White Sox

Longballs doom Floyd, Sox drop opener

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Longballs doom Floyd, Sox drop opener

Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011Posted: 2:30 p.m. Updated: 6:59 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com White Sox InsiderFollow @CSNChi_Beatnik
CLEVELAND For a pitcher that all too many fans are eager to deal away, Gavin Floyd is having another quiet, solid season as a starter for the Chicago White Sox.

Mondays doubleheader opener loss to the Cleveland Indians was a typical Floyd start: well-pitched, but falling just short of victory. Floyd gave up just seven hits in his 6 23 innings, largely offsetting those with seven strikeouts. But three of the hits longballs by Travis Hafner, Asdrubal Cabrera and Kosuke Fukudome accounted for four runs.

I thought they werent terrible pitches, Floyd said of the three that did all the damage. They just kind of got the right part of the bat on the ball. So you just take it for what it is. Im sure it could easily have been fly ball outs. Today, they werent."

Gavin threw the ball very good, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. He got hurt by the longballs, but a good outing for him. Obviously, he should be happy. He lost again, but he pitched well.

And against a typically sullen and abortive White Sox offense, thats all it takes.

Chicagos 4-3 featured just a few offensive highlights, including Adam Dunns pair of doubles, which marked his first consecutive multi-hit games all season long. Improbably, Alex Rios also had two hits, meaning that the two banes of the White Sox offense this season accounted for four of the teams seven hits.

The past couple of days, I had a game plan to just forget about trying to hit the ball out of the park and just get hits, said Dunn, who is penciled in to DH in game two as well. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesnt. But Im just trying to finish up as strong as I can, personally, and getting back to what I do.

Floyd reflects

With just one start remaining, Floyd took some time to reflect on his 2011, for better or worse.

I feel like I matured as a pitcher, he said after his 4-3 loss to the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday. I feel like I learned a lot, and obviously finishing healthy was one of my goals. I worked hard in the offseason and tried to be here for the team all season.

Floyds health is a bit of a straw man, as encouraging as it seems. Yes, he hasnt missed a start due to injury in 2011, but then, his workload was decreased by the six-man rotation (of course, that cant be held against him). He projects to finish the year at 185 innings over 30 starts, when in 2010 he was at 31 starts and 187 13. And although Floyd hasnt taken a huge step back from his career-best 2009 and 2010 campaigns and is still a terrific value for the White Sox, 2011 offers pause.

Even Floyd, who isnt given to advanced stats study, seems to sense the step back.

Obviously, it wasnt exactly statistically everything I wanted it to be, Floyd said. But I felt like I matured this year: Repeating pitches, being able to throw strikes on a consistent basis, mental focusespecially in tough situationsjust moving on from bad starts, and continuing to push and trying to win.

At first blush, Floyds 4.46 ERAa jump from the 4.06 and 4.08 of the past two seasonsis distressing, even in light of him leading the staff in wins with 12. But his saner ERA measure, xFIP, is somewhat in line with his previous campaigns (3.64 in 2009, 3.69 in 2010, 3.83 in 2011).

All that said, Floyds bargain price and solid performance makes him the third-best pitcher value on the White Sox and second starter, behind Phil Humber. And his evolving maturity and stamina as a pitcher makes him a crucial member of the 2012 rotation.

I havent had one problem yet physically, Floyd said. Obviously I have one more start, but I feel strong. I feel like my offseason regimen worked.

Canyoneros going off-roading

Dunn would be the first to admit that his recent hot streak is a matter of too little, too late. But its also a case of better late than never, no matter how much Dunn may want to erase 2011 from his permanent record.

His two doubles in Game 1 on Tuesday represented just his second game with two doubles this season (also May 14, at Oakland). He enjoyed his 12th multi-hit game of the season and his first consecutive such games in a White Sox uniform.

I want to go up and have good at-bats, he said. My year is what it is; like I said, Ill talk about this up until our last game, and then Ill never talk about 2011 again. It would be nice for us to kind of roll and finish strong and end on a positive note as you can.

