Patreon Request Line: Slow starts, sandwiches and Saladino

Among other inquiries in a mailbag that's chock-full of conversation

This week’s Patreon Request Line resulted in a rather wide-ranging six-pack of questions. Thanks to everybody who supports Sox Machine.

From Mark: 

It seems like the White Sox always get off to a slow start in April. Why do we do that and what’s our first month of the season going to look like?

I’d disagree with the premise. Last April, they were surprisingly good out of the gate (13-10), so much so that Rick Hahn had to try to suppress excitement in order to keep the long-term plan in focus. The year before, they started the season 23-10 before it all went to hell.

Now, 2015 fits that bill. The White Sox won the winter, only to start the season 8-14 with a -38 run differential. They rebounded strongly enough to get one game over .500 on May 18, and that was the high-water mark. But for the most part, the Aprils have been on par with, if not better than, the rest of the season in terms of wins and losses.

If this is only about the offense, that’s probably because the White Sox tend to be short on guys with good on-base percentages. They’re not natural at keeping the line moving, and April in Chicago isn’t conducive to making the most out of contact. That combination begets plenty of quiet nights early.

The 2018 schedule works out OK in this favor. They’ll play two series in Kansas City, one series indoors in Toronto, and one series in Oakland. Of their 12 home games, nine of them have daytime starts, including a weird 4:10 start on April 24. As for the offense, Yoan Moncada, Avisail Garcia and Jose Abreu look like the top third of the order, and they looked quite effective against the Dodgers on Saturday. The rest of the lineup will probably sputter due to a combination of youth, aggression and a shortage of everyday MLB talent.

From Louis: 

Saw some news about the Horseshoe sandwich at the MLB Food Fest. When do we hear about new stadium updates for this year? More beers in the Kraft Kave?

They’re usually unveiled during the last week of March. I did see the thing about the Horseshoe from the lineup of food coming to the MLB Food Fest.

The Horseshoe sandwich is a Central Illinois delicacy I’d never heard of, but it looks like a form of Garbage Plate, which I’ve had in upstate New York. I don’t think I drink enough to make them pay off.

From BeachPig:

Ed Olyczk and Pat Foley did some road events(non-game nights) at local spots, i.e. BWs, etc, every year where they met fans, interacted, signed autographs. What do you think the possibility is to get the Sox to do that with Hawk here in his last year or Stoney & J-Benz going forward?

I’m guessing this is an arrangement conducive to the Blackhawks because the Wirtz family fortune is built on liquor distribution, and the official Blackhawks Bar program helps drive sales, so it’s in their interest to keep partners happy. The White Sox have no such catalysts from up top.

Beyond that, Hawk Harrelson’s two-hour drive to the ballpark makes his involvement in such a thing a nonstarter, but I am curious to see how Jason Benetti goes about being The Guy for the White Sox after two years of partial duty and an ESPN side hustle, because the broadcast chairs have been mostly occupied by ex-players over the last 35 years.

From Trooper Galactus:

Take a look at the 2018-19 free agent class and, assuming the season plays out to a median of expectations, who are potential targets beyond the obvious who could fill a need for what will hopefully be a team on the cusp of contending?

I’ve said this before on the podcast, but there are a lot of decent center fielders hitting the open market in their early 30s: Charlie Blackmon (32), Adam Jones (33), Andrew McCutchen (32) and A.J. Pollock (31). I don’t think McCutchen’s a center fielder, but the rest will probably expect to play the position.

Lorenzo Cain got five years and $80 million from the Brewers at age 32, so I imagine Blackmon can make that kind of money. The rest have significant flaws that can hamper their markets, which could make them bargains in another harsh winter. If the White Sox need to buy Luis Robert a couple years and the Adam Engel/Charlie Tilson/etc. line doesn’t look up to the challenge, that’s one area the Sox may stand to benefit from buying low.

From Scott:

Is there anything about Tyler Saladino’s profile that makes you want him on the 25 man roster? If his ceiling is a 1-2 win player, and his floor is the abysmal performance we saw last year, why keep him around at all? With a pair of 25-year-old prospects in Cordell and Gillaspie isn’t Saladino just preventing us from seeing what other players can do? This feels like the point of the rebuild where roster spots are starting to matter. Not for performance, but for seeing where players are at.

I don’t think Saladino is blocking anybody yet, certainly not Casey Gillaspie. If Ryan Cordell has to start the year in Charlotte, well, he missed the second half of the year with a spine fracture, and he played the first half of 2017 at 6,000 feet. I’m OK with seeing what he looks like in the context of the International League for a month. Besides, I’d blame Rick Renteria for carrying eight pitchers first.

When Saladino is healthy, he plays strong defense on the left side of the infield, which is something the Sox don’t have on their bench if Yolmer Sanchez is starting at third base. Jorge Rondon is the next line of defense there, so I can see why they aren’t in any rush to punt depth this soon. Part of me wonders whether the Sox are emphasizing infield reps for Leury Garcia in hopes that he can reduce redundancy here if Saladino can’t ever return to his initial major-league form.

When May rolls around, if Saladino can’t shake his back woes and Cordell looks worthy of an audition, I’ll start clanging the pots and pans.

From orajestad9:

Has Tim Anderson reached his ceiling? If so, what’s the long term outlook at that position?

Boy howdy, I hope not. Anderson’s under a guaranteed contract through 2022 with team options for the following two seasons, so he is the long-term idea at shortstop, and I think he can make that vision pay off well enough. I think the September version of Anderson can stick around for a 20/20/20 season (homers, steals, walks) with stabler defense.

I like that Renteria is planning to bat him in the bottom third so that his brand of offense won’t cost the team outs and RBI situations at the top of the order:

“Timmy puts the bat on the ball a lot and when he does it’s a positive outcome. Not putting him in a situation where we’re worrying about him getting on, as opposed to if guys are on base we know his ball in play is high and he’s driving in a few more runs. And if he clears the bases here’s another guy who can run on the bottom of the order and start it back up again. Give more guys on the top of the order another opportunity to generate runs.”

If for whatever reason the White Sox indeed believe at the end of this season that Anderson’s ceiling is 13 walks and a sub-.700 OPS, then I imagine a White Sox pursuit of Manny Machado wouldn’t be limited to third base.

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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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steely3000

I’m pretty sure we will see what sort of player Tim Anderson is, not only offensively but defensively. If he plays a steady defense, the Sox can afford the mediocre offense. But if he keeps with his old playground habits at short, throwing to first on the run, etc. then the Sox do have to consider another option. No team can win anything with an erratic shortstop.

Jer-in-Az

With so many other positions that need to be improved, it is nice that the White Sox can wait a few years to really force marginal improvements (caveat: Machado).  With Anderson’s floor, if we want to move him in the future it would be an MLB player for MLB player trade that should help fill a future need.  That being said, I hope he is a solid bottom 3rd hitter and defender at SS on a future Sox contender.  

PauliePaulie

Anyone know how hard Kopech was throwing today?

PauliePaulie

Hadn’t heard about that. Good news for him long term.

sausalito pale hose

Kopec gave up a ton of runs in one inning

Jer-in-Az

Good riddance, don’t need a reality show piggy backing on World Series fame.

Utica Greens

I’ve had my fair share of drunken garbage plates. Makes for a colorful morning after.