The 2014 season wasn’t exactly kind to Adam Eaton as he spent 32 days total on the disabled list. The same can be said about Avisail Garcia and his 2014 season. Although Eaton was only on the disabled list for two stints totaling 32 days, Garcia was stuck on the list for a majority of four months with a torn labrum in his left shoulder that happened 8 games into the season.
Eaton was exactly what the White Sox needed a lead-off man to be. While he didn’t steal a lot of bases, 15 in 24 attempts, but he had a .362 on base percentage hitting the entire time out of the top spot. He gave the White Sox something they’d been lacking using Alejandro DeAza, a lead-off hitter who’d set the stage for the middle of the batting order. Instead, when DeAza was in the top spot in previous seasons, he would try to strike out attempting to hit home runs and as a result would leave no one on base for Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn, or anyone else who’d hit in the heart of the lineup.
The biggest problem Eaton ran into, other than trying to stay healthy by not letting walls beat him up is having the second hitter in the lineup hit a double play eliminating the chance to get the offense rolling. The hitters who spent some time in the second spot combined for a total of 57 double plays throughout the season. That plus the countless number of fielder’s choices supplied throughout the lineup kept the offense sputtering at times when they would finally get runners on base.
However with a 5.2 wins above replacement number and a .338 average with runners on base, Eaton was able to come away with last season knowing he’d done his job. It also showed he’d taken the step forward the Sox had hoped he would after they had acquired him in the trade with Arizona. He’ll look to keep his foot forward this season and hopefully he’ll keep his body away from the outfield fences that had him seeing time on the disabled list last season.
Last season was supposed to be the breakout season for Avisail Garcia. He was supposed to take a leap towards becoming the player everyone has projected the 24-year old to be. However one play in April changed the route Garcia’s season would take. He would spend the next four months recovering and rehabbing from a torn labrum in his left shoulder. He finally returned later in August from the DL quicker than some expected and was able to get work in at the major league level in the outfield and at the plate. He would go on to hit just .244 last season in a total of 46 games, but that wasn’t as important as him taking advantage of the playing time on a team that wasn’t going anywhere.
The obvious hope for the White Sox is to get to see Garcia the whole season, especially after he’s lost the extra weight he gained at the end of 2014. Garcia’s been dieting and working out trying to get his speed back to make him once again a projected five-tool player. If the Sox intend to be successful this season and compete for the division and the World Series, it’ll take Garcia being successful from wherever in the lineup Robin Ventura sees him fitting. The most likely spot in that lineup will probably be at number five hitting behind either Adam LaRoche or Jose Abreu.
Other than Emilio Bonifacio who is listed as a back up to all the outfielders, Leury Garcia is also among the list to back up Eaton in centerfield. As a utility fielder in 2014, Garcia only hit .166 in 74 games playing a multitude of positions including one inning in relief during an extra inning game. The 23-year old Garcia needs to come out firing on all cylinders come the February 24th when the Sox position players report and spring training gets going. He’s going to have competition for utility player with the acquisitions of Gordon Beckham, J.B. Shuck, and Emilio Bonifacio. If he does have a mediocre spring, it could be his versatility that keeps him on the 25-man roster coming out of Camelback Ranch.
Non-roster invitee and former Chicago Cub Tony Campana was supposed to be in the mix for a bench role but on February 10th the White Sox twitter account reported that Campana had torn his ACL while training recent to the announcement and would most likely be out for the entire 2015 season.
While the Sox tried to set their roster up with defensive depth in all three positions, it may have come at the cost of offensive depth. The starters shouldn’t have an issue producing runs, but we’ll have to see what combination of bench players Sox management gives themselves heading into the regular season. However, for what we as Sox fans have dealt with over the recent seasons, we’ll take the starting three as is and deal with the lack of offensive depth when it becomes an issue.
To say the 2014 Chicago White Sox team was disappointing would be a hefty understatement. The point of last season was to retool instead of rebuilding while trying to save money on payroll at the same time. The plan ended up being an ultimate failure and it showed in the fact the stadium looked 90 percent empty during most games. The message from the fans didn’t fall on deaf ears.
There were so many holes left on the White Sox roster heading into this offseason. General Manager Rick Hahn had to find out from Owner Jerry Reinsdorf exactly how much money he had to work with for payroll. Last season the White Sox hovered around $91 million dollars for payroll last season. Reinsdorf told Hahn he could raise the payroll to address the needs of the team.
Need #1 – Finding a designated hitter/back-up first baseman
When Hahn went to work on fixing the roster, one of the first signings he made was on a back-up first baseman and designated hitter. He hooked former Washington National’s first baseman Adam LaRoche to a 2-year, $25 million contract.
LaRoche was the arguably the best first baseman on the market, but he also gives the White Sox a left-handed hitter. The 35-year old brings a career .264 average to a lineup in desperate need of protection in the heart of the lineup for Jose Abreu. While he doesn’t bring a lot of power with him, only averaging 22 home runs a season, in such a hitter friendly ballpark like U.S. Cellular he should be able to reach 20-25 home runs pretty easily.
One concern fans might have with his signing could be that at his age there’s possibility of deterioration of skills. One argument against that mind set is that he improved his average .022 over the previous season and had his second highest WAR of his career with a 2.1.
