White Sox

Improved routine has Erik Johnson ready for second shot with White Sox

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Improved routine has Erik Johnson ready for second shot with White Sox

MINNEAPOLIS — Erik Johnson is back, and the White Sox intend to see what he can bring to the table in his second go-around.

Johnson is one of four players who was promoted (three from Triple-A Charlotte) when rosters expanded to 40 players on Tuesday along with catcher Rob Brantly and utility man Leury Garcia. Frankie Montas, the team’s top pitching prospect, also was promoted from Double-A Birmingham, and both he and Johnson are expected to start in the bullpen.

But, general manager Rick Hahn identified Johnson — who was demoted to Charlotte after five starts in 2014 despite entering 2014 as the club’s No. 2 prospect — as the first in line to get a start this month. Early Tuesday, Johnson was named the International League pitcher of the year.

“It’s a good opportunity,” Hahn said. “No matter what happens here over the next few weeks, he’s already had a great year, unlike last year where it started out rough and he’s sort of playing catch up. He’s already accomplished a great deal in 2015 and should head into the offseason with a great deal of confidence and the feeling that he’s very much back in the mix in being part of a major league rotation in 2016.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: White Sox call up Francellis Montas, three others]

Johnson started 2014 in the rotation but posted a 6.46 ERA in five starts and was demoted. He never made it back even though the team struggled all season and finished with 89 losses, sliding off the prospect map almost altogether.

But Johnson arrived at spring training with a desire “to make moves,” and he’s done that all season.

Had it not been for an extremely healthy season from the White Sox starting rotation, Johnson would have been here earlier as he went 11-8 with a 2.37 ERA and struck out 136 batters in 132 2/3 innings at Charlotte. He was the starting pitcher for the International League in the Triple-A All-Star Game and has been dominant.

Johnson said the key has been identifying a routine and sticking to it.

“It was just learning how my body works the best,” Johnson said. “Just knowing and going through your routine and really getting to know your arm, your body and how you can attack.

“Routine is the biggest thing that leads you to predictability. For me, I know it’s almost a soothing feeling where I can go do my routine and get what I need to get done, so I feel prepared and I feel ready for that fifth day. It’s almost like knocking down dominoes.”

[MORE WHITE SOX: White Sox pitcher Erik Johnson named International League's Most Valuable Pitcher]

Both Hahn and White Sox manager Robin Ventura said Johnson’s routine over the final month could include several starts. Ventura is curious to see how Johnson responds though the White Sox will have to pick and choose spots.

“We’d of course like to get him an opportunity to start at some point,” Ventura said. “Hopefully more than one.

“There’s not probably much of a difference as how we look at it as he looks at it. He’d like another shot at it, see where he’s at.”

Johnson has a pretty good idea where he is and feels ready for any opportunity the White Sox throw at him. He’s felt good all season and looks forward to showing it off at the MLB level.

“It wasn’t one specific game,” Johnson said. “It wasn’t one specific catch or bullpen. It was just kind of getting to know and making adjustments, whether it’s during the game or if it’s midweek, where I can make some adjustments before my next start. Just being able to recognize something that might have come up last game that I need to address and just be ready for the next time out.”

Who's the next White Sox Hall of Famer?

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USA TODAY

Who's the next White Sox Hall of Famer?

Harold Baines is in the Hall. Last Sunday’s announcement totally took me (and a lot of others) by surprise.

I was ecstatic to see the news. Baines was one of my favorite players growing up. I loved that iconic leg kick. When they traded him to the Rangers in 1989, nine-year-old me was devastated.

Now that Harold’s in, who should be the next White Sox Hall of Famer? Here are six candidates:

Minnie Miñoso

If you haven’t already, read this:

I’ll summarize (though you really should read it). Miñoso had power, speed and on-base ability. His career may have been delayed due to the color line. If one feels his MLB career isn’t enough, his Negro League career and his role as a pioneer for black Latino ballplayers are plenty to make up the difference.

Dick Allen

Dick Allen hit 351 career home runs. His slashline of .292/.378/.534 is very impressive, even more so when placed in the context of his era. The 1960s was a tough period for hitters. That being said, 1,749 games and 1,848 career hits don’t jump off the page. According to WAR, he’s borderline (61.3 Fangraphs, 58.7 Baseball-Reference). But when you dig a little deeper…

Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) measures offensive production comparing to league average and adjusting for ballpark. 100 is league average, any point above or below represents one percent above or below league average. Dick Allen had a career wRC+ of 155, meaning he was 55% better than league average for his career. That’s incredibly good. How good?

