White Sox

Yoan Moncada has a lot of strikeouts, and the White Sox think baseball's umpires might be partially to blame

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USA TODAY

Yoan Moncada has a lot of strikeouts, and the White Sox think baseball's umpires might be partially to blame

Yoan Moncada has done a lot of things this season — see Tuesday night’s leadoff home run — that signal his status of an expected centerpiece of the White Sox lineup of the future.

But he’s also striking out a lot.

It’s part of the growing pains during this developmental season on the South Side. But after two more strikeouts in Tuesday’s game, Moncada is on pace to strike out 243 times this year, which would be the most in a single season in major league history — by 20.

What’s the deal?

Well, Moncada’s offensive game hasn’t been where anyone has wanted it to be since his return from the disabled list on May 15. Even with Tuesday night’s long ball, he’s slashing just .202/.246/.368 in his last 28 games, and 41 of his 90 strikeouts have come during that stretch.

But Moncada’s manager doesn’t think all of those strikeouts are the 23-year-old’s fault. Rick Renteria is putting some of the blame on baseball’s umpires.

“He’s got as good an eye as anybody in the game of baseball,” Renteria said after Monday’s game, in which Moncada added three more strikeouts (two were looking) to his total. “And sometimes he gets some pitches called on him that should not be called — flat out, straight up.

“It’s a tough job that (umpires) have to do every single day, calling balls and strikes. But this poor kid, honestly, I think he gets the short end of the stick a lot of times, undeservedly. But that’s just the way it is. You’ve got to continue to understand what the zone is for particular guys behind the plate, do the best that you can without getting outside of your hitting zones and, depending on the situation, knowing how to handle those types of strike zones.

“He goes up there with a very good eye. We just want him to start getting his timing back so he can start making more contact and take advantage of the bat speed that he has.”

And Renteria’s not alone. General manager Rick Hahn made some similar comments before Monday’s game.

“It’s funny because one of my good buddies in Major League Baseball deals with the umpires, so I don’t want to go too far down this path, but Moncada had some tough ABs over the course of this (recent) road trip in terms of balls and strikes,” Hahn said. “The challenge for him, the developmental element for him just this week is making sure he remains true to his approach as opposed to overreacting to some perhaps bad Strike 3 calls over the course of the last week.”

Certainly a lot of Moncada’s strikeouts have come looking: He’s got 29 strikeouts looking compared to 61 strikeouts swinging. Going off what Renteria said, Moncada has earned a bit of a reputation among White Sox fans and observers for his selectivity at the plate, and while a selective batter waits for the perfect pitch, some backwards Ks might be a byproduct of that approach.

But this could also, in part, be a young player learning the intricacies of the game at the big league level. And that youth might be playing a factor, too. As Moncada gets more experience, it could serve him well in this department. Think about a veteran player or a superstar in basketball getting more calls than a rookie.

“I think as you gain more experience, as people see him and understand that this guy’s got a pretty good eye,” Renteria said. “Historically, you’ve got a lot of hitters or pitchers over time — I remember pitchers getting one, two, three, four baseballs off (the plate). (Tom) Glavine, (Greg) Maddux, they get all. You’ll get hitters who take a pitch, they call it a ball, and you go, ‘ooh.’ All those guys earning, over time, their respect and the understanding of what is a ball and a strike from both sides, on the hill and at the plate.

“A ball’s a ball and a strike’s a strike. But the reality is you’re going to get some, you’re not going to get some.”

Moncada isn’t too worried about placing blame on umpires, saying he just needs to keep working at improving on a daily basis. Moncada’s had success and a lot of it at points this season. Before he hit the DL in early May, he owned a .359 on-base percentage and a slugging percentage over .500. It makes you believe he’s certainly capable of turning things around.

“The only thing that I can add is that I have to keep working,” Moncada said through a translator Tuesday. “Keep working and sooner or later the results are going to be there.

“Right now I think I will have to make some adjustments because I’m getting too many calls that, for me, are not strikes. They are calling those pitches strikes, and I will have to make some adjustments in order to take advantage of the situation or put the ball in play.”

Moncada’s development is one of the biggest stories on this major league roster this season. There’s no doubt he’s in a down stretch and that the strikeouts are piling up. But it’s the positive signs, like Tuesday’s home run, that remind you why this guy is such a big part of this rebuilding process.

“Everything is part of the process,” he said. “I’ve been working hard, and I’m going step by step. I have plenty of confidence in my approach. I’m pretty sure and pretty confident that things are going to turn out and going to be in my favor now.”

