Spare Parts: Tony La Russa minds Carlos Rodón’s matter

Carlos Rodón’s fastball velocity has fluctuated over the course of the season, but he hadn’t yet paid for not being able to summon the high-90s heat of “Hard Karl.” He might’ve been limited to five innings here, or been subject to balls-in-play luck there, but he’s managed to avert complete disasters.

And one might say his three innings against Detroit on Monday fall short of that status as well. He gave up three runs in his third and final inning of work, but poor defense facilitated the unnecessary labor. Had César Hernández stopped a grounder up the middle (which wasn’t easy) or tagged the runner with the hand that held the ball (part of baseball rules since it was a gleam in Abner Doubleday’s eye), perhaps Monday’s box score looks different, and Rodón’s line within improves.

I’m skeptical that we’d be talking about Rodón any differently. His fastball velocity stalled early and dipped below 90 mph twice.

More concerning is that his slider failed to generate a single swinging strike for the first time since his final start of the 2018 season. He can survive with lower velocity if the breaking ball is a threat, and he still has enough life to avoid getting crushed by lesser opponents, but the lack of a true swing-and-miss pitch results in 30-pitch innings that limit his in-start stamina regardless.

The return of One-Pitch Rodón during the game led to the return of Terse ‘n’ Testy Rodón after it. Rodón wanted to talk about the game while not mentioning to his condition, which he tried to downplay as “normal soreness, nothing crazy.” But between what everybody saw during the game and Tony La Russa’s account of Rodón’s in-game assessment

“In the first two innings, we were all encouraged. He threw the ball well,” La Russa said. “In the third, he lost command, he was struggling. Actually fortunate to leave [the third inning] with three runs. He came back in and said he wasn’t right, soreness. So we’re concerned.”

… it’s hard to separate the results from Rodón’s condition. So I suppose the his session had few other ways to end than with a question about concern, followed by Rodón saying “No. I think we’re good. Thank you, guys.”

I’m more inclined to accept La Russa’s version of the events, because he has fewer incentives to deny reality. Most of Rodón’s job is ignoring adversity, or defeating it. La Russa’s job is managing it. It’s in his title.

At least Adam Engel is supposed to be back for today’s game. He’ll have his own condition to maintain.

Spare Parts

In writing about Leury García’s resurgence, James Fegan asked him about my “tribute band” concept, in which García’s performance hinges on the player he’s replacing.

At first, García finds this theory grotesque, repulsed by the insinuation that teammates going down with injuries works out well for him. But that only winds up being the introduction to how seriously he takes it.

“You don’t like that to happen, but unfortunately that’s part of baseball,” García said through team interpreter Billy Russo. “When those situations happen and it’s one of the main guys, the everyday guys, and you have the chance to fill in for him, then you feel the responsibility to fill that void, to make that absence unnoticeable. You try to do your best and try to perform at the level that that player was performing. That’s probably an extra motivation and also a big responsibility.”

A “grotesque” theory that has merit the more one thinks about it is basically a big part of the Sox Machine Experience™. I’m giving myself a win.

José Abreu gets the national profile treatment from James Wagner, who opens with Abreu’s unwillingness to let anybody else pick up the check when dining out. The rest of the article paints a picture of a guy who is infallible as a teammate in every other way, from his personal work ethic to his willingness to share information, professional or personal.

The Boston Globe’s coverage of Tony La Russa isn’t as thorough an overview. What’s interesting is that the DUI charge that cast a shadow over his hiring isn’t mentioned by the reporter, even though La Russa did acknowledge it in a general sense.

“It’s been a healthy situation,” La Russa said. “All the years I managed, we always pursued information. Now you can get it right away. There were a lot of negatives when I took the job and they were legitimate. The only one that didn’t make sense was that I was away from the game.”

MLB.com’s Statcast miners have come up with a couple legitimately fun facts about two White Sox players. On the offensive side, Luis Robert has reduced his rate of whiffs per swing from 41.5 to 27 percent. The previous high was Joc Pederson at 9.5 percent, so Robert is blowing away previous precedent for single-season improvements.

The injury prevented Robert from accruing enough playing time to qualify as one of the site’s most improved players, but Dylan Cease got the nod for the biggest improvement in expected wOBA.

Cease was fortunate to get his results last season, posting a low strikeout rate while walking the most batters in the AL. This time around, he’s backed up his success with huge gains in whiff rate on all three of his secondary pitches (slider, curveball, changeup) to support a massive leap in K-rate (13.8 points) that has coincided with a drop in walk rate. In terms of xwOBA, which factors in both of those things in addition to quality of contact, Cease has improved from .387 (fifth percentile) to .296 (65th).

