LOW POWER

You just checked your own phone’s battery, didn’t you??

Hunting the Elusive Dinger

The Sox just absolutely ate the Royals for Mothers Day Brunch, knocking hit after hit all over Kaufmann Stadium. Even Yasmani Grandal, who has an anti-baseball bat in his hands these days, was getting on via the walk. The thing that wasn’t happening? Those hits weren’t going over the fence. Only Zack Collins and Danny Mendick managed to hit homers during a 21-run weekend.

As a team, the Sox have 27 homeruns total. Jose Abreu leads the team with 6, Yermin Mercedes has 5, TA has 4 and the remaining 13 are spread between 6 players, including 1 for Luis Robert. Of the regulars/frequent starters, three have not hit one out. Predictably, that includes Nick Madrigal; unsurprisingly that includes Leury Garcia; and alarmingly that includes Andrew Vaughn.

At the MLB level, the loss of Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert is going to reduce the HR totals. It remains to be seen how many Yermin can hit at this level, but his career everywhere AB/HR is 26.18 while Eloy put up a dinger every 15.1 ABs the last two years. Robert, after really finding his power swing in 2019 and 2020, averaged a tater every 16.4 ABs. That’s going to be hard to replace, especially since the Sox haven’t drafted and developed a power hitter on that level since…uhhh…hmmm…

The current Homerun hitters on the team are Abreu, an international signing; Eloy, traded for as a near-ready prospect; Yoan Moncada, traded for as a near-ready prospect; Robert, an international signing; Grandal (when he’s right), a free-agent; and Yermin, a Crash Davis-esque minor-league free agent. Adam Eaton, Billy Hamilton, and Leury Garcia are not really power guys, and Jake Lamb was once but hasn’t been in years.

Home-grown talent on the roster includes TA, Vaughn, Madrigal and Zack Collins. Danny Mendick has been up and down and there are likely others on the way. For the sake of wondering why the Sox can’t draft for power, we can ignore middle infielders Mendick and Madrigal, as they were not intended to be homerun guys. Really, neither was Anderson, and his career 30.4 AB/HR ratio is less impressive than the fact he’s hit between 10-20 HR every year since 2017. Collins is on the fringes, a catcher with homerun ability, but including college he averages a HR every 23.9 ABs. Catcher is not a “premium power position”, and if Collins got 531 AB, his expected 22 HR would be a real nice total from the catcher slot. But that’s not Eloy or La Pantera replacement level or even really close.

Andrew Vaughn is still looking for his first MLB homer. Jason Benetti and Len Kasper opined all weekend at Kaufmann that Vaughn is very close to breaking that seal. And when he does, hoooo boy you better watch out. Right? Hard to say. In college he average a dong every 11.9 at-bats. Professionally in a very small sample, it’s fireworks every 45.7 at-bats. He has 6 total in 274 professional ABs.

So who’s next? In 2019 the team leaders at Charlotte were Daniel Palka and Matt Skole, two AAAA guys that were signed as MiLB free agents and are now gone. The next two were the aforementioned Zack Collins and his backstop timeshare Seby Zavala, who has a nice career 23.5 AB/HR but a really iffy .222 BA in 2019.

Birmingham is harder to hit out of, but in 2019 Gavin Sheets was the only guy in double digits. He hits one out every 41.9 ABs for his minors career. And for reference, had Luis Robert met Sheets’ number of at-bats in Birmingham, he would have hit 16 homers as well, but also had 33 doubles to Sheets’ 18. Sheets represents maybe the best hope for the next power hitter to come up, but so far he hasn’t shown it.

Jake Burger and Micker Adolfo are also not the answer, at least statistically. Burger has 6 HR in 206 pro at-bats, much like Vaughn. Too hard to tell yet on Burger, but he wasn’t as good as Vaughn in college (1 knock every 15.1 AB). Adolfo hits one every 33.8 for his career, though he’s now in the void in Birmingham so those numbers are likely to get worse even if he gets better.

So who is the last decent homerun hitter the Sox developed? From the standpoint of a guy that actually had a decent career, it’s El Caballo. In Carlos Lee’s prime with Milwaukee and Houston, he reached the Eloy/Luis levels twice and stayed around 19 AB/HR otherwise until his career declined late. Joe Crede’s best ratio was 2006, at 18.1 AB/HR when he hit his career-best 30. Josh Fields, in the one season he played as a near-regular (2007), hit one every 16.1 ABs. It is possible that had Crede and/or Fields been healthier, he might have continued to produce at their best. With Fields, he played so little it is hard to say whether 2007 was real and with Crede it feels like 2006 was still a possible high water mark.

So are there any former prospects running around that fit the bill? Fernando Tatis, Jr. comes to mind. I would argue he is a product of the Padres system, since he never appeared for a Sox affiliate. Marcus Semien? He hit 33 in 2019, and 27 in 2016, but those are the biggest totals in his career and he needed 727 at-bats in 2019 to get there.

It is a strain to think of the last time the Sox produced a viable major league 1B/3B, DH or corner OF that had a career marked by decent power numbers. Going back to 2005, Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye, Jim Thome, Joe Crede, Carlos Quentin, Adam Dunn, Jose Abreu, Todd Frazier, and Eloy Jimenez have all topped the 30-HR mark for the Sox. Only Joe Crede was a product of the White Sox system.

The lineup needs a jolt of legit power right now and it will need to come from the outside. History suggests that the farm system isn’t going to produce that much wattage for the cottage at 35th and Shields.

The Sweat Meter, a system to manage your White Sox Worries.

As the Sox season carries on, concerns will pop up. Here, weekly, Sox in The Basement and Mismatched Sox will measure the concerning stuff, big and small, and determine whether to sweat it at all. The range runs from five Sweaty Freddies to one, five being sheer panic and one being nothing to worry about at all.

Shower Fresh: Vaugh hitting doubles instead of dingers. He’ll get some out.

GLOW: Too much Billy Hamilton will get sorted out eventually. TLR isn’t blind. Umm, I don’t think.

Collar is getting wet: Liam Hendriks really relies on a medium. Cool…that’s…cool.

Swampy: Well..

Call Family Waterproofing Solutions, its a flood: it remains worth the panic over whether they can overcome the losses of Jimenez and Robert in the same season. They got hot against the Royals but can they sustain that kind of attack with an above-average BABIP as a team? They are really, really going to rely on two rookies, Vaughn and Mercedes, to make this happen in 2021.

FAN GUTS: OFFICIALLY PUNCHED.

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ShhhhhiiiIITT! Photo by Getty Images

Hearing the news about Luis Robert, the temptation is to grab a fist full of your own feces, scrawl “why” on every surface nearby, sobbing over and over, pausing only to scream into the night that it isn’t fair.

Actually if that was your response to Luis Robert getting hurt, maybe seek professional help because that’s a bit much and other things had to be bubbling up, uhhh, in a non-fecal sense. Such things could include Eloy’s injury, but still.

More to the point, it is probably enough at the news to just yell the profanity of your choice and wonder if the White Sox can overcome the loss of a second major dynamic bat from what was supposed to be an insanely dangerous lineup.

Both Eloy and Luis could be back and in the lineup by September, hopefully for the playoffs. But in the meantime, the lineup needs a new center fielder and still has to sort out the replacement left fielders. For those worried that there’s been far too much Billy Hamilton, there’s bad news…and probably just bad news.

Still, there has to be 7 dudes standing behind the pitcher/in front of the catcher, and two of them will be standing to Adam Eaton’s right. Well…maybe standing on either side of him. Let’s dive into options, both elsewhere and in-house, and hopefully not to the outhouse.

NEXT UP:

Adam Engel. The Man of Steal is about to return, and the sooner the better. Reports are that he’s now looking at June. He’ll need to be the 2020 version, but that’s assuming that the Sox haven’t otherwise figured this out over the next month.

Andrew Vaughn. But wait, you might be saying and hopefully not writing in digested Taco Bell, he’s already here. Yeah, but now Tony has to commit, good bad or whatever. Vaughn has been pleasantly fine in left, catching things but throwing a bit erratically. His hitting has been unpleasantly erratic but lately better. He’s our Obi-Wan Kenobi. He’s our only hope. And ideally not a crazy wizard.

Leury Garcia. He’s had every opportunity to become an everyday player for this team and never stuck the landing. It’s a stretch to think he’ll do it now. His 140 games is a high mark, coming in 2019 with a .279 AVG. but a middlin’ .688 OPS. He was always likely to see semi-regular action around the diamond, now he’ll be more or less stuck in one spot. This isn’t his ideal usage.

Jake Lamb. I hope not. At best he recaptures the power that made him a regular for the DBacks, which was 2016-2017, but as a corner infielder. That was already four years ago and things since have been bad for Lamb. Besides, having another corner IF in the OF is just an F.

Billy Hamilton. Yeah…well…he’s here. He’s a veteran. He’s fast. He’s inspired to hit better than his career .241 mark, for what it’s worth. Even though he hasn’t been a regular since 2018, he’s at least been a starting MLB OF. Until Engel is back he’s probably the best option in CF. Unless…

Luis Gonzalez (AAA). Not the former all star, who is a bit old and retired at this point. This Gonzo will probably make a significant amount of appearances before it’s all said and done, barring a trade. The good news is that he was a badass in the NCAA, walking 124 times over 71 Ks, with an OPS over 1.000. Too bad in the minors he’s been a mixed bag at best, .269 AVG with a .756 OPS., and only as high as AA. He’s really not ready yet but pressed into action, maybe he can settle into an Adam Eaton-type. I’m guessing we’ll see soon enough.

Gavin Sheets (AAA). A slightly better hitter in the minors than Gonzalez, .280/.766, supposedly a power-type. Downside is that like Vaughn he’s a newbie to the outfield, in fact listed as an IF for Charlotte. And like Gonzalez, he had a lousy spring. He’s probably not ready for prime time either. Besides, an OF featuring two repackaged minor league 1B’s and better in RF Adam Eaton isn’t really a championship idea.

Blake Rutherford (AAA). A lefty bat, he’s Gavin Sheets with less power but better fielding. Probably needs to platoon, and that’s ok. Maybe he takes the next step, since he was at one point the best prospect the Sox had. If he can hit righties well, he can actually help that issue for the Sox as a bonus. Call him the dark horse?

Micker Adolfo. (AA) He looked really overmatched in spring. His minors numbers are underwhelming compared to the hype, a .249 average with an OPS under .800, worse overall than the light-hitting Gonzalez and Rutherford. Not good.

Nick Williams and Mickie Mahtook (AAA, not on the 40-man). Williams looked bad in his earlier stay and Mahtook was never all that good to start off with. Both are Billy Hamilton-esque in not being recent MLB starters, but with the added knock of not having Billy’s successful history. Mmm. No thanks.

In-house then, it’s really Vaughn, Garcia and Hamilton in some rotation until Adam Engel gets back. The minors lack that guy that’s really ready to make the leap, though a hot start over the next month could prove this wrong. It would be the best scenario if Vaughn and Engel took over, with Hamilton and Garcia there in support. The biggest loss with all of these option is power. Vaughn being the exception, none of the others are known as sluggers, or have minor league stats that support a slugging reputation. If the Sox stay in house, Vaughn needs to hit for power and Engel needs to complete his transformation into vintage Aaron Rowand.

