Eloy Jiménez’s status looms large for Game 2’s decisions

With the White Sox disposing of a left-handed starter after telegraphing their intentions to do just that in Game 1, they can’t count on facing another one, whether this series or the rest of the way.

Rick Renteria’s decision-making gets harder from here. It’s easy to play Adam Engel over Nomar Mazara and James McCann ahead of Edwin Encarnación, especially when he has a third catcher as a safety net. Leury García in place of Eloy Jiménez was a slightly more difficult call, since Jiménez could probably still hit after his mild foot sprain, but it made sense to allow García to knock off some rust when the rest of the lineup was in a position to cover for his struggles.

There’s less cover today with Oakland starting Chris Bassitt. He isn’t just a righty, but he’s a righty whose stuff makes life hard for right-handed hitters. It’d be great to have Jiménez back in some form with his plate coverage and power the opposite way, and Renteria is hoping for the same. We may as well use the morning to first-guess the possibilities before the lineups are revealed.

Case 1: Eloy Jiménez is 100 percent.

Preferred route: Jiménez plays left field, Engel starts in right. As for DH, Red_Hair_White_Sox pointed out in Game 1’s postgame discussion that Edwin Encarnación’s Statcast page shows he can hang in against sinkers and cutters. although if you filter out the lefties, it saps some of the enthusiasm:

  • vs. LHP sinkers: .489 xBA, 1.856 xSLG
  • vs. RHP sinkers: .203 xBA, .291 xSLG
  • vs. LHP cutters: .586 xBA, 2.039 xSLG
  • vs. RHP cutters: .242 xBA, .319 xSLG

(Small sample sizes indeed apply. He saw nine cutters from a lefty.)

I would endorse an Encarnación start if only for his batting eye and ability to make Bassitt throw strikes, especially since McCann has struggled all month. My bigger fear is that once Encarnación starts, it will be hard for Renteria to lift him for a pinch hitter in situations where a hard-throwing reliever can work him over.

Case 2: Eloy Jiménez can DH.

Preferred route: Jiménez serves as the DH, Engel plays left, and Mazara stands in right field. It’s not that Mazara is a plus, but García’s swings looked off-kilter, and it’s something I don’t expect to get better with a hand injury being the culprit. You don’t get the fun of fleet-footed outfielders all the way around like we saw in Game 1, but Mazara has plenty of experience playing in the Coliseum, and can be subbed out later if the White Sox hold a late-inning lead.

Case 3: Eloy Jiménez can’t play.

Preferred route: Ooh boy. None of these feel all that great. In order:

No. 1: The outfield from Game 1, with Encarnación at DH, assuming Renteria can bring himself to pull the guy with 424 homers against uglier matchups later.

No. 2: Engel and Mazara flanking Luis Robert left and right, with McCann as the DH in hopes that he can rediscover his opposite-field swing against a pitcher whose pitches should inspire settling for less.

No. 3: The outfield from Game 1 with Mazara at DH. I don’t think anything is lost if he’s not available to play the outfield with Dyson on the bench, although his ability to handle a corner outfield spot is what makes him useful on this roster. Filtering that out and focusing on his non-impact bat feels wasteful.

I think you save Dyson for the situations where his special set of skills can be utilized, since he’s not a better bet to outproduce García. Dallas Keuchel enjoys working with Yasmani Grandal and the numbers back him up, so I don’t think McCann should start behind the plate with Grandal DHing. Maybe Yolmer Sánchez would be the best DH with García back on the bench? That sounds like it shouldn’t be a real possibility, but here we are, and here’s hoping Jiménez can answer the bell and resume at least part of his duties.

(Photo by Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire)

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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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asinwreck

In the case of Door #3, a factor to consider is that Dyson’s had competitive at bats over the past month. Leury’s swings yesterday were not great. Also, a Dyson-Robert-Engel defense in Oakland would be the only internal upgrade on the trio that sucked up all those flyballs yesterday.

mikeyb

True, and I was considering the same thing, but with Keuchel on the mound, you’re likely to have fewer flyballs than yesterday.

