice audition for Rick Hahn in game one, going 1-3 with a dinger off a hung changeup from Lucas Giolito in the 3rd inning. He also made a few slick plays in the field. I understand his career wRC+ is 105 (which is still good) and he’s outperforming that by +21, but the eye-test is very strong here. He may turn into a pumpkin, but odds are better with him keeping this up than, say, Eduardo Escobar. Get it done, Rick.
-Yasmani Grandal was the lone bright spot for the White Sox offense today, pinch hitting for Zack Collins in the top of the 2nd, and jumping all over a meatball of a sinker from Tyler Anderson. The shot gave the Sox a 3-2 lead, which they would hold for approximately 4 minutes because…
-It was Garret Crochet’s turn to implode in a high leverage relief role. His fastball was about 6 mph slower than his average of 98.8, and had less than zero movement on it. 92 mph fastballs up in the zone have a tendency to be hit a lot, and that’s what happened here. The 4 runs he gave up were on a whopping 10 pitches total, as the Pirates jumped all over his shit. I don’t really understand his usage this season, or what the Sox ultimate plan for him is going forward.
-On the plus side, we had a Yermin sighting in this game as he singled in the 7th pinch hitting for Lucas Giolito. Baby steps for the Yerminator.
-The White Sox now lead all of baseball in errors, so they’ve got that going for them.
-Dylan Cease was not his sharpest today, but he was able to scatter the 7 hits and 1 walk he gave up over 6 innings so I suppose you could consider this a bounce back performance from the beatdown the Astros gave him over the weekend.
-LaRussa turned once again to Ryan Burr to help get Cease out of a jam in the 6th, which he did by getting Michael Perez to line out to Jake Lamb in left. He’s now thrown 8.2 innings without giving up a run, which is something few in the Sox bullpen can say. The underlying metrics aren’t great, but given the inconsistency around him, TLR may as well ride the hot hand.
-Codi Heuer can’t get anyone out right now, and shouldn’t be trusted with anything more than mop up duty at this point.
-Aaron Bummer and Liam Hendriks both looked deadly today, pitching 2.2 innings total without allowing a baserunner. Bummer came in for Heuer in the 7th when he gave up 3 straight hits and cleaned up the mess. More please.
-Yasmani added 2 more RBIs to his total with a 2-run double laced into left-center field in the top of the 5th. With the Sox offense scuffling right now, it’s the perfect time for him to heat up.
-TA looked a little more himself in this game, going 2-5 with an RBI and a run scored. Happy Birthday indeed.
Next up is a 4 game stint back at The Down Arrow vs. the Seattle Mariners. This brings another potential audition for a trade candidate as Hahn will get to watch Mitch Haniger all over the M’s outfield. While the M’s aren’t really in the playoff picture just yet, they’ve gone 8-2 in their last 10 games and are over .500 for the first time since the first week of the season. Their pitching outside of Yusei Kikuchi isn’t anything to write home about, but they can definitely hit the ball up and down the order. I’d be happy with 2 of 3, and that should be considered the bare minimum to pull outta this dive.
Let’s Go Sox.
Well that was not the start we all envisioned, was it?
For a team that touts bullpen strength as one of it’s weapons, the White Sox didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory in that department. The Sox very easily could have (and probably should have) walked out of Anaheim with 3 wins, but instead now have 3 losses to start the season. Aaron Bummer and Evan Marshall are the two prime suspects here, both blowing leads in the 8th inning in games 1 and 3 respectively. They were aided and abetted by some atrocious defense by the Sox and an inability to capitalize on runners in scoring position. To add insult to (more) injury, Tim Anderson came up lame in the 1st inning, attempting to run out a ground ball in his first at bat Sunday night. He shouldn’t miss too much time, but for a team that’s depth is already paper thin this is asking quite a lot.
TO THE BULLETS:
NUMBERS DON’T LIE
-As mentioned above, Aaron Bummer and Evan Marshall had a rough weekend. It was pretty clear from the jump that neither guy had their premium stuff. While Bummer was the victim of a boneheaded throw by Nick Madrigal in the 8th inning in game 1, he still had a chance to get out of the jam and ended up walking Justin Upton to set up the dagger by Pujols. Marshall didn’t fare any better in game 3, He managed to strike out Mike Trout, but then gave up a single to Rendon and a triple to Jared Walsh, then hung a cookie to Justin Upton who deposited it into the left field seats. *Fart Noise*
-All was not terrible with the bullpen, however. Both Michael Kopech and Garret Crochet were fucking nails in their appearances. They each went 2 innings in their respective games, striking out 3 per and keeping the Angels off the board when Keuchel and Lynn couldn’t make it out of the 5th inning. Kopech and Crochet are awesome weapons to have out of the pen, but if Cease and Rodon can’t cut it they may be needed in the rotation before too long.
