White Sox

Multiple All Stars for the White Sox? Not a crazy thought through 2019's first two months

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USA TODAY

Multiple All Stars for the White Sox? Not a crazy thought through 2019's first two months

The White Sox are still rebuilding, still owners of a sub-.500 record, but progress has been pretty hard to miss through the season’s first two months.

With All-Star balloting officially underway, will that progress manifest itself in the form of multiple All-Star bids for the South Siders?

It’s not a crazy thought.

The team boasted just one All Star in 2018, which ended with the White Sox losing 100 games. Jose Abreu was elected the starting first baseman for the American League, but there wasn’t much argument to be made that the White Sox deserved more than one player on the squad. In fact, 2018 was the worst statistical season of Abreu’s career to this point, but a lack of competition made him the pick at first base.

This year, the level of competition doesn’t matter as much, because there are four or five or more White Sox with great claims to being included on the AL All-Star roster.

Ironically, while the White Sox join every team in baseball in launching their “get out the vote” campaign, the player with the best case for an All-Star nod is an unelectable pitcher. Lucas Giolito has been fantastic in 2019, with a stellar May vaulting him into the category of the best pitchers in the Junior Circuit. His 2.85 ERA ranks eighth in the AL, and his 69 strikeouts rank 12th. He might be on his way to AL Pitcher of the Month honors thanks to a 1.74 ERA and 46 strikeouts in six May starts.

When it comes to players fans can actually vote for, Tim Anderson probably has the best case for an All-Star bid. He entered Friday night’s game against the Cleveland Indians still the American League leader in batting average, with a .337 clip. He took home AL Player of the Month honors for April, and he’s been in baseball’s national spotlight thanks to his mission to inject more fun into the game. If the league truly wants to “let the kids play,” then including Anderson in the All-Star festivities would be a good thing.

Abreu is up to his usual tricks again, the AL leader in RBIs when the sun came up on the last day of May. He’s got a .523 slugging percentage to go along with his 15 home runs and those 49 RBIs, and while the first-base competition is a little stronger than last year — Dan Vogelbach and C.J. Cron might have something to say about who ends up starting — Abreu still has as good a case as anyone. It wouldn’t be a shock to see him there again in July.

Positional competition, however, could be a factor in whether or not James McCann gets into the All-Star Game. The White Sox catcher is having an excellent season, no doubt about it, with a .346 batting average and a .384 on-base percentage. Those are some of the best numbers among AL catchers, but there are other worthy backstops, chiefly Mitch Garver and Gary Sanchez. The former is reaching base at an insane .418 clip, and the latter has already mashed 17 homers, almost twice as many as Garver’s nine. But there’s no question that McCann deserves consideration.

Then there’s Yoan Moncada, whose accomplishments to this point haven’t been as gaudy as the previously mentioned quartet of White Sox. But he’s been solid, with a .280/.333/.491 heading into Friday’s game, and he’s one of just five AL third basemen with double-digit homers. Plus, there’s a lot of season left before the All-Star rosters are finalized, meaning a hot streak could make him just as attractive as anyone. We’ll have to wait and see for that. Bottom line: It’s been a good season for Moncada.

Oh, and that’s before even getting to Alex Colome and some of the other shut-down arms in the White Sox bullpen. Colome’s been dominant, with only four AL closers in possession of more saves than his 11. He’s given up only four runs, and opposing batters are hitting just .110 against him. Aaron Bummer and Evan Marshall haven’t logged too many innings, but they’ve given up a combined one run on the season. Not too shabby.

It’s unlikely, of course, that the White Sox will send eight players to Cleveland for the Midsummer Classic. But suggesting that multiple players could be representing the White Sox at the All-Star Game is nowhere near out of the question, something that should stand as another example of progress as the 2019 season continues to look a whole heck of a lot better than the 2018 one.

“We've had some guys who've been doing very, very well,” manager Rick Renteria said Friday, presented with the idea of several All-Star worthy White Sox. “I think Pito's doing well. Timmy's doing well. We have some pitchers, Lucas, who's been doing well. Yoan's starting to come around.

“A lot of these guys are putting themselves on the map in terms of who they are as individuals, compared to the rest of the major league scene, in terms of players who play the same positions. I'm glad that at least Major League Baseball and kind of the world is starting to see who these guys are. I think it's exciting.

“They should be excited about it. They deserve it. They're working toward that. But as a Chicago White Sock fan and the manager of the Chicago White Sox, I'm extremely happy that at least these young men are starting to get some accolades, that people are starting to see that these guys can play.”

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White Sox 2005 Rewind: The rotation starred, but the bullpen was championship caliber, too

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AP

White Sox 2005 Rewind: The rotation starred, but the bullpen was championship caliber, too

Even in the handful of games we’ve shown from the early portion of the 2005 season, one thing is abundantly clear: This starting rotation was very, very good.

