White Sox

Seven things we've learned: Just win, baby

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Seven things we've learned: Just win, baby

Sunday, Sept. 18, 2011Posted: 3:30 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com White Sox InsiderFollow @CSNChi_Beatnik
Ten times this season, CSNChicago will submit a Chicago White Sox report card of sorts for your approval.Sadly, todays missive from Kansas City will be the final true 13 Things of the 2011 season and with no offense to Ozzie and his beloved No. 13 uniform, lets switch up the luck with things and just trim the traditional list down to a lucky seven this time around. Toward the very end of the year, Ill put together 13 highlights and lowlights of the season, just to wrap things up.

But still, weve learned many things about this ballclub, and with team on a season high-tying seven-game losing skid, they are increasingly not so good things. So, White Sox fans, cinch it up and scroll down

1. No one will truly take the blame

In Kansas City, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen has come out endorsing the job his bosses have done, advising fans not to blame GM Ken Williams or owner Jerry Reinsdorf for this lost, All-In season. But the manager also offers that as much as he and his coaching staff and players are to blame for what it hurtling toward a sub-.500 season, theres nothing hed do differently in 2011.

Williams has mostly disappeared from sight as the early swoon settled into season-long malaise. He largely acquitted himself back in July after advising Guillen to field a lineup according to performance, not salary, tacitly approving the benchings of underperforming, monied players like Adam Dunn and Alex Rios.

In the end, everyone in the organization bears responsibility for the disaster that became 2011. Whether any of the primary figures step forward to fully man up for the failure is another question.
2. September swoons have become an Ozzie trademark

This season, the White Sox are 5-12 to begin September, which has included two crushing sweeps at the hand of Central champion Detroit, losing 9 12 games in the standings since Aug. 31. But such swooning is not rare for Guillens White Sox. While the manager has averaged an 85-77 season in his eight years in charge of the White Sox, hes 105-106 overall in September. Ironically, the only season in which his club hasnt been swept at least once in September is the forgettable 2007 campaign, when Chicago finished with a 15-12 kick but entered the month 21 12 games out.

Even in 2005, when the White Sox started the month with a seven-game winning streak and appeared in commanding position to suffocate the rest of the Central, the team fell into a 4-10 tailspin that shrunk its division lead form 7 12 to 1 12 games.

Here are the dirty details:

2004 - White Sox go 17-12 in September, swept by Minnesota Twins.
2005 - White Sox go 17-12, swept by Los Angeles Angels and see lead shrink to 1 12 games before running off five wins to end the season and 16 of 17 to end the season as World Series champs.
2006 - White Sox go 12-16, including a sweep by the Oakland As.
2007 - White Sox go 15-12 and avoid a sweep but finish at 72-90 and in fourth place.
2008 - White Sox go 12-15 in September in what becomes a war of attrition with the fading Twins. The White Sox won three straight games to end the season as Central champs, but lost five straight, including being swept out of first place on September 25 by the Twins to create such dire straits.
2009 - White Sox go 13-14 and are swept by the Twins.
2010 - White Sox go 14-13 and are swept by the Twins and Tigers, essentially eliminating them from the division race.
2011 - White Sox are 5-12 and will have to go 10-1 in the home stretch to finish better than .500 for the month. Two sweeps by Detroit nailed the coffin shut on the 2011 season.
3. Guillen needs to bow his neck

Related to the September swooning or not, Guillen must take more ownership of his teams performance. His explanation that he pilots a veteran club has merit and is not an excuse but there has to be an accountability trickle-down through coaches or veteran players. Someone has to answer for all the September faltering, and in lieu of someone else doing offering it up, Ozzie must supply an answer.

4. Times running short for Danks

Its not to say that John Danks wont be due for yet another arbitration raise despite a down season (6-12, 4.36 ERA), because he will. My value analysis says that even including his 0-11, 6.28 ERA every day this season not between June 6 and Aug. 27, Danks has provided a surplus value of 2.5 million to the White Sox in 2011 and thus, technically, underpaid.

However, for the sake of those scoreboard stats like W-L record and ERA, it behooves Danks to have a strong start on Sunday vs. Kansas City and good finale in a projected Sept. 24 vs. the Royals. Theres still room for him to pull his ERA back to sub-4.00 and push his overall surplus value to the White Sox to the 4 million level. And a boost like that could mean extra millions in any extension offer from the White Sox, or long-term offers from every team after the 2012 season.