Dunn was happy to see Fausto Carmona pop up on the pitching docket for this series, given his mastery of the sinkerballer.

It baffles me; hes got such good stuff, Dunn said of raising his average to .500 vs. the righty, with three doubles. It wouldnt surprise me if he comes back next year and has an unbelievable year. Hes as good as it gets.

But again, even the small measures of success Dunn had in 2011 will be erased as of Sept. 29, the first off-day of the rest of his life.

When this year is over, its overgood, bad, anythingits over. Thats the way Im doing it, he repeated. I dont know what Dr. Phil or anyone would say about it, but thats the way Im going to go about it. Its been obviously a hard season, not for me, but also my family and everyone thats associated with me. So I think everyone wants to put it behind them, too. So thats what were going to do.

Entering the nightcap of Tuesdays doubleheader, Dunn has raised his average to .168, with an OPS of .587. He currently sits at 164 strikeouts on the season.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.

Everything that's gone right this year in the White Sox farm system

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USA TODAY

Everything that's gone right this year in the White Sox farm system

If there’s a sweet spot in the White Sox rebuild, you will find it in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. That’s where first-time manager Omar Vizquel and a surge of talent have quickly burst onto the scene in the Carolina League.  From big names like Dylan Cease, Luis Robert and Blake Rutherford to under the radar types like Jimmy Lambert and Ti’Quan Forbes, Vizquel has been in charge of an overflow of prospects the White Sox minor league system hasn’t seen in years.  

Injuries this year to Robert, Eloy Jimenez, Alec Hanson, Jake Burger, Dane Dunning, Micker Adolfo and Ryan Cordell may have put a damper on your spirits about the White Sox rebuild and the speed in which it will take for the big league club to be good again.  But despite those setbacks, the organizational depth Rick Hahn has preached about and has attempted to create in the farm system is starting to become a reality.

Even after some of Vizquel’s best players like Cease, Joel Booker, Luis Basabe and Bernardo Flores were promoted to Double-A Birmingham in June, Vizquel has inherited a brand new wave of talent from Class-A Kannapolis in the form of Luis Gonzalez, Laz Rivera, Tyler Johnson and Blake Battenfield and they haven’t skipped a beat, excelling in a higher league, creating more late-game drama like we saw from the Dash in the first half of the season.

Here’s 28th round pick Laz Rivera hitting a walk-off grand slam Tuesday night in the 10th inning.

If you want to feel down about the lost development time for Burger, Robert and Dunning, go ahead.  It’s real. Their timetables to the big leagues might be pushed back (although Basabe told me at the Futures Game that Robert “is going to learn very quick.” Store that in the back of your mind when he returns, possibly in the first week in August).  

But if you ask Vizquel about the players he has managed this year,  he believes that many of them are on an accelerated path for the major leagues.

“We’re seeing a lot of explosive players who can go through the system and maybe surprise some people and be in the big leagues a little sooner than people expected,”  Vizquel said in a phone interview.

Who is Vizquel speaking about?  Let’s start with Cease who started the year in Winston-Salem. Vizquel likened him to Justin Verlander.  Yeah, he went there.

“A guy I can compare (Cease) with, I would say he’s a Justin Verlander type.  I was with Justin the last four years in Detroit and obviously he’s one of the most veteran pitchers in the game.  Just the way he handles the situation when he’s on the mound, he’s just amazing. What impressed me about Cease was his composure.  The way he takes the mound every time,” Vizquel said. “Obviously, he’s got a really good fastball that can go up to 98, 99, and he can go to 100 pitches and he still has the strength to go out there in the 9th inning and shut people down.  At his age it’s really tough to find guys like that who can handle the pressure and everything that goes around the pitcher’s mound. And he has that.”

Cease and Basabe both played in the Futures Game.  If Robert wasn’t injured, he very likely would have joined them in Washington, DC.   

