The White Sox are trying to show everyone that they can turn Chris Flexen around

New White Sox pitcher Chris Flexen
(Photo by Ron Chenoy / USA TODAY Sports)

When a big league pitcher agrees to a one-year, $1.75 million contract, the primary appeal is that it’s a guaranteed shot when few teams are offering such, if any. Both Mike Moustakas and Kevin Pillar stand to earn more if they can convince their former teammate Chris Getz to give them a major league job out of spring camp.

“It comes down to just having belief in somebody,” said Chris Flexen, before cutting through all subtext of his coming to the White Sox. “Coming off a horrendous season and still having someone say we think we can help you and get you back to where you want to be. That shows a lot of belief and a lot of confidence in me to get back, and for me to put in the work to get back where I want to be as a pitcher as well.”

In the style of Erick Fedde, Flexen returned to the majors in 2021 after a year in the KBO. Seattle offered a welcome environment for a fly ball pitcher who doesn’t miss many bats, and he finished an out shy of 180 innings with a 3.61 ERA. His results were similar as the Mariners shifted him to a swingman role in 2022. But despite an excellent Cactus League showing, things blew up for Flexen so quickly in 2023 that he was designated for assignment by two different clubs before last year’s All-Star break, before finishing his season in the rarefied pitching hell that is Coors Field.

Naturally, Flexen was able to throw six innings of one-run ball against the Sox offense last August in the middle of his nightmare season. But the same team appealed to Flexen by offering an operating concept for why the rest of his year didn’t look like that.

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BenwithVen

Great stuff James.

Hearing Bannister really go in depth about guys like Flexen, Kopech, Fedde etc. has been the best part of the offseason so far and is such a refreshing change of pace for this org.

Dirt

I really like what I’ve been hearing from Bannister. Obviously end results are what he’s ultimately going to be judged on, but his ideas on pitching sound great on Feb 29

As Cirensica

The difference in the baseball speak between Grifol and Bannister is quite large. I find Bannister interesting and knowledgeable. Whereas Grifol, I find him…err…what’s the word?…he is an idiot with very little to say or susurrate considering how soft he speaks.

FishSox

+1 for the use of, susurrate

Mark

It is cool that others call Bannister “The Miracle Worker.” Maybe that is an exaggeration; but it still is a suggestive nickname.

huisj

It’s sort of like the offseason before 2021 when Ethan Katz was talking about working with Rodon, Lopez, Cease and we were all excited because it wasn’t Cooper.

bob

well, which turned out to be pretty good

BillyKochFanClub

I don’t have particularly high hopes for Flexen, but I have admit they’re higher than where they were before reading this.

LamarHoyt_oncrack

All he has to do is face offenses like the Sox, and he will be a stud.

Admittedly he is a decent gamble, he’s only 1 year removed from back to back decent seasons. But last year was such a disaster that who knows. I hope he or Soroka pans out, I’d be ecstatic if even one of them winds up having trade value.

DocGreedo

I’m loving hearing Bannister and Getz (and Katz) have a plan with the pictures. Not just getting them because they were cheap but they see something they can fix. Might make us a place that pitchers seek out at some point.

Alfornia Jones

It would be nothing short of a miracle to get Flexen and Fedde through around 30 starts and an ERA under 5.00. These are old shoes that have 100 career starts each and 500 IP (each), the MLB industrial scouting complex has figured these guys out, there is no mystery left. With this warm weather, they might not even have the 40F nights of April and May to keep the ball in the park.

I’m going to be really impressed if Getz/Bannister/Barfield can produce 70 wins with this team, truly Moneyball roster building. We’ll call their version DollarGeneralBall.

FishSox

Actually, I think your prediction may lean too dour. While it’s easy to average things, putting context to the average, i.e. 1 dominant year & 1 horrible year, gives more reason for hope than just the average of the 2. Further context of understanding reasons for the drop off, offer more hope (hopium for everyone! I’m buying!).

GrinnellSteve

I love that the Sox are signing guys for whom they see a specific fix. There’s a plan to extract more. We’ll see how often and how much those plans work, but if feels like a major step forward for the organization.

I don’t know to what extent this is happening on the hitting side, but it sounds like they were working on some things with Fletcher and DeLoach.

This could well be the big story of this year’s team. In addition to the obvious benefits on the field, the Sox’ new-found ability to work with players (if that ability actually shows itself) could make the Sox a more attractive destination for free agents.

This is what I’m going to be watching for more than anything else. I hope I see something.

GrinnellSteve

I got my avatar back by uploading it to Patreon. Something wasn’t working for me on Gravatar.