5. Buehrle, too

Mark Buehrle has had a typically strong season, as arguably the best Chicago starter (Id submit Phil Humber a shade better). But boy, his September is doing him no favors: a 12.00 ERA, 2.54 WHIP and 18.3 average game score compared with 3.101.2254.2 from April through August.

Buehrle has the credentials to earn another big contract after the season, as hes essentially been worth every penny of his most recent four-year, 56 million deal, and then some. But the concerns over the veterans declining stamina, as his struggles through September have fueled, could round down some of the offers out there. The only way to stave off teams legitimate worries about Buehrles stretch runs is for the lefty to spin a strong start at Cleveland on Wednesday and drive the point home in a projected finale on Sept. 27.

6. Of central concern is the Central

We heard a lot in the spring about the White Sox needing to beat the opponents closest to them in 2011, those four dastardly AL Central clubs. But after a 32-40 in 2010, the White Sox are wheezing along those same lines this season, currently at 28-36. Intradivisional foes are no more fearsome than they were a year ago Detroit tags in for Minnesota this season as the division champ and having started 7-13 in a September that is essentially a long intradivisional finale, its shaping up to be a second straight year of doleful drubbings from the Central.

It would be different if the White Sox played poorly against everyone else, but they are near .500 against the tough East (15-19) and 19-16 against the West. Toss in an 11-7 mark against the National League, and the troubles are pretty easy to diagnose: Beat the Central. How to do so is another question.

7. Morels month is no mirage

As tempting as it might be to write Brent Morel off as a September wonder (an AL second-best six homers in the month and 12 RBIs in his last 18 games, he is getting stronger at a time when it would be easy for a young player to falter. His OPS is still just .652, but for a player who wasnt going to be counted on for his offense this season to be outperforming Dunn, Rios, and even fellow young infielder Gordon Beckham, those numbers arent bad at all.

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

Charlie Tilson plays in Detroit for first time since getting injured in his MLB debut

Charlie Tilson plays in Detroit for first time since getting injured in his MLB debut

For over two years, Charlie Tilson was starting to look like his own version of "Moonlight" Graham, the player made famous in the movie "Field of Dreams" because he played in one major league game and never got to bat.

The White Sox traded for Tilson just before the trade deadline passed in 2016. Two days later he made his big league debut with the White Sox in Detroit. He got a single in his first at-bat, but left the game with an injury and missed the rest of the season. Tilson also missed all of the 2017 season and his MLB future was starting to come into question.

Back healthy, Tilson started this season in Triple-A Charlotte and hit .248 in 39 games when he got called up to replace Leury Garcia, who was placed on the disabled list. On Thursday, Tilson returned to a big league field for the first time in more than 20 months. He went 0-for-3 in a loss to Baltimore.

Friday marked a return to the site of Tilson's big league debut and the injury that made it such a brief stint. Tilson has now played three big league games, over the course of nearly 21 months, and two of them have been in Detroit.

Tilson went 1-for-4, meaning both his hits are in Comerica Park. The White Sox lost 5-4 after giving up three runs in the bottom of the eighth.

The White Sox sent down Carson Fulmer, so why isn't Lucas Giolito receiving the same treatment?

The White Sox sent down Carson Fulmer, so why isn't Lucas Giolito receiving the same treatment?

Lucas Giolito is having a rough go of things in his second year with the White Sox.

He came into the season with some pretty high expectations after posting a 2.38 ERA in seven starts at the end of the 2017 campaign and then dominating during spring training. But he’s done anything but dominate since this season started, and after one of his worst outings in Thursday’s 9-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles, he’s got a 7.53 ERA in 10 starts in 2018.

Giolito stuck around for only four outs Thursday, but he allowed the Orioles to do plenty of damage, giving up seven runs on six hits — two of which were back-to-back home runs to start the second inning — and three walks. He leads the American League with his 37 walks.

“I take what I do very seriously. I work as hard as I can at it,” Giolito said. “So when I experience failure like this, it’s kind of hard to deal with. All I can do is come back tomorrow, keep working on things and hopefully have a better one.”

All of Giolito’s struggles have fans wondering why the White Sox haven’t sent him down to Triple-A to work on his craft.

