The Chicago White Sox in 2021 are a mess playing after nine innings.
This afternoon’s loss to the Cincinnati Reds adds more fuel to Tony La Russa’s skeptics as not fully understanding the rules and a poor judgment call cost the White Sox to take the lead in the tenth inning. Only to watch Liam Hendriks give up two hits and the Reds bench celebrating Jesse Winker’s walk-off hit.
In the ninth inning, Michael Kopech started it off with two strikeouts before allowing a single to Alex Blandino. Leury Garcia had a poor route to the ball and made a questionable decision to make a barehand snab that resulted in an error allowing Blandino to reach second base. Kopech would intentionally walk Tyler Naquin to face Jonathan India and lost that battle to walk the bases loaded.
La Russa called for a double switch. For the White Sox coaching staff, here is when the confusion began. Liam Hendriks would replace Michael Kopech, and Jake Lamb replaced Andrew Vaughn. That last part is vital because Vaughn made the final out in the ninth inning, but La Russa had Hendriks in Vaughn’s spot in the lineup, and Lamb takes the pitcher’s spot batting ninth. After Hendriks got Tucker Barnhart to ground out to Yoan Moncada at third base, then it got a bit crazy.
Running at second base was Hendriks. The $54 million closer was asked to run the bases just days after Luis Robert’s injury announcement served as a gut punch to the 26-man roster. That thought alone deserves to be heavily questioned to make such a risky decision in Game 29 of a 162-game marathon. What if Hendriks pulled a leg muscle while running? Or twisted his ankle if he had to slide? Why put the key offseason acquisition at such a high risk?
All those questions are moot if anyone within the White Sox coaching staff, including the Bench Coach Miguel Cairo, advised La Russa what the rule states about pitchers having to run in extra innings.
Because Hendriks spot was the runner on second base, the White Sox could have the preceding runner do the task. That would have been Jose Abreu. In the post-game presser, La Russa admitted that he didn’t know about that part of the rule with pitchers running.
Yasmani Grandal walked for the third time to start the 10th inning giving the White Sox a situation with runners on first and second and no outs. With Leury Garcia batting, perhaps he tries to lay down a bunt to move Abreu and Grandal up 90-feet. But with Hendriks running, the Sox opted to have Garcia swing away. All he could muster was a jam shot to third base in which Mike Moustakas tried to start the double play, but Garcia beat the throw to first base.
Hendriks moved to third on the play, and now with one out, it was Billy Hamilton batting with runners on the corners. Again, if Abreu is running instead of Hendriks, maybe the White Sox try a safety squeeze to plate at least one run.
Instead, La Russa wanted to be aggressive and called for Garcia to try stealing second base. Barnhart didn’t even look to third base on his throw to second because it’s a pitcher running and easily nailed Garcia for the second out. This aggressive decision took away any chance of a grounder hit by Hamilton to force the Reds infield to make a tough decision of trying to throw out Hendriks at home or turn two against the speedy Hamilton. That decision backfired, forcing Hamilton to make something happen with two outs.
Instead, he struck out. Hendriks gave up singles to Nick Senzel and Winker. White Sox lose.
After scoring nine runs the previous night, it appeared the White Sox offense took the day off as they only managed two hits. That didn’t seem to phase Dallas Keuchel, who mustered enough magic to keep up with Reds starting pitcher Sonny Gray in a duel. Keuchel pitched seven scoreless innings allowing two hits and three walks.
When Cincinnati would threaten, Keuchel’s defense backed him up with two double plays. One of those double plays happened in the first inning as Jose Abreu first appeared to double off Joey Votto on a grounder and throw out Winker at home. Reds challenged the call, and it was reversed as Abreu never touched first base before making his throw. It didn’t matter as Eugenio Suarez grounded into the double play on the very next pitch.
Kopech pitched in relief and had wild results as the top of the strike zone started to shrink on him. On 43 pitches, Kopech just threw 21 strikes as he had four strikeouts and four walks in 1.2 innings.
Tim Anderson and Nick Madrigal were the only batters to record a hit off Sonny Gray, who dazzled for seven scoreless innings allowing the two hits, two walks, and striking out eight.
- Yasmani Grandal went 0-for-1 with three walks. He has a season .363 OBP with a .121 AVG
- Dallas Keuchel’s season ERA is now 3.79.
