Week 6 Record: 5-2 | Overall Record: 24-15, 1st in AL Central
Ladies and gentlemen, as of this writing, the White Sox are the best team in Major League Baseball. At 24-15, the Sox now have a 2.5 game lead over Cleveland in the AL Central and are 8-2 on this current 13-game stretch against divisional opponents. While the series versus Kansas City wasn’t as clear as some would have hoped, the Sox made sure to battle their way to a split with a chance to really bury Minnesota on the horizon this week.
Let’s recap this week and get ready for a real test of a week!
Tale of the Tape
Game 33: White Sox 9, Twins 3 | Box Score | Recap
Game 34: White Sox 13, Twins 8 | Box Score | Recap
Game 35: White Sox 4, Twins 2 | Box Score | Recap
Game 36: White Sox 2, Royals 6 | Box Score | Recap
Game 37: White Sox 3, Royals 1 | Box Score | Recap
Game 38: White Sox 1, Royals 5 | Box Score
Game 39: White Sox 4, Royals 3 | Box Score | Recap
Jordan’s Weekly Wrap-Up Thoughts
This was another good week for the White Sox. Though they didn’t play as cleanly as usual against Kansas City, they did enough to walk out of that series with a split – good teams find a way to win games even when they’re not playing very well, and that’s exactly what the White Sox did. More importantly, however, the South Siders took care of business when Minnesota came to town, promptly sweeping them and leaving little doubt about the gap between the two teams at current. Though both are depleted, the White Sox showed that their depth will be able to handle the losses of Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert. Imagine this team with those guys healthy…
However, moving forward, if the White Sox are looking for a boost to this team, it’s going to need to come from CF. Since Luis Robert went down with an injury two weeks ago, the White Sox CF position has been manned by Leury Garcia and Billy Hamilton. During that time, Leury Garcia has posted a 76 wRC+, while Billy Hamilton has posted just a 56 wRC+. Needless to say, neither of these are going to be able to hold down the fort for long. I’m interested to see when Adam Engel might be able to return to provide some potential offensive depth, and though Brian Goodwin is struggling currently in AAA, I think he might eventually get his shot soon as well.
Truthfully, I’m also very curious to see how long Leury Garcia’s rope on this team is – if I had to guess, it’s quite long. Garcia has not been the same player as in past seasons while getting the highest number of at-bats with RISP on the team. It’s this sort of imbalance of skill and high leverage situations that has been maddening over the past several weeks, and with clear, cheaper replacements in Danny Mendick or even (yes) Jake Lamb on the roster, Garcia’s versatility is valuable, but not irreplaceable. I’ve been told he needs more regular ABs before getting into his groove – well, he now has 112 plate appearances (7th on the team) while sporting a .216/.257/.265 slash line with a 49 wRC+. I’m not sure how many more at-bats he might need to get into his groove, but in my mind, the clock should be ticking.
The pitching continues to be the storyline, as the starters rank 5th in ERA, 8th in FIP, 4th in fWAR, and 8th in K%. This is clearly a top 10 – and borderline top 5 – rotation at current, even as guys like Dallas Keuchel and Lucas Giolito continue to struggle a bit.
I do want to spend a bit of time talking about Lucas Giolito. I’ve seen a lot of *interesting* takes recently regarding Lucas Giolito. I talked a little bit about him on the most recent Sox On 3th Podcast, but if I had to recap it here briefly, here’s what I’d say:
1) The stuff has not changed year-over-year; his struggles aren’t due to his “stuff”
2) There seems to be a change in his release point year-over-year (see below). For reference, the balls on the left of the red line are from 2021.
The odd thing is that the change in release point hasn’t changed the movement on his pitches – only the results. My thought is that the release point might make it a bit easier to read out of his hand – this is purely speculative, however. I would like to see Giolito raise his release point a bit more to his 2020 form.
The good news is that a change n release point isn’t as drastic of a change as it sounds – often it just requires a pitcher to “get on top” of his pitches more. Trust me, if a 24-year-old armchair coach can see this, I’m sure Giolito and Katz have identified this and understand what’s going on.
The reality is that Giolito hasn’t exactly been bad – he just hasn’t been as lights out as we are used to. I’m willing to be patient with him this season, as it is still relatively early and it might take some time. It is something to monitor, however.
Also, for those of you who say this version of Giolito looks like the 2018 version – I think you’ve forgotten just how bad Lucas Giolito was in 2018.
Stats on 35th: This Week by the Numbers
This Week’s Numbers:
5, 3, 0.884, 0.143, 81
With his RBI triple on Wednesday this week, Jose Abreu became the fifth player in White Sox history with 200+ homer runs and 700+ RBI. He joins Frank Thomas, Paul Konerko, Harold Baines, and Carlton Fisk as the only other White Sox players in history to accomplish this feat.
Carlos Rodon has been in pretty elite company to start this season, as he joins Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez as the only three starters in MLB history to record a win, strike out 7+, and allow five or fewer hits in each of his first five starts of a season. When your name is next to Johnson and Martinez, odds are you did something pretty rare.
