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The 2018 Chicago White Sox can be boiled down to two defining characteristics:
This presents a challenge for the selection committee here at the Good/Bad Awards. If you missed last month’s installment, our goal is to recognize new or under-discussed good and bad performances from the last month. Which means in an ideal world, May would have brought us many good/different performances from which to choose. Instead, we’re seeing a lot of bad/same.
(Fun fact: the Sox were 8-18 in April, and 8-19 in May. Bad. Same.)
Nevertheless, we soldier on! Here are the categories we’ll be awarding:
- Good Individual Performance
- Good Team Performance
- Bad Individual Performance
- Bad Team Performance
Without further ado, the Award for Good Individual Performance goes to… Adam Engel‘s Cromulence.
At the end of April, Engel seemed on the verge of a demotion. He had the third-worst wOBA in the majors for hitters with as many plate appearances, and was ring-leading a pathetic outfield defense that took home April’s Team Baddie Award.
Oh, what a difference a month makes.
Engel now finds himself the most accomplished player in a heavily depleted outfield (more on that later). He improved his OPS by 237 points in May, and added +2 Defensive Runs Saved, a nine-run improvement over his April tally. Strictly speaking, he still isn’t a good player — in fact, he remains below replacement level this year. But May Engel was exactly the player the White Sox hoped for coming into 2018.
Next, the Award for Good Team Performance. We nearly allowed the White Sox to vacate this award, before ultimately settling on Curveballs.
A Sox pitching staff that ranked 25th in ERA, 29th in FIP, and dead-last in xFIP during May was somehow 3.5 runs above average when throwing the hammer, good for 7th in the majors. Much of that is thanks to Junkin’ James Shields and his curve that ranks as 11th-most effective in baseball by one measure. Jace Fry, Chris Volstad, Luis Avilan, Nate Jones, and Bruce Rondon also contributed above-average results.
Let’s not talk about the three worst curves on the team.
Cinch it up and hunker down, this is the Award for Bad Individual Performance: Daniel Palka‘s Defense.
This is a tough one, because the selection committee has come to enjoy Palka’s grip-and-rip plate appearances — so much so that we’ll be trying out some desperately-needed nicknames for him over the next few paragraphs.
Since his late-April call up, the Absolute Unit has played 149.1 innings in the rightfield, or just under 17 full games. In that time, he’s been worth -7 Defensive Runs Saved and -7 Outs Above Average, with a -2.5 Ultimate Zone Rating and a positively catastrophic -55.7 UZR per 150 games.
The committee salutes Biggie Smallka for his efforts to shake the 1B-only label that dogged him in the minors, work that ultimately contributed to his promotion to the big leagues. But without vast and somewhat rapid defensive improvement, it’s unlikely he’ll find a place in the Sox outfield once they replenish their major league depth.
Speaking of… the Award for Bad Team Performance goes to the Sox front office and medical staff.
For all Sox fans’ grousing about wins and losses, it sometimes gets lost that the major league team was operating at about 50 percent capacity for most of May — ultimately a bigger factor in the mounting losses than Rick Renteria‘s bunt calls or Tim Anderson‘s baseball IQ or Yoan Moncada‘s contact issues.
By my count, the Sox have run out their fourth-string catcher, fifth-string first baseman, seventh-string outfielder, and ninth-string starting pitcher the past month. Look at this list of players who could have helped the team in May, but missed time due to injury or questionable roster management:
- Avisail Garcia
- Leury Garcia
- Nicky Delmonico
- Matt Davidson
- Kevan Smith
- Miguel Gonzalez
- Carlos Rodon
- Eloy Jimenez
- Michael Kopech
- Jordan Stephens
That’s the beginnings of a half-decent 25-man roster!
It’s not entirely fair to lay blame on Herm Schneider and his staff for the many injuries, especially longer-term issues like Rodon’s. But it was frustrating to see the initial return windows for Avi Garcia and Davidson come and go, made doubly so by Rick Hahn’s refusal to promote the able and exciting replacement waiting in Double-A before the Super Two deadline.
The selection committee is, of course, aware of the realities of competitive windows and the need to maximize windows of team control. But we’re also on record as irritated by the way owners have convinced fans it’s in their best interest to root against players making money, and instead accept a subpar product.
The committee does not care if Jerry Reinsdorf saves $15 million in 2025. The committee wants to see Eloy Jimenez, goddammit.
Until next time, join us for our familiar farewell: Please Rick, promote Eloy Jimenez. For the love of all things holy. Please.