White Sox

Poetry in Pros: Freddy's been steady


Poetry in Pros: Freddy's been steady

Monday, Aug. 16, 2010
7:20 PM

By Brett Ballantini

CHICAGO It was just five days ago that Freddy Garcia sat languidly in his clubhouse chair, ice on his shoulder and in his veins.

I dont care about doubters, he said, citing some slightly fuzzy math of just three of 22 poor starts on the season (actually, four of 21). I believe in myself.

Thats good, because not a lot of fans do at the moment. As Garcia labors through his two historically worst months (July and August, home of his two ugliest single-month ERAs and the only two months he owns a career record below .500), the pitchforks and torches are coming out.

One of the mob members is a favorite Chicken Little of White Sox baseball, a newspaper expert who today evoked the names of Gio Gonzalez, Clayton Richard and even John Ely (!) as fifth-starter solutions, sigh, if only. (My my, if sweet-swinging Chris Carter, a former White Sox farmhand swapped for Carlos Quentin who the same critic tirelessly bemoaned the loss of, ever gets a major-league hit, prepare the full-on Schadenfreudemania.)

Well, hey, theres no doubt that Garcias recent performances are a cause for concern. But even updating the numbers to include yesterdays five runs in five innings, Garcias sentiment last week was right, as he shushed his doubters by pointing to his low percentage of games he had no chance in: Its not that bad.

Five blowouts in 22 starts are the cold, hard facts. And for a fifth starter, thats an endorsement of, not an argument against, Garcias value. White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen has consistently admitted pure shock over how well Garcia pitched all season and insists that a fifth starter is doing his job by simply giving his team innings. And as usual, Ozzies right.

All the scuttlebutt implies that Garcia has been an unsteady influence in the White Sox rotation. Thats far from the case. Believe it or not, Garcias percentage of quality starts (.682) has not only been terrific in his second stint with the White Sox, it has been superior to his QS percentage on his first go-around (.549). That quality start percentage is second only to John Danks among White Sox starters, and just barelyDanks, esteemed as a breakout ace this season, sports just one more quality start than Garcia and a .696 QS percentage overall.

Unfortunately, as the second-oldest player and oldest pitcher on the White Sox, Garcias fall-off has been reminiscent of many veterans in the Chicago clubhouse. J.J. Putz scuffled over the weekend, while Andruw Jones misplayed consecutive flyballs to pave the way for the Detroit Tigers comeback on Sunday. Paul Konerko has cooled, Omar Vizquel seems a step slow and A.J. Pierzynski and Mark Kotsay have done little of late to reverse season-long slumps.

No doubt, Garcias giveaway effort in Sundays series finale vs. the Tigers, allowing five runs and eight hits in a laborious five innings, dug a hole for the White Sox they could only briefly rise out of before, as is customary in Garcias starts, the bullpen failed late and lost the game.

I pitched better today. I felt really good out there, Garcia said after Sunday's start vs. Detroit, pointing to situations in nearly every inning in which he narrowly avoided escaping damage. I feel bad. I should have gone one more inning to spare the bullpen.

Another thing thats too easily overlooked about Garcia is his capacity for leadership. Unlike Konerko, whose captaincy is unquestioned and his calm rarely dismissed as dispassion, Garcia is viewed not only as expendable on the field, but when preaching calm, hes viewed a bit like a beach-bum goofball.

Why? Perhaps its a language barrier, as the veteran is a native Spanish speaker who employs English deliberately, though with unflinching honesty. Perhaps as a player who wasnt being counted on coming into the season, Garcia cant help but be viewed as ancillary to the real team on the field.

But dont dismiss the significance of Garcia. Hes leaned on by Guillen as a veteran the manager can trust, one who wont fail to be straight with him and give 100 percent on the field. By extension, Garcia can play a primary leadership role among the significant Latino segment of the team. He may not be the Venezuelan Konerko, but Garcias significance on and off the field should not be disregarded, particularly among younger players like Sergio Santos, Alexei Ramirez, and even Alex Rios.

