White Sox 8, Tigers 0: Cruise control for Johnny Cueto

Johnny Cueto came into this game leading the White Sox rotation by averaging 6.1 innings per start, with everybody else rounding down to fiveat bets.

He padded his lead further by throwing eight easy, breezy innings in a game that showed how simple Friday could’ve been. A first-inning homer gave him a multi-run cushion, but this time the White Sox starter couldn’t be solved, and the White Sox offense found ways to tack on runs

Cueto scattered four singles and a double over his eight innings. He complemented a pedestrian strikeout total (five) with a lot of groundouts (12) and an absence of free bases. The Tigers had just two at-bats with runners in scoring position, and one was on Cueto’s final batter of the afternoon, since Spencer Torkelson hit a two-out double in the eighth.

Cueto finished with 101 pitches, and were he in line for a no-hitter, he could’ve started the ninth without complaint. Instead, he yielded to José Ruiz, and Cueto settled for lowering his ERA to 2.91 while running his record to 3-4.

Garrett Hill, making his second career start, had trouble closing out innings. He gave up six runs over the first two frames, and all of them scored with two outs. Gavin Sheets turned a 3-0 swing into a 3-0 lead by swatting an outer-half fastball out to left center in the first inning. When Hill rebounded to retire the first two batters of the second inning, he then couldn’t retire any of the next four. Tim Anderson doubled, Andrew Vaughn got clipped by a pitch, Luis Robert lined an RBI single to left, and then José Abreu’s opposite-field line drive undressed Willi Castro for two more runs and a 6-0 lead.

If there was one unsatisfying element of today’s game, it’s that Hill lasted five innings despite a large early pitch count. That said, at least the Sox were able to show later live by scoring two more runs on Will Vest in the sixth via an Anderson RBI single and some #WILDPITCHOFFENSE. Kody Clemens “pitched” the eighth, so AJ Hinch might’ve been intent on sparing his bullpen no matter how early Hill exited.

Bullet points:

*Josh Harrison was the only Sox held hitless, but he made a couple of nice plays in the field, including a strong first-ining double play turn, and a nifty block of a grounder that caromed off Abreu.

*Abreu extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a 2-for-4 day, which helped snap the Tigers’ six-game winning streak.

Record: 40-43 | Box score | Statcast

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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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a-t

the Sox are now 22-13 when Harrison starts at 2B, and they are 13-21 when Leury starts at 2B. Admittedly, part of this has to do with health/depth issues forcing Harrison to play 3B more often than is ideal, but now that Harrison’s recovered his season line to ‘performing as expected’ and Moncada is back, Leury needs to ride the pine.

HallofFrank

Yes, please. I’m sure TLR will still get Leury in the lineup 5 games a week because the regulars “need rest” after playing three games in a row. But “starting 2B Leury Garcia” needs to be a thing of the past.

a-t

im fine with leury playing 5 times a week. i simply want 3-4 of those times to be just pinch-running/defensive replacement things

hellotowel

First win I’ve been at in person since the Rays series. At least I’ve got that!

itaita

Its kind of crazy with how bad this offense has been this year its also realistic that the Sox could have 4 guys batting over .300 by the end of the year.

Also has Sebby been getting by on luck alone or is there something there that shows something that could stick? Obviously hes not going to be a .330 hitter long term but him stepping to the plate isnt as dreadful as past years.

HallofFrank

I’ve wondered about Seby, too. If Seby is still hitting, they’ll have an interesting decision when Grandal is ready. I assume they’ll send Seby back down? But Grandal was so bad before the IL stint, I hope they max out that rehab stint window…

metasox

Seby’s out of options

a-t

seby and mcguire are both out of options. what makes the most sense imo is to trade one of em (preferably mcguire) at the deadline to a team that needs catching help/depth in exchange for like a decent reliever. willson contreras will be the big prize, sean murphy maybe too, but mcguire’s framing is so good he’s a perfectly acceptable backup.

phillyd

If McGuire could fetch a decent reliever, we would still have Collins and Toronto would have a decent reliever. Neither guy is fetching anything worthwhile.

