Tigers 4, White Sox 3: A rally, and then a bunt

After being kept in check over the course of five innings by erratic-but-talented lefty Tarik Skubal, A.J. Hinch essentially threw the White Sox a lifeline by bringing in Derek Holland, who only has handedness in common.

The first time the White Sox saw their old friend, all four who faced him reached and scored. Today brought more of the same, which was handy since the White Sox trailed 4-1 entering the sixth. Yasmani Grandal singled, Andrew Vaughn doubled, and even when Holland reached the lefty portion of the White Sox lineup, Jake Lamb doubled both runners home, and Zack Collins worked a walk, running Holland’s streak to eight White Sox faced without an out.

It was a little worrisome when Zack Collins tried bunting at points over his at-bat, although given that he’s a lefty, he just might have wanted to make himself useful during a bad matchup. But when Danny Mendick came to the plate and immediately bunted, the move had no such defenses going for it.

It didn’t work out as poorly as it could have, because that’s because we’ve seen the White Sox bunt into a triple play before. It was still on the red side of the scale, because Mendick pushed a bunt right toward charging first baseman Jonathan Schoop, who threw to third in time to get Lamb.

Here was Tony La Russa’s defense of the decision:

Hinch, having received a lifeline of his own, put it to use. He replaced Holland with Kyle Funkhouser, who induced a fielder’s choice and a groundout with his sinker to escape the jam. the White Sox trailed 4-3, and they’d trail 4-3 through the rest of the game, with the only moderately intriguing inning crashing to a halt on a disastrous hit-and-run attempt with Grandal and Yoán Moncada that involved neither hitting nor running.

In the end, the White Sox couldn’t bail out Lucas Giolito, who threw seven innings would’ve looked a lot better if he didn’t allow three homers. He allowed just seven hits and a hit batter while fanning nine, and he threw 76 of his 102 pitches for strikes, getting 22 whiffs along the way.

But he threw a few mistakes — or at least lesser pitches — and the Tigers didn’t miss. Eric Haase accounted for two of the homers and three of the runs. In the second, 1-2 changeup Zack Collins wanted away instead floated belt-high on the inner half, and Haase deposited it well into the left-field seats for a 2-1 lead.

Two innings later, Giolito got ahead with a first-pitch strike, then tried a slider away. The location wasn’t bad, but the breaking ball kinda ambled to its spot on the outside corner instead of displaying sharper tilt, and Haase reached out and lofted it into the first row in the same direction to make it a 3-1 game.

The same thing can be said about the third gopher ball that Giolito served up to Miguel Cabrera. It was located away, but Collins wanted it up, Giolito threw it down, and Cabrera dropped the bat head on it for a solo shot that provided the necessary margin. In another game, perhaps these pitches are doubles, singles, or a routine outs where the hitter spikes his bat in frustration, but they turned into runs in this one.

The White Sox had no such luck against Skubal, who struck out 11 over five innings. The Sox stung Skubal for a quick run in the first, as Tim Anderson doubled to left and scored on a Nick Madrigal single, but little did they know that they’d only have two other hits against Skubal over the next four. The only benefit is that they drove up his pitch count with all the K’s, setting up the bullpen situation they stopped seizing before the job was done.

Bullet points:

*José Abreu had a rough game, going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, consistently getting beat on fastballs.

*Billy Hamilton visibly hurt his oblique during an at-bat, but stayed in for the remainder of it in his compromised state and struck out before departing the game. Mendick ended up playing center.

*Yermín Mercedes pinch-hit for Collins and finished the game behind the plate, as Grandal was DHing.

*Adam Eaton pinch-hit for Mendick in the ninth and struck out for the White Sox’s 16th of the game.

*Codi Heuer rebounded from his disastrous appearance on Friday with a scoreless inning, and José Ruiz threw a perfect ninth as well. I’m growing increasingly fascinated with all the situations that aren’t suitable for Matt Foster.

*The White Sox debuted their City Connect uniforms, and La Russa did his best work before the game.

Record: 35-23 | Box score | Statcast

Take a second to support Sox Machine on Patreon
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.

Articles: 3917
32 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
MrStealYoBase

There’s not much to say about the bunt that wont be said on sports radio and Twitter for the next ~18 hours. 2/10 with runners in scoring position and you give up one of your opportunities.