But while the game has evolved to place greater emphasis on relief pitching, no team, not even 15 years ago, could win the World Series without a strong bullpen. And certainly the White Sox had a strong bullpen, their 3.23 relief ERA one of the three best in baseball in 2005.

April 13 against the Indians, the White Sox got the kind of performance from their relief corps that signaled the pitching staff as a whole, not just the rotation, was championship caliber.

Jose Contreras wasn’t really that bad in this one, despite issuing five walks. He gave up just four runs in 6.2 innings, hardly something to overly bemoan. But once he surrendered a hammered home run to Grady Sizemore that tied the score at 4 in the seventh inning, he got the hook. It was the bullpen’s job to keep an Indians lineup that to that point had put 10 men on base, five hits and five walks against Contreras, from doing anything else.

And that’s exactly what happened. Three different pitchers — Damaso Marte, Luis Vizcaino and Dustin Hermanson — retired 10 of the 11 hitters they faced.

An early season blow up stood out as an outlier, perhaps clouding judgments at the effectiveness of the ‘pen. As Adam Hoge wrote about Saturday, closer Shingo Takatsu gave up three homers in one appearance against these Indians in the third game of the season, the kind of performance that haunts fans’ memories forever. The bullpen, in general, was hideous in that game, with Neal Cotts tagged for a run and Vizcaino roughed up for a whopping six tallies in the 11th inning.

But that game was truly an outlier. After the 4.1 shutout frames April 13 and excluding the April 7 disaster, the White Sox bullpen had a miniscule 1.76 ERA, allowing just three runs in their 15.1 innings of work.

Contreras was shaky in this game, but kept the Indians from running up a huge run total. The bullpen locked the Indians down and allowed the White Sox hitters to pull ahead for good on a Juan Uribe sacrifice fly in the 10th.

And providing a bit of foreshadowing, Hermanson got his first save of the season. Takatsu was jettisoned from the role not long into the campaign, and Hermanson bridged the gap between Takatsu and Bobby Jenks. Hermanson racked up saves into September and had 34 of them on the season.

This rotation was excellent, no doubt about it, and it’s probably the No. 1 reason why the White Sox won the World Series in 2005. But even the best rotations can be limited by a bad bullpen. Fortunately for the South Siders, they had a good one.

What else?

— Five walks is a lot of walks. While Contreras had himself a good season, he walked 75 batters in 2005, the fourth highest total in the American League. It’s perfectly obvious why pitchers should limit their walks, but certainly this game could serve as Exhibit A. Contreras walked the leadoff man in each of the first two innings, with both runners coming around to score. That helped put the White Sox in a 3-0 hole after two. Contreras had more days like this as the season went on, with three more games in which he walked at least five opposing hitters, including a start on July 1 where he walked seven. The White Sox went 2-2 in those four games, though they lost the seven-walk start against the Oakland Athletics.

— “It’s his job to keep them right there, let the team get back into it. He’s perfectly capable of going six innings and at least giving the hitters an opportunity to get back into it.” Darrin Jackson looked prescient, because despite the walks, Contreras did keep the Indians at bay enough for his offense to engineer a comeback, pull ahead and later pull out a win in extra innings.

— “It’s really amazing that a little thing like a leadoff bunt can shake things up for an offense.” Perfect analysis right there from DJ. Just as I discussed Scott Podsednik making things happen and starting a White Sox rally with a bunt single in the April 11 game against this same Indians team, Pablo Ozuna did the exact same thing to leadoff the fourth inning, starting a three-run frame. That disrupted Cliff Lee enough after retiring the first nine hitters he faced that he gave up three straight hits, the third from Carl Everett (an infield single that featured a ridiculously airmailed throw by Lee) driving in the White Sox first run. Maybe that game-tying rally doesn’t happen without Ozuna’s small-ball start.

— Bob Wickman got his revenge, this time. In the second game of the season, Paul Konerko and Jermaine Dye dramatically hit back-to-back homers off the Indians closer to erase a three-run deficit and set up a thrilling comeback win on the South Side. This time, not so much. Facing Konerko and Dye again to lead off the ninth inning, he retired them both, as well as Aaron Rowand, for a 1-2-3 innings that briefly preserved a 4-all tie. Wickman had a huge 2005 season, making the All-Star team and leading the AL with 45 saves.

— Another arm brought on from the Cleveland ‘pen wasn’t so lucky. It was familiar face Bob Howry, who pitched for the White Sox from 1998 to 2001. He took the loss in this one, the leadoff double he gave up to A.J. Pierzynski to start the 10th the critical blow. Pierzynski moved to third on a Joe Crede bunt and scored on Uribe’s sacrifice fly. And that was the ballgame.

