Spare Parts: The White Sox’s last light week

After an off day on Monday, the White Sox open a two-game set with the Pittsburgh Pirates, followed by another off day on Thursday, then a three-game set against the Tigers over the weekend.

The standings say that success this week isn’t imperative, because the most pessimistic of projections gives the White Sox a 99.5 percent chance of making the postseason. It’s just that other teams around the league are suggesting that the White Sox should want to use this opportunity to make the season’s final fortnight as stress-free as possible.

You have the New York Yankees, who have plummeted from a neck-and-neck race in the East to the eighth spot in the American League standings. Their 16-6 start has been erased by a 5-14 skid, the Blue Jays are two games up in the standings, and it’s hard to tell if their offensive issues are failing to cover up for a thin pitching staff or vice versa.

On the other side of baseball, the Atlanta Braves placed Max Friend on the 10-day injured list with a left-side muscle spasm of the lumbar spine, so the league leaders in the NL East are down to three healthy starting pitchers, the best of which is rookie and Shenendehowa High School product Ian Anderson.

No team’s problems are unique, but all of them are magnified when there are no minor leagues to provide any battle-tested help. The White Sox have their own, especially if Dallas Keuchel’s back problems linger the rest of the season. The mission right now is to get to 32 wins, then try to keep everything in order for October.

Spare Parts

James Fegan, often fascinated by Lucas Giolito, takes a good, hard look at the weirdest thing about Giolito’s success — his aggressive deployment of changeups, including ones in the upper part of the zone.

“Hitters are cognizant of the fact that they have to get out front of that fastball that’s up and get on top of it, and so guys will start to cheat to that fastball up, and then they see something up and it happens to be an off-speed pitch,” McCann said. “I think the conventional thinking of off speed up in the zone came from 10-15 years ago when every pitcher was throwing two-seams and sinkers down in the zone. As the hitter recognizes the pitch up, a lot of times that was going to be the off-speed pitch that was a mistake. Well now hitters see pitches up basically throughout the game because so many guys are throwing four-seams, so the off-speed pitches are being more effective up in the zone than they have in the past.”

I’m a sucker for any local-boy-makes-good story, especially when a non-baseball hotspot follows one of its rare successes in the sport. This story about Kodi Medeiros is more interesting than the usual fare in this genre, partially because he describes the protocol at Boomers Stadium in Schaumburg, and also because he was recently added as left-handed depth in the 60-man player pool. He says he’s hitting 96 out of the bullpen, going with his two-seamer instead of a four-seamer.

Medeiros has been influenced by left-handed reliever Aaron Bummer, who talked about throwing two-seam fastballs into right-handed batters.

“The Brewers wanted me to throw the four-seam fastball,” he said. “But I’ve gone back to the two-seam fastball again and being more consistent with it. Aaron talked about attacking away with breaking balls, going backdoor. It was really cool to talk with someone who has success and is at the younger end.”

Like Medeiros, Sheets was also left out of the 60-man player pool initially, and the club’s depth at the position makes it easy for somebody in his situation to draw conclusions about his future in the organization. That said, Sheets tells James Fox that he’s tried to use the time without games to increase his athleticism with the hopes of being able to cover an outfield corner.

Nick Madrigal’s batting average and slugging percentage are the same, and he refuses to let you make him feel uncomfortable about that.

“I know it’s going to come,” he said. “I know it’s something that’s been on a lot of topics from people, extra-base hits. Right now, my role is to get on base for this lineup, and I know that in the back of my mind. So whether I’m bunting every time or blooping it out there, I understand what my role is on this team. I don’t need to try to hit home runs. So I’ve really tried to embrace that.

“I know it’s going to be part of my future game. It’s something I’m not going to re-create myself. It’s just going to come naturally. … People are always going to say something about my swing, that’s been my whole life. It’s something I’ve heard a lot. But I’m going to stick to my approach and the way I’m swinging right now.”

I generally agree with him, at least for this year. If there’s a bigger priority on his to-do list, it’s getting a grip on the speed of the game at second base. The difference between the floor and ceiling is a crawlspace for the time being, but he’s been a little less polished in the field than I’d anticipated.

Speaking of freak flags, Tim Anderson is trying to follow one batting title with another, and while his profile remains unconventional, he’s improved in a few small ways — harder contact and greater selectivity chief among them — to make simple BABIP regression less of a threat.

While he’s vying for other forms of league hardware, Anderson already notched one accomplishment this season by being the White Sox’s nominee for the 2020 Roberto Clemente Award. He and his wife Bria have spent the last four years in Chicago reaching out with their League of Leaders program.

David Laurila isn’t talking about Foster’s success being lucked-base. He’s only referring to the win column. Foster is 4-0 despite only 14 games to his credit, which is the kind of immediate fortune that makes Scott Ruffcorn’s winlessness all the more remarkable with each passing season.

Pat O’Conner just stepped down from his post of president of Minor League Baseball, which as an institution ad a tough fight on its hands to ward off widespread contraction even before the pandemic hit. The shuttering of the season has dealt a fatal blow to the organization’s way of doing things. It’s a sad story, especially if you don’t believe in Rob Manfred’s ability to see the big picture with regards to baseball’s health.

(Photo by Arturo Pardavila III)

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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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yinkadoubledare

Foster getting that 1990 Barry Jones luck

Willardmarshall

Anecdotal, but I no longer feel like the season is one day from a shutdown….

carbiner

Entire article exists just to make a Ruffcorn reference

asinwreck

No way, it’s for that coveted Tribune Herald link. Best damn news organization on the east side of the Big Island!

Oddvark

The Yankees and Blue Jays play each other 9 times in the next 17 days. Should be exciting. If one teams goes on a run like the White Sox v KC, it would solidify that team’s playoff spot while potentially knocking the other team out of the playoffs altogether, what with Baltimore, Detroit, and Seattle all surprisingly within 2 games of the final playoff spot.

The Yankees recent skid (and bad runs this year by the Nationals and Angels) also reminds me not to get too cocky about the White Sox right now. The are a fun team to watch with a lot of talent, but losing streaks happen to plenty of teams with a lot of talent. They are going to have to go out and fight for wins every game.

texag10

The problem with the yankees recent skid is the fact that all of their talent is on the shelf. Health was always going to be a major factor in this shortened season and the yanks are just the poster child for it.

joewho112

Gio Gonzalez is back. Burdi to the suburbs

As Cirensica

I momentarily read “burn the suburbs”

Amar

In your reply I momentarily read “bomb the suburbs”

Josh Nelson

“Bombs over Burr Ridge” would be one hell of an OutKast song

asinwreck

The music playing for Pat O’Conner’s retirement party is “Did She Jump or Was She Pushed?” by Richard and Linda Thompson.

Oddvark

Shoot Out The Lights is such a great album.

Joliet Orange Sox

If anyone is having a bad day (spending hours trying to do something remotely that would take seconds in person, e.g.), I find that Richard Thompson performing Tear Stained Letter live in the 80’s ALWAYS works to brighten my mood.

Joliet Orange Sox

I thought I posted this before so I apologize if it comes through twice.

I find that Richard Thompson doing Tear Stained Letter live in the 80’s is something that ALWAYS brightens my mood.

rugbysox

In this movie, is Jerry Reinsdorf played by Christopher Walken?

Joliet Orange Sox