Basabe made a big splash in the game, drilling a 102 mph pitch from Reds prospect Hunter Greene deep into the right field seats.   The third player in the Chris Sale trade, Basabe battled a knee injury last season. Healthy this year, he’s showing off all the tools and promise the White Sox were expecting.

“He’s one of those guys who can run balls down in every outfield position.  We used him in every spot. Right, center and left. With his speed and his arm he can play anywhere.  He can hit the ball with power, he can hit consistently for average,” Vizquel said about Basabe. “He can be one of those players who can change the game with one at-bat.  He can bunt, he can hit for power and he can also steal a base. When you have a player that is complete in every aspect of the game, he can be a really good player for anybody.”

Basabe and Joel Booker have both had big comeback seasons.  Booker has been a revelation, raising eyebrows in the White Sox farm system.

“Joel Booker is the most underrated guy we have,”  Cease said during an interview before the Futures Game.

Booker was named the MVP of the Carolina League All-Star Game, got promoted to Birmingham where he’s leading off for the Barons, hitting ahead of fellow outfielder Basabe.

“(Booker) is another guy who has the same tools that Basabe has, except he’s a little faster than Basabe,”  Vizquel said. “I think he wasn’t being mentioned too much in the White Sox organization because there are so many high top prospects here that he probably gets lost in that group of people.  Obviously, when the game starts you can see that he’s one of those players who can bring a lot of attention. He can steal bases, he can hit the ball hard. Even though he’s a leadoff guy he can hit the ball a long way.  He’s a guy who is still learning the game and I think because he hasn’t played baseball that long, people overlook him a little bit, but he’s going to be a great player, too."

When Booker got promoted to Birmingham, that opened up a spot in the Winston-Salem outfield for Luis Gonzalez.  The White Sox 3rd round pick from 2017 immediately became one of the Dash’s best players.

“Luis Gonzalez is one of these guys who can hit in every spot in the lineup.  He’s a good leadoff guy and is very aggressive with the count. He likes to swing the bat.  As a matter of fact, he got mad at me because I don’t let him hit in the 3-hole sometimes. He can tell you that he’s ready to swing at every pitch,”  Vizquel said about Gonzalez who is slashing .306/.349/.449 in 22 games in Winston-Salem.

“He’s a left-handed hitter who doesn’t care if he has a left-handed pitcher on the mound.  He still sticks his nose in there and he’s going to give you a great at-bat every time. That’s who I have at the top of the lineup right now and he’s another player who’s learning the game real quick.  Even in his young age, he looks like a veteran out there.”

But wait, there’s more.  Outfielder Blake Rutherford who the White Sox acquired in the Todd Frazier/David Robertson/Tommy Kahnle trade last July, has quickly made people forget about his struggles in Kannapolis last year (.213/.289/.254 in 30 games).  This year in a higher league, he’s been one of its top hitters (.300/.345/.459), ranking 2nd in RBIs and 4th in hits.

“Rutherford is a guy who is really young too.  I love to have him with runners in scoring position because he can bring an RBI anytime,” Vizquel said about the Dash right fielder who turned 21 in May and is batting .343 with 57 RBIs with RISP.  “He’s a guy who makes contact. He’s going to be good. He’s another great outfielder, not as good as defensively as (Booker and Gonzalez), but he still does have great tools to be out there playing everyday.”

When it comes to starting pitching, Cease, Dunning, Hansen and Michael Kopech get most of the attention in the minor leagues.  But there are some other pitchers making names for themselves this year. Left-hander Bernardo Flores has combined for a 2.56 ERA in 109 innings for Winston-Salem and Birmingham. Since being called up to Double-A, Jimmy Lambert is 3-1 with a 3.13 ERA.  He flirted with a no-hitter in his last start against the Cubs AA team, giving up 1 hit over 7 innings with 10 strikeouts.

“He’s gross,”  Cease said about Lambert.  “He throws his fastball 92 to 95. Disgusting change-up.  He can throw 15 change-ups in an inning and he’ll get 11 swings and misses on it.

Good curveball and slider.  He’s gross.”

