White Sox

Five numbers explaining the White Sox slow start

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Five numbers explaining the White Sox slow start

Early-season statistics often can be deceiving, especially when trying to use them to project out for the rest of the year. There’s only one stat — strikeout rate — that is stable for most regulars or starting pitchers at this point in the season.

So yes, the White Sox have some awfully ugly stats, but they’re not necessarily cause to jump ship just yet even as the team returns home from an 0-5 road trip. Still, these five statistics do a pretty concise job of summing up the White Sox slow start to the 2015 season:

-1.1

White Sox position players have been worth -1.1 WAR this season, easily the worst total in the majors (only two other teams, Milwaukee at -0.2 and Texas at -0.1, are in the negatives). It’s easy for individual players to reverse WAR totals compiled after about 20 games, and it’s unfair to expect Adam Eaton, Alexei Ramirez and Melky Cabrera to combine to be worth -1.0 WAR for the long haul. But for now, only two White Sox position players players — Gordon Beckham and Jose Abreu at 0.4 — have rated above replacement level.

[MORE WHITE SOX: White Sox lose fifth straight, make four errors in loss to Twins]

12

Another MLB-worst total here, as in 12 total home runs. Despite having legitimate, established power threats in Abreu and Adam LaRoche and a guy in Avisail Garcia the team views as a 20-plus home run threat, the Sox just aren’t driving the ball out of the park this year. The team’s 7.7 percent home run/fly ball rate is the fifth-lowest in baseball, while their infield fly ball rate (percentage of flyouts that are pop-ups) is the highest in baseball at 14.7 percent. The White Sox lineup is hitting flyballs at the second-lowest rate in baseball, too (27.9 percent), though that’ll likely increase — no team hit fly balls on fewer than 30 percent of their balls in play last year.

2.87

The White Sox bullpen has been a bright spot, compiling baseball’s eighth-best ERA. And it looks to be sustainable success, too, as this group is getting strikeouts, limiting home runs and generating the most ground balls (56.1 percent) of any relief corps in the majors. David Robertson has been the star of the group, firing nine shutout innings and compiling a -0.52 FIP while Zach Duke and Dan Jennings have been an excellent lefty duo as well.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

5.52

The problem, though, is White Sox starters have the third-highest ERA of any MLB group. They’ve generated the majors’ lowest ground ball rate (38.3 percent) while allowing the fifth-most home runs per nine innings (1.32), which certainly isn’t a productive combination. Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Jeff Samardzija all have strong track records, though, so it’s probably not healthy to panic over their 14 combined starts here.

13.5

Yes, the White Sox haven’t started the season off well. But they’ve played 22 games, which comes out to 13.5 percent of the season. Would you draw far-sweeping conclusions about the Bears two games into the season (which comes out to about 13 percent of the 16-game schedule)? Or after one and a half college football games? The fact we’re still so early into the season doesn’t mean we can chalk everything up to small sample size randomness, but with 140 games remaining, there’s still plenty of time for things to turn around. 

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

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AP

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

GLENDALE, Ariz. — On a day when Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada took live batting practice for the first time this spring, off in the distance was a lanky White Sox prospect standing in the outfield grass.

But Alec Hansen was doing more than shagging flies. He was watching both hitters very closely.

“I was looking to see how much pop they had,” Hansen said of Abreu and Moncada. “I kind of look at that to see the difference in power between minor league ball and the major leagues. It’s nice to see it’s not a huge difference. That makes me feel a bit more comfortable.”

At 6-foot-8 — actually 6-foot-8-and-a-half, according to his spring training physical — Hansen is a big man with big plans for his baseball career. He might be quiet on the outside, but he has booming expectations for himself on the inside.

“I want to be the best,” Hansen said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago.

The best? The very best?

That’s what Hansen aspires to become, though later in our conversation, he did dial back a notch, settling for becoming “one of the best.”

Either is fine with manager Ricky Renteria, who is overseeing these uber-confident White Sox prospects and accepts their lofty expectations.

“I think their mindset is where it’s supposed to be,” Renteria said. “None of these kids are concerned or consumed with the possibility of failure. Much more they’re consuming themselves with the understanding that they might hit some stumbling blocks, but they’re going to have a way to avoid overcoming them and push forward and be the best that they can be.”

In his first full season in the White Sox organization, Hansen led the minor leagues with 191 strikeouts. He’s proud of that accomplishment but admitted something: He’s not that impressed because he didn’t do it where it really matters — in the major leagues.

When you watch Hansen pitch, it’s easy to see that the talent is there. His coaches and teammates rave about his ability. With his enormous size and power arm, he is loaded with strengths.  

Though there is one weakness that Hansen acknowledges he needs to work on.

“Sometimes I have a tendency to think too much and worry. I think worrying is the worst thing that I do just because I want to be perfect,” Hansen said. “I think everyone wants to be perfect, some more than others, and I worry about things getting in the way of achieving perfection.”

To Hansen, that doesn’t mean throwing a perfect game. He actually takes it one step further.

He wants to strikeout every single hitter he faces.

“I love striking people out,” Hansen said. “Not having to rely on anyone else and just getting the job done myself and knowing that the hitter can’t get a hit off me. That’s a great feeling. That they can’t put it in play. Like a line drive out. That’s terrible.”

At some point, Hansen will have to lower these impossible expectations for himself. This is an imperfect game. There’s no place for nine-inning, 27-strikeout performances. Players end up in the Hall of Fame because they learn how to succeed with failure.

In the meantime, Hansen is here in big league camp watching and learning anything and everything.

“I’m a good observer. I listen. I don’t really talk too much. I’m a pretty quiet guy. I like to sit back and observe and see how these guys go about their business. Just trying to be at their level, hopefully one day surpass them.”

Surpass?

“It’s kind of hard to surpass some of these guys. I mean, they’re at the tip-top, like the pinnacle of the sport,” Hansen said. “I guess you could say, to get on that level and then be one of the best in the league.”

He might be on his way.

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

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USA TODAY

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

The White Sox freed up a spot on their 40-man roster Sunday, outrighting pitcher Dylan Covey to Triple-A Charlotte.

Covey pitched in 18 games last season, making 12 starts for the South Siders. Things did not go well, with Covey turning in an 0-7 record and a 7.71 ERA in 70 innings.

While there was an outside chance that Covey could have provided at least some starting-pitching depth heading into the 2018 season, the team's recent additions of Miguel Gonzalez and Hector Santiago — not to mention Covey's results from last season — wiped out that idea.

At the moment, the White Sox starting rotation figures to look like this by Opening Day: James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer, with Santiago seeming like a good option to provide depth as the long man in the bullpen.