- The other curious decision was not pinch-hitting for Billy Hamilton, who now has a season .345 OPS. It wouldn’t have been ideal, but with Danny Mendick on the bench, La Russa had another option to play in the outfield. He could have pinched hit Zack Collins in Hamilton’s place, moved Garcia from right to center field, and had Mendick play in right field.
- The White Sox are 0-3 in Extra Innings this season.
Record: 16-13 | Box Score | StatCast
Tony made so many bad decisions in the 10th that it really makes me wonder if he is cut out for this. First having Hendricks run. Then not bunting with Leury to move runners over. Then stealing with Leury when the Reds knew Hendriks wouldn’t try to steal home. Then letting Hamilton hit for himself with Eaton and Collins on the bench. This is not the same manager that Jerry fired in 86. I thought Tony was a good hire from a purely baseball perspective. Boy, was I wrong. He does not know how to manage in this style of game. It’s a very different game from even 10 years ago, but Tony doesn’t seem to grasp that.
beat reporter (Fegan, methinks) explaining the wacky new rules to your Hall of Famer Baseball Person in the post-game. woof
Grandal needed to be less selective in the 10th. He had to know that the odds of Leury, Hamilton and Lamb driving in a run following him was not great. He’s supposed to be a run producer. There are times to take a walk. That was not one of them.
You want Grandal to offer at balls on the assumption that TLR won’t use the bench? Grandal increased the Sox’ chances of winning by reaching base. Offering at balls isn’t a strategy for success.
A couple of those pitches were borderline. He’s paid to drive in runs. That was a time to be aggressive, and he wasn’t. Maybe that’s why he’s hitting .121.
Grandal is paid to catch and get on base.
Yep. This isn’t Little League.
Sorry, but guys who hit in the middle of the lineup are paid to drive in runs.
Well that seems like a failure on La Russa’s part of building a lineup. Regardless, Grandal was batting 6th and normally bats 7th. He’s not part of the “middle of the lineup”.
The only reason Grandal is batting 6th or 7th is because he is really struggling. He should be hitting 4th or 5th.
Why should he be hitting 4th or 5th though? He’s not a high contact guy so he’s not going to be a great RBI producer. His skills are working the count, drawing walks, and hitting ~20 HRs/season. He’s a good hitter for a catcher but he’s essentially average compared to the entire league. That’s not something you want in the 4/5 hole on your team, even with the injuries we have.
I think you both have a point on this one. With no outs, Grandal taking his walk in that situation was probably a good call.
But, I wouldn’t mind seeing Grandal being more aggressive in similar situations—even if it meant offering at borderline pitches or pitches slightly out of the zone. Swinging at balls isn’t a strategy for success, but neither is relying on Leury, Hamilton, and Lamb to get the job done. It reminds me of the days when Abreu was the only legit hitter on this team. Yes, he sometimes offered at pitches outside the zone and sometimes looked silly but, at the same time, it was difficult to blame him because he was the only real opportunity for damage. In general, the guys hitting 6th/7th (e.g. Vaughn, Grandal, Eaton) probably should be more aggressive because there are some rally killers on the way.
So the most likely scenario if Grandal is swinging is he rolls over on one and we have a runner on 3rd with 1 out. Run expectancy in that situation is 1 run scoring which is the same as a runner on 2nd with 0 outs. Meanwhile, runners on 1st and 2nd with 0 outs has a run expectancy of 1.55 runs. There are ways to mitigate the Leury/Billy combo coming up (although Leury has been better at the plate lately) and as we saw, they are a tough combo to double up.
This also leads into the issues with our bench construction. Lamb is entirely irrelevant on this roster. We have Abreu, Vaughn, Grandal, and Mercedes to cover first base. Mendick and Garcia are better options for covering the other infield positions. Lamb in left is just dumb. Get a real outfielder on the roster (like Gonzalez or someone outside the org) and cut Lamb. Then you can PH for Billy and still have a cromulent defensive replacement.
So, if the most likely scenario of Grandal swinging is rolling one over for an easy out, then why is he in the lineup? And he is not in the lineup to only draw walks. He needs to provide some power to this lineup.
I don’t think you know what “most likely” means. Grandal is a career .238 hitter with a 43.4% ground ball rate. So yes, the most likely scenario is he grounds out and given his 46.5% pull rate this year and the fact that it was a righty on the mound, he’s going to ground out to 2nd the majority of the time.
