White Sox

In 'frustrating' season, Hahn doesn't want to write off White Sox yet

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In 'frustrating' season, Hahn doesn't want to write off White Sox yet

Entering Monday’s series opener against the Angels at 51-58, sitting 14 1/2 games out of the division-leading Royals and 7 1/2 games out of the American League’s second Wild Card spot, Rick Hahn’s description of the White Sox season as “frustrating" was not surprising.

But the general manager wants everyone to remember one thing: The White Sox haven’t been mathematically eliminated from anything yet.

So those who want the page turned to 2016 are just going to have to wait until the math says the White Sox playoff hopes are officially dead.

“Until there’s an ‘X’ next to our name, we’re going to approach it like we have a shot,” Hahn said Monday. “It doesn’t really change how the 25 guys in there, the coaching staff goes about their business. The focus is going to remain on trying to win that night’s ballgame. As for us in the front office and how we approach things, obviously we’ve got to be cognizant of how we sit in the standings and how each loss makes that road a little more difficult to travel down, the road to the playoffs more difficult to travel down. So we’re aware of the situation, and we’re aware of what potentially needs to be done in coming weeks. But for me, in that clubhouse, the focus needs to be on winning tonight’s ballgame.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: From spot starter to All Star, Hector Santiago back on South Side]

With fewer than two months remaining, the White Sox, realistically, will have to do an awful lot of winning to reach the postseason. It isn’t impossible, Hahn’s certainly right about that. But the way the White Sox have played this year makes that hope a hard one to latch on to.

After one of the team’s best stretches of the season, a seven-game winning streak against last-place teams in Cleveland and Boston, the White Sox have lost eight of their last 10 against the Red Sox, Yankees, Rays and Royals. Most recently, those AL Central-leading Royals swept the White Sox out of Kansas City over the weekend.

That hope that Hahn preached Monday was understandable in the thick of seven straight wins. After this latest downturn, though, it seems more implausible.

“Obviously the up-and-down nature has been frustrating,” Hahn said. “I do think the last positive wasn’t just the eight-game road trip in Cleveland and Boston, I felt that it extended back to late June. I believe we had the second-best record in baseball in the month of July. So it was our belief that was a sign of momentum building. Obviously it was plain for all to see that the improvements in the offense seemed to have arrived. So it is certainly disappointing, the most recent stretch coming out of July, the way we’ve played thus far for the first 10 days (of August). Positive news is we do have a lot of schedule left, we play a lot of the teams we’re chasing, so we still have an opportunity here for us shake off as quickly as we can these tough one-run losses and get going tonight.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: White Sox Road Ahead: Needing the offense to step up]

Many argue that seven-game winning streak came at precisely the wrong time for the White Sox, bumping up against the trade deadline. With the White Sox out of the running, trading Jeff Samardzija — who’s due to become a free agent at season’s end — could have netted a piece or two for the future. That trade didn’t happen, and this current stretch of losing immediately followed. Is standing pat at the deadline something Hahn regrets?

“I don’t think it’s really helpful to do that,” Hahn said of looking back on what some deem a potential missed opportunity. “I think the best way to look at things is make as good a decision as you can at the time based on the information available at that time. And obviously we were real comfortable with the path we decided to go down on the 31st, leading up to the 31st and on the 31st. When we’re presented with another opportunity to potentially make the team better or start looking at the future, we’ll make that decision based on the information available at that time.”

There’s still time to make a deal. The waiver trade deadline is at the end of the current month, and the White Sox have made August deals in the past, showing they aren’t averse to such a deal.

And whether things get better, worse or stay the same, that possibility is on the table.

“We’ve been approaching the deadline and now the waiver period as a hopeful opportunity, hopefully an opportunity to improve ourselves for the long term, not just something specifically for ’15. Obviously thus far we haven’t had that opportunity,” Hahn said. “We aren’t to the point yet where we’re looking necessarily strictly at the future. As we get deeper into August, if things don’t improve, that is something we’re going to have to take seriously. But at this point, we’re taking the same approach of looking at long-term fits that we think can help with this year and beyond.”

[SHOP WHITE SOX: Get your White Sox gear right here]

Both short-term and long-term, one thing is certain: Hahn has his mind on a turnaround. That might mean an incredible stretch of winning in August and September with the White Sox clinching an unlikely playoff berth. Or it could mean planning on turning around several straight underwhelming seasons in 2016.

Regardless, Hahn doesn’t want his team written off until it’s mandated by the math. As long as that’s how the White Sox players treat each day, he’ll worry about expediting that turnaround.

“Obviously it hasn’t gone according to how we had hoped other than short stretches where we haven’t been able to maintain for a long period of time. I don’t think it’s in anyone’s interest to lament the way we have played while we still have games to be played,” Hahn said. “I’m talking about in that clubhouse. They need to continue to be focused on winning tonight’s game and focused on this series that we have ahead and this weekend, which should be a good series, as well.

“For us in the front office, we can take a longer view, take a more analytical or long-term approach to why are we in this situation here and how do we rectify it as quickly as possible?”

On this day in 2005: White Sox pitchers put the CG in Chicago

On this day in 2005: White Sox pitchers put the CG in Chicago

Mark Buehrle. Jon Garland. Freddy García. José Contreras.

The 2005 White Sox had four consecutive complete games to finish off the 2005 ALCS — Contreras took his turn in Game 5 against the Angels 13 years ago Tuesday. How special was that run of starting pitching to finish that series? Consider the following six statements:

— No team has had more than two complete games in a single postseason, let alone a postseason series, since.