-Speaking of Dallas Keuchel, I realize that he didn’t have a full spring training to get into game shape, but him constantly missing upstairs with his stuff is concerning to say the least. It begs the question as to whether his numbers last year were the true him or just the benefit of feasting on shitty central division lineups. It certainly bears watching.
-The defense has been absolutely atrocious to start the season. Through the first 4 games the Sox have allowed 7 unearned runs out of the 24 that were scored against them, the ones in the outfield being the most egregious. In game two, Matt Foster came in to get Keuchel out of the jam he created. He got Ohtani and Trout to both strike out, and managed to get Rendon to hit a catchable fly ball out to right. Eaton came running over and just flat out missed the ball. Game 3 featured Luis Robert running in to call off Tim Anderson on a high pop behind 2nd. The fly ball glanced off his mitt, then off his forehead, allowing two runs to score. Eaton then proceeded to use his pool noodle arm to throw the ball off the pitchers mound. All around Benny Hill-level shit.
-For the most part, LaRussa’s first series back in a Sox uniform went pretty well until the 9th inning of game 4. With everything tied up after the Sox clawed their way back to knot the game up at 4, instead of turning to a rested Liam Hendriks in a high leverage situation he opted for Jose Ruiz who allowed the winning run to get on base. He then turned to Matt Foster who served up a 3 run bomb to Jared Walsh. Foster was great in game 2, but situations like this is why the Sox supposedly went out and paid the money they did for Hendriks.
-Dylan Cease picked up where he left off last season, throwing waaaaay too many pitches, very few of which were in the strike zone. He worked out of a few jams, but what the Sox really needed from him was innings. Throwing 52 pitches through the first two isn’t going to give the bullpen any relief, especially since Lynn and Keuchel couldn’t make it out of the 5th inning. I really wanted to believe that him and Ethan Katz had fixed his control issues, but the results thus far are not encouraging.
-Congrats to Yermin Mercedes for living his dream and making history by going 8-8 to start his major league career and being the first of what is hopefully many feel good stories of this MLB season. Love to see the happiness on that guy’s face.
– 1 and 3 is not how any of us pictured the Sox to start the season, and I totally get the frustration but big picture: even with everything that went wrong in this series the Sox still had chances to win every game. They weren’t getting their doors blown off, and the issues (with the exception of Tim Anderson’s hammy) are all correctable. Which leads us to:
Series Preview: White Sox at Mariners – Yarrr, I Don’t Know What I’m Doin
Game 1: Carlos Rodon (0-2, 8.22 ERA) vs. Justus Sheffield (4-3, 3.58 ERA)
Game 2: Lucas Giolito (0-0, 3.38 ERA) vs. James Paxton (1-1, 6.64 ERA)
Game 3: Dallas Keuchel (0-0, 6.75 ERA) vs. Justin Dunn (4-1, 4.34 ERA)
After the shenanigans in Anaheim concluded, the Sox travel up the coast to the birthplace of Grunge and Starbucks to take on the Mariners. The M’s, fresh off a series win against the Giants, are smack in the middle of what may turn out to be a sped up rebuilding phase. Having completely turned over their roster over the past 3 years, sending everything that wasn’t nailed down to either the Mets or the Yankees, the Mariners are chock full of young talent that can only be described as “fun.”
Taking the bump in game one for the M’s is the son of Gary Sheffield, and once prized prospect of the Yankees, Justus Sheffield. The Mariners acquired Sheff from New York in a deal (much like the Sox with the Nationals and Lucas Giolito) where they sent James Paxton out East in return for him and a few other prospects that haven’t made it to the major league level yet. Sheffield toiled in the M’s system for a season before making the rotation in 2020 after a brief callup in September of 2019. He quickly made his impact, going 4-3 with a 3.5 ERA, and was 4th among all qualified rookie starters with 1.6 WAR in the shortened season.
Game two features Gio’s second start, and Paxton’s first as he was skipped in the rotation to give him extra rest. The Yankees didn’t really get the value out of Paxton that they were hoping to when they made that trade in 2018. He had a solid 2019, going 15-6 with a 3.86 ERA for the Yanks, but cratered in 2020 only starting 5 games and ending with a 6.68 ERA before he went under the knife for a flexor injury in his elbow. The M’s brought him back this season on a one year “prove it” deal for $8.5 million that could be worth up to $10 if he hits certain bonuses.