Grandal hit 101 home runs with a slugging pct of greater than .450 each year between 2016-2019. He needs to be in the middle of the lineup providing pop, not struggling with 7 hits thru May 6th. He’s currently our 2nd best power bat. He needs to step up.
Mercedes is our 2nd best power bat. Grandal is also a 32 year old catcher. What he did in his age 26 season isn’t really indicative of what he can do now.
You really don’t like Grandal, do you? From all the points you’ve made about how he’s not this or that, why did we pay him $72M? I like Grandal- he is a very valuable part of our offense. But he needs to step it up now that two of our biggest bats are out of the lineup.
I love Grandal. He’s one of the best catchers in the game. I’m just not over here trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. We signed him to that contract to handle the young pitching staff, take walks, and hit the occasional home run. He was not paid to be a run producer like you seem to think he is. Abreu, Moncada, and Eloy are/were our run producers. Guys with .238 career averages should never be counted on as RBI guys, its a recipe for disappointment.
Yes he is. I just think you’re underestimating Grandal’s offensive value to this team.
Grandal hit 28 HR, slugged .468 and had an .848 OPS in his age 30 season.
Yes, Grandal’s struggles complicate the matter a bit (although I still think he’s a better bet to do real damage than the other three) and I agree with you that there are other, structural problems with the team. But, specifics aside, I’m trying to say Roke’s got the right idea in principle: the guys who can do damage might need to be a little more aggressive now that the bottom of the order is garbage. And a by-product of that may be taking fewer walks.
Has Leury been better recently? He’s 1 for his last 12.
Go look at the pitch chart for his walk and tell me what he should do there. There are 5 pitches in that sequence. 4 of them are not even close to competitive and he swung through one of them. The other pitch was ball 3 on a what could have been a strike but its a pitch he can’t do any damage with. So you want him to start swinging at pitches a foot over the zone just to keep the AB alive?
This is what I saw. And the pitch he swung through, he was absolutely trying to do damage with. I thought he showed good recognition of what the situation called for.
You should give my messages a closer read. In the first one, I agreed Grandal should have taken his walk in this particular situation. In the second one, I said, “specifics aside.” So, I agree with you that Grandal should have taken his walk in this instance.
However, I disagree with you—and agree with Roke—that Grandal should be more aggressive in general when Garcia, Hamilton, and Lamb are hitting behind him. His walks are manifestly less valuable in these situations.
The question is whether asking Grandal to be more aggressive on pitches that wouldn’t normally interest him is asking him to ground into a double play.
This. Grandal should be aggressive with pitches he feels he can do damage. It is not his fault the pitcher didn’t offer him anything to hit.
I agree with you, I guess I’m just asking for him to adjust what counts as damage and what counts as something to hit when those that follow you are about as close to automatic outs as you get in the AL.
In his current slump, you’re right. And maybe it’s not a slump, but just the new Grandal. But, supposing there is still some of that pop in there, I’d prefer the aggression when batting in front of those three.
My complaint is a bit different than Roke’s in that it only applies if Grandal is batting in front of empty slots in the lineup. I’m great with him taking his walks, so long as there’s someone who can keep the line moving behind him. Maybe the obvious fix here is just batting Grandal elsewhere. Hit him 2nd or 5th or 8th in front of Madrigal.
Grandal is seeing first pitch strikes 38.3% of the time and pitches in the zone 37.3% of the time.
Of players with at least 80 plate appearances this year, the next closest player to Grandal when it comes to first pitch strikes is Jose Ramirez at 45.5%.
Pitches in the zone? Grandal ranks 7th in baseball.
He can stand to be more aggressive but he is definitely being pitched around because of who is behind him. We are also talking about a guy who hits a grounder more often than not to his pull side. He needs to be more selective than guys like Tim who can swing at anything.
For what it’s worth, Grandal took two other walks earlier in the game. In both cases, there was one out. In both cases, he saw pitches in or around the strike zone but never swung. In both cases, Garcia and Hamilton were both promptly disposed of afterward.
Since none of his three walks resulted in a run, we can say with the benefit of hindsight that he should have been swinging in the hopes that he connects for a homer. I guess I’m saying let’s just have some foresight and recognize that Garcia and Hamilton are rally killers.
Or let’s just bat Yasmani 2nd and let him take his walks all day long.
Very good points, Frank. Yaz taking walks with a couple of slugs batting behind him do the team no good. He really should be up near the top of the order to take advantage of his patience.
