White Sox

Maybe the Sox shouldn't be concerned with who gets saves

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Maybe the Sox shouldn't be concerned with who gets saves

On a team full of question marks, the largest one has, in recent weeks, involved who closes games for the White Sox. In other words: Who's going to rack up saves?

Maybe that's not the question we should be asking.

Jonah Keri wrote an excellent piece for Grantland about abolishing the save statistic, which has shaped bullpen management for over a half-century. The idea of a "closer by committee" has been lambasted, while pitchers who rack up gaudy save totals make tens of millions of dollars.

But a "save" is just a created statistic. Usually, a team's closer is its best reliever. But all the save means is that pitcher was on the mound when his team won -- provided his team had a lead of three or fewer runs.

Not all saves are created equal. Yet a three-run save counts just as much as a one that requires a pitcher to retire the heart of the order with the bases loaded. But thanks to the save statistic, teams won't use their best pitcher if that bases loaded scenario comes up in the eighth inning.

Keri espoused Fangraphs' "shutdowns" and "meltdowns" statistics, which track if a pitcher increased or decreased his team's chances of winning. Essentially, it puts all relievers on equal ground for evaluation.

So here's where the White Sox come into play. Four relievers are apparently vying for saves -- Addison Reed, Hector Santiago, Jesse Crain and Matt Thornton -- but nobody has separated himself from the pack. Thornton is the best and most experienced of the bunch, Reed has the most upside, Crain is a solid veteran and Santiago is an up-and-comer.

With no defined closer, the Sox have a chance to look less at saves and more at matchups. If the Sox need big outs in the eighth inning, they can turn to Thornton. The same goes for Reed in the seventh, eighth, or ninth innings. If both pitchers have already been used, Santiago or Crain could slide into the ninth.

So looking at the Sox bullpen as having a "closer by committee" wouldn't be the right approach. Not putting someone in a rigid closer role allows the Sox have have the flexibility to pick and choose when to use relievers based on the situation.

It appears Ventura's going that route -- at least publicly -- making it the first real stamp he's put on his new team. And he deserves praise for it.

White Sox can aid crusade to contend by adding some pop this winter

White Sox can aid crusade to contend by adding some pop this winter

The White Sox hit four home runs Tuesday night, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. But the guys who hit those round trippers have combined for just 31 of them this season.

Meanwhile, when Miguel Sano obliterated a baseball 482 feet in the third inning, he became the Minnesota Twins’ fifth player to reach 30 bombs this season. That’s the first time that’s happened in a single season in baseball history.

While you were sleeping, the high-powered Twins defeated the White Sox on a walk-off hit by pitch, one of the least powerful ways you can win a ballgame. But the team from the Land of 10,000 Lakes has won far more games this season by smashing baseballs into the stratosphere.

They’ll likely win an AL Central title on that premise, and while it’s not the only way to set yourself up as a World Series contender, in 2019 it’s one of the better ways. The top eight teams in the game in home runs are either going to the postseason or remain in a pennant race: the Twins, the New York Yankees, the Houston Astros, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Oakland Athletics, the Cubs, the Atlanta Braves and the Milwaukee Brewers.

So let’s bring this around to the White Sox, whose winter shopping list is beginning to take shape as they prepare to set their sights on the offseason.

We all know Rick Hahn and his front office will be targeting starting pitching, the general manager has said as much after the organization’s major league ready depth in that area was worn bare in 2019. We’ll have to wait to find out whether Hahn inks a top-of-the-rotation star or provides depth behind All-Star hurler Lucas Giolito. But that shouldn’t — nay, can’t — be the only area that gets a facelift.

The White Sox also need an everyday right fielder, the internal options whittled from bountiful to non-existent thanks to injuries and under-performance in the minor leagues this season. The White Sox could probably also use a designated hitter. While Zack Collins — one of the home-run hitters Tuesday night — is getting a lot of reps there right now, if this team has eyes on contending next season, they might not have the luxury of playing “let’s see what he can do” with Collins.

