As the calendar flips to May, the month of April is finally behind us, Sox fans.
April felt like a month that would never end for the Sox. Between injury after injury, and a brutal month of baseball on-the-field as well, this is the first time since 2019 that the Sox finished a month under .500, sporting an 8-12 record. However, an outstanding start from Vince Velasquez with some thunder from the bats in a 4-0 win on April 30 was a nice way to close out the month with some optimism.
The 8-game losing streak was a horrible stretch of baseball. It was one of the worst we’ve ever seen from the Sox, and frankly even now the Sox are not playing their best baseball, even after the win against the Angels. Coming out of Spring Training, the biggest worry for the team was the starting pitching. With Lance Lynn going down with a injury near the end of spring, and Lucas Giolito getting hurt after his start on Opening Day, everyone could already see a less-than-ideal situation getting worse. However, very few people thought the bats would be this bad, yet here we are. The Sox naturally will hit better when the weather gets warmer, and balls will be flying out the park in the summer, but right now in April this team is a shell of themselves even with the weather.
Despite all of this, the Sox will be okay, and here’s why:
I wouldn’t say that is it bad luck that is plaguing this White Sox team, it’s just how the game of baseball is. It is a cruel game, and not for the faint of heart. Like Jose Abreu said in his postgame after the 5-1 loss in the series opener against the Angels: “I don’t believe in luck. Luck doesn’t exist. But it seems like the other teams are playing with more players than us. They have more players on the field than us.”
Let’s not beat around the bush here folks: the Sox in the month of April have been just down right bad. This is the same team that won 90+ games a year ago and won the division by 13 games! The fact of the matter is that they played bad baseball all around. It was not just one guy either; it was everyone. It was not a good month. The Sox blew a handful of games that they could have easily won. For example, let’s look at the April 22nd game against the Twins. The Sox lost 2-1 due to horrible fielding and mental errors. The TA fielding error, along with the Abreu error lost that game against the Twins.
Is there some bad luck involved? Absolutely. The White Sox have one of the highest average exit velocities on their balls in play in baseball, yet it seems like right now, every one of those balls is finding a glove. Those hits will eventually fall. However, as we see above, it’s not all bad luck – a lot of it is just bad baseball. With the Sox not scoring runs, it magnifies the mental and defensive mistakes even further.
Let’s Start At The Top
Let’s start at the top with the manger, Tony La Russa. La Russa has had his fair share of questionable lineups/decision-making moments. The two things that stick out were the lineup when Leury Garcia was hitting 3rd and pitching to the Twins center-fielder Byron Buxton with first base open in the bottom of the 10th with 2 outs. The count was already 3-1, and Liam Hendriks grooved a middle-middle fastball that was sent for a walk-off homer. Sox lost that one 6-4.
Every time something involving La Russa happens, it continues to make me question if he is the guy to lead this team. I would sure hope he is. He did lead the team to a AL Central crown and a 90+ win season. That’s also not to say that the reason the White Sox are 8-12 is only Tony La Russa’s fault – that’s not fair to the manager either. However, at the end of the day, if a team is not winning, the first person who is going to get questioned is the manager, followed closely by the coaching staff. It will be on Tony La Russa and his coaches to straighten out the defensive woes that plagued the team in April, and as everyone gets healthy again, it will be up to La Russa to consistently put the White Sox in the best position to win with his decision-making.
Folks, Timmy will be fine. He is going through a rough stretch and everyone goes through it at sometime. He did hit a leadoff home run against the Angels in game 2 of the series, getting his average back over .300 after suffering a pretty brutal stretch of at-bats and defensive plays. He had a horrible week defensively in April, but so did the rest of the team.
One thing that I will say about TA is that, I would like to see him work the count a bit more. Walks = people on base. More people on base = more chances to score runs. I’m all for TA taking a hack first pitch and hitting a homer, but if he works the count more he would be a very productive hitter. Since 2019 Tim Anderson average by count is; 1-1: .488, 1-0: .456, 2-1: .426, 2-0: .385, 0-0, .363, 0-1: .361, 3-0, .333, 3-2: .293, 3-1: .293, 2-2: .280, 0-2: .216, 1-2: .180.
Tim will be fine, but he is at the top of his game when he is working the count, and getting into good hitters counts. Get into good hitters counts, and work the count the higher your chances are to get on base. Tim does not walk and it is clear because in the graphic below his BB% is in the 2nd percentile. Anderson doesn’t need to become Yasmani Grandal when taking walks – he just needs to make sure he is picking out good pitches to hit when he is as aggressive as he is.
