What Went Wrong

After winning a Wild Card slot in 2020 and running away with the Central Division title in 2021, the White Sox looked like an easy lock to make a third straight post-season appearance this October.  Unfortunately, something (or somethings) went wrong along the way and after a long season where nothing ever seemed to click, the team was officially eliminated on Sunday after dropping six straight against the Guardians and the Tigers.  So where did things fall apart?  Let’s take a deeper look.

Injuries

After injuries rocked the White Sox in 2021, they revamped their strength and conditioning staff, hoping a new program would help stem the tide.  Unfortunately, the lockout prevented the new staff from working with the players, leaving them to their own devices.  GM Rick Hahn said in June that, between the lockout and the shortened spring training, the new program “got stymied a little bit this offseason” and that it would “be difficult in-season to perhaps change the results over the next few weeks and months in terms of health.”  Boy, was he not kidding.

Things started at the end of spring training, when lefty reliever Garrett Crochet went down for the year with an elbow injury requiring Tommy John surgery.  Two days later, starter Lance Lynn left his final spring tune-up with a bum knee, putting him on the shelf until the middle of June.  Finally, before the White Sox arrived in Detroit for their season opener, Yoan Moncada suffered an oblique strain that knocked him out for a month and may have sunk his entire season.  Relief pitcher Joe Kelly, signed during the offseason, also started the season on the IL rehabbing an injury from the year before and wasn’t activated until May.

Outfielder AJ Pollock left the second game of the year with a hamstring injury, missing over three weeks.  The same day, Lucas Giolito was placed on the IL with an abdominal strain, keeping him out for nearly two weeks.  The day he was activated, Eloy Jimenez was placed on the IL with a strained hamstring suffered that day against the Twins.  It would be two and a half months before he returned.  This was all before the calendar turned to May!

Things never let up.  Andrew Vaughn missed time in May after getting hit in the hand by a pitch.  Aaron Bummer suffered a right knee strain that kept him out for two weeks.  Lucas Giolito and Luis Robert both missed time in May thanks to bouts with COVID.  Joe Kelly went back on the IL with a hamstring strain.  Tim Anderson missed three weeks with a groin strain, the same injury that kept Vince Velasquez for two weeks.

Aaron Bummer suffered another injury in mid-June which kept him out until September.  Yasmani Grandal was felled with lower back spasms for six weeks.  A right forearm strain put Liam Hendriks on the shelf for nearly three weeks.  A strained hamstring took down Yoan Moncada for nearly three weeks.  Adam Engel fell victim to the same injury for two weeks.  On July 6th, Jake Burger went down with a bruised hand following a hit by pitch, Vince Velasquez was felled by a blister on his right index finger, and Danny Mendick was lost for the year with a torn ACL.  We just now are getting to the All-Star break.  Shall I keep going?

Luis Robert was shut down with blurred vision.  A lower back strain put Reynaldo Lopez on the shelf.  A torn finger ligament knocked out Tim Anderson for the remainder of the year on August 9th.  Another lower back strain took down Leury Garcia.  A bum knee sent Michael Kopech to the IL, while another hamstring strain stopped Yoan Moncada for the third time this year.  Kopech was felled again with a shoulder strain on September 7th.  Finally, after suffering with a wrist injury for nearly a month and a half, Luis Robert was shut down and placed on the IL on Saturday with the 2022 title all but wrapped up for the Guardians.

Aside from the sheer number of injuries, this meant that the White Sox were very rarely at anything approaching full strength.  Some piece of the puzzle was always missing, and usually two or three pieces.  The bullpen injuries led to some early overwork for guys like Kendall Graveman, which impacted his performance in the second half.  Because of this, the White Sox never seemed to gel or to be able to string wins together to pull ahead.

Lack of Power

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London Calling

One of the casualties of the lockdown following the corona virus pandemic in 2020 was the cancellation of the series in London between the Cubs and the Cardinals.  While MLB returned in full force in 2021 and this year, the series in London did not.  Well, MLB announced yesterday that the series would return in 2023 with the Cubs and the Cardinals finally getting their chance to battle overseas.

