White Sox

Looking at Luis Robert’s 2020 ZiPS Projection

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Laura Wolff/Charlotte Knights

Looking at Luis Robert’s 2020 ZiPS Projection

The White Sox are the most intriguing team in the American League Central, if not the entire league. Rebuild architect Rick Hahn has done such a nice job this offseason it seems as if he’s ready for a promotion to city planner.

There’s a list of players acquired via free agency or trade, but it’s possible that the biggest added impact for 2020 may be a player who had already been in the organization.

Luis Robert.

From the day he was signed, Robert was somewhat of an enigma. There wasn’t much video for eager fans to devour. He was a mythical leviathan comprised of glowing scouting reports held together by tools. Countless tools.

The breakout party was slated to be in 2018, but there were thumb injuries. And 50 games without a home run. But the glistening scouting reports continued unabated.

2019 equated to a giant “I told you so” on behalf of all of the scouts. Over three levels:

PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI SB BB K
551 .328 .376 .624 32 92 36 24 129

But how will that translate in the majors?

Luckily we have projection systems to help us out a little. A little over a month ago, the ZiPS projections debuted over at Fangraphs. For those unfamiliar with ZiPS, read the explanation here:

Below is Luis Robert’s 2020 projection, according to ZiPS:

PA BA OBP SLG HR RBI SB BB K WAR
539 .265 .309 .455 20 63 24 22 152 2.3

I find the business of player projections to be fascinating stuff, and I had some questions about how one would even project someone with the unique background and résumé of Luis Robert. So I reached out to Dan Szymborski, who developed the ZiPS system and asked a few questions.

What I wanted to know was does the fact that Robert was split between three levels in 2019 complicate matters, and how about his overall small sample of minor league games stateside? And would he be grouped with other players who came to the United States via the Cuban League?

“The split doesn't really complicate the projection, the general problem is the shorter resume," Szymborski said. "The main problem is the accuracy, the less data, the larger the error bars are. Because Robert is very young, the windows ZiPS looks at is smaller, so the Cuban stats aren't playing a role at this point. ZiPS doesn't group comparables by origin or level - using translations puts everyone on the same level, so he'll be compared to both major and minor leaguers of roughly the same estimated baseline expectation.”

Definitely give Dan a follow - @DSzymborski – he’s one of the better baseball follows around not only for his analysis, but also for his MLB players/WWE video game mashup tweets:

Now about that projection: 20+ homers and 20+ steals and making an MLB debut in the same season is rare. Only three players have done it.

1977 Mitchell Page (A’s) – 21 HR, 42 SB

1987 Ellis Burks (Red Sox) – 20 HR, 27 SB

1995 Marty Cordova (Twins) – 24 HR, 20 SB

And of those players listed, only Burks did it in his age 22 season. The other two did it at age 25.

As Robert enters his age 22 season, he would be only the second player in White Sox history to hit 20 or more at that age – after Eloy Jiménez who hit 31 at age 22 last season.

Of course, the overall projection (.265/.309/.455) isn’t nearly as gaudy as his minor league numbers, but that is to be expected. Major League Baseball is a lot harder than the minors. Robert’s profile (not many walks, plenty of strikeouts) will lead to a few bumps along the road. But that aside, Robert is a rare talent -  especially at a premium position – and will bring plenty of excitement and perhaps a load of Rookie of the Year votes to the South Side in 2020.

 

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Trust in White Sox closer Shingo Takatsu dwindled early in 2005 season

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USA Today

Trust in White Sox closer Shingo Takatsu dwindled early in 2005 season

Early in the 2005 season, there was one White Sox player that fans thought was on thin ice and another who actually was on thin ice.

Despite playing great defense at third base, Joe Crede hadn’t exactly won over the fan base yet. He hit just .239 in 2004 with a .717 OPS in his second full major league season. He was already 27 and the White Sox had used their first round draft pick in 2004 to select hot shot third baseman Josh Fields, who was already considered an MLB Top 100 prospect.

So when Crede got off to a 3-for-21 start in the team’s first six games in ’05, there were already calls for his benching.

It wasn't going to happen. Kenny Williams and Ozzie Guillen were prepared to be patient with Crede. They seemed more concerned with closer Shingo Takatsu.

Takatsu had taken the South Side by storm in 2004, entering games in the ninth inning to standing ovations and the sound of a gong playing over the speakers at U.S. Cellular Field. After taking over the closing duties in June, Takatsu converted 19-of-20 save opportunities in his first year with the White Sox.

Still, there were concerns that his unique frisbee style of pitching wouldn't last once teams saw Takatsu more than once. Those concerns were heightened when the Indians tagged him for three solo home runs on April 7, 2005, leading to the White Sox’s first loss of the season. Takatsu’s only blown save in 2004 also came to the Indians and Guillen was already voicing his concerns.

“I might not use him against (the Indians),” Guillen told the Chicago Tribune. “They have a good left-handed lineup. Right now, he’s going to be there no matter what. We’re going to see the next couple days.”

It wasn’t exactly a vote of confidence, especially considering the White Sox had already played three straight close games against the Indians, including two one-run victories.

But that was the situation as the White Sox went to Cleveland with a 4-2 record for the Indians’ home opener. Freddy Garcia took the mound for his second start of the season, while Kevin Millwood countered for the 3-3 Indians.

Here was Guillen’s lineup:

LF Scott Podsednik
2B Tadahito Iguchi
DH Carl Everett
1B Paul Konerko
RF Jermaine Dye
CF Aaron Rowand
SS Pablo Ozuna
C Chris Widger
3B Joe Crede

The White Sox-Indians game from Apr. 11, 2005 will air Saturday at 4 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Chicago. For the full White Sox Rewind schedule from the 2005 season, click here.