Another concern that may face the club is the fact LaRoche has had very little experience hitting in the designated hitter position. He holds a career .190 average in 21 at-bats, and as Sox fans remember with Adam Dunn, it could be challenging for a career national league player to get used to being a designated hitter. It’ll be important for Manager Robin Ventura to try to use him as much as possible in that position during spring training to get a jump start on getting him used to not playing the field.
Grade on the move – B
Need #2 – Bullpen bridge work
What ended up actually being the first move of the free agency period for the White Sox, management snagged left-handed reliever Zach Duke with a 3-year, $15 million contract. Duke was a non-roster invitee last season for the Milwaukee Brewer and made the team out of spring training. He would go on to post his third best ERA in his 10-year career with a 2.45. Even though he may be used as a left-handed specialist, Duke did his best damage in the eighth inning of games where he carried a 1.10 ERA in 19 appearances last season during that inning. He showed up 35 times in the seventh inning and posted a 2.70 ERA. Either way, the most important thing is if he’s able to repeat or even come close to what he threw out there last season, he’ll be a huge improvement over pretty much anyone the White Sox rolled out of the pen last season.
The Sox has been busy since the signing of Zach Duke trying to bring in as many relievers they can to try to help improve the pen. At the end of the winter meetings in San Diego, the Sox pulled the string on a trade with Miami for 27-year old, left-handed reliever Dan Jennings.
Jennings is in his third year in the league and has a career 2.43 ERA in 100 innings pitched. An area that needs big improvement in his game is his WHIP. Last season he carried a 1.537 WHIP and for his career 1.460. On the bright side he held a 1.34 ERA last season even though he had such a high WHIP. So if he can manage to keep hitters off base, he could be a big plus in the pen for the next couple seasons since he doesn’t reach free agency until the 2020 season.
This month the Sox have also added former Sox players Jesse Crain and Scott Carroll to the non-roster invitees list for spring training in the hopes to find a spark.
Crain is coming off a biceps tendinitis surgery in 2013 and didn’t throw one pitch in the pros last season for the Astros. So to expect this move to come up aces for the Sox is taking a leap, but he did pitch relatively well for the Sox from 2011-2013. In his two and a half seasons with the south side club, Crain carried a 2.11 ERA for those seasons. If his stuff comes back to the level it was prior to his surgery, Crain could find himself in the setup role for the Sox allowing Duke and the others to be the specialists coming out of the pen.
Scott Carroll was mostly a starter for the team last season and didn’t fair very well in the 19 starts he had. However, he did come out of the pen seven times last season and was much better in the short term use. Out of the pen he carried a 1.99 ERA in 22 innings pitched and hitters’ averages dropped .095 compared to his starts. Carroll could be more successful in limited spurts from the pen. If they could use him as a specialist in the seventh or eighth innings, he could end up being more successful.
The Sox have also invited right-handers J.D. Martin, Nolan Sanburn, Chris Beck, Brad Penny, Shawn Haviland, and the organization’s 7th overall prospect Tyler Danish.
Danish was the organization’s second round pick in 2013, and could end up in the bullpen as a setup man or closer in the next couple seasons. He has a unique delivery that is in a side arm slot but he still is able to bring his hand more over the top. It’s an extreme angle that has a lot of people a little nervous about him having future arm troubles, but it’s the delivery that could make him a very successful reliever. He is expected to push through the minors quickly and could be up with the big club in 2016 or 2017.
They’ve also invited 2014’s number three overall draft pick Carlos Rodon to spring training. The left-handed pitcher has tons of hype surrounding him and is expected to see pro ball at some point throughout the coming season. The Sox could use him out of the pen in his first season or two like they did with Chris Sale. He jumped his way through the minors in his half season with the organization, but could be held back at the beginning of the year to help delay the clock starting on his service time in the league.
Grade on the moves – C
Need #3 – Fishing for a closer
Through the process of the winter meetings GM Rick Hahn had to keep checking in on how much he would be able to spend on payroll. Things fell in place for the Sox that Hahn was able to give Jerry Reinsdorf a plan that could work but it would require him to spend a little more than what was originally planned. Reinsdorf liked the plan so much that he approved the management team to spend more on payroll.
On the third day of the winter meetings, Hahn and the Sox were able to convince right-handed closer David Robertson to sign with the club. MLB.com quoted Robertson on a conference call talking about the signing with Rick Hahn and the Sox, “I like the moves he’s making with getting [Adam] LaRoche and Zach Duke and the trade for [Jeff] Samardzija. I feel like he’s building a good squad that’s really going to be a competitor next year, and I’m hoping we end up back in the playoffs.”
“Every time we played the White Sox, they were an incredibly tough team to beat. They just grinded it out against us. Obviously, they were on my radar from the beginning and I was glad that I was approached by them and once they – making those extra moves really helped solidify the direction I wanted to go, which was being a Chicago White Sox.”
Robertson put his name to a 4-year, $46 million contract to become the closer for the Sox.
The top player at his position on the market, Robertson brings a career 2.21 ERA in save situations to the club. He saved 39 games last season in 44 attempts for the Yankees last season. He will bring credibility to the position for the Sox which was searching all last season for someone to fill the role after they had traded their young closer Addison Reed to Arizona last offseason.