Were very positive, Garcia insisted Sunday, even in light of the sheer horror of the game. Thats exactly the sort of thing Konerko would and has said, through the ups and downs of the season. Garcia is just less frequently queried.

And in the same session, Garcia also was willing to go farther than any other White Sox playerperhaps too far, evenin describing what awaits the Sox in the Series of the Season up in the Great White North.

Weve got to get in a groove and play better vs. Minnesota, he said. We have to play almost perfect to beat them. They make smart plays.

Along with many candidates, Garcia is an unsung MVP of this contending White Sox club. And dont be too quick to dismiss the role hell play in eight or nine starts down the stretch.

Por que? Try this on: Garcia is at his best in the stretch, going 28-11 with a 3.28 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in his career September and October starts, his best marks of any month.

Wonder what the Chicken Littles will do with that.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.

White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Houston Astros?


White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Houston Astros?

What’s there to know about the Houston Astros?

They’re the best, that’s what there is to know.

The Astros are the defending world champions for a multitude of reasons, and it’s all those and more that will have them as a favorite to repeat in 2018. Yes, the Cubs and New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers and Cleveland Indians will all have something to say about that. But right now, no team is better on paper than the team the just won the big enchilada not five months ago.

The best 1-2 starting-pitching in combo in baseball? It belongs to the Astros. Justin Verlander was sensational for them after coming over in a late-summer trade with the Detroit Tigers. All he did was post a 1.06 ERA in five regular-season starts and a 2.21 ERA in six postseason outings. Justin Verlander. Again. And then there’s his running mate Dallas Keuchel — who doesn’t like the Cubs very much, apparently — has been just as good. He had a 2.90 ERA last year and won the American League Cy Young in 2015 with a 2.48 ERA and 20 wins.

Get past those guys and you’ll have to face the new guy. Gerrit Cole is now an Astro, as well, the reigning champs bolstering their already excellent rotation by importing one of the National League’s best pitchers. Cole saw his numbers jump last year (4.26 ERA) but still almost had 200 strikeouts and now has a much better roster around him than the one he left in Pittsburgh.

Charlie Morton? He threw four one-run innings in Game 7 of the World Series. Lance McCullers? He had 2.1 shutout innings in Game 7 of the World Series. This rotation is a force that could mow down the AL. There are questions, sure, but this five is entering 2018 as the best collection of arms in the Junior Circuit.

And we haven’t even gotten to the hitting. Oh, the hitting! The Astros scored 34 runs in seven World Series games. They banged out 56 hits. They hit 15 home runs. This after they were baseball’s best offense during the regular season.

The names are obvious to anyone who watched the postseason. Jose Altuve, surely tired of all the short jokes, is arguably the best player in baseball, and he won the AL MVP last season with a ridiculous .346/.410/.547 slash line. Carlos Correa, perhaps baseball’s best young shortstop, had a .315/.391/.550 slash line. George Springer, your World Series MVP, hit 34 regular-season home runs and got on base at a .367 clip before hitting five homers and slashing .379/.471/.1.000 in the Fall Classic.

Then there’s Alex Bregman and Josh Reddick and Marwin Gonzalez, who were all very good to great in 2017. They shouldn’t all be expected to do what they did last season — you need look no further than the Cubs to see what a deep World Series run can do to a team, especially early. But is there a better lineup than this in the AL? Anyone? Bueller?

It’s hard to repeat, and “hard” is becoming one heck of an understatement considering no one’s repeated in almost two decades. The Yankees last did it when they beat the broken-bat-throwing Mike Piazza and the New York Mets in the 2000 World Series. Since then, no one’s done it twice in a row.

Last year, most of us looked at the Cubs and said, “They have the best team, they are favorites to do it again.” And then they were not even in first place in the NL Central at the All-Star break. A similar fate could await the Astros. But right now, they look like the best team the AL has to offer.

Houston, you are clear for takeoff ... again.

