Seby Zavala hears about rough night from Tony La Russa

If you wanted any input from the White Sox on Lance Lynn’s ill-advised 3-0 fastball to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. after Monday night’s 2-1 loss to the Blue Jays in Toronto, you could only get Lynn’s perspective.

“It was stupid,” he said. “There’s no other way to say it. I told Tony that when I got in that it was all on me. I was trying to throw a ball, and it ran back over the plate.”

Tony La Russa would not share what he thought.

“I don’t have any comment about how that was handled,” he said.

When asked again toward the end of the session, La Russa elaborated only on his unwillingness to answer.

“No comment,” he said. “I think it’s one of those situations where it’s right out there in front, and everyone can decide what the comment would be if I decided to comment, but I’m not going to comment.”

Now, what does La Russa mean by “It’s right out there in front”? Perhaps he was talking about it being a 3-0 pitch that even Lynn called a “stupid” idea that everybody was free to first-guess in real time.

Or maybe it’s because he assumed everybody saw him chewing out Seby Zavala after the inning. White Sox fans watching NBC Sports Chicago wouldn’t have seen it, but the Toronto Blue Jays broadcast replayed it before the start of the seventh.

The only time we’ve seen La Russa this angry in his own dugout was the Yermín Mercedes Incident, which was also after a 3-0 pitch. In that case, Mercedes angered La Russa for ignoring the take sign.

Here, it looks like he’s saying Zavala never looked to the dugout.

The broadcasts didn’t spent a lot of time showing Zavala between pitches, so it’s hard to know if he never looked over, but there’s no evidence of him doing so from what we could see. There was a shot of La Russa staring out onto the field, presumably Zavala’s way, before the fateful pitch.

This isn’t a flattering sequence for anybody involved. Whatever need La Russa felt to yell at a player in public reflects poorly on his team’s preparation. Zavala deserved a scolding of some sort if nothing about “3-0 count to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. with a base open with two outs in a one-run game” doesn’t generate an urge to signal the intentional walk. Lynn’s the one who threw the pitch, but he had the freedom to step off the rubber and reconsider. All the safeguards broke down, and that’s how the White Sox lost the lead en route to losing a third straight game.

* * * * * * * * *

But there was another quote from La Russa — an actual comment — that was tangential to Zavala. It caught my attention, perhaps because I had a notion that I wanted validated.

When asked about his trust in Craig Kimbrel, La Russa said, “As long as he’s healthy, look at what he’s throwing up there. We’re fortunate to have him. I mean, he had the guy two strikes, and — I haven’t seen it — he threw a nasty ball that got by the catcher. So. I like what I see a lot.”

That’s a very generous description of Kimbrel’s very wild pitch that allowed the go-ahead run to score.

If La Russa hadn’t seen Kimbrel’s wild pitch from a traditional angle, then It explains why he would use the adjective “nasty” instead of something that more accurately described how wayward it went.

But in La Russa’s defense, Kimbrel threw a couple of truly nasty knuckle curves to Bo Bichette with two strikes, and Zavala blocked neither. Worse yet, he threw to first base even though Bichette was already out due to a runner already being aboard.

As Kimbrel and Zavala agreed on a two-strike sign for Teoscar Hernandez with the tying run 90 feet away, I wondered if either would have the confidence to throw another breaking ball. I’m inclined to think the answer was “no,” given the pitch choice and execution. Kimbrel and Lynn’s pitches are not connected, but one looks like an overcorrection of the other. Lynn didn’t want to throw a strike, but missed over the plate. Kimbrel didn’t want to throw a strike, and, well, mission accomplished.

Zavala entered the game with terrible blocking numbers, and they look even worse when you extrapolate his rate to 500 innings, which is the nearest nice, round number that none of the catchers has attained.

Yasmani Grandal424.1622
Zack Collins451.1337
Seby Zavala214.21637

Zavala’s superior receiving should make playing him over Collins a no-brainer, but his general catching of pitches is such a liability that it makes the second-best option a toss-up. As pnoles put it:

The last thing Zavala needs is a couple of glaring failures in his thought process to tip the scales.

