P.O. Sox: José Abreu’s future? Joe Girardi now? Why Gavin Sheets?

Normally, I answer questions from the P.O. Sox mailbag at the end of Sox Machine Podcast episodes, at least in-season. But with Josh limited to a fixed time at the Blue Wire studios, we’re taking it to text form this week.

(It also worked out for me because the wife and I are traveling with the baby for the first time, so it’s a great time for posts that only need me to have enough time to complete isolated paragraphs. Mini Margalus handled his first flight well enough. I’ve seen worse, and I can finally empathize with the parents who have thousand-yard stares.)

The following questions are all from our Patreon supporters. If you don’t yet support us, any time is a great time to start.

With Abreu’s recent resurgence highlighting how important he still seems to be to this offense, does keeping him around beyond this year make a bit more sense than it seemed to earlier?

— Shane

I think if Andrew Vaughn weren’t around, it’d be an easier discussion. But while has bounced back from the few weeks where his bat looked really slow and his scooping rate was 50 percent, he still is in the pile of players of athletically limited righties who struggle against righties, and Abreu’s free agency would be the easiest way to address it, versus hoping to nail an Eloy Jiménez or Jake Burger trade or something.

That said, when it comes to power hitters, I still don’t trust the baseball enough to have a sense of what somebody’s numbers are going to look like at the end of the year, because there appears to be an upswing afoot.

Are we at the point where Rick Hahn should try making a trade now? Or can the Sox afford to wait until the trade deadline

— Alec

I think the Sox could theoretically benefit from an early trade on the position-player front, because you know that some positions are unlikely to be addressed internally between now and the end of the season (second base, left-handed depth anywhere), and so you may as well get the most season left for a player who is better than the options on-hand.

Based on Rick Hahn’s acquisition history, and the White Sox’s even longer-running struggles of having players show up to Chicago and forget what made them successful, I wouldn’t particularly want to see him be the one to try and find a deal in a limited market. It reminds me of a line from a song on Craig Finn’s new album.

Slide into the shortest view.
We could maybe take like one or two
But stay here in the game I think you’ll find
You start throwing into coverage.
Trying to force a low percentage
To make up for the way you fell behind.

Some fans use the baseball Pythagorean Theorem to assess manager’s performance. The White Sox exceeding the number of wins by a plenty. They have won 25 games when run differential indicates 19 wins. Even if you wiped out the Redsox slugfest of 32 runs, the expected wins are 23. Yet, TLR appears to make eyebrows raising decisions. What are your thoughts? Sample size? An unusual sequence of events? Actual…gulp…good managing?

Javier Ferro

It’s mostly a result of the White Sox’s inability to post sizable run totals on even an occasional basis. Usually those blowout losses are offset with blowout wins, but the Sox haven’t won a game by more than five runs in forever. They’re kinda like a reliever who digs himself a hole with his ERA by giving up six runs in two-thirds of an inning. Because he’s limited to one inning at a time, it’d take weeks of steady excellence to bring it back down to reflect an above-average overall performance. Maybe he ties together six scoreless innings, but then he gets blitzed for another crooked number, and he’s staring down a 6.00 ERA again.

In both cases, you can dig into their game logs and say they’re better than run differential/ERA suggests, and that’s true enough. But you could also say that most good relievers and teams don’t have those problems after a couple of months.

Lenyn Sosa has 11 homers, his high for any season. It’s early June, and he’s playing home games in Birmingham at age 22. Are there useful precedents for us to consider whether this development merits excitement or skepticism?

— Asinwreck

The nearest example of a Birmingham breakout is Romy Gonzalez, who wasn’t 22, but had a 22-year-old’s amount of professional experience due to the pandemic. Marcus Semien also took his game to a new level at 22 in Birmingham. Both were products of large collegiate programs, so they’re not great comps, but I don’t think one could be found in the system. Sosa is breaking new ground when it comes to a standard White Sox international signing thriving in Double-A with no apparent catches.

If you expand the criteria a bit, you can see how Sosa fits in with some greater organizational progress. I noted in my feature about him that he’s using a lot more of his lower half, and I think you can probably say the same thing about Carlos Pérez, who also figured out how to hit with more than his hands at Birmingham, albeit at an older age. Rope in the surprising power shown by Bryan Ramos and José Rodríguez early in their careers, and maybe Andy Barkett and his crew are catching up to the rest of the league when it comes to generating impact hitters from within.

Ideal lineup?

— Humberpie

Probably AJ Pollock/Adam Engel first, Andrew Vaughn second, Luis Robert third, José Abreu fourth, Jake Burger fifth, and who cares afterward. Shuffle those names in any order you please. Just don’t make us have to endure unnecessary Leury García/Josh Harrison at-bats, and you’ve pretty much solved the problem.

I’d like to see Joe Girardi be our next manager and the sooner the better. The Phillies stink no matter who is managing and he’s managed in the biggest, toughest market with success. I believe TLR has done his best and has attempted to “fit” with today’s players but this is not “sustainable”.

— Mark

Well, the Phillies have won five in a row since firing Girardi, so that’s testing the hypothesis that they stink no matter what.

Small samples aside, my counterpoint is that Girardi might’ve been perfectly suited for managing in the biggest, toughest market because his brand of uptight management fit very well with an uptight franchise with veteran players who upheld those standards. Put him in a looser setting with a wider range of personality types and player-development backgrounds, and he doesn’t have the people skills to bridge gaps, especially with the volatilty of inexperienced talent.

I’d also like a little time to see how the Phillies’ bullpen responds to a new manager pushing buttons and pulling strings. Their performance has been so distinctly disastrous in high-leverage sitautions that I’m not inclined to blame Girardi, but if they immediately look like a standard unit with a replacement-level manager in charge, then I think you’ll see the Philly media probing into what the hell Girardi was doing.

This isn’t to say that La Russa is better than Girardi, but I’d choose neither. I think Girardi might benefit from a talk with Buck Showalter, who had the same rap before he figured out how to loosen up in Baltimore.

Should we be a little concerned with Giolito? He has not been peak form the last few starts now, and his FIP this year is not very encouraging. Just tough opponents doing isolated damage to his numbers?

Shane

There’s room to be a little concerned, if only because the home-run rate is spiking on him, and he’s not getting the usual great returns with his changeup right now. He also came to mind when reading the FanGraphs post about the league finally figuring out how to hit high fastballs a little. The good news is that we’ve seen Giolito have to adjust on the fly before, doing so last season with the midseason crackdown on sticky stuff. As long as he has three pitches, he can probably toggle the settings and find a working combination. The bigger issue that he can’t hit.

Why is Gavin Sheets not in AAA?

— Vince

Because he occasionally has a good at-bat that reminds everybody of his body of work from last year, and the Sox don’t have a similar kind of ostensible left-handed threat anywhere else. You might laugh at the idea of Sheets described as a “threat,” but we just saw Dave Roberts fall for it. Without Sheets, Reese McGuire and Adam Haseley would be the best lefties available, and they don’t inspire a similar hope/fear of a game-tying swing, even though Sheets isn’t doing it himself.

Mind you, I’d rather see Sheets in Triple-A myself, with Haseley taking his place. But that’s my attempt to answer that question.

One of the delights of last season was how much the Sox churned their (position player) roster – and the subsequent production they got. Why do you think the Sox have operated differently this season and do you see that changing?

— Andrew

I think the difference is that Jake Lamb and Brian Goodwin were veterans with whom La Russa had some history in previous roles, and Yermín Mercedes started the season 8-for-8, and made it impossible not to play him through the first six weeks of the season. Yolbert Sánchez would be a rookie replacing a veteran, and he doesn’t look like the kind of rookie who stands a Burger/Sheets/Mercedes-like chance of making an impact in individual at-bats.

We’re also seeing some decisions clouded by uncertain statuses. Last year, there was more of a delineation between who was healthy enough to contribute, and who just couldn’t play. That even applied to the guys who were hurt. Yasmani Grandal provided some strangely shaped (but useful) production around his knee problem. Tim Anderson and Adam Engel had long-running questions about their conditions regarding lower-body problems, but they played well when they played.