SO…OUTSIDE HELP THEN:

Since what’s here is less than thrilling, it means looking out there is needed. The idea that in May there’s anyone notable available is not something you’d expect, and there aren’t guys on the street ready to go except maybe Jay Bruce. Rick Hahn said trades are possible, but they’ll have to see if the juice is worth the squeeze (his words…good ones actually). It makes sense that the Sox wouldn’t want to overpay for a guy that they only need to rent for one year. Under the right circumstances maybe there’s a player that becomes the long term RF, but it is unlikely that a star is walking into the clubhouse in May. The trading team needs to have said star, believe that they are totally out of it or need to shed salary, or be bowled over by the offer. Since Rick isn’t going to sell the farm to cover one position for 12-16 weeks, there’s no bowling. Since no one will concede the season after 4 weeks, stars are not really available. Likely the trade would be for an established, hopefully above-average MLB outfielder and hopefully with some power.

Let’s rundown each team and see if they have the juice:

AL EAST

  • Rays – No Juice. Yoshi Tsutsugo, who hasn’t hit MLB pitching, is the odd man in the OF.
  • Yankees – No Juice. Mike Tauchman was traded to clear room.
  • Blue Jays – No Juice. Randal Grichuk looked expendable coming in, but he isn’t now that Hernandez/Springer can also DH.
  • Red Sox – No Juice. They’re trying to get their OF in order.
  • Orioles – You like the Juice? If Anthony Santander wasn’t hurt, they’d have Austin Hays fighting for time with DJ Stewart and Ryan Mountcastle in right. Santander is due back in May, but maybe Hays can be targeted (the other two are less established). It might take a pitcher and a position player, probably in the vein of Jonathan Stiever and a guy that hopefully isn’t the next Fernando Tatis Jr.

AL CENTRAL – No Juice. All the AL Central outfields have holes and who is helping the Sox anyway?

AL WEST

  • A’s – No Juice. They’re patching it together a bit out there.
  • Mariners – No Juice. Even with Jared Kellenic about to arrive, the guy that loses for now is Taylor Trammell, who didn’t capitalize on his spring. Mitch Haniger would cost a lot.
  • Astros – No Juice. They’re still trying to replace George Springer.
  • Rangers – No Juice. Doubtful they’d move Joey Gallo, and the rest are unproven.
  • Angels – You like the Juice? Dexter Fowler looks like he’s done but Jared Walsh covered him; Brandon Marsh and Jo Adell await their chance meaning maybe…MAYBE Justin Upton can be had. But not cheaply.

NL EAST

  • Nats – No Juice. It’s Juan Soto cosplaying Nats-era Bryce Harper out there as a lone wolf.
  • Phillies – No Juice. They are searching for a CF from a pile of bodies and propping up Andrew McCutchen’s corpse.
  • Braves – No Juice. They’re pretty bare after the starters.
  • Mets – Weak Juice. If you like Kevin Pillar. He might be a cheap get, but that’s because he’s not that good.
  • Marlins – You like the Juice? Starling Marte has a broken rib, but he’s in an OF that also has Garrett Cooper, Adam Duvall and Corey Dickerson in the best of times, with some young’ns behind them. Duvall is not an everyday player really, but Cooper and Dickerson have been. Dickerson is a free agent after this year and maybe a guy that the Fish would move on from, Cooper seems like a guy they’d keep around. Dickerson is a career .285 hitter and having a good season so far, while the Marlins are scuffling a little. But they aren’t out of it yet, so it’s hard to say they’d part with a useful bat without getting MLB help back. They can use bullpen and catcher help, which the Sox have.

NL CENTRAL

  • Cards – No Juice. They’re finding out if they have any OF.
  • Pirates – Some Juice. Gregory Polanco exists, he’s not been good this year but is a free agent at year’s end. He might not be an upgrade.
  • Brewers – Ehhhh…Juice? Avi Garcia, the hurt Lorenzo Cain, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Christian Yelich are the main four with Tyrone Taylor impressing in the spring and his most recent stint. That is a bona-fide logjam, but Cain might be toast, which soaks up some jam. Meanwhile…we’ve seen Avi Garcia before. Anyone want another round?
  • Cubs – Weak Juice. They are not trading Kris Bryant cheaply, and in particular with the Sox need to save face after getting hosed in the Quintana deal. Ian Happ, Joc Pederson and Jason Heyward are there too, but Heyward is under a nasty contract, Happ is hurt/bad, Pederson just got there and Jake Marisnick is a 4th OF for his career. It seems unlikely the Cubs will trade.
  • Reds – You like the Juice? They came into the season with 5-6 outfielders, which has become really one open spot since Jesse Winker and Nick Castellanos hold down two daily. The others, Shogo Akiyama is hurt for now and not great, Aristides Aquino is out long-term, Tyler Naquin is not really as good as he’s been this year, and Nick Senzel is maybe going back to second base. Senzel is the guy here though, as the Reds never liked him at 2nd and Leury Garcia would help them there. He was a better prospect than he’s shown in the majors, and maybe with regular playing time he can help. But he might just be Adam Engel in red.

NL WEST

  • Dodgers – No Juice, sorta. Of course the Dodgers have guys that they can trade, but they aren’t going to give up their depth unless it makes the big club better. And unless the Sox trade a key piece, that’s not going to happen.
  • Giants – No Juice. They just added an OF because theirs weren’t getting it done.
  • Padres – No Juice. They’re wringing all they can from Tommy Pham and Wil Myers, with Jurickson Profar covering them around Trent Grisham.
  • Diamondbacks – Weak Juice. They’ve just had Pavin Smith seemingly settling their open CF job, with Ketel Marte and Cole Kalhoun battling injuries, and Tim Locastro hurt as well. Eventually, Smith, Calhoun, Marte, Locastro and Daulton Varsho could leave David Peralta available. He’s not a stud but would hold down a corner with Eaton in CF. The problem? He’s owed $7.5 million next year. Calhoun would have been the target but he’s out 6-8 weeks.
  • Rockies – You like the Juice? They salary dumped Nolan Arenado in the offseason, so salary dumping Charlie Blackmon isn’t likely to be popular in Denver. That said, Charlie is a free agent at year’s end and the Rockies are not winning anything much this year. They are trying out youngsters all over the place, so youngsters could be welcome in return. And if there was ever a team that might give a Reynaldo Lopez a look, it’s the eternally pitching-starved Rockies. Not saying that Lopez alone gets Blackmon, but him with guys like Seby Zavala or Blake Rutherford who aren’t necessarily in the plans, or another guy that hopefully isn’t Fernando Tatis Jr. might get him.

The Sweat Meter, a system to manage your White Sox Worries.

As the Sox season carries on, concerns will pop up. Here, weekly, Sox in The Basement and Mismatched Sox will measure the concerning stuff, big and small, and determine whether to sweat it at all. The range runs from five Sweaty Freddies to one, five being sheer panic and one being nothing to worry about at all.

Bone dry: Ok, look….

Glisten, Linda: at the moment, there’s really only one thing…

Damped: and one thing alone that we need to look at…

Clearly wet: and frankly….

Call Family Waterproofing Solutions, its a flood: it is worth the panic over whether they can overcome the losses of Jimenez and Robert in the same season. It won’t necessarily kill the season off, but the lineup is more pedetrian and the pressure mounts on the pitchers. If there was ever a time to panic in sports, it is over an injury to a key player, and combining Eloy and Luis is there with Derrick Rose’s knee and Jim McMahon getting slammed by Charles Martin. Hopefully, Andrew Vaughn is not Mike Tomczak or Keith Bogans.

ALL IS WELL!

YARN | All is well! | Animal House (1978) | Video clips by quotes |  56c31a78 | 紗
I normally respect bacon when it tells me everything will be alright. Photo (c) Universal Pictures. On the studio tour ask for Babs.

Coming off a sweep of the Rangers and finally over .500, with winnable games upcoming, the White Sox are in position to take over the division and fulfill everyone’s hopes and dreams including cures for Covid-19 and cancer.

That’s maybe putting too much on them but building to a healthy 6-7 games over .500 gets them where they need to be in the early going, with the goal obviously being a finish somewhere around 26 games over. That doesn’t happen in April or May, but gets built by adding a few games over each month.

There’s no denying that getting here has been a little bumpy and hardly how it was drawn up. Still, the Sox entered play Tuesday at 12-9, with an expected win-loss of 13-8 per MLB.com. So they are, in spite of it all, where they belong. And while Sox fans fret over the rocky start for the bullpen and wonder if the hot starts of Carlos Rodón and Yermín Mercedes are real, or whether Andrew Vaughn and Dylan Cease will ever get it, or if the rebuild was more hype than talent, they can relax knowing the rest of the division is also dealing with things not going as planned.

THE CLEVELAND BASEBALL ASSEMBLAGE

The narrative going in: Superior starting pitching lead by Shane Bieber and a young, hard-charging bullpen lead by James Karinchak, along with solid defense would overcome a fairly weak lineup.

The reality: The hitting part is true, with a team Avg. of .206 and a team OPS of .661. Yikes. The pitching, though, hasn’t been quite what they wanted. The bullpen has been really good outside of the struggling Nick Wittgren, and closer Emmanuel Clase has given up unearned runs in hopes of keeping the alive the illusion of having a 0.00 ERA. The superior starting pitching? Shane Bieber has been pitching like the reigning Cy Young winner. Aaron Civale has a 2.42 ERA and 0.88 WHIP, though a number of analysts think he’s been lucky, and a .177 BABIP suggests that might be true. Zach Plesac has been lit up a couple times now, to the tune of a 5.81 ERA and has only 18 K’s in 26 innings. Triston Mackenzie and Logan Allen haven’t held down the 4th and 5th spots, posting Dylan Cease-like innings but getting popped to ERAs of 4.32 and 6.28 respectively. If that doesn’t turn around, their .500-ish record seems safe to continue.

MINNESOTA TWINS

The narrative going in: A balanced team with sufficient hitting and pitching with good defense hang with any team and win in multiple days.

The reality: They are balanced alright, sitting 16th and 17th in pitching and hitting respectively. But that’s misleading in a sense, as the bullpen has been a disaster with Alex Colome blowing it like he’s Louis Armstrong in a trumpet store. The Twins primary relievers are sporting an ERA around 6.00. Kenta Maeda has a 6.11 ERA and a WHIP of 1.87, Matt Shoemaker has an ERA of 5.49. Hitting is the same issue, where Mitch Garver, Jake Cave, Max Kepler, Miguel Sano and Jorge Polanco are hitting a combined .174 with 5 HR and are being kept alive by Josh Donaldson, Nellie Cruz and Byron Buxton. The middlin’ team stats are being floated by a few boats with heavy anchors, and the record shows.

KC ROYALS

The narrative going in: Arriving youth, reclaimed veterans and maybe the last chance for legacy stars Whit Merrifield and Sal Perez to make some noise in the AL Central.

