White Sox

White Sox outfielder Charlie Tilson ready to hit the ground running in 2017 after serious injury

White Sox outfielder Charlie Tilson ready to hit the ground running in 2017 after serious injury

Charlie Tilson is back in action this week for the White Sox just five months after he needed season-ending surgery to repair a torn left hamstring.

The White Sox rookie outfielder is a participant at the team's hitters minicamp in Glendale, Ariz. alongside top prospect Yoan Moncada and 2016 first-round pick Zack Collins, among others. Tilson's action at the three-day camp at Camelback Ranch is his first since the local-product suffered the significant injury in the middle of his major league debut on Aug. 3 in Detroit. The centerfielder had to be helped off the field after trying to run down a fly ball in the right-center field gap only a few innings after he picked up his first big league hit.

"I can’t complain," Tilson said. "The rehab process has been going good. I'm still working through it. I'm able to pretty much compete and participate in everything, but there's still some barriers I've got to break. So I'm taking it one day at a time. But I'm really confident in the timeline I've got right now and hopefully I can get out here early and make an impact for the team."

The White Sox acquired the speedy Tilson from the St. Louis Cardinals in late July in exchange for left-handed reliever Zach Duke. The team intended to give Tilson a two-month tryout to see if he was worthy of being the club's everyday centerfielder in 2017.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

At the time, Tilson was thrilled for the opportunity to start for his favorite childhood team. Though he was initially disappointed by the news, Tilson afforded himself a few days to feel bad before he determined it was time to refocus his efforts. He's hopeful that the strong desire to return the field he displayed during his rehab will have him ready for spring training. The team holds its first full-squad workout on Feb. 18.

"Obviously it was a shame getting injured in that first game, but it's part of the game," Tilson said. "It's the nature of the game and those things happen and my whole focus has been 'How can I work through this and put myself in the best position to help this team out?' I'm taking it in stride and appreciating the opportunity I had for sure. Being able to get out there in Detroit and get my first hit in front of my family, incredible experience. Memories I won't forget.

"I let myself maybe feel bad for myself for a quick moment. But you've got to collect yourself and you've got to get back on your feet.

"After that moment I just decided to put all my energy and focus towards working to get back and I'm in a pretty good spot right now."

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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Daniel Palka finally has a good game in the middle of his nightmare season

palka-920.jpg
USA TODAY

Daniel Palka finally has a good game in the middle of his nightmare season

In the second inning Daniel Palka solidly lined a ball up the middle that looked like a sure hit off the bat. The problem? The Tigers defense was shifted perfectly to that spot for a lineout.

MLB Statcast gave Palka’s lineout an expected batting average of .650. It seemed like just another night like the rest of them have gone for Palka in the majors in 2019.

He entered Friday with a .034 batting average (2-for-59). After hitting 27 home runs with 45 extra base hits and a .778 OPS as a rookie in 2018, Palka hasn’t been able to do much of anything in a White Sox uniform.

That lineout appeared to be another “nothing can go right” moment. However, Palka’s Friday turned around.

His next time up, he pounded a ground ball that found a hole. Statcast gave that one a 31 percent chance of getting a hit, so he broke even after getting robbed earlier. The amusing thing is that Palka’s groundball single had an exit velocity of 108.9 mph, which was the second hardest hit ball of the game.

Palka later added a bloop single in the seventh and a line drive hit in the ninth to finish with a three hit day. Palka entered the day with two hits in 23 games and got three hits in Friday alone.

Even with the 3-for-5 night, Palka’s batting average is still only .072, but he more than doubled it in one game.

Is this relevant to the future of the White Sox? Almost certainly not, but Palka showed some promise in his rookie season and has been through an absolute nightmare this season. The mental side of going through his 0-for-32 start to the season and the continued struggles since could not have been easy. For at least one night in 2019 Palka had a good game at the plate.

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