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Facts, trends and stats about Ventura's first year managing Sox

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Facts, trends and stats about Ventura's first year managing Sox

With spring training just about a month away, let's take a look at some points of interest regarding the second-year White Sox skipper: a few things to look back at and think about going forward.

1. Late in 2011, the White Sox realized they were roughly forty-five feet off in their judgement of who should be managing the team (at least according to measurements taken from 1989-1997). They obviously needed someone a little more fiery.

Fiery? In their first seasons as a major league manager, Robin Ventura (4) was ejected twice as many times as Ozzie Guillen (2). Also, did we forget the showdown with Nolan Ryan? Two things on that memorable (or forgettable) incident:

- One, Aug. 4 of the upcoming season will mark the 20th anniversary of Ventura getting several hits off (from?) the Hall of Fame hurler (unspectacularly, the game will be in Detroit).
- Two, Ventura right now is still younger than Nolan Ryan was when he placed the White Sox third baseman in a headlock in Arlington that fateful day. And he'll still be younger through the end of the 2013 season.

2. Ventura is deathly afraid of Jeff Francoeur.

Ok, not really. But Frenchy was issued more intentional walks by White Sox pitching than any other batter in 2012, with four. During the DH era (1973-current), the White Sox intentionally walked a batter four or more times in a season on just fifteen occasions (to 14 different batters).

Of these fifteen seasons, Francoeur's 81 OPS is by far the worst. Second worst was John Briggs of the Twins and Brewers in 1975, who was IBB'd four times (116 OPS). The average OPS of the non-Francoeur seasons was 146.

Regardless of Francoeur, Ventura ordered only 29 IBB on the season, the fifth-lowest total in the American League. Under Guillen, the Sox were perennially among the American League leaders in IBB issued (including a league-leading 50 in 2011).

The one player to be walked 4 times in a season on two occasions by Sox pitching? Mickey Tettleton in 1992 and 1993.

3. Plenty of pinch running.

The 2012 White Sox paced the Majors with 64 pinch runners used, a full 19 more than the next highest total (Minnesota). Unsurprisingly, the Major League leader in being pinch run for was Paul Konerko (25), followed by Billy Butler (20).

4. No White Sox team in franchise history boasted more pitching appearances than the 2012 bunch.

The 628 pitcher games tied 2000 (that's 3.88 pitchers used per game) for most of any Southsider squad. And Ventura kicked it up a notch once rosters expanded in September, using 4.81 pitchers per game during the final month (plus October). In the first eleven games of September, he averaged exactly six pitchers used per game.

5. Ventura's White Sox posted a 71.7 percent stolen base success rate. Much better than the recent records of Ozzie Guillen (whose teams posted three of the five lowest single-season SB rates in the AL from 2007 through 2012), but still below league average (75 percent).

One notable trend was Ventura's reluctance to steal third, going only 23 at that bag. The other 107 White Sox stolen bases were of second. Two players in the AL stole 20 or more bases in 2012 without once taking third: Alex Rios and Alexei Ramirez.

6. Ventura seemed much more comfortable than Guillen giving the 3-0 green light. The 2012 Sox went 4-14 with two home runs (the team's first two 3-0 homers since Jim Thome did it twice in 2007). That may not seem like much, but consider the fact that they went a combined 5-17 over the previous five seasons (12-33 overall under Guillen with a 3-0 count).

7. Ventura is a .300 lifetime hitter against pitchers he managed in 2012:

- 1-6 vs Jake Peavy
- 1-2 vs Brian Bruney, with a home run
- 1-1 vs Will Ohman, with a double
- 0-1 vs Brett Myers

8. A July 14 loss in Kansas City prevented Ventura from becoming the first Sox skipper to get a birthday win since Terry Bevington on July 27, 1995. He'll get another chance in Philadelphia this summer on the last day before the All-Star break.

Dallas Keuchel on facing Tim Anderson: 'You kind of want to fight him'

Dallas Keuchel on facing Tim Anderson: 'You kind of want to fight him'

Ozzie Guillen had a famous saying about A.J. Pierzynski that you’ve probably heard before.

"If you play against him, you hate him. If you play with him, you hate him a little less."

It would be hard for any player to match Pierzynski’s reputation, who was (and continues to be) beloved in Chicago but was booed and despised in almost every other MLB city.

And yet, here comes Tim Anderson.

“When you play against him, you kind of want to fight him all the time,” White Sox left-hander Dallas Keuchel said Wednesday.

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Keuchel has experience playing against Anderson and now he is teammates with him, seeing a different side of the White Sox shortshop that won the American League batting title last year.

“He’s definitely misunderstood,” Keuchel said.

Comparing Anderson to Pierzynski isn’t exactly apples to apples. Pierzynski’s reputation was a little more convoluted, while Anderson just likes to have fun with general disregard for baseball’s outdated “unwritten” rules. His bat flips catch the attention of much needed younger sports fans, yet also seem to trigger just as many old-school players around the league. Just ask Royals pitcher Brad Keller.

RELATED: Why Brad Keller hit Tim Anderson: Bat flip was 'over the top'

Keuchel now has the perspective of being on the same team as Anderson and he means well when he says the opposition wants to fight his new teammate.

“That's not necessarily a bad thing, because you see the passion he plays with, you see how much he loves the game,” Keuchel said. “It definitely gets under your skin, which can help him.”

The former Astros and Braves pitcher even had examples.

