White Sox

Fabian talks scouting, sabermetrics and more

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Fabian talks scouting, sabermetrics and more

On Tuesday, White Sox director of baseball operations Dan Fabian chatted with a few bloggers about a wide array of topics ranging from the relationship between sabermetrics and scouting to trade rumors. U-God at South Side Sox transcribed the entire conference call, which is well worth a read. Below are a few highlights.

Fabian passed on answering a question from Jim Margalus (also of South Side Sox) asking about the feelings of the "previous regime" -- Ozzie Guillen, Joey Cora, etc. -- toward sabermetrics. "I just want to look forward to 2012," Fabian said. "We're going forward and we're happy with where things are set up right now."

That doesn't mean Fabian was unhappy with the way things were set up in terms of stats under Guillen, although it was apparent he and his coaching staff weren't too in to the idea of statistical analysis. It was, at the least, an interesting non-answer.

Fabian was much more open to discussing Kenny Williams' strategy in balancing scouting and numbers, though.

"Kenny's very straightforward that he's going to look at the scouting report first, but at the same time I know that he'll also look at the statistical information," Fabian explained. "We have discussions about various profiles we like to see, things that have evolved over the years.

"There are always two sides to the coin and I think we've always been more in the middle and there seems to have been more of a correction in the industry towards the middle at this point. It got very stat-heavy for a while there and I think everybody's realized you need both pieces there."

The stats vs. scouting debate that was brought about by Moneyball (a decade ago with the book) seems to have ended with both sides finding a middle ground, although you'll still find some stuck-in-their-ways person arguing for one side or the other. Fact is, Kenny Williams is like most other general managers in baseball -- he looks at both sides.

He has more of a scouting background, so naturally he uses numbers to back up scouting reports. That's fine, just as using scouting reports to back up numbers is fine. The White Sox, as an organization, use advanced stats. Like Rick Hahn said at SoxFest, "Yeah, it's like we don't like puppy dogs, chocolate and Christmas. Everybody likes those things."

Finally, Fabian mentioned how, before the trade deadline, he and his staff will put together a list of players for the Sox to target. I followed that question up by asking him if those rough lists ever get leaked out and create the rampant trade rumors we see during the midseason and offseason.

"I wouldn't think any of them come out of our information" Fabian said. "We're very tight-lipped and closed with what we have, so I think that very rarely do we see players that we're discussing come out. Honestly, things do come out from trades, but we keep it in a pretty small group and we feel pretty good when we do things and there wasn't a lot of feelings out in the world that this is what we were doing. We don't want to get things ruined by having information get out before it's ready."

This pretty much fits the bill with the Williams era in Chicago -- the White Sox rarely follow through on rumored deals. Most everything the team has done has seemingly come out of thin air, from the Sergio Santos trade to the Jim Thome deal five years ago.

But perhaps other teams allow names from those preliminary lists to leak, thus creating some of the bevy of trade rumors that rarely come to fruition. Just a thought.

The White Sox sent down Carson Fulmer, so why isn't Lucas Giolito receiving the same treatment?

The White Sox sent down Carson Fulmer, so why isn't Lucas Giolito receiving the same treatment?

Lucas Giolito is having a rough go of things in his second year with the White Sox.

He came into the season with some pretty high expectations after posting a 2.38 ERA in seven starts at the end of the 2017 campaign and then dominating during spring training. But he’s done anything but dominate since this season started, and after one of his worst outings in Thursday’s 9-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles, he’s got a 7.53 ERA in 10 starts in 2018.

Giolito stuck around for only four outs Thursday, but he allowed the Orioles to do plenty of damage, giving up seven runs on six hits — two of which were back-to-back home runs to start the second inning — and three walks. He leads the American League with his 37 walks.

“I take what I do very seriously. I work as hard as I can at it,” Giolito said. “So when I experience failure like this, it’s kind of hard to deal with. All I can do is come back tomorrow, keep working on things and hopefully have a better one.”

All of Giolito’s struggles have fans wondering why the White Sox haven’t sent him down to Triple-A to work on his craft.

“I don’t foresee that at this particular time,” Rick Renteria said when asked if Giolito could be sent to Triple-A. “I think he’s just a young man who’s got to continue to minimize the emotional aspect of crossing from preparation into the game and staying focused, relaxed and hammer the zone with strikes. And truthfully it’s just first-pitch strike and get after the next one.”

The White Sox have already sent one young pitcher down in Carson Fulmer, who was having a nightmarish time at the big league level. Fulmer’s results were worse than Giolito’s on a regular basis. He got sent down after posting an 8.07 ERA in nine outings.

But hasn’t Giolito suffered through command issues enough to warrant some time away from the major league limelight? According to his manager, Giolito’s situation is vastly different than Fulmer’s.

