Rangers 3, White Sox 2: Another ugly opener

If the last week is predictive in any fashion, then it’s not worth overreacting to a White Sox performance that was uninspiring as it was unlikable to open a series against an also-ran, because they’ll gradually turn it around and leave Texas in better shape than they arrived.

Outside of Johnny Cueto’s complete game, everything about the White Sox was unlikable.

The White Sox only scored two runs against a lefty making his MLB debut (Cole Ragans) and a scattershot Texas bullpen. One of those runs crossed because the White Sox had their fastest runner on third base when Andrew Vaughn hit a chopper off the plate. The other scored because the Rangers outfield converged on a single to the right-center gap and kicked the ball behind them for a “triple.”

The White Sox had the leadoff hitter aboard in five straight innings and only had one run to show for it. Their only extra-base hit was the defense-aided three-bagger in the eighth that made it a one-run game. They went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine. It would’ve been more, but they grounded into two double plays.

Cueto was saddled with the loss thanks in part to the lackluster offensive support, and partially because of Vaughn’s play in right field. He was able to pitch around Vaughn’s inability to flag down Corey Seager’s high fly to the right-center gap that landed for a ground-rule double with one out in the sixth inning, but the seventh inning was a different matter.

Cueto created his own trouble when he threw high to first in his attempt to throw out Adolis Garcia on his swinging bunt to start the inning, but he tried to minimize it when he cut down Garcia at second on Leody Taveras’ attempted sac bunt. Alas, Ezequiel Duran followed by lofting a weak fly to right, and Vaughn couldn’t get there in time, either, which put runners on first and second.

With the Sox already two outs in the hole, Meibrys Viloria made them pay with a single through the vacated left side for a go-ahead single and a 2-1 lead. Duran took third, and while Bubba Thompson tried to squeeze him home, he bunted the ball right back to Cueto, so Duran had to hold. It didn’t matter, because Josh Harrison was slow to cover first on his long run to the bag, so the bases were loaded on out No. 4. Then Marcus Semien lofted a fly to right center, and the Sox were lucky to record out No. 5 considering AJ Pollock and Vaughn collided on the play. It was still good for a sac fly, and the Rangers had the run they needed.

Bullet points:

*The Rangers improved to 6-23 in one-run games, while they Sox fell to 18-12.

*Cueto posted a line straight out of the 1980s: 8 IP, 11 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 4 K on 106 pitches.

*Tim Anderson went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts.

*Anderson did combine with Cueto for a heads-up out at third base, with Cueto covering the briefly unoccupied third base after a weak chopper to third threw the infield into temporary disarray.

*Robert reached base three times in his return to action, going 1-for-3 with two walks and two strikeouts.

*One of those strikeouts should’ve been a walk, but he was rung up by Rob Drake on a pitch well inside, which was a habit. His ump scorecard will be worth waiting for tomorrow.

Record: 53-52 | Box score | Statcast

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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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itaita

That was what, 4 misplays by Vaughn in right today? He had a couple in the early innings as well. But as mentioning in the opening paragraph everybody saw this game coming so its hard to get mad about it.

And at least the 2016 Sox have company in the 7 dingers and lose club.

To Err is Herrmann

Do MLB rules allow a team to play two or three guys at first base at the same time? It might help us use the roster more effectively.

I be interested in an analysis from Jim about how bad the Sox players are defensively based on data and metrics.

Ignoring catchers and pitchers, my eye tells me the tiers for this year are something like this:

Great: None
Very good: Moncada
Good: Harrison, Abreu, Engel
OK: Robert
Poor: Leury, Anderson, Pollock
Bad: Eloy
Worse: Sheets
Even Worse: Burger
Worst: Vaughn

I certainly don’t trust my eye completely on this.

Last edited 1 month ago by Joliet Orange Sox
As Cirensica

Sheets and Vaughn are tied in The Horror ranking per my eye test. More often than not, this team plays with one outfielder short despite of having three OFs

soxfan

I’m not sure anyone is even very good this year. Engel, Robert, and Moncada all have the potential to be great but between injuries and generalized under-performance I wouldn’t say any of them have reached even the very good bar this year.