Cease and Lambert are now throwing to catcher Zack Collins, who leads the Southern League with a .409 on-base percentage and 77 walks.  The next closest in the league in walks has 53.

We know Collins can hit and get on base.  What about his defense?

“From when I threw to him during spring training to now he’s like almost a new guy,”  Cease said about Collins. “He’s framing well, calling a good game and blocking and that’s all you need from a catcher.”

In Charlotte, there’s 23-year-old reliever Ian Hamilton, who got called up last month and gave up only 2 hits in his first 6.2 IP with 9 strikeouts and 1 walk. His fastball can hit 98 mph and he has a hard slider that can reach 90.  He’s a possible future closer for the White Sox.

He also has a teammate named Eloy Jimenez.  I hear he’s having a big season as well.

In a perfect world, every White Sox prospect listed here will stay healthy, all of them will max out their potential, and in the coming years they’ll win every World Series title from 2020 to 2023.

But life isn’t perfect, especially in baseball.  Too much can go wrong, and often does.

The way to withstand the inevitable setbacks is by stocking your organization with waves of talent.  For a long time, you could only find ripples of this in the White Sox farm system.

Now in Winston-Salem, it’s surf’s up!   The hope is that one day they’ll be hangin’ ten from Kannapolis to Chicago.

For now, Omar Vizquel is handing out longboards to his first-place Dash who have been the class of the Carolina League.  

If he can create a winning culture like he experienced with the Cleveland Indians in the 1990’s, and have that success flow upstream into the big leagues,  the future at 35th and Shields will be very bright.

“I’m glad that I have this opportunity to be involved with all these young bright stars and make a difference and teach them the right way to play fundamental baseball and just play the game the right way,”  Vizquel said. “It’s something that I learned with all my years of experience. I think we’ve been trying to let these guys know how to play the right way and I think it’s paying off.”

Who knew? Stat nuggets from the White Sox pre-All-Star break season

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USA TODAY

Who knew? Stat nuggets from the White Sox pre-All-Star break season

It’s the All-Star Break, so why not take a look back at the first 58.6% of the White Sox season.

 

They may not be contending quite yet, but there have been several interesting moments. 

 

Focusing on the hitters, let’s take a look at ten amazing achievements this season.  And while there may be several to list for some players, I’m going to limit it to one fact per player.  Let’s go.

 

  • On March 29 (Opening Day), Matt Davidson became the 1st player in MLB history to hit 3 Home Runs in a game in March.
  • On April 23, Yoán Moncada (22 years, 331 days) became the youngest player in White Sox history with a double, triple & HR in the same game, passing Tito Francona (24 years, 205 days) on 5/28/1958.
  • Daniel Palka recorded a triple on May 22nd, making him the first player in White Sox history with 3 triples & 3 HR within his first 20 career MLB games.
  • On July 3, Palka (LF) & Avisaíl García (RF) became the second pair of White Sox outfielders to each hit 2 HR in the same game; the other pair? Minnie Miñoso (LF) and Larry Doby (CF) on July 30, 1957.
  • On May 28, Matt Skole became the first player in White Sox history with a home run AND a walk in his MLB Debut.
  • The lone White Sox walkoff Home Run of 2018 was off the bat of a player who hit .116 for the Sox this season (Trayce Thompson on May 3 – he went 14 for 121 this season for the Southsiders).
  • The White Sox have started a game with backto-back home runs four times in franchise history. 9/2/1937, 7/4/2000, 9/2/2017 & 6/12/2018.  Each of the last 2 times, Yolmer Sánchez hit the second home run.
  • On June 23, Tim Anderson became the first White Sox shortstop ever to homer on his birthday.
  • On June 27, José Abreu hit his 136th career HR and passed Minnie Miñoso for most by a Cubanborn player in White Sox history.  He hit one more since.
  • Leury García managed to become the first White Sox player with at least 10 stolen bases (he has 10) without being caught before the AllStar Break since Mike Cameron (13 for 13) in 1997.