The pen and pitching has been outstanding this April. Kendall Graveman has been solid, and will enter the month of May with a 1.59 ERA in 11.1 innings, allowing 8 hits and 13 K’s. He had been a really great addition to the pen. Next, hats off to Tanner Banks who made the club out of Spring Training and is getting it done at the highest level. In 12.2 innings, Banks has yet to give up a run in his major league career, only allowing 3 hits in 12.2 innings of work along with 9 K’s.
Aaron Bummer in April has been a huge question mark, but there is no need to hit the panic button on Aaron Bummer. Bummer will finish the season just fine. His command has been a question mark, and he has been all over the place, but he will be okay. Just a rough month of April, and we’ve seen this before from him. Bummer finished 2021 with a 3.51 ERA, along with a 31% strikeout rate. So I see no reason to panic, I also see no reason on why we won’t finish with similar numbers. The stuff is still there for Bummer, as he already has 13 strikeouts this season.
Elsewhere, Jose Ruiz has been a revelation out of the bullpen. La Russa has been able to use his confidently in high-leverage situations for the first time in his career. In 6.2 innings on the season, Ruiz will enter the month of May with a 2.70 ERA and 11 strikeouts. Matt Foster has also been really good for the Sox. He holds a 0.96 ERA in 8 games with 9.1 innings, only allowing 1 hit, along with 7 strikeouts.
Finally, like Aaron Bummer, Liam Hendriks will also be fine. He is Liam Hendriks, two-time AL reliever of the year. It is the same thing with Aaron Bummer – if the strikeouts weren’t there, I would be worried; but he has 12 K’s. He struggled early last season, but as we have seen before, Hendriks will be that shut down guy who will save about 40 games.
The White Sox in the first week of April in the Tigers series looked like a high-powered offense. But then something happened during those two days off before the Cleveland series, because the bats went ice cold during the 8 game losing streak. The Sox were barely scoring runs, let alone getting hits. A lot of this has to do with poor approaches at the plate, as many players are still just swinging at everything as they try to work out of their early-season slumps. The Saturday game against the Angels looked better, however, and hopefully it is a sign of things to come.
Jake Burger has been a standout player for the Sox this April. Burger is hitting .241 with 2 HR, and 2 2B. He came in to replace the injured Yoan Moncada, and he has performed up to expectations. He is swinging a hot bat, and he is hitting the ball really well. Jake has been a saving grace for this club in April, even as he has struggled just a bit over the past few games. Not only has he gotten it done with the bat, but he has also been playing solid defense for the team.
April Player(s) of the Month
Andrew Vaughn: 53 AB, 15 H, 3 2B, 4 HR, 12 RBI, 5 R – AVG: .283, OBP: .367, SLG: .566, OPS: .933
Andrew Vaughn has been the best hitter in this White Sox lineup throughout the month of April. He has hit big home-runs, and has hit the ball really hard along with everyone else in this lineup. Vaughn is turning into a pure big league hitter right in front of our eyes, and it is a thing of beauty. Vaughn’s exit velocity on baseballs has been outrageous. Vaughn’s biggest homer of the month of April came against Kansas City. His homer put the Sox ahead and snapped the 8 game losing skid.
Dylan Cease: (2-1) 3.27 ERA, 28 K’s, 8 R, 8 ER
With the injuries to Lance Lynn and Lucas Giolito, starting the year with good starting pitching looked like a daunting task, but it hasn’t been. Dylan Cease has looked like a Cy Young candidate. He has been amazing, and with a rotation of Kopech, Lance, and Gio, it will be very hard to score runs against a fully healthy White Sox team. It is shaping up to be a dynamic rotation. Dylan Cease has consistently put the the Sox in a good position to win a ball game. In his last outing against the Kansas City Royals, he took a no-no bid into the 6th inning. It was broken up by a tapper up the third base line. He finished the game with 6 innings pitched 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, and 9 K’s.
Micheal Kopech: (0-0) 1.42 ERA, 18 K’s, 4 R, 3 ER
Koepch has also been stellar this year. In the games he has pitched he has done all he could to put the team in the best spot to win, and that is all you can ask for. Kopech looks to be a great piece for this rotation. Kopech is throwing the ball very well, and that is a good sign. A healthy rotation going into the dog days of summer is a must for any ballclub!
Have any thoughts on the White Sox after April? Let us know @SoxOn35th!
Featured Image: Joe Ruffalo (@jruff96) / Twitter