This time around, La Russa and/or the Sox seem convinced that Grandal and Yoán Moncada are going to play themselves into better results despite lingering physical issues, and they could be throwing weeks down the drain if their faith isn’t rewarded.

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— Steve

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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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joewho112

Looks like Tony took some of Jim’s advice on lineup construction

Last edited 3 months ago by joewho112
calcetinesblancos

He gave it to the Twitter guy and he was like “good one Tony, where’s the real lineup?”

jorgefabregas

He’ll be back to a nonsensical lineup in a game or two. He seems to think that putting a struggling hitter high in the lineup might get them going.

soxygen

If we looked back, I bet his lineups against righties are the worst because he can convince himself that there is a reason to play Garcia, Sheets, Grandal, Moncada…it’s easier for him to make out a lineup card versus a lefty.

Last edited 3 months ago by soxygen
ForsterFTOG

24 year old Andrew Vaughn needed a game off but gimpy Yasmani Grandal catches a day game after a night game.

calcetinesblancos

Did anyone get that recent survey email from the Sox? I’d hate to be the person who has to read those. Yeesh.

GrinnellSteve

I let ’em have it.

calcetinesblancos

I kept calmed and laid it all out.

joe-u4351

How does Yoan Moncada avoid everyone’s ire for continued poor performance? His only good year out of the last five was 2019. Make Jake Burger the permanent 3rd Baseman and move Moncada to 2nd which I believe was his natural position and hopefully his performance will improve. If not, time to look for trade involving him.

ForsterFTOG

He hasn’t escaped anyone’s ire.
His 2021 season was far above average.
He’s an elite defender at 3rd and Burger is below average.
If he’s as bad as you say, who ‘s going to take his contract?

I think he’s hurt.

Joliet Orange Sox

In no world is Moncada’s natural position second base. He’s a great defensive third baseman and was an awkward second baseman. People talk about moving Moncada to second only because of the lack of production from Leury and Harrison and wanting to get Burger in the lineup. Burger is a poor defensive third baseman and the few experiments in AAA hinted that he might be a disaster at second.

Like the previous reply, I’m concerned about Moncada’s health. For a 27-year-old, I tend to believe the over 2300 plate appearances prior to this year are a more reliable measure of his ability than the 85 plate appearances this year.

soxygen

Regarding Jim’s take on throwing away weeks of time if what Moncada and Grandal actually need is rest/rehab rather than at bats…by my count Moncada is 3 for 30 over the previous 15 days; Grandal is 4 for 36. Leaving aside their defensive contributions, I don’t think the Sox are going to look back at this stretch later and say “thank goodness those two were healthy enough to strike out a lot in late May and early June.”

Last edited 3 months ago by soxygen
soxfan

On one hand, Jim’s answer about Abreu’s future makes perfect sense, but on the other it has the tinges of the “where will he play” theme. There are obvious problems with the roster, but having Abreu and Vaughn in the same lineup isn’t one of them right now. Obviously, fixing the rest of the problems will require Hahn to address what Abreu and Vaughn don’t do (left-handed hitting, defense, speed) but you could do worse when building a lineup than starting with Abreu and Vaughn as your 1B/DH combo.

As for the rest of the “1B-only” bats, Burger is nice but unproven (and might not be 1B only), Jimenez’s rehab got delayed…again, and no one else has earned the ABs yet. If Grandal were to rebound and need a few games at 1B/DH to stay fresh when he’s not catching that would be one thing, but he’s barely earning his ABs at catcher so there’s no reason to find him other places to play until he proves he can put himself back together.

shaggy65

It’s less about “Is Jose still a solid hitter?” and more about “Of all the guys you could sign in free agency, is this the guy who makes your team a contender?” Given all the other (mostly RH) 1B/DH’s on the roster, I have to answer “no”.

Would I rather sign Abreu than nobody–sure, but hopefully even Rick Hahn recognizes that there are other options.

dongutteridge

I’ve never wanted a White Sox manager fired as much as I do right now. And, that’s saying a lot.