The reality: Things are going as planned to a degree, but they’re playing over their heads. The numbers are not spectacular for anyone other than Danny Duffy, who is not going to keep his ERA at .039, or Josh Staumont and Brady Singer, who are both really good actually but are probably due a little regression. Their best hitters are the aforementioned longtime stars Sal Perez and Whit Merrifield, who are hitting around their career norms. Really only Hunter Dozier is truly under performing, as others are either fighting a couple years of regression or are too young to know what they are yet. In the better to be lucky than good vein, they have gotten contributions and streaks and good bounces, and however you spin it, the division lead. However, MLB.com shows an expected win-loss of 11-10, so the 14-8 record is a bit of a mirage.

DETROIT TIGERS

The narrative going in: (Cue Kurt Angle’s WWE Theme Music) You Suck! You Suck! …well that was the league narrative, anyway, and the Tigers’ line was that they are trying to do what the Royals are doing.

The reality: It turns out, they suck. From the standpoint of the Tigers front office, they are trying to ID their next core and so far it is the solid but underwhelming Jaimer Candelario and Akil Baddoo!, whose name really should have an exclamation point. He’s also their only hitter with more than 10 extra base hits. The young pitching hasn’t been terrible or terribly effective, with Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal sporting ERAs over 5.00. Its bad.

Michael Kopech

My goodness.

The Sweat Meter, a system to manage your White Sox Worries.

As the Sox continue to be up and down to start the season, concerns will pop up. Here, weekly, Sox in The Basement and Mismatched Sox will measure the concerning stuff, big and small, and determine whether to sweat it at all. The range runs from five Sweaty Freddies to one, five being sheer panic and one being nothing to worry about at all.

Perhaps a bit chilly: Matt Foster, Codi Heuer, and Aaron Bummer all have BABIPs over .400 and Foster, Heuer and Evan Marshall all have expected ERAs below their current ERA. There really is some positive correction to be expected. Speaking of which, Yoan Moncada is only behind his 2019 expanded numbers in the power department, and that feels like it’ll be here soon.

Drippage: Giolito cutting his finger is right up there with Carlos getting the green apple quicksteps, but Garret Crochet’s bloody finger makes Lucas look like a wimp. Hendriks HR/9 is absurdly high right now and nothing in his career, even the bad years, suggests that this is anything more than a fluke. Get more sage.

A certain wet look: Dylan Cease was more of the same all over again.

Wet: They need to take a series from a winning team, next chance is probably the Royals.

Call Family Waterproofing Solutions, its a flood: Nothing to see here! ALL IS WELL!!!

CEASE AND DESIST: Solving The White Sox’ Early Problems

Cease looking to take next step up in White Sox's rotation
For the Sox, certain things have not been looking up so far…Dylan…Dylaannnn…that’s not what I mean Dylan… (Photo from the AP)

It is early. We are but three weeks into a season that should last 26 weeks barring any Covid-19 issues or work stoppages or, you know, like a really good series premiering on Netflix or Hulu or some other streaming service.

Three weeks is enough time to start wondering about a few things, but early enough to ignore others. As noted by Jason and Steve, Jose Abreu doing naught but striking out and hitting ground balls is just because it isn’t May yet. He’s got a track record that suggests he’ll come around. The bullpen’s early ugliness was just a few bad moments that are getting smoothed out as Tony gets the feel for who should do what and to whom and for how long. Even Lucas Giolito getting shelled by Boston on a Monday morning is probably just a fluke; after all he was knocked around by the Twins on opening day last year and by the end of the season he was fine. Overall, it is too early to worry about the bats being a little down and some ERA’s being a little up. The Sox are splitting road series and hovering around .500, but are a winning streak or two away from potentially taking over the division and not looking back.

For all the “don’t panic” signs, there are a couple things that are kinda dogging the team and maybe need to be addressed now. Left Field and the Fifth Starter are the culprits. But one issue has no answer, while the other one does but it’ll never happen.

In left field the problem is summed up by the fact that Andrew Vaughn isn’t hitting and Tony isn’t just tossing him to the wolves. Adam Engel is a few weeks away, and maybe he settles things, or maybe Vaughn also heats up in May, but the question will seemingly linger all year until someone takes the reigns. If Engel is really just a fourth-OF type, we will know before Memorial Day. If Vaughn isn’t ready, that call feels like it could be made even sooner. Absent those two, can the Sox live with this patchwork of players that they’ve trotted out there? The answer has to be yes until June at least. It is too early to trade for anyone of note in April because teams aren’t really out of it yet, and those that are well behind like the Diamondbacks and Rockies don’t have anyone to trade that would be better than Vaughn at the moment. So the only other answer would be calling up Gavin Sheets or Luis Gonzalez, and…that’s not an answer until the MiLB season starts and they show that their poor springs are behind them.

So how do we solve the left field issue now? Pick a guy and play him. Vaughn seems the obvious candidate. If the guys hits, he’s been decent in the field and there’s no problem until Eloy comes back and we see how Vaughn stacks up with Yermin. If Vaughn fails, he goes down to AAA/AA and we side-eye Rick Hahn for not signing Eddie Rosario in the first place (or Jerry for not giving him the cash).

It stands to reason, though, that Tony will continue to use LF to rotate guys in and out, so get used to the 8th spot in the lineup and the 7 spot on the field being a land of confusion. But all in all, assuming Moncada, Abreu, and Grandal have their bats wake up to their expected norms come May 1, and Yermin, Eaton, Madrigal and TA keep hitting like they are (and why wouldn’t they?), left field can be a mashup until someone stakes a claim. My money is on Engel, but I’m jonesing for Vaughn to take it.

The perceived pitching issues are the more pressing, with the bullpen being wobbly early and now Lance Lynn on the IL. It isn’t a worry that the first couple times through the rotation that guys are a tad inconsistent. Lynn has been solid, Keuchel has been solid the last two times out, Giolito was fine before Monday, and Carlos has been stunning. The bullpen has settled in pretty well in games where those four pitch, including, obviously, Danny Mendick.

That’s mainly because Lynn has gone 9 innings and 6 innings in his last two starts; Keuchel has gone 5 in each of his; Giolito went into the 6th and went 7 in his first two starts, and Rodón went 5 and 9. The bullpen is set up to go from the 6th through the ninth with no issue, and using Kopech or Crochet for a couple clean innings takes the ‘pen down to covering the 8th and 9th. In those doses, Marshall, Foster, Bummer, Heuer and Hendriks are deadly; one of them can clean up the 6th if needed or take one of the last 2-3 innings. But if they need to be repeatedly and consistently stretched across multiple innings, it causes issues.

You’ll note that Dylan Cease was left out of the conversation so far, and that’s because he’s the broken gear in the machine. Each time out he’s thrown the bullpen out of whack and all three of his starts have been losses. He can’t get out of the 5th inning, going 4 2/3 each start and leaving a mess in the 5th. That has meant Jose Ruiz coming into a close game late in Anaheim where had Cease gone through the 5th or into the 6th Ruiz’ inning would have been covered; Cease was bailed out by Kopech against the Royals in his next start, but the next day Heuer had to go 2 1/3 (which is not ideal); and against Boston Tony had to be careful about who he used for the last 4 1/3 because the next day he had a double header (and was starting Kopech), which again had Ruiz come into a close game that turned into a loss. Where three of the other four starters have just had a random clunker (Keuchel’s first, Lynn’s first, Giolito’s Monday MASSacre), Cease is confoundingly starting hot and losing it way too early every time out.

The solution? When Lance Lynn gets back, Cease gets demoted. Cease has improved in strikeouts over last season, currently averaging 9.64 K/9, but he’s getting hit and walking guys more. He’s kept the ball in the ballpark unlike last year, otherwise his 3.86 ERA would likely be worse. His mechanical improvements are noticeably working, but he’s still not able to get through the lineup more than twice and too inefficient to spread that out over 5-6 innings. He needs to get this all sorted out if he intends to remain a starter, and for now he needs to either do that in the current Kopech/Crochet role, or at Charlotte.

In his place, the Sox should start Kopech and Crochet. Slate them both to pitch every 5 days or so, with their slot skipped for days off. Teams are free to figure out how to gameplan for that two-headed monster all they like. Kopech and Crochet can take turns opening, getting a feel for starting and planning on going 3-4 innings with the other guy taking the next 3-4. On their scheduled bullpen session days in between starts, they can still occasionally make an appearance as a reliever if needed (like Keuchel did), but they stay on a schedule. When the rotation lines up that the 5th starter is skipped, Kopech and Crochet are already a part of the pen. Their innings as piggyback starters are limitable and measurable, and they are stretched out and on a starter’s routine for next year. The rest of the bullpen gets used in a more traditional way, covering the 6th-9th in their games and Jose Ruiz is just a middle reliever again.

Meanwhile, Cease can take the long relief route and get through the lineup once where he has been really good. He takes Kopech’s role and can still spot start. That way Katz can watch him up close. Sure, his mentality will need to change, but tough noogies. The alternative is Zack Burdi and his 98 mph heater stays here and Cease goes to Charlotte to learn how to leverage his strikeout stuff into a 7 inning game or find a pitch that gets double play balls and quick outs. Either way, the Sox should desist on Cease.

The Sweat Meter, a system to manage your White Sox Worries.

As the Sox continue to be up and down to start the season, concerns will pop up. Here, weekly, Sox in The Basement and Mismatched Sox will measure the concerning stuff, big and small, and determine whether to sweat it at all. The range runs from five Sweaty Freddies to one, five being sheer panic and one being nothing to worry about at all.

Dry, dry again: Yermin is hitting like a normal hitter again, he’s still really good. Too much Jake Lamb will sort itself out…I really think Tony’s trying to get him a job elsewhere. Giolito maybe doesn’t do Monday mornings…is he a Garfield fan?

Just a few drops: Lance Lynn might just be sore; all the starters are likely to get a 10-day IL vacation here and there this year. A trap strain is not one that you’d expect to hear though. Jose Abreu was hitting .192 on 4/21/19; seems like he’ll be ok.

Slick skin: Yoan Moncada’s struggles are starting to resemble 2018 and 2020, and for him 2019 was the aberration. Andrew Vaughn’s playing time is down in favor of Leury Garcia, who is here because he’s versatile, not because he’s good, and unlike Nick Willams isn’t a DFA candidate.

The Dampening: They need a winning streak before the Royals or Twins really start to get going or Cleveland finds some hitting.

Call Family Waterproofing Solutions, its a flood: For now, things aren’t that bad. Be happy.

A POSSIBLE EPIC FIGHT, A DEFINITE EPIC NIGHT AND JUST A BIT OF FRIGHT

Mayyybe we’re blowing it out of proportion a bit…

So it goes that in the early part of the season Tony LaRussa declared that Andrew Vaughn was not a core player and needed to earn his at-bats. Meanwhile, the likes of Nick Williams, Billy Hamilton, Leury Garcia and Jake Lamb get starts over Vaughn even though the rook’s limited slash line is more productive. This begs questions, like: Does Tony hate playing rookies? For Tony have the veterans earned their at-bats solely from past successes? Does Vaughn need to have a Yermin-esque slash line to earn at-bats? What is Tony looking for in a rookie? Does Tony’s stance fly in the face of Rick Hahn’s plans? Are we hyping this up and it’s really a non-issue?

