White Sox

Anatomy of a meltdown: Sox implode vs. Baltimore

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Anatomy of a meltdown: Sox implode vs. Baltimore

A 4-1 lead heading into the eighth inning. That sounds pretty good for a White Sox bullpen that was lining up Jesse Crain and Hector Santiago to finish the game off.

The Orioles practically handed the White Sox that three-run lead, playing generally deplorable baseball through the first seven innings of Monday's contest. So when Matt Wieters went deep off Crain in the eighth, it didn't seem like much of a threat. One solo home run wasn't going to be the undoing of the Sox.

Crain scuffled through the rest of the inning, walking Mark Reynolds and giving up a single to Chris Davis with two out before striking out Robert Andino looking to hold the Orioles at bay.

The Sox were put away easily in the eighth outside of an A.J. Pierzynski single. Whatever, just get Santiago in, nail down the save and improve to 6-3.

Santiago was pretty well squeezed against Nolan Reimold to lead off the top of the ninth, throwing two pitches that were in the strike zone that were called balls. The latter of those pitches should've been strike three, and it was followed up with a home run. 4-3. The sequence, via Brooks Baseball:

That sixth pitch was a mid-90's fastball just out of the strike zone on the outer third. Given the inside corner was taken away in the sequence, though, Santiago could've stood to elevate that pitch more, or get it a little further outside. Reimold was able to cheat to the outer third, and it helped him make it a one-run game.

Should Santiago have struck Reimold out? Absolutely. Should he have thrown a better 3-2 offering? Absolutely. You can only blame umpires for so much, and Lance Barrett didn't throw a hittable payoff pitch.

Barrett then gave Santiago some generous calls in the next two at-bats -- Don Cooper's argument and subsequent ejection maybe helped with that -- which left Adam Jones as the last remaining player standing between the Sox and a win.

But Santiago absolutely grooved a 2-1 fastball, which Jones promptly belted for a game-tying home run. There wasn't much to this one. It was just a fastball right down the middle, and Jones, possessing good power, whacked it over the fence.

Okay, so that's a rough way to lose a lead. But it only tied the game, and at home, the Sox did have a chance to win it in the bottom of the frame. A 1-2-3 bottom of the inning, which ended with a soft Gordon Beckham flyout on a hanging slider, washed away that chance.

And then the top of the 10th happened. The gory details don't really need to be re-hashed, but needless to say it wasn't the finest hour for Zach Stewart, Alejandro De Aza and the right side of the White Sox infield.

When the dust settled, Baltimore led 10-4. After being down 4-1 heading into the eighth.

This is the kind of loss the White Sox can't afford to take. The Orioles gave the Sox every possible opportunity to win the game, but the Sox didn't take advantage. And the Orioles are not a good team, no matter what their 6-4 record may show.

The White Sox don't have a big margin for error in 2012. Even a handful of losses like Monday's could be the difference between contention and not playing meaningful games in August and September.

White Sox prospect Nick Madrigal leads the minors in strikeout rate, but it’s not translating to hits

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USA TODAY

White Sox prospect Nick Madrigal leads the minors in strikeout rate, but it’s not translating to hits

When the White Sox drafted Nick Madrigal with the fourth overall pick in last June’s draft he was known as an elite contact hitter who could play good defense on the infield.

In nearly a year in the minors, that has mostly held true, but not exactly according to plan. Madrigal raced through three levels of the minors in 2018 and hit .303 in 43 games between those three stops. He only had five strikeouts.

This season has not gone as smoothly. Madrigal is hitting .261 for Single-A Winston-Salem, but he still isn’t striking out much at all. In fact, according to a write-up on Milb.com, Madrigal leads of all minor league baseball with a 3.3 percent strikeout rate.

“Madrigal has plus speed, and that should lead to more hits as his sample increases, but he'll have to hit a lot more to provide value from his specific profile,” Sam Dykstra wrote.

So what’s with Madrigal not hitting for higher average? How can a batter strikeout so rarely and not find more hits?

White Sox director of amateur scouting Nick Hostetler, one of the key decision makers in drafting Madrigal, talked about Madrigal’s progress on an episode of the White Sox Talk podcast earlier this week.

“The one thing he’s still doing is making contact,” Hostetler said. “So that is what we expected. We expected that out of him. I’m not sure he was probably expecting the streaks. I think he’s dealt with a lot of streaks in his offensive game this year. I think he had one stretch that was 0-for-16 or 17 and he came back with a couple hits. So he’s been a little streaky this year. But I think he’s starting to learn. He’s starting to develop. He’s had one home run. He’s starting to hit some doubles, but he’s starting to learn to get the ball in the air a little bit. He’s learning how teams are shifting him, how they’re playing him.”

The shifts Hostetler referred to are another interesting part of Madrigal’s unusual profile. He is actually going to opposite field more than pulling the ball down left field and opposing defenses are playing him accordingly. That could be one reason to explain why Madrigal isn’t getting more hits out of all the balls he is putting in play.

He is showing a bit more power this year as opposed to last year (11 extra base hits vs. 7 in only 10 more plate appearances). His spray charts for 2018 and 2019 show he is pulling the ball more than he used to, a sign that he is adjusting.

2018 spray chart:

2019 spray chart:

Note that Madrigal has more balls resulting in hits getting pulled down the left field side than he had last year. As defenses are shifting him to hit the ball to opposite field, as Hostetler noted, this will be a key part of his development.

He is showing progress in other areas. He is drawing more walks (14 this season vs. 7 last year) and is showing off his speed with 12 stolen bases.

Hostetler isn’t pushing the panic button on Madrigal.

“This is part of development,” Hostetler said. “Unfortunately the new wave we’re in everybody thinks ‘well, they’re a college guy and he’s drafted so high he needs to hit like this and go right away and be there in a year.’ Some guys just take a little bit.

“The one thing I’ll say is the defense has been exactly what we thought it would be. It’s Gold Glove caliber defense and he’s making contact. As long as he keeps making contact, keep fielding those balls like he is, he’ll figure out the rest.”

 

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Eloy Jimenez is starting to show off his big power

Eloy Jimenez is starting to show off his big power

It appears Eloy Jimenez is heating up.

The White Sox rookie outfielder didn’t get off to a great start this season, but he showed flashes of his potential. Then, he went down with injury and missed more than three weeks.

After going 0-for-7 in his first two games back from injury, Jimenez broke out with two home runs on Wednesday. He followed that up with another bomb on Thursday in a 4-0 win in Houston.


The fact that Jimenez stringing home runs together wasn't the big story of the game is a testament to Lucas Giolito's impressive outing on the mound.

Jimenez now has as many home runs in the four games since coming back from injury (3) as he had in his first 21 games before going down. That’s far too small of a sample size to say the time off did anything productive for Jimenez, but the 22-year-old is showing the power he was known for in the minors.

Overall, Jimenez is hitting .234/.280/.447. The average and on-base percentage are lower than expected considering he was a career .311 hitter in the minors. However, eight of his 22 hits in the majors have gone for extra bases, with six of those being home runs.

Thursday’s home run went 414 feet after he blasted shots of 419 and 417 feet the night before.

He also had some fun with the camera in the dugout and then had some fun in the field by celebrating a diving catch with a laugh.


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