If there’s a silver lining, it’s that Grandal’s occasional burst of passed pitches is more forgivable when seeing what a real liability looks like. It’s just up to Grandal to show his knee is healthy enough to render the conversation about his backup largely irrelevant.

(Photo by Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports)

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
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
As Cirensica

I think La Russa had some anger pent up before bursting against Zavala in public. Catcher is a key position, and the White Sox have been trotting 2 catchers that probably will be jettison to the moon if TLR would have any other quasi decent option, but his hands are tied. The fact that it seems that TLR refers Zavala over Collins and chew him up in the dugout like that speaks volume about how bad of a catcher Collins must be. Very noble from Lynn in trying to defend his catcher.

Wow, I didn’t know how bad Zavala’s block skill was until I saw that table Jim posted above. I know the eye test was telling me he was bad, but obviously not THAT bad. Mercy. That’s unplayable. If Zavala had to catch a pitcher like RA Dickey, he will rack up miles on going to the backstop to retrieve pass balls.


I’m pretty convinced that neither Zavala nor Collins is an adequate backup catcher, at least not at a level that does not beg for improvement. There has to be someone they can get in the offseason that is a defensive upgrade to both, and it’s hard not to be a better hitter too.

As Cirensica

They are both passable backup catchers but far from ideal. The problem is when the White Sox need them to be day-to-day catchers. Having said that, I have always seen the backup catcher as a catcher that is pretty decent at catching and generally a very bad hitter rather than a bad catcher with a decent bat. Unfortunately, we have neither.


Collins has a -0.5 f/war. I’m not sure I would call that “passable”.

His advanced catching metrics aren’t good either.

If you just look at the last two teams we have played both of their backup catchers have a higher f/war than Collins.

The Rays backup catcher has a 1.1 f/war

Toronto’s backup catcher has been worth .2 f/war

Furthermore the Yankees backup catcher has been worth .8 f/war

Last edited 1 year ago by dwjm3

Jason Castro has been worth .3 f/war for Houston. Every AL contending team seems to have better backup catching than us

As Cirensica

Collins exposure has hurt him. He has faced LHP way too much. This accentuates how bad of an idea to have a “platoon” back-up “catcher”. It’s actually pretty bad roster spot usage. I would agree if Collins is not deemed to be a passable back-up catcher.


Seems like the idea with Collins was his ability to take walks and hit homers would be enough to buoy his lackluster (at best) defense. Right now his defense is horrendous and he’s not hitting home runs. Not quite worst case scenario but pretty damn close.

To Err is Herrmann

I know that one pitch or one wrong call by an ump can make or break objectively — the game is won or lost at that moment. It’s upsetting. But if you bat Danny Mendick at SS and he goes 0-for-3 leaving 4 on base, someone should yell at you then. Why rest All-Stars for full games and leave below replacement level players in to bat with 4 potential runs on base? Does everyone have to rest all 9 innings?

As Cirensica

I think TA is dealing with something that hasn’t been reported yet.


I assume you’re right about TA being hurt because I have a hard time believing the Sox wouldn’t have been aware of the importance of beating the Rays for the playoff seeding .

As Cirensica


I don’t get people who rather go into the playoffs with 94 wins and a gimpy Tim Anderson instead of 92 wins and a healthy Tim Anderson.


The division is more or less locked up. Home field advantage throughout the AL side of the playoffs is the goal. If 94 wins and a gimpy Anderson is enough for home cooking against the Rays or Astros, then I’ll take that over the 92 wins all day long.

The best record in the AL is the immediate goal. The Sox are beasts at home and just ok in the road. They have the Cubs and the Pirates on the schedule in the next week, while Tampa has to fend off the Yankees and the Red Sox. The Astros have the clearest path in my opinion, but they do still face Tampa and then Oakland to close.

The Sox are still in that conversation, but both of those clubs are betting favorites over the Sox for a reason. Home field would do wonders to mitigate that advantage.


They have to make it to game 7 for homefield advantage to matter. Without healthy Tim, they never get that far


Really bummed we didn’t get Yan Gomes. The A’s got him and Josh Harrison for a 40+ prospect and a couple 23 year old pitchers in A ball.