Harrison is probably on the same tier as Moncada, and Leury is as good or better than Anderson and Abreu (this year) although it’s hard to tell because he doesn’t have the offense to cover for his defensive shortcomings. I don’t think Burger will ever be a great defender, but I struggle to say he’s worse that Sheets – again – given his injuries and inconsistent playing time. I think it’s worth seeing what he can actually do in a full-time role although that role might not be with the White Sox.

Probably:
Cromulent: Moncada, Harrison, Engel
Almost cromulent: Leury, Pollock, Robert,
Playable because of the bat: Abreu, Anderson, Jimenez
Better off at DH: Vaugh, Sheets, Burger

texag10

I mean, Moncada is 91st percentile for outs above average. Harrison is 93rd. Abreu is 84th. Leury is 29th. We have some very good defenders who don’t see the field for various reasons and then Garcia whomshpuldnt see the field at all.

soxfan

Defensive stats are noisy and picking any one is going to lead to disparate evaluations. Robert and Anderson are in the bottom five on the team in defensive runs saved, while Garcia has twice as many DRS as Abreu in 80% of the innings. You can’t just pick one stat and stick with it, so these conversations are necessarily going to rely on the eye test and guy feel.

I agree we have good defenders – Moncada, Robert, and Engel could all be great; Anderson and Abreu have been very good in the past; and Harrison is very serviceable. That said – this year – I wouldn’t say anyone is having even a very good year defensively.

texag10

So its an unwinnable argument then. Defensive stats that go against your belief are noisy but ones that agree with you are acceptable. If we can’t use defensive metrics to judge players, what the hell are we supposed to do?

soxfan

I didn’t provide the DRS stats because I think they refute OAA and win me the argument; I used them to prove – by comparison to OAA – that defensive stats are noisy. When looking at offensive production OPS or OPS+ is a pretty reliable indicator of value; when looking at pitchers FIP or ERA+ are similarly reliable. None of UZR, DRS, OAA, or DWAR are as reliable so you need to look at them in the aggregate, consider the outliers and rely on the eye test.

So, no, it’s not an unwinnable argument but it isn’t an argument that can be won with one defensive statistic in a vacuum. Abreu may be a better defender than Garcia, but based on what I’ve seen this year and non-OAA defensive stats it’s not obvious that that’s the case.

soxygen

To be fair to Vaughn and Sheets, we’ve seen the two of them at first base – the position that we’ve always assumed that one or both would play – for only 174 combined innings in 2022. It is quite possible that the Sox would lose nothing defensively (versus Abreu) by playing either of them as the full time first baseman next year.

soxfan

I’d stipulate to that. But I think there are plenty of at-bats for any two of them and I’d rather give those at-bats to Abreu than Vaughn or Sheets for the rest of this year and into next.

soxygen

I’d like to see Abreu start running hard to first before re-signing him.

And unless the Sox have more payroll budget, the savings have to come from somewhere. If we trade Sheets and/or Vaughn for a legit major league talent and re-sign Abreu then it is really hard to see how next year’s team will be better. Whereas if we don’t re-sign Abreu we’ll have an extra $20 million or so to spend on a SP or RF.

I understand that for many people Abreu is the face of the franchise, but I’d rather use that money on something else next year. If Abreu is the “heart and soul” of this team then he also needs to prove it by, you know, running hard to first base.

Last edited 1 month ago by soxygen
funkerdan

Why would we get a RF this year? What makes it different now that we should use that money for it? We’ll probably resign him to avoid being able to get anyone that could reasonably help in RF.

SoxBulldog13

Damnit a lot of things but damnit offense, damnit Josh not covering 1st on that bunt and damnit Vaughan taking that pop up from AJ in CF. Maybe also damnit AJ for not calling for it? It was quiet on TV so I don’t think it was a crowd noise issue. Man, Cueto AGAIN comes through in a huge way, just to be let down AGAIN, by anemic flat offense and defensive miscues. This team can’t know how maddening they are to be a fan of this year.

SoxBulldog13

And Cole friggin Ragans with the shut down? Please. Cueto is a Picasso bulldog machine. He deserves much better

SoxBulldog13

I have to correct my above comment. Upon another look at replay, it was not Josh miscue whatsoever on that bunt by the Texas kid debut. He ran to cover empty first base as quick as anyone could.

asinwreck

Outside of Johnny Cueto’s complete game, everything about the White Sox was unlikable.

