I’d say Jose Abreu’s resurgence could’ve come at a better time, but an upswing before the All-Star Game would’ve made the whole “first player voted to start in decades” storyline a little more of a celebration.
August isn’t a bad runner-up, because it’s usually the toughest month to watch for a bad team — after MLB talent was traded away, before prospects and/or fringe players can join the fray. I’m guessing it’ll be the latter at this point.
At any rate, Abreu is hitting .359/.408/.765 with seven homers, five doubles and six walks over his last 16 games. He reached 20 homers for the fifth time in as many chances, and while he’s got a long way to keep a 100 percent success rate on 100-RBI seasons, 34 in 49 games can be done.
It turns out that the problem was with his hands — not physically, but technically. As James Fegan describes, they weren’t getting where they needed to be.
First of all, Abreu credits his physical adjustment to longtime mentor and former hitting coach Marcos Hernandez, who more or less called him up and made a suggestion about his hand placement. When someone as famous as Abreu gets into a career-worst slump, he gets a lot of outside suggestions, but when Hernandez called, it took priority.
“That was the key for me to overcome the struggles that I was passing through,” Abreu said through team interpreter Billy Russo. “My hands weren’t ending where they’re supposed to end when I’m in a good moment with my offense, with my swing. I just made a little adjustment, that little adjustment, and things started going well for me again.”
Abreu’s hitting coach Todd Steverson explained the adjustment as focusing on separating his hands from his body, not just in the setup but through the swing. Obviously they have to be synced up through the swinging motion, but having some freedom allows Abreu to make the ad-hoc adjustments to pitches that have helped produced a .296 career batting average. When his hands are rotating along with his body every time, he doesn’t have that.
Speaking of welcome sights, it’s nice to see Adam Engel show why the White Sox have started him as often as they have over the last two years. He continued the rich tradition established by Aaron Rowand and Brent Lillibridge by robbing the Yankees multiple times in a series.
Reynaldo Lopez’s face said it all, but in case you’re worse than terrible at poker, he said what he was showing after the game:
“I just wanted to take off my glove and go out there and kiss him,” said a smiling Lopez through interpreter Billy Russo, with a postgame assessment making Thyago Vieira laugh in the locker next to Lopez.
Rick Renteria called the idea of Matt Davidson taking on a greater relief role “premature,” which is probably the right call given Davidson’s limitations in terms of endurance.
The full answer was “It would be premature for me to say that would be the case, to be honest,” and the latter is a bit of a verbal tic for the Sox manager. For instance, in his response to a four-strikeout game by Yoan Moncada:
Rick Renteria on Yoan Moncada's current slump: "Now it's about battling tough pitches in certain situations. To be honest, this is good for him. I think he's going to start to understand that there's another phase to hitting." #WhiteSox
— Kevin Powell (@kpowell720) August 8, 2018
In that answer, it sounds like “I’m not mad, I’m actually laughing,” but it’s not that consistent.
As much as I agree with him, I doubt Fegan will have much luck with this article, and that kinda shows why tanking is so popular around the league. Front offices get criticized if they spend on a team that is chasing .500, and then they’re not expected to pony up at the end of a window, either. Basically, they’re not really held accountable to contribute a certain amount to success. Money without responsibility? Sign me up.
Anyway, when that’s the fear fans labor under, then it becomes vital to not pay Eloy Jimenez or Michael Kopech for as long as possible. I get the baseball argument, but I don’t get why fans are running interference for Rick Hahn, as they’re sacrificing short-term enjoyment with no guarantee of a long-term payoff.
At least make Hahn and others squirm with BS rationales for as long as he’s going to do this. Otherwise, it feels like we’re all in “The Contest,” but the front office gets the cash prize no matter what.
Benetti had a great call on that Engel catch, for people who don’t think he can get up for big moments.
In a sense, sacrificing short-term enjoyment with no guarantee of long term payoff while ownership laughs its way to the bank could really describe the entire rebuild.