The short answers are no, yes, maybe, productivity, we’ll see, and I think so.

Let’s start with the question of whether Tony will play rookies in a meaningful amount of games. He has a long history and there are definitely seasons where he gave rookies a lot of play. The one difference with Vaughn and past rookies is that with some, he had seen some of them for several seasons in spring, and they had the “cup of coffee” as a September call up/fill in. In most cases the player was one that, as Tony said, earned at-bats and often kept hitting through their careers. Here’s the notable rookie rundown, discounting anything under 100 games unless the name really pops.

White Sox Part I: 1980: Harold Baines 141 games, earned it evidently; 1983: Greg Walker 118 games and Ron Kittle 145; 1985: Ozzie Guillen 150 games; 1986 Bobby Bonilla 75 games (traded midseason), John Cangelosi 137 games.

Oakland: 1987: Mark McGwire 151 games, Luis Polonia 125 games, Terry Steinbach 122 games (basically a full season as a catcher); 1993: Craig Paquette 105 games, Brent Gates 123 games; 1995: Jason Giambi 54 games.

St. Louis Cardinals: 1997: Dimitri Young, 110 games; 1999: Joe McEwing 156 games, JD Drew 104 games; 2001: Albert Pujols 161 games, Stubby Clapp 23 games; 2004: Yadier Molina 51 games (backing Mike Matheny); 2009: Colby Rasmus 147 games; 2010: Jon Jay 105 games.

The one thing that Andrew Vaughn does not have that the players on that list have is the benefit of Tony LaRussa being his team’s manager for all or part of the prior season. But he does have the pedigree as a prospect that ranks with names like Baines, McGwire, Drew, Pujols and Rasmus, even though some of those are prospects that fizzled more than sizzled. He also would be used out of position like Pujols or Kittle were in their early years (a 1B/DH cast as a passable at best OF).

Regardless, that’s just the guys that Tony trusted to play the majority of games where, according to his own edict, the player would have earned a roster spot and then earned their at-bats. There are gaps between years where he played rookies, but then there’s very little rebuilding in there as the teams he managed were typically contenders. Guys like Rasmus and Paquette that failed maybe “earned” the roster spot by the front office or by need, but Tony played them. So historically, it is unfair to say that Tony hates rookies. That said…

He likes veterans, even fringy ones. Look at his rosters over the years and there are names littered around that were veteran players who were either aging out into a part time role or guys that had never quite lived up to it in their prior stops. Guys like Billy Hamilton and Nick Williams, or going back to his first tenure an old Oscar Gamble and the immortal Jerry Dybzinski. The Sox of the early 80’s were a mix of finding a young core and moving veterans in and out, and by 1986 Tony was out before the team found a core that really came together in the 90’s. Tony went to the A’s, inherited some young stars and then went 6 years with a veteran squad before having to turn to two rookie infielders. You can argue that this is a failing of the front office, not developing talent from the draft, but Tony had veteran squads for years and never really had to give a rookie a shot. So he can stand by that adage that they have to play their way in. As Cardinals skipper, he plugged in rookies who were top prospects like Albert Pujols or guys like Super Joe McEwing, who played his way into the lineup. Looking at the list, J.D. Drew shared an outfield with Ray Lankford, Darren Bragg, and Eric Davis; Dimeathooks was gone to the Reds after his rookie campaign; Jon Jay was basically a 4th OF as was Albert, and Pujols is a future legit Hall Of Fame guy. With the A’s, McGwire and Steinbach were stars, Polonia was a good utility guy. With the Sox in the 80s it was similar story as far as being a star with Baines, Ozzie, and Bonilla, while Walker, Cangelosi, and Kittle played their way in from part time roles. Fair to say, Tony favors veterans over rookies unless they make him. Clearly, then, veteran players have pre-earned at bats with Tony based on having a history he can rely upon.

In 2021, (adjusting for inflation?) Tony is giving Yermin Mercedes gobs of plate appearances because the guy is outright destroying the ball. Meanwhile Vaughn is doing ok, taking walks and starting to hit better, but not great. So, Tony is sitting the “ok” rookie in favor of veterans, while using the hot rookie every day. If Yermin cools way off, he won’t be in there, and if Vaughn catches fire, chances are he’ll be in there. And maybe Tony is just building to that exact scenario, while saving Vaughn from himself for now. Veterans can handle an 0-fer…Rookies maybe not much. After all, if Leury Garcia has a bad day with the stick, there’s history that says he’s capable and fans, Tony and Leury know it. If Vaughn has a bad day, doubts about his ability creep in. And that creeping? Sure it creeps on fans who wondered about rushing the kid, and it creeps on the coaches who wonder if he’s ready or has the talent. But worse yet, it could creep on Andrew Vaughn himself, who is trying to prove he belongs. Tony might want to shorten Vaughn’s memory by matching him up favorably early, and letting the Jake Lambs of the team take the bad matchups that they’ll forget about the next day.

Also, right now Vaughn is not the best option in left field. He’s been better than feared, but Nick Williams, Billy Hamilton and Leury Garcia are actual experienced MLB outfielders. They have history at the plate and the field that sensibly shoes the veggie of the doubt over an unknown. When Tony turned to Gates and Paquette with the A’s, the roster was bereft of other choices. McEwing really took over for a very much done Fernando Vina. But we’re also 12 games into the season, and the idea that Tony would let Hamilton or Williams showcase a bit before Adam Engel comes back doesn’t preclude 140 games for Vaughn this year. So maybe Tony wants Vaughn to get hot like Yermin, or maybe it’s just too early to say that Vaughn won’t get the majority of games, but he needs to produce at the plate and in the field and be at least an equal option.

So is this a slap in the face of Rick Hahn or are we reading too much into it? It’s a bit of both, really. Hahn certainly didn’t expect Vaughn to ride the pine all that much. But then Hahn also wasn’t going into spring training expecting to lose Eloy Jimenez for almost the whole season or Yermin to be his best hitter after a dozen games. It’s going to be at odds with Hahn if Tony gives Vaughn 80 games and keeps trotting out a flailing Jake Lamb or a light-hitting Billy Hamilton. But if he does give Vaughn something like 130 games that’s probably more about balancing Vaughn’s defense, matchups and at bats for him, Yermin, Engel, Eaton, Robert and at the end of the year hopefully Eloy, that’s literally Tony’s job and that’s where the logjam is. It’s probably reasonable that Vaughn could get only 120 games given that crowd he’s in. Throw in trying to give Zack Collins some innings and keeping Grandal in on some of those Collins games, and Vaughn’s projected games lessen still more. Not because Tony is at odds with Rick, but because he has roster options that he needs to use.

It’s still fair to ask why not just run Vaughn out there everyday to see what you have. He can’t gain anything by sitting on the bench. Based on the fact that Nick Williams was designated for assignment, it becomes more important to determine whether that is Rick taking away a veteran to force Vaughn onto the field or just launching a guy that didn’t take advantage of his last shot at the bigs. At the end of the year whether the slow start and limited chances are a footnote in Vaughn’s rookie year, or his lack of playing time was a waste of service time, the determination will fall on whether Tony can justify “better options”.

The ultimate answer that Sox fans need in this situation? That Tony and Rick are in agreement that the intention was for Vaughn to get 120-140 games based on performance and balancing the lineup. Otherwise, Vaughn will have to force Tony’s hand or Rick will have to continue to limit the options on the roster, and only one of those will lead to the playoffs. History suggests the side this needs to fall on…earn the at-bats Andrew, and don’t make this a Rick Hahn and Tony LaRussa fight.

Rodón Returns, A Great Sequel?

David Banks/Associated Press

On Wednesday, April 14, 2021 I was by golly glad that Carlos Rodón was feeling better and starting a game for the White Sox. And that, for me, was odd. I was not a fan until this spring, when reading about changes to his mechanics and approach manifested in just blowing guys away. I even, to the amazement of one Christopher Lanuti, went so far as to watch old video and compare it to see why he was so much better. That Wednesday night I looked forward to watching the game, even streaming it to my phone so I could attend my parental duties without missing anything. Well, missing anything on the game (kids are resilient). Like all fans…as the game wore on I felt it. I sensed the epic nature of what was unfolding. And by the end, I not only was excited to have seen a no-hitter and damn near perfect game (my favorite achievement in sports), but my view of Carlos Rodón had completely changed.

On the occasion of his signing, I lamented Rick Hahn not improving the team but settling instead on the very average Carlos Rodón. Rodón had been chronically injured and had never really looked like his first round status was warranted. He had velocity, and a wicked slider, but didn’t seem to have much more. The hope was that the team knew something about his rehab and health. The hope was that Ethan Katz, who had been credited with Lucas Giolito’s massive turnaround, saw something in Rodón that he could fix. I’m happy to report that was all true and when he re-signed Rodón, Rick knew something that I didn’t, and the current Rodón is not the same guy that was non-tendered.

The quip that “Baseball is 90% mental and the other half is physical.”, as Yogi Berra once noted, is an important part of analyzing the “new” Rodón. For one thing, he’s healthy. He’s past Tommy John, his shoulder is good, and that adds to his confidence. There’s no hesitation. He’s throwing the ball with conviction and attacking. He feels like he can, so he can.

There’s also the Katz factor. There’s a tweak in Rodón’s delivery and thought process. He’s not as gangly as Giolito so it isn’t as noticeable, and he was never as erratic as Cease, so the changes aren’t as dramatic. But the changes are super effective.

Rodón is using his lower half more. It’s maybe showing up as a slightly bigger knee drop it a little more bend to his follow through, but examining videos of Rodón in 2020 vs. this year it’s more noticeable in how the ball leaves his hand. In the past, he was more arm than body and it showed when his fastball would look like it was hanging there, versus his slider which had a distinct bend even leaving the hand. As he flung his pitches, the slider looked nasty and big, but changeups and heaters looked like meatballs because the action to generate break isn’t the same as generating the ride that changes and fastballs need. The arm-heavy action helped the breakers but did nothing for control or ride. Plus, with a better stride that he’s using comes a delivery that gets a touch closer to the plate, making that 98 mph fastball in the 9th during his no-hitter look that much faster.

Really though, what Rodón is doing is more mental than physical. Think about a golf swing or basketball shot. In golf if you tell your hands to push the club through to the ball, you better have strong hands that can repeatedly keep the club head aligned or you’ll be inconsistent and all over the place. For many golfers, telling your front shoulder to pull the club through the ball creates a more repeatable swing, steadies the hands, and often yields more power as you engage your back and lower body to pull the club. In basketball, if you set your feet and shoot with little or no jump, using the elbow, wrist and shoulder only, the range will depend on arm strength alone and the accuracy will suffer as the arm needs to go harder to generate more power. With power coming from the legs, the arm can remain smooth and accurate.

