White Sox need to win better in order to win more

Following the White Sox’s 4-2 win against the Detroit Tigers on Sunday — you know, the one where the Sox scored the winning run after Robbie Grossman’s historic 440-game errorless streak came crashing to an inexplicable end — Tony La Russa put a positive spin on an otherwise disappointing split with a second-division team.

“Well, there ain’t no bad win,” said a smiling La Russa.

That may be true, but there is such a thing as a shortage of good wins, the ones that provide some sort of template for repeatable success. The White Sox have won only one of their last five series, going 1-3-1. They swept the Giants are Oracle Park, and that’s about it.

Likewise, they have a dearth of solid, sturdy, reliable wins against proven big-league pitching. Tuesday’s victory in Game 2 of the doubleheader in Cleveland, while welcome, is the latest example.

Tuesday: Dylan Cease, the White Sox’s best starter, bests Konnor Pilkington, an up-and-down left-handed rookie making an emergency start in a doubleheader.

Sunday: The aforementioned Grossman game.

Saturday: Johnny Cueto, the White Sox’s most consistent starter, shuts down the AL’s worst offense while the White Sox beat up on Garrett Hill, who was making his second career start.

July 6: A terrific show of resilience by erasing margins five different times en route to a 10-inning victory over the Twins.

July 3: Lucas Giolito and the Sox offense beats up on a Johnny Wholestaff effort by San Francisco.

The day before, Dylan Cease outpitched Logan Webb in the Sox’s 5-3 victory over the Giants, which was the White Sox’s last straightforward win against a team that pitched one of its rotation fixtures.

That may read as overly granular to some eyes, because a 162-game season features a lot of teams simply seeking to cross the day off the calendar, but I think it’s reflective of why individual White Sox victories stopped feeling like a turning point, no matter how impressive the box score looks. The White Sox rotation may not be firing on all cylinders, but it’s deep and credible enough to beat other teams’ original one-through-five options on a repeatable basis. Yet somehow those victories are few and far between.

That adds some significance to tonight’s White Sox-Guardians game, even beyond the inherent importance of Lucas Giolito and/or the Sox offense helping narrow the season series gap with Cleveland. The Sox are facing Aaron Civale, who is one of baseball’s worst starters when judging his season as a whole (6.28 ERA, -1.1 WAR), but he’s been decent since coming off the injured list last month (3.18 ERA over five starts).

Also, he’s a right-handed pitcher who has been and will be part of the Guardians’ five-man rotation so long as he’s healthy. He may be a right-handed pitcher who only averages 91 with a fastball, but we can’t be picky. The Sox are dealing with the unfortunate combination of having the third-worst performance against righties by all important measures (.245/.300/.358) and the second-most plate appearances against them (2,369, second only to Tampa Bay). The food is terrible and the portions are huge.

This heaping helping of their weakness exacerbates the White Sox’s third-worst home run total against right-handed in terms of game-to-game impact.

TeamPAHRPA/HR
Yankees236010123.4
Astros22859025.4
Twins24468728.1
Angels23188128.6
Blue Jays26679328.7
Rangers23067232.0
Mariners24057034.4
Orioles22806236.8
Rays24276239.1
Red Sox25356042.3
Guardians23445344.2
Royals23775146.6
Athletics22504747.9
WHITE SOX26395052.8
Tigers23304156.8

Basically, it’s a minor miracle if the White Sox hit a homer off a right-handed pitcher in consecutive games.

Luis Robert gave the Sox a head start on a potential streak with his late homer off Bryan Shaw on Tuesday. Now here comes Civale, who is underpowered, fly-ball prone and susceptible to reverse splits over his career (.806 OPS vs. RHB; .687 OPS vs. LHB).

Basically, Civale is the kind of pitcher the White Sox need to start showing up against. if only because the White Sox’s inherent flaws make surprises against Shane Bieber-grade arms difficult to spring. The Guardians also happen to be the kind of team Giolito needs to best, especially when he’s the better pitcher on paper. Add them together, and this game feels unusually critical for a first-half matchup, if only because it better reflects the kind of games the Sox will need to win in order to make up ground.