Grade on the move – A
Need #4 – A quality left fielder
To improve the lineup and the defense, Rick Hahn needed to find someone who could not only hit better and field better than Alejandro DeAza and Dayan Viciedo have in recent seasons. Hahn looked at who was available on the free agency market and was able to get former Yankee Melky Cabrera to ink to a 3-year, $42 million contract.
The switch hitting left fielder’s history says he’s going to be a player that gets on base and doesn’t strike out much. He’s a player that makes contact often and puts the ball in play which is an asset the Sox miss from the lineup year in and year out. Those skills in theory should make him a solid pick for the two holes in the lineup and would allow him to set up the heart of the lineup to have more opportunities to drive in runs. Also with his ability to switch hit he could allow Ventura to set up a left and right combo down the lineup through the heart of it.
The 30-year old also hasn’t had more than four errors in the field during any season, and is half of what the departed Dayan Viciedo put up in 2014 alone. 2015 could end up being one of the best fielding outfields the White Sox have fielded in a while. Cabrera and Eaton offer a wide fielding range, and with the weight loss Garcia has focused on this offseason, the outfield should have fewer gaps in it this season. Its skills the Sox have needed because they play in a division with teams that have massive outfields.
The only concern Sox fans might have is if Cabrera gets caught on PEDs again. If he does it again he would be out for a whole season’s worth of games. It’s a concern, but one would have to assume that Hahn looked into it and flat out asked Cabrera about it. He apparently heard what he needed and the Sox got a much better player than what they’ve had in left field the last several seasons.
Grade on the move – A
Need #5 – Quality starter
Last season the Sox’s fourth and fifth starters were highly questionable. In order to save on payroll the Sox used pitchers like Felipe Paulino, Erik Johnson, Andre Rienzo, and Scott Carroll in those spots and were pretty much complete failures.
In an unexpected move, Rick Hahn and Billy Bean were able to pull off a trade in which Hahn would send right-handed pitcher Chris Bassitt, catcher Josh Phegley, first baseman Rangel Ravelo and shortstop Marcus Semien to Oakland for right-handed pitcher Jeff Samardzija and prospect pitcher Michael Ynoa.
It’s a move that lured David Robertson to the club and showed that the White Sox were serious about retooling and were making a commitment to compete in 2015. It also has Sox fans buying tickets again according to Rick Hahn, and because of that they were able to spend more money on payroll for players like Melky Cabrera.
Samardzija grew up a Sox fan in the Valparasio, Indiana area and has said he’s excited about getting the chance to be “home.” The former Cubs ace had a 2.99 combined ERA last season pitching for both the Cubs and A’s. He’ll fit in nicely as the number two pitcher on the team and gives the Sox one of the best top of the rotation combinations in the majors.
According to WhiteSox.com, Samardzija’s agent, Mark Rodgers told MLB Network Radio’s “The Front Office” with Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette on Sunday that both he and his client would be open to listening to offers if the club would like to throw numbers at them.
“Obviously they really put in a lot of effort this offseason to make that club better,” Rogers said. “And so out of due respect to [White Sox chairman] Mr. [Jerry] Reinsdorf and to [general manager] Rick Hahn, who’s done a heck of a job, and [executive vice president] Kenny Williams, I told those guys, ‘Any time you want to talk, I’ll listen. Jeff and I will certainly talk.”
The Sox have both Chris Sale and Jose Quintana locked up till 2019 and 2020 so it’s possible that they would be able to sign Samardzija to a favorable contract on both sides. It would likely depend on the length of contract Samardzija would want, but until then, the Sox hope that he can continue his success and help carry the team to the playoffs.
Grade on the move – A
Need #6 – Utility players
The trade of Marcus Semien and designating Jordan Danks for assignment opens up holes at utility players for both the infield and outfield. So Rick Hahn needed to find players who were good defenders that would be able to give breaks to the starters but not lose a ton at the plate.
Journeyman Emilio Bonifacio was the perfect example of someone Hahn was looking for. He has the ability to play all infield positions except for first base and has played all the outfield field positions well. He has a .262 career batting average for seven different teams. Thoughts are he may platoon at third base with Conor Gillaspie but will more than likely see some time at shortstop and second base as well.
The Sox were also reached out to another former Cub, Tony Campana for their utility outfield position. The non-roster invitee has a career .249 batting average in 438 at-bats, and will be used as a defensive replacement player unless there’s an injury to the starters.
The latest player that will come to camp is former Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham. Sox management acquired him from free agency on a one-year, $2 million contract and is planning to use him as a utility infielder that will fill in at all the positions in the infield other than first base. He posted a .293 average last season versus left-handed pitchers which is the type of player the Sox were looking to lock in for this season. Unfortunately his history says he’s a career .244 average versus left-handed pitchers. It’ll be interesting to see how Beckham does in his second go around with the club.
Grade on the move – D/D-
This offseason has Sox fans energized again for baseball to start again for the first time in a while. As a fan it’s been fun hearing other fans, tv and radio personalities talking about the Sox making the playoffs. Even though Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projections have the Sox falling into third place in the division, it hasn’t put out the flame of Sox fans expectations and excitement!
In the next couple of weeks leading up to the start of the season, we’ll look into each position individually, a preview of each division, and other topics to get you ready and informed for the 2015 season!
If someone wanted to see the power of a fan base not showing up to games at a record pace to make management notice it, one would have to look no further than the south side of Chicago. The White Sox organization have taken the message to heart and have done a massive amount of wheeling and dealing to fix chinks in the lineup, rotation and bullpen.
The Sox didn’t take long to get to work as they turned their attention to the black hole they had in 2014, the bullpen. The bullpen was responsible for 32 losses in relief, most in Major League Baseball. It shouldn’t be too shocking to most considering their ERA in the eighth and ninth innings were 5.42 and 4.74 respectively. So how do you fix a bullpen that was amazingly horrendous?
The Sox started with signing Zach Duke to a 3-year, $15 million contract in the middle of November. Duke’s coming off one of his better seasons of his career playing for Milwaukee as a non-roster invitee in 2014. The Sox were desperate to get Duke off the free agent market with how dreadful their left-handed relievers were last season. If Duke were to carry an ERA near his career average of 4.46 out of the pen, he still would be almost a whole run better than the combined ERA of 5.21 from Eric Surkamp and Donnie Veal of 2014. The former Brewer however has had an under 2.50 ERA in two and a half of the last three seasons. So the hope is he’d continue the trend and help solidify a rough spot for the Sox last season.
After they filled the first glaring hole in the bullpen the Sox looked to replace the retiring Paul Konerko and the traded Adam Dunn at designated hitter and backup first baseman. Former Washington National Adam LaRoche put his name to a two-years, $25 million contract to help fill the void in the lineup. LaRoche holds a .264 batting average and has hit 20 or more home runs in four of the last five seasons. If the Sox were to hit him third, in front of Jose Abreu, LaRoche’s numbers could be even better with the more hitter friendly pitches he’d see with protection like that. It could be similar to the benefit Alexei Ramirez had in 2014. He may not hit as many home runs as Dunn and Konerko have had in the past but especially compared to 2014, he’d provide more offense in the way of his batting average being near .040 higher than Dunn and .060 higher than Konerko.
Once the MLB winter meetings came about last week, the Sox offseason was thought of as being just ok since they filled a couple holes. General Manager Rick Hahn saw an opportunity very few people saw coming from them, the chance to get an ace-like pitcher to slide behind Chris Sale in the rotation and they pulled it off. The Sox sent infielder Marcus Semien, catcher Josh Phegley, right-handed pitcher Chris Bassitt, and first baseman Rangel Ravelo to the Oakland Athletics for former Cub Jeff Samardzija and fellow right-hander Michael Ynoa.
The Northern Indiana native, who grew up a Sox fan, gets the opportunity to give the Sox one of the best top of the rotation duos in baseball. His 2.99 combined ERA with his time on the north side and on the west coast in 2014 is what Rick Hahn and the Sox are hoping to be a fix to the carousel of starters in the bottom of the rotation. Pending any surprises coming out of next spring, the Sox should be able to trot out a lefty, righty combination throughout their rotation.
Lefties Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, and John Danks should anchor the first, third and fifth starts while Samardzija and Hector Noesi take on the second and fourth day starts. The wild card in that plan could be the Sox’s first round pick from 2014, lefty Carlos Rodon.
The Sox started Rodon in Winston-Salem at A level baseball and quickly elevated him to triple-A Charlotte after he posted a 1.86 ERA in 4 games. Rodon’s 2014 season went 24.2 innings with 38 strikes outs and a 2.92 total ERA. If he lives up to the hype and shows the same level of skill in the majors as he did this past season in the minors, the Sox could be looking at having one of the best rotations in baseball. Several White Sox management members have said that Rodon will start the season in the minors and then possibly come up later in the year if he continues his success. We’ll have to wait till spring training to see if Rodon forces their hand with an outstanding spring and makes the team out of Arizona.
Even if Rodon doesn’t make it to Chicago in the spring, the rotation will be solid as is. The front spots are covered by a Cy Young runner up and former Cubs’ ace. Quintana will get his usual amount of quality starts and hopefully some offense to go with it for wins. Danks and Noesi will have their rough games but should be serviceable in a majority of their starts. It’ll be exciting for fans to come out and see this staff do its thing on a daily basis especially compared to what they witnessed last season.
A day after Samardzija was acquired; the Sox stole another hot target off the free agent market with former Yankee, David Robertson. The right-handed closer signed with the club for 4 years, $46 million.
A quote from Robertson in the Chicago Sun-Times gives a glimpse into what he was thinking leading up to his signing and it also says exactly what Sox fans and baseball analysts are thinking as well of the busy offseason.
“First of all, I think the White Sox have a great club,” he said. “I love the city of Chicago, and I love what [general manager] Rick Hahn has been doing this offseason. I like the moves he’s making with getting LaRoche and Duke and the trade for Samardzija, I feel like he’s building a competitor next year, and I’m hoping we end up back in the playoffs.”
As a life-long Sox fan, I completely agree with every word!
All that being said Rick Hahn still wasn’t done tweaking the roster. He sent pitcher Andre Rienzo to the Miami Marlins in return for relief pitcher Dan Jennings. The third year south paw has a 2.43 ERA in his career with 100.0 innings pitched. The only concern to be had in this trade seems to be Jennings WHIP. His walks and hits per innings pitched has been over 1.500 for two of his three seasons in South Beach. In both of those seasons however he carried an under 2.00 ERA as well. So while he may let them on, he seems to keep them from scoring.
That brings up to the latest signing in Melky Cabrera. The right-handed hitting outfielder inked his name to a three-year deal with the White Sox for $45 million. With this deal it shows that the talk for the last couple weeks has been Seattle’s interest in Dayan Viciedo for their outfield was getting serious. Viciedo has three years left of team control before he hits free agency which makes him a favorable piece to move. Unfortunately with the deal the Mariners pulled off yesterday with the Cubs for a 32-year old Justin Ruggiano may have put any Viciedo deal to the northwest on hold. The move for Melky though was simply to improve upon the lack of production from the third spot in the outfield and to have back to back hitters at the top of the lineup that get on base and make contact on a consistent basis.
The traded Alejandro DeAza and Viciedo combined to hit for a .236 batting average last season. Cabrera comes to the team off a season he hit .301 and only 67 strike outs in 568 at-bats. Rick Hahn said yesterday on the Waddle and Silvy show on ESPN 1000AM that he liked what Cabrera brought to the team and he would be a nice piece in the second spot of the lineup.
There’s a breeze of fresh air coming through the Sox’s fan base. With 2014 so awful the Sox attendance last season was the in the bottom third of the league. There were games where there were maybe 1,000 people in the stands for the first few innings. It had to have embarrassed the front office daily. Now that they’ve shown they will spend money on quality players to turn things around, Rick Hahn’s said in interviews that the fan base has responded at the box office. 2015 will be different in Chicago for sure. As a fan I’m excited to see what’s to come!
On a perfect night for baseball, the White Sox invite the wild card leading Oakland Athletics into U.S. Cellular Field for a four game series starting tonight.
Oakland will be sending Sonny Gray to the mound to try to keep the Sox offense under wraps and maintain the two-game cushion in the standings.
Gray’s had a rough go of it as of late. The 24-year old right-hander is 1-4 in his last six games with a high 5.84 ERA as he’s keeps adding onto his career high in innings pitched. In what could be simply tiring, Gray hasn’t been nearly as sharp as he was before August started.
His appearance could be coming at the right time for a White Sox offense that struggled the last three games to score runs for their pitchers who put up solid outings. In the last three the Sox have combined to score two runs while Sale, Quintana, and Carroll held the opposition to seven runs in those games.
Sitting with 63-79 at this point, starters Adam Dunn, Gordon Beckham and Alejandro DeAza traded away, Paul Konerko dealing with a fractured bone in his left hand, players like Carlos Sanchez, Leury Garcia, Marcus Semien, and Andy Wilkins need to show what they could do on the major league level. Especially second basemen and shortstops Sanchez, Garcia, and Seimen, as the Sox may look into finding a suitor in the off-season to trade Alexei Ramirez.
With White Sox coaches eyeing on who they’ll think about keeping for 2015, Hector Noesi is doing what he can to make up their mind for them. The Sox have seen a different Noesi in the second half of the season. In his last nine starts, Noesi has compiled seven quality starts leading to a 3.90 ERA compared to a 5.36 ERA in the starts previous to that.
The Sox could easily consider Noesi as a fourth or fifth starter of the future if he can show that his recent success isn’t just a fluke and he puts together a few more quality starts to end the season.
Three Strikes to Success
Strike One – Slowing down Josh Donaldson who has been their best overall offensive player in the last 30 games. Donaldson’s put together a .290 average, 12 base-on-balls with 11 RBI in 26 games played. While he’s racked up those numbers of in the last 26, this season Donaldson has their second highest strike out total this season. So make good pitches and give Donaldson much to work with.
Strike Two – Get to Sonny Gray early! With how bad the offense looked against the Indians, the Sox have had the fourth best average since the All-Star break, but are only 21st in runs batted in. The biggest problem the Sox have is getting the runners in when they get on. The Sox have a combined to score just 14% of the runners that have gotten on base. Between not putting the ball into play, grounding into double players, and players making simple running mistakes, the White Sox have issues doing basics to get players around the bases. Against a solid starter who’s having a rough time of it lately, the Sox need to jump on him in the first inning and keep the momentum going throughout the game.
Strike Three – Hold a lead! The Sox bullpen has had a rough year when it comes to keeping the opponent off the scoreboard. The bullpen has the second most lost games (28) in relief in the majors, standing only behind the Colorado Rockies. It’s a major area that’ll need to be addressed in the off-season, but while manager Robin Ventura has some extra pitchers to bring in from the pen, he needs to consider using pitchers like Ronald Belisario a little as possible. Belisario leads the team with eight games lost in relief.
This is a key game in the series for the Sox with Jon Lester and Jeff Samardzija lined up to start the next two games against them.
Quick hit news
This game marks Adam Dunn’s first game back at U.S Cellular since the trade from the south side. In his six games with the A’s, Dunn has hit .313 with two home runs and five RBI. If the A’s make the playoffs it’ll mark Dunn’s first experience in the playoffs as the Reds, Diamondbacks, Nationals and White Sox didn’t make it with him on the roster.
According to MLB.com, Paul Konerko might be able to return sometime this week from the fractured bone in his left hand.
While the Chicago Cubs are getting a ton of attention for the way they’ve been rebuilding their roster over the past three seasons, the Chicago White Sox have been forced to use different tactics as they try to become competitive again in the AL Central.
The Cubs had to completely tear down and rebuild their MLB roster and farm system over the course of the past three years, and while their attendance and revenues have suffered as a result (not to mention the gallons of ink spilled by local scribes who simply refuse to believe that the process was necessary), they still are able to do this because they are a big-market team in a big-market town.
The White Sox, on the other hand, are forced to go about things differently. Instead of being able to just deal away high priced assets for younger talent, the Sox have to put up a façade every year that they are going to compete for a division title. Even with that statement being made every year by Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn, the Sox are still about to go through their fifth straight season of not making the playoffs.
Despite that obstacle of having to straddle the line between competing and rebuilding, the White Sox are still capable of making some shrewd moves. They signed Jose Abreu to a free agent contract in the offseason, and even though it was a gamble to give a Cuban player that kind of money, he has rewarded the team for their faith, slugging the ball and wowing fans with his explosive skillset.
The Sox also acquired Adam Eaton in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and even though the loss of Addison Reed had a cataclysmic effect on their bullpen (a large part of the reason they aren’t competitive this season), having a speed guy at the top of the lineup who can play solid defense is a good building block for a team looking to turn things around.
Those moves were really good, but a couple of moves that the Sox made over the past few days are further indication that Hahn is gearing up to make another big splash in the 2014 offseason. That’s because the team unloaded Alejandro De Aza to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for Mark Blackmar and Miguel Chalas on Saturday, and then followed that up on Sunday by trading Adam Dunn to the Oakland Athletics for Nolan Sanburn.
The pitchers the White Sox got back in these trades are decent prospects, and while none of them are likely to have the kind of impact on the team’s future that experts predict Avisail Garcia (acquired in the Jake Peavy trade last season) will, the fact that the team was able to clear nearly $10 million off of their books for next season, while clearing roster space for youngsters to come up for MLB auditions this season, is a coup by Hahn.
For all of the attention that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have gotten for their rebuild of the Cubs, the amount of fortitude and intelligence it takes to work within the constraints that Hahn finds himself limited by has to be commended. No the Sox aren’t going to make the playoffs this year, and no they don’t exactly have a farm system flush with talent, but when push comes to shove, Hahn is playing his cards right no matter what hand he is dealt.
Opening day is one of the most beloved days of the year on the calendar. It is the time of the year where every Major League team and fan base have hope of making it to the World Series.
The White Sox entered the game Monday with the hope that the retooling effort they put in during the offseason will pay off throughout the 2014 campaign and beyond.
Monday’s season opener saw the Chris Sale and the Sox take on Ricky Nolasco and the Minnesota Twins at U.S. Cellular Field.
Sale was wildly effective during the first couple innings. No matter whether it was nerves, the chill, or something else he looked tight. He faced the minimum through two innings despite giving up a hit in the top of the second.
The Twins would get to Sale for two Runs in the third starting with a lead-off base on balls to Twins right fielder Oswaldo Arcia. That would be followed by a single to left field by Aaron Hicks, then they were moved into scoring position by shortstop Pedro Florimon on a bunt back to Sale. Two hitters later, Kurt Suzuki roped a two out single to left, scoring both Arcia and Hicks.
Sale would give up one more run in the eighth after being taken out of the game with one out and having already a given up a double by Hicks to left field. Reliever Ronald Belisario would come into the game and give up a rope single to left off of the bat of Suzuki, scoring Hicks. Sale closed the day with 7.1 innings pitched, three runs on five hits, and had eight strike outs to go with one walk.
The offense showed signs of how good it could be this year if every thing falls their way.
Sox center fielder Adam Eaton tried making sure the season got off to a good start with a shot right back up the middle to start off the season for the new look offense. Unfortunately, last year’s issue showed up in the next batter when Marcus Semien grounded into a five, four, three double play.
The Sox offense got started again in the second when Jose Abreu smashed a fastball that was on the edge of the left hand batters box to right field. The ball one hopped the fence so fast that all Arcia could do was jump and hope he could get it some how. The ball would bounce away from Arcia allowing Abreu to turn the hit into a double. Adam Dunn would follow with a full count walk in a solid at-bat, but he would be erased by a Avisail Garcia double play. Alejandro DeAza would come up next, and would start his season off with a bang. DeAza turned around a slider that hung in inner half for a two run home run that would score Abreu.
The Sox would add two more runs in the third on a RBI single to left by Jose Abreu, and an RBI sacrifice fly by Adam Dunn. Dunn’s sacrifice fly started out a normal pop out to the shortstop but drift all the way to the tarp in foul territory due to the strong winds blowing across the field. Twins shortstop Pedro Florimon drifted with the ball and made a sliding catch going away from home plate which allowed Sox third baseman Connor Gillaspie to score from third.
