White Sox

What happened to Fukudome in Cleveland?


What happened to Fukudome in Cleveland?

When the Indians acquired Kosuke Fukudome from the Cubs on July 28 of last year, it looked to be a solid deal that could help a lagging Cleveland offense. Fukudome was hitting .273.374.369 following his final at-bat with the Cubs -- while his power had deserted him, he was still a good on-base guy who could help the Indians' playoff push.

But with Cleveland, Fukudome's numbers plummeted. His on-base percentage fell 74 points to .300 thanks in large part to a decreased walk rate (13.3 percent with the Cubs, 5.8 percent with the Indians) and an increased strikeout rate (16.5 percent with the Cubs, 20.5 percent with the Indians).

Diving deeper into those numbers, Fukudome had major issues against breaking pitches after moving to the American League. About one in every five pitches he saw in 2011 with the Cubs were breaking balls, and against those curveballs and sliders Fukudome was about five runs above average (per FanGraphs).

With Cleveland, he saw only a slight uptick in sliders (10.9 percent to 12 percent) and curveballs (9.6 to 11.4 percent), but combined, he saw a breaking ball in closer to one in every four pitches than one in every five. His struggled at recognizing those pitches, though, whiffing on over 10 percent of breaking balls as opposed to under 10 percent with the Cubs.

Granted, this is over a small sample size -- just 59 games and 258 plate appearances. And Fukudome's most significant struggles came in September, historically his worst offensive month.

But Fukudome hit well below his career August split of .281.364.441, posting a .293.331.414 slash line in the regular season's penultimate month.

I'm tempted to call Fukudome's offensive dropoff the product of a small sample size, normal late-season struggles and perhaps some discomfort with moving to an unfamiliar city for a few months.

If Fukudome exhibits the same pitch recognition issues with the White Sox, maybe his struggles could be chalked up to an unfamiliarity with American League pitchers. With readily available scouting reports, video, etc., the frequency with which pitchers change leagues and interleague play, that's not a claim I'm ready to make yet.

Until further notice, Fukudome should be expected to be a good on-base guy to come off the bench and start when needed. Two bad months in Cleveland, while concerning, aren't enough to cause a panic.

Pitch data was used via Texas Leaguers' database.

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


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.”


“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


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.