No products in the cart.
While it’s producing a lot more walks while trailing the league in homers, there isn’t a whole lot separating the 2021 White Sox from its previous version when it comes to its general shape.
The White Sox had a 4-1 week on the road against Cincinnati and Kansas City, outscoring the Reds and Royals 30-5. Lucas Giolito was the only starter to allow a run. Tony La Russa was in the enviable position of finding things for relievers to do.
But if you look inside the week, you’ll notice that they beat up on lefties for two of their easy wins, while right-handed pitchers held the Sox scoreless for 14 consecutive innings. They’re a baseball-best 7-1 against lefties, and .500 against righties. The records align with the offensive performances. The Sox slaughter southpaws up and down the card, but only two of their starters — Yermín Mercedes and Tim Anderson — have an OPS above or even approaching .800 against righties. Also, La Russa stumbled the one time in-game decision-making could swing a game, which is why the confidence in the manager doesn’t match the run differential.
What the White Sox do have year-over-year, at least 30 games into the season, is starting pitching that can keep them in every game. That’s something that can mask offensive deficiencies, and it has to the extent that the bullpen has been the unit taking the heat for late-game losses. There’s no question multiple White Sox relievers have underachieved for the majority of the young season, but the White Sox having the AL’s third-worst offense against bullpens — which can deploy righties at will — makes the issue feel more acute. Last year’s 8-3 losses are 4-3 losses this time around.
The White Sox have ways to improve against lefties without counting on the righties getting better, specifically Yoán Moncada (.253/.365/.402 vs. RHP this year) and the catchers (Yasmani Grandal is 4-for-55 with 19 walks). But this is one of the areas where the White Sox miss Eloy Jiménez, and it’s OK for grief to resurface when you least expect.
This feels unnecessarily dour after a 4-1 week, but it’s more to point out that the White Sox have some element of predictability to them that’s worked in their favor thus far. When it looked like the last homestand had six wins in it, the White Sox went 6-3. When it looked like they could prolong the miseries of a Kansas City team that lost five straight, they endured the first four innings of Brad Keller to pave their way for a leisurely weekend sweep at Kauffman Stadium.
This upcoming series against Minnesota is a little foggier, what with Kenta Maeda and Michael Pineda starting two of the games. Both have posed problems for the White Sox during their Minnesota careers, and if the White Sox are by and large the same kind of team they were at the plate, it wouldn’t surprise me if they lost two out of three and had fans and radio hosts frothing over something La Russa did or didn’t do. That said, if the Twins took care of business in the manner they expected, they wouldn’t be 12-20. As long as the Sox have starting pitching like this, there aren’t many games to automatically file away as losses.
* * * * * * * * *
As we wait for an off day to pass, I like what La Russa did by putting Danny Mendick in right field for consecutive games against lefties, even though Mendick had never played the position professionally. That’s something previous White Sox teams were loath to do, even when rotating Moncada or Yolmer Sánchez for an occasional tour in left field would’ve unlocked a whole lot of possibilities the previous two seasons. Alas, when Jiménez suffered his untimely injury late last year, Rick Renteria looked at his roster and thought a one-handed Leury García was the best option for the Wild Card series. He wasn’t.
Mendick rewarded the coaching staff for its boldness. He went 2-for-8 at the plate, but both hits drove in runs — a two-run homer on Saturday, and an RBI single on Sunday. He saw nine balls hit in his direction, and each one had the expected outcome. If there was evidence of his inexperience, I might’ve seen some increasing apprehension with every stride toward the fence, but it didn’t factor into any play.
Right field is still going to rely on Eaton to step up against righties, so it’s not like playing Mendick a couple games in right field will swing a season. Still, it’s a nice way to dodge a couple of traps the absences of Jiménez, Luis Robert and Adam Engel can present, like playing a banged-up Eaton against lefties, or using Billy Hamilton more than absolutely necessary. Taking a guy like Mendick who possesses reasonable athleticism and defensive ability elsewhere and throwing him in right field raises that bar for “absolutely necessary,” and establishes a precedent for more creative problem-solving when the Sox encounter other crises down the line.
(Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire)