At the real quarter pole, White Sox just have to manage conditions

The 40-game mark is a popular time for a writer to assess a team’s futures. Its hopes. Its dreams. Its flaws. Its potential.

Over the course of writing about that particular checkpoint, said writer might use “quarter pole” as a synonym for “40 games,” as it’s a lyrical way to reduce redundancy. That writer would be using the wrong term, because the term as it’s understood in horse racing refers to the amount of race remaining. Horse races vary in length and start from various points on the track, while the finish line never changes, so it makes sense to have an end-centric approach to fixed measurement devices.

I have been that writer, passing off “quarter pole” incorrectly in the past. I now usually avoid that metaphor at the 40-game mark, because “three-quarter pole” is too clunky to be worth it.

By the time the actual, correct point of the season arrives, there’s nary a pole reference to be found, especially since clubs stopped acquiring Marc Rzepcynski in the middle of a season. The fates of most teams are understood, at least until the postseason arrives. No trades can be made, so any augmentations are likely to be minor in nature.

Take the White Sox, which most people gladly will. Their 11-game lead makes them a virtual lock for the postseason. FanGraphs has called the race with a 100-percent probability, while PECOTA is the most skeptical at 96.2. They’re at the point of the season where Mike Wright is the most alluring arm available. Some guys need to get healthy, others need to get up to speed, while everybody else needs to remain available, but that’s the case for just about every team.

Where the White Sox differ from every team is the enormous cushion over the division’s runner-up. Milwaukee has the second-largest lead in the game, and they’re only up 7½ on Cincinnati. With individual wins and losses lacking the usual meaning in August, the White Sox can spend weeks in maintenance mode, whether that takes the form of giving reps to remove rust or taking away reps to give a breather, leaving everybody to hope that the right balance is struck.

The updates in this regard:

Carlos Rodón: The White Sox issued mixed signals on the length of Rodón’s absence when they put him on the injured list for shoulder fatigue last Thursday, but while he’ll miss more than the minimum 10 days, it sounds like it won’t be by much more than that.

“I guess the good thing from being hurt and having serious injuries is you know what hurt is and you can tell the difference,” he said. “Today I felt really good.”

Rodon said his MRI last week came back clean.

“I’m telling you I’m looking forward to making that next start,” he said.

Tony La Russa says that next start could be during the Toronto series, which starts next Monday. In the interim, Reynaldo López will be giving the Sox a chance to win. If he fares well tonight, he could give the Sox a rotation a temporary sixth man to afford extra rest to the others until the next scheduled off day arrives on Aug. 30.

Adam Engel: While two different issues — a sore shoulder and a recent groin tweak — conspired to put Engel on the shelf on Monday, the White Sox feel more comfortable projecting a minimal stay for him.

“The expectation is that 10 days from now,” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said Monday, “he’ll be active and ready to play.”

His absence, combined with that of Leury García, makes it a little too easy to picture a left-to-right outfield of Eloy Jiménez, Brian Goodwin and Andrew Vaughn, but that’s enough reason to do what one can now to avoid seeing it in October.

Liam Hendriks: He’s healthy, but his stuff looked weak against the Yankees, who blasted three homers over the course of three outs in Hendriks’ previous two appearances. He struck out the side in a perfect ninth to close out the White Sox’s victory over Oakland on Monday, which is more the idea.

After the successful save, Hendriks deployed what can often be a classic excuse:

“The last two outings, I had to get that bad taste out of my mouth,” Hendriks said. “I realized I had been tipping my heater a little bit against the Yankees.”

But there may be something to it. On Twitter, Jay Cuda had noted before the game that Hendriks had lost the uniformity of his release point over the previous week(s), and he rectified it on Monday.

There are just a couple holes in trying to diagnose Hendriks’ issues as release-point driven, at least using those Brooks charts. For one, the Y-axis in those graphics only covers about three-eighths of an inch, making it look a lot more dramatic than it may be. When you look at the release points of the pitches over the course of the season on both his Brooks page and Statcast page, he works within a certain margin for error.

His most effective stretch of the season to date covered May 13 through June 10, when he went 14 games without allowing a homer. His release points fluctuated without related problems.

The other issue is that the ballpark in Dyersville was not outfitted with tracking equipment, so the data for that game is unavailable. It’d be a lot more helpful if we could have three recent data points to serve as the trend, especially when that one was the worst of the bunch.

My guess is still that he’s battling a spin/extension/carry issue that exacerbates any moments of lesser command or release point. And I’m not even sure it’s so much of an issue to solve as it is to manage; a drawback of such a fastball-aggressive approach away from Oakland, and in an era where grip enhancers are limited. Still, his release points are among the elements worth monitoring in subsequent save opportunities. When the biggest addition to a roster is a closer, the individual failures naturally draw heightened scrutiny.

(Kamil Krzaczynski/USA TODAY Sports)

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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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The single biggest thing going forward will be Yasmani Grandal and whether he is fit enough to catch every game in the postseason and contribute.

This is a much better offense with a guy with his patience in the middle of it. He’s a much better game-caller than either Collins or Zavala. While Zavala has been alright at handling pitchers, he’s pretty horrid at actually handling pitches. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a catcher just straight up miss so many balls.

