White Sox

What's next for Gavin Floyd?

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What's next for Gavin Floyd?

I'm a big fan of FIP. In most cases, it's an accurate predictor of future performance, a much better evaluative tool than ERA. It factors in three things pitchers can directly control: walks, strikeouts and home runs -- thus, Fielding Independent Pitching.

FIP is why I was concerned about Gavin Floyd going in to 2009. His results were fantastic in 2008, and his 3.84 ERA still stands as a career high. But his FIP was a full-season high of 4.77, which seemed to be a harbinger of doom for the next season.

An odd thing happened after late May of 2009, though. Floyd went from being a pitcher who seemingly pitched above his ability to one who pitches below his ability. Basically, Floyd's walk rate and home run rates went down while his strikeout rate went up. And so did his ERA.

Floyd has thrown 574 innings from 2009-2011 with a 4.17 ERA. So just as his 2008 FIP predicted, his ERA did go up -- but the weird thing is that FIP went down. Basically, Floyd has done better at the things he can control while seeing worse results.

In theory, Floyd should be primed for a breakout. A lot of sabermetrically-oriented analysts value him as the guy with a good FIP, and thus value him highly.

But three straight years of a sub-3.85 FIP and above-4.00 ERA are probably a trend. Throw Floyd's win-loss record out the window -- that he's 33-37 in the last three years isn't important.

A side note, though: As you'll see in the sidebar video, Floyd is concentrating on getting himself -- and, of course, his team -- wins. Pitcher wins (not above replacement) are not a good stat for writers to use in evaluation, since they're so incredibly influenced by factors out of a pitcher's control.

But for a pitcher? It's great that Floyd wants to win games. For Floyd, if he gets the W, that means the White Sox won. Of course, if he is shouldered with a loss, it may not be his fault, and no pitcher should ever "pitch to the score" (i.e. be content with allowing five if the offense scores six). But since pitchers aren't analysts, executives, etc., wanting to win games is a good thing.

Anyways, back to meaningful stuff Floyd can actually control. This isn't a comparison looking at Floyd's mentality, more in terms of results: Floyd has become Javier Vazquez lite. In two of his three years with the Sox, Vazquez' ERA was nearly a full run higher than his FIP, save 2007 when he had a 3.74 ERA and 3.80 FIP.

Vazquez did a lot of things right, posting good strikeout and walk rates. But his command was often an issue, leading to the righty throwing quite a few hittable pitches and, thus, the high ERAs. The big inning was always an issue for Vazquez while with the White Sox; he'd cruise along for four innings then unravel in the fifth.

But if Floyd is Vazquez lite, that's actually not a bad thing. He's had better ERAs than in Vazquez' worst years, and remember, Vazquez put together a fantastic year in 2007. If the ERAs are neutral, it's much better to have a lower-FIP guy like Floyd than a higher-FIP guy, since the lower FIP pitcher is much more likely to have "big" season -- just as Vazquez did five years ago.

Maybe this is the year Floyd finally breaks the trend of the last three seasons. But even if he doesn't, he'll be a valuable asset to the White Sox as a solid mid-rotation pitcher.

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.

Jose Abreu's got a new beard, but what he really deserves is a contract extension

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USA TODAY

Jose Abreu's got a new beard, but what he really deserves is a contract extension

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Sunday marked the first surprise of White Sox spring training, courtesy of first baseman Jose Abreu.

“This year, I’m going to try to steal more bases,” Abreu said through a translator.

This might have sounded like a joke, but Abreu was completely serious.

On paper, he’s not exactly Rickey Henderson. In 614 career games, Abreu has only six stolen bases. However, the slimmed-down first baseman does have some sneaky speed. His six triples last season ranked third in the American League. So there are some wheels to work with.

“I like the challenge. I think that’s a good challenge for me. I’m ready for it,” Abreu said.

How many steals are we talking about? A reporter asked sarcastically if a 30-30 season is in the offing? Abreu didn’t exactly shoot down the possibility.

“Who knows? When you fill your mind with positive things, maybe you can accomplish them,” Abreu said. “The mind of a human being works in a lot of different ways. If you fill your mind with good things, good things are going to happen.”

The morning began with Abreu walking to the hitting cages with his Cuban compadres Yoan Moncada and Luis Robert, who the White Sox signed last summer. He held his first workout on Sunday. At the White Sox hitters camp last month, Moncada took Robert under his wing, showing him the ropes, even telling Ricky Renteria, “I got him.”

But Sunday, Abreu was in charge, holding court with the three of them in the cage. Abreu watched closely as Robert hit off a tee, giving him pointers about his swing.

“I just like to help people,” Abreu said. “When I started to play at 16 in Cuba, I had a lot people who hounded me to get better. At the same point, I want to give back things that I’ve learned and pass that along to other people. That’s what I’m doing. I’m not expecting anything else. I’m just glad to help them and get them better.”

What kind of advice has he passed along to Robert?

“Since I came to this country, I learned quickly three keys to be a success: Be disciplined, work hard and always be on time. If you apply those three keys, I think you’re going to be good. Those are the three keys I’m trying to teach the new kids, the young guys,” Abreu said.

Abreu lost about 10 pounds during the offseason. He said he hopes to learn more English in 2018. He also arrived at spring training sporting a scruffy beard which he grew while he was in Cuba so he “could be incongnito.”

Abreu likes his new look. Moncada thinks he should shave it off.

“If the organization doesn’t say anything, I’m just going to keep it,” Abreu said.

Well, so much for that.

Moments after Abreu spoke with the media, Renteria told reporters that Abreu will have to “clean it up a bit.”

The two will find a compromise. Come to think of it, maybe Abreu and the White Sox should do the same about a contract extension in the near future.

Yes, he’ll be 33 when his contract expires in two years, but there have been no signs of a decline with his performance. Instead, Abreu is only getting better both offensively and defensively.

Heck, now he wants to steal bases, too.

After Renteria, Abreu is the leader of this team. He commands ultimate respect inside the clubhouse. He’s become another coach to Moncada, Robert and others. He’s a huge brick in the present and too big of an influence and cornerstone to not have around in the future.

“I hope to play my entire career in the majors with the White Sox,” Abreu said Sunday. “But I can’t control that.”

At some point, a decision will have to be made whether to keep Abreu or trade him. In the meantime, ask yourself this question: What will bring more value to the White Sox, getting a high-end prospect or two in return not knowing if they’ll ever succeed in the majors? Or keeping your best player, the heart and soul of your team, allowing him to show your future stars the way while they’re developing in the major leagues?

Seems like an easy decision to me.