And that’s what Rodón really looks like he’s doing, just mentally focusing his mechanics around letting his body deliver the power while his arm and hand focus on accuracy and generating the right spin. Hey, 90% of the game is mental. Unlike the flung meatballs of the past, his fastball now drives at the plate and looks less distinguishable from the slider. The breaking balls are less dramatic, but more effective because they are disguised. And as Steve Stone noted during the no hitter, his changeup is a legitimate pitch because it too is better disguised and can be thrown as a strike. Rodón is at least a three pitch pitcher, and four if you include the occasional curve, and his control has been great. That’s a far cry from his past seasons.

So this is, in effect, a different guy than the one that was non-tendered after yet another disappointing season in 2020. His stuff looks different, his approach is different, his health is so far different, and after nearly perfecting it all on April 14, 2021, the fan opinion about Carlos Rodón deserves to be different. And for this fan, it is. And that’s perfect.

A Lineup’s worth of Things about the Sox that worry me, an ongoing list:

  1. Well, crap, now Rick needs to extend Lucas AND Carlos.
  2. Jose Abreu really is regressing against righties.
  3. I think I also like Adam Eaton again. Damnit.
  4. Garret Crochet getting bunted to death.
  5. Andrew Vaughn needing at-bats vs. Adam Engel continuing his 2020.
  6. Eloy’s recovery being hampered by random walls and nets ganging up on him.
  7. Yoan Moncada seems a bit lost at the plate too.
  8. Yermin Mercedes celebrates as hard as he hits, and somehow Eloy will get hurt as a result.
  9. I think I like Zack Collins defensively as a catcher and glad he’s the backup. Who am I???.
  10. And warming up in the pen: Liam Hendriks needing a live chicken instead of sage next time, and only being able to get Popeyes or KFC.

ONE CRAZY MONDAY (THAT SAVED THE SEASON)

The Weird Sox get a meaningful meaningless win

Forgive me, Savage Steve.

It was just a Monday. Fans were at work, unemployed fans were unaware it was Monday, Garfield the Cat was running the now 40+ year old hating Mondays gag into the ground and somewhere, someone was posting the Boomtown Rats’ “I Don’t Like Mondays” on social media thinking it was clever. It wasn’t. But that’s ok for the purposes of the 2021 Chicago White Sox and their championship aspirations. This Monday happened to fall on April 12th, and the Sox were scheduled to play the game of baseball against the division-rival Cleveland Baseball Assemblage, who at 5-3 were ahead of the Sox, then 4-5, with much baseball left to play in the season.

Carlos Rodon was the scheduled starter, and early in the day his stomach was feeling poorly. His wife would assert that he is really more of an intestinal irritation guy and his stomach ailment was a mistake, but however you spun it Carlos wasn’t in shape to take the mound. Shit happens.

As rumors abounded that Rodon was maybe going on the Covid IL, or somehow Reynaldo Lopez was going to start, fans everywhere started having sympathy pains in their gastrointestinal tract. After a gut punch loss to the Royals where the most expensive acquisition of the offseason blew a save he was getting paid to not blow, chunk blowing at the thought of Reynaldo was warranted.

Yet, from the fog (and stench) of those rancid reactions, emerged the Sox #2 starter. That pun was not intended, but Dallas Keuchel responded to being asked if he could start on his bullpen day with a “sure” and 5 solid innings. Five innings that would end with the game tied, but a game the Sox would win in weird fashion and a game that will bring the team together and get them on their way.

This is a weird team, in a good way. Up is down, right is left, dogs and cats are living together and opened a bar serving mice hazy IPAs. Or, in order, Adam Eaton is leading the teams in homers including potential game-winning dongs on Sunday and Monday; to correct the feel of the locker room Liam Hendriks brought in the supernatural; and the Sox won a game by having their starting catcher take a throw off his head after a backup OF Non-Roster Invitee taking the spot of a different (injured) backup OF Non-Roster Invitee dribbled a ball to first, allowing rookie Nick Madrigal to score after he pinch-ran for a 28-year-old rookie DH who “needed” his 1-out single to keep his batting average at .500. All while the team’s top prospects watched. Things aren’t all bad or all good, but they are a bit…weird.

Leaning into vibe, Liam Hendriks trying to undo the middlin’ bad vibes of a rocky team start by bringing in family friend “Rubi” to rid the place of bad spirits is a total Pedro Cerrano ‘don’t drink Jobu’s rum’ move. They brought back Adam Eaton, who was known as a good bat with a good glove, and so far he’s been channeling Eloy Jimenez with clutch homers and bonehead plays. Their best players aren’t playing well (or are hurt), and their actual best player is now a backup catcher that spent 11 years just trying to get a shot. They have a manager who pulls his starters early but inexplicably (even to him) let Matt Foster rot for what seemed to be 6 hours and 195 earned runs in one game. Their top prospects are a DH learning to be a left fielder and a starting pitcher destroying teams as a middle reliever. They have a pop star at 3B, a gold-glove caliber CF who let one bounce off his head…and Jose Ruiz has the same ERA as Aaron Bummer. The team is just a little weird to start the season.

So the Sox needed a weird win to properly uncork the weirdness wine and let everything realign. It starts with another oddity on the season: the non-tendered and subsequently re-signed Carlos Rodon had been their best starting pitcher in spring training and had the first real dominant start of the season. If you had told fans in February that they would be worried about Rodon missing a start, you’d have been whacked upside the brainpan with the Staff of Cork and Kerry. But here we were, lamenting Carlos’ sour tummy and worried that we would lose another game for lack of him being there to lock down a weakish Cleveland lineup. It gets weirder again when Dallas Keuchel is named the starter on short rest. It gets weirder still when Adam Eaton of all guys goes deep to give the Sox a lead after doing it as a pinch hitter the day before. It gets weirder yet when Keuchel suddenly loses it in the 6th. The weirdness cherry on the weirdness pie comes in the 9th when after a Mercedes single and a Yasmani Grandal walk, a routine fielder’s choice grounder by a guy that shouldn’t be hitting there gets tossed off of Grandal’s head, allowing the go-ahead run to score from second. A weird game to be sure, but one that should turn it all on for them.

Luck is a fickle lady, and the Sox haven’t been lucky to start the season. Sure, you make your own luck by being in position to capitalize on a break, but there were no real breaks for the Sox through the first three series and some bad luck had come their way. Then Cleveland 1B Yu Chang, a shortstop by trade, beans a runner trying to turn two. That’s lucky…he wasn’t aiming for Yas and Yas didn’t get in the way on purpose. It’s also lucky that the carom off the helmet scampers right to where no one can get it quickly, and because one of the fastest guys on the active roster is headed to third already, he is in position to capitalize on the good luck and score. But this wasn’t just good luck…good luck would have been Nick Williams lofting a popup in between three players or cuing the ball just past the pitcher but too weakly to get to either of the infielders. It was weird luck. And when good luck gets weird, it changes a person.

Getting lucky in a weird circumstance makes it seem like anything is possible, even being invinceable. So the team has to be feeling better, or at least like the sage worked. The universe smiled out a win when the team wasn’t at its best. But more importantly, a proven winner and team leader bailed out his team by happily giving a good start on his off day, when as the team’s highest-paid starter he could have played the diva. The bullpen guys then went out hellbent on making Dallas’ effort count. Evan Marshall escapes a bases-loaded jam with just one run scoring, and between him, Aaron Bummer and Codi Heuer the Sox bullpen show the heart and talent we expected. The offense finally got a lucky bounce their way, but were lead there by a guy in Adam Eaton that had every reason to never come back to the Southside and a rookie in Yermin Mercedes that was never supposed to be further north than Charlotte. If the stars in the lineup are paying attention, they’ll take note of the two guys that are just happy to be here and make their efforts count.

It doesn’t take much for a team to come together and play more confidently and with more swagger. A game that should have had little meaning on an otherwise unremarkable April Monday, a game that was shaping up to be a loss because of an illness became a win after some heart was put on display and some luck dropped in to say “hey”. If an otherwise unremarkable April win is what propels the team forward, it’ll be weird, but we’ll take it.

The Sweat Meter, a system to manage your White Sox Worries.

As the Sox continue to be up and down to start the season, concerns will pop up. Here, weekly, Sox in The Basement and Mismatched Sox will measure the concerning stuff, big and small, and determine whether to sweat it at all. The range runs from five Sweaty Freddies to one, five being sheer panic and one being nothing to worry about at all.

No Sweat here: Liam Hendriks will blow a save now and then, better now than then. Dylan Cease will go more than 5 innings someday. Andrew Vaughn’s playing time might soon be coming at the expense of guys that are outproducing him.

Just Glistening: With the Royals being bigger pests and the Tigers being better than advertised, the Central isn’t the cakewalk that was expected. The Sox are trying to do waaayyyyy too much with runners in scoring position.

Notably not dry: Yoan Moncada’s struggles are real. Not using Crochet and Kopech in any back-to-backs means that their appearances are wasted if the Sox lose, as their absences in other losses might have meant the difference. Andrew Vaughn’s playing time is not coming in favor of guys that are not outproducing him.

Beyond Moist: Jose Abreu is still trying too hard to be the MVP.

Call Family Waterproofing Solutions, its a flood: They ran out of beer and food early on opening day…?

WHAT DOES IT ALL YERMIN?

A mimetic poly alloy, capable of imitating anything it touches, including maybe Jose Abreu?

The emergence of the Yerminator and an unwritten future

Static electricity crackled through Glendale and a breeze kicked up from nowhere. A sphere of pure energy formed and a naked backup catcher appeared, walked out of the shower and got dressed for a spring training game, effectively telling a few players that he needed their jobs, and possibly their clothes. Jonathon Lucroy was released, Eloy Jimenez got hurt. Not because Yermin did anything to them but because the 28-year-old catcher and his fellow catcher Zack Collins made it harder to add Lucroy to the 40-man, and because Eloy hurting himself had joined death and taxes as an inevitability in life. But one shouldn’t rule out that Yermin had them…Yerminated.

It’s one week or so in, but Yermin Mercedes been the Sox best hitter and the regular DH. In his first home at-bat he went back-to-back with Yoan Moncada by sending a ball damn near 500 feet out to left. Yerminated.

And it hasn’t looked like a fluke. The 8-for-8 to start the season was something, but this hasn’t been a guy getting lucky or doing something he’s never done in the minors. Yermin was a .308 hitter with an .862 OPS across 11 seasons in the minors, independents, and anywhere that would have him. His hits have been in the form of mashing mistakes and getting wood on both fastballs and off speed stuff. He is still striking out and getting beat by good pitches like you do, but, he looks like a professional hitter. It could be sustainable.

If it is, there’s impact for 2021 and possibly beyond. There’s also sour grapes. Let’s start there and see if we can make wine outta whine.