During the White Sox’ six-game winning streak last week, they hit .296/.374/.510 (.884 OPS) with eight home runs while allowing just 15 earned runs in 54 innings. The number that continues to be most impressive to me is their on-base percentage – the White Sox have taken their fair share of walks to start this year, and it’s been awesome to see.
Yasmani Grandal continues to have one of the wildest stat lines I’ve ever seen this year. In the month of May, Yasmani Grandal has a .929 OPS. However, he has just a 0.143 batting average, good for a .143/.500/.429 slash line. As I’ve mentioned before, while he continues to struggle to hit, he’s having no problem getting on-base.
Before the wild end to the White Sox’ 4-3 victory on Sunday, the Royals entered the ninth inning with an 81% win probability. That promptly fell to 56% after Tim Anderson’s double before Yoan Moncada turned the tables and put the White Sox in front of the win probability game for good. What an awesome ending to a crazy week.
Fan Question of the Week
Ah, the weekly fan question, where your conversations on Twitter during the week basically get turned into my question every week. This week, fans have been pretty concerned about lineup construction, so I asked:
1) What is your ideal lineup?
2) What is your strategy behind building a lineup?
It’s a two-part question that is really born from the question of who should be hitting 2nd on this team. For some, they like Eaton there. Others like Grandal, while others like some combination of Mercedes/Vaughn/Moncada. There’s no right answer to this question honestly; all I wanted to learn is how people view a lineup.
In my opinion, the top two in the lineup should be on-base guys. I don’t care if you hit your way on base or walk to get on base – you should be on base for the guys behind to drive you in. The middle of the order (3-6) should be guys who can both drive in runs and get on base to keep rallies going. 7-9 doesn’t matter too much for me, but I’d like for the 9 hitter to be someone who can get the lineup turned over and get on base.
All of that being said, here’s the lineup I’d roll out with:
- Tim Anderson – the textbook definition of a leadoff guy
- Yasmani Grandal – *In Jonah Hill’s voice* because he gets on base
- Yoan Moncada – he’s been great in the 3 spot all year and is a guy who will drive in runs
- Jose Abreu – textbook cleanup hitter
- Yermin Mercedes – quality two-strike approach that might be the best in baseball
- Andrew Vaughn – an on-base guy who puts up great at-bats… some solid ABs will turn this over to Eaton nicely
- Adam Eaton – I think this is the best spot for someone who will likely continue to hit with RISP
- Leury Garcia/Billy Hamilton – they have to hit somewhere
- Nick Madrigal – in theory, a great guy to get on base and turn the lineup over
The biggest thing for me: start the lineup with guys who get on base at a high clip. Bunts are useful – but guys who are going to get on base are more useful. Again, I don’t care if it’s a walk or a hit – as long as Yoan Moncada and Jose Abreu are hitting with guys on base, the top of the order did their job correctly.
Let’s get to some of your thoughts, however. Thanks to everyone who submitted an answer!
1) @Jake_Tedeschi_: I think this is a really interesting thought on Grandal that I agree with. With Leury/Hamilton and Madrigal currently batting behind Grandal, pitchers would rather not challenge Grandal and go after far easier outs. An increase in the order “protects” Grandal from seeing far too few good pitches.
2) @Wh_Sox_Mike24: Similar lineup to mine, only real difference is 8/9. I think your general thoughts on Grandal are spot on – even when he gets out, he’s working the count, making guys throw pitches, and gets to see what a pitcher has on a given day. That’s incredibly valuable early on in the game.
3) @shawnjdickens: I’m really starting to grow on Vaughn in the #2 hole to be honest. I also like the idea of moving Mercedes down – I think a young guy like him is definitely going to start pressing a bit with some natural struggles, especially given the start he had.
4) @TheJimiWilson: You’ll never catch heat for thinking outside the box with me. I actually like this lineup a lot – it’s different, which was totally the point of this. I like your general strategy as well with this one – I think you spread out the hitters well throughout this one as well. Unique and well thought out, I like it.
5) @jdwhite753: Way to rig the system – I guess I never said the players had to be on the team, lol. However, you traded for the “wrong” guy… #HanigerToTheSouthSide
Highlights of the Week
1) Jose Abreu’s instincts kick in to help the Sox split their series with Kansas City
2) Andrew Vaughn hits his first career homer as Sox beat the Twins 13-8
3) Dylan Cease battles, gives up just three runs while striking out seven against the Twins
4) Lance Lynn battles around defensive woes, strikes out nine in 4-2 win over Twins
5) Michael Kopech strikes out five in four innings of another solid spot start
The Week Ahead: Two More Big Tests for the Sox
Monday @ Twins: Dallas Keuchel vs. J.A. Happ, 6:40 PM CT
Tuesday @ Twins: Lance Lynn vs. Michael Pineda, 6:40 PM CT
Wednesday @ Twins: Lucas Giolito vs. Matt Shoemaker, 12:10 PM CT
Thursday: OFF DAY
Friday – Sunday: Series @ Yankees… Dylan Cease and Carlos Rodon are among the scheduled starters in what will be a huge test series for the White Sox
Same time and place next week, White Sox fans. Leave your thoughts below or find me on Twitter @jlazowski14!