“I don’t see them anywhere near each other,” Renteria said. “They’re two different competitors in terms of the outcomes that they’ve had. Lucas has at least had situations in which he might have struggled early and been able to gain some confidence through the middle rounds of his start and continue to propel himself to finish some ballgames, give us six or seven innings at times. So it’s two different guys.

“With Gio, I expect that we would have a nice clean start from the beginning, but when he doesn’t I still feel like if he gets through it he’ll settle down and continue to hammer away at what he needs to do in order to get deeper into a ballgame, and that was a little different with Carson. With Carson it was right from the get-go he was struggling, and he had a difficult time extending his outings after the third or fourth because it just kept getting too deep into his pitch count and not really hammering the strike zone as much.”

Renteria is not wrong. Giolito has had a knack to take a rough beginning to a start and turn it into five or six innings. Notably, he gave up a couple first-inning runs and walked seven hitters and still got the win against the Cubs a week and a half ago. And while his first-inning ERA is 10.80 and his second-inning ERA is 12.54, he’s pitched into at least the sixth inning in seven of his 10 starts.

Renteria’s point is that Giolito is learning how to shake off early damage and achieving the goal, most times out, of eating up innings and keeping his team in the game. Those are a couple valuable qualities to develop for a young pitcher. But are those the lone qualities that determine that Giolito is suited to continue his learning process at the major league level? His command remains a glaring problem, and both he and Renteria admitted that his problems are more mental than physical.

“The one thing everyone has to understand is we have to go beyond the physical and attack a little bit more of the mental and emotional and try to connect and slow that down,” Renteria said. “Those aspects are the ones that ultimately, at times, deal in the derailment of the physical action. So if we can kind of calm that down a little bit.

“He’s very focused. Giolito is high intensity. Nice kid but high-intensity young man when he gets on the mound. You might not believe it. He’s going 100 mph. So I think it goes to more just trusting himself, trusting the process, taking it truthfully one pitch at a time.”

Well, if a demotion to the minors isn’t likely, what about moving Giolito to the bullpen? Carlos Rodon and Chris Sale dipped their toes in bullpen waters before moving to the rotation. Could a reversal of that strategy help Giolito?

Well, the current state of the White Sox starting rotation — Fulmer in the minors, Miguel Gonzalez on the 60-day DL and pitchers like James Shields, Hector Santiago and Dylan Covey, who aren’t exactly long-term pieces, getting a lot of starts — doesn’t really allow for another piece to be removed.

“I know they have done it with Rodon and Sale,” Renteria said. “The difference is we don’t have the makeup of the starting rotation that those clubs had in order to put those guys in the ‘pen. We are in a different situation right now. Moving forward, is that something we can possibly do? Absolutely. It has been done with very good success.

“Right now we are in truly discovery mode and adjustment mode and adapting and trying to do everything we can to get these guys to develop their skill sets to be very usable and effective at the major league level and we are doing it to the best of our ability.”

There could be promise in the fact that Giolito has turned a season around as recently as last year. Before he was impressing on the South Side in August and September, he was struggling at Triple-A Charlotte. Even after he ironed things out, things had gotten off to a rocky enough start that he owned a 4.48 ERA and 10 losses when he was called up to the bigs.

It doesn’t seem Giolito will be going back to Charlotte, unless things continue to go in a dramatically poor direction. Right now, these are just more of the growing pains during this rebuilding process. “The hardest part of the rebuild” doesn’t just means wins and losses. It means watching some players struggle through speed bumps as they continue to develop into what the White Sox hope they’ll be when this team is ready to compete.

Danny Farquhar to throw out the first pitch before White Sox game on June 1

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AP

Danny Farquhar to throw out the first pitch before White Sox game on June 1

In another example of how amazing Danny Farquhar’s recovery has been, the pitcher will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the White Sox game on June 1.

Farquhar suffered a brain hemorrhage from a ruptured aneurysm during the sixth inning of the team’s April 20 game against the Houston Astros. But his recovery has been astounding, and he was discharged from the hospital on May 7. Farquhar’s neurosurgeon expects him to be able to pitch again in future seasons.

Farquhar has been back to visit his teammates at Guaranteed Rate Field a couple times since leaving the hospital. June 1 will mark his return to a big league mound, even if it’s only for a ceremonial first pitch with his wife and three children. Doctors, nurses and staff from RUSH University Medical Center will be on hand for Farquhar’s pitch on June 1.

The White Sox announced that in celebration of Farquhar’s recovery, they will donate proceeds from all fundraising efforts on June 1 to the Joe Niekro Foundation, an organization committed to supporting patients and families, research, treatment and awareness of brain aneurysms.