MLB played in Europe for the first time in 2019, when the Yankees swept a pair of games from the Red Sox, and looked to further expand the game’s popularity throughout Europe by making it an annual excursion.  I imagine if next year’s tilt goes off without a hitch, the annual rollout will continue as originally planned.

Switching Sides Revisited

Five years ago today, the White Sox continued their selloff and pulled off the trade that many said couldn’t be done, sending Jose Quintana to the Cubs in exchange for Eloy Jimenez, Dylan Cease, Matt Rose, and Bryant Flete.  At the time, the Cubs were looking for a boost to their starting rotation as one of the strengths of their championship season the year before had turned into a question mark during the first half of 2017.  For the rebuilding White Sox, Jimenez, who was the 8th ranked prospect in baseball, and Cease, who was the 63rd, gave them nine out of the top 100 prospects.

So how did it work out, five years later?  You can say the White Sox were the runaway winners of the trade, but not for the reasons you would have thought five years ago.  After a slow start in his rookie campaign in 2019, Jimenez seemed to figure things out down the stretch and followed that up with an pandemic-abbreviated 2020 campaign that earned him the Silver Slugger.  Unfortunately, he’s played less than 75 games since, with major injuries keeping him on the shelf for large portions of the 2021 and 2022 seasons.  When he has played, he hasn’t yet been able to put together the type of production he showed in previous years.

Dylan Cease, on the other hand, has turned into the ace of the White Sox staff.  After a slow start in 2019 after making his debut in early July, Cease has improved each season.  He currently leads the American League in strikeouts and is widely considered one of, if not the biggest, snub for this year’s All Star team.

Quintana, meanwhile, spent parts of four seasons with the Cubs, going 33-23 with a 4.24 ERA.  He was decent, but not great, and the Cubs never were able to replicate their 2016 success.  In the postseason, he appeared in four games in 2017, two each in the NLDS and NLCS,

Gone Too Soon

Word broke yesterday morning that former Purdue basketball standout Caleb Swanigan, who was just 25, had died.  Swanigan, who had an unstable childhood before being adopted by former Boilermaker Roosevelt Barnes, spent two seasons at Purdue, declaring for the NBA draft following his sophomore year in 2017.  His NBA career ended in 2020 when he declined to enter the NBA Bubble due to personal reasons.

Swanigan, who struggled with his weight as a child, had started putting on weight again following his departure from the NBA.  At just 25 years old, he died of natural causes yesterday in a Fort Wayne hospital.  Hopefully he can find some peace now that seemingly eluded his life on Earth.

By The Numbers – 7

In 1929, uniform numbers appeared on the back of baseball jerseys for the first time, thanks to the Indians and the Yankees.  By 1937, numbers finally appeared across all uniforms, both home and away, across both major leagues.  Since that time, 81 distinct numbers have been worn by members of the White Sox, while the Cubs boast 76.

Today, we continue our look at those players, picking our favorite, if not the best, player to wear each uniform number for both Chicago teams with #7.  88 different players have donned #7 while playing in Chicago, 43 for the White Sox and 45 for the Cubs.

After wearing #12 when he was first called up to the big leagues, Tim Anderson switched to #7 starting with his second season in 2017.  Showing that he was still a work in progress, Anderson slashed .257/.276/.402 in 2017, with a 2.1% walk rate, the lowest in the major leagues.  Defensively, he led the major leagues in errors, with 28, as well as fielding errors (16) and throwing errors (12).  He showed slight improvements in 2018, with slight improvements in his OBP and slugging percentage, while reducing his overall errors.

