White Sox immediately fumbling for third reliable reliever

I understood why Kelvin Herrera wasn’t available in the eighth inning of the White Sox’ collapse against the Indians on Monday. He would’ve been pitching three consecutive games 1) during the first week of the season 2) after an injury-marred season, 3) when his velocity isn’t its usual heat and 4) he was roped around the field by the Royals on Sunday.

Any two of those reasons would’ve been enough. With all four working in concert, I had eliminated him from my thinking before the eighth started. Alex Colome, given his clean bill of health and two easy innings before what would’ve been a third consecutive day, could be considered differently.

So Rick Renteria and I were on the same page there:

It really comes down to Dylan Covey being the best choice with the bases loaded and one out in a two-run game, and what it means when somebody like Covey — he who entered the season with a 6.10 ERA and a 10 percent walk rate and 15.5 percent strikeout rate — could be construed as the best available option in such a situation.

It means that Jace Fry isn’t doing the job, and it’s been a rough start for him. The guy who held lefties to a .143/.217/.190 line last year has allowed three of four to reach to start his season. That’s obviously a small sample, but it’s also very acutely felt when he’s the only pitcher resembling a high-leverage reliever from the left side. He gave up a leadoff walk and a one-out double to lefty hitters during the nightmare eighth, and he’s searching for a reason:

‘I’m always expecting to face the next batter and complete an inning but for me I have to get back in the zone, have consistency,’ Fry said. ‘I don’t want to make any excuses. It’s different out here. The dry air and the ball is slick, but it’s something I’ll have to work with because it’s not going to get warm any time soon.’

He also struggled during the spring, and while Arizona has its own arid climate, he seems to realize that it’s a thin excuse for a month of iffy results.

The Covey appearance, while being more wishful thinking than pragmatic, also casts doubt over what exactly Nate Jones has to offer this season.

There’s been a strange vibe around Jones all year. A rough spring led to some pretty harsh self-evaluation in the later stages of Cactus League play, and Renteria had to answer about Jones’ 92-96 mph fastball on Sunday:

‘If he stays in that particular range, then we can think about what’s going on,’ manager Rick Renteria said. ‘But other than that, he feels great. He’s not complaining about anything physically.’

But it seems like the White Sox are thinking about what’s going on. Jones didn’t pitch on consecutive days during spring training, and he had only faced one batter over the previous four days when Covey got the call.

This kind of uncertainty is why I was ambivalent about picking up Jones’ option after the end of last season. His contract isn’t hurting anybody, but there also might’ve been some value in moving on, which is something the White Sox generally struggle with.


If the Sox really don’t like what Jones is throwing, then they’ll likely wrestle with the larger questions Renteria referred to, and sooner rather than later. In between, they’ll have to throw Ryan Burr, Jose Ruiz, etc. into the fire in search for mid-leverage potential, even if they have to take some lumps along the way. Covey might’ve been a bad idea on its face, but there’s also some value in issuing an early reminder why you shouldn’t touch the pan.

If Fry doesn’t rally, that’s a much tougher issue to solve, and given the way Caleb Frare has come out misfiring, they might not actually be able to solve it.

Four games into the season, the hope is that these are temporary panics, along the lines of Chris Sale’s struggles in his first full season in the bullpen. It’s just never great when the team wastes no time highlighting the easiest way it could all go sideways, especially when this is supposedly the easy part of the schedule.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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Patrick Nolan

Can’t get over this bullshit from the FanGraphs column.


So long as Kopech’s stuff returns, he has No. 3 starter ceiling if the command comes with it, and high-leverage relief ability if the latter does not.

Yes, you ranked Kopech as the 29th-best prospect in baseball on your site after he blew out his elbow, because if all goes well, and he hits that grand ol’ 90th percentile projection, he could potentially become a mid-rotation starter. Are Kiley and Eric kidding me with that comment about his ceiling?

Lurker Laura

This is why I don’t read prospect rankings. I’ll read Jim/Josh/Patrick analysis of prospect rankings, but not the rankings themselves. Makes me too crabby, and I’ve got enough of that.

karkovice squad

A reminder that they (like scouts and front offices) talk about pitchers in tiers, not in terms of spot in the rotation. A #3 starter is somewhere among the 20-50 best starters in baseball.


Yeah, but they shouldn’t call it “#1/#2/#3” because those terms have long-time meaning and what they’re doing is not what anyone considers a #3 starter (their definitions are here: https://blogs.fangraphs.com/the-new-fangraphs-scouting-primer/ ). Under their definition, Chris Sale qualified as a #1 starter exactly one year of his career so far (2017). GTFOH with that.

Lurker Laura

They should use “A level, B level” or something instead. They’re being different and confusing just to be different and confusing.

karkovice squad

Their choices aren’t arbitrary and they’ve explained them at some length. So while it’s fine to both not find value in their approach and ignore it, that criticism is off-base.