This team needs Yaz back bad.

Greg Nix

It is pretty nutty how often Zavala seems to straight up whiff behind the plate.


Especially as he can look so much more athletic blocking balls in the dirt than Collins (low bar, I recognize) only to flub a seemingly easy pitch to receive.

Joliet Orange Sox

MrStealYoBase: Great Profile Picture!

All the profile pictures were lost when some changes were made a few weeks ago. I miss seeing little pictures of Bill Veeck, Nellie Fox, etc. I’d like to encourage everyone to take one minute and upload their profile picture again. Just hover over the “Howdy, Username” then click on either your username or edit profile then scroll down to profile picture and upload.


Nellie is back. I hadn’t even noticed the avatars were missing. Thanks for pointing it out.

And the Timmy avatar is great!

As Cirensica

I had my cat, I changed it now to my cat.


As you can see, it’s not a photo of a Sox player. It’s me holding up one of the 20+ signs I have been bringing to games since 2001.

Joliet Orange Sox

Veeck and Fox were just examples. You holding up a sign at a game is a great profile picture.

I just like when it is not all pinwheels. My own profile picture is not a photo of a player and it’s pretty lame but it’s not a pinwheel!


I make very few comments, but read everything. I’ve never posted a profile pic, so your request is granted by me. Good old Aches and Pains.


My favorite Christmas ornament is Santa dressed up in a 1942 Appling uniform and stretching to receive a throw at second base.


I don’t think anyone realizes my profile picture is Frank Thomas.


They need to add a more adequate backup catcher to their offseason wish list. There has to be somebody that would be an improvement over those two.


Yup, Seby has seven past balls already.

Joliet Orange Sox

Below are the easy-to-look-up season-to-date traditional defensive stats for the Sox catchers. (I recognize that framing, game-calling, and other factors matter.)

Grandal 424.1 innings caught; 5 passed balls; 7 runners thrown out of 32 attempts

Collins 423.1 innings caught; 3 passed balls; 7 runners thrown out of 45 attempts

Zavala 180.2 inning caught; 7 passed balls; 1 runner thrown out of 16 attempts

Last edited 1 year ago by Joliet Orange Sox
As Cirensica

I think Seby (and even Collins) is more than adequate for backup catcher.


I concur. Of the offseason needs that may arise as we learn more about this team through the stretch run and playoffs, backup catcher will likely (hopefully) be low on the list.


Hoping that the Sox go into the postseason healthy- what should be the lineup in the playoffs? Putting a high OBP guy like Grandal at #2 would allow Eloy and Abreu to have more chances to drive in runs. I would assume Abreu will hit #3 regardless. I don’t think Tony will move him from there. My suggestion would be:
That would be a pretty fearsome lineup, assuming Moncada starts hitting- he’s almost a black hole in the lineup now.

Infield Grass

Grandal’s lack of speed negates some of the OBP at the top of the lineup. Since Robert looks to have picked up right where he left off as far as development I really think the ideal lineup would be this:


-This breaks it up so there aren’t more than two consecutive righthanded hitters. And gets the most ABs for the most physically gifted players on the team.

-I put Moncada back in the 3rd spot like earlier this season when they were scoring runs. Moncada is one of the only guys who will actually take enough pitches to allow Anderson or Robert to steal. Moncada is also a high OBP player with speed ahead of the heart of the order. Supposedly by the numbers the #3 hitter sees less runners on base than the #4 or #5 spot making Moncada make sense here almost as a leadoff hitter ahead of Eloy and Jose as well.

-All four slow footed hitters are grouped together so they’re not blocking the faster runners on the base paths. This setups more like earlier in the season when they were able to able to manufacture runs with speed at both the top and bottom of the lineup so you would have 4 to 5 batters in a row with speed.


I’m not saying that hitting 3rd will cure all of Moncada’s ills right now but he’s performed at his best in the 3rd spot in the lineup this year so maybe we need to start experimenting with lineup permutations now that we are getting close to 100% healthy (knock on wood).


Grandal rehab moved to AAA. That’s good news. Article suggested he could be back by end of the week.


Speaking of that Eloy/Goodwin/Vaughn outfield that Jim mentioned … is this just a planned day off for Robert tonight? It’s a bit odd to sit him after such a great game. I’m definitely ok with any general maintenance plan, but I’m paranoid about these guys being out due to having something “tighten” up on them.


I thought maybe they were trying to get an extra lefty bat in the lineup against Bassitt


Tony said last night Robert would have the day off. I don’t know how far ahead they try to script these things, but I suspect he knew the plan before yesterday’s game.


Ok, thanks. That’s good to hear.


Hendriks’ best stretch of the season also included a lot of games against Minnesota, Kansas City, Baltimore, and Detroit.

Against the bottom 7 teams in the AL he has pitched 33.1 innings of 3.24 ERA/3.06 FIP, which is pretty good given the 1.9 hr/9 innings he has allowed in those games. Against the top half of the AL he has pitched 12 innings of 5.25 ERA/4.84 FIP with a whopping 3hr/9 innings.

It really has not been a good season for him, and the easy schedule has masked how much he has truly struggled.