Justin Dunn, the former 1st round pick of the Mets in 2018 was acquired in the deal that sent Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz to NYC. Dunn, a former closer in college, was converted to a starter by the Mariners in 2019. He’s got a decend 4 seam fastball, and two quality breaking pitches in his curve and slider. For a kid who had only been a starter for less than a year, he performed pretty admirably in 2020. He doesn’t strike many people out, with a 7.4 K/9 average to go with a high 6.1 BB/9, so he can be gotten to if the Sox offense can wait him out.
Offensively for the M’s, last year’s ROY Kyle Lewis is still out with a knee injury, so that’s a bonus. The rest of the squad outside of the returning Mitch Haniger is still fairly unproven, though there is a lot of upside there. Dylan Moore is a Leury Garcia-type who plays all the diamond but hits for more power. Evan White is the M’s version of Andrew Vaughn, a 1B/DH type with very good power but not the eye of AV. Kyle Seager is still here, toiling away in the shadow of his more talented sibling down in LA.
Realistically if the Sox starters can keep the ball in the park and not walk anyone they should have a good chance at winning at least 2 of 3. I’m very curious about the return of Hard Carl tonight against Paxton. Hoping he has better results in his first start than his fellow Ethan Katz protégée Dylan Cease did last night.
The starters need to eat some innings this series after the bullpen threw a combined 14.2 in 4 games. They desperately need a break, and with no off day until Friday, it’s up to Gio and Keuchel to give them one. Offensively, going up against two lefties this series should theoretically work in the Sox favor. Moncada and Grandal need to pick up some of the slack that losing Tim and Eloy caused. Now would be a good time for Andrew Vaughn to break out as well.
Let’s Go Sox.
*Credit for the glorious Ghost Eloy pic goes to @RightSox. Follow him for more hilarity.
Gametimes: Thursday 9:05 / Friday 8:38 / Saturday 8:07 / Sunday 7:37 (I don’t get it either)
TV: Thursday-Saturday NBCSN / Sunday ESPN
We Got Rocks In Our Outfield: Halos Heaven
Thursday: Lucas Giolito (4-3, 3.48 ERA) vs. Dylan “Al” Bundy (6-3, 3.29 ERA)
Friday: Dallas Keuchel (6-2, 1.99 ERA) vs. Andrew Heaney (4-3, 4.46 ERA)
Saturday: Lance Lynn (6-3, 3.32 ERA) vs. Alex Cobb (2-5, 4.30 ERA)
Sunday: Dylan Cease (5-4, 4.01 ERA) vs. Shohei Ohtani (0-1, 37.81 ERA)
After what seems like an eternity, White Sox baseball will finally return to us tonight as the boys take on Mike Trout and the Los Angeles Angels of Southern California But Not Including LA Or San Diego Really Just Disneyland And A 2 Mile Stretch Of The 405. After an off-season that featured the Sox punting on all the good toys except for the closer that is awesome but they really didn’t need, and Eloy going on the IL for attempting to rob a home run in spring training that would’ve required the Silver Surfer’s board to catch we finally get to see what the results of a 4 year rebuild gets us.
Because make no mistake, the ultimate goal for this team in 2021 is nothing short of wresting the division away from the playoff chokers to the North. Anything less than that should (and will) be deemed a failure by the fanbase and hopefully the front office. The Sox have a boatload of homegrown talent, and have spent a little money here and there to address (some) issues to fill out what should be a very fun and powerful lineup, but unless the results are there the misery of 2016-19 will all have been for naught.
Lucas Giolito will take the bump tonight against the best the Halos have to offer, which is Dylan Bundy. While on the surface that statement seems ridiculous, (much like Lance Lynn) Bundy has reinvented himself the past two seasons, dropping his ERA by almost a full point and a half since escaping from Camden Yards. Developing a new approach to attacking hitters with more of his off-speed stuff as opposed to relying on his two seamer worked wonders for Bundy last season. He was able to lower his BB/9 and raise his K rate by more than 1 each with his new approach, and his FIP of 2.92 shows that it probably wasn’t a fluke.
Sunday night will feature the return to the mound of the two-way international star Shohei Ohtani, and the Angels have been waiting quite awhile for his double debut. After being felled by Tommy John surgery back in 2018, Ohtani was able to serve as a DH during his rehab in 2019, though it clearly affected his ability to hit for power. 2020 was supposed to be his triumphant return to the mound, but it ended almost as soon as it began with a flexor strain in his forearm that took over two months to heal. Acting with an overabundance of understandable caution, the Halos shut him down completely. He’s looked pretty healthy thus far in his return to the mound in spring training, striking out 17 in 10 innings pitched. He’s also pounded out 5 dingers from the offensive side of the plate, so all eyes will be on him Sunday night to see if it’s the real deal.
