White Sox

Depth issues too much for 2016 White Sox to overcome

Depth issues too much for 2016 White Sox to overcome

Rick Hahn had it pegged in July — the White Sox truly are mired in mediocrity.

Despite a blistering hot start, the White Sox won’t be headed to the playoffs for an eighth straight season that wrapped up Sunday with a 6-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins at U.S. Cellular Field.

And even though they actually improved for a third year in a row under now former manager Robin Ventura, it wasn’t nearly enough for the White Sox to finish with a record above .500. The White Sox, who are expected to name Rick Renteria their new manager on Monday, according to a Chicago Sun-Times report, posted their fourth consecutive losing season.

“We had it early on, we were doing it, and it seemed right at that time,” Ventura said. “I think offensively we couldn't keep up the pace we were going on and once the injuries happened and the bullpen … it becomes a different bullpen. We just didn't have enough to do it and we didn't play well enough.”

The outcome shouldn’t come as a big surprise.

Oh sure, the White Sox looked every bit the postseason contender in April and early May when they won 23 of their first 33 games. But that was before the club’s biggest issue, one several prominent baseball analysts identified in January and has dogged the franchise for several years now, surfaced and sunk them.

Though the 2016 White Sox boasted enough top-tier talent to potentially propel them to their first postseason appearance since 2008, analysts believed the White Sox needed most everything else to go in their favor for that to happen. The thinking was, and Hahn called the assessment “fair,” that the White Sox farm system is paper thin and was incapable of providing the necessary replacements if required.

And boy were they needed.

The problem initially surfaced — and remained for the duration of 2016 — a month into camp when veteran hitter Adam LaRoche abruptly retired. While LaRoche’s exit solved a playing time issue, it created bigger obstacles as the team no longer had a left-handed power threat for the middle of the lineup. Manager Robin Ventura’s only remedy was to move switch-hitter Melky Cabrera from a better fit — hitting in front of Jose Abreu — to batting behind the slugger and third baseman Todd Frazier in order to break up a right-handed heavy lineup.

Cabrera succeeded with an .818 OPS in the fifth spot. But the trio who replaced him in the second spot — Jimmy Rollins, Austin Jackson and Tyler Saladino — combined for a .619 OPS in 275 plate appearances.

It also meant increased plate appearances for Garcia, who originally was scheduled for part-time duty and didn’t improve as the White Sox had hoped.

By the time the injury bug rolled around, and it smacked the White Sox pretty hard, the offense was a shambles.

The first of two injuries to catcher Alex Avila meant too much playing time for veteran Dioner Navarro and not enough offense from either. Jackson’s season-ending knee injury in June resulted in a starting role for outfielder J.B. Shuck, who had a .557 OPS in 237 plate appearances.

Injuries to Zach Putnam and Jake Petricka, both prominent relievers the previous two seasons, sapped an already-tired bullpen. An additional injury, to Daniel Webb, had the White Sox using untested pitchers in big spots throughout the summer, a problem that became even bigger once Zach Duke was traded.

When it came time to replace underperforming starting pitchers John Danks and Mat Latos, the White Sox couldn’t supply their own answers and instead took on James Shields, who allowed 31 home runs in 22 starts after he was acquired.

The White Sox also didn’t have enough contributions from the supporting cast when Abreu and Frazier slumped.

The combination of poor offense and unreliable pitching sunk the White Sox.

And the little depth the team had has been a mixed bag. The team traded Duke for Charlie Tilson, who was lost for the season only five innings into his major league debut. Matt Davidson came up to challenge Garcia for playing time only to also suffer an injury in his debut.

Brett Lawrie’s injury did, however, result in playing time for Saladino and Carlos Sanchez, who played well in his absence. Relievers Dan Jennings and Tommy Kahnle also have taken advantage of their tryouts. Miguel Gonzalez also thrived after taking over as the No. 4 starter and looks like a find.

But in the end it wasn’t enough.

Even with standout performances from Adam Eaton, Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, a 40-homer season from Frazier, 85 RBIs and a .790 OPS from Cabrera, a strong second half by Carlos Rodon and Abreu and a good rookie season from Tim Anderson, the White Sox finished woefully short.

The win-now method that has been employed for more than a decade and prompted Hahn to say the White Sox would have to look hard at their methods has depleted the team’s ability to answer its questions internally. Whereas Cleveland thrived without its best position player (Michael Brantley) and suffered injuries to key starting pitchers and Kansas City managed to stay afloat despite injuries to Mike Moustakas, Wade Davis and others, the White Sox have sunk.

“We were hot early and then not so much and we never got hot again,” Ventura said. “I think baseball, it's tough to be able to recapture that. We did have a couple injuries.

“We had a really good bullpen, offensively we were doing enough and then we struggled in that area for a while. It's tough to stay consistent and keep yourself afloat in a baseball season because it just doesn't stop. It just keeps coming and you're in a division that's tough.”

Saturday's White Sox-Tigers game postponed due to rain; makeup scheduled for August


Saturday's White Sox-Tigers game postponed due to rain; makeup scheduled for August

The White Sox and Tigers were likely to start Saturday's game (12:10 p.m. CT) in a rain delay. Instead, the game has been pushed back altogether.

With rain expected all afternoon in Detroit, Saturday's game has been postponed. A makeup is scheduled for Aug. 6 at 12:10 p.m. as part of a split doubleheader. The originally scheduled game will start at 6:10 p.m. CT.

According to a press release, all paid tickets from Saturday's game will be valid for the first game of the doubleheader.

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A deeper look at why Yoan Moncada is off to a hot start this season


A deeper look at why Yoan Moncada is off to a hot start this season

Yoan Moncada continued his hot start to the season with a leadoff home run in Detroit on Friday.

He finished with two hits and a bases-loaded walk in a 7-3 White Sox win.

Moncada’s base numbers are all up this season. He is hitting .325 with a 1.002 OPS and a team-leading six home runs. Beyond that, a deeper look at the numbers show why Moncada’s production is up.

Moncada didn’t show much, if any, improvement in 2018 from 2017. Most of his numbers across the board were similar or slightly worse.

Moncada was patient at the plate, but maybe too patient in his first two seasons with the White Sox. He led the majors with 217 strikeouts last season and 85 of those were strikeouts looking. So far this season, Moncada is yet to strikeout looking.

This season, Moncada is swinging at more pitches both in the strike zone and overall, which is leading to a lower strikeout rate. A look at the advanced stats from FanGraphs shows Moncada swung at 63.9 percent of pitches in the zone in both 2017 and 2018 (these numbers are before Friday's game). That number is up to 69.1 percent this season. On top of that, Moncada is making more contact on those swings on pitches in the zone (up to 86.5 percent this season after 77.5 percent in 2017 and 79.8 percent in 2018).

His strikeout rate (32 percent in 2017, 33.4 percent in 2018) is way down at 24.1 percent. Strikeouts were the biggest red flag for Moncada last year. By being more aggressive this season, Moncada has been able to cut way down on that number.

His power has gone way up as well. He already has 12 extra base hits (in 82 plate appearances) and his home run on Friday was an absolute bomb. Moncada took it deep for 458 feet. That’s the longest White Sox home run of the season and is tied for the eighth longest home run in the majors this season.

He later showed that despite being more aggressive, he still has that plate discipline that was such a big part of what made him a coveted prospect in the first place. He drew a five-pitch bases loaded walk in which he did not swing the bat.

No matter how it's happening, Moncada’s turnaround has been one of the most important things in the young White Sox season.

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