“I don’t foresee that at this particular time,” Rick Renteria said when asked if Giolito could be sent to Triple-A. “I think he’s just a young man who’s got to continue to minimize the emotional aspect of crossing from preparation into the game and staying focused, relaxed and hammer the zone with strikes. And truthfully it’s just first-pitch strike and get after the next one.”

The White Sox have already sent one young pitcher down in Carson Fulmer, who was having a nightmarish time at the big league level. Fulmer’s results were worse than Giolito’s on a regular basis. He got sent down after posting an 8.07 ERA in nine outings.

But hasn’t Giolito suffered through command issues enough to warrant some time away from the major league limelight? According to his manager, Giolito’s situation is vastly different than Fulmer’s.

“I don’t see them anywhere near each other,” Renteria said. “They’re two different competitors in terms of the outcomes that they’ve had. Lucas has at least had situations in which he might have struggled early and been able to gain some confidence through the middle rounds of his start and continue to propel himself to finish some ballgames, give us six or seven innings at times. So it’s two different guys.

“With Gio, I expect that we would have a nice clean start from the beginning, but when he doesn’t I still feel like if he gets through it he’ll settle down and continue to hammer away at what he needs to do in order to get deeper into a ballgame, and that was a little different with Carson. With Carson it was right from the get-go he was struggling, and he had a difficult time extending his outings after the third or fourth because it just kept getting too deep into his pitch count and not really hammering the strike zone as much.”

Renteria is not wrong. Giolito has had a knack to take a rough beginning to a start and turn it into five or six innings. Notably, he gave up a couple first-inning runs and walked seven hitters and still got the win against the Cubs a week and a half ago. And while his first-inning ERA is 10.80 and his second-inning ERA is 12.54, he’s pitched into at least the sixth inning in seven of his 10 starts.

Renteria’s point is that Giolito is learning how to shake off early damage and achieving the goal, most times out, of eating up innings and keeping his team in the game. Those are a couple valuable qualities to develop for a young pitcher. But are those the lone qualities that determine that Giolito is suited to continue his learning process at the major league level? His command remains a glaring problem, and both he and Renteria admitted that his problems are more mental than physical.

“The one thing everyone has to understand is we have to go beyond the physical and attack a little bit more of the mental and emotional and try to connect and slow that down,” Renteria said. “Those aspects are the ones that ultimately, at times, deal in the derailment of the physical action. So if we can kind of calm that down a little bit.

“He’s very focused. Giolito is high intensity. Nice kid but high-intensity young man when he gets on the mound. You might not believe it. He’s going 100 mph. So I think it goes to more just trusting himself, trusting the process, taking it truthfully one pitch at a time.”

Well, if a demotion to the minors isn’t likely, what about moving Giolito to the bullpen? Carlos Rodon and Chris Sale dipped their toes in bullpen waters before moving to the rotation. Could a reversal of that strategy help Giolito?

Well, the current state of the White Sox starting rotation — Fulmer in the minors, Miguel Gonzalez on the 60-day DL and pitchers like James Shields, Hector Santiago and Dylan Covey, who aren’t exactly long-term pieces, getting a lot of starts — doesn’t really allow for another piece to be removed.

“I know they have done it with Rodon and Sale,” Renteria said. “The difference is we don’t have the makeup of the starting rotation that those clubs had in order to put those guys in the ‘pen. We are in a different situation right now. Moving forward, is that something we can possibly do? Absolutely. It has been done with very good success.

“Right now we are in truly discovery mode and adjustment mode and adapting and trying to do everything we can to get these guys to develop their skill sets to be very usable and effective at the major league level and we are doing it to the best of our ability.”

There could be promise in the fact that Giolito has turned a season around as recently as last year. Before he was impressing on the South Side in August and September, he was struggling at Triple-A Charlotte. Even after he ironed things out, things had gotten off to a rocky enough start that he owned a 4.48 ERA and 10 losses when he was called up to the bigs.

It doesn’t seem Giolito will be going back to Charlotte, unless things continue to go in a dramatically poor direction. Right now, these are just more of the growing pains during this rebuilding process. “The hardest part of the rebuild” doesn’t just means wins and losses. It means watching some players struggle through speed bumps as they continue to develop into what the White Sox hope they’ll be when this team is ready to compete.