White Sox

Is Brent Morel baseball's next breakout star?

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Is Brent Morel baseball's next breakout star?

In 2008, one in every three fly balls hit by a relatively unknown utility man by the name of Ben Zobrist went for a home run in September. In 2009, Zobrist hit 27 home runs in a breakout year that deserved serious MVP consideration.

But in September of 2009, a different unknown utility player had a higher home run per fly ball rate in September. In 2010, that player hit 54 home runs. Jose Bautista, seemingly overnight, became the best power hitter in baseball.

In September of 2010, Michael Morse found himself on that same home runfly ball leaderboard that springboarded Zobrist and Bautista. He hit 31 home runs in 2011.

And now the fun part: Brent Morel found himself on that September home runfly ball leaderboard last year. While the methodology is hardly scientific, it's enough to lead Lewis Pollis of Beyond the Box Score to tab Morel as a breakout player for 2012. Here's how he sums it up:
"There's a big sample size caveat here and I'm not suggesting that Morel's gaudy September numbers are completely indicative of a new true talent level. But a late-season swing (pun intended) as dramatic as his shouldn't necessarily be dismissed as a fluky hot streak, especially since some of his other numbers changed towards the end of the year too. It's important to remember the huge role of luck in baseball and the dangers of reading too much into small sample sizes, but surely that Zobrist, Bautista, and Morse all broke out after huge Septembers has to mean something. And besides, I hear the jury's still out on science."

Morel won't be the next Jose Bautista in terms of production (although, man, that'd be nice, right?), but if his September wasn't a fluke, maybe the Sox offense will get a much-needed jolt from a fairly unexpected source.

Tim Anderson celebrated his birthday in style

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USA TODAY

Tim Anderson celebrated his birthday in style

Tim Anderson turned 24 on Saturday and celebrated the occasion with a bang.

Anderson smashed a three-run home run in the first inning against the A's. It was actually his first swing on his birthday. Anderson took the first two pitches before launching the 1-1 pitch over the right field fence.

That home run, Anderson's 13th of the year, gave the White Sox a 5-0 lead. Things took an ugly turn later in the game with Oakland winning 7-6. Dylan Covey left in the fifth with a hip injury, which manager Rick Renteria said will be evaluated tomorrow to determine the severity of the injury.

Anderson finished 2-for-4 on his birthday. He later added a single, a stolen base and a run in the sixth inning.

Anderon's power surge this year has him on pace to blow past his 17 homers from a year ago. He is four shy of last year's total and has done so in just under half as many plate appearances.

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

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USA TODAY

It's only one start, but that's the Lucas Giolito that White Sox fans expected to see this season

The preseason expectations and the results have been drastically different for Lucas Giolito.

Expected to be the best pitcher on the White Sox starting staff, Giolito hasn’t come too close to that title, instead heading into Friday’s doubleheader with the most earned runs allowed of any pitcher in baseball. His walk total has been among the highest in the game all year long, too. And the calls from social media to send him down to Triple-A haven’t been at all infrequent.

But Friday, White Sox fans got a glimpse at what they expected, a look at the guy who earned so much hype with a strong September last season and a dominant spring training.

It wasn’t a performance that would make any reasonable baseball person’s jaw drop. But it was the best Giolito has looked this season. He still allowed four runs on seven hits — as mentioned, not a Cy Young type outing — but he struck out a season-high eight batters. Prior to giving up the back-to-back singles to start the eighth inning that brought an end to his evening, he’d surrendered just two runs.

Most importantly he walked just two guys and didn’t seem to struggle with his command at all. That’s a big deal for a pitcher who had 45 walks to his name prior to Friday.

“You know it was a tough eighth inning, but throughout the whole game, I felt in sync,” Giolito said. “(Catcher Omar Narvaez) and I were working really well, finally commanding the fastball the way I should. Definitely the best I felt out there this year, for sure. Velocity was up a tick. Just felt right, felt in sync. Just competed from there.”

Confidence has never left Giolito throughout the poor results, and he’s talked after every start about getting back on the horse and giving it another try. Consistently working in between starts, things finally seemed to click Friday night.

“It all worked today,” manager Rick Renteria said. “(Pitching coach Don Cooper) says that every bullpen has gotten better, from the beginning to this point. He sees progress. The velocity that he showed today was something that Coop was seeing in his work. You can see that his delivery is continuing to improve. He was trusting himself, really attacking the strike zone, trusted his breaking ball today when he need to and just tried to command as much as he could. Did a nice job.”

Giolito went through this kind of thing last year, when he started off poorly at Triple-A Charlotte with a 5.40 ERA through his first 16 starts. But then things got better, with Giolito posting a 2.78 ERA over his final eight starts with the Knights before getting called up to the big leagues.

This was just one start, of course, but perhaps he can follow a similar formula this year, too, going from a rough beginning to figuring things out.

“I’m not trying to tinker or think about mechanics anymore,” he said. “It’s about flow, getting out there and making pitches. We were able to do that for the most part.

“I’ll watch video and see certain things, and I have little cues here and there. But I’m not going to go and overanalyze things and nitpick at certain stuff anymore. It’s about going there and having fun and competing.”

Maybe that’s the secret. Or maybe this is simply a brief flash of brilliance in the middle of a tough first full season in the bigs.

Whatever it was, it was the best we’ve seen of Giolito during the 2018 campaign. And it was far more like what was expected back before that campaign got going.