2017 record: 101-61, first place in AL West, World Series champions

Offseason additions: Gerrit Cole, , Joe Smith, Hector Rondon

Offseason departures: Carlos Beltran, Cameron Maybin, Mike Fiers, Tyler Clippard, Luke Gregerson, Francisco Liriano

X-factor: The Astros now count one-time Cubs closer Hector Rondon among their relievers now, but the X-factor pick here is Bregman. After a fine but nothing special first half, he was one of baseball's best after the All-Star break last year, slashing .315/.367/.536 with 11 homers and 44 RBIs in 71 games in the second half.

Projected lineup:

1. George Springer, CF
2. Alex Bregman, 3B
3. Jose Altuve, 2B
4. Carlos Correa, SS
5. Josh Reddick, RF
6. Marwin Gonzalez, 1B
7. Brian McCann, C
8. Evan Gattis, DH
9. Derek Fisher, LF

Projected rotation:

1. Justin Verlander
2. Dallas Keuchel
3. Gerrit Cole
4. Lance McCullers
5. Charlie Morton

Prediction: First place in AL West

Catch up on the AL:

Oakland Athletics
Texas Rangers
Seattle Mariners
Los Angeles Angels
Houston Astros

Catch up on the NL:

San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Francisco Giants

Eighteen White Sox questions for 2018: How many members of the bullpen are long-term pieces?


Eighteen White Sox questions for 2018: How many members of the bullpen are long-term pieces?

White Sox fans might have their eyes on the future, but the 2018 season has plenty of intrigue all its own. As Opening Day nears, let's take a look at the 18 most pressing questions for the 2018 edition of the South Side baseball team.

White Sox fans playing the 2020 projection game likely aren't spending too much time on the relief corps.

It might be fun to pick out five names for a potentially elite starting rotation. It might be fun to go around the diamond and place the name of a top prospect at each position. It's probably far less enjoyable to predict which pitchers won't make it as starters and which middle relievers might hit the free-agent market after the 2019 season.

But the bullpen will be a valuable part of any contending White Sox team of the future. And just like everywhere else on the roster, its construction starts now.

The question is, though, after selling off most of the bullpen last summer, how many members of the White Sox bullpen in 2018 will be a part of it in 2020?

Rick Hahn's front office could use a similar strategy this season as it did last season, when Anthony Swarzak, Tommy Kahnle, David Robertson and Dan Jennings were all traded away to acquire prospects that might or might not end up helping the team's rebuilding efforts. This offseason has seen a lot of additions to the relief corps. Luis Avilan and Joakim Soria were acquired in a three-team trade, and there were a bunch of veterans signed to minor league deals that could end up on the team. Those older relievers fit the bill of trade bait, potential sign-and-flip guys that could be used to acquire more minor league talent.

But at the same time, there are young guys who will be a part of this 'pen, guys who could show they belong for the foreseeable future. Juan Minaya, just 27, was the White Sox closer at the end of last season and could very well start this season with that job. He picked up nine saves over the season's last month and a half and didn't give up a run in his final eight outings. The 24-year-old Aaron Bummer pitched in 30 games with the White Sox last season and is still ranked as one of the organization's top 20 prospects. Gregory Infante is 30 but put up good numbers in 52 big league games, finishing the year with a 3.13 ERA.

And then there's Nate Jones. He's pitched in parts of six seasons with the White Sox and just turned 32 years old, but the key word there is "parts." Jones hasn't been able to stay healthy, pitching in just 11 games last year and only 21 combined games in 2014 and 2015. But when he has stayed on the field, he's been very good. Look at 2016, when he turned in a 2.29 ERA and struck out 80 batters in 70.2 innings. Jones is under contract through as long as the 2021 season and has the stuff to contend for the closer's job at some point this season.

While Soria and Avilan look like guys who could be moved should they pitch well enough to draw midseason interest — a reason Soria could potentially get a look at closer at some point, that and his wealth of experience in the role — there are a few names that could be pitching for their long-term futures with the team. Outside of Zack Burdi, there isn't a highly touted prospect that currently projects to be a bullpen guy. That leaves opportunity for some of the guys on this year's roster.