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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

these next five games will determine a lot about how the Sox behave at the trade deadline.

gatzman

They certainly will determine how much I care about the following 70 games, that’s for sure.

HallofFrank

It feels almost inevitable at this point that, barring injury, we’re heading toward a “stay put” at the deadline—and that can include a negligible buy or sell. I don’t see them making any major moves that are real needle movers, at this point.

vince

This is my fear. The status quo clearly doesn’t work but I can see this front office talking itself into doing nothing.

hitlesswonder

This front office doing nothing is probably a best-case scenario.

As Cirensica

I can see them getting a reliever (maybe Tepera again). Tat’s it.

GrinnellSteve

The status quo is preferable to dealing prospects for half-assed shots at a division title.

soxygen

So you’re saying we’ve entered another pivotal stretch?

Pivotal stretch is like the white Sox fan version of “infrastructure week.” If it’s always infrastructure week then it is never infrastructure week.

As Cirensica

I heard that before

vince

The Sox failures against right handers have been obvious for a while, but Hahn has done nothing to address the issue over the same time period.

Last edited 4 months ago by vince
hitlesswonder

He’s activated Eloy Jimenez from the injured list multiple times to address the problem with right handers.

calcetinesblancos

I think they absolutely have to listen to offers on almost anyone.

Greg Nix

I’m not rooting for them to lose per se. But the rickety victories make it feel like they rarely deserve to win, and in fact when they do win they’re actually pushing the franchise further away from making decisions that might lead to actual winning baseball.

White Sox baseball… Catch the fever! (And constantly feel like shit.)

OldMMJ87

The problem is I don’t think Jerry Reinsdorf is actually interested in making decisions that would lead to winning baseball. I think he is interested in making decisions that reward his set of beliefs.

HallofFrank

Yes, I think this is basically right. Which is why I can’t hop on board with Greg’s mindset. If they lose, then what? Another rebuild? Or we’re supposed to expect JR and Hahn to pony up and sign premium Free Agents to supplement the core?

I only see two ways out of the rut: entirely new ownership or this team’s talent just overcomes all the crap surrounding it. Since the latter feels so unlikely—and, even if it happens, doesn’t guarantee things will get better—I’m pulling for the former.

vince

The way I think about it – I want them to win. But if they are going to lose (where losing is defined as ‘not make the playoffs’), then I want it to be by enough games that even this thickheaded front office and ownership realizes there needs to be changes.

The worst possible outcome would be they hang around a few games out and nothing changes.

jhomeslice

“when they do win they’re actually pushing the franchise further away from making decisions that might lead to actual winning baseball”. “The worst possible outcome would be they hang around a few games out and nothing changes.” Spot on.

For this team to ever win, changes need to be made, acknowledging what needs to change. Starting with Tony. Replacing him is an absolute necessity, and nothing all that positive is likely to happen (or probably even possible, realistically) until that dude is gone.

knoxfire30

Montoya fired by Blue Jays… lol thats 3 teams all who are basically better then the sox with better managers who decided it wasnt good enough.

Right Size Wrong Shape

Beat me to the comment! Come on White Sox, all the cool kids are doing it!

calcetinesblancos

Meanwhile the guy who batted Leury leadoff has as much job security as a Supreme Court justice.

As Cirensica

Jobs with the White Sox organization are tenure

dwjm3

The goal of those organizations is to win baseball games. Jerry’s goal is maybe to luck into a few wins while making a buck.

Last edited 4 months ago by dwjm3
GrinnellSteve

I hope the Blue Jays rattle off 10 in a row and it adds creedence to the idea of jolting an underperforming team by replacing the manager.

chipporter

Why do you build me up, build me up, buttercup baby just to let me down….