The sour grapes is but one question on the vine: Where the hell was this guy last year???? He had one at-bat, where he walked. Meanwhile Ricky Renteria gave DH Edwin Encarnación 181 plate appearances and he did nothing with them. Yermin had hit in spring training and then in the summer camp. He had hit in 2019 at Charlotte and Birmingham. He wasn’t that much of a mystery. There’s no fault in Rick Hahn signing Encarnación, who had been a premiere DH, but it was clear by September that he wasn’t anymore. If Ricky had thrown Yermin in there for real to give them a jolt at the DH spot, would the team have struggled down the stretch as badly as they did or get bumped out at all against the A’s? Possibly, there was more going on than a bad DH. However there were two gaping holes in the lineup, as DH and RF were manned by guys that were struggling badly. Giving a spot to a guy that had a chance to hit the way Yermin has so far could have changed the outcome.

But that’s revisionist history and padding the word count. The best case scenario for the Sox in 2021 and beyond is that Yermin Mercedes establishes that he is, in fact, a bona fide major league hitter; that he is a viable starting DH; and that he helps the Sox get to the 2021 playoffs and helps offset the loss of Eloy Jimenez.

The worst-case scenario? Yermin slumps, he gets replaced in the lineup and heads back to AAA when they need a roster spot. But based on what he’s shown so far, that scenario would be just as astounding as his hot start.

Let’s assume Yermin stays in the lineup, but cools off and down to an above-average hitter, settling in at, say, Luke Voit circa 2019: 429 AB, .263 avg., 21 HR with an OPS of .842, OPS+ of 123. Voit is another late bloomer that has blossomed into a key hitter in a lineup with champion aspirations, so it’s a fair comp, though Yermin was a better hitter in the minors. That stat line could also be Andrew Vaughn or Adam Engel or Zack Collins just as easily as Yermin. Basically, 2019 Voit is a solid floor for the White Sox DH/LF slot this season. Not Eloy, but you’d take those numbers as part of the lineup.

In the short term, to get there the pressure is squarely on Andrew Vaughn. He was supposed to be the chosen one, and he hasn’t hit. Sure, there’s pressure learning left field or whatever as far as excuses, but the fact is that he’s struggling badly. He’s sitting for Billy Hamilton and Nick Williams to start in left. When Adam Engel comes back, Engel belongs on the roster and could still outright claim the left field job. So someone has to go. Common sense says Nick Williams gets the heave-ho to make room for the Man of Steal, and unless Williams shows something right now, he will eventually be gone. Williams has pressure enough with this stint to show that the Phillies were wrong and he is an MLB player, not a AAA/AAAA guy. Tony will give him that chance, but Williams is really holding Billy Hamilton’s spot as the 26th man unless he proves otherwise. Vaughn and Engel should be the better options at the plate.

And as a player, Vaughn is not a 26th man; he’s a top prospect and expected starter. But Engel returning and playing, if Yermin is still hitting and Vaughn is not, leaves Vaughn on the bench. For playing time Vaughn would be behind Danny Mendick, who might be starting a lot in TA7’s absence because he is a better SS than Leury Garcia, who in turn would be ahead of Vaughn as a utility guy. Zack Collins is safe because Yermin has yet to take the field, meaning the Sox don’t trust the Yerminator’s defense or game calling, or both. That leaves Williams/Hamilton or Jake Lamb; and what has more value at the end of the bench, an average or better running left-handed hitting OF that can at least serve as a pinch runner, or a slow righty bat that isn’t hitting and can’t hardly field? Hamilton made the team because his speed and fielding make him useful in a part time role. Lamb is at least a backup 3B and could have already lost his spot to Danny Mendick if Danny plays well. Vaughn’s skills mean he should be in there just about every day and getting steady at-bats. Engel’s looming return gives Andrew Vaughn only a couple weeks to prove himself. If he still isn’t outhitting Yermin, then highly touted top prospect Andrew Vaughn really should go down to the minors and work it out there instead of rotting on the pine watching 28-year-old rookie Yermin Mercedes do his job.

Over the long haul, Yermin showing he’s real means the pressure is still on Andrew Vaughn and maaaaaayyyyybe Zack Collins. If Collins fails to hit or if Yermin somehow establishes himself defensively this year, Collins could be done. It feels unlikely that Yermin will be allowed to catch all that much and Collins has had some life to his bat. From the standpoint that Yermin is just a DH going forward, Vaughn needs to prove himself in the outfield to make sure that he has a spot (Adam Eaton’s) next year, and/or prove at the MLB level that he is the better hitter now than Yermin, Adam Engel, and maybe someone like Nick Williams or Gavin Sheets. Based on the pedigree, Vaughn should outpace all those guys at the plate. But if it goes Vaughn > Yermin > Eaton/Engel > The Rest, Vaughn has to play the outfield for the Sox to be best as a team. If it is Vaughn > Eaton/Engel > Yermin, Vaughn is safely the DH over Yermin, but with another issue. The problem beyond 2021 (and hopefully by September) is that Yermin, Vaughn and Eloy are all basically DH candidates. Frankly, going forward Vaughn does the Sox a huge solid if he becomes a serviceable outfielder. In the early going it’s been Schwarber levels of ok, but he needs to hit for any of it to matter.

By the end of the seaon and into the future, realistically The Sox can’t afford to have Eloy and Vaughn in the same outfield, even with Luis Robert between them. And continuing ti treat this all realistically, The Legend of the Yerminator is not as real as Eloy Jimenez or Andrew Vaughn’s skills. If, and that’s still an if, Yermin has arrived in the MLB and is here to stay, enjoy him now Sox fans because the best thing he can do besides getting them to the promised land is become trade bait in the offseason. And with the Universal DH coming, teams will be taking a good, long look to see if a Mercedes can drive them to the playoffs and Yerminate their competition. We will miss the wordplay, for sure.

IN CASE YOU HAVE FOMO

Trevor Bauer does, anyway.

Trevor Bauer had multiple baseballs taken for analysis of foreign substances after his start against the A’s, per Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic. As noted by Yahoo! Sports Ryan Young, Bauer had a 23-minute protest video on You Tube about the new efforts at enforcement/crackdown on doctoring the ball by claiming in part that the foreign substance could be from the catcher’s mitt or shin guards, the third baseman, a ball hit off the pine tar on the bat…yeah, Trevor, right. Because that’s what happens. If you were worried about the Sox not spending on Bauer, don’t. Just…don’t.

Also, George Springer is still hurt, so no worries there.

A Lineup’s worth of Things about the Sox that worry me, an ongoing list:

  1. The Bullpen, especially now that Matt Foster should have PTSD.
  2. Depth. In case you haven’t noticed how that’s going so far…
  3. Eloy’s recovery being hampered by trying to jump for objects on high shelves.
  4. Tony getting a feel for his bullpen leading to the bullpen being abused early.
  5. The toll of a balky hammy on Tim Anderson and Adam Engel, two guys that really need their legs and whose legs are really needed by the Sox.
  6. Dallas Keuchel needing a Sox defense that just isn’t there for him.
  7. Nick Madrigal’s elite contact skills being no match for having the exit velocity of a wet turd.
  8. Dylan Cease regressing to bad habits now that the games count.
  9. Hamstrings are falling way too fast.
  10. And warming up in the pen: Liam Hendriks being held back for save chances that never show up.

Takin’ it Hot, Sweatin’ it, and a Happy Ending

Caution: Takes may cause you to want to self-immolate.

Mismatched Sox HOTT Takes from around the league. The extra T is for Truth.

Or the extra T is for terrible. Or twiddle, because my phone wanted that word. Either way let’s see what the league hath wrought one weekend and a day in.

NL East:

The Mets and Nats were postponed for Covid reasons, a reminder that games will be lost in 2021 like they were in 2020. Nats were the positive team, rumors abound as to who. Presumptive 3B Carter Kieboom was rumored to be one of them, but for the second year in a row a journeyman had to take over for him so Starlin Castro is expected to make a full recovery. The Phillies pitched well in their sweep of the Braves, but in fairness to the Braves it’s hard to play in Philly when the giveaways on all three nights are free untraceable projectiles to the first 8,000 in attendance. But hey, welcome back fans. Miami ran into a very good Rays team. They needed to back up and try running into them again, because the Rays generally played better baseball and took the series.

NL Central

The Cubs looked better then advertised but then they were playing the Pirates. Had they lost the series, by mandate they would have been replaced by the Schaumburg Boomers. Meanwhile the Reds and Cardinals duked it out for supremacy of the division, including an actual brawl that somehow spread Covid to the Washington Nationals. The Brewers trotted out a light lager on the Twinkies when they needed something with a fruity note. You’d think beer makers would know better. Oh and they lost the series.

NL West

The Padres whipped the hapless Diamondbacks while The Dodgers smacked around the Rockies. It was the opening weekend that will be the first to compare the teams in a preview of the NLCS unless the matchups end up with those teams in the divisional series. The Dodgers got contributions from unlikely sources while the Padres spent all their money on last year’s most popular model. Sure the Dodgers gave stupid money to Trevor Bauer, but they have whirlpools of treasure in their training room so it wasn’t ALL their money on Bauer. The Rockies of course will be better at home where they can handle they smoke at altitude while the other team usually can’t. The Giants struggled a bit against the Mariners, but at the age of most of the Giants, Seattle is distracting because of all the “Frasier” sightseeing.

AL East

The Jays of somewhere versus the Bombers of the Bronx. The rebels against the Empire. Three tight games. Super exciting ones at that but because hockey is still going on only part of NYC saw any of it (lazy joke). Jays’ highlights included defense and homers, the Yankees’ highlights were a dude going 6 innings in relief in one game. The Orioles gave the Red Sox their worst home start in decades, fueled in part by the inspiration of Trey Mancini coming back from cancer. No real joke there, that’s actually pretty awesome for the guy. Tampa’s only real threat in Miami was getting the games in before curfew.

AL Central

Something something mumble mumble Angels. Of Anaheim. The Tigers surprised the Cleveland Baseball Assemblage with timely hitting, and by attacking the Clevelanders’ biggest weakness. The Tigers had a “pitcher” throw baseballs to a “catcher” at home plate, confounding Cleveland’s hitters to no end. The Royals tangled with the Rangers and after they got untangled, they played baseball and the Royals demonstrated their lack of pitching prowess. But that was OK for the Royals, as the Rangers demonstrated their lack of pitching prowess better. Or worser? Twinkies rarely beat beer but then the Brewers aren’t great at baseball.

AL West

Grumble grumping something White Sox and Angels. Shohei Ohtani tho. Whew. The Astros. The A’s. The series that will be the first salvo to determine the AL West crown, except that the Astros absolutely stomped a mudhole in Oakland and so that settles that, right? The Mariners did well against the Giants largely by playing them at 4pm so the Giants couldn’t get out to dinner. The Rangers are looking forward to their home crowds giving the Nationals Covid.

So what did opening weekend tell us? Good teams are good, bad teams are bad and the Angels probably cheat. The Astros might have sewn up their division, because the Angels will be disqualified for cheating. The Yankees better not get cocky because the Orioles are coming. The Centrals are open wide for everyone but the Pirates. The Nats picked the wrong week to quit submitting themselves to Covid-19 protections and sniffing glue. And the Angels probably cheat.

The Sweat Meter, a system to manage your White Sox Worries.

