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While Luis Robert has been off the injured list since Tuesday, he’s finally supposed to return to the lineup tonight as DH. Then he’s supposed to play the outfield on Friday. Then he’s expected to be off on Saturday, followed by another start in the outfield on Sunday.
When it comes to Robert, it’s hard to trust best-laid plans. He only played in one rehab game for Charlotte in Nashville last week before what was initially described as a cold halted it. Then the White Sox activated him from the injured list on Tuesday, even though they had no immediate plans to play him.
Now the White Sox are carefully reintroducing him to the lineup, with Rick Hahn using the passive voice to describe Robert’s aborted rehab assignment, as though the front office had no say over it.
“We’re gonna have to govern his usage a bit,” general manager Rick Hahn said before the second game of a three-game series versus the Kansas City Royals. “As you all know, it was not a normal rehab assignment in this case. We do have to be a little careful with the amount we ask of Luis early on.” […]
Hahn informed the media that Robert’s symptoms have gone away since his inability to play during his assignment. They believe he was suffering the “effects of a virus” and found a “couple of vitamin deficiencies” they were able to take care of.
Without an official diagnosis, Hahn and the staff are unsure if he will experience these symptoms again, but have more confidence that he won’t.
When I wrote about the White Sox’s bizarre handling of Robert’s situation last week, a couple of Sox Machinists in the discussion put forth the idea of medical privacy, and that maybe those on the outside don’t need to be apprised of specifics if a player doesn’t want them known.
From the outside, it’s less about building a medical file on a player, and more about managing expectations. When a player is benched with “flu-like symptoms,” that player could have the flu. It could also be food poisoning, a hangover, or something more intimate. The exact symptoms are none of our business, but it’s a simple way to convey that a player is unavailable for 24 to 72 hours.
Then there are open-ended situations like what the Tigers are facing with Eduardo Rodriguez. They placed him on the restricted list due to a personal matter back in June “until further notice,” and aside from a general statement confirming his safety and well being, they refused to provide any details when asked for the reason, invoking the privacy of the discussions. Fans might be irritated that a major offseason addition went AWOL during the season, but at least they know to not count on a standard time table.
Based on the White Sox’s words and actions, it’s hard to build even a general, cohesive understanding of what Robert’s dealing with, or what the Sox are trying to get out of him. And when you combine it with other confusingly handled issues — AJ Pollock’s lack of rehab stint in April, Yasmani Grandal being allowed to play 59 games while slugging .236, persistent questions about reliever availability and two-thirds of the lineup governing its general hustle — it’s less about Robert, and more about if the White Sox can be counted on to successfully manage to health of their players. He just happens to present the most befuddling case to date.
While a bunch of outlets produce pieces about the trade deadline’s winners, losers, studs, duds, snubs and flubs, Dan Szymborski’s evaluation is probably the most instructive, because it involves recalculating ZiPS projections to account for the relevant player movement elsewhere.
The White Sox topped Szymborski’s losers list, because the combination of their general inactivity with the Twins’ proactive approach lowered their probability of winning the division below 50 percent (49.3), and took 5 percent off their postseason chances (now at 59.5 percent).
1. Chicago White Sox (-4.9% playoffs, -0.8% World Series)
The White Sox have definite holes and did nothing to fill them, while the Twins took the opposite approach. Improvements made by the Mariners, Rays, and Blue Jays are also a downward drag on the AL Central teams in scenarios in which they don’t take the division. It’s no less likely than before that zero wild card spots will go to AL Central teams, so the two teams watching the Twins do something are the big losers here. Chicago outranks Cleveland in this case because ZiPS thought the former was the better bet to make the playoffs of the two.
The White Sox have spent the last two days showing why greater additions might be unnecessary for taking the division. Lance Lynn had his best stuff of the season, Eloy Jiménez is shooting line drives all over the field, and Jake Diekman has retired all six batters he’s faced. Those are three guys the White Sox haven’t had for any length of time in 2022, and if Robert can somehow rejoin them at or near 100 percent, then the White Sox just might shift shapes enough for any algorithm to nail them down with any confidence.
Those games could also be a product of facing the Kansas City Royals, so it’s worth keeping this third-party assessment in mind when the competition gets tougher.