The Sox would add one more in the sixth on another DeAza line drive home run to the right field bullpen.
Matt Lindstrom, who was named the closer on opening day by manager Robin Ventura and called upon in the ninth to shut the door on the Twins. Even though he did give up a one out double to designated hitter Chris Colabello, Lindstrom was able to close out the Twins and preserve the 5-3 victory.
After a day off on Tuesday, the White Sox will return for another matinee on Wednesday against the Twins. The Sox will send right-handed pitcher Felipe Paulino against fellow right-hander Kevin Correia for the Twins. The game is a 1:10pm start in Chicago.
Saturday saw the White Sox play in their last two split squad games before the conclusion of spring training. The White Sox sent one squad to the San Diego Padres camp, while the other squad welcomed the San Francisco Giants to Camelback Ranch.
In the first matchup versus the San Diego Padres, the White Sox managed to put up a little offense for Chris Beck, their rookie right-handed starting pitcher. Avisail Garcia started the scoring out in the most unfortunate way: by a double play to second base which scored Micah Johnson in the top of the third inning to tie it up 1-1.
Garcia came back up in the top of the eighth inning and hit a single to right field off of Padres’ first baseman Yonder Alonso to score Micah Johnson. Adam Dunn then added a run with a ground out to first base which scored right fielder Denis Phipps, making it 3-1. The White Sox offense failed to add any more runs in the ninth.
Second baseman Micah Johnson, third baseman Connor Gillaspie, and left fielder Dayan Viciedo went two for four each in the game. Adam Dunn also went one for two with a pair of walks.
Starter Chris Beck and the White Sox relievers turned their performances around a little bit as compared to the previous couple games. Beck turned in a decent five innings in which he gave up five hits and one earned run. He also gave up a walk while striking out five batters. The bottom of the first was Beck’s only blemish in the run category. He gave up a line drive double to left field center which scored Alexi Amarista.
Both relievers, Scott Carroll and Dylan Axelrod, followed up Beck’s performance with two hit-one run performances themselves. Carroll did it while locking down the sixth through eighth innings, while Axelrod was given the blown save in the ninth.
The game ended after the ninth inning as a 3-3 tie.
In the second matchup of the day, the White Sox took on the Tim Hudson and the San Francisco Giants.
The Sox sent Felipe Paulino to the hill in his fifth start of the spring. Much like his last start, Paulino created his own trouble. The second inning started off with a base on balls to Brandon Hicks and the inning just got worse from there. After a double play to Juan Perez, Paulino walked Giants first baseman Mark Minicozzi, and gave up a back to back singles to Ehire Adrianza and Tim Hudson to load the bases. Center fielder Gregor Blanco then walked giving the Giants their first run of the game.
From the third through fifth innings, Paulino calmed down and went the minimum faced even though he gave up a walk to Juan Perez in the forth. The sixth inning is where things fell apart.
Buster Posey, who went three for four on the day, led off with a single then stole second base. After a single that moved Posey to third and a stolen base by Brandon Hicks, Juan Perez hit a three-run homer to left field off of Paulino making it 4-1. Minicozzi would chase Paulino with his single to center.
As for the Sox, Alejandro DeAza got the offense going with his first home run to right field in the second inning. The Sox offense finally came to life in the seventh inning with a double by back-up catcher to right field. Right fielder Blake Tekotte and center fielder Adam Eaton followed the double up with singles of their own scoring Nieto.
After a pitching change by the Giants, pitch hitter Grant Buckner doubled to left field which scored Semien and Black making it seven to five.
The Giants would add one in the ninth, but the Sox would go out in order in the eighth. In the ninth the Sox would get a single by Dan Black and had Grant Buckner reach on a catcher’s interference call. Unfortunately for the Sox neither player would score. The White Sox would fall by the eight to five score.
In a Friday afternoon matchup versus the crosstown rival Cubs, John Danks took on the challenge of trying to stop the White Sox streak of bad pitching performances.
After a couple of days of White Sox pitching getting crushed, Danks looked solid while taking the loss. Danks was decently efficient in his pitches, throwing 66 percent of them for strikes. Unfortunately for him, Luis Valbuena took one of his pitches deep in the top of the fourth for a three run home run to give the North Siders a 4-0 lead. Danks would end up leaving at the end of the fifth inning and finished with a stat line of four runs on six hits and two strike outs.
Danks has had a pretty efficient spring which is always good. He’s doing so by locating his pitches well, especially cut fastball pitch that he’s been working on which was very flat last season.
In an interview with WhiteSox.com, Danks had this to say, “I felt real good. I was able to throw all my pitches and I felt good about where I’m at.” Danks continued, “Obviously, there are a couple I would like to have back, but the goal today was not to walk anybody and I did that. I feel like I got my command better than what it has been and still got some good stuff on the ball.”
It would be helpful for the White Sox can go to battle with three efficient lefties at the top of their pitching rotation. Most teams have trouble finding and keeping two left-hand pitchers to fill out their rotations. The Sox are hoping that Danks could give them something substantial back on the three years at $14.25 million per year investment they have in him.