Well, opening weekend went poorly. For the White Sox faithful there’s definitely grumping and hot takes that Rick Hahn paradoxically both ignores and gets bothered by in unison. These concerns range from legit to overblown. As the longest of the major sports seasons, baseball will always have opportunities to give you causes for concern both short and long term. Here, weekly, Sox in The Basement and Mismatched Sox will measure the concerning stuff, big and small, and determine whether to sweat it at all. The range runs from five Sweaty Freddies to one, five being sheer panic and one being nothing to worry about at all.

Don’t Sweat It: Andrew Vaughn will get a hit and then more. The bullpen beyond Kopech and Crochet are fine, Tony’s just getting a feel for them (although Hendriks should have pitched the 9th on Sunday). Luis Robert and Adam Eaton are good fielders who had bad days. Dylan Cease continues to have oddly repetitive stat lines that are in no way an indication of dark magic at work, I think.

A few drops on the ‘ol forehead: Bad defense is a sign of lack of focus and they were sloppy all spring, but they should get better. The narrative that the Sox are only good against bad teams wasn’t helped this weekend. TA’s hammy is not something you want bothering him. No one is hitting, and the pitching didn’t carried them the way you’d want, but it’s one series.

I need a towel: Yoan Moncada is striking out a lot. A lot a lot. He looks bad. Zack Collins was a different guy in AZ, and in keeping with his admittedly limited history he again looked weak when they started counting. The bench is thin as hell with Engel out, and maybe not much better with him back. Jake Lamb?

Sooooo damp: Jose Abreu is being discussed as a headcase now because the lineup isn’t as strong as he’d like without Eloy, and he looked like he was trying to hit a 6-run HR every time up. If Eloy is his security blanket to that degree, it’ll be an issue until the fall and that’s too late.

Call Family Waterproofing Solutions, its a flood: Nahhh…too early for real panic. We’ll do this again next week and see whether we should worry to this degree.

Happy stuff!!

Here’s the happy stuff from the weekend:

In an early entry I weaponized the staff of Cork and Kerry as a group who would behead Rick Hahn for a poor off-season. It then grew from a mass beating to an actual (fictional?) object used to smite thine enemies, even if they be Angels. This week, Yermín Mercedes wielded the Staff of Cork and Kerry, and smote angelic pitchers 8 times in a row. Is he real? His .307 average and .861 OPS over 11 seasons at various levels suggests that he is an actual hitter, as does his 15% K rate. He didn’t come through Sunday night, but Ohtani is nasty isn’t he? If his minors stats continue to carry over, he should be a mainstay until Eloy is ready.

Good lord, Crochet and Kopech. Right now they are bridging the starters from the 4th/5th inning but in a few weeks to a month when the starters are getting into the 6th and beyond, these guys might get 2 or 3 inning saves.

Lance Lynn was as advertised, if the defense doesn’t cause problems he was doing exactly what he’s paid to do and you might have saved the bullpen for Sunday. He wasn’t dominant per se, but he battled and kept the Angels at bay through stuff, guile and knowledge. Consider what they did to Keuchel and Cease (both of whom were decent), and Lynn’s Saturday night was both encouraging and comforting.

His stats are lower than you’d want after 4 games, but “Nicky Two-Strikes” Madrigal also looks like he was advertised at the plate, constantly putting it in play. And he stole that base, eventually Tony will just trust him when he says he’s safe.

Jose Ruiz didn’t suck. (Look they lost 3 out of 4 and I’m just trying to stay positive, okay?)

MEATBALLS, PRAYERS AND TRUTH: The Future Predicted

Let’s play the prediction game and see what the future holds for the Sox…and the rest of the league.

WHITE SOX:

Record: 95-67, 1st in AL Central because screw the Twins.

Playoffs: ALDS 3-0 over Tampa; ALCS 4-2 over NYY; WS 4-3 over Dodgers. Seems legit.

Best Overall Hitter: Yoan Moncada, .311 avg., 24 2B, 5 3B, 30 HR, 87 BB, 112 K, .407 OBP, .541 SLG, .948 OPS

Highest Average: Tim Anderson, .332 avg. (juuuust nipping Nick Madrigal, .329).

Home Run leader: Jose Abreu, 36 HR. (2nd place a 3-way tie Grandal, Moncada and Robert with 30 each).

Stolen base leader: Nick Madrigal, 46 steals. Hard for TA7 to steal after all those doubles, which are not an issue for Nick.

RBI leader: Abreu, 127 RBI.

ERA, starters: Lucas Giolito, 2.39

ERA, Relievers: Evan Marshall, 1.94ish

K’s: Giolito, 298 (In 178 innings. So a lot.)

Wins: Lance Lynn, 21

Losses: Lance Lynn, 11

Starts: Lance Lynn, 32

Innings: Lance Lynn, 288

Saves: Hendriks, 43

Accolades: Tim Anderson, Batting title. Andrew Vaughn, ROY (.285/35 2B/25 HR/107 RBI/.845 SLG). Lucas Giolito, Cy Young (19-2, 2.39 ERA 1.02 WHIP). Yoan Moncada, ALDS and ALCS MVP. Jose Abreu, WS MVP.

I literally pulled all of that out of my butt. If any of it comes true I just get bragging rights and my butt will officially replace PECOTA and Fangraphs. As it is, my butt is in contention to replace a billboard on the inbound Dan Ryan.

Sox Storylines, 2021: Things that are and may never be.

Andrew Vaughn will play more than 100 games in LF. This will be by design and by need. The aftermath of the Eloy Jimenez injury was to speculate who replaces him in the lineup, and Vaughn is already a lock. It comes down to the bats of Adam Engel and Zack Collins, with maybe…Jake Lamb? If you want a lefty, that’s Lamb or Collins, neither of which is an outfielder and neither of which has a future with the team where a conversion would be necessary. Collins as a DH this year means little as he would still be a catcher in the future. Jake Lamb may not have a future with the team at all, or the MLB for that matter. If they outhit or even platoon with Adam Engel, Vaughn will see the majority of his innings in left. Meanwhile, it was assumed that Eloy and Andrew would spend the next decade or so together hitting baseballs like they were quaffing beers. The original plan was that Vaughn would DH and maybe replace Jose Abreu down the road at 1B. Eloy would be the LF and then DH when Abreu gets his statue and pre-game ceremony featuring former teammates Tyler Saladino and Jarrod Dyson. The real problem is when Eloy comes back, you still have years of Jose Abreu at first to deal with. I know he’s 34, but the reigning AL MVP that is known for his smarts, professionalism and ridiculous preparation can easily play until he’s 40. So for the next, say, 4-6 years you need to find a place for Vaughn and Jimenez, and only one can DH. But Eloy can’t ever play LF again. He went from injury-risk and comically bad fielder to being a legitimate danger to himself and others. Fans too. Sitting on the shelf won’t make him better at judging flyballs or the distance to the wall. He can’t help himself; Eloy is a good athlete (better than Vaughn), which means Eloy wants to do the things that athletic outfielders do. When we’ve seen him try to do those things, he ends up on the IL. Vaughn will be bad, but safe as a below-average fielder and a risk-averse one at that. I’m 99.7% sure the guy knows he’s not particularly tall or fast and will do what he suggested as he prepped to make his first start in left: chase balls right at him or to his right, and let Luis Robert take everything else. If Vaughn shows this year that he can be even a passable defender and not hurt himself, he’s the new LF and Eloy is a DH, maybe forever. That said, in the short run if the DH battle is lost by Zack Collins and Jake Lamb to Adam Engel, he’ll play LF and Vaughn will DH, and Vaughn will play 40-50 games in left (mainly while Eaton is hurt, resting or against certain lefties).

Speaking of Lamb, Jason Bennetti will describe him as roasted, silenced, slaughtered, and having mint jelly put on him after he goes 0-4 on Easter with 4 Ks. He will get hit by a pitch, which Len Kasper will describe as “sheared”.

Dylan Cease and, gulp, Carlos Rodón will keep Michael Kopech from starting more than 10 games. Kopech will start games as guys are hurt and will spot-start in double headers a few times, but his role in the bullpen and the success of Cease and Rodón will keep LaRussa from making the change. Cease will still be an adventure on the mound, but will keep his ERA in the 3.00’s and strikeout almost 300 batters in 170 innings. Rodón will take a breather mid-season when he gets dead-arm for a week or so, but he’ll make over 20 starts and go 5.2 innings per on average. A far cry from being a pair of aces as their pedigree suggests, but there won’t be any reason to mess with them until the playoffs, when Rodon gets a matchup-based start in the ALDS and Cease follows Kuechel striking out 10 in 8 innings, in a Sox won 15-inning ALCS classic.

Garrett Crochet’s stats will look pedestrian but his impact will be huge. LaRussa won’t hesitate to bring Crochet in to face a high-leverage situation, where his 100+ MPH heat and slider will end rallies. But in games where Crochet is given a chance to throw multiple innings, he’ll get into some trouble here and there, making his ERA and WHIP look worse for the wear as he has a small sample size of innings.

Adam Eaton will be the 4th OF in the playoffs. Adam Engel will play his way into a starter’s role with an Aaron Rowand-esque value at the plate and more importantly, gold-glove caliber defense in RF. LaRussa will favor the extra D down the stretch and into the post-season, finding better value at DH and needing Vaughn in left.

Zack Collins and Yermin Mercedes will combine to form some Voltron version of James McCann. Lucas Giolito will have a complete game shutout with 18 Ks with one of them, and that will be his guy every time out. At the plate they’ll replace McCann’s production and surpass it, primarily rotating at DH with Grandal and catching 50 games between them.

Collins or Mercedes will be dealt at the deadline for a DH/OF or a pitcher. Having shown their value in a catcher-thin league, they’ll be the bait to get a needed arm or a more accomplished bat. Sox Twitter will suggest that Grandal should have been traded instead.

Lance Lynn will open the playoffs. Lynn will be the best suited to pitch on short rest and LaRussa will view Giolito as an almost given victory in games 2 and 6, with Lynn taking 1, 4 and if needed, 7. It won’t be needed until the joyous end.

Eloy Jimenez will be on the playoff roster and will launch 3 pinch-hit HR between the ALCS and WS, including the series winner. He won’t be in the lineup because of a leg injury suffered trying to toss a foul ball out of the dugout.

Abreu will take the Series MVP from Yoan Moncada the way Jermaine Dye took it from Joe Crede in 2005. I mean, yeah, JD had great numbers and the series winning RBI, but Crede was just so damn clutch. Same vibe here, but no one complains.

ESPN will forget the Sox won in 2021 while recapping the 2021 season. In spring 2022.

Let’s predict the league stuff:

AL Division Winners: Sox, Yankees and Astros.

Wild Card Teams: Blue Jays, Tampa, Mariners, Twins will all be in contention; Mariners and Rays take it because screw the Twins. (Twice!)

NL Division Winners: Cardinals, Mets, Dodgers

Wild Card Teams: Padres, Braves, Nationals and Cubs will all be in contention; Padres and Braves take it.

AL MVP: Mike Trout, in a mild upset over Moncada and Tim Anderson.

NL MVP: Freddie Freeman. Safe bet anyway.