ForsterFTOG

Anyone know how much of the Sox Reinsdorf owns? I’ve read 19%. Does that make him the largest stockholder thus making him the decision maker?

mrridgman

I have no idea as to %s. In these type of situations the issue usually is that the ownership circle has become a good old boys (maybe a few girls) club. They’ve worked with each other for 40 years, probably many were friends to begin with. They see the estimated value of the Sox continue to rise. Human nature is that it’s very difficult to get enough support for rattling the cage even if many of the other owners know there’s a problem.
We need to convince Carl Icahn to make some of the other owners an offer they can’t refuse.

gibby32

The contract by which investors acquired a portion of the team, signed by each of those investors, gives complete control to Reinsdorf. He may be the largest shareholder currently, but that was not always the case. No matter. He was the decision maker even when he was not the largest shareholder by virtue of the contract that all of them signed.

mrridgman

I have no inside information, but legally there’s almost no such thing as an unbreakable agreement in perpetuity.

gibby32

Depending on what you mean by “in perpetuity”, you are incorrect. In that regard, I have both inside information and legal training.

mrridgman

Can’t say you’re wrong because I have no inside info. In general Courts take a dim view of any signed agreement that purports to limit free trade in any manner, particularly for extended/unlimited periods of time.

The issue isn’t the wording in the agreement, because even though you and I have agreed to something, the Courts can rule that what we agreed to violates public policy, and thus is unenforcable.

I was a private practice business lawyer for 25 years FWIW.- a long time ago.

gibby32

This private agreement does not limit free trade. It merely determines who the private decision maker is.

knoxfire30

They run a very tight ship in his ownership group, the original number was a minor share in the 12-19% range but I believe he has accumulated much more at this point probably something closer to 50%.

gibby32

Members of the original group could buy essentially as little as 1% of the team, which a number of investors still hold. 1% cost about $250,000 1% is now worth about 16M.

a-t

https://blogs.fangraphs.com/the-sky-is-not-falling-on-the-south-side/ Szymborski with an outsider’s view and a reasonable amount of optimism here. ZiPS recommends upgrades at RF, 2B, and another SP in particular.

Deadline shopping list to go for it:

RF:
Great move: Juan Soto
Realistic good move: Andrew Benintendi
Disappointing move: Ben Gamel

2B:
Great move: Jazz Chisholm
Realistic good move: Matt Reynolds
Disappointing move: Rougned Odor

HallofFrank

It’s a nice piece and I generally consider myself an optimist about this team. But something feels off. Nobody doubts Most reasonable people don’t doubt the talent—and that’s what projections are working on. But, right now, something isn’t meshing. I don’t know what it is, but they feel lost. They sometimes look hopeless at the plate. They make wild, almost unbelievable, blunders on the basepaths and on defense. Even the guys hitting well aren’t hitting home runs. And no amount of data can convince me that everything is going to be okay. It’s almost like being on an airplane headed toward a crash landing: you know what the stats say, but you can’t help feeling like it doesn’t matter.

I still have hope that the season will turn around. But, if it does, it won’t be because they upgraded 2B and RF.

Augusto Barojas

It might sound unfair to blame a lot of that on La Russa. He doesn’t make the players not hit, or pitch poorly, right? It’s the VIBE. It affects ALL of those things. Maybe a stretch to say even the injuries, but I’m not even sure that’s completely separate from La Clown karma.

You put someone like that in a position of leadership, when it is so intensely recognizable to everybody not only how incompetent he is, but that he is an arrogant a-hole as well who sabotages their chances because of his own psychosis… I’m not buying the narrative that things are fine in the clubhouse per Liam. Even Ozzie and Steve Stone are commenting, they are ex ballplayers after all. The players know, and are not saying. The clubhouse isn’t fine. If they were to fire TLR and replace him with anybody reasonable, you might see a whole bunch of things miraculously fix themselves at once.

Will it ever happen, has this first half been enough of a clown show to make it possible? I sure hope we find out soon that the answer is yes.

HallofFrank

I’m inclined to lay some of the blame on TLR, too, but not “a lot” of it—only because there’s a pretty strong counterexample in 2021. Last year, this same team was riddled with injuries and the roster felt held together with scotch tape. But the Sox overperformed and generally got a lot out of their players. And the vibe was generally positive. I’m not saying that’s a credit to TLR, necessarily, but I don’t think we can blame him for one without crediting him with the other—or vice versa.

a-t

I really just think it’s winning vs losing. A more experienced team is maybe more even-keeled, but this is still a pretty young team, and as such morale is naturally going to rise and fall more with winning or losing.