2019 was Anderson’s coming out party.  He led the major leagues with a .335 average while raising his OPS to .865, setting career highs with 167 hits, 32 doubles, and 81 runs.  He still had some issues on defense, leading all major league players with 26 errors, leading to the lowest fielding percentage amongst all shortstops.  His hot bat continued into the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, notching a .322 average and an .886 OPS.  He won his first Silver Slugger award while leading the White Sox to their first post-season appearance since 2008.  He thrived in the Wild Card series against the A’s, going 9-14 in the three-game series.

Anderson continued to prove that he his offensive improvement wasn’t a fluke when baseball returned full time in 2021.  He was named to his first All Star team and, on the game’s biggest stage, he hit a walk-off home run against the Yankees in the inaugural Field of Dreams game in the cornfields of Iowa.  Overall, he hit .309 and posted an .807 OPS while hitting 17 home runs and driving in 61 RBIs.  Continuing where he left off the previous October, Anderson hit .368 in the ALDS against the Astros.

On the north side of town, Peoria-native and Northwestern graduate Joe Girardi made his Major League debut for the Cubs on April 4, 1989 wearing #7.  He batted .248 with a home run and 14 runs batted in (RBIs) in 59 games as the surprising Cubs took home a division title. Getting more consistent playing time in 1990, he hit .270 with a home run and 38 RBIs.  Limited to only 21 games in 1991, he managed just a .191 average with only 6 RBIs. In 1992, he rebounded to play in 91 games, hitting .270 with a home run and 12 RBIs.  Following the season, he was left unprotected in the expansion draft and was selected by the Rockies.

Last Run For Dallas

After nearly a seasons-worth of poor performances, the White Sox cut bait on Dallas Keuchel yesterday, designating the veteran left hander for assignment.  Keuchel, 34, had a 2-5 record with a 7.88 ERA in eight starts this season and finished his White Sox career 17-16 with a 4.79 ERA in 51 appearances, 49 of them starts.

Signed prior to the 2020 season, Keuchel looked like a steal during the pandemic shortened season.  He went 6-2 with a 1.99 ERA in 11 starts, finishing fifth in Cy Young Award voting.  He started strong in 2021, going 6-1 with a 3.78 ERA in his first 14 starts, but things went south quickly from there.  In his last 18 appearances, he put up a 3-8 record with a 6.70 ERA.  Things were bad enough that he was left off the playoff roster for the ALDS against the Astros.

Keuchel said during spring training that the end of 2021 left a “sour taste” in his mouth, so he started throwing earlier in the offseason than usual to in hopes of a rebound season.  Unfortunately, it didn’t produce the results he was hoping for.  He managed to go at least five innings in just half of his eight starts.  In his last two starts, against the Yankees and the Red Sox, he gave up a combined 12 earned runs in just 6 innings pitched.

Is this the end of the road for Keuchel?  It certainly seems possible, given not just his poor results but also how he’s been getting them.  His long-held ability to limit damage by not giving up free baserunners has left him, as he walked 20 batters in jut 32 innings this year.  But, injuries have a way of making teams desperate for pitching, so his phone may ring sometime over the next few months.

#SoxMath

For the uninitiated, Sox Math is a segment during every White Sox game broadcast on NBC Sports Chicago, where two or more trivia questions are linked together via a simple math equation to form a final numerical answer. Fans watching at home tweet in their answers and the first one in with the right answer is dubbed the winner.  Sunday, that winner was me.
Back in the before times, there was a prize shelf filled with random objects that announces Jason Benetti and Steve Stone had come across along with extra stadium giveaways.  Starting in 2020, thanks to the pandemic, they switched it up to letting the winner create a video that would introduce the segment on the next game.  Yes, that means I got to create the intro video for last night’s game.

My initial thought was to utilize my bobblehead, surrounded by White Sox bobbleheads, with me talking offscreen, but I thought that might end up being too static.  So instead, I started moving all (well, most) of the mess off of my desk and replacing it with different White Sox paraphernalia, including bobbleheads, pennants, a towel, a Chris Sale K placard, and some Robin Ventura print sent to season ticket holders.  After a few practice shots to get the camera set up correctly, I hit record and, after three takes, felt I had gotten what I needed to get.  Some quick trimming to get just the last take down to the correct length, and off it went.

