White Sox

White Sox coaching staff will rely more heavily on statistics

White Sox coaching staff will rely more heavily on statistics

Statistical analysis will weigh more heavily on the White Sox coaching staff’s daily decisions after Joe McEwing was elevated to Rick Renteria’s bench coach on Friday.

McEwing -- whose influence led to a 957 percent increase in defensive shifts utilized from 2013-16 -- replaces Renteria, who was named the team’s new manager on Oct. 3 after Robin Ventura announced he wouldn’t return.

Former player development director Nick Capra replaces McEwing as third-base coach while Curt Hasler was promoted from minor-league pitching coordinator to replace bullpen coach Bobby Thigpen.

McEwing’s promotion is another sign the franchise will stress the use of statistical analysis when constructing its lineup, etc., a move Ventura suggested was in progress when he said the White Sox needed a new voice. Renteria likes how he worked with McEwing last season and suggested analysis would have a big impact on their day-to-day operations.

“All the information that is provided to us plays an important part in how we move forward,” Renteria said. “We look at outcomes, which are the statistical analysis aspects. But then we are also trying to stay ahead of the curve. We do a lot of video work, trying to see if guys are changing their approaches. In terms of the shifts, we did incorporate shifts, but we also did some modifications as was to be expected when you see guys changing approaches with two strikes and things of that nature or runners in scoring position -- all those different aspects that come into play.”

Similar to many organizations, the White Sox have drastically modified how they align themselves defensively over the past four seasons under McEwing and general manager Rick Hahn. According to FanGraphs, the White Sox went from being ranked 27th in shifts implemented in 2013 to ninth by 2014 with an increase from 102 to 588. The White Sox shifted 1,079 times last season and McEwing has been instrumental in that transformation, several team sources said. It’s reasonable to expect analysis will be used more often in lineup construction and game strategy under Renteria, too. He didn’t shy away from the use of statistical analysis when he managed on the other side of town in 2014, Cubs third-base coach Gary Jones said last week.

“It’s part of our daily preparation,” Jones said. “Rick is good with it as we are right now. It was definitely a part of the equation, no doubt.”

[RELATED: White Sox announce coaching staff changes] 

Renteria cited familiarity when asked why he didn’t go outside of the organization for coaching staff hires. McEwing has long been held in high regard within the franchise and interviewed for managerial openings in Houston and Texas in 2014. Renteria suggested McEwing’s work ethic -- and how he works -- had a big impact on his promotion.

“Having sat side by side (with McEwing) going over a lot of game reviews and studying the opposition and setting up defense, I got to know him quite well,” Renteria said. “He’s a hard worker. He’s in there early looking for anything that will give us an edge. His managing experience and coaching experience also allows him an opportunity to be able to serve me well.

“It’s a good fit. We both are kind of high energy. Joey might be a little higher energy than me and I didn’t think that was possible. He brings a lot to the table.”

The White Sox announced the rest of its staff -- first-base coach Daryl Boston, pitching coach Don Cooper, hitting coach Todd Steverson, assistant hitting coach Greg Sparks and bullpen catcher Mark Salas -- would return in 2017.

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.