Remember That Guy: White Sox infielder Geoff Blum

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USA TODAY

Remember That Guy: White Sox infielder Geoff Blum

Say “Game 3” to any White Sox fan and there’s one name that will immediately come to mind.

Geoff Blum.

Blum was born April 26, 1973 in Redwood City, Calif. He was a star shortstop for Chino High School in Chino, Calif and attended UC Berkeley, where he was All-Pac 10 in 1994. The Montreal Expos selected him in the seventh round of the 1994 MLB Draft. After the 1995 minor league season at high-A West Palm Beach, he spent his winter playing for the Hunter Eagles of the Australian League. In 1996, Blum played at Harrisburg (AA) of the Eastern League, then moved up to Triple-A Ottawa for 1997.

He had his best minor league season in 1998 when he hit .277 with six home runs across four levels, though he missed some time with an elbow injury. Blum started 1999 in Ottawa and finally, on Aug. 9, made his MLB debut for Les Expos de Montréal, going 2-for-4 with a run, double and two RBIs in an 8-0 win over the Padres at Stade Olympique.

Blum is the only player in Expos history (1969-2004) to collect multiple hits AND multiple RBIs in a major league debut. On Aug. 13 in Game 1 of a doubleheader at Coors Field, Blum hit his first big league home run off Mike DeJean. As it turns out, all eight of his home runs in 1999 came on the road, including one off Randy Johnson on Aug. 31 in Arizona.

2000 was Blum’s first full MLB season and he hit a respectable .283/.335/.449 with 11 home runs. He played all four infield positions, something he’d end up doing every year from 2000-08. Add in Blum’s ability to switch hit and that’s a pretty valuable guy to have on a team. Blum’s teammates with the 1999-2000 Expos included future 2005 White Sox teammates Dustin Hermanson and Chris Widger.

In 2001, Blum took a step back, hitting .236/.313/.351, though on July 5, he became the fifth player in Expos history to homer from both sides of the plate in a game. The Expos dealt him to the Astros in March 2002 for third baseman Chris Truby.

Blum responded with his finest season, hitting .283/.367/.440 with 10 home runs and 52 RBIs. He logged his lone career five-hit game on April 19, 2003, a 14-inning loss in Milwaukee. It seems as if there was something about 14-inning games that brought out the best in Blum, as would be illustrated again later. Another 2003 highlight was Blum’s career-long 16-game hitting streak from June 25 to July 17.

In 2004, Blum repeated his 10 home runs and 52 RBI from the previous season. After his rate stats took a dip and at the end of the season, the Astros dealt him to Tampa Bay for pitcher Brandon Backe.

Blum had a down year for Lou Piniella’s 70-91 Rays, posting a career-low .215 batting average with 8 home runs in 112 games. Two of those home runs were on May 4 –– one from each side of the plate –– and Blum became the first player in Rays history to pull that off. He signed with the Padres for 2005, playing all over the infield with a respectable .241/.321/.375 slash line in 78 games. San Diego dealt him at the trade deadline.

At the time, the White Sox were reportedly interested in A.J. Burnett of the Marlins, Jason Schmidt of the Giants and Billy Wagner of the Phillies. Instead, they brought in insurance for Joe Crede and his ailing back, acquiring  Blum for pitcher Ryan Meaux. To make room for Blum on the roster, as well as pitcher Jon Adkins (who was recalled from the minors at the time) both Ross Gload and Willie Harris were optioned to Charlotte.

Blum ended up playing 31 games down the stretch, hitting .200 with a home run – Aug. 29 at Texas. But the move paid dividends. Blum popped out in a pinch hit appearance for Paul Konerko in Game 1 of the ALDS and wouldn’t appear in another game until Game 3 of the World Series. He entered in the 13th inning when he came out to play second base, replacing Bobby Jenks in the fifth spot of the batting order.

After a Jermaine Dye single and a Paul Konerko double play, it seemed as if Astros reliever Ezequiel Astacio was going to escape the top of the 14th inning with the score tied at five. Not so fast.

Blum poked a 2-0 pitch down the right field line and into the stands to give the White Sox a 6-5 lead. The Sox tacked on another run to make it 7-5, which held, and then won Game 4 to sweep the series.

Blum is one of four players in MLB history to homer in their lone career World Series at-bat, along with Jim Mason in 1976, Bobby Kielty in 2007 and Michael A. Taylor in 2019. Blum is also one of only two players in World Series history to hit a go-ahead/game winning home run in his only World Series at-bat, joining Kirk Gibson in 1988.

It was Blum’s last appearance in a White Sox uniform. He signed a one-year deal with the Padres in 2006 and performed admirably, hitting 12-for-31 (.387) as a pinch hitter and starting at shortstop in the NLDS against the Cardinals. He signed for another year in 2007 before spending 2008-10 with the Astros.

Blum hit a career-high 14 home runs in 2008, and in 2009 he recorded three walk-off hits – the only three of his career - including consecutive games against the Cubs on June 10-11. In 2010, Blum suffered one of the more unusual injuries in baseball history when he hurt his elbow while putting on a shirt.

Blum appeared in 40 games for the Diamondbacks over 2011-12 and called it a career. He debuted as Astros TV color commentator in 2013 and has been in that role ever since.

On March 3, Chino High School retired Blum’s No. 11. He is the first athlete in the school’s 123-year history to have a number retired. He also wore No. 11 for the Expos as well as with the Rays. He wore that number in honor of former All-Star third baseman Doug DeCinces.

Blum’s MLB career included 1,389 games, a .250 batting average, 990 hits and 99 home runs, with five career multi-HR games. Oh yeah, and one huge World Series home run.

Geoff Blum. We remember that guy!

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