As always with the Angels, however, it’s all about Mike Trout. While he’s had some competition from Mookie Betts recently for the title of Best In The World, he still hasn’t lost it yet. While having a down year (for him) in 2020, he still managed to post a 162 wRC+ rating and a 2.5 WAR season. Having Anthony Rendon and a healthy Ohtani around him should only offer more protection and opportunities to drive in runs, and the White Sox staff will be well aware of his presence in the lineup I’m sure.
As for the Sox, prized prospect Andrew Vaughn had his contract selected by the team yesterday so there will be no service time shenanigans with him. With the loss of Eloy, Vaughn is expected to see time in left field, which will basically involve him standing out there and watching Luis Robert run down anything that isn’t directly on the LF foul line. Vaughn will also fill in at DH, so we will finally get to see how those plus hit tools hold up against legit MLB pitching. He’ll be watching opening day from the bench, however, as Leury Garcia will be manning LF for game 1 against Bundy. Vaughn most likely will get a crack and Andrew Heaney on Friday night, realistically a much better matchup for his first game as a pro.
Luis Robert still has questions to answer about what version of himself was the real one last year. Was it the July and August Luis with the wRC+ of 157? Or was it the September version of himself that slashed .136/.237/.309 with one home run and a 34% strikeout rate? The athletic ability and the hit tools are all there for Luis to be the better version of himself, he just has to get better at working pitchers over to make sure he gets something he can pound. Personally, I fully expect him to rebound back to what he was at the beginning of last season and be hitting in the top half of the batting order. I have no advanced stats to back up my assertation, but hopefully I can tell you all “I told you so” in September.
The road to the playoffs for the White Sox starts tonight in Anaheim. Most betting outlets set the Over/Under for the Sox win total around 91. Were that to be the case, it would most likely be enough for the Sox to win the AL central, squeaking it out by a game or two over the Twins. Personally I feel like the 87-89 win range is more likely, setting up a showdown with Minnesota and quite possibly Cleveland as well (who’s pitching is nothing to be sneezed at and pretty much owned the Sox last season). So much hinges on the Sox not only being able to stay healthy (because of the zero depth), but Dylan Cease and Carlos Rodon being able to rebound from last September. There’s a lot that has to go right for this team, but if it does….look out. It’s been 6 long months with only the dark of winter to keep us company, but now the sun is shining out and the Sox take the field tonight. Hope shines eternal, LFG.
Let’s Go Sox
That’s really the only descriptor that can sum up this weekend of White Sox baseball. The starting pitching, the timely hitting, the focus, all…meh. Which is really kind of understandable, really, to come out a little flat after the balls to the wall series against the Twins earlier in the week. If the next series looks like this, then perhaps we might begin to worry. As for now, treat it as an aberration and move on to the next one.
TO THE BULLETS!
NUMBERS DON’T LIE
-We learned two main things this weekend: Jonathan Stiever is young and inexperienced (DUH) and Dain Dunning is the team’s number 3 starter until proven otherwise.
-Dylan Cease finally found a bullet he couldn’t dodge: the patient plate approach of the Cincinnati Reds. The book was out on him, and the Reds hitters were all prepared to make Cease get THEM out and do him no favors in the process. Cease went 3+ innings and threw 80 pitches while walking 7 hitters. Almost every count went full, and Dylan just had no answers to their patience. His breaking stuff actually looked the best that it has in quite awhile, but his fastball control flat out sucks right now. Obviously after seeing the lows and highs of Lucas Giolito I’m not willing to write Cease of by any means, but if his control isn’t there he’s not much more than a 5th starter for this team.
-The Tim Anderson/Trevor Bauer headline lived up to the hype, as Timmy managed to take him deep in the 5th inning on Saturday night. Credit to Bauer for taking it with good humor saying TA should have bat flipped it.
-Nomar Mazara also managed to go deep off Bauer, however, so how hard can it be?
-Dallas Keuchel struck out a season high 7 batters, but he didn’t complete the 5th inning which is not something that’s happened in quite awhile. The K’s are nice, but I don’t think anyone would trade 7 Ks for 7 innings.
-Matt Foster and Cody Heuer are now officially “A Thing”
-Luis Robert is in a full on slump now, and a night off might not be the worst thing in the world for the kid. Give him a chance to get his brain in order.
-As of right now, the Cubs and Twins have each won one this weekend with tonight’s game to go so the lead still stands at 2.5 over the Twins. Go Cubs….I guess.
-Next up is 4 against Cleveland, which taking 3 of 4 could possibly result in the Indians missing the post season 2 years in a row because of the Sox. I’d love to see it, because I don’t think any of us want a 3 game series with that pitching staff in the first round.