Or perhaps our histories as White Sox fans…
It also could describe marriage.
Regarding Kopech and Jimenez, would a charitable read of the situation be that the team is holding them back to have a shot at Rookie of the Year next year? When can they come up this year and be eligible for that in 2019?
Again, that’s the most charitable take on it that I can come up with.
Although I don’t think this is the reason, rookie status is lost after 130 at-bats/50 innings pitched, or more than 45 days on the active roster during the period of 25-player limit. So, with 49 games left, Kopech is probably safe at this point, but Eloy would likely lose his rookie eligibility if called up.
Related, I am guessing Sox brass want them to come up and excel quickly – the way we have seen with some highly touted prospects of other teams (i.e., fewer of the struggles we have seen from some other young Sox). Presumably, the longer the wait, the more prepared they will be. And chasing ROTY would further the PR message.
Engel is a great case study in why baseball is so hard. He has 9/10ths of what you need to be successful in CF at the MLB level!
If he got just one more hit each week, he’d be a core piece. Unfortunately, try as he might (and the kid really seems to try), this is probably a bridge too far.
Hope I am wrong…
Pardon my Ditka, but that’s everything in life. Thankfully, being a fan doesn’t mean I sacrifice short-term enjoyment of my favorite team for nothing – this rebuild came at a perfect time in my life so I spend more time with my kid before she goes off to college. To each his own I guess, but I’ll never so much of a fan of anything (other than my family and friends) that I become a DeadHead, PhishHead, SoxHead, etc. Seems unhealthy to me but your mileage may vary.
The same question substance abusers ask every day.
Wasn’t trying to avoid making that sacrifice the reason the team was mired in mediocrity?
People who want Elopech brought up NOW want the team to do a half-rebuild.
For what it’s worth, I think Eloy will be brought up in another 10-15 days, he’s on the 40-man roster so it won’t require a major personnel transaction. But Kopech’s call-up requires a 40-man transaction and there’s no reason to do that sooner when there’s an advantage to doing it later.
“People who want Elopech brought up NOW want the team to do a half-rebuild.”
That requires elaboration. Especially since you think Eloy will be brought up in another 10-15 days, which confuses me further.
Jim, I don’t think you get it. The entire validity of the rebuild depends on whether Eloy becomes a free agent in 2025 or 2026.
I think people are also hyper adjusting for the mistakes they made in the past in promoting guys too aggressively. They see a promotion for some of these guys as “rushing them”, which they’ll point back to if they struggle.
Things that are half a rebuild: adding Shuck, Jennings, LaRoches, Samardzija, Cabrera, Robertson, Duke, Penny, and Bonifacio before calling it a day.
Things that are not half a rebuild: pushing back the date you have to worry about extending or trading top prospects by 1 year instead of 2 when both are beyond the point at which you can reasonably project the team.
Keeping players at a level that they’re too good for (whether AA to AAA, or AAA to majors, etc.) is likely detrimental to a rebuild long-term, regardless of what the money says. So when I want Elopech to be promoted, I’m not advocating for a “half-rebuild.” On the contrary, leaving them where they are is a half-step. If you want the team to be competitive in 2020, Elopech and other prospects aren’t all going to be good, all at the same time, at the flick of a switch. They need practice at their logical next level.
Kopech has to go on the 40 man at the end of the season anyway. Jettison one of the bazillion nondescript outfielders on the 40 man.
I don’t see the purpose in letting Eloy continue to hamblast AAA pitching, nor Kopech whizzing his fastball past guys who simply can’t handle it. They’re not really learning anything more there. Get them up for development against major league pitching/hitters and continue their learning process.
As a partial season ticket holder and Sox fan that experienced really bad Sox baseball in the early 70’s I realize how tough it has been for all of us to watch the Sox this year. I imagine it is even tougher to put together this quality site when not many fans outside the die hards even care. Add to this situation the fact that unlike the 70’s you can not turn to any sports media and not be assaulted by the sports personality shouting the praises of the little bears who would be fighting for the post season if they were in the AL. Sox fans are in a baseball hell.