Yolmer's gatorade

McGuire and a mid level prospect for David Robertson might work.

soxygen

I would think the best decision would be to carry three catchers. At that point, you’d assume that Grandal replaces Sheets as left handed DH.

a-t

Well, he’s currently BABIPing .500, which is obv not gonna last. Still SSS but there’s some encouraging stuff under the hood: reduction in K rate from ~40% to ~32%, and so far a total lack of pop-ups, which is generally pretty noisy for everyone not named Joey Votto. The BABIP is in part from a super-high proportion of line drives, also noisy (very subject to a hitter being hot/cold, for the most part). Given that he also ran a super high BABIP at Charlotte, also with a high LD% and low IFFB% (pop-ups / total FB), which has per his minors batted ball numbers always been a major problem for him, I’m inclined to think that he’s made a small mechanical change aimed to try and prevent popping up so much.

Statcast thinks he’s getting lucky but still has a respectable .324 xwOBA; guys within .005 of that mark have put up an average of a 107 wRC+ this year. I think even that is too generous to project going forward. The projection systems forecast a 70-80ish wRC+ for him going forward; if he’s really cut those pop-ups out and isn’t just getting lucky, I think a true-talent wRC+ around 90-100 is reasonable. Which for a catcher with good defense is very playable.

Right Size Wrong Shape

Which leads to the question I’ve been asking, how good is the defense? Last year he was horrible. This year he hasn’t had the obvious goof ups that plagued him last year, but I find the rest of it difficult to evaluate. What do the numbers say (and is there a large enough sample)?

a-t

catcher framing stabilizes pretty quick, temporally speaking, because of how many opportunities to demonstrate the skill they get per game– i believe there is a statistically significant correlation to ROS performance after about 15-20 games started worth of catcher innings. this was zavala’s 14th game. the publicly available framing metrics think he’s been extremely good; SSS caution, but for the volume cutoff he’s at, Statcast think’s he’s been the second-best framer in all of baseball.

as for blocking: thru 135 innings this year, 0 passed balls, 3 WP. in 267 innings last year, 8 passed balls and 15 WP.

dude is playing out of his mind right now on both sides of the ball lol

JimMargalusBiggestFan

I was wondering if the Sox getting rid of John Orton (who seemed to be horrible at his job) would result in tangible improvement. Jury is still out, but so far, so good.

Right Size Wrong Shape

Wow! What a turnaround.

John SF

This is excellent analysis RE: Seb. I hope Jim or Josh runs with this and puts a full article into it.

Augusto Barojas

When the Sox signed Cueto, I don’t think anybody pictured him being their number 3 pitcher ahead of both Giolito and Lynn, both of whom look pretty questionable at this point. Cueto has been good to about the same extent as those other two have been disappointing. I hope we do not find out that Lynn is a slightly less awful version of Keuchel that they have to pay about the same salary to, next year as well.

gibby32

Lynn and Giolito are both fine. Kopech is the #5 right now.

phillyd

Yeah and at some point I assume they will start limiting Kopech’s innings/appearances.

denman

Starting pitching is really the least of this team’s problems. Except for Anderson, Abreu, Vaughn, and Robert, the team can’t hit, and even those four struggle against most righties. The team’s defense and baserunning have been “inconsistent” and in-game decisions combined with the overall underperformance indicts the coaching staff. Lynn and Giolito, despite their struggles, are not a problem.

phillyd

Functional production from Moncada, Eloy, and Grandal would go a long way to solving the offensive issues, but why should anybody count on that at this point? Even if it were to occur Tim or Luis would probably get hurt to counteract it.

Augusto Barojas

They are 12th in ERA and with the worst defense in the league, are not appreciably better at preventing runs than they are at scoring. Their offense is a bigger issue but it’s not like their pitching is great as a whole either. Lynn/Giolito have blown chunks more than a time or two.

jhomeslice

This team is bad at a lot of things, and great at nothing.

gibby32

It’s baseball: most players on all teams have “blown chunks more than a time or two”.

jhomeslice

That wasn’t my comment. But nothing about this team is “fine” unless “fine” means mediocrity. They are below .500 because this team is really good at basically nothing.