Luis Valbuena struck again in the seventh off of Scott Downs to make it 5-0. The Cubs would go on to add two more on a wild pitch in the seventh and a single in the ninth.
The Sox hitters seemed baffled by the Cubs pitching staff. Abreu, Dunn and Garcia had one hit each which was all the offense the White Sox could manage to produce.
The only note for the offensive side of the ball was catcher Tyler Flowers leaving the game in the bottom of the sixth after swinging at a pitch from Cubs reliever Alberto Cabrera with leg cramps. He would be replaced by pitch hitter Jaime Pedroza in the at-bat and by Adrian Nieto behind the plate on defense.
Next on the block was a split squad against the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants on Saturday.
Sunday’s spring training game left a lot to be desired by starter Felipe Paulino, while the offense managed to get nine runs off Texas pitchers.
Newly acquired Paulino only lasted an inning and two thirds in his Sox debut. With 42 pitches thrown, he gave up four runs on eight hits. He also had a balk, walk and a strike out during his time on the mound.
Other pitchers of note from today’s game are: non-roster invitees David Purcey, Deunte Heath, Scott Snodgrass, and Zach Putnam who all held the Rangers hitless and off the scoreboard in relief. Purcey and Heath had three strike outs a piece.
Offensively the Sox managed 13 hits and had nine runs cross home plate. Mike McCade and Carlos Sanchez led the team with two hits each, and Tyler Flowers smashed a two run home run in the sixth inning.
In the ninth inning the Sox were able to get five runs across off Texas relievers. New comer Adrian Nieto and prospect Jared Mitchell were responsible for four runs on singles by both players. Carlos Sanchez had the game winning RBI on a single to left field scoring Leury Garcia from third.
Paul Konerko was held out of the game due to a stomach matter. Robin Ventura gave Adam Dunn the day off after a morning workout to accept a once in a lifetime invitation to the Oscars. Dunn decided that he would accept his opportunity today, and was given tomorrow off so he didn’t have to worry about getting back to the team in a hurry.
Next stop for the rest of the team on the road to the regular season is the Kansas City Royals at Camelback Ranch. The matchup has Jose Quintana going for the Sox versus Jeremy Guthrie of the Royals. First pitch is at 2:05pm CT.
Gordon Beckham’s 2013 was a story of injury, of change of stance, and even time spent rehabbing at a different position than what he has been playing since he started out with the White Sox organization.
Beckham was projected to be a 20 home run player and .280 or higher average coming out of college. At the age of 22, he was thrown into the majors because the White Sox thought they had seen signs that showed he was ready to perform at such a high level after he had been a college star.
In his first season, he compiled a .270 batting average, 14 home runs and 63 RBI which was a solid year for a rookie. It was also his best season in those categories.
To try to get Beckham back to what they had believed he would become, the White Sox coaching staff decided to try to change his stance by having him squat a little to improve his eye for seeing the ball out of the pitchers hand, and making contact as cleanly as possible. Their plans seem to work for about half the season.
In his first three seasons, Beckham averaged 80 percent contact and that has gone up the last two years, to his highest last year at 85.3 percent. So the plan to get him to make connection with more balls was a success. In fact, his strike out to at bat percentage was the lowest of his career.
Unfortunately the contact he was making in the last two months of the season wasn’t adding up to hits. Beckham started out the season hot. He hit .316 in April before he got hurt 7 games into the season. When he came back he looked like he picked up right where he left off, hitting .308 in June and .303 in July, then the slide began to happen.
In August (.240 average) and September (.210 average) it seemed like Beckham couldn’t do anything right, but the White Sox stood by him. Down the stretch in September, they decided to flip him back and forth in the lineup from second to seventh, eighth and even ninth. Which could’ve also led to his hitting issues in September because players tend to be people of habit and to play with a routine like that could have affected him.
When there were runners in scoring position, Beckham definitely left something to be desired. If there was a runner on first and second he was pretty successful, hitting .320 in those situations. If there was a runner on second or third and any other combination of the bases, he only hit .160. His overall RISP was well below his .264 average of his first four seasons.
While his hitting was on a downhill slide throughout the season, Beckham’s defense did seem to take a little bit of a hit. He tied his second most errors of his career, while playing 230 less innings than that season. You can simply look at June for the answer to why it was so high.
Beckham rehabbed at shortstop during his time in the minors. In June, the first month he came back, he had five of his twelve errors. If anyone has played both positions, they are pretty different. While he did play the position in college, playing it in the majors is a way different animal, and he simply had trouble adjusting. He only had six errors the last three months combined.
In the first three months, Beckham hit over .300 but slid. He didn’t help the team’s need for assistance in getting runners in from scoring position. His defense looked like it digressed but a closer look showed that almost half of his errors came in one month. With all that being said, I’m giving C+. He was only 14 away from his average number of hits per year in his career, while having about 100 less at bats than average.
If you forecasted his numbers for an injury free year, he would have been well above average in doubles (he was already 2 short of average), possibly stolen bases (2 away from a career high), and walks (only 13 shy of a career high).
I took all that and balanced it out with his lack of performance in runners in scoring position to get the grade. He could be one of the key contributors in 2014.