The White Sox Good/Bad Awards: April 2018

**Lights go down, the orchestra plays. A very handsome and distinguished man in a tuxedo appears onstage.**

Hello, and welcome to the first ever Chicago White Sox Good/Bad Awards. I’m your host, Greg Nix.

**The crowd goes wild at the mention of my name. I faux-modestly signal for silence, and the applause dies down.**

The goal of these awards is two-fold: to highlight some under-discussed aspects of the White Sox’ performance over the last month, and to create the most prestigious prize in American history. These imaginary trophies, which in my mind look something like this, will surely receive prominent placement in the memorabilia collections of those recognized.

I’ll be handing out four awards for March/April 2018:

  • Good Individual Performance
  • Good Team Performance
  • Bad Individual Performance
  • Bad Team Performance

Rather than continue beating the same talking points to death (i.e. RISP struggles, Moncada’s K rate, hideous bullpen performance), I’d like to point out some slightly less obvious performances and try to determine what they might mean moving forward.

With that said, let’s announce the first honoree. The award for Good Individual Performance goes to…

Tim Anderson‘s Plate Discipline

Anderson’s increased walk rate has been discussed a fair amount – and with good reason, as walking an extra 5% of the time substantially raises both his floor and ceiling. But as he reaches 100 plate appearances, it’s worth noting that he’s ALSO striking out 5.6% less than his career rate (through Friday’s game).

Anderson is swinging at fewer pitches outside of the strike zone than he did in 2017, while making more contact when he does swing. That combination has helped put him in better counts; he’s found himself in an 0-2 hole only 18.8% of the time this year, compared to 26.6% of the time last year – a potentially important development, considering his .113/.124/.170 line in 0-2 counts last season.

K-rate and BB-rate are two of the first statistics to stabilize, which means that Anderson may be establishing a new true-talent level. Even accounting for some possible regression, he already looks like a more reliable bet to be part of the next Sox contender than he was coming into the season.

The award for Good Team Performance goes to…

Running Fast

The 2018 Chicago White Sox have not excelled at many things — an understatement akin with saying Sox fans grew a bit weary of Robin Ventura’s placid demeanor.

However, one advantage of being a young team stocked with upside? They’ve got some burners. Take a look at the Statcast Sprint Speed leaderboard, and you’ll find it stocked with Sox:

In fact, Matt Davidson and the catching tandem of Welington Castillo and Omar Narvaez are the only below-average runners on the roster, as measured by Sprint Speed. (For those curious, Jose Abreu clocks in around league average.)

As a team, they rank second in the majors in weighted Stolen Base Runs, powered by top-25 performances from Anderson, Moncada, and Yolmer Sanchez. They’re a comparatively modest 12th in Ultimate Base Running, a more comprehensive statistic — evidence that they still run into too many dumb outs. But the fact that this particular White Sox club ranks in the top half of any facet of the game is encouraging. Baserunning should become an even greater strength as Anderson and Moncada gain experience, and are eventually joined by other fast young players like Luis Robert.

Before I announce the next award, let’s take a moment to remember those we lost this April:

Rest in Milwaukee, Tyler. Without further ado, April’s Bad Individual Performance award goes to….

Lucas Giolito’s Off-Speed Stuff

Giolito’s struggles are perhaps the most disappointing individual result over the first month of 2018, thanks in part to his extremely hittable changeup and curveball. According to Fangraphs’ individual pitch metrics, Giolito’s fastball has garnered roughly league average results thus far, but his primary off-speed pitches have been two of the worst in baseball: he’s thrown the 13th-worst changeup and the 10th-worst curveball among qualified starters.

Struggles with command mean Giolito has left his changeup in the middle of the zone far too often. As a result, the pitch has garnered just six whiffs (four of which came in his most recent outing), and opponents are batting .385 against it with a .615 slugging percentage.

His curveball, meanwhile, is breaking an extra five inches horizontally this year, while losing an inch of vertical movement. The resulting slurvy offering hasn’t fooled batters, who have whiffed just twice and are hitting .400 against it.

Leaning on his slider might help Giolito, at least until he finds a better feel for the changeup and curve. While it was supposed to be his least impressive off-speed offering as a prospect, the slider became his second most productive pitch in 2017, and he’s maintained that effectiveness throwing it about 15% of the time this season.

Finally, the award for Bad Team Performance goes to…

Outfield Defense

The White Sox outfield ranks last in the majors in Defensive Runs Saved (-14). This is not what they were hoping for when Adam Engel won the centerfield job. Engel is the biggest offender (or smallest defender, depending on your phraseology) at -7 DRS, third-worst in the majors. But all five outfielders are struggling — not one has been average or better.