Augusto Barojas

Giolito and Lynn both have ERA’s over 5. They are obviously the two biggest contributors among their starters as to why they are ahead of only the A’s and Royals in ERA as a team.

They are decent bets to improve (at least one of them hopefully), but they have both certainly sucked so far.

Last edited 4 months ago by Augusto Barojas
hitlesswonder

In what has been a summer of discontent, I would like to commend Rick Hahn for signing Johnny Cueto as a free agent instead of trading Colson Montgomery for Erasmo Ramirez*

*Active pitcher most similar to James Shields…I looked it up. Also probably good to know for when the Sox eventually trade for him.

Joliet Orange Sox

I certainly hope that trade doesn’t happen!

I’m going to stir the pot here a bit by stating my view that the Shields trade was horrible mostly for two reasons that are not the ones usually talked about. I think posting about how they knew how good 17-year-old Tatis was going to be may bring some joy to some other posters and I’ll give them the chance to do so.

The first reason the Shields trade was horrible is that the 2016 Sox team wasn’t good enough to win anything even if Shields was still good and the second reason is that Shields was not good. It was absolutely no surprise that Shields was not good in 2016. He’d gotten off to a poor start in San Diego that year after a shaky 2015 and had had some really awful starts just before the trade and many of you will remember larry at the old site railing about Shields being done when the rumors of the Sox having interest started. (I was surprised Shields actually got healthier and worked to the point he was almost mediocre in 2018 but that was much too little much too late.)

Some people focus on the Shields trade being horrible because Tatis became a great player. The Sox had signed Tatis less than a year before the trade as a 16-year-old. Tatis was ranked 30th among the international class and the Sox signed him for $700K at a time when many international prospects got much much more money (The Sox themselves paid Franklin Reyes more than twice as much in the same class). By the time of the trade, Tatis had played in Arizona Instructional League in 2015 and in 2016 extended spring training but not in any minor league games. I think it is revisionist for people to say they knew at the time of the trade that Tatis would become the player he did become. Tatis was essentially a lottery ticket that paid off for San Diego. The Sox had no business trading anything for Shields for the reasons I’ve stated above but Tatis at the time of the trade was someone a good team would’ve included in a package for a good pitcher if they had a real chance to win that year.

Colson Montgomery is much more of a prospect right now than Tatis was at the time of the horrible trade. (That is a much different statement than thinking Montgomery will become a better baseball player than Tatis is (when healthy) which seems unlikely (but we can dream).)

Last edited 4 months ago by Joliet Orange Sox
chipporter

EXACTLY! Regardless of what the Sox thought of their 2016 prospects Shields was bad and trending towards worse. This wasn’t like picking up Contreras who was tipping pitches and fixing him. It was ignoring the scoreboard and the scoreboard was telling us who he was.

metasox

The first reason the Shields trade was horrible is that the 2016 Sox team wasn’t good enough to win anything even if Shields was still good

Absolutely.

What really doomed the Sox that season was getting off to such a great (and unsustainable) start that the front office became desperate when things began to unravel. But even with that, I actually don’t think the logic of acquiring Shields was as poor as the negotiation. SD had insulted Shields and needed to dump him. And because SD was picking up much of Shields’ contract, the Sox may have fooled themselves into thinking it was reasonable to give up anything at all that SD wanted (I don’t recall hearing whether Tatis was what SD wanted for a particualr level of cash). But for a pitcher that likely had little competing interest, the Sox should have insisted on sending back a AAAA player, if anything, while still getting just as much (if not more) contract relief

Last edited 4 months ago by metasox
soxygen

Cueto is trying to single handedly save this season

Last edited 4 months ago by soxygen
jhomeslice

He can’t possibly pitch better than he has, and they are still under .500. I don’t think even JC can save us all. TLR is the antichrist, and neutralizes JC.