After 47 games this season, the White Sox sit at an improved 21-26 compared to their 2018 record of 15-32 at the same time. The team currently sits at 13th in MLB in AVG, but sits well below league average in, well, everything else. As we march towards the third month of baseball this year, the White Sox have stagnated as a team. After starting the year as a team that was fun to watch, the product has once again dulled.
Memorial Day is right around the corner, and it serves as a good checkpoint for the season. The 2019 White Sox are, if not at, then quickly approaching, a point where this season can turn from respectable to downright ugly in the blink of an eye. For a team that has promised better results on the field, this critical juncture requires action, and fast. There are changes that can be made in hopes of saving this 2019 season – but they require lots of movement and some outside-of-the-box thinking. These are not bad things, especially because preaching patience is coming down to some of its last months.
This is the easiest decision the White Sox could make right now. 2B has been a black hole in terms of offense for this team, as the team currently ranks in the bottom third for OBP, OPS, HR, and bWAR, yet 9th in strikeouts. Neither Yolmer Sanchez nor Jose Rondon has produced in the ABs they have been given, and we have seen enough of both over the past several years to understand the type of players they are. Danny Mendick, however, is currently slashing .284/.369/.471 with 8 HR and a 20:33 BB:K ratio. In addition to this, in 2018, he was able to post a .148 ISO in pitcher-friendly Birmingham. Mendick might be another AAAA player, but it is clear that Sanchez and Rondon are just the same. What’s the harm in giving him a shot? At best, Mendick is a serviceable 2B that assumes a backup role in the future due to his ability to play anywhere in the IF. At worst, he’s a AAAA player who at least creates competition for playing time for the next year or so.
Promote Daniel Palka (OF) and Demote Yolmer Sanchez (IF)
Excuse me, that should read, “Promote IL Player of the Week Daniel Palka,” my apologies. Palka, since being sent to AAA, has done everything he can to get back on the South Side. He’s slashing .312/.462(!)/.645(!) with 9 homers in 26 games. We have already seen that he can at least be serviceable in the majors, and he has done his time back in AAA. Yolmer Sanchez, much like Rondon, has overstayed his time in Chicago for the offense he has provided. While everyone will I’m sure be sad to watch the leader of fun go, as my dad likes to say, “You know what’s fun? Winning ballgames.”
The White Sox need SP help, and badly. Jace Fry is not the same pitcher he was last year, as he has struggled mightily to get ahead of hitters. Send him back to AAA to work on his craft. Detwiler was a recent, easy to miss signing, but he’s pitched well thus far in AAA. It can’t hurt to call him up and see if he can be serviceable. If he isn’t, I’m sure Fry will find his way back to the majors eventually.
MOVES TO BE MADE BY ALL-STAR BREAK
Matt Skole, potential AAAA player #2 on this transaction list, has been slugging at AAA. He’s hitting .281/.399/.648(!) with 13 home runs in 37 games. These numbers are, granted, well above career averages. However, if this type of production continues into June/July, and Yonder Alonso continues to struggle, this is a move that needs to be made. Yonder Alonso is a sunk cost and, unfortunately, is only here for one reason that doesn’t even matter. He’s a professional hitter, and I enjoy having those in the lineup, but a .181 AVG is not going to cut it – even on a rebuilding team.
Much like Alonso, Castillo is a sunk cost and is providing absolutely no value to this team. He is inferior in every way to James McCann, who even if he never got a hit again, would still be far more valuable to this pitching staff due to his game-calling abilities. Zack Collins has gotten off to an excellent start in Charlotte, hitting .253/.372/.547 to start the year with 7 homers in 27 games. His elite on-base ability – even with an increasing amount of strikeouts – has been evident at every level he’s played at. The time is quickly approaching, especially with Castillo the liability he is, to give Collins his shot in the majors.
“Patience” doesn’t apply here for one reason, and it’s the same reason we’ve seen as the Sox call up every top prospect: they struggle at first. Eloy, Moncada, Anderson, Giolito, Lopez – they were all victims of the struggle that top prospects face to adjust to the majors. Instead of spending the first half of 2020 – the time at which this team is supposed to start competing – waiting for Collins to adjust, let him take his lumps in 2019. There’s no need to keep wasting away seasons in the name of “development.” Let the kids develop at the highest level and keep the timeline relatively on schedule.
