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.
Stark contrast today. Twins start 92 homeruns from their left hand hitters. Sox start 7 homeruns from their lineup. Priority number 1 for next year is lefthanded power. Moncada back will help but much more is needed. Balance is essential. Develop, buy or trade for lefty bangers— Steve Stone (@stevestone) August 21, 2019
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.