White Sox

Risky steal attempt another sign Tim Anderson's got his swag back

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AP

Risky steal attempt another sign Tim Anderson's got his swag back

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Tim Anderson’s confidence increasingly continues to return.

The White Sox shortstop chose the right moment to take a big risk when he stole third base in the ninth inning on Wednesday afternoon.

It’s the kind of call that either earns a player kudos if it works or an earful from the manager if it fails. Turns out Anderson’s risky decision to steal third base with All-Star catcher Salvador Perez behind the plate helped the White Sox win their first road series since June. 

Only minutes after a similar play backfired for the Kansas City Royals, Anderson’s steal allowed him to easily score on a go-ahead sacrifice fly by Jose Abreu. The White Sox tacked on another run to topple the Kansas City Royals 5-3 at Kauffman Stadium. 

“He wanted to get there for (Abreu),” manager Rick Renteria said. “A steal of third has to be 100 percent or otherwise it’s fruitless. He had a good feel for it. He wanted to get over there and he did.”

Anderson’s 11th steal in 12 tries was the latest big moment in a resurgent second half. The second-year player slumped through July as he struggled to cope with the May death of close friend Branden Moss. Moss was shot and killed attempting to aide an assault victim outside of a bar near the University of Alabama campus on May 7.

But Anderson has looked much more like himself since he began to see a counselor in late July. Once again, the 2013 first-round draft pick is playing free of restriction and with the kind of confidence he displayed often throughout a rookie campaign in which he produced 2.5 f-Wins Above Replacement.

How else to explain running on Perez — who has thrown out 159 of 470 runners in his career (33.8 percent) — with one of the hottest hitters in baseball on deck? 

If Anderson is thrown out, questions about his thought process with Abreu coming to bat with a man in scoring position are asked. It’s the same type of questions asked on sports talk radio about Kansas City's Alcides Escobar after he made the final out of the eighth inning with the score tied.

But Anderson trusted the instincts that made him a top-50 prospect before the 2016 season and his read of pitcher Scott Alexander’s move. With Yoan Moncada at bat and a 3-2 count, Anderson, who went 2-for-5, his seventh multi-hit game in the last 10, took off running and beat Perez’s throw.

“Really just going off the pitcher,” Anderson said. “He was giving me slow deliveries and I feel like with my speed I was able to get there.”

“I wanted to take it in such a key moment.”

Three pitches later, Abreu drove a fly ball to deep center to bring in Anderson and give the White Sox a 4-3 lead. 

Anderson hasn’t attempted to steal bases at similar rate to what he did in the minors when he was 100 of 128, including in Arizona Fall League play. But he’s been more effective in the majors, swiping 21 of 24 tries (87.5 percent). And the confident Anderson promises this only the beginning as he gets more comfortable with pitchers around the league and their moves.

“It’s just a matter of time before the stolen bases keep coming,” Anderson said. “I was able to get a pretty good jump on it. 

“It’s definitely the more attempts I can get and more comfortable I can get that I feel like I can run more.”

Eloy Jimenez reaches 30-home run mark in rookie season

Eloy Jimenez reaches 30-home run mark in rookie season

It took a couple months for Eloy Jimenez to get going in his rookie season, but the prized White Sox outfielder is meeting most reasonable expectations for his first year in the majors.

Jimenez smacked his 30th home run of the season Sunday in Detroit, which represents a notable round number milestone. Jimenez now has eight home runs in September and it’s only the 22nd of the month.

Jimenez launched a 2-0 slider to left center in his first at-bat to give the White Sox an early lead in Detroit.

A 30-home run season is a long way from the player Jimenez looked like in April and May. Entering June 1, the 22-year-old was hitting .220/.273/.390. He was struggling to lay off sliders out of the zone and looked a bit lost at the plate.

In June, Jimenez looked like the talented hitter the White Sox believed he was capable of becoming. He hit .284/.340/.602 with eight home runs, including a memorable go-ahead home run in Wrigley against the Cubs.

An injury playing the field in mid-July in Kansas City cost him a couple weeks and seemed to disrupt whatever rhythm he was building in June. This month, Jimenez is once again showing his elite potential. He won AL Player of the Week last week.

Jimenez’s overall numbers now have the look of a solid, promising, albeit still flawed rookie season. After Sunday, Jimenez is hitting .269/.318/.514. The power is there, but the batting average and walk rate are both lower than most expectations for him long-term. However, to put up an above average overall season at the plate as a rookie while dealing with two stints on the injured list is definitely a strong base to build from.

Expectations will be higher for Jimenez in 2020. Many will expect him to take a step towards becoming a middle of the order hitter for years to come. For now, it’s safe to look at Jimenez’s 30th home run as proof of a solid rookie campaign.

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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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