A microcosm of 2022.

asinwreck

Speaking of Cueto, I enjoyed this:

soxygen

Save Cueto’s superhuman efforts this was indeed a microcosm of 2022. Poor execution and not enough effort.

chipporter

With the Sox already two outs in the hole, Meibrys Viloria made them pay with a single through the vacated left side 

This was a strategic blunder. Why would you overshift to the right side and then call for an oustide pitch to a lefty? Easiest pitch in the world for him to go oppo on. Shooting themselves in the foot again.

soxygen

I’m going to just flat out disagree with Benetti on the sac fly by Semien. First of all, Pollock does not have a good arm. Pollock has done a better job as the season goes on of getting his momentum behind throws, but in the case of the Semien sac fly AJ’s momentum was taking him towards his glove side/RF line. The runner in 3rd was fast, and there is no way he gets that throw home without spinning and re-setting, at which point he’d be doing what he often does – bouncing a throw to the infield when throwing flat footed. Here is a video that includes Pollock bouncing a throw in to 2B yesterday, then of the sac fly in question…

https://www.espn.com/video/clip?id=34349219

Last edited 1 month ago by soxygen
ForsterFTOG

Vaughn’s play all the way. He was set up to catch and throw and moving right towards the target.
He made a solid, on the fly throw home despite being tangled up by Pollock. If Robert isn’t available to play CF then put Engel in.

ForsterFTOG

Agreed. Vaughn’s ball all the way.
Engel has to play center if Robert can’t.

ForsterFTOG

oops. Thought I deleted my first reponse.

GrinnellSteve

And even without the collision I don’t think either of them were going to get the out at the plate. It would have been closer.

The bigger issue in the inning was Cueto throwing high to first after making a nice play on the ball.

metasox

Center fielder has the option to go for a ball even if better that he shouldn’t. And that is another problem of not having an actual outfielder in RF. After witnessing what was happening in RF all night, it is hard to argue with a center fielder thinking he should take everything.

ForsterFTOG

A good CF doesn’t hog every ball just because he can. Vaughn was in perfect position to get a throw off to the plate.

soxygen

On the other hand, after watching Pollock struggle to get the ball to 2B on TWO bounces you have to wonder why anyone would think that he could get a speedy runner at the plate when he is running towards the first base dugout.

dongutteridge

What, exactly, could change with this team or improve their chances?

They’re not going to be any better defensively, on the bases or in the managing department.

Their pitching has been pretty good and likely to be about the same overall.

Only the offense could improve. What does that mean, specifically?

Grandal and Moncada both have to start hitting much better to make a real difference.

I wish the Sox good luck with this. It could happen.

soxfan

Grandal and Moncada both have to start hitting much better to make a real difference.

I made that point months ago. Moncada’s at least been serviceable at the plate lately (although Tony took his sweet time moving him out of the top of the order). Grandal still has a ways to go, but, again, at least he’s no longer in the heart of the order. Between those two moves and the recent lack of Leury, it seems like La Russa has finally decided he can’t let people “play through it” and has to go on what’s actually happening rather than what should be projectible but isn’t happening. Just crazy enough to work!

On the pitching side, we need to see sustained success from Giolito and Lynn. Both seem to have turned the corner, but I’ll withhold judgement until the end of August.

Last edited 1 month ago by soxfan
calcetinesblancos

I don’t have much faith in Giolito. I like him but he makes me nervous every time he takes the ball. It’s interesting that he’s getting absolutely rocked by right handed hitters this year; maybe they can alter the approach drastically in that area and find something that works better.

gibby32

So, sure this is 20-20 hindsight. But .—.. without changing the lineup at all, LaRussa could have played Robert in center and Pollock in right with Vaughn at DH. In that event, I believe the Sox win. He is easing Robert into games, but Robert is playing center tonight. Would it have been so hard to start him in center last night? I was pleased when I saw the lineup last night such that I did not think much about where everyone was playing. But LaRussa should have. His “defense” last night was a continuation of his lack of urgency on a game-by-game basis and it is infuriating.