White Sox

Rick Hahn: White Sox have 'brighter days' ahead

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Rick Hahn: White Sox have 'brighter days' ahead

Sounds like neither Rick Hahn nor anyone in the front office has their hands anywhere near the plug.

Though he’s disappointed by the team’s 24-28 start, the White Sox general manager made it clear Friday afternoon he isn’t ready to give up on the 2015 season.

The time to make such a decision grows nearer, but Hahn intends to let this club’s fate breathe a little longer.

Whereas the White Sox have had many chances to collapse under the weight of their own struggles as well as extenuating circumstances, they haven’t. Their recent 5-6 showing on a four-city road trip has Hahn and the White Sox front office not only wiling to wait, but potentially looking to add pieces if they feel like that’s the right move.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

“The marching orders for the scouts leaving spring training was look at these perhaps positions of need, let’s see how things evolve, but this is what we’ve identified as potential areas of need and let’s plan to address them over the course of the next three to four months,” Hahn said. “Again, we have to be nimble enough that if things don’t quite go the way we hope, and we don’t put ourselves right back in the thick of this thing, that we may have to adjust and go the other direction. But our intent is absolutely to look to add when the time comes, and our hope is to add when the time comes.”

Plenty needs to go right for the White Sox to consider additions for the stretch run. But the White Sox are looking at their season with the glass is half full because they figure things could be much, much worse.

[MORE: Sox hope to jumpstart struggling offense]

Even though the offense has averaged 3.67 runs per game, they’ve been outscored by 31 runs in the first inning, the defense has taken its lumps and Jeff Samardzija has a 4.68 ERA, the White Sox began Friday only four games below .500 and have played above it over their last 30 (16-14).

Hahn said he wouldn’t make a declarative statement about the team’s chances, nor does he intend to set a date for when he might start moving pieces. But he also believes the White Sox are in a good position to make their move now based off the last month.

“Are we disappointed with some of our play thus far?” Hahn said. “Absolutely. We all had high hopes and we still have high hopes. But these things happen over a stretch. Again, we feel right now the arrow’s pointing up. We just went through a very difficult stretch, and while we didn’t set the world ablaze with the record, we held our own. We played in some tough environments -- primarily on the road, and got through it strong. Let’s see what the next 30 days have to hold for us, because right now we feel guys are starting to come around. The team is gelling a little bit more and we think brighter days are ahead.”

White Sox sign Enoy Jimenez, the 17-year-old brother of Eloy Jimenez

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USA TODAY

White Sox sign Enoy Jimenez, the 17-year-old brother of Eloy Jimenez

One Jimenez just isn't enough for the White Sox.

The White Sox signed the younger brother of top prospect Eloy Jimenez this weekend. Enoy Jimenez is a 17-year-old infielder, and the 21-year-old outfielder ranked as the No. 3 prospect in baseball was on hand for his brother's big moment.

Eloy figures to hit the big leagues early next season, though it will likely be a while longer before his teenage brother could do the same. Still, they're likely hoping for the chance to play together one day.

According to this pretty exhaustive list from MLB.com, four sets of brothers have played together on the White Sox: Homer and Ted Blankenship in the 1920s, Dick and Hank Allen in the 1970s, Roberto and Sandy Alomar in 2003 and 2004 and John and Jordan Danks in 2012.

Should we be getting ready for the fifth pair?

Matt Davidson's incredibly interesting 2018

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USA TODAY

Matt Davidson's incredibly interesting 2018

This season, Matt Davidson became the fourth player in MLB history to hit three home runs in a season opener. It definitely raised a few eyebrows, especially after Paul Konerko noted during spring training that a 40-home run season and an All-Star selection isn’t out of the question for the California native. After clobbering nine home runs (seven of them coming at Kauffman Stadium) in his first 21 games, anything seemed possible.

Unfortunately it didn’t quite turn out that way, though he did rack up his second straight 20-homer season. But it’s hard to argue that 2018 wasn’t a success for Davidson — mostly because of the swings he didn’t make.

Everything else aside, Davidson walked as often as Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo in 2018.

OK, the more meaningful comparison would be Davidson to himself.

What stands out is his walk rate. One hundred fifty three players had at least 400 plate appearances in both 2017 and 2018. Among them, Davidson had the second-highest increase in walk percentage this past season.

Consider this: In 2017, Davidson and Tim Anderson became (and still are) the only players in MLB history with 160-plus strikeouts and fewer than 20 walks in a season.

Davidson, while logging 20 more at-bats in 2018, had the same number of strikeouts, 165, but he increased his walk total from 19 to 52. Give him credit for that. It’s a tough adjustment to make at the minor league level let alone in the major leagues. The increased walk rate brought his on-base percentage from .260 in 2017 (well below the AL average of .324) to .319 in 2018 (a tick above the AL average of .318) and pushed his overall offensive production from 16 percent below league average (as measured by his 84 weighted runs created plus, or wRC+) to four percent above league average (104 wRC+).

And I haven’t even mentioned the most fun aspect of his 2018 season: He pitched! And he pitched well.

Thirty pitchers took the mound for the White Sox in 2018, all of whom made at least three appearances. And only one of them didn’t allow a run: Davidson.

He topped out at 91.9 MPH and had as many strikeouts, two, as baserunners allowed in his three innings of work. The two batters he struck out, Rougned Odor and Giancarlo Stanton, combined for 56 home runs in 2018. They combined for 89 home runs (and an MVP award) in 2017.

In his career, Stanton had a combined 16 plate appearances and zero strikeouts against Barry Zito, CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka and Edwin Díaz. He struck out in his one plate appearance against Davidson.

Davidson is one of just three players with 20 or more home runs and at least three mound appearances in a season in MLB history:

— Babe Ruth (1919): 29 home runs, 17 games on the mound
— Davidson (2018): 20 home runs, three games on the mound
— Shohei Ohtani (2018): 22 home runs, 10 games on the mound

Facts are facts. Davidson is actually serious about expanding his role on the mound.

“To be honest, I would love to maybe explore that idea,” he said in July. “Pitching was a dream. As a young kid, everybody wants to hit that walk-off homer, right? I was the guy striking that guy out. That’s how I first loved the game. My favorite player was Randy Johnson and doing that.

“So, it’s something I would be interested in. I don’t know if the game would necessarily allow that or something like that. It’s something that is really close to my heart is pitching.”

Whether or not it ever happens, Davidson’s 2018 was all about finding ways to increase his value. For the White Sox, that’s a good problem to have.