On Giolito: Collins game-calling made the difference in my opinion. The slider is clearly a third offering and I don’t understand the reliance on it over the changeup against right handed batters when the changeup was perfectly effective the last two years against both sides of the plate. And, given the amount of run he has on that pitch, why when it is used against righties it isn’t buried down and in instead of trying to paint the outside corner, where a mistake is much easier to crush. Also, you’d have hoped that someone on the coaching staff was watching the game close enough last night/read the scouting report and they would have gone to the high fastball against Haase to put him away before the third AB.

GrabSomeBench

I’d say lack of hitting was the difference. As for the bunt, Tony had a good defense and if we remember, had the bunt been executed correctly, Vaughn scores on the bouncer over third. If the infield is in on that play, two runs probably score. The never bunt “Bernstein” crowd is ridiculous. This is baseball, not Sox Math.

mrridgman

If the bunt is “successful”, the pitch sequence changes, everything changes; who knows what the next 2 batters do – I guess a bouncer to third is one of the 100 possibilities.

soxygen

Another way to get the runner to 3rd would have been for Mendick to not bunt and just let Holland walk him.

Holland literally just walked Collins, a same-handed hitter who gave away 2 strikes trying to bunt!

karkovice squad

If you’re just carrying Mendick for the defensive versatility instead of, say Burger, and the best use of his PA with a RISP, 0 outs, and Holland on the mound is a sacrifice, then why not at least PH Mercedes?

MrStealYoBase

Given that Collins was attempting a sacrifice during the previous plate appearance, I’m guessing that TLR would have called for a sacrifice there if the batter was pretty much anyone besides Jose Abreu – which just accentuates the issue with his thinking.

Last edited 1 year ago by MrStealYoBase
Michael Kenny

Imagine learning in March that he Sox would play half of today’s game with Vaughn in left, Mendick in center, and Lamb in right.

polishwith

I was in right center, and when I realized who was at the outfield spots, I wondered if that was the worst defensive outfield in mlb.

calcetinesblancos

I’d be surprised if Mendick is a worse CF than Leury.

Chip

Mendick is a utility infielder by trade. He’s being jammed into a square hole. Hopefully, Adam Engle will be back soon.

As Cirensica

Not gonna defend the bunt, I personally dislike any bunting, but a successful bunt would have increased run expectancy in that situation. So it is not a egregious decision.

karkovice squad

It would not have increased run expectancy. 1B & 2B, 0 outs produces more runs than 2B & 3B, 1 out in almost every run environment.

The argument in its defense is it should increase the likelihood of scoring exactly 1 run. But that’s more of a win probability argument and not something you especially worry about in the 6th particularly if the batter is literally anyone but a pitcher.

And the effectiveness of the bunt is probably lower than you’d expect having already tried to sacrifice with Collins so the defense is ready for it.

As Cirensica

You’re correct. I should have checked, run expectancy decreases eve with a successful bunt. The move is almost indefensible.

Joliet Orange Sox

Almost?

Right_Engel

Wait a sec, I believe As Cirensica was correct here. Fangraphs has a Batter-Specific Run Expectancy tool (https://blogs.fangraphs.com/introducing-the-batter-specific-run-expectancy-tool/) that adjusts RE by the quality of hitters (using wOBA or xwOBA), in addition to base/out states and run environment. For yesterday’s situation:

-Mendick has a .279 wOBA/.288 xwOBA. Giving him the benefit of xwOBA, and factoring in a 4.5 run environment and a base/out state of 1st & 2nd, 0 out, the batter-specific RE for this situation was 1.417 runs.
 
-Anderson has a .331 wOBA/.316 xwOBA. Using his xwOBA, and factoring in a 4.5 run environment and a base/out state of 2nd & 3rd, 1 out, the batter-specific RE for this situation would’ve been 1.467 runs.
 