I agree with you Frank. Yes, taking a walk is never a bad thing, but there are times to be aggressive and times to be patient. Grandal has become too patient at the plate and it is costing him. He has a total of 7 hits so far this season. Yes, his walk rate is great, but without Robert and Eloy in the lineup, we need the power that he can provide.
For me, it’s more a question of approach depending on his place in the lineup. I love the patience when he’s hitting in front of Robert/Vaughn/Madrigal, but I’m less confident the Sox can do anything with the walk when Garcia/Hamilton/Lamb are up next with a manager who refuses to pinch hit for them.
Or he thought like many of us, “there’s no way he’s going to let Billy Hamilton hit.”
Baffling… It is just… I have no words to describe this level of incompetency at a professional level. I have seen coaches at little league games making better decisions.
Sox are underperforming their run differential by >2.5 games.
Extrapolated to a full season they’re the equivalent of a true-talent 104 win team on pace to win 89 games.
Is is possible for a manager to cost a team 15 games? Well, we might just find out.
Ozzie’s team consistently beat the Pythagorean win-loss calculation.
Here is an article about the best managers and that Pythogrean analysis. Ozzie is in it, but Tony is higher than Ozzie. A younger Tony, that is.
Ignoring all the personality drama, Ozzie was an excellent manager. FiveThirtyEight found that he was the second best manager since 2000 at bullpen management.
Of course, you can’t really ignore all the personality shortcomings with Ozzie, but he really was good at the actual baseball parts.
It is early. Plenty of teams will be off their expected W/L because of a couple blowouts. Dodgers and Yankees are off as well
7th inning strategy for the White Sox moving forward:
Hamilton in // Vaughn out. => To improve defense in decisive late innings
Jirschele in // Tony out => To improve decision making in decisive late innings
Exactly what you need when your team is cursed with injuries—to give away MORE games with abhorrent managing. Even better, the manager faces zero accountability and can just say “Oopsie” at the postgame presser whenever he costs his team a win. Perfect.
Any manager who starts a sentence with, ” I didn’t know….” is a BIG red flag. He should know but he doesn’t have to know every rule. But he should have created a culture where someone is comfortable to speak up and he should be asking about it before he makes a decision. Otherwise, why have anyone else in the dugout?
I have Tony with 4 critical, late-game errors thus far. I think it is far to say that 1/2 changed the outcome. Leaving a pitcher out there for 114 pitches or allowing Foster to sit out there to watch a 7 run parade were 2 of them.
This is why the front office should not have allowed a manager who had been out of the game for several years to hire a bench coach who had been out of the game for several years.
Only it wasn’t the front office. It was fellow dinosaur Reinsdorf who forced TLR’s hiring. Hahn is no dummy and he no doubt saw this coming.
TLR is a stubborn curmudgeon who won’t adapt or change his decisions because he feels he knows best despite the results which is the worst kind of leader. I was hoping this team was too good for a manager to screw up, but the injuries have made each close loss that much more painful.
The White Sox love embarrassing themselves. It’s really the only thing this team does consistently well.
The runner on 2nd rule is stupid as hell and the fact you need a special rule for pitchers on on top of whatever else meme garbage is tied up in that rule proves how ridiculous it is. And ill still be saying that if the Sox actually manage to win one of these this season.
Was a nice comfy afternoon game before that nonsense. Its really fun watching Kopech pitch and it had me wondering if they would almost want to go with a 6 man rotation if not for the other bullpen arms being rather shaky so far this year.
How much pride can TLR swallow… its insane our only managerial hope at this point is he resigns or gets another DUI.
When are rick hahn and kenny williams gonna grow a pair and barge into jerrys office and say its us or him???
Absolute clown car ridiculous managing. I really didn’t think it would be this bad but here we are.
I think that if they barge into Jerry’s office they’ll find Tony there as well, smiling and pointing at his Hall of Famer Baseball Person T-shirt.
hoisting a novelty whole-bottle glass of cabernet
While wiggling his car keys…
Tony should write a book titled something like this “How to ignore the rules in business and life and get away with it”.
Somebody already wrote that book, it’s titled “The Art of the Deal”.
How to write a book without actually writing it about how to ignore the rules in business and life and get away with it.
Is it wrong that I want to send a copy of the baseball rules book to TLR at the park? Might be some good off day reading for him.