White Sox

The top five stories of 2011 for the White Sox

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The top five stories of 2011 for the White Sox

Earlier this week, MLB.com's Scott Merkin ran down his top five franchise-changing developments from the 2011, with his list going as follows:

5. Mark Buehrle leaving
4. Rebuilding or retooling?
3. Dunn's struggles
2. Ozzie and some of the coaching staff leaving
1. Ventura returning

Check out the article for the explanations. My list differs from Scott's -- and hey, your list may differ from mine. Let us know in the comments what your top five would be if you disagree with anything.

5. White Sox extend Danks

This folds into the "rebuilding or retooling" bullet point, although it's nowhere near a rebuild. The Danks extension, for now, confirmed that.

4. Buehrle departs for Miami

The next four points are all intertwined, with the likelihood of Nos. 2-4 happening low without No. 1 on the list. Buehrle's departure was the product of...

3. Ozzie departs for Miami

...Ozzie Guillen being there and the White Sox neither the funds nor room in the starting rotation to keep him. And Ozzie Guillen leaving for Miami opened the door for...

2. Ventura's surprising hire

...nobody saw the Ventura hire coming outside of those in the White Sox front office, and it'll go down as one of the more interesting -- that could mean good or bad -- hires in White Sox history. But at the root of all this great change:

1. The unexpected downturns of Dunn and Rios

The White Sox had plenty of problems outside of this pair, but because both Adam Dunn and Alex Rios earned 12 million last season, they received much of the attention for the team's disappointing season.

The progression is this: If Dunn and Rios played near their 2010 levels to begin the 2011 season, perhaps the White Sox don't lose 17 of 21 games in April and early May. Even if the Sox went 10-11 in that stretch, they would've emerged above .500 -- a mark they didn't reach until July 2. By then, attendance lagged and the Sox had to deal away Edwin Jackson and Mark Teahen at the deadline to free up some money.

Over the course of 2011, had Dunn and Rios each been three-win players (as they were in 2010), they would've netted the Sox about nine more wins, per FanGraphs' WAR. Nine wins puts the Sox at 88 on the season, firmly in playoff contention if not for the AL Central, for the AL Wild Card.

Maybe Buehrle still goes. Guillen, too, perhaps, still leaves with the pull of Miami too strong. But the chances that both franchise-altering moves happen would have to be lowered with the Sox contending for the playoffs through the end of the season, right?

For the record, these aren't the kind of downturns that you can predict. Rios, maybe -- he struggled in the second half of 2010, at least -- but not Dunn. So don't jump to blame Kenny Williams for this. It's not his fault.

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?

Update: Our Chuck Garfien found this video of Enoy taking some cuts with his big brother — all decked out in White Sox gear, too.

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.