Aggressive approach backfiring for White Sox in clutch

Because serves games with a delay of 30 or so seconds, I can’t often lob first-guesses at an audience that is thirsting for my random hunches. It’d look dumb and confusing to say “Matt Davidson doesn’t have much of a chance here” 20 seconds after he came through with a hit, so I often keep such thoughts to myself.

On Tuesday, though, as Avisail Garcia came to the plate with two on and one out in the ninth inning, a pitching change gave me the opportunity to make a bold proclamation.

Would Alex Colome help prove me correct? If he didn’t, I probably wouldn’t have started out with that anecdote!

The thing is that the same situation unfolded two innings earlier, when Garcia faced Andrew Kittridge. Kittridge elevated his first-pitch slider more, but Garcia still caught it off the end of the bat and flared out to Denard Span in left.

Back to the ninth inning, Garcia then swung at two more pitcher’s-pitch sliders out of the zone, meekly tapping the third one back to Colome.

But it’s not just Avi. Jose Abreu followed it up by chasing a fastball low and away on the first pitch he saw from Colome after Garcia grounded out.

After four consecutive swings at pitches out of the zone between Garcia and Abreu, the microphones behind home plate picked up fans pleading for White Sox hitters to “take one.” A Bronx cheer erupted from the same fans when Abreu laid off a slider in the dirt on the next pitch.

Abreu was fortunate he whiffed, because the sequence brought to mind his bases-loaded double play in Toronto a week ago:

Anyway, it’s not just Abreu. Here’s Yolmer Sanchez swinging over a first-pitch slider with runners on first and second and nobody out in the ninth on Monday.

But it’s not just Sanchez. Here’s Tim Anderson rolling over a first-pitch slider one batter later on Monday.

But it’s not just Anderson. Even Omar Narvaez is getting in on it, as he swung wildly over a first-pitch slider in the dirt to start his at-bat with two outs in the ninth on Tuesday.

It seems like the White Sox have a plan when they come to the plate in such situations. Given that this iteration of the Sox is prone to swinging and missing — they’re second only to the Orioles in strikeout rate and whiff rate in the AL — they might not want to flirt with many two-strike counts, so they’re trying to jump on a particular zone. They’re facing a lot of slider-oriented pitchers who are throwing them on the first pitch, so Sox hitters are vigilant about anything down and away (or down and in to lefties like Sanchez and Narvaez) in an attempt to spring a surprise on an unsuspecting reliever.

After all the failure — they’re 7-for-50 with runners in scoring position during the 0-5 homestand — it’s hard to tell which side is less good at suspecting. While the Sox are swinging like they know what’s coming, the contact is a different story. Via Baseball Savant:

Basically, it seems like a typical right-handed slider strategy triggers the binary choice to swing, but their swings aren’t aligned to stay with such a pitch.

Abreu shook off the ugly whiff against Colome to show us what it looks like when this strategy succeeds. With a 1-2 count, Colome threw a slider that was out of the zone …

… and Abreu took it out of the park.

Rays manager Kevin Cash didn’t fault his struggling closer, and Colome upgraded that pitch execution to Abreu from “great” to “perfect” during a postgame interview. I’d probably call it merely “good” since it did bisect the plate, and maybe a bit worse since Abreu is an all-world hitter who can expand the zone.

Against lesser hitters — think Sergio Romo rocking Garcia and Yoan Moncada to sleep in the eighth inning on Monday — Colome probably has a point. It isn’t taking much to get the White Sox to get themselves out in these situations.

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Jim, was this article a long way of saying fire Todd Steverson?

I’m joking, and I appreciate your in-depth assessment on this frustrating feature of the Sox lineup.


Ugly to see… again…

The whole first pitch swinging and such is also so hard to watch especially when they’re facing a pitcher who was having control issues. Biggest offender, timmay grounding out on the first pitch when before the pitcher had thrown a wild pitch to move runners to 2nd and 3rd with no out. If he didn’t even swing, or anyone behind him for that matter, we probably would have tied that game or even won it. Not the first time too since we remember the Cubs game last year, after Lackey’s horrible control plunking 3 batters in the inning, again, first pitch swinging into an easy grounder to get out of it. The aggressive approach just simply isn’t working and they need to cut it out with all these chasing balls in dirts or well off the plate. This 7-50 with RISP is just absolutely absurd and ridiculous. Not sure how they can fix this though, hitting coach issue as some have said?


Easy on Anderson. Didn’t you get the memo? I’ll send you a copy. 
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Wasn’t meaning to pick on him specifically, it’s just those 2 situations were some of the more notable failures. I still fault the coaching hitting approach overall I believe.

Lurker Laura

Hitting coach problems, or player execution problems?


Or both.  Ven diagrams anyone?

Lurker Laura

Ooh, I love Ven diagrams!

Ted Mulvey

*Venn, guys, jeez. John Venn is rolling over in his grave.

karkovice squad

Can you depict that?


I recall Steverson preaching “selective aggressiveness” upon his arrival. 


“It seems like the White Sox have a plan”…
Yes they do have one Jim; the same plan over and over.
Gotta give it to them though…It is an improvement when compared to the ‘no plan “good” at-bats’ of the RV era…
The current problem is that there is only one plan; plans B and/or C (when the opposing team figured out A) are something yet to be discovered/comprehended by this management team.
How are you going to grow/raise baseball’s top prospects and gather them into a perennial WS contender if you don’t have the most basic professional skills?
Every team sport is a game of adjustments; when one cannot timely adjust to the opponent’s game plan and game time, game plan adjustments then the bottom-feeder status is more than deserved…


Kiley McDaniel posted a high School draft prospects scouting report. Down on Gorman and Liberatore. In-between on Turang. Big on Carter Stewart and Connor Scott.


The 3-0 thing was kinda cute but this is ugly.  Maybe they don’t want to stand out there when it’s 30 degrees 


So what’s going on with Avi in terms of plate approach? 0 walks in 51 PAs this season? Granted his career walk rate is 6.0%, but it seems like he’s trying too hard.