Whatever their explanations, using the numbers as a tier system in the way that they do is bizarre. It’s equivocation. 

By definition, a #1 starter is, in a general way, a pitcher who could be the best pitcher on particular 4 or 5 man rotation. So a #1 starter is, roughly, a top 30 SP. 

Supposing you ranked all the pitchers 1-150 or so and evenly divided them among the teams, each teams “#1” would be a top 30 SP… and so on. To say there are only 6 players (I think that’s how many they label as #1) who would be the best pitcher on a particular staff is confusing, even if those 6 players remain a tier above the next collection of pitchers. Just say tier 1. 

karkovice squad

The problem is that the talent gap from the best starter to the 30th is massive. Larger than the gap from 30 to 150.


Sure, and I’m not advocating that calling pitchers a “#1” is a good way to group them. Just pointing out that if someone does use that as a label, by its definition it refers to a player who could be the #1 pitcher (out of 5) in a rotation (or around Top 30 in baseball). 

If that’s a bad way to group players (and it is), the solution is to stop using it. 

karkovice squad

Again, they’re using definitions accepted by league staff. Reclaiming language is also a thing.

karkovice squad

Fair enough on needing to put more effort into proselytizing but they’re not exactly USA Today or trying to be, either. My sense–especially from the chats I’ve read–is they’ve got a bit of hubris about the inherent superiority of their approach and its ability to stand on the merits.

It’s similar to the effort BP put into evaluating catcher defense. They published their scouting treatise 4 years ago, updated it this off-season, and reference it in their work.

lil jimmy

It’s not their method though. It’s “the” method. the problem is at the top. A #1 is a top ten pitcher, maybe less. Accordingly there are maybe a dozen #2 pitchers.
It sucks, but there you are. 150 or more starting pitchers, and 130 of then are #3’s or worse.


Right, but per their method (#1 is 7+ WAR) Chris Sale is not a #1. Pretty sure that does not line up with scouts and front offices. And if Kopech’s ceiling is #3 if he has command and his stuff is back, is anyone ever even a #2 ceiling, let alone #1?

lil jimmy

as I noted #1’s and #2’s, maybe fewer than 20 in all of baseball.
I know it’s stupid.

karkovice squad

Talent scarcity is a thing. Availability is inversely proportional to the level of production. It’s pretty easy to see by looking at seasonal WAR totals.

70 to 80 grades correspond to generational talents and are exceedingly rare for individual tools let alone overall ratings.

And given injury rates for pitchers, they’re going to be even less common than for position players.

Patrick Nolan

That’s fine, but their explanations aren’t linked in the article anywhere.

In any event, the industry descriptions themselves are counter-intuitive, given the logical and straightforward manner in which those terms are applied by casual fans, and I’m not sure what they’re gaining by trying to force confusing nomenclature on people, particularly without accompanying explanation.

karkovice squad

They’re linked at the top of the article. They posted their updated explanation at the start of the offseason.

Patrick Nolan

I clicked the scouting guide one. Fair enough. I didn’t expect that to be in there under that link, but I see it.

Lurker Laura

Fair enough.

karkovice squad

Their argument would be that the lay use didn’t line up with industry definitions. They’re pulling back the curtain on the industry approach and targeting an audience that wants that insight rather than Facebook and MLB.commenters.

Patrick Nolan

OK. That’s helpful to know, but at the same time, it’s bad writing because 99% of the people reading it will interpret it the same way I did.

Laura’s suggestion makes more sense. If they want to write for a broad audience and still use tiers that way, they should at least call the tiers something unique so that they’re not easily confused with something else. A “#3 starter” to me is a 2.0-WAR innings muncher.

Josh Nelson

I’m with you, @Patrick Nolan. It’s better to make a guess at what their future WAR projection will be than say “#3 starter” because that’s different depending on what team you’re on. For Cleveland, you could be a Cy Young contender as the #3 starter. In Baltimore, you probably should be pitching in the International League.

I’ll have to ask Dan Szymborski, but ZiPS found Kopech to be either a 4-WAR starting pitcher, or a complete blowout with very little room in between last year.


They project his future #’s, if all goes well, at 3.30 FIP, approaching 200 innings annually and 3.5 to 4.9 WAR.
Could definitely live with that from Kopech.


I don’t think there’s going to be an easy part of the schedule for this team.

Patrick Nolan

You’re probably right, because if there is such a thing, it’s in April.

Royals, Tigers, Orioles, Mariners….Indians with hurt Lindor, Yankees with hurt everybody.

Patrick Nolan

More related to the post….

If Fry doesn’t rally, that’s a much tougher issue to solve, and given the way Caleb Frare has come out misfiring, they might not actually be able to solve it.

