White Sox

Robin Ventura: Lots of discussion involved in White Sox lineup construction

Robin Ventura: Lots of discussion involved in White Sox lineup construction

When it comes to constructing the White Sox lineup, Robin Ventura uses a number of resources at his disposal, including analytics.

The White Sox manager was asked before Thursday’s game how he determines what order to write on the lineup card on a daily basis. The short answer -- there’s a lot of conversation is involved in the process.

On Thursday, Ventura sat Brett Lawrie for the first time in 41 games this season and dropped Jimmy Rollins from the second spot to sixth in the order. Carlos Sanchez is batting second and starting at second base.

“I have the last call, but we talk about it a lot,” Ventura said. “If you see something that maybe I don't, I think that's part of having a staff. You're talking with Rickey (Renteria), you're talking with Joe (McEwing), you're talking with Trick (Todd Steverson), everybody. Even (Don Cooper), why not?”

With Lawrie out, Ventura said he batted Rollins sixth Thursday to give the lineup more veteran presence in the middle. In dropping Rollins down from the No. 2 spot, Ventura likely satisfied a number of fans who prefer to see another hitter in that position. The team’s No. 2 hitters have combined for a .677 OPS this season, which ranks only ahead of the eighth and ninth spots in the White Sox lineup in OPS-plus, according to baseball-reference.com.

The White Sox, who are 24-16, have averaged 4.4 runs per game this season, including 5.5 a contest over their last 20. Last season, the White Sox averaged 3.84 runs per game.

Ventura has previously stated that he prefers to have Jose Abreu in the third spot because he likes how it extends the team’s lineup. He can’t bat Melky Cabrera second because he’s the only left-handed bat suitable for the middle of the team’s lineup, which would be loaded with right-handers were Cabrera not there to break it up.

One player often suggested by fans is Lawrie, who still has a .777 OPS despite a recent slow down. Ventura was asked what the lineup might look like if Lawrie hit second. While it has been considered, Ventura hasn’t felt the urge to yet try it out.

“You always look at lineup changes and what would happen with guys in different spots,” Ventura said. “When they're going good it always looks good to move guys up. You've seen it in the past where we move guys into that two-hole and it doesn't necessarily work. It changes maybe their approach or what the guys doing. It doesn't always work like, ‘If the guy's hot you just throw him there and it continues.’ But yeah, we play with it all the time.”

That includes occasional input from Cooper -- “Absolutely, with how he'd pitch somebody, just different things like that, maybe an approach another team would have that he would see,” Ventura said -- as well as analytical data. Ventura recently cited illness and numbers as reasons Rollins was out of the lineup -- “the computer got him,” he said.

“It's in our lives every day, with how you deal with who's playing, where you position guys, all those things,” Ventura said. “There is a little bit of everything that you put into it so we do adjust if we see it. If a guy's swinging a certain way, we're able to adjust to it.”

White Sox Talk Podcast: Future looking bright for White Sox rotation

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USA Today

White Sox Talk Podcast: Future looking bright for White Sox rotation

Chuck Garfien and Vinnie Duber take a look at the young guns in the White Sox starting rotation (Giolito, Lopez and Cease) who are coming off their best week together as a trio and why they are excited about the future (1:00). Ivan Nova has a lower ERA than some of the best pitchers in baseball. Seriously. (5:20). The competition going on behind the scenes with the starting rotation (6:40). What will the rotation look like in 2020? (13:00) and more.

Listen here or in the embedded player below. 

White Sox Talk Podcast

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With young arms dealing, Reynaldo Lopez sets high expectations for White Sox rotation in 2020

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USA TODAY

With young arms dealing, Reynaldo Lopez sets high expectations for White Sox rotation in 2020

The White Sox starting rotation of the future won’t be complete until Michael Kopech returns from Tommy John surgery. It won’t be complete until Rick Hahn’s front office is done shopping this winter.

But what the team’s young pitchers, the ones throwing right now at the major league level, have done of late has to have everyone feeling good about the starting staff’s prospects in 2020.

Lucas Giolito called his most recent outing, a shutout of the high-powered Minnesota Twins, the “best I’ve ever felt pitching in my life.” Dylan Cease settled down nicely after some early struggles against the Texas Rangers on Friday and called his performance the best he’s had as a big leaguer. Reynaldo Lopez had to leave Sunday’s outing after just five innings, his days-old sickness a little too much to handle, but he didn’t allow a single hit before his departure.

All in all — and that includes recent strong showings from veterans Ivan Nova and Ross Detwiler, too — the rotation has a 2.09 ERA in the last seven games, five of which have ended in White Sox victories.

“We’re excited,” Lopez said through team interpreter Billy Russo after Sunday’s game. “This is a very, very exciting moment for all of us and for the organization.

“I think the expectations that you can have right now and that we have right now for the future are really, really high because we all know what we’re capable of doing. And if we’re just doing it right now, then it’s going to be just part of the process, just continuing doing what we’re doing right now.

“The learning process for all of us, for the young guys, has been outstanding. I think all of us have been learning a lot outing by outing and just putting those lessons on the field, too. It’s not just learning and, ‘OK, yes, learning this today and going to apply it in a week.’ No, you need to apply it right away and we’ve been doing that.

“I think you can see the results and for us as a group, it’s a very good moment.”

To those not so sure, there are perfectly valid reasons to be skeptical about the makeup of the 2020 rotation.

Lopez has been terrific since the All-Star break, his second-half ERA down to 2.82 after the five scoreless innings Sunday, but that doesn’t erase the woeful 6.34 number he had in the first half.

Cease has shown what everyone, including manager Rick Renteria, calls “electric stuff,” but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s got a 5.76 ERA and has allowed a homer in all nine starts he’s made since his promotion.

Giolito has been an ace but will have to show that his transformation from the guy who gave up more earned runs than any pitcher in baseball in 2018 into an All Star is permanent.

Kopech’s next start will be just his fifth as a big leaguer and will come, at the earliest, nearly 19 months after his fourth. And while the White Sox remain confident, there’s no telling, until we see him in action, what kind of pitcher he is following the surgery.

And though Hahn has pledged aggressiveness this offseason, we don’t know what kind of pitcher the White Sox will be able to add this winter.

But all that can be effectively countered by what’s happening right now before our eyes.

“They continue to mature, grow, learn,” Renteria said. “It's not necessarily the outcomes, even though you want those good outcomes to occur. It's what they're feeling in terms of what they believe they're capable of doing in certain moments. They're starting to trust themselves a little bit more and able to execute and get through games.”

No matter what the White Sox front office does this offseason, it figures to have four 2020 rotation spots spoken for: Giolito, Lopez, Cease and Kopech. That’s 80 percent of a rotation made up of homegrown arms, or if you’re a stickler on the definition of “homegrown,” guys acquired in those rebuild-jumpstarting trades in 2016 and 2017.

With Giolito and Lopez dealing of late and Cease getting positive reviews while going through his learning process in his first taste of the major leagues, Lopez’s words ring true. There should be excitement and high expectations for next season. These young arms and what they’re doing right now, not hypothetically but in reality, is part of what makes a transition from rebuilding to contending in 2020 look possible.

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