— In the top of the 10th, famous Indians fan Drew Carey caught a foul ball! Cleveland rocks, baby.

Next up

#SoxRewind rolls on Monday, when you can catch the April 19, 2005, game against the Twins, starting at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago. El Duque on the mound for the South Siders.

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White Sox 2005 Rewind: Scott Podsednik and the art of making things happen

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AP

White Sox 2005 Rewind: Scott Podsednik and the art of making things happen

An awful lot of energy is spent these days discussing the leadoff spot.

Offense struggling? Maybe there needs to be a new leadoff hitter. Offense doing fine but the leadoff man isn’t of the stereotypical variety? Better think about making a change.

While teams certainly don’t need a stereotypical leadoff hitter who specializes in speed and small ball to be successful — the school of thought that your best player should get the most plate appearances possible is not a bad one — Scott Podsednik showed how guys at the top of the order can simply make things happen and win you ballgames because of it.

On April 11, 2005, the White Sox were once again having trouble figuring out Kevin Millwood, who was throwing his second gem against the White Sox in as many starts to begin his season. But after five scoreless innings, Podsednik made something happen.

He popped up a bunt that went so awry that it went over Millwood and behind the pitcher’s mound. It was a bad bunt, maybe, but it worked. He reached first with a single. Not long after, he used that blazing speed of his to swipe second base and put himself in scoring position with nobody out.

In a one-run game, the White Sox down 1-0 at the time, Podsednik changed everything. He scored the tying run two batters later, when Carl Everett drove him in with a single. It’s a run that doesn’t happen without Podsednik’s skill set. Call it the best argument in favor of the stereotypical leadoff man. Or just call it making things happen.

Podsednik did it again two innings later, driving in the winning run to cap a two-out rally against Millwood. After two quick outs, Chris Widger and Joe Crede delivered back-to-back singles. Podsednik made it three in a row, driving in Widger — who went from first to third on Crede’s hit up the middle — to put the White Sox in front.

Podsednik’s work 15 years ago isn’t likely to do much to sway any ongoing arguments over who should lead off for the 2020 White Sox or any of the 29 other teams. But it sure paid big dividends for the 2005 White Sox.

He made it happen.

What else?

— Millwood pitched extraordinarily well against the White Sox for the second time in 2005. After throwing six shutout innings on April 6, he allowed just two runs over seven innings in this one. Millwood ended up making five starts against the White Sox in 2005, logging a 1.32 ERA in 34 innings, but went just 0-2 in those five games. He had himself an excellent season overall, with a 2.86 ERA that led the American League and was the second lowest single-season ERA of his 16-year big league career. He finished sixth in the AL Cy Young vote that season, tying with White Sox pitcher Jon Garland and finishing behind Mark Buehrle.

— Freddy Garcia was pretty darn good in this one, too, throwing eight innings of one-run ball. He retired the final 13 batters he faced. Garcia allowed just three runs in 14 innings in his first two starts of the season. This one was the first of a whopping nine outings he made that season of at least eight innings.

— Garcia threw a pair of wild pitches with Grady Sizemore at the dish in the second inning, two of the 20 he ended up throwing in 2005. That total led the major leagues. In the following season, his second full campaign with the White Sox, he only threw four in the same number of starts, 33.

— Podsednik threw Ronnie Belliard out at third base in the third inning, preventing what might’ve been another run in the inning the Indians scored their lone tally. Podsednik had three outfield assists in 2005.

— “Aaron’s going to get hit a lot in his career.” Hawk Harrelson chalked up Aaron Rowand getting hit by a pitch in the fifth inning to the center fielder’s approach at the plate. Well, Rowand did get hit by a lot of pitches in 2005, 21 of them, to be exact. Only Shea Hillenbrand of the Blue Jays got hit by more that season. This one that caught Rowand in the hand looked like it hurt like hell.

— Remember when the Indians played at The Jake? Good times.

Since you been gone

While #SoxRewind is extensive, it doesn’t include all 162 regular-season contests, meaning we’re going to be skipping over some games. So what’d we miss since last time?

April 10, 2005: The White Sox got shut down by the reigning AL Cy Young winner, Johan Santana, who allowed just two runs in his seven innings, striking out 11. The Twins tagged Buehrle for five runs, including four in the third inning alone. Torii Hunter’s three-run homer was the big blow in that frame. White Sox lose, 5-2, drop to 4-2.

Next up

#SoxRewind rolls on Sunday, when you can catch the April 13, 2005, game against the Indians, starting at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago. It’s an extra-inning affair with some heroics from Juan Uribe.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.