The Twins pitching staff may be starting to hit a wall. If the Sox manage to take 3 out of 4 heading into the break, I think the whole ‘vibe’ shifts significantly.

soxygen

Youth affects more than just morale. It also affects skill, experience, and stamina. The stamina part is going to be a big challenge for this ball club, especially given the injuries that have affected players young and old, and the lack of pitching depth on the farm.

Last edited 4 months ago by soxygen
HallofFrank

I mostly agree. But it’s kind of a chicken or the egg situation: are they losing because of bad vibes, or losing because of bad vibes? It might be both. But the whole question is: why are they losing? If you’re saying the losing comes first, then I think we need some explanation for why they are losing. Is it just bum luck?

Augusto Barojas

I don’t get how people see 2021 as successful. It only seems better than this year. They played about .500 after the allstar break and managed to win a bad division, and then flopped in the playoffs very predictably. TLR made many blunders last year and was a bad manager, with a lethargic vibe, and the team played like it the whole 2nd half and in the playoffs. He has taken that to another level of blundering and lethargic this year.

When you are around people who make you feel good to be around, it makes your mood better, and affects your energy. TLR does the opposite, and it’s been visible on the field since last summer. That isn’t some imagining, many on here have talked about how dead, tired, and boring this team looks. That isn’t normal. If they manage to win some games and play better, it will be in spite of rather than because of TLR. And it won’t change the fact that he brings the vibe down every day he sits in the dugout with his sleepy/lifeless face and body language at his ridiculous age, and fills out a lineup card with Leury Garcia written an utterly stupid percentage of the time.

a-t

Sorry, but this is just pessimistic beyond reality. Winning the division easily is a successful year,
albeit not extraordinarily so. Doing that every year you can with a team that has the top end of talent to make some noise in the playoffs is how you win titles in this sport, which is the ultimate goal.

hitlesswonder

I agree and I’m ridiculously pessimistic. Making the playoffs is a success. It’s true they lost resoundingly to the Astros, but that home win was awesome and if you keep making the playoffs there’s always a chance of a Braves-like run. I’ve never understood the idea that anything short of a championship is a failure.

HallofFrank

I don’t understand how this is a response to what I said. You’ve moved the goalposts. Your initial post, and my reply, were about the extent to which TLR could be blamed for creating a negative “vibe” that, in turn, leads to poor on-field play.

If you’ll read my reply again, you’ll see that I didn’t call 2021 a success. I called it a strong counterexample to the idea that TLR should take “a lot” of the blame. Because whatever you think about 2021, it’s pretty clear that the Sox had a generally excellent clubhouse culture. And, whether is causation or correlation, the team turned in lots of excellent performances—that is, guys who played above what you’d expect. If all that is true, then it’s clear that TLR does not necessarily equal bad vibes.

chipporter

I really believe that’s revisionist history. Last year the players were not ready to play everyday. That’s 100% on the manager.

HallofFrank

I don’t know what you mean by “the players were not ready to play everyday.” But the Sox got several overperformances from their players. And guys like Goodwin, Lamb, Sheets, and Yermin turned in excellent performances at critical times when they really had no business doing so.

LamarHoyt_oncrack

The plight of being a Sox fan: hoping for great things from a mediocre roster, brought to you by an owner that is way less than mediocre.

Malkatraz

 ZiPS recommends upgrades at RF, 2B, and another SP

Did they copy/paste their preseason recommendations?

phillyd

Colson Montgomery slides in at #40 on the BP mid season Top 50.

$$$ https://www.baseballprospectus.com/prospects/article/75892/2022-prospects-the-midseason-top-50/

Last edited 4 months ago by phillyd
a-t

Could someone w access post the blurb on him, if there is one?

phillyd

40. Colson Montgomery, SS, Chicago White Sox

Why he’ll succeed: Montgomery has shown off strong swing decisions and barrel control in his first full pro season even as he’s fought hand injuries, forcing an unexpected midseason promotion to High-A after just 45 games above the complex. He’s a strong kid, and we can see an above-average to plus power projection down the road.

Why he might fail: The power has largely yet to show up in games, and he doesn’t produce a ton of bat speed yet. He’s not particularly quick, so he might end up moving off shortstop.