Spare Parts: A year of Dallas Keuchel

A year ago to the date, the White Sox and Dallas Keuchel agreed to terms on a three-year, $55.5 million contract that was cemented after the holidays.

A year into the deal, Rick Hahn would probably be thrilled to sign him for two years and $37.5 million. “Probably” sounds like a ridiculous hedge, but James McCann is the only player to sign a larger commitment thus far, and the only players with higher average annual values are ones who accepted the qualifying offer. Right now, the only thing the White Sox are anticipating is Tony La Russa pleading guilty to lesser charges, which is supposed to commence today.

Did you know: Keuchel became the first White Sox pitcher in 49 years to qualify for the ERA title with a sub-2.00 ERA, finally providing an encore to Wilbur Wood’s 1.91 ERA in 1971.

They’re hard seasons to compare. Wood threw more than five times as many innings, and inside that workload discrepancy, he allowed more unearned runs (24) than Keuchel did total runs (15). The record books give them the same heft, because the league decided to treat 60-game rate stats the same as it would for a 162-game schedule. Baseball didn’t get its .400 hitter or Bob Gibson-beating ERA, but here’s one case where we’ll be looking back at Play Index and considering 2020 stats the same as we do for the Year of the Pitcher in 1968 (when Tommy John posted a 1.98 ERA over 177 innings).

As mentioned before, the willingness to accept any extremes from the 2020 season helped the Negro Leagues gain major-league status from Major League Baseball, and that’s where we can start with the…

SPARE PARTS

Over the years, we’ve talked a lot about Minnie Miñoso’s Hall of Fame cred, and the challenges his brief Negro Leagues career and the segregation-delayed start to his MLB career posed to voters over the years. If you’re new to the conversation, James Fegan does a great job summing it up and spinning it forward.

While many looked at Nick Madrigal’s build during his draft year and crossed fingers for another Jose Altuve, the hope from here is that he can crack a triple-digit ISO like the similarly contact-oriented David Fletcher. That doesn’t seem all that ambitious until you realize that Madrigal’s 2020 ISO was a cozy .029.

If you can get out of the realm of infielders, Juan Pierre is another guy who found himself similarly out of step at the start of his career. Despite playing for the Colorado Rockies in the year of our juicing lord 2000, Pierre hit .310/.353/.320 over 219 plate appearances in his rookie season, with singles accounting for 60 of his 62 hits. He finished with a .310 batting average, yet an OPS+ of just 58, which nobody else has come close to doing over a similar amount of plate appearances in baseball history. Madrigal had an OPS+ of 108 despite the absence of power, so he looks brawny by comparison. You may cringe at seeing Pierre’s name, but it’s just a way to point out that weirder guys have stuck.

Vaughn doesn’t strike me as somebody who can be blocked in 2021, because I wouldn’t want to count on him making an impact at DH in his rookie season. I’m impressed by his ability to battle in his limited looks against upper-level pitching, but I still want to see some evidence of an ability to punish even high-minors pitching on a routine basis before penciling him to important, immediate plans.

Anyway, I thought Daryl Van Schouwen’s lede was notable for its blunt description of Rick Hahn’s struggles in this area:

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn has swung and missed at slotting a capable designated hitter into the lineup three consecutive times.

We’re not talking foul-tip, just-missed-it misses. We’re talking — for a franchise that once penciled in Hall of Famers Harold Baines and Jim Thome into the DH slot — Adam LaRoche, Yonder Alonso and Edwin Encarnacion missing a pitch in the dirt by a foot.

Ken Davidoff tries to sell a skeptical Mets public on how James McCann earned a four-year, $40 million contract, providing a detailed summary of his non-tender from Detroit, his improvement at the plate with the White Sox, and then behind it.

Darrin Jackson has been a fixture in the White Sox broadcast booths, yet he’s probably experienced more change than anybody in an organization that’s resistant to it. In an interview with Scott Merkin prompted by the White Sox hiring Len Kasper for Jackson’s third primary partner in three years, Jackson ends up covering the breadth of his career.

Rick Morrissey’s vote gives Mark Buehrle three thus far, putting him at 6 percent on Ryan Thibodaux’s Hall of Fame tracker.

(Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire)

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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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Willardmarshall

Nice to see Tommy John mentioned in a sentence that doesn’t also include James Andrews.

As Cirensica

Finally. Can Hahn finalize the Bauer signing now?

ParisSox

No comment.

asinwreck

And in James Fegan’s story today, this passage remains relevant.

The team and La Russa have not publicly commented on the matter since then, other than to note that the club was aware of the charges and their seriousness at the time La Russa was hired as manager in late October. But even as questions about how this incident factored into the White Sox hiring process, and what it says about La Russa being fit for the job, have been left unanswered, the team has completed assembling his coaching staff and made two initial moves to bolster a roster with World Series expectations.

So, will the team make any statement at all? And when does La Russa next speak to the media? He’s been quieter than Kyrie Irving this month, and Irving got fined $25K for not speaking to reporters.

asinwreck

The team’s statement is up.

If the picture is too small, here’s the text:

“With today’s announcement, Tony La Russa accepted responsibility and has been held legally accountable for his poor behavior and the questionable choices he made last February. The White Sox understand the anger and concern expressed by some about hiring Tony under these circumstances.

Tony has expressed to us his remorse, and he understands he brought this on himself.

We understand that people make mistakes and exercise poor judgment in life. In this case, Tony is fortunate his decisions that night did not injure himself or anyone else. We also believe people deserve the opportunity, at all points in their lives, to improve. Tony knows there is no safety net below him. There cannot be a third strike.

Tony has a proud and productive history with the White Sox and Major League baseball, which is why we are standing by him. He has done his job exceptionally well in the past. He has always shown an ability to inspire his players and to bring his teams a championship level. We are confident that Tony will improve our team, while improving himself.”

asinwreck

And LaRussa:

James Fegan, White Sox beat writer: La Russa began his first public comments since the day his hire was announced, by saying: “I’ve brought this on myself. I know it. I feel deep remorse and regret.”

That was reiterated repeatedly over the following half hour, with La Russa pledging he will seek out car services when he drinks. Despite completing alcohol counseling, La Russa said he does not feel he has a drinking problem.

But ultimately, the other refrain La Russa returned to repeatedly was that his apologies only mean so much, and the burden is on him to prove he is deserving of the trust the White Sox have shown him.

So, he’s still drinking.