“I remember a few times where we'd be going over the scouting report and (the report said) you can go in this area if you're ahead of the count, or if you're behind in the count, you can go in this area,” Keuchel said. “And then all the sudden I'm going in those areas and he's pulling a groundball double down the line and I'm just dumbfounded. But now I see where he's at. His mindset, the way he's trying to be more knowledgeable about the game about his at-bats.”

The White Sox hope Anderson picks up where he left off last season, and he’s showing early signs of that, even delivering a signature bat flip – er, throw – in an intrasquad game. But at this point, Anderson has earned the right to flip, even if opposing pitchers hate it.

“That's where you get the true professional,” Keuchel said. “You put the talent with the mindset and the knowledge to get better and you're sitting pretty, you're sitting with a batting title, you're sitting with respect around the league. I think he's going to be a force to reckon with and someone who some of the younger guys can even learn from.”

 

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Dallas Keuchel sees White Sox youth as double-edged sword in shortened season

Dallas Keuchel sees White Sox youth as double-edged sword in shortened season

Will the White Sox youth be a help or a hindrance in this unprecedented 60-game Major League Baseball season?

The team's newly added veterans see the youth around them as a double-edged sword.

"I feel like this team is going to go either really, really good or really bad to start," starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel said Wednesday, almost eerily echoing his new batterymate, Yasmani Grandal, who said almost the exact same thing a day earlier.

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Asked about how he expected the White Sox mostly young pitching staff to fare this season, Grandal said: "There isn't going to be a gray area. Sixty games is a very small window that we have to put everything together, so it's going to be either really good or it's going to be really bad."

"Either really good or really bad" would not fly as a 2020 slogan in a meeting with the White Sox marketing team. But it's suddenly become a theme.

Granted, these guys are predicting the unpredictable, and that's the point behind their words. An abrupt halt to spring training in March, a months-long layoff while baseball watched the COVID-19 pandemic and saw fruitless negotiations between the league and players' union, and now just a three-week ramp-up period before a two-month sprint of a regular season. It's never happened before. For all their confidence in their own personal readiness, no one seems to know what kind of game shape their competition will be in. All 30 teams were built for 162 games, making it impossible to guess how they'll perform in 60.

So excuse the White Sox newcomers for providing a couple different possibilities for how things could play out on the South Side when the season gets going in a week.

"It’s that sprint. It’s no longer that marathon where you can kind of get off to a shaky start or even kind of an indifferent start," Keuchel said. "I feel like this team is going to go either really, really good or really bad to start. I would like to think we are going to go really good to start. We have the youth, we have the talent.

"It’s just really who gets out to that hot start and kind of continues it. Nobody knows what that’s going to be like until we step on that field (July 24)."

RELATED: Yasmani Grandal getting younger White Sox ready for 'playoff mode' all season

OK, so that covers the unknown (some of it, anyway). How about what we do know?

The White Sox added some veteran help this winter, Keuchel and Grandal the two biggest names in a group that also includes Edwin Encarnación and Steve Cishek. And of course, José Abreu is back on a new three-year deal.

But the bulk of this roster — and the bulk of why the White Sox rebuilding effort looks ready to launch into contention mode — is made of youngsters who either broke out in a big way last season or have their breaking out still to come: Yoán Moncada, Tim Anderson, Lucas Giolito, Eloy Jiménez, Luis Robert, Dylan Cease, Reynaldo López, Carlos Rodón, Nick Madrigal. The list makes for an exciting future.

But what does it do for the present? For that, we're going back to the unknown.

According to Keuchel, the youth provides a lot of positives, which White Sox fans can probably rattle off quite easily at this point. But if the 60-game sprint to the postseason is going to feel like a pennant chase from Day 1, well, the vast majority of these guys — Abreu included — haven't experienced that kind of thing before.

As important as Keuchel's World Series experience is, or Grandal's experience playing in the last five postseasons, or Encarnación's experience winning in the AL Central with the Cleveland Indians, that can only go so far. The rest of the team has to play well enough to make it the rest of the way.

And so the guys who know what it takes aren't quite sure whether this White Sox team will be able to expertly handle such a thing under such weird circumstances. They're hopeful, sure, but they'd be lying if they said they were certain.

"I think in this situation that nobody really has ever been in, I think youth might help out with how we are going to be doing things," Keuchel said. "We've got speed. We’ve got everything we need to compete with every other team."

RELATED: Why the White Sox are ready to take the next step: Free-agent additions

But the youth also makes the other extreme possible, a pitfall a more experienced team might not need to worry about, so says the 2017 world champ.

"The more veteran presence, the more veteran team, I feel like is going to be really, really good or middle of the road to start," Keuchel said. "I think the young team, you are going to get really, really good or really, really bad. If we can detour from really, really bad to start, we have a really good shot of staying in it and making a run at the Central (or) a wild card spot.

"That’s the one area where youth does help is (you could have) potentially a really, really hot start because of the athleticism there. They are always fresh because they are so young."

Again, don't get Keuchel or Grandal wrong. They've been as positive about the outlook for these White Sox as anyone. Heck, they signed up in the offseason because they wanted to be a part of things moving forward.

But as good as Anderson and Robert and Giolito look in "Summer Camp" right now — not to mention Keuchel, who's been pretty great himself in the White Sox intrasquad games — there's nothing at all certain about the 2020 baseball season.

"Either really good or really bad." It's not a winning marketing slogan. But it might be as accurate a prediction as you're going to get right now.


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