Rick Renteria

Can Rick Renteria stay a 'balance guy' if White Sox lineup of the future isn't so balanced?

Can Rick Renteria stay a 'balance guy' if White Sox lineup of the future isn't so balanced?

Balance.

It’s Rick Renteria’s philosophy when constructing his daily lineups, criticism be damned, as the skipper informed reporters during a more animated than usual pregame media session Tuesday in Minnesota.

“Most people want to go through and just (have me make) statistically based decisions. OK, I'm not that guy,” he said. “I trust myself and the things I do. I think there's a balance.

“I don't discount numbers. Never have, never will. But I'm a balance guy. I'm not going to appeal to the sabermetrician on a daily basis. Never will, never want to. Not my intent. If they don't like it, I don't really give a shit.

“I do things because I think it's the right thing for me to do. I know everybody has their opinion. Maybe it puts me on the outs. That's fine. But I'm going to do what I think I need to do with the guys I have.”

It’s why you’ve seen some of the lineups you’ve seen, ones that at times have had the fan base scratching their collective head. Much of that probably has to do with the fact that Renteria doesn’t yet have a contending roster at his disposal. He can only use the guys he’s got.

But plenty of it is philosophy, too, begging this question: Once the White Sox do have a contending roster, perhaps as soon as next season, will Renteria’s philosophy of balance — the philosophy that had Matt Skole batting ahead of Eloy Jimenez in Wednesday’s lineup, for example — be able to persist?

I ask that because looking at the projected lineup stocked with core players, it’s not very balanced, at least from a lefty-righty standpoint. James McCann, Jose Abreu, Nick Madrigal, Tim Anderson, Jimenez and Luis Robert are all right-handed hitters. Yoan Moncada is a switch-hitter. Zack Collins is a left-handed hitter. That’s two-thirds of the everyday lineup batting right-handed and more than that when Moncada hits right-handed against left-handed pitchers.

It’s worth noting, too, that Andrew Vaughn is a right-handed hitter, though this year’s first-round draft pick might not factor into the 2020 season. Leury Garcia and Yolmer Sanchez could find their way onto the 2020 roster as reserves. They are both switch-hitters.

But given the prevalence of right-handed hitters, will Renteria be able to find a lefty-righty balance with a lineup like that?

Most likely, Renteria will continue to "do what I think I need to do with the guys I have." And if the guys he has are all those players living up to their potential, then it won't really matter if the lineup is balanced or not because the White Sox will be doing what Rick Hahn has long hoped to do: fielding a perennial contender.

But maybe this whole issue could have some impact on the White Sox plans this offseason. As you might have noticed, I listed just eight “everyday” players in that group above, leaving out a right fielder because we don’t know who the team’s everyday right fielder for the 2020 season is going to be at the moment. Considering the aggressiveness Hahn’s front office seems to be heading into the winter with, that right fielder could very well be an outside addition.

And given the dearth of left-handed hitting currently projected for the roster, it could very well be a left-handed right fielder.

Whether or not the White Sox consider that a pressing need or not is unknown. But the numbers haven’t been great this season, as broadcaster Steve Stone pointed out Wednesday.


The team’s batting splits against right-handed pitchers this season have been significantly worse than the splits against left-handed pitchers. The White Sox came into Wednesday with a team .245/.299/.387 line against righties and a .275/.327/.436 line against lefties. Left-handed batters haven’t fared well in the power department that Stone addressed against either hand of pitcher, slugging .338 against righties and .355 against lefties.

Now, before you go searching for the list of this offseason’s free-agent outfielders, a warning: Three of the more intriguing names — Marcell Ozuna, Yasiel Puig and Nicholas Castellanos — are all right-handed hitters. The list after those three gets a little less attractive. That could mean more of an emphasis on trade candidates.

This is all speculation, of course, but it could narrow the list of offseason targets for Hahn and his front office, if they value balance as much as their manager does. If they choose to add another right-handed bat to the mix in filling a seeming void in right field, then perhaps it will be Renteria who needs to adjust come 2020.

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Rick Renteria defends his daily lineup construction: 'I'm going to do what I think I need to do with the guys I have'

Rick Renteria defends his daily lineup construction: 'I'm going to do what I think I need to do with the guys I have'

Rick Renteria might not be on Twitter, but apparently that hasn't stopped him from hearing the complaints and critiques about his daily lineup construction.

During another frustrating season featuring more losses than wins and heading toward the franchise's 11th straight October without playoff baseball, Renteria's lineups have been an easy target for critics. While Leury Garcia has been a reasonably productive mainstay in the leadoff spot and Jose Abreu is entrenched in the No. 3 spot, the rest of the team has bounced around up and down the batting order.

Cherry picking a few notable examples, Tim Anderson — who's boasted one of the highest batting averages in the American League throughout this breakout season — has spent nearly as much time batting seventh as he has batting second. Power-hitting rookie Eloy Jimenez has spent most of his time in the fifth and sixth spots in the lineup, with fewer at-bats in the run-producing cleanup spot than Yonder Alonso, Welington Castillo and Jon Jay, three players who have struggled swinging the bat this season and likely have no place in the team's plans past the end of the 2019 season. (Alonso, obviously, was released months ago.)