I question “pitch framing” metrics. Are the umps are so ill equipped to call balls and strikes that the catcher’s movement of his glove makes strikes balls and balls strikes? It doesn’t appear that way to the naked man eye. Passed balls are another story. They are pretty obviously the catcher’s fault. Collins should be catching and it isn’t close.


“Naked man eye”? Why does the whole man need to be naked instead of just his eye?

As Cirensica

I will stop watching baseball if the umpires efficiency is increased by having them buck naked on the field. Can you imagine Joe West?


No, and you can’t make me.


I mean, my naked man eye sees pretty obvious strikes called as balls due to the way Collins stabs at pitches every game. He also sucks at passed balls, just not as horrid as Zavala.


. Are the umps are so ill equipped to call balls and strikes that the catcher’s movement of his glove makes strikes balls and balls strikes? 

short answer: yes.


I watch every game naked, and I agree.


So you’re the one


Is that why the M&M guy moved seats?


So I posted a wall of text about this on the recap but I’ve had more thoughts since then. It’s a bit comical that La Russa isn’t really doing all he can to try and win games as the manager and then goes off on Zavala for a mistake, that while costly, is not 100% his fault. If you don’t want to pitch to Vlad, you can intentionally walk him after ball 3. There are tools at your disposal to take it off of a rookie catcher’s plate. You chose not to use those tools and then take out your frustrations on Zavala.

If you want to have the right to bitch about stuff like that in a 2-1 game, maybe start managing like you want to win. We “have” two closers but Liam was being saved for the 9th inning if we took the lead. Why the hell is Hernandez batting leadoff? I’m not saying we have to play Tim if he’s not 100% but we have other options. Put Moncada there and see what happens. Put Robert there and Hernandez back in the 2 hole. I don’t care where but he shouldn’t be leading off. His .300 OBP and 26% K rate are not working right now.

You want to talk about playing the game the right way and respecting your opponents and then you manage like you have for the past 2 weeks? Lead by example.


Solid, righteous statement. I’ve seen enough the past 2 weeks to know that TLR’s acumen is as overrated a thing as there is in baseball. His successes between 10 and 35 years ago are irrelevant in this ill begotten experiment of hiring him out of a 10 year retirement.

The disturbing question is how long are the Sox going to be stuck with him.

Last edited 1 year ago by LamarHoyt_oncrack

TLR has guys that aren’t 100% and we are in the toughest stretch of our 2021 schedule. I really don’t understand how any of this is a management failure.

I agree that the team has lacked urgency lately. But it’s hard to see urgency on TV, and they’ve been playing without their energetic lead off hitter. I don’t know what it is that people think Tony should be doing other than playing guys who might not be 100% and given that Tony is the one who would know that it just seems like a silly thing to obsess on. The team has lost some games. To good teams. And guys are banged up.


You seem to be latching on to the “not 100%” comment for some reason and I don’t understand why. Small sample size and what not but the offense certainly has a different feel to it tonight with Robert/Moncada/Abreu at the top. But you’re right, some guys are banged up so let’s keep hitting Hernandez at the top of the lineup with his .300 OBP. That is certainly the only path forward.


I don’t agree with his reaction in the heat of the moment. Yelling at a player like that is counterproductive and makes LaRussa look like a hothead, especially an inexperienced rookie.
HOWEVER, if Seby missed a sign or failed to look in the dugout for direction when he should have, then a correction was in order. Not a full dressing down, but definitely a talking to.


Based on the information we have (because TLR won’t comment which is fair): it appears the plan was to pitch around Vlad Jr. with the hope being he might swing at enough bad pitches that he’ll get himself out. That’s why there wasn’t an intentional walk. On the 3-0 count, Seby called for a fastball because its Lynn so what else is he gonna call? He clearly set up low and away, outside of the zone and Lynn missed his spot. TLR chose to believe that his catcher fucked up and chose to lay in to him about something that is, in my opinion, not even remotely his fault. If you wanted them to just completely bypass Vlad Jr., then throw up 4 fingers and walk him. If you wanted them to nibble and hope Vlad Jr. gets himself out, you have to live with the possibility of someone failing to execute (in this case Lynn) and be a big boy about it when those players get back in the dugout.