I’ve personally thought Aaron Bummer never did anything to fall out of favor in this mix, and somehow, he has. Lefties have hit .213/.288/.319 against him in his career. That’s not remarkable for a specialist, but it’s good enough.

I’m not saying to demote Frare, but if Jones and Covey aren’t going to serve a real purpose (Covey and Banuelos sitting on the roster together seems a little redundant, anyway), why not get Bummer onto the club?


Since the Sox already mailed in this season based on free agency i’d be all for trying some other guys out. Covey has had years with this team to show some value and save for that hot month last year hasn’t done much.

As Cirensica

Since the Sox already mailed in this season and probably the next two based on free agency.


But didn’t Renteria cause the Herrera and Colome availability doubt by putting them out there on Sat. while down 2 runs?
To me, it’s showing a continuation of last year’s strategy of managing a ‘pen as if it’s a playoff series.


Makes sense. Thanks.

Yolmer's gatorade

What bothers me about the Covey and Frare decisions is that it puts them in a position to fail. There is a clear pecking order in the bullpen:

    High leverage


    Mid to low leverage


Maybe if the mid to low leverage guys play well they can move up. But a smart manager will keep those players in positions where they do not have to worry about the score as much as getting people out. If they can handle a few scoreless innings, then start putting them in more stressful spots.

I think down 2 in the 8th against the Royals is probably a mid leverage situation and good for Burr. Covey should never be in the game up 2 in the 8th with ducks on the pond until he proves he can handle lower leverage situations.

As Cirensica

And some of us thought the bullpen was the only area the White Sox improved over the winter. Imagine if Hahn didn’t get Colome and Herrera.


Fuck it, let’s sign Kimbrel. The money will be spent!

Lurker Laura

In other annoying news, no more PDF print-at-home tickets. All online purchases are mobile tickets. Granted, for most of the population, this is not a big deal. For my mother, it means she will never buy tickets online again. Of course, walk-up tickets the day of the game shouldn’t be a problem this year, so.

But anything that makes it harder for any fan to attend is dumb. (This is not a Sox-specific annoyance of mine, but MLB-wide.)


I mean you can buy a small tablet for like $30 at walmart or amazon. We can agree to disagree and I don’t mean to be rude, but in 2019, it’s almost cheaper to buy a tablet than printer ink and paper.


I wouldn’t want to carry a tablet with me to a game. I don’t understand why they would remove the option when the cost to maintain it is virtually nil.

karkovice squad

The cost to maintain is probably some amount of ticket fraud.

lil jimmy

I hate to walk into the game with my phone. That’s no longer an option.
Although Josh and I attended a game, and he was pulling up Exit Velocity and launch angles on his phone and having a grand old time. (I use mine to watch kitty videos)

Patrick Nolan

I actually didn’t know that.

What I think would have lessened the blow (for some, because again many will be able to adapt just fine) here, would be if 1) there would have been some announcement or “sunset period” on PDF tickets to give people time to adjust and 2) maybe a neat “Don’t have a smartphone?” section explaining how people who don’t have one can make it work without an expensive (and for some, confusing) purchase.

Change is harder on some people than others, and while “buy a tablet and use that” is relatively straightforward advice, the thought of having to do that and get acclimated to using new technology can be daunting enough to be a deterrent.


People are still attending White Sox games? Who knew



lil jimmy

I love to go to games. I don’t like people, so it’s perfect.

karkovice squad

They don’t really care about marginal attendance except as a bullshit excuse for not spending money on the team.

They’ve also spent a couple decades trying to target demographics with more disposable income, getting more revenue per fan offsets the loss of some fans.


Conversely, having to print tickets is a PITA.

More than once I’ve picked up tickets on my phone on a whim, get halfway to the park only to have to turn around or stop by work to get to a printer.

But what I don’t understand is why it has to be an either/or? Scanning off a screen or paper seems to work for pretty much any other event.

Yolmer's gatorade

I’ve been going to the insanely cheap bleachers and brews games. I think they make you pick those tickets up at the box office so they can check your ID. I’m a millenial supposedly, but I still liked printing the tickets. Guess I’ll have to adjust.

Patrick Nolan

Maybe start a collection of QR codes?

As Cirensica

Its happening with concerts too. I like to keep tickets stubs…reminds you when, where and which concert you went to which is pretty neat, I guess. To remind me of Radiohead’s recent concert, I have a …hmmm…a t-shirt with concerts dates and locations in the back. I couln’t print tickets.

karkovice squad

Another aspect of it is data tracking & mining. They build a deeper consumer profile by tying everything back to mobile tickets.

Yolmer's gatorade


Shingos Cheeseburgers

Online purchases have the option to be picked up at will call