White Sox

A.J. Pierzynski is really good at preventing runs

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A.J. Pierzynski is really good at preventing runs

A few weeks ago, Tony Andracki and I sparked a debate when we chose Geovany Soto over A.J. Pierzynski on our all-Chicago team of the 2000's. Our reasoning was as follows: Soto's the better offensive and defensive catcher, while Pierzynski wins in the realm of incalculable intangibles. His handling of a pitching staff -- which has earned rave reviews -- fell into that intangible category.

But thanks to the research of Baseball Prospectus' Max Marchi, Pierzynski's ability to handle a pitching staff has been quantified. And it's very impressive.

Since 1948, only five catchers have been better at preventing runs from scoring than Pierzynski. That may seem off, since he's never rated well as a defensive catcher. In fact, one rating system pegged him as the fourth-worst in baseball last year, taking into account throwingfielding errors, caught stealings, wild pitches and passed balls.

So Pierzynski's ranking on the Baseball Prospectus list is telling as to just how good he is at handling a pitching staff. Ahead of Pierzynski on the list: Tony Pena, Mike Scioscia, Javy Lopez, Mike Piazza and Carlton Fisk. That's impressive company. Piazza was a much better defensive catcher (especially at blocking pitches in the dirt) than people remember, while Pena, Scioscia and Fisk were all good-to-elite defensive catchers in their own right.

But here's where things get interesting: Javy Lopez never rated as a good defensive catcher, at least by the usual caught stealingball in dirt metrics. In fact, per FanGraphs' defensive values behind the plate, he rates as 15 runs below average for his career. Pierzynski rates as -16 runs below average by the same standard.

So could the fact that Lopez and Pierzynski were blessed to play for two of the best pitching coaches in baseball -- Leo Mazzone and Don Cooper -- have anything to do with the ranking?

Probably, but the extent of Cooper's influence on Pierzynski may not be as great as we think. Marchi looked at the top 10 managers who most helped their pitchers and catchers, and Ozzie Guillen -- who had Cooper as his pitching coach for every one of his eight years with the Sox -- didn't make the cut.

And Pierzynski's ability to prevent runs over his career didn't all stem from his days with the Twins and Giants -- over the last three years, only Jose Molina has prevented more runs behind the plate than Pierzynski, per Marchi's analysis.

So perhaps it's time we re-think our stance on Pierzynski. Nobody's going to confuse him with Yadier Molina defensively, but maybe we need to stop looking at him solely in terms of defense. Because when you factor in his ability to prevent runs with his handling of the pitching staff, Pierzynski is one of the best.

Reported promotion of Zack Collins adds another piece to White Sox rebuilding puzzle

Reported promotion of Zack Collins adds another piece to White Sox rebuilding puzzle

The White Sox rebuilding puzzle is getting closer to completion.

Zack Collins is reportedly en route to the major leagues, according to a report from Miami talk-show host Andy Slater. That adds another one of the White Sox highly rated prospects to the growing list of them at the big league level as the franchise’s contention window looks set to open relatively soon.


Collins was the team’s first-round draft pick in 2016, selected with the No. 10 pick that year out of the University of Miami. Currently ranked as the No. 11 prospect in the farm system, he’s always been praised for his offensive abilities. Last season at Double-A Birmingham, he finished the year with a .382 on-base percentage and launched 15 homers, also winning the Home Run Derby at the Southern League All-Star Game.

In 48 games with Triple-A Charlotte this season, Collins owns a .258/.382/.497 slash line with nine homers, nine doubles, 38 RBIs and 35 walks.

Collins has been lauded as a big bat, but there have been questions about other parts of his game as he’s risen through the system. From the day he was drafted, there were questions about his defensive ability, leading to speculation that he might one day end up at a position besides catcher. He’s also racked up the strikeouts in the minors, with 396 of them in 322 games over his four minor league seasons.

But the White Sox haven’t wavered in their confidence that Collins can be a big league catcher, and it looks like that’s the position he’ll fill should the White Sox call him up before the start of next week’s Crosstown series with the Cubs. Welington Castillo was removed from Sunday’s loss to the New York Yankees with back tightness. The team said Castillo will be reevaluated on Monday. With this report of Collins’ promotion, it looks like Castillo could be headed to the injured list.

Another top prospect reaching the majors adds another tangible example of rebuilding progress. Fans have been clamoring for the promotions of Dylan Cease and Luis Robert all season long, and while Collins might be a little further down in the rankings than those two, this should still please fans who, even in a season filled with positives, want to see a more rapid advancement toward the rebuild’s ultimate goal.

Collins will perhaps benefit from a lack of pressure, what with James McCann in the midst of a potentially All-Star season as the White Sox primary catcher. The White Sox could perhaps continue to lean on McCann, allowing Collins to ease into the major leagues.

But just like Michael Kopech last August and Eloy Jimenez in March, Collins’ mere arrival is a step forward in this process, one that should please fans immensely.

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Yoan Moncada continues battle with back issues

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USA TODAY

Yoan Moncada continues battle with back issues

Yoan Moncada's battle with his back issues might not be as over as we thought.

The third baseman made his return to the White Sox starting lineup Sunday following a four-game layoff due to a mild back strain. But his return didn't last long. After a fourth-inning strikeout in his second plate appearance of the 10-3 loss to the visiting New York Yankees, Moncada was removed from the game with what the team announced as upper back tightness.

Moncada is described as day to day. The White Sox have an off day Monday ahead of the start of a two-game Crosstown series at Wrigley Field on Tuesday night.

"He's doing good. I think I'm not the only one who noticed his grimace in the swing. It made no sense to continue to expose him to that," manager Rick Renteria said after Sunday's game. "All indications are he should be ready to go on Tuesday.

"Didn't seem to put him in any predicament. Hopefully it didn't set him back. All indications are that hopefully he'll be back on Tuesday."

Moncada was removed from Monday's game against the Washington Nationals with what was initially described as back spasms. Renteria updated the verbiage to a back strain in the following days. Moncada missed Tuesday's game against the Nationals, went through a Wednesday off day and then missed the first three games of the four-game weekend set with the Yankees. His return lasted all of four innings Sunday before he was taken out again.

"Just watching the swing, watching the finish, which is what I was concerned with, getting through the ball. He's ready to get through the ball, it's just the finish. He's feeling a little something there," Renteria said. "You can't replicate it in any drill work. We've tried to do it. Everything he did was good. All the work he did was good.

"Everything we tried to do to replicate it, it wasn't existent until you get into the game, then you know. That's why I think it was a good — I don't know if you want to call it a test, but it was a test. We wanted to see where he was at. Didn't make any sense to continue to push him. Get him ready and calm it down and get him ready for the series against the North Siders."

Moncada wasn't the only White Sox hitter removed from Sunday's game. Welington Castillo, who was the designated hitter, was taken out with what the team announced as lower back tightness. Renteria confirmed after the game that Castillo's injury came on his swing in the second inning, a line drive off the center-field wall that ended up as only a single. Castillo will be reevaluated during the off day Monday.

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