That being said I would trust Hahn in regard to an Elopech call up. Even if both were to be called up, the season will not be salvaged. moreover other than maybe a slight attendance blip there will be no real buzz at 35& Shields for the rest of 2018. At worse Eloy could come up and do a Moncada imitation and Kopeck could pitch a couple straight fastball only 98 mph batting practice games.
I will probably attend between 8 to 10 games (including tonite surrounded by yappy Yankee fans) before the end of the season quaffing an extra IPA to dull the pain. But I do not want a half build and after downloading and reading Astroball I think we let Hahn do the rebuild his way despite the the immediate awfulness of the product on the field.
I have no sympathy for the calls to delay top prospects further. The only justification for it is to avoid paying them. With all the revenue in the game today and the players’ declining share of it, I’m well past the point of caring how teams try to rationalize it–none of them have to do with playing better baseball.
The argument in favor of calling up prospects isn’t just that it might make the rest of this season more palatable. It’s likely to be beneficial for their development to get major league exposure now. They’ve probably maxed out what they can learn in the minors. Getting a cup of coffee will help ease them into the majors. Even top prospects don’t necessarily hit the ground running and might need more runway before everything clicks. And even if they do perform, it can take time for the entire team to jell.
Having them up now means no service time shenanigans in 2019, so they can make the most of it.
And as far as competitiveness goes, there are a number of recent examples of teams going from 90+ losses in 1 year to postseason competitiveness the next.
It’s not even to avoid paying them though. Eloy and Kopech will both be arb-eligible in 2022, regardless of whether they’re called up now or in April.
If they’re extension candidates, it would mean buying out another arb year instead of a free agent year which reduces prospects’ leverage in negotiations. If they’re not, then it still costs them money by delaying when they hit free agency.
Which is all beside the main point, which is that calling them up sooner than later is better for the goal of winning baseball games before the end of their team control.
Never thought I’d see the day when Sox fans cared so much about JR’s finances.
The one thing Hahn is good at is contracts. If you’re happy with him as GM service time should be no issue.
“If you’re happy with him as GM, service time should be no issue.”
Going for the ol’ vacuous proof, I see
The front office hit 3 strikes with me about finances. Using payroll as an excuse to shortchange the last rebuild, attendance shaming while fielding mediocre-shitty rosters, and now leaning into the trend of deliberately fielding shitty baseball teams which looks a lot like an excuse to screw over the MLBPA.
Also, one can credit Hahn for negotiating good extensions without being happy with his overall performance. It’s not dispositive.
Friend of the Podcast, Kevin Powell, interviewed Michael Kopech. I highly recommend listening to it.
Alright, my two cents.
I can understand the argument for keeping Jimenez down for another year of control (the season is lost why waste a year of control with essentially nothing to gain). I don’t know that I agree with it, but I can understand the line of reasoning.
However, I don’t understand the argument for Kopech. The risk of career threatening injuries for pitchers is much greater than for position players. If Kopech is healthy get him up here ASAP to utilize his arm while it remains intact. There is no guarantee that it will still be so years down the road. Do it.
Marcos Hernandez should be hired as hitting coach today.
Steverson’s job is twofold: establish an overall system-wide philosophy and suggest mechanical fixes when warranted.
I’m not convinced he’s succeeded at the former and he apparently had nothing for our best hitter during a two-month slump. I’m ready for the Hernandez era to begin.
The sooner they show Steverson the door, the better off they’ll be.
Has anyone taken into account the financial impact that an extra 7 weeks of jersey sales for Jimenez and Kopech at the Chicago Sports Depot and how that revenue gain could offset the year loss in service time?
Either way if these two guys live up to their potential and end up leaving in 2025 or 2026 I will blame management.