AL Cy Young: Lucas Giolito

NL Cy Young: Yu Darvish, because Trevor Bauer will implode.

AL ROY: Andrew Vaughn

NL ROY: Ke’Bryan Hayes? Sure.

Major storylines: After Zac Gallen, three more major NL pitchers get hurt while batting, and the universal DH gets adopted for 2022. In the meantime the MLB PA is caught sending a memo that pitchers can only throw fastballs to each other on the main part of the plate. In response, Carlos Rodón’s wife takes to Twitter and says her husband is misused hitting fastballs because he’s an offspeed guy. The Marlins sell at the deadline in spite of being tied for second in the NL East and only 5 games out; this sits…poorly with the league…but the Sox’ infamous White Flag Trade trends on Twitter for a bit and it’s suggested by Sox Twitter that the Sox follow suit because at that moment the Twins are up by a game. Mike Trout demands a trade at midseason and the Padres somehow have the best prospects package but the Angels balk at dealing him, instead trading for fading Giants catcher Buster Posey. Immediately Posey, Pujols and Justin Upton each break a hip and catch the shingles. Corey Kluber regains his old form and it’s revealed he was locked in Corey Feldman’s basement in 2019 and 2020 while Feldman took his place in a Kluber mask. The Rangers are blamed for a rise in Covid cases in Texas that the state says was actually just allergies. In response to the rise in Texas cases, Lori Lightfoot and JB Pritzker announce that teams playing in Chicago much have no more than 25 players on the roster or pay a fine. The Cubs only then find out that David Ross no longer counts as a player and quickly recall a player from Iowa, who according to Chicago rules must quarantine for 16 days but only after 9pm. The Pirates set a modern record for consecutive losses, finally beating the White Sox on August 31 after Liam Hendriks blows a save. With a comfortable lead in the standings, Hendriks admits “He felt bad for the little nippers” and the next night the Sox win 32-3 with Leury Garcia giving up 3 runs in the 9th. The Red Sox rebuild is derailed when Chris Sale tweets a pair of scissors with the words “I don’t wear brown” in response to a nearly completed trade with the Padres. To prove he can, Trevor Bauer starts a game left handed and blindfolded, but gets turned around and throws a fastball to second base, accidentally concussing Gavin Lux. Dave Roberts starts to talk suspension post game but a large pile of money hits him in the shoulder from off screen and he just says Trevor is a unique guy and Gavin has to keep his head in the game. The Mariners surprise baseball by winning a wild card spot, and using an unheard of 17-man rotation. Eight pitchers run out of minor league options by August. The Brewers make a solid run at the playoffs before May 1, then the rest of the season is trade talk and watching Christian Yelich’s prime vanish. The Phillies do the same thing but with Bryce Harper and more anger.

Most importantly, the fans come back to the park and have fun. Except Rangers fans who are state ordered to spit in each other’s mouths before entering the park.

A Lineup’s worth of Things about the Sox that worry me, an ongoing list:

  1. Nothing! The start of the season is where Hope Springs Eternal!
  2. Depth. Still.
  3. Eloy’s recovery being not only speedy, but that he hasn’t lost something.
  4. Jake Lamb…? On Easter…? March going in like a lion and out like a Lamb? Am I destined to fall into a hole of Lamb puns?
  5. The toll of learning a new position on Andrew Vaughn.
  6. Zack Collins being an AZ-only hitter and the Sox relying on Jake Lamb.
  7. Eloy falling out of a hospital bed.
  8. Cease and Rodon get hyper in the regular season and regress to bad habits.
  9. Depth. Still.
  10. And warming up in the pen: Jake Lamb? Really…?

A VERY SPECIAL AGGRAVATION

A very enraging screenshot.

A Lineup’s worth of Things about the Sox that worry me, an ongoing list:

  1. WHAT HAVE I BEEN SAYING THIS WHOLE TIME???
  2. WTF HAVE I BEEN SAYING?
  3. EVERY. BLOG. SINCE. I. STARTED. THIS. BIT.
  4. HAVE I NOT BEEN CLEAR???
  5. WAS IT TOO MUCH OF A JOKE??
  6. I know…I’m supposed to be entertaining…BUT SERIOUSLY.
  7. WHAT DID I SAY????
  8. WHA…BUH….GAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!
  9. Walls and Nets vs. Eloy. (How MANY TIMES do I need to say it???).
  10. And warming up in the pen: Can Andrew Vaughn, Yermin Mercedes or Zack Collins play left field without hurting themselves? Nick Williams for 6 months? A Trade?

Welp, let’s discuss the fallout, shall we??

Five to six months places us at October at the latest, and at the earliest September. Either way, you’re hoping that Eloy has enough time to heal up, get reps in at AA/AAA, and come back for a playoff run that should still happen.

To be clear, this sucks. This is a massive loss in the lineup, but the lineup is deep enough to withstand it in that they can still score a helluva lot of runs if everyone hits like they should. But, there is no one available that will hit like Eloy can hit.

And to be sure, last year the lineup suffered without him. I won’t get into the stats but there’s a prevailing wind that blows around thinking that the A’s series is different with Eloy in there. The only good news? Yoan Moncada is healthy, Edwin Encarnacion is only giving parrot rides at his local grocery store and Nomar Mazara is flailing away for the Tigers. Moncada hitting like it is 2019 helps and Adam Eaton will definitely help. Meanwhile, Andrew Vaughn will need to be as advertised, and his addition to the team now looms much, much larger.

The immediate question of who replaces Eloy is easy: Adam Engel (when he gets back). Nick Williams or Billy Hamilton if you want a veteran. Or Gavin Sheets or Luis Gonzalez among the prospects. Or, spitting at the ghost of 1986, converting catchers Zack Collins or Yermin Mercedes into left fielders.

Williams (I know, I know…I know.) is the obvious answer to start the season. Eloy will be on the 60-day IL and that opens a 40-man spot to add Williams. That’s assuming that your faithful Sox in the Basement hosts are correct and Billy Hamilton is getting a spot soon to be vacated by either Nik Turley or Jose Ruiz, that Andrew Vaughn is getting a Jace Fry 60-day IL spot, or that Seby Zavala is also on his way off the roster.

Williams is hitting above his career average this spring, which in the best of times as a Phillies regular in 2017-2918, was .269 with a .775 OPS. He’s not Eloy, but he has had some success in the majors and he’s a load better than Hamilton at this point. The trouble is statistically Williams’ success just is not much better than Nomar Mazara. Williams has had a long look this spring so clearly LaRussa likes something of what he sees. And, unlike grabbing a free agent off the streets, he’s here and has been ramping up to opening day. Williams also is a better fielder than Eloy, at least average as an outfielder, so he saves a few runs Eloy would give back. If he ends up platooning with Engel, maybe the Sox cobble together a better result than any one player would give.

Prospects are not the answer. Sheets didn’t do much in the spring, hitting .125. Luis Gonzalez has hit .154 so far. Micker Adolfo too. Blake Rutherford isn’t ready. Yoelkis Cespedes hasn’t made an appearance.

The other option is to fit a square peg in a round hole fielding wise. If I had a pick, and clearly the White Sox really don’t listen to me, this is the best route.

Eloy was a train wreck in left. A train wreck ramming into a plane crash, where the plane had crashed into a capsized cruise ship that parts of the Hindenberg landed on. As CBS (mildly) put it today, a historically bad fielder. Would Andrew Vaughn be any worse out there? Could he be? Is it possible that Yermin Mercedes or Zack Collins would be worse? Vaughn has goofed around with outfield reps in the minors and at the alternate site, and if my mind isn’t hallucinating with rage at Eloy, I recall Yermin taking an inning or two last spring training and summer camp in left. And who among baseball players hasn’t at least shagged flyballs during BP at some level? They can’t be completely hapless…right?

It has been pondered whether Zack Collins has forced his way onto the team as the backup catcher. If he has, you can choose Jonathan Lucroy over Nick Williams in the roster crunch-o-rama machine and still have Collins in the lineup more often than not. He’s not Eloy, but if he has arrived at the pedigree he was drafted at, Collins spending the year DHing and catching or playing left and catching would not be the worst thing in the world. The problem? Collins has yet to do this in the majors. He’s hit well in Arizona and in the minors, but never at the highest level.

Mercedes is another story. He’s 28, not really a prospect so much anymore and if he’s ever going to do it, now is his chance. He’ll never be the everyday catcher for the Sox, but his bat could translate to the majors; he’s a career .302 hitter in the minors with an .857 OPS and 83 homers over 617 games. He’s due for a shot at the plate, anyway, and if the Sox were willing to cringe in horror at Eloy in left, what’s the difference? Mercedes had one (1!) plate appearance last year as his only in the majors, and he walked. Giving him a few weeks (at worst until Engel gets back) feels right. It feels…good. Until you remember why it is happening and then it feels like Yermin is the creepy guy sleeping with your mom.

Adam Engel will handle the long haul of the season, and this is also his chance to cement himself as an MLB starter. His platoon splits were not bad last year, hitting .291 against righties with 2 of his 3 homers. If that’s the result of his changing his approach and growing as a hitter, he should be at least adequate at the plate and his defense will actually save a huge number of runs over what Eloy was giving back. If he’s the answer come May 1, then the Sox only need a new fourth OF and Leury Garcia/Billy Hamilton is fine as that guy.

So is there anyone outside the organization? It doesn’t make any sense to invest in a long-term OF over this injury, so going and trading for youth or a star isn’t likely. Any cuts upcoming are guys that have under performed or were never really good options, like Steven Souza (Jr.) or Jay Bruce. There’s no starters just sitting there ready to go unless you make a trade for a guy that’s about to be pushed out.

Even then, there’s few teams that have someone just sitting there unless you like Lorenzo Cain or Avi Garcia and the Brewers are willing to part with one (they might be). Avi…is still a tease. Meanwhile, Cain opted out last year and hasn’t done much in the spring. His 2019 wasn’t all that good, .260 avg. and a .697 OPS but this could be his dead cat bounce year in an attempt to get one more ring. The Mets have Mallex Smith and Kevin Pillar battling for the fourth OF spot and the right to come in and make sure Dominic Smith doesn’t cost them a game late. If the Mets somehow prefer the faster Mallex, maybe you could pry Pillar if you want. You probably don’t. Or can the Sox convince the Mariners that Mitch Haniger can be let loose so their prospects can come up and play? That scenario would be great, but Haniger has been hurt, and a lot. He’s played well this spring and projects to be the Mariners’ leadoff hitter. Taylor Trammell, Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez are all nipping at Haniger’s heels though, and his time there is limited.

The Eloy injury casts a pall on the season, to be sure. A more chipper fellow Sox fan noted that this could be just like the 2016 Cubs losing Kyle Schwarber for the season. I punched my phone when that text came across, but then here’s hoping for the same outcome and that Leury Garcia suddenly becomes Ben Zobrist.

Frankly, it should be 1986 all over again, or time to throw “OF” next to Andrew Vaughn’s name for the next decade. If not, all my Nick Williams love shall be requited. Which given the reason why, aggravates me in a very, very special way.

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