Those decisions have had many fans scratching their heads throughout the season, and Renteria seems to be aware of the complaints, enough at least to get more animated than usual when asked about the reasoning behind his lineups during his pregame media session with reporters Tuesday in Minnesota.

"A lot of it has to be trust," he told reporters, including an NBC Sports Chicago camera, at Target Field. "Most people want to go through and just (have me make) statistically based decisions. OK, I'm not that guy. I trust myself and the things I do. I think there's a balance.

"I don't discount numbers. Never have, never will. But I'm a balance guy. I'm not going to appeal to the sabermetrician on a daily basis. Never will, never want to. Not my intent. If they don't like it, I don't really give a shit.

"I do things because I think it's the right thing for me to do. I know everybody has their opinion. Maybe it puts me on the outs. That's fine. But I'm going to do what I think I need to do with the guys I have.

"I know my guys. I know what they're capable of doing. It may not always work out. I can't defend something I can't quantify because everybody wants history behind it. But you can't develop history unless you allow an opportunity for an individual to be put in a particular situation for an extended period of time."

An interesting response from the skipper, who all fans must remember can only write lineups featuring the players he has at his disposal. A year from now, when more top-ranked prospects and possible outside additions are on the White Sox roster, Renteria's lineups will surely look much different. And the White Sox playing winning baseball would figure to back up any decision he makes more than the White Sox playing losing baseball has done in recent seasons.

But it also doesn't take a sabermetrician to know that the Castillos and Alonsos and Jays of the world aren't having productive enough seasons to warrant placement in a run-producing spot in the order, either.

It's a philosophical argument, and Renteria's offering up his philosophy. It wouldn't shock if that philosophy looks a lot better once the roster looks a lot better. Until then, fans might be left with more complaints and critiques.

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If White Sox are ready to win in 2020, Field of Dreams game could serve as breakout stage

If White Sox are ready to win in 2020, Field of Dreams game could serve as breakout stage

Time will tell whether the White Sox will make their transition from rebuilding mode to contention mode in 2020. But if next season is the one where the South Side rebuilding project begins to bear fruit, a nationally televised event like the Field of Dreams game could be the perfect stage for a national breakout.

The first-of-its-kind event pitting the White Sox against the New York Yankees in the Iowa cornfields of the “Field of Dreams” set is scheduled for Aug. 13, 2020, and has already generated a ton of buzz since its announcement Thursday morning.

By then, the White Sox will have been through a crucial offseason worth of roster change; young core players like Lucas Giolito, Yoan Moncada, Tim Anderson and Eloy Jimenez will have another year of big league experience under the belts; and highly rated prospects Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal and Michael Kopech all figure to be on the major league roster.

Will it all be enough to make the White Sox contenders? Again, that remains to be seen. While all those things count as positive developments, things have to go right for the White Sox to count that game against the Yankees, one of baseball’s best teams this season, as an important one.

But if things do go right, an event that draws the eyes of the baseball world would be the perfect opportunity for the up-and-coming White Sox to announce their arrival.

“It will mean a lot for us and how we're moving forward as an organization,” manager Rick Renteria said before Friday afternoon’s game at Guaranteed Rate Field. “I think it's a positive thing. I hope that there's a lot of recognition for these young men who continue to develop as major league players.

“Hopefully everybody kind of sees the excitement that we have and the reasons we have (to be excited about the future). Hopefully it will be a nice game and everybody will be able to kind of pin some really good hopes on us moving forward."

That’s the plan. The White Sox hung onto relievers Alex Colome and Aaron Bummer at this summer’s trade deadline, with general manager Rick Hahn explaining that he received no offers that warranted detracting from the 2020 roster. That was as big an affirmation as any that the White Sox do believe that 2020 could be the light at the end of this rebuilding tunnel.

Hahn has continued to profess the team’s intention to be aggressive this winter. Whether that means a big-time free-agent signing or a big-time trade acquisition remains unknown, but there’s an expectation of meaningful activity that could go a long way toward getting the White Sox into the winning portion of this effort in 2020.

There will surely be skepticism that the good times could come that soon, and there are plenty of question marks in this equation.

There’s excitement about Kopech’s return from Tommy John surgery, but his next start will be just the fifth of his big league career. Robert and Madrigal will be getting their first tastes of the majors. Growing pains for those young players — like the ones Giolito and Moncada went through in their first full major league seasons — would not be unexpected.

Meanwhile, despite a good run of late from Reynaldo Lopez, questions exist about his consistency. Despite showing flashes of his star ability, Jimenez is going through those aforementioned growing pains in 2019. Despite All-Star appearances, Jose Abreu and James McCann have gone through second-half slumps, though both players had more success on the just-completed road trip through Philadelphia and Detroit. Despite a recent offensive adjustment that’s working well in Triple-A, Zack Collins struggled in his brief big league stint earlier this season and still faces questions about his defense.

These are all valid concerns, and it’s possible they could conspire to push winning time back another season for the White Sox.

But the ingredients certainly exist — and figure to look even better after offseason moves — to bring about that transition in 2020. And if that transition takes place, the White Sox appearing with a winning roster in one of Major League Baseball’s biggest events of the regular season could make people take notice.

The famous line from the movie goes, “If you build it, they will come.” Well, what about if you rebuild? Will the eyes of the baseball world come? That could happen when the White Sox take the field among the cornstalks next summer.

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