Liam Hendriks has overcome the skepticism about the durability of his one-pitch approach, but Ben Clemens puts forth the idea that Hendriks’ durability at the top of relief leaderboards is worth appreciating in and of itself. I don’t think White Sox fans will be on the verge of overlooking Hendriks’ excellence, especially with Craig Kimbrel creating messes in front of him.

While the White Sox offense has sputtered, Yasmani Grandal is the one hitter who doesn’t seem to take a game off. It makes sense that it’s mostly as simple as getting his legs back and trusting them, but it’s remarkable that he was able to get his knee repaired in-season, and ahead of schedule.

(Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski/USA TODAY Sports)

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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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asinwreck

James Wagner’s NYT article also has this detail:

After four White Sox players were named All-Stars in July, closer Liam Hendriks said Abreu got each of them — the players selected besides Hendriks were Anderson, Lynn and Rodon — a bottle of liquor signed by the team. Although Hendriks said he can’t drink it because of a liver condition, he appreciated Abreu’s thoughtfulness and will display the memento on his mantle at home. And perhaps in the postseason, Abreu can finally be paid back.

“He takes care of us,” Hendriks said. “And now we’re hoping that we can bring him back some glittery jewelry at the end of this season.”

Best wishes to Liam Hendriks, and I hope the condition is not serious.

Last edited 10 months ago by asinwreck
Willardmarshall

C’mon New York Times, you know how to spell mantel….

Foulkelore

Maybe, he has a special cloak displayed prominently over mannequin shoulders in his home, and he is planning to rest the liquor bottle on it. That really wouldn’t surprise me about Liam.

LamarHoyt_oncrack

Rest is best. Hopefully Rodon will be ok if he gets skipped a start, or more. He may not have maximal value in the playoffs, but he can rest 2+ weeks before them if they choose to.

It’s not what we want to hear, but it’s better than him coming out of the game after a pitch where he felt a lot of pain. He was still pretty good his prior start vs Boston.

metasox

He needs some work otherwise he won’t be sharp and the Sox won’t know how much they can expect from him

jhomeslice

Well this was part of the risk they took when they counted on him to be one of their starters. It looked like a brilliant decision for a while. But you knew that he might have an issue like this. Hopefully they can manage it, as the article says.

At least Lynn, Cease, and Giolito all look pretty good right now. So it won’t be as if their fate depends entirely on Rodon’s health. But it sure would be good to get positive news on him soon. If he is their game 4 starter in the playoffs, he could get nearly 3 weeks rest.

burning-phoneix

I know I sound like a blood sucking contract lawyer here but this is a good situation for the Sox: They got a Cy Young caliber season on a 3 million dollar contract and late injuries and soreness will drive down the contract demands in the offseason to re-sign Rodon.

dwjm3

I’m not sure they will want him. They will have to decide whether his arm will hold up.

jhomeslice

But how much value does he have to a team aspiring to win a championship, if it is very uncertain that he will be pitching in October at any kind of high level?

I wouldn’t be excited about getting him on a team friendly deal, unless he has value this postseason first of all. They don’t need guys good for only 130 innings who break down after that and can’t pitch when it matters the most.

Having said that, I’m optimistic that some rest will do him good and he can still help them in the playoffs. I sure hope so.

Last edited 10 months ago by jhomeslice
Yolmer's gatorade

I wonder if Rodon accepts the qualifying offer. It is really a matter of whether any team will give him a big contract based on this year’s performance along with the injury concerns. If no, I think he accepts the QO.

metasox

A very Sox thing to do would be to let him go and roll the dice on some other 3 mil reclamation project

phillyd

I thought Kopech was penciled in for the 5th starter next year

metasox

How many innings can Kopech pitch? Can Keuchel be useful? Who are the 6th, 7th and 8th starters? Sox pitching was very healthy this season. Not sure swapping Kopech for Rodon is enough

asindc

Actually, it would be a very MLB team thing to do.

metasox

A team that spends money and wants to win a championship doesn’t load up on question marks. Sox got very lucky getting as much as they did from Rodon this season

Last edited 10 months ago by metasox
Brett R. Bobysud

La Russa said today that they expect Rodon to start against Cincinnati in a week.

Shingos Cheeseburgers

At this point I think all that can be expected of Rodon in the playoffs is two really sharp innings. I hope TLR finds the right spot to deploy those innings.

LamarHoyt_oncrack

Come on now. Gotta be more optimistic than that! He had two decent 5 inning starts before last night. There are two full weeks to rest him between now and the playoffs, more depending on which game Rodon would start. Can’t give up on him that easily.