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Three White Sox observations from Opening Day

by Nik Gaur

Last night’s 3-2 Opening Day victory over the Astros was just one game, but it was quite meaningful for the White Sox. It featured Pedro Grifol‘s first win as manager, Reynaldo Lopez‘s first save, Oscar Colas‘ first hit, and Dylan Cease‘s first Opening Day start. While it is far too early to make any larger proclamations about the White Sox based on their performance, four players stood out to me as worth monitoring going forward.

Reynaldo Lopez indeed went to Driveline

Over the winter, Reynaldo Lopez worked at Driveline Baseball to prepare for a full season as a high leverage reliever.

The results were glaringly obvious, even from just one game.

According to Baseball Savant, Lopez’s velocity on all three of his pitches was up at least 2.7 MPH from last season’s averages. In fact, his slowest four-seam fastball from last night (99.0 MPH) was faster than his average four-seam fastball from 2022 (97.1 MPH).

One of Lopez’s goals at Driveline was to throw a harder slider, much like Dylan Cease did progressively in 2022, and if he can indeed throw a 90 MPH slider with a higher spin rate throughout 2023 as he did last night, chances are he will have a monster year out of the bullpen. As Lopez is a free agent after the season, he is a prime candidate to receive a large contract in the winter.

Yasmani Grandal looked much more agile defensively

Throughout the offseason, White Sox fans were well aware of Yasmani Grandal’s journey in preparing for 2023 so that he can hold up throughout a full season for the first time since 2020. As this is also the last year of Grandal’s contract, he too has a lot to play for.

While only time will tell how effective his work was, Grandal looked much more agile behind the plate last night. Always a strong framer, Grandal’s defensive limitations have long pertained to his blocking abilities. In 2022, Grandal’s knee health made his blocking even worse than his career baseline, as he was noticeably slower to react behind the plate.

It would be surprising for Grandal to become a standout blocker, but a return to his career norms would be a welcome development for the White Sox since he figures to contribute as a framer and on offense. Given that he looked much more like his old self last night — including on offense — the early returns are very positive.

Tim Anderson and Luis Robert Jr. chased less

Tim Anderson and Luis Robert Jr. may be the regular 1-2 punch at the top of the lineup for the White Sox this season. The combination would be much more dangerous if they hold longer at-bats and, especially for Robert Jr., are less susceptible to swinging at “pitchers’ pitches.”

At least based on the eye test, both had considerably better plate appearances last night compared to 2022.

Tim Anderson, for example, didn’t swing at a single pitch outside of the strike zone. Even the two called strikes against him were clearly outside of the strike zone. Anderson doesn’t need to become a walking example of plate discipline (see what I did there?) to be successful since he is so adept at collecting hits in any situation. However, just a small amount of extra patience this season could put him in more hitter’s counts, where he is more likely to hit for power.

Robert Jr. did not have as stark as a contrast as Anderson, but he battled all night against tough pitches on two-strike counts. His swings outside of the zone can largely be attributed to fighting off two-strike pitches. However, he was aggressive in the strike zone and had some nice takes on breaking pitches that he might have swung at in the past.

I feel confident in Lopez’s pitching metrics sustaining and Grandal’s defense improving based on just one game. Whether Anderson and Robert Jr. truly have made plate discipline advances is more of a long-term question, but these are all areas that I am looking forward to tracking as the season progresses.

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Featured Photo: © Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

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I saw a lot of good last night, the things you mention, plus the efficiency of Cease and the stabilizing of the outfield, not that they had many things to chase. Like the announcers, I was mortified by Moncada’s baserunning gaffe. They teach you in Little League not to make the first out of an inning at third or home. I worry that Jimenez’ extreme weight loss might take him a while to adapt to. Over 30 pounds changes your balance and maybe even your bat speed.


Still a lot of R.I.S.P left on base

Steve K

At least they got in scoring position.

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