As we approached the top of the 4th inning, when the segment usually airs, I started to get nervous.  I mean, there was a non-zero chance that I was about to make a fool out of myself on regional cable television.  But, it aired without incident, aside from my mother sleeping through it.  I managed a gain a few new Twitter followers, the video seemed to be a big hit on Facebook, and a co-worker happened to see it and passed a video around to some folks in the virtual office.

As for the original question itself, an educated guess led me to victory.  I assumed there was nothing noteworthy about Julio Franco and Robin Ventura going back-to-back once and, had they done it three times, that would be rare enough that I would know about it, so two seemed like the safe choice.  The second question was much easier, as Ventura wore #23 and Franco #14.

Now, I just need to win again.  I’ve got some more video ideas.

 

The Heroes Of Opening Day

This week I attended my 21st consecutive (except for the pandemic year of 2020 that had no fans) Opening Day at Comiskey Park II/US Cellular Field/Guaranteed Rate Field, and my 38th overall.  From my first, at old Comiskey Park in 1985, to my first as a Cubs season ticket holder at Wrigley Field in 2002, to road trips to Shea Stadium, in 2003, and Great American Ballpark, in 2004 and 2006, Opening Day remains a spring holiday proclaiming the theoretical beginning of summer.  This seemed like a good time to see who the best performers were on both sides of the ball from those 38 contests.

Home Runs

Name Total
Corey Patterson 3
Paul Konerko 3
Alejandro de Aza 2
Ray Durham 2
Jose Valentin 2
Joe Crede 2
Jim Thome 2

Hits

Name Total
Paul Konerko 15
Jermaine Dye 9
Aramis Ramirez 8
Victor Martinez 8
Mark Grudzielanek 8

Runs

Name Total
Paul Konerko 7
Derrek Lee 7
Alex Gonzalez 6
Joe Crede 6

RBI

Name Total
Paul Konerko 10
Corey Patterson 8
Moises Alou 8

Doubles

Name Total
Michael Barrett 4
Paul Konerko 3
Moises Alou 3
Jose Valentin 3
Victor Marinez 3
Alex Rios 3
Jose Abreu 3
Miguel Olivo 3
Jeromy Burnitz 3
Carlos Lee 3

Triples Continue reading →

Spring Fever

As we kick off Michael’s birthday month, we look back at a collage of him sleeping in cars during the previous year.  After contracting COVID late in 2020, his energy levels have been a bit off, and he has had a tendency to sleep way too many hours in the day.  Including on our way to the Museum of Science and Industry, a tilt between the White Sox and the Red Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field, and Purdue/Northwestern football game at Wrigley Field.

Against The Red Sox All Time Leaders – Through 2021

redsoxIn the past, we’ve looked at the all time leaders in both offensive and defensive categories for all 30 teams. This offseason, we will take our first ever look at those leaders against all 30 clubs. We continue things today with the Boston Red Sox.

I’ve seen the Red Sox play 32 times at 4 different stadiums, first in the White Sox home opener in 1985, through the 2005 ALDS, and, most recently, this past September.  The game total would have been 2 higher, if the corona virus hadn’t put the kibosh on my April 2000 weekend trip to Fenway Park.

Home Runs

Name Total
Paul Konerko 5
Jermaine Dye 5
Tadahito Iguchi 3
Jim Thome 3
Carlos Quentin 3
A.J. Pierzynski 3

Hits

Name Total
Paul Konerko 18
Scott Podsednik 18
A.J. Pierzynski 13

Runs

Name Total
Paul Konerko 10
Scott Podsednik 7
A.J. Pierzynski 7
Jermaine Dye 7

RBI

Name Total
Paul Konerko 15
A.J. Pierzynski 9
Jermaine Dye 9

Doubles

Name Total
Paul Konerko 4
Jermaine Dye 4
Luis Robert 3

Triples Continue reading →