— There has been a grand total of four complete games in 188 postseason games (through Monday) since the beginning of 2016.

— Those 2005 White Sox remain the only team with four complete games in a single LCS (which went to a best-of-seven format in 1985).

— They are the only team since the 1968 Tigers (in the World Series) with at least four complete games in any postseason series.

— They are the only team since the 1956 Yankees (in the World Series) with at least four consecutive complete games in a series. (The Yankees had five in a row: Games 3 through 7.)

— They are the only team since the 1928 Yankees (in the World Series) with at least four consecutive complete-game wins in a series (Games 1 through 4).

Take a moment to look back and appreciate what Don Cooper’s troops were able to accomplish in that series. The way the game is played nowadays, we will never see it again.

If 2018 was all about 'learning experiences' for young White Sox, what did Lucas Giolito learn?

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USA TODAY

If 2018 was all about 'learning experiences' for young White Sox, what did Lucas Giolito learn?

We heard a lot about "learning experiences" during the White Sox 100-loss 2018 season.

It was Rick Renteria's way of describing the to-be-anticipated growing pains for highly touted players spending their first full seasons in the major leagues. Fan expectations were high for the likes of Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Yoan Moncada, and by very few measures did those players — some of the first of the organization's bevy of prospects to reach the South Side — live up to those expectations.

But that doesn't mean that those players' seasons were devoid of value. Renteria, the White Sox and the players all expect these "learning experiences" to have long-term benefits. In other words, it's the struggles now that will help these players succeed and create the planned perennial contender on the South Side.

So if those "learning experiences" were so valuable, what did these guys learn?

Giolito finished his first full season in the bigs with a 6.13 ERA, leading baseball in earned runs allowed and leading the American League in walks. What did he take from what looked from the outside like a disappointing season?

"I think I learned the most from my worst starts this year, the ones where I didn’t make it out of the first, didn’t make it out of the second," Giolito said before the end of the White Sox season last month. "Just going out there not having the right mindset from the get go and allowing the game to speed up on me really quickly, there’s maybe two, three, four games where that happened. And obviously I came out of those games upset and frustrated, but now looking back on them from this perspective at the end of the season, I really learned the most from those.

"Entering every single start, I get roughly 32 of them a year, make sure that I’m prepared, I’m ready to pitch, my routine is set and I’m following it to a ‘T.’ And over the second half of the season, I started to put up better numbers, put up more competitive starts just through that process of earlier in the year grinding and grinding and not doing well. I learned a lot about myself in that process as a pitcher and as a competitor."

Certain numbers don't exactly show a drastic improvement from one half of the season to the other: Giolito's ERA prior to the All-Star break (6.18) and after it (6.04) were pretty much the same. He had a much improved August (3.86 ERA in six starts) and a rough September (9.27 ERA in five starts).

But again, the 2018 season wasn't about what the numbers look like now. It was about what those numbers will look like a year or two or three from now, when the White Sox make their transition from rebuilding to contending.

"You go out there and you don’t get the job done, you’re knocked out of the game early, looking back on it, it’s like, ‘Now I know what doesn’t work.’ And I’m able to make those adjustments and the changes to the routine and the changes to mindset and things to be able to go out there," Giolito said. "I’m not going to have my best stuff every day. Some days I might not feel right and might be battling myself a little bit. But it’s being able to make that quick adjustment, not letting the game speed up. That’s the biggest thing.

"At this level, you go out there and you’re not feeling right in the first inning, it might be three runs, four runs on the board before you even know it. And I think getting that experience, getting to pitch every fifth day for an entire season and having a ton of downs and starting to figure it out more toward the end, it’s gaining that experience and learning what works and learning what doesn’t."

Throughout the season, Renteria complimented Giolito for the pitcher's ability to move on from rough beginnings to starts and turn in a five- or six-outing despite the early trouble. Giolito did a good deal of that throughout the season, with longevity during starts rarely being an issue, even if the run totals were high. Only six of his 32 starts in 2018 were shorter than five innings, and the percentage of his starts that lasted six and seven innings increased from the first half of the season to the second.

And then there are the walks, and there was a significant decrease in the amount of guys Giolito was putting on base between the first and second halves of the season. He walked 60 batters in 103.1 innings in the first half for a BB/9 of 5.2, compared to 30 batters in 70 innings in the second half for a BB/9 of 3.9.

So there were positives for Giolito to take from his 2018 campaign.

"The second half of the season, bouncing back from what I was doing. Cutting down on the walks, starting to pitch better, pitch more consistently. Even games when I wasn’t sharp, I was getting hit around, not doing so well, I did a better job of at least giving the team a chance, getting a little bit deeper into the game," he said. "So I’d say those are some of the highlights, learning from the mistakes and learning from the failures and within the season being able to make the right adjustments to be more successful."

On Opening Day, Giolito talked about how different a pitcher he was more than a year after joining the White Sox organization. One full season in the big leagues, and Giolito is again a different pitcher. It's that continuing evolution that the White Sox hope will make him a mainstay in their rotation of the future.

"More experience, more mature. I’m no longer really fazed by the big situation. If I get into trouble in the first inning, I’m not worrying about it or thinking about it or how I screwed up the last at-bat, last pitch, I walked a guy, gave up a double, whatever it might be. Now, what’s in the past is in the past, even when I’m out there," he said. "If I mess up a couple pitches, I know the adjustment to make and I’m going to do my best to make that adjustment without it taking a couple innings or even never making the adjustment the entire start, which is what was happening through April, May, June.

"Just getting that experience and learning to make those adjustments on the fly. I’d say that’s what I’m really taking away from this year."