Those two positions would figure to provide opportunities for Hahn’s front office to add some desperately needed pop to this lineup.

The White Sox are in the middle of their final up-close-and-personal demonstration of what an influx of offseason power can do, playing against baseball’s home-run leaders in the Twins. No team in baseball has launched more homers than the Twins this season, which is by design after they spent last offseason adding Nelson Cruz, C.J. Cron, Jonathan Schoop and Marwin Gonzalez, a quartet that combined for 104 home runs in 2018. This year, they’ve blasted a combined 95 with a week and a half worth of games left.

The power numbers are remarkable in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, and in an era where the home-run ball is dominating, they’re doing it better than anyone. White Sox fans surely don’t need to be reminded of that fact. The Twins have hit 39 home runs against the South Siders this season, including 27 of them at Guaranteed Rate Field. Cruz, who is the only player in the bigs to hit at least 35 homers in each of the last six seasons, has hit eight of his 37 dingers off White Sox pitching.

While the White Sox likely won’t deviate from their rebuilding efforts just to copy the Twins, there’s no doubt they could use some additional power. They came into Tuesday night with the sixth fewest home runs in baseball, some of the game’s worst teams the only ones behind them. With the Twins using the longball to win a division crown and make themselves one of the best teams in the game, surely the White Sox could benefit from mixing some outside pop in with their cavalcade of young players.

They’ll likely get some help from Luis Robert, who belted 32 home runs in the minors this season a year after hitting none while battling thumb injuries in 2018. Nick Madrigal probably won’t do much for the White Sox home-run total, but a full, healthy season of Eloy Jimenez should. He’s en route to a 30-homer rookie season despite missing nearly 40 games. Jose Abreu certainly hasn’t been the problem, flirting with a career high in homers while blasting past his career high in RBIs. James McCann, Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson all had terrific seasons, but is a significant jump in home runs expected for 2020? Probably not.

So added power will have to come from the two holes that need plugging in the everyday lineup.

Who’s out there? Fans will jump right to J.D. Martinez, who’s expected to opt out of his deal with the Boston Red Sox and become a highly pursued free agent. Martinez would fit the bill, all right, with 35 more homers this season to bring his total since the start of the 2015 season to a whopping 183.

Martinez will have his fair share of pursuers, and it’ll cost some big bucks to make his opt-out worth it (even though the Red Sox would probably be happy to see his salary come off the books given their supposed financial pickle). But the White Sox have that much-discussed money to spend, and Martinez would solve their power deficiency as their everyday DH.

Corner outfield free agents to-be include Nicholas Castellanos, Yasiel Puig and Marcell Ozuna. If the disastrous Pittsburgh Pirates decide to let Starling Marte walk, he could add a career-high 23 homers to the lineup. Kole Calhoun could hit the market, and he’s past the 30-homer mark this season. He’s also the only lefty in that group, something that could matter considering the White Sox projected lineup for 2020 and beyond is heavily right handed.

And then there’s the trade market. But remember that the depth of the White Sox farm system doesn’t look much like it did a year ago, and it could be rather difficult for Hahn to create an appealing package of prospects that could fetch the kind of impact bat (or arm, for that matter) the team would like to add to the roster.

The opportunities are there for the White Sox to make some Twins-esque additions and ratchet up the power numbers in 2020. It won’t mean they’ll be mashing at a Twins-esque level — considering that no team in baseball has, even the ones also hitting homers in bunches — but it’s a trait that’s helping teams across the game win on a nightly basis.

The White Sox could help their crusade to contend in 2020 — to join that group of baseball’s best teams — by improving themselves in that area this winter.

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White Sox Talk Podcast: What we've learned about the White Sox in 2019

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: What we've learned about the White Sox in 2019

A lot has happened with the White Sox this season. Chuck Garfien, Ryan McGuffey and Vinnie Duber cover it all. They discuss the great (3:00), the good (14:40), the bad (20:10) and the ugly (26:20). They also rate the moves the White Sox made last offseason (32:30)

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

White Sox Talk Podcast

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