The entire outfield fares better according to Statcast’s Outs Above Average, but the comprehensive suckitude as measured by DRS (as well as Ultimate Zone Rating) begs the question of whether this is a systemic issue. Rick Renteria has said in the past that he prefers to position his outfielders on the shallow side, in order to prevent bloop singles that might frustrate his pitchers. Of course, the trade-off is an increased likelihood of extra-base hits, which hmm, probably also frustrates pitchers and might contribute to the outfield’s poor metrics. This brings to mind the 2016 Pirates outfield positioning experiment that caused Andrew McCutchen to put up one of the worst defensive seasons on record.

Jason Benetti and Steve Stone mentioned during the Seattle series that the Sox are planning to borrow the Mariners’ practice of giving the outfield batter-specific index cards to help them remember exact positioning while in the field, so perhaps their defensive numbers will improve as the season moves forward. Or maybe they’ll get worse, I dunno, I’m just the awards host.

**Music plays. All the honorees join me on stage, like the end of Saturday Night Live. They’re very confused as to where they are and how they got here.**

Well folks, we’ve had a lot of laughs… and a few tears (we’ll never forget you, Tyler). For everyone here at the Good/Bad Awards — goodnight and good Sox!

Take a second to support Sox Machine on Patreon
Greg Nix
Greg Nix

Greg Nix writes stuff all over the internet, and sometimes even on TV. He loves the White Sox and the Phoenix Suns even though they bring him nothing but pain.

Articles: 83
18 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
WBWSF

The Bad; The Bad award goes to the ownership/management for giving White Sox fans another year of pathetic baseball. Of course this is being done all in the name of a rebuild. I’m also surprised how Steve Stone has become a out and out houseman for this organization. Every game he constantly talks about how this losing is being done for the sake of a better future. I wish Stone would retire from the broadcasting booth.

John SF

I feel you, but I still love Stone.
At their best, the current Steve/Jason team is one of the best I’ve ever heard.

My girlfriend watched her first (and 2nd-5th) games ever with me this year, each with that team, and she loved the corny jokes and was interested in all the deep knowledge Stoney kept pulling out about how and why the pitcher was about to do something.

Plus, Stone has had to play the youthful voice of skepticism against Hawk for a long long time. Let him finally be a nostalgic old guy with rosy glasses for a second while he has the chance.

PauliePaulie

Is everyone in a tux? I received no memo.
Also, pour one out for Salad.

John SF

we sent the memo to literally everyone but you. It’s the fourth grade winter dance all over again.

Shingos Cheeseburgers

This was awesome, Greg. 

Perhaps not quite under the radar but honorable mention for bad team performance should be the pitching staff’s K/BB ratio. Ugly. 

John SF

it was just a strong month in the category and the Academy had a lot going on.

PauliePaulie

So the Salvy/Timmay beef last night was reportedly because TA said a bad word -not at the Royals- while rounding the bases.

Right Size Wrong Shape

In baseball? What’s next, spitting?

John SF

amphetamines?

MrTopaz

What will we call that magnificent statue? The Masher? The ‘Roided-Out Lunatic?

As Cirensica

The Maquire

gibby32

If Engel is not playing excellent defense, there is no argument for him being on the roster once Avi returns. There isn’t much of an argument for him being on the roster even if he is playing excellent defense.

Trooper Galactus

If I’m not mistaken, a major part of Engel’s negative value on defense has been the horrible exposure of his limp-noodle of an arm. Granted, he has not looked very fluid out there regardless, but runners have taken advantage of his lack of throwing power at every opportunity.

PopeDonnPall

He’s had some misplays but the most frustrating thing to me about Engel’s D is that I’ve seen a few times where he’s not full-efforting it. The one that comes to mind most recently is when he tried to scoop a one hop and it rolled up his arm and away. The misplay is one thing but the reason that hitter made it to 2nd is because he took his time recovering and getting the ball back in. So that part of his game he just can’t afford.

John SF

I say this quite seriously… I wish we could option him to the Nippon league for a year. I think he would do well. His brand of speed + d + contact would work.

And his biggest problem seems to be mental. He needs to face AAAA players that give him trouble and have pro offensive scouting departments in front of giant crowds, and do well, and do poorly, and then do well again for several months in a row.

Then maybe he will finalize a swing that works for him and keep faith in it and keep faith in himself and start to shrug off all the haters.

edit: the problem is that he is too good for AAA/Arizona, and also when he slumps there aren’t really any haters to go to him or big crowds to keep his mind in the right spot.

Steinscribe

Magnificent read. Thanks for helping through a season that has been agonizing so far.

John SF

I am really looking forward to reading 23 more of these over the next 3 years!