White Sox free-agent focus: Dallas Keuchel

White Sox free-agent focus: Dallas Keuchel

This week, we’re profiling some of the biggest names on the free-agent market and taking a look at what kind of fits they are for the White Sox.

The White Sox need starting pitching, so why not bring in a guy with a Cy Young Award sitting on his mantle?

Dallas Keuchel is one of the two biggest names on the starting-pitching market this winter, along with Patrick Corbin, who will get more attention — and likely more dollars — because he's two years younger. But Keuchel's the guy with the track record, the AL Cy Young winner in 2015 (when he was also a top-five MVP finisher), a two-time All Star, a four-time Gold Glove winner and the owner of a 3.28 ERA over the past five seasons, during which he helped the Houston Astros transition from rebuilding to one of baseball's perennial contenders. You might have heard something about them winning the World Series in 2017.

It's true that things have been somewhat up and down for Keuchel since his Cy Young win. After posting a 2.48 ERA with a career-high 216 strikeouts in 33 starts during that 2015 season, he had a 4.55 ERA and 144 strikeouts in 26 starts in 2016, then a 2.90 ERA and 125 strikeouts in 23 starts in 2017 and a 3.74 ERA and 153 strikeouts in 34 starts last season. But three times in the last five years he's finished with an ERA under 3.00. In other words, he's pretty darn good.

How might he fit with the White Sox? Well, in terms of whether or not he lines up with their long-term plans. Keuchel's older than Corbin, but it's not like he's old. He'll be 31 on Opening Day 2019, and a long-term deal, which he's expected to fetch, would keep him around for another planned transition from rebuilding to contention. Keuchel — a veteran who's accomplished a lot already, including putting a World Series ring on his finger — could be viewed as a Jon Lester type for these rebuilding White Sox, a big name who buys into the front office's long-term plan and helps make those plans become reality.

And there's no doubt the White Sox are in the market for starting pitching this winter. Michael Kopech is recovering from Tommy John surgery, and the White Sox decided not to pick up James Shields' option for 2019. That leaves two holes in the starting rotation. An addition like Keuchel would be a long-term one, which means the White Sox would opt to make him a safety net for their still-developing fleet of young pitchers and choose not to roll the dice on a homegrown starting staff for 2020. However, if they're confident in a quintet of Kopech, Carlos Rodon, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dylan Cease, then maybe they opt for a couple one-year fill-ins in 2019. Keuchel would not be a one-year fill-in.

Keuchel could also fill the role vacated by Shields, a veteran who could help bring along the young guys in an off-the-field mentor role. His experience going through the dark days of a rebuild — he was a member of Astros teams that lost a combined 310 games from 2012 to 2014 — and coming out the other end a world champ would also figure to be of value.

Of course, the White Sox wouldn't be alone in a pursuit of Keuchel, if they were interested. Thanks to Clayton Kershaw signing a new contract extension with the Los Angeles Dodgers, he's one of the two biggest names on the market when it comes to starting pitchers. The White Sox would likely have to go through the same bidding war and pitch of planned future success they would with other big names like Corbin, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.

But there's no doubt Keuchel would be an upgrade to this rotation in 2019 and could provide plenty of value for years beyond.

ESPN forgot about the White Sox again, and the Big Hurt let 'em hear about it

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USA TODAY

ESPN forgot about the White Sox again, and the Big Hurt let 'em hear about it

ESPN forgot about the White Sox again.

The Worldwide Leader in Sports has made a habit of failing to remember the South Siders in recent years, most notably forgetting (on multiple occasions) that the White Sox did in fact win the 2005 World Series.

It happened enough times that A.J. Pierzynski had some opinions about it.

This time, the omission came in an effort to illustrate how good Mike Trout is, with ESPN researcher Paul Hembekides listing baseball players who appeared in the top four in MVP voting three or more times. Trout, the Los Angeles Angels superstar, has already done it seven times, and boy that is terrific.

But Hembekides left someone out. And that someone let him hear about it.

You tell 'em, Frank.

Yes, the Big Hurt finished in the top four of the AL MVP vote on six separate occasions: 1991 (third), 1993 (first), 1994 (first), 1997 (third), 2000 (second) and 2006 (fourth, while playing for the Oakland Athletics).

ESPN's blind spot for the White Sox doesn't end up meaning much of anything, though it's amusing that they've now managed to leave out a relatively recent World Series champion and a relatively recent first-ballot Hall of Famer.

We all make mistakes. But it's a little funny that ESPN's are, repeatedly, White Sox related.