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I’ve been poking around at the White Sox’s ALDS performances, which is a little bit like trying to clean an office microwave. When you try to start prying apart all the mistakes that have burned, melted and fused together, you soon realize that you’d rather just throw the whole thing in the dumpster and pay out of pocket for a fresh start, even if the next one might get just as filthy.
The problems on the mound were easily detectable in real time. White Sox pitchers walked 18 batters over 34 innings, most of them couldn’t present the breaking ball as a threat, and Tony La Russa was steps too slow in pulling the starter in the second and fourth games. Then again, even perfect managing might not have been enough to preserve the series, because they White Sox struggled on both sides of the ball.
Unlike the pitching numbers, the offensive woes are not necessarily apparent from the White Sox’s total ALDS stats. They hit .291 as a team, and they posted a .361 OBP. Six lineup regulars hit .250 or better. That’s not terrible; a little light on power, but with enough line-moving and contributions throughout the order to maybe make it pay off. An average of 4.5 runs per game can win a series.
But then you realize that they scored 12 of their 18 runs in one of the four games, and the dissatisfaction becomes a bit more clear.
Two extra-base hits over 111 plate appearances is pretty staggering, especially since both of them were hit by Gavin Sheets, a guy who wasn’t supposed to be a meaningful part of the White Sox’s plans this year. That’s a nice development story, but like Dewayne Wise in the 2008 ALDS (the statute of limitations expired on Sporcle spoilers), he’s not supposed to be driving the thing.
Tim Anderson and Luis Robert tried to lead the way, going a combined 14-for-34 toward the top of the order. That’s good for a .412 average and a .460 OBP, and now they’ve each posted strong showings in their first two cracks at the postseason. Alas, they also slugged .412 between them, and Robert was thrown out in the White Sox’s only attempt to steal second. Meanwhile, the Astros were successful in all five of their stolen-base attempts. That was a known weakness of the White Sox, but it didn’t loom large because the Astros had an edge of eight extra-base hits over the three losses.
José Abreu, Eloy Jiménez and Yoán Moncada also failed to generate extra-base hits, as did César Hernández and Adam Engel, who supplemented Leury García at the position he wasn’t playing at a given time. Besides Sheets, the only other non-singles came from García (homer, double), Yasmani Grandal (homer) and Andrew Vaughn (double).
I’d argue that García embodies the White Sox offense better than any other player during the ALDS.
- Game 3: 2-for-5, HR, 2B, 2 K
- Remainder: 1-for-10, 1 BB, 5 K
The homer was huge, and a legitimately great bit of postseason theater …
… but the other three games showed why everybody calls him a utility player despite La Russa’s protestations. García carries plenty of roster value as a guy who can step in at a number of positions to help a team get through 162 games. He’s not an ideal starter in a postseason series, when there’s less value in simply getting by.
And while it feels unfair to draw attention to García for an ALDS where so many others failed to deliver even one big hit, I couldn’t help notice that in both of the White Sox’s abbreviated postseason runs these last two years, the White Sox have needed García to start in an outfield corner. In the series against Oakland, he was seen as the best replacement for Eloy Jiménez in left field despite a hand injury that prevented him from getting any reps in September, mostly because Nomar Mazara‘s two functioning hands still left him punchless.
This time around, García was considered the best option at a position for all four games because Adam Eaton flopped early, Hernández flopped later, Engel couldn’t stay healthy and Vaughn never stuck as a threat against righties. While García played exponentially better this October — he went 0-for-6 with three strikeouts against Oakland — Rick Hahn should notice that cutting corners in the corners ends up forcing García to try cleaning up the mess. He can be effective in small doses over the course of the season, but like the sponge in an office kitchen, he’s only going to be so effective at absorbing a big spill after six months of emergencies.
In this case, he went 1-for-4. The “1” was outstanding and one to personally savor, but the front office needs to examine why García’s denominator got bigger from one October to the next. It shouldn’t take much time.
(Photo by Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports)