Central Concerns: The AL Central is sinking

Minnesota Twins DH Byron Buxton
(Photo by Bailey Hillesheim/Icon Sportswire)

Remember when the White Sox announced 11 roster moves in a single press release at the beginning of May, and nobody could recall a team conducting such an extensive overhaul in one fell swoop?

I had a similar response to seeing this Detroit Tigers medical update cross my Twitter feed:

Detroit Tigers medical update

Looking into whether this is a regular thing, I actually found an even longer list of minor-league injuries from last week. While the word count is unenviable, I’d welcome the thoroughness.

I’m trying to picture what a White Sox won

*Mike Clevinger: Right biceps soreness, will attempt to ramp up throwing by the end of the week.

*Garrett Crochet: Left shoulder inflammation, 15-day injured list is precautionary measure.

*Tim Anderson: He’s not using his knee as an excuse, and also his shoulder is bothering him a little, but not that much.

*Romy González: His shoulder has been bothering him for a while.

*Jimmy Lambert: His ankle was bothering him for a while.

*Andrew Benintendi: Let’s wait for national broadcasts to bring up his hand.

*Colson Montgomery: Poof! He’s back!

*Lenyn Sosa: Returned from his strained oblique in the 2-3 week timetable we originally established. Kudos, us.

Minnesota Twins

The Twins got stomped by the Red Sox for the second straight night, sending them to their fifth loss in six games and a season-worst two games under .500 at 36-38. Making matters worse, they’ve allowed 40 runs over that stretch. Given how well they’ve pitched this year, they’re allowed to hit a rough patch, but given how they’ve exceeded expectations to date in terms of run prevention, regression is a real concern.

Without encouraging run-prevention efforts on a nightly basis, there just aren’t many bright spots. Byron Buxton physically can’t play center field, and he says it’s taking a toll on his offense.

Before Tuesday night’s game between the Twins and Boston Red Sox at Target Field, the designated hitter had not garnered a hit since being reinstated from the injured list last week. The slump would be easier for Buxton to stomach if he were able to make his presence felt in the outfield.

“That definitely takes your mind off of what you do at the plate,” he said Tuesday. “If I was to strike out, I went on defense, and I was like, ‘Ain’t nobody getting a hit.’ ”

That healthy distraction isn’t available at the moment, and despite constant clamoring from fans, it doesn’t seem as if it will be anytime soon.

Reliever Jorgé López went to the injured list for a mental health break, which the Twins have been considering for weeks:

Club personnel has seen warning signs appear from time to time, including López throwing his glove on the mound in disgust during one game and taking his frustrations out on a Gatorade cooler in another.

And here’s Rocco Baldelli, without much to say.

Despite being 36-38, they still lead the AL Central by one game over the …

Cleveland Guardians

The Guardians have already proceeded down one of the two most potent paths toward Cleveland optimism and fear, because Bo Naylor can’t be any worse than Mike Zunino in terms of catching production.

The other avenue has closed up again for the time being. Triston McKenzie is back on the shelf with a UCL sprain that will take several weeks to assess.

“They said the joint seems stable, it’s just like a matter of patience,” McKenzie said. “They didn’t necessarily give me any specific grades or how big anything was in there. They said a partial strain, tear. Probably going to take a month to six weeks or so and then from there reassess and talk about procedures or how we move forward.”

A shoulder strain had kept McKenzie out of MLB action for the first two months of the season, but when he struck out 10 batters over five shutout innings against the Twins in his first start back, it looked like the Guardians were going to regain the services of another Cy Young-caliber arm.

But his next five innings against the Astros didn’t go so well, and then current member of the White Sox organization Touki Toussaint had to step in with a spot start the next time McKenzie’s turn rolled around.

Cleveland is good enough at generating in-season depth — and Terry Francona is good enough at learning how to deploy it — that you can’t count out other solutions emerging, but the Guardians are a lot scarier when you already know who they are.

Kansas City Royals

The Royals couldn’t have been expected to compete in a division where the White Sox, Twins and Guardians all had decent cases for 85 wins, but in an AL Central where the leader is two games under .500, you’d probably expect them to be in a four-team slurry not that far off the pace.

Instead, they have to settle for the bleakest of bright spots, like beating Oakland to 20 wins. They needed every bit of a shutout in order to secure it with a 1-0 victory over the Tigers on Tuesday, but a win’s a win, and they’re eating humble pi during a 3-14 June.

Conversely, Royals fans can embrace the bleakest of streaks, which is Kansas City’s inability to win a game Jordan Lyles starts.

They’ve twice lost Lyles starts in which they’ve scored 10 runs, and they just lost a game where Lyles departed with a 4-1 lead in the seventh inning to set an obscure record for futility.

Lyles is 0-11 on the season, and considering he’s still under contract for another $8.5 million in 2024, there’s a chance he could reach some Mike Maroth-level depths. If you’re drawing parallels to the 119-loss Tigers of 2003, you must be doing close to nothing right.

Author

  • 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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According to Fangraphs there are three teams (Tampa Bay, LA Dodgers, & Braves) that by themselves have better odds of winning the World Series than all ten of the ALC & NLC teams *combined*

FishSox

I was told there would be no math.

Much like Alex Faedo, I am also developing right middle finger discomfort as a result of watching the White Sox on a nightly basis.

steelydan52

You need to learn to be bi-fingerly.

brianp88

To me, this by far is the most frustrating aspect of this season. If the Sox played anywhere near their talent level and had a small semblance of health, they could/should be in first place by half a dozen games. But nooooooo. Anderson has to get hurt, Moncada has to get hurt, Eloy has to get hurt, Lance Lynn has to suck (for the most part) and on and on. It is still there for the taking!!!

As Cirensica

If the Sox played anywhere near their talent level

I think they actually are closer than many might want to admit.

Greg Nix

This right here. Just because the talent was hyped doesn’t mean much compared to the overall track record.

soxygen

Yep. And availability is a baseball skill that has to be factored in when assessing a player’s tools.

HallofFrank

Nah. There’s a pretty large gap between “talent” and “performance” on this team. Talent doesn’t mean much, of course—especially when you have crappy player development, scouting, and team construction. But in terms of raw talent guys like Moncada, Anderson, and Eloy (to skim a few examples off the top) are wildly underperforming.

As Cirensica

Tim is, but are the others?

HallofFrank

Sure. Moncada is extremely talented, he just never performed at his talent level. Even now, we get flashes of it, which is one of things that makes him so extraordinarily frustrating.

I’d say the same for Eloy, though injuries have more to do with the gap than anything.

roke1960

The injury excuse doesn’t work when you see that it is affecting almost every team. I can’t be sure, but I would think the Sox are in the upper half of the league as far as health is concerned. 4 of their 5 starters haven’t missed a start, Robert has been healthy all year, Grandal has stayed pretty healthy for an aging catcher. If you look at some of the other teams’ injury lists, they are worse than the Sox. There is still absolutely no excuse to be 11 games under .500 right now. But like you said, the Central is there for the taking!!!

Trooper Galactus

Of course, part of the problem is other teams are smart enough to put hurt players on the IL instead of just keeping them around hoping they’ll get better or, worse, playing them in while physically compromised.

yinkadoubledare

god bless the return of the Comedy Central

Headline makes me think of the Michael Ray Richardson quote

MRR: “The ship be sinking”
Reporter: how low can it go
MRR: “Sky’s the limit”

burning-phoneix

You can make this an annual article. Call it the “AL Comedy Central”

Trooper Galactus

I’ve taken to calling them All Loser Central.

GrinnellSteve

Kudos for “humble pi.”

a-t

misery loves company!

i want the Sox to win the division at 80-82 and then host the 96 win O’s for three games vs Cease, Gio, and Kopech. let’s make it silly

dat gummit

top notch word play as usual

Alfornia Jones

The team needs massive changes, some of which needed to happen in the off-season and wouldn’t really affect their division chances now. TA needs to go along with one of Eloy/Vaughn/Burger. Neither of these moves would lessen their chances this year, and the return would need to be SP and catcher. Doubling down/going all in with the same team to lose a three game playoff series is beyond stupid. Sox fans aren’t stupid, they won’t sell out one of those playoff games. The return on Gio now would be huge, waiting a month and half won’t be as good. There is no hidden potential here, they aren’t going to turn into the 19 Nats or 21 Braves.

BillyKochFanClub

What gets lost as Sox fans engage in the trade deadline buy/sell debate is Hahn’s traditional trade deadline MO: do nothing.

We’ll have plenty of lively discussion heading into the deadline, see plenty of trade rumors (probably of both the buying and selling variety) and then the deadline will come and go with the Sox doing nothing more than swapping a bench piece or mid tier prospect for a reliever.

Rick will emerge and regurgitate his normal Hahnny vomit about deals not being there but the groundwork being laid for potential off-season deals blah, blah, blah and there you go…the typical Hahn trade deadline.

Not trying to discourage debate as it’s actually pretty fun to engage and discuss, but…Hahn’s probably going with his trusty option C: no direction.

Last edited 1 year ago by BillyKochFanClub
HallofFrank

That’s not quite right. Until last year, Hahn’s been relatively active at the deadline, when it makes sense to be active:

  • 2017 – Traded Melky, Quintana, Frazier, Robertson, Kahnle (and other RPs)
  • ’18-19 – Minor trades, but rebuild years with nothing to trade.
  • 2020 was 2020.
  • 2021 – Added Kimbrel, Tepera, and Hernandez.

The problem with Hahn at the trade deadline is the same as in the offseason. It’s not that he’s inactive, it’s that his additions are some combination of ineffective and inconsequential.

I know you said until last year, but last year was a doozy. On a team still in contention he added Jake Diekman. And only Jake Diekman.

And sure, 2020 was 2020, but his inability to acquire even a mediocre starting pitcher when his manager was begging for one cost them the playoff series against the A’s.

Last edited 1 year ago by Right Size Wrong Shape

Yeah, last year was a disaster. On 2020, fair enough. But my basic point stands, I think, which is Hahn’s been plenty active during the season in his tenure. The main problem isn’t inactivity, it’s ineffectiveness. He’s willing to make moves, but they are usually inconsequential and/or bad.

ChiTownMax25

Plenty active compared to what? Not compared to other teams. There was nothing in 4 of the last 6 seasons. Other teams make more than 5 semi-major trades over the course of 7 trade deadlines.

Try paying attention to what 29 other teams do before making stupid statements.

BillyKochFanClub

2020 had a trade deadline on 8/31. It was pretty lively and the Sox desperately needed another SP. Instead Hahn passed and we watched that blow up in his face as a very winnable postseason series was nuked by the Sox only working with 2 viable starters.

2015, we had Jeff Samardzija and were designated as sellers. We gave up Semien and Bassit for Shark and he was obviously not coming back. Hahn did nothing and kept Samardzija, who left in FA.

The Sox half assed 2016 by acquiring Shields, watched it blow up in their face, and did a very soft sell at the deadline before committing to the rebuild in the off-season.

The less said about last year’s “move” the better.

2017 and 2021 are the outliers in Hahn’s tenure.

Last edited 1 year ago by BillyKochFanClub
HallofFrank

So ’15 and ’16 both had relatively big trades, too. 2020 was a weird year.

Hahn’s been plenty active during the season. I’m guessing more than most GMs. The problem isn’t inactivity, it’s ineffectiveness.

BillyKochFanClub

Samardzija deal was in the off-season. There were no big deals during the season in ‘15.

You can argue that the Shields deal was a significant deal, however it was made in June and by the time the deadline rolled around, the Sox were expected to be sellers to the point that everyone thought Sale had been traded when he was pulled from a start until it was discovered he went scissor happy on throwbacks. He just dealt Navarro for some paint chips and maybe some other scrub for nothing.

Hahn’s tenure is in its 11th season and we can only point to three deadlines with significant deals, one of which he made a deal in June and decided to essentially stand pat the rest of the way. I’m not saying it’s impossible that he will make significant deals, just that it’s well out of the norm for him to make sweeping changes at the deadline.

ChiSoxND12

One clarification on what’s really important here: Sale sliced up the jerseys with a buck knife, not scissors

HallofFrank

I’ve lost the thread of the dialectic a bit, and I’m not sure what you mean by “significant deals.” But I think Hahn’s record shows activity but not not effectiveness, which has been my point from the beginning. Hahn usually doesn’t sit on his hands. He usually makes moves. They are just moves that are either ineffective or inconsequential. He makes the wrong moves or bad ones.

BillyKochFanClub

I’m talking about deals that signal a direction (buying or selling) and are designed to significantly impact the team’s future, whether it’s going for the postseason or rebuild.

I’m not talking throwaway deals like Adam Dunn for whatever the A’s could scrape from under a sofa cushion.

Hahn historically doesn’t make sweeping changes at the deadline. That means he usually doesn’t move big trade pieces or acquire them during the season outside 4 instances in a stint that’s going on 11 years (forgot about the Peavy for Avi/Montas trade in ‘13).

The last 3 seasons were the seasons the Sox were supposed to make their big push. They went into each deadline with significant holes and in the thick of the playoff hunt yet Hahn was only active at one of those deadlines.

ChiTownMax25

What are you talking about, more than most GMs? Look at 5 other teams and report on what they did over the course of 6 trade deadlines .

Trooper Galactus

In the years they were supposed to be competing, by your own accounting, Rick Hahn added three relievers and a second baseman who tanked across three trade deadlines. Whoop-dee-doo.

HallofFrank

Exactly. 4 moves in… two and a half years? isn’t exactly inactivity. It may not break records, but he’s willing to make moves.

Don’t take this as a defense of Hahn. I’m just trying to diagnose the problem. The problem isn’t inactivity, it’s making bad moves. That’s still on Hahn.

Trooper Galactus

My issue isn’t the number of moves, it’s that none of them addressed the team’s biggest problems (though it was surprising how badly Hernandez flopped). Here we are all this time later and still wondering why the team doesn’t have a good second baseman or right fielder. The biggest move he made was for a reliever (of course) who pitched like shit for the two years before that epic three month stretch Hahn thought he’d be getting more of.

HallofFrank

Right, which is my point: Hahn’s ineffectiveness is the problem, not inactivity.

Trooper Galactus

He still is far less transactional than other teams that are trying to compete, especially given the needs of the team are always glaring (often times due to bad transactions in the first place).

ChiTownMax25

Getting Romy back from the IL is our big deadline addition

a-t

Trading TA now would be selling low. Even if you wanna trade him away, i think it’s much better to roll the dice on him rebounding next year. I also don’t agree with the assessment that trading Gio now is worth more; the competition between buyers desperate for upgrades is what drives deadline prices up, and that pressure isn’t present; plus, I’d bet good money that contenders’ rotations will have more spots opened due to injury in six weeks than are open today. I’m fine committing to selling off everyone who’s not here more than 1.5 years, but I don’t think doing it all now is the best way to maximize return. Anyways, if we’re still within sniffing distance of the Twins near the deadline, that’s a little more leverage to extract value.

Turning point!

Don’t you mean Touki point?

bobsquad

Reminds me of the Odrisamer Despaigne experiment. I can’t think of any recent success this team has had trying to pull a rabbit out of the “oh, didn’t he look interesting 5 years ago?” hat.

Trooper Galactus

They literally did it last year with Cueto and Andrus. The problem is they stumble into such successes more than getting such value by design. Cueto was only signed at the last minute because Lynn got hurt. Andrus was only acquired after he was released by Oakland and Anderson went on the IL.

bobsquad

Those were 2 established veterans who would have been on a ML roster regardless. I’m talking the A.J. Reeds, Clint Fraziers, Nick Williamses. Prospects turned journeymen have a poor record of realizing their potential in this system.

Trooper Galactus

Cueto was such a lock for a ML roster that he was available at the very end of spring training on a minor league deal. And we have very different ideas of journeymen. I consider them guys who aren’t necessarily good players but can at least stick on a 26-man roster year to year for different teams. Frazier, Reed, and Williams don’t just bounce between teams, they bounce between levels.

steelydan52

I think we all know what’s going to happen. The Sox will get hot in July and Hahn will sit still dreaming of a World Series. THEN, the Sox will poop the bed. And that’s as positive as I can be. I really, truly hope they can turn this around but history tells us not to think that way.

As Cirensica

You forgot that in between Hahn will trade Lenyn Sosa to the Rays for Diekman because the Rays “fixed him”

StockroomSnail

This team couldn’t get hot if they were on the surface of the sun

Trooper Galactus

But have they tried that?

GrinnellSteve

A question I’d like to see one of the beat reporters ask Hahn is, “Have you ever considered killing yourself just so Jerry will be forced to make a change in the management team.”

Of course, Jerry would take his cue from “Weekend At Bernie’s” and keep Rick around for a lot less money.

Anderson is out of the lineup again tonight. This is what drives me nuts about this team. They have a stupid process, it doesn’t work, everyone calls them out on it, and their reaction is just to dig in deeper because they value being right more than they do winning.