rookie of the year

Eloy Jiménez finishes fourth in Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year voting

Eloy Jiménez finishes fourth in Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year voting

It looks like 31 home runs isn’t enough to even get you on the podium for rookie of the year. Yordan Álvarez won this year’s AL Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year award by a unanimous vote, with the South Side’s own Eloy Jiménez coming in fourth place. This may come as a surprise to some Sox fans, who thought Jiménez would at least make the top three after making a splash in the latter half of his rookie season at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Jiménez led all AL rookies in home runs during the 2019-20 season. Jiménez is also one of only three White Sox to hit 30+ home runs as a rookie, alongside José Abreu (36 HRs) and Ron Kittle (35 HRs). But the stat that really makes Jiménez’s exclusion from the Rookie of the Year top three hard to swallow is that Jiménez is one of only 11 players in MLB history to hit 30+ home runs in his debut season.

Jiménez ended his season on an epic high note, batting .321/.355/.604 during his last 46 games. While this couldn’t get him the coveted Rookie of the Year title, we’re excited to see what Jiménez will bring to his sophomore major league season. 

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When They Were Prospects: Ron Kittle

When They Were Prospects: Ron Kittle

With such a strong focus on current White Sox prospects, we thought it’d be fun to take a look back at statistics and scouting reports of other South Side stars on their journey to the MLB. Our Chris Kamka dug deep into the numbers.

Ron Kittle’s ascent to the Major Leagues was improbable. Maybe even impossible.

Consider that he said this in 1981 (source: Chicago Tribune 7/20/1981) about his 1977 season:

“I played all season with a paralyzed arm. I don’t know when it happened, but it had to be during baseball because I know I was OK when I went to spring training. At the end of the season, I had surgery, spinal fusion. They took out a piece of hipbone and put it in my neck. I went back to spring training the next year and tried to play, but I couldn’t do it.  Everything was stiff. I couldn’t swing, and I couldn’t throw.”

He won the AL Rookie of the Year six years later.

Released by Dodgers in mid-1978, he went home to Gary, Indiana and played semipro ball and worked in the iron mills with his father and eventually received a tryout with the White Sox. 

By 1981 he was the Eastern League (AA) MVP with Glens Falls, crushing 40 home runs.

For an encore in 1982 he was the Pacific Coast League (AAA) MVP with 50 home runs. Nobody in the MLB-affiliated Minors has hit 50 in a season since.

In 1983 he was the lone White Sox representative in the 50th anniversary All-Star Game held at Comiskey Park. Kittle garnered AL Rookie of the Year honors with 35 round trippers which served as a White Sox rookie record until José Abreu did one better in 2014.

Kittle remains a fan favorite in the Chicagoland area, and he can still handle the lumber… although now he uses bats to make beautiful benches. You can check them out over at ronkittle.com.

How Theo Epstein sees Chili Davis making a difference for Cubs

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USA TODAY

How Theo Epstein sees Chili Davis making a difference for Cubs

The Cubs can’t send Chili Davis out to face Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw, but team president Theo Epstein believes his presence will help the franchise’s young hitters next October.

Those pronounced playoff struggles against the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers — on top of the way the New York Mets power pitchers overwhelmed the Cubs during that 2015 National League Championship Series sweep — led to a major shakeup of Joe Maddon’s coaching staff.

Firing hitting coach John Mallee isn’t really about what he didn’t do, because he worked nonstop across the last three years, overseeing an offense that actually scored more runs this season than the 2016 World Series team.

It’s more the instant credibility that Davis brings as a switch-hitter who made three All-Star teams and earned World Series rings with the 1991 Minnesota Twins and the last New York Yankees dynasty (1998-99).

Epstein initially brought Davis into the Boston Red Sox organization, hiring him as an overqualified hitting coach for Triple-A Pawtucket in 2011, the last season before sweeping changes would hit Fenway Park.

Davis spent the next six years as the big-league hitting coach for the Oakland A’s and Red Sox, working with players like Josh Donaldson, Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Reddick, Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Andrew Benintendi.

“Chili’s well-established as one of the very best hitting coaches in the game,” Epstein said after Thursday’s staff announcements. “His philosophy and approach happened to fit with what we hope will be the next step for many of our hitters. We talked after the season about hoping to get better with situational hitting, with our two-strike approach, with using the whole field, with having competitive, team-based at-bats.

“That happens to be Chili’s core philosophy — hitting line drives to the middle of the field. Your line drives will turn into home runs. He’s excellent at teaching a two-strike approach and teaching situational hitting. He’s really good at helping to get hitters to understand when an elite pitcher’s on his game, you have to sometimes take what he gives you, and have an adjustable swing, an adjustable approach for those situations.

“He’s got the gravitas of a 19-year career, 350 homers, over 1,300 RBIs. That combined with his excellent manner and ability to communicate with players makes him a really impactful figure.”

Mallee — who grew up as the son of a Chicago cop and graduated from Mount Carmel High School — brought stability to a position that used to have the job security of the drummer for Spinal Tap.

The Cubs wanted Mallee’s data-driven approach and the ability to explain heat maps and cold zones and how pitchers would attack each at-bat. Mallee also gave the Cubs a very accurate scouting report on Dexter Fowler before making that January 2015 trade with the Houston Astros.

During Mallee’s tenure, Kris Bryant became the fourth player in major-league history to be named MVP the season after winning Rookie of the Year honors. Ian Happ kept making enough adjustments to hit 24 home runs during his rookie season (with only 26 games of experience at Triple-A Iowa). Javier Baez made great strides this year — 23 homers, 75 RBI, .796 OPS — before an 0-for-20 tailspin to start the playoffs.

In one way, the Cubs even endorsed Mallee’s methods by promoting minor-league hitting coordinator Andy Haines to work with Davis as the assistant hitting coach. Mallee and Haines have a Miami connection after working in the Marlins organization.

“I would like to thank the Chicago Cubs for the amazing opportunity to be part of a great tradition and organization for the last three years,” Mallee wrote in a statement. “I left a great Houston Astros organization to be closer to home with my family and to help my hometown team win a World Series.

“We did that. I have no regrets and stand by my work. I wish nothing but the best for the Cubs organization and all the amazing people I met along the way, especially my hitters. See you from across the field.”

When the Cubs talk up their culture and the first-class organization they’ve built, there’s also an unspoken, underlying coldness to it all, even while making justifiable decisions. The Cubs publicly hailed Ricky Renteria basically up to the moment Maddon opted out of his contract with the Tampa Bay Rays and someone better came along.

Whether or not that will always be sustainable, Davis does have a great resume, no doubt. The Cubs are hoping Davis can help salvage the $184 million investment in Jason Heyward and rewire an offense that ranked last in batting average (.168) and on-base percentage (.240) among the 10-team playoff field. Outside of that unforgettable 9-8 thriller at Nationals Park, the Cubs scored 16 runs in nine postseason games.

“John Mallee is an outstanding hitting coach and we would not be in the position we’re in now with rings on our finger without him,” Epstein said. “Chili just happens to be, in our opinion, uniquely qualified for this group, at this moment in time, to help us get to the next level.”