Projected Lineup (June/July)
Bench: Mendick/Garcia, Cordell, Collins
With both Mendick’s and Garcia’s ability to play multiple positions, this three player bench is enough to provide plenty of off-days to players as necessary. If you add Luis Robert potentially late in the season, this lineup starts to look a little more respectable. The biggest change is hitting Eloy in front of Abreu. Abreu provides protection for Eloy in the lineup – pitching around him with sliders is less effective when it’s Abreu – not Castillo or the like – hitting behind Eloy. Teams won’t want to face Abreu with runners they intentionally put on base; they barely want to face Abreu with the bases empty. Now if Ricky could only commit to a lineup card….
But seriously though, 1-2 lineups, THAT’S IT. If good teams are the ones who solidify their rotation (see Ricky quote below), then good teams are also the ones who put out the same lineup on a daily basis. Turn off the random lineup generator and commit to a lineup or two. This is without a doubt the most frustrating thing Renteria does.
Let’s Shake It Up Further: Commit to the Opener
For me, if you use an opener, it’s just potentially a bullpen day. I think that openers, and this is just one man’s opinion, speaks to the state of your pitching staff in general. I think most people that are solidified in their starting rotation don’t even think about it, to be honest.”
– Rick Renteria on using an “Opener”
The Rays would disagree with this as they sit perched at the top of the AL, but even if we ignore that fact – AND the fact that more and more teams are committing to an opener at least once through the rotation – this statement is all fine and good, so long as you have five capable Major League starters. The White Sox have, at best, three right now and at worst, one. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
Last year, I wrote about the need for the White Sox to try something different and use an “Opener.” The struggles haven’t changed much: the White Sox still allow a lot of runs in the first 3-4 innings (4.60 ERA in 1st and 2nd innings, 7.09 ERA in 3rd, and 8.23 in the 4th). The use of the “Opener” has spread to several teams: the Rays, Rangers, Athletics, and Blue Jays have all already used them, and more teams such as the Pirates and Giants have considered using them. The appeal remains the same: platoon advantages early on in the game, keeping hitters off balance and giving SP the ability to settle in against fewer top hitters in the lineup.
The good news is the White Sox have plenty of pitchers who would be able to be used in an opener role, the most appealing of which is Dylan first time through the lineup. It jumps to .274 the second time around. The White Sox need to try something different so that it doesn’t feel like 2-3 games out of the week are complete losses. Here’s my Attempt at Unconventionality, Part 2:
Game 1: Lucas Giolito
Game 2: Reynaldo Lopez
Game 3: Ivan Nova
Game 5: Ryan Burr (2), Ross Detwiler (5)
This leaves Herrera, Colome, Bummer, Fry, and Vieira to cover the last 6 outs in games 4 and 5. Marshall and Burr would also be available earlier in the week as well to get outs if necessary.
Despite what Ricky may think, using the Opener is not an admission of failure. Rather, it is a recognition and honest assessment of the talent level on a roster. Teams that use the Opener still win ballgames. Seriously, ask the Rays how much they care about how people view what they’re doing. The first step to fixing a problem is admitting you have one. An attempt at the Opener is an attempt at winning; keeping the status quo is the real failure.
A Final Plea: Play Like an AL Team
An interesting thing I found about the White Sox in looking through statistics is that they are much much closer to being an average NL team than an average AL team. Their team AVG, OBP, SLG, and OPS are all much closer to NL AVG than AL AVG. It worries me that the way the White Sox operate as a team (read: bunting, especially) has led the White Sox to operate as a “small-ball,” NL-centric team in a loaded American League. Guys like Yolmer Sanchez, Jose Rondon, and Charlie Tilson, while providing value, just don’t fit in the American League as starters right now.
It’s fine for now, seeing as this is still a lost season for all intents and purposes, but if the White Sox are going to compete in a few years, they are going to have to divert away from the intense “small-ball” approach they have enacted under Renteria. Giving away outs is just not something teams can afford to do at a consistent rate anymore.
Just as before, an attempt at change is an attempt at winning. The only way the White Sox can really consider this season much of a loss is if they continue to operate the same way and run the same talent out on the field everyday. Even if the changes don’t work, an attempt was made. This attempt tells the players, and more importantly, the fans, that the level of play on the field from certain players is unacceptable. This is all we really want as Sox fans: a clear acknowledgement that the team sees what we do – a subpar product that, even though it can’t be completely fixed, has the potential to be changed and improved. The White Sox shouldn’t be afraid to be wrong. They should be afraid to be complacent.
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Featured Photo: Joe Robbins/Getty Images