HallofFrank

I wouldn’t mind Dyson, but I’d roll the dice with Leury again. He looked good enough in the OF and presumably he’ll only improve with PA’s. He was rocking a .758 OPS before the injury.

HallofFrank

I don’t want Eloy in LF in any case today. For one, there’s just no way he’s “100%” coming off a sprained foot and feeling discomfort yesterday. For two, the risk for playing him in LF is higher than the reward. Let’s even set the elevated risk of re-injuring the foot (or finding another injury!) in LF aside and just focus on the game.

The Risk? You lose at DH either McCann’s bat (.215/.257/.446 vs RHP this year) or Edwin’s bat (.169/.246/.371), and both have been even *worse* recently, in favor of Mazara’s or Garcia’s. That’s probably a downgrade? But one that doesn’t make me feel like the Sox are missing some offensive boost—and there’s a case to be made Garcia (or Mazara) is the better offensive option, anyway.

The Reward? We get to see average (or above average) defense in the vast expanse that is LF at the Coliseum instead of a hobbled Eloy who is a poor defender even at 100%.

In short, the defensive upgrade from Eloy to Garcia/Mazara is likely greater than the offensive downgrade (if there is one) from McCann/Edwin to Garcia/Mazara. But I’ll be happy if Eloy is out there anywhere!

As Cirensica

I agree. Eloy has shown an ability to play the outfield in ways that can hurt him. The Colosseum has a huge outfield foul territory. It makes a lot of sense to have our best outfielders there. One catch in foul territory can change the course of a game. Oakland has made a living on that by having superb outfielders that can add some putouts.

If Eloy can hit, I think he should be the DH. I would go with an outfield exactly like yesterday’s. Yes, Leury looked a bit rusty at the plate, but I don’t see a significant upgrade by having Eloy playing the outfield and adding a DH that can’t really outhit Garcia by much.

mikeyb

Assuming no Eloy today, I would strongly consider moving Madrigal up in the batting order. While he’s not going to be an extremely dangerous hitter, I trust him to put up more competitive at bats than 4 or 5 of the other guys in the lineup.

HallofFrank

I entirely agree. The Sox are going to have to take advantage of opportunities w/ RISP today. With RISP, I’d rather see Madrigal up there than, well, pretty much anyone besides Abreu and Anderson (assuming no Eloy). I’d bat him 5th if Eloy’s out.

GrinnellSteve

Could Collins get the start at DH if they don’t need the spot for Eloy?

grittyiq

This is the problem of doubling down on EE for the season. No idea if Collins can useful at this point

joewho112

Why? You don’t think EE can strikeout looking 3 times?

GrinnellSteve

And Edwin is batting 5th. No Eloy. Grandal behind the plate.

HallofFrank

Reds/Braves 12:08 EST start time on ESPN; Sox game set for 3:08 EST.

It seems unlikely the first game only lasts 3 hours. I assume the plan is wait until the first game is over before the Sox start—a la March Madness?

GrinnellSteve

I doubt it. Unlike college basketball, it’s not really fair to the starting pitchers. I assume the Sox will start on ESPNU and then switch over. But I don’t know.

HallofFrank

That’s a good point about SP. Maybe ESPNU is the answer. It would be very odd to have a playoff game going, potentially for an inning or two, with literally no observers.

The good news is this Reds-Braves game is moving at a brisk pace. Through 3 1/2 in an hour. I’m sure the bullpens will slog it up.

NDSox12

ESPNews is usually the spill-over channel for ESPN live events, so that is where I would expect it to start if necessary.

joewho112

Lineup: EE is DH. Same outfield as yesterday. Grandal catching

Source: https://www.mlb.com/gameday/white-sox-vs-athletics/2020/09/30/635909#game_state=preview,game_tab=,game=635909

Oddvark

In other lineup news, I’m kinda shocked that Kirilloff was in the Twins starting lineup today, making his MLB debut. Bold move.

Red_Hair_White_Sox

I also only feel good about EE in the lineup if he is leaving the game in the 6th along with Bassitt

Malkatraz

I agree.

Edwin is 0 for 3 with 2 k’s vs. Bassitt, but I strangely feel like he matches up ok.