I’m not a fan of non-pitcher bunts, or generally TLR’s in-game lineup management. That said, in this case – all other factors aside – the above REs support that a successful bunt by Mendick would’ve increased the expected number of runs scored. At the same time, I think other factors not in the RE calc (e.g. Holland’s pitching, speed of baserunners, and PH options) could make a good argument against bunting there as well.

soxygen

No one should have been bunting against Derek Holland. Literally no one.

itaita

Take the scissors to those unis after this game. Not much in baseball annoys me more then when the Sox get runners on though hits/walks and not cash them in and in the top half of the inning the opposing team just doinks out a HR NBD. Bleh.

soxygen

Two other points worth considering here:

(1) the fact that Collins is a lefty might have seemed more important against any lefty other than Derek Holland, especially given that Lamb (literally the hitter right before Collins) is a lefty and he roped a double.
(2) if you are determined to bunt the runner over then he has to be fast enough to get to the next base or you need to be sure he has a good lead. It wasn’t a good bunt, but he must have taken a short lead or gotten a horrible jump.

polishwith

I’m going to read all of La Russa’s quotes in grandpa Simpson’s voice from now on.

MrStealYoBase

It pairs well with imagining Reinsdorf as Mr. Burns.

Chip

I actually think of Uncle Jerry as Mr. Potter from “It’s a wonderful life”

Chip

Or Otis from the Andy Griffith show or Foster Brooks…

soxygen

It might be time to ask what we expect of Collins. His defense, framing, and game calling are all, at best, below average. He really can’t hit well enough to justify at bats over guys like Yermin, Lamb, and Eaton. He’s slow. He isn’t trusted to swing away against the worst lefty we’ll see all year. But somehow he got the start today against a decent left handed starter.

In a season in which we’ve all been humbled to some degree by Yermin’s ability to hit major league pitching and Vaughn’s unexpected ability to handle the outfield, maybe we should give Yermin a chance to get some more time behind the dish?

calcetinesblancos

The Sox ruined Collins by never letting him play, or at the very least they let him play so little (for no good reason) that it’s 2021 and we’re still not sure what to expect from him long term. They are bad at player development. It would be nice if they learned a lesson from this, but as we saw with bringing Sheets up and not playing him, I don’t think they did.

I can’t believe TLR is having him bunt. He knows the zone, let him relax and have an at-bat. On a team with so many bad hitters that play regularly and are trusted, I’m not sure why Collins wouldn’t be trusted.

mikeschach

and if you’re gonna bunt with runners on 1st and 2d, don’t you at least bunt so the third baseman has to field it?

Ben

A lot of discussion about the bunt decision…but is the guy with a 154 BA who you want at the plate for a hit and run?

soxygen

Right. Some part of every tactical decision in the game should involve asking “can this guy execute?”

And while in hindsight the bunt was awful, it is worth noting that if Lamb isn’t fast enough to beat out that throw on the bunt that maybe he wouldn’t be fast enough to tag up & score from 3rd on a fly ball…which then begs the question, if this is the way Tony wanted to play the situation why didn’t he put Leury in to run for Lamb? And if Leury was truly unavailable then maybe you don’t play small ball in that situation.

Last edited 1 year ago by soxygen
calcetinesblancos

“hey this guy either walks or homers most of the time, but he’s also slow…hey how about a hit and run!”

oldtimer

Pretty neutral on the bunt. I was glad to see TLR go right back to Codi after his poor performance. These moves are underappreciated by the fan base but could prove to be critical to the future success of a young player. Different topic. Couldn’t help but notice that Chase Krogman is playing again for Kannapolis. One of our HS selections. A true 20 year old starting out well. Jim, I know your primary focus is the big league club, but is this kid a legit prospect?? I’m guessing we paid him some $$$ to keep him away from some college. Would love to see a write up on our HS picks from the last couple of years. How they are doing etc., etc.

soxygen

Agree re Heuer. He has been unlucky this year, and it was nice to see him get a chance to redeem himself/rebuild some confidence.

It seems like he is using his fastball less, and it has lost a tick or two, but mostly he’s just been unlucky.

soxygen

In 2011, sacrifices were successful more often, more outs were productive, and more base runners advanced.

2011: lg avg sacrifices 68.9%
2021: lg avg sacrifices 67.4%

2011: lg avg productive outs 32.2%
2021: lg avg productive outs 27.6%

2011: lg average base runners advanced 54.6%
2021: lg avg base runners advanced 51.3%

Much has changed since LaRussa last managed.

Last edited 1 year ago by soxygen
Whoom

Sorry, what is lg?

Edit: Nevermind, figured it out….. (league)

Last edited 1 year ago by Whoom