Joliet Orange Sox

Good to see Nellie Fox back. I hope everyone will at least consider uploading a profile picture. It doesn’t take long at all. I think it brightens the place up and makes it easier to follow who is saying what in long-running back-and-forths. It doesn’t have to be anything special or clever. My profile pic is as generic as they come (although it is more brightly colored than some).

jacob

Like others, I’m not going to go out and put my money on Flexen for Cy Young or Comeback POTY. But what I did find encouraging about this is how it relates to the Kopech article of some days ago. For Flexen, Bannister sees a guy who seems naturally inclined to use vertical movement/angles to be successful and wants to help him with that. For Kopech, Bannister thought he was trying too hard to be vertical attack guy and wants him to embrace his natural tendency for horizontal movement. So I like this flexibility from Bannister, he’s not a system guy who sees everything through the lens of his one great way to pitch. Hopefully it works out.

asinwreck

“My underlying goal for all these guys is to get them paid,” Bannister said.

DON’T TELL JERRY

We want to keep Bannister around for a while.

vanillablue

Oh, Jerry doesn’t mind if they get paid – by another team.

FishSox

I broke into Dire Straits there

As Cirensica

Mike Petriello with an excellent write-up on top defensive teams and he finds one team particularly surprising. Guess who?

https://x.com/mike_petriello/status/1763214241920630806?s=20

katiesphil

I can live with solid defense.

FishSox

3 of his top 10 defensive teams from the AL central?!? I’m not really that good at keeping track of rosters leaguewise, but on the surface, it just seems like, things that make you go, hmmmm.

As Cirensica

I think it is a coincidence more than anything.

StockroomSnail

So much for “defense wins Championships”

FishSox

Jim and/or James, or anyone else knowledgeable in modern pitching philosophy (it’s been over a decade since I talked to a pitching coach)….

Is, “Plane of Rotation”, and the understanding and teaching/preaching of it, unique, cutting edge, well accepted by most, etc? Can you give me more on it please?

DocGreedo

I’ve used it for my golf swing in the past so it’s not new new but it is a good tool to help with repeatablity.

https://golf.com/instruction/hula-hoop-training-aid/

FishSox

Thanks,is Banny the only guy doing it or is it league wide?

Big Ed Walsh

Bannister must be one of the hardest working guys in baseball with all these fixer uppers on his plate

upnorthsox

Thanks, Schuster looked good, let’s see how long he can hold up.

upnorthsox

Well not too long, I guess we know why we got him.

upnorthsox

Vaughn sucks, he’s losing me quick.

LamarHoyt_oncrack

Like Crochet, he only has one more year of control than Cease. I did not realize. Even if he finally does well, he should be on list of trade candidates as well.

bobsquad

Crazy as it sounds now, a bad season could get Vaughn non-tendered before his control years run out.

LamarHoyt_oncrack

I am not a fan of his, but I doubt that. He has some talent and upside, undoubtedly.

I think he will benefit from a change of scenery, as would anybody on this roster who has been here for much of this multi year clown show.

upnorthsox

Eloy on the other hand is playing inspired.

As Cirensica

He has no contract next year, and he knows it.

Joliet Orange Sox

As always, I remain very skeptical of many explanations of player performance variance that rely on external motivation. I think it is easy to explain many of Eloy’s struggles with injuries and a poor approach without invoking that he played poorly because of guaranteed money.

I think most major league players have large enough egos and bank accounts that money is not the determining factor of when predicting their good years and their bad years. I think injuries are one major factor. Almost all of us posting in these comments do jobs that anyone could do if they wanted to. Since no special talents were required, hard work was the main determinant of our success and we often generalize that to endeavors where talent does matter (such as artists, musicians, and writers (like Jim and James)). I think many MLB players need every bit of talent they have and even minor injuries can derail them.

I also think the egos of MLB players can get in their way because they will fall back into habits that led to success in their past even when the opponents have made adjustments requiring a new approach. I think Eloy is an example of a player who has not adjusted to being adjusted to.

If Eloy has a good year this year, I think it will be because he’s healthy and he has made adjustments to his approach after accepting the necessity of doing so. I think attributing Eloy possibly having success this year to playing for more future money is facile.

As Cirensica

There is a lot to unpack here, but it is the end of a hard day at work. Maybe in another opportunity. BTW, I agree with some things you mentioned here.

As Cirensica

Gavin Sheets hit a couple of homers today. I see your game Royals. Making the White Sox believe that Gavin is a slugger that needs a roster spot in the 26-men roster. Maybe even as a RFer. Good strategy there Royals. I am sure Grifol sees thru it.

^ joke

JazznFunk

I haven’t seen any reporting about his adjustments and whether he is showing anything different. My sense has been that he spent enough time in the Sox organization and some other can take a crack. But now that he has done whatever he did this winter, I am a little curious. Either way, he should not be in the field.

Wayne

Either way, he should not be in the field.

He can play 1B (probably better than Vaughn). I expect him to start in AAA.

HoytWilhelm

My box score might have been corrupted, because it asserted that Sheets also stole a base.

FishSox

It’s probably a makeup call from the other day when he got caught stealing.

Mark

Another excellent article! Really looking forward to seeing how Sox pitchers do this year with the advice of Bannister added to the mix.

Wayne

Only worry is too much success will be attributed to Maldonado.

Warren Z

Flexen is definitely worth a gamble. Pitchers who have a few decent years sometimes will then have a bad one before returning to their previous level of success.

If he has another bad year, then at least we didn’t give him a long, guaranteed contract.