White Sox

Jose Abreu: Rebuild 'was the right move for' White Sox

Jose Abreu: Rebuild 'was the right move for' White Sox

It isn't easy to see for him to see the top-tier talent go, but Jose Abreu said he's OK with the direction the White Sox are headed.

The White Sox slugger spent much of Friday at SoxFest with fellow Cuban Yoan Moncada doing tandem interviews or participating in team social media activities. Moncada, one of two elite prospects acquired in the Chris Sale trade, represents the franchise's new path.

After years of trying to compete without the aid of a fully functioning farm system, the White Sox opted to go a different route, dig deep and start a rebuild. And even though Abreu's main goal is to play for a winner, he said he understands why general manager Rick Hahn set a different course for the White Sox.

"(Trades) are things we can't control as players," Abreu said through an interpreter. "I'm glad I'm here right now because I love this team and I want to play for this team for a very long time.

"About the trade, that was a team decision. They felt in that moment, and we all think right now, it was the right move for us, thinking about the future.

"We'll see. I'm glad to be here. I'm glad to be with all these guys, the new players too."

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Abreu and Moncada played together one season for Cienfuegos in the Cuban National Series when the second baseman was only 17. The veteran slugger, who is under team control for three more seasons, said the two have spoken quite a bit since the Dec. 6 brought the second baseman to the White Sox about what to expect and "what we expect," he said.

Abreu sounds ready to take Moncada under his wing if the White Sox want him to and, of course, as long as he stays with the team.

"I embrace every role the team wants me to play," he said. "It doesn't matter if it's a mentor role or a leader role, I'm going to be the same player I've been during my whole career. Right now, I'm going to try to do a little bit more teaching these guys how to do well here."

Just how long Abreu would stay remains to be seen. Now in his first season of arbitration, Abreu will earn $10.83 million in 2017. He's eligible for free agency after the 2019 season, which adds value to his trade stock because a team would be able to acquire him for more than just next year.

But similar to Todd Frazier, Abreu's trade market has been slower to materialize this offseason because of a glut of available right-handed power in free agency. Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Mark Trumbo and Mike Napoli were all available via free agency as was switch-hitter Kendrys Morales.

Rather than trade away prospects, teams could simply sign free agents for the cost of money -- and in the case of Encarnacion and Houston, a draft pick.

With fewer options likely to be readily available, there's a better chance Abreu or Frazier could be moved before the Aug. 1 nonwaiver trade deadline. But Abreu said he'd like to stay if he were given the choice even though he expects rough times ahead.

"I think we are ready for all the challenges we are going to face during the season and in the future," Abreu said. "It's a long season. You're gonna hits some bumps. You have to move on and do your best every single day. That's the way we need to approach the season. There's no other way to do it."

Four numbers that sum up a scorching hot month of September for the White Sox offense

Four numbers that sum up a scorching hot month of September for the White Sox offense

Even as the White Sox finish up the final stretch of their seventh consecutive losing season, the games they are playing aren’t meaningless -- Jose Abreu acknowledged as much when he said that the 2020 season “starts in September”. Key contributors in the White Sox lineup have clearly taken that to heart, as the Sox offense has been one of the best in baseball in the month of September. 

Here are four numbers* that reflect what has been a torrid stretch for the Sox offense to close the season:

*All stats as of the morning of September 21

Three

Three has been a magical number for the White Sox in September. For one, going into play Saturday, the Sox boast the top three leaders in hits for the month: Tim Anderson (32), Yoan Moncada (29) and Eloy Jimenez (28). The team as a whole is also third in baseball in total bases (319) and OPS (.832) in September -- only trailing the Astros and Yankees in both categories, which is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. 

Unrelated to the number three, but also worth noting, the team is leading the majors in batting average this month:

 

10

Ok, we cheated a little bit here -- 10 makes this list as a reference to Yoan Moncada’s jersey number, but in fairness, we needed a full section to highlight all Yo-Yo has done at the plate this month. He enters play Saturday as the major league leader in batting average (.444) and WAR (1.6) in September, and is currently working on a streak of five consecutive multi-hit games (he has 12 since the start of the month). 

To give even more of an idea of how scalding hot of a stretch it has been for Moncada, here is a side-by-side of his full-season slash-line on September 1 compared to September 21 (a stretch in which he has played 16 games):

  • September 1: .288/.342/.518 (.860 OPS)

  • September 21: .314/.368/.547 (.915 OPS)

Oh, and that .314 batting average? As of Saturday, that's only one point behind Michael Brantley for third in the AL. If Moncada can usurp Brantley, him and Anderson would make up two-thirds of the best three batting averages in the AL. *In best Larry David voice* Preeeeetty, pretty good.

27

“When I feel good, I don’t know, it’s just reaction. I don’t try to do too much and [I] just try to hit it on the barrel,” Eloy Jimenez said post-game last night, in reference to his grand slam against the Tigers. 

The Sox as a team are certainly employing that mentality this month, and the data reflects it. According to Baseball Savant, the White Sox lead baseball in balls batted with an exit velocity of greater-than-or-equal to 108 mph in September with 27 (the next closest team is the Yankees, with 20). Three such instances occurred in last night’s 10-1 rout in Detroit, including Moncada’s 24th home run of the season:

 

118

wRC+ is a weighted, park-controlled measure of a player’s ‘runs created’ wherein the league average is 100 and a player’s proximity to 100 determines how above or below average they register (if you’re curious, there is a great explainer of wRC+ on Fangraphs).

The White Sox have struggled in this metric for most of the season -- their wRC+ as a team is 92 (eight percent below league average), which ranks 20th in baseball. However, in September, the Sox collectively have a wRC+ of 118 -- a whopping 18 percent better than league average -- which ranks fourth in MLB for the month. It’s over a small sample size, as all of these stats are, but it remains an encouraging indicator that the offense is ending the year on a strong note. 

The offseason will officially be upon us soon enough, but if the Sox continue to rake, as they have been all month, there’s still time for a couple exciting moments and performances before the long wait for 2020.

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Daniel Palka finally has a good game in the middle of his nightmare season

palka-920.jpg
USA TODAY

Daniel Palka finally has a good game in the middle of his nightmare season

In the second inning Daniel Palka solidly lined a ball up the middle that looked like a sure hit off the bat. The problem? The Tigers defense was shifted perfectly to that spot for a lineout.

MLB Statcast gave Palka’s lineout an expected batting average of .650. It seemed like just another night like the rest of them have gone for Palka in the majors in 2019.

He entered Friday with a .034 batting average (2-for-59). After hitting 27 home runs with 45 extra base hits and a .778 OPS as a rookie in 2018, Palka hasn’t been able to do much of anything in a White Sox uniform.

That lineout appeared to be another “nothing can go right” moment. However, Palka’s Friday turned around.

His next time up, he pounded a ground ball that found a hole. Statcast gave that one a 31 percent chance of getting a hit, so he broke even after getting robbed earlier. The amusing thing is that Palka’s groundball single had an exit velocity of 108.9 mph, which was the second hardest hit ball of the game.

Palka later added a bloop single in the seventh and a line drive hit in the ninth to finish with a three hit day. Palka entered the day with two hits in 23 games and got three hits in Friday alone.

Even with the 3-for-5 night, Palka’s batting average is still only .072, but he more than doubled it in one game.

Is this relevant to the future of the White Sox? Almost certainly not, but Palka showed some promise in his rookie season and has been through an absolute nightmare this season. The mental side of going through his 0-for-32 start to the season and the continued struggles since could not have been easy. For at least one night in 2019 Palka had a good game at the plate.

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