Career wRC+

(minimum 5,000 career plate appearances)

Boldface = Hall of Famer

1. Babe Ruth, 197

2. Ted Williams, 188

3. Lou Gehrig, 173

Rogers Hornsby, 173

5. Barry Bonds, 173

6. Mickey Mantle, 170

7. Ty Cobb, 165

Joe Jackson, 165

9. Stan Musial, 158

Jimmie Foxx, 158

11. Mark McGwire, 157

Johnny Mize, 157

Tris Speaker, 157

14. Mel Ott, 156

Dan Brouthers, 156

16. Joey Votto, 155

Dick Allen, 155

18. Willie Mays, 154

Frank Thomas, 154

Hank Greenberg, 154

There are 1,007 players with at least 5,000 career plate appearances. Allen is tied for SIXTEENTH. Dick Allen isn’t just on a list of good players. He’s listed among top tier all-time greats.

Billy Pierce

Pierce was arguably the best American League pitcher of the 1950s, and perhaps the third best in the Majors (behind Robin Roberts and Warren Spahn). He posted a career ERA of 3.27 (119 ERA+ 19 percent above league average) in over 3,000 innings and was one strikeout short of 2,000. He had 211 career wins and was the only pitcher during the 1950s to post a qualified ERA under 2 (1.97 in 1955).

Billy Pierce WAR Career 1950s 1950s MLB rank 1950s AL rank
Fangraphs WAR 52.5 43.6 3rd 1st
Baseball-Ref WAR 53.2 43.7 3rd 1st

Mark Buehrle

Buehrle compiled 60.3 pitching WAR according to Baseball-Reference.com. That’s the fifth most by a pitcher currently not in the Hall of Fame, behind Tommy John (62.5), CC Sabathia (62.2), Clayton Kershaw (62.1) and Andy Pettitte (60.7). He was remarkably durable; one of only eight pitchers in MLB history with at least 14 consecutive seasons of 200+ innings. The other seven are in the Hall of Fame.

He had 214 career wins; only three active pitchers have at least 200 (Bartolo Colón 247, CC Sabathia 246 and Justin Verlander 204). Buehrle tossed a pair of no-hitters (one perfect) and was a key member of the 2005 World Series championship rotation. He was a five-time All-Star and a four-time Gold Glove winner. His career ERA+ of 117 (adjusted for league and ballpark; 17 percent above league average) is better than Steve Carlton (115), Fergie Jenkins (115), Phil Niekro (115), Jim Bunning (115), Robin Roberts (113), Nolan Ryan (112), Don Sutton (108), Early Wynn (107) and Catfish Hunter (104).

Joe Jackson

Among players with 2,500 career plate appearances with the White Sox, the Shoeless One is the career leader in batting average (.340). He’s also the Indians career leader in batting average (.375). His career average of .356 ranks third all-time behind Ty Cobb and Rogers Hornsby. He had a career on-base percentage of .423 (17th all-time).

Babe Ruth made the home run popular at the dawn of the Roaring 20s. Joe Jackson posted career highs of 12 home runs and 121 RBI in 1920, and then his career came to an end. He was banned for life because of his role in the 1919 Black Sox scandal. Could he have embraced the home run craze? Could he have had a run of 30 or 40-home run seasons for the White Sox had he remained in the game? Unfortunately we’ll never know. Shoeless Joe Jackson wasn’t a mythical figure from a popular movie. He was a legitimate all-time great.

Paul Konerko

Konerko is the next White Sox star to reach the BBWAA ballot, set to make his debut in 2020. He was the heart of the 2005 offense that went on to win the World Series, taking home ALCS MVP honors. Konerko is second in franchise history with 432 home runs and 1,383 RBI, behind only Frank Thomas in both categories. Overall, Konerko had 439 HR (only 43 players in MLB history have more) and 1,412 RBI (75th all-time) with a respectable .279/.354/.486 career slashline. He had seven 30-HR seasons and six 100-RBI campaigns; a six-time All-Star. The White Sox erected a statue in Konerko’s honor in 2014 and his No. 14 was retired by the White Sox the following year.

 

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: It's on the Internet so it must be true- Bryce Harper links himself to the White Sox

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: It's on the Internet so it must be true- Bryce Harper links himself to the White Sox

Hub Arkush, Chris Emma and Jim Litke join David Kaplan on the panel.

0:00- Bryce Harper comments on Nicky Delmonico's Instagram post. So that means he's coming to the White Sox, right? How much would signing Harper change the franchise? And what would happen to the Sox if they don't get him?

8:45- All quiet on the Northside after the Winter Meetings. Do the Cubs really have no big moves up their sleeve or is Theo bluffing?

10:45- It's Packers Week and Matt Nagy isn't living in the past. Can the Bears exorcise their Green Bay demons or will Aaron Rodgers win yet another game at Soldier Field?

19:00- Chris Simms joins Kap to talk Bears and Packers. If the Bears and Rams meet again in the playoffs, can the Bears defense repeat their command performance? And Chris gives his reason why Mitch Trubisky will be a Super Bowl winning QB.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

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