Greg Nix

Zavala is less than ideal and it’d be nice if Kimbrel starts pitching better. But this is also the kind of stuff that happens more frequently when you’re not playing 90+ loss teams every game.


TLR sure seems passionate about 3-0 pitches.

Last edited 1 year ago by jhomeslice

The elephant in the room is that Kimbrel’s pitched terribly since being traded. All this other stuff is the latest daily noise. The Sox absolutely need him to learn to shut down the eighth before the playoffs.


Do they? What if Kimbrel goes back to being the 0.00 ERA guy we traded for when we pitch him in the 9th and Hendriks can be our 8th inning guy while continuing to be dominant? Hendriks doesn’t seem to care. Apparently it would make a huge difference to Kimbrel since he complained about pitching in the 8th back when he was with Boston. Hahn seemed to indicate Kimbrel would get save opportunities when he announced the trade. The only person who doesn’t seem on board with that plan is La Russa.


No kidding. Like zero earned runs in the 9th inning is a meaningless stat, and it would be batshit crazy to even try him in the 9th. He must pitch the 8th… or die!!

Arguing that they should not even try him in the 9th when Liam himself has blown plenty of games with 11 homers is just nonsense. Liam has pitched in the 8th in some games already with success, and said he doesn’t mind.


Yeah it might be some psychological thing with Kimbrel, but regardless who cares? If he’s more comfortable pitching the 9th, play him there. The goal is to win games Tony.


Totally agree with pitching Kimbrel in the ninth if he can revert to form. Does Hendriks then start to suck in the eighth? The two closer experiment continues.


I have two issues (really 3, I’ll explain) with last night’s game. First, if TLR wanted to not pitch to Guerrero, then IW him; don’t wait until it’s 3-0 and expect a good result. Then, don’t publicly scold your current #1 catcher in front of the viewing public for a result you chose to pass the buck on. The public scolding is the second this year, following the Mercedes dress down (which he double and triple-downed on). This is Billy Martin manager stuff, and I can’t imagine it’s a positive team reinforcer.
Second, for God’s sake try Kimbrel for a save in the 9th. 95% of us might say it should make no difference to Kimbrel, his effectiveness should be the same. But what if it does make a difference to Kimbrel? Psyche, ego, habit, wannabe HOFer, whatever. Hendriks hasn’t exactly been aces under the current arrangement either.

I apologize if I’m repeating what other posters have already said.

Shingos Cheeseburgers

I would appreciate if the Sox just came clean with Anderson’s injury


More Jake Lamb in the lineup as well…sigh


That’s flat out inexcusable. Vaughn has gotten a day off in 4 of the last 5 series. You don’t rest him on a day with TA out and have a bottom half of the lineup that goes Garcia, Lamb, Mendick, Collins. F-ing ridiculous.

They did already. Hamstring discomfort. Should be back tomorrow.


Why didn’t they just say this originally? Saturday, just say Tim’s day-to-day with a minor injury instead of the weird answer of: rest/sore legs/turf/he’d be in there if it was the playoffs. The ambiguity has caused Sox fans to turn a legitimate injury into: the White Sox don’t care about winning these games.

Last edited 1 year ago by Foulkelore

So what I understand from this article and the comments is that the White Sox current problems are that the catcher isn’t catching and the manager isn’t managing.


And the 8th inning relief pitcher isn’t pitching.


And the shortstop isn’t…shortstopping?

Deep Dish Pizza

Hated the hire and if possible hate it even more. I could care less about him being in the HOF and won the second most games in history. He always ALWAYS had great players to manage. He looks like a zombie standing in the dugout.
I wanted either AJ or Cora to be hired. Just look at what AJ has done with the Tigers roster. Not one star on the team. Funny nobody but good old Jerry R wanted to hire this guy. Just look at what he does with the bullpen moves…enough said.