Spare Parts: White Sox idle, but postseason odds take hit

The White Sox entered the week with the unenviable combination of having played three more games than Guardians while trailing them by four in the loss column. It wouldn’t be such a big deal if the Sox could guarantee defeats in those games, but the Guardians have agency, and they exercised it on Monday with a 5-4 victory over the Angels while the White Sox were idle.

Such victories strike an abnormally big blow for the White Sox’s postseason chances this time of year, because while it’s only a half-game in the standings, it represents one fewer game the White Sox can afford to lose. Here’s how the standings looked entering Monday, with the FanGraphs chances of winning the division:

  1. Guardians, 73-65 (67.7%)
  2. White Sox, 72-69 (25.1%)

And here’s what it looks like today:

  1. Guardians, 74-65 (72%)
  2. White Sox, 72-69 (21.9%)

The other projection systems won’t offer a more optimistic assessment.

TeamFanGraphsPECOTAB-Ref538
Guardians71.772.073.776.0
White Sox21.921.522.218.0

The odds will take a hit even further if the White Sox lose against the Guardians on Thursday, since that would secure the season series for Cleveland, and thus the tiebreaker.

On the bright side, the White Sox’s divisional chances on Aug. 30 were down to 5.4 percent, with Minnesota having a puncher’s chance at 36.3 percent. The Guardians are flawed enough to give up ground if the Sox can take it, although the Guardians also stood their ground with a sweep of the Twins to send them reeling, and have four chances to do the same to the Sox.

It didn’t have to be like this, especially since Bob Nightengale, last seen standing right next to Tony La Russa in the White Sox dugout on Sunday, wrote about the White Sox’s managerial situation. The way he describes it, Cairo set a different tone immediately:

Cairo may be only an interim manager, but it was his fiery speech on his first day of the job, the players will tell you, that woke them up, perhaps just in time to save their season.

“He told us pretty much, ‘If you don’t want to be here, then get the (expletive) out,'” All-Star closer Liam Hendriks told USA TODAY Sports. “It was eye-opening to some guys who really have never been told no. 

“There needs to be repercussions. There needs to be some kind of a risk and reward. That was one thing that reverberated with some guys.” […]

If the White Sox wind up reaching the postseason, there will be plenty of speculation and theories, but the players will tell you that nothing was more powerful than Cairo’s speech. He firmly reminded them that mediocrity and complacency no longer would be tolerated. 

“Sometimes, it’s good to just hear the truth,’’ Lynn said. “He pretty much told us that it’s time to do this, and if you’re not ready, you got to figure it out. 

Spare Parts

Speaking of the Twins, they aren’t officially out of it, but Aaron Gleeman effectively wrote a postmortem on their season. Besides injuries — and they’ve had much bigger problems than the White Sox in this department — he points to a front office that can’t find starters it trusts a third time through, but also can’t build a bullpen to compensate.

James Karinchak, whose ascent as a reliever was interrupted by the sticky-stuff crackdown, is back on track, and it’s because he’s reclaimed most of his spin rate. Rocco Baldelli tried to police the way Karinchak plays with his hair to no avail, but I’m wondering if the pitch clock is going to mess with his between-pitch routine.

Rob Arthur is skeptical that the restrictions on shifting will have the desired effect, because teams are getting better at positioning their individual defenders, especially in the outfield, which isn’t affected by the regulations.

Terry Francona is 14 years younger than Tony La Russa, but his body might be 14 years older.

Francona managed only 14 of 60 regular-season games in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and missed the team’s wild-card series against the Yankees because of gastrointestinal and blood-clotting issues that led to a stay of several days in the ICU.

That winter, he developed gout, then a staph infection in his left big toe, spending 10 days in the hospital and using crutches or a boot for months. After opening the 2021 season as manager, he stepped away again on July 29, 2021, for a hip replacement and then, a few weeks later, toe surgery. He still wears a steel plate in his shoe to protect his toe.

Nick Madrigal’s season might be over after a right groin strain resulted in his third trip to the IL this year. Even if he comes back, he won’t be able to meaningfully improve his .249/.305/.282 line over 59 games. He’ll also be a Super Two this winter, so his salary could also complicate matters if he can’t stay on the field.

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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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ParisSox

last I looked, they are keeping Cease on his regular 5 days and starting him the 2nd game against Colorado. Why? Why not put your best pitcher against the team you are trying to beat?

I hope this comment looks stupid and dated by Wednesday.

Augusto Barojas

That’s the cost of their “rainout” in Cleveland, which was questionable. Cease would have pitched that game against someone who wasn’t great. Instead, they will have Giolito going. I totally agree with you they should push Cease back a day to face the Guardians. Period. Lose and they are pretty much done.

As Cirensica

As important as it is to beat the Guardians, it is key we beat the Rockies as well. The Guardians offense is actually bad, it might be worse than the Rockies. The issue the White Sox are facing against the Guardians is not how to contain them, but who to score runs against their starters before Clase & Co comes in.

As Cirensica

Also, the Guardians have, generally, 2 guys that can beat you. Jose Ramirez and Gimenez. I hope Cairo is smart enough to not let those two to beat him. Jose Ramirez should not be pitched to unless the White Sox are winning by a comfortable margin

HallofFrank

Yeah, I agree with this. Don’t mess with the rotation. Keep things as they are and get the job done every day.

upnorthsox

If Cease pitches Wednesday, the rest of the way would line up:

Rockies, Cleveland, DET, @SDP

If he pitches Thursday:

@CLE, CLE, @MIN, @SDP

He has better road splits this year.

If I was trying to win him the CYA I’d pitch him Wednesday but if I’m trying to win the division I’d go Thursday.

Augusto Barojas

I mean the difference is if he goes Thurs, he pitches twice vs Cleveland. Othewise Giolito faces them twice. It would be different if they were tied (or the pitcher who would face them twice was Lynn or Cueto), but being 3 back, you go with Cease twice. Their games vs the Guardians are pretty much a playoff series. It’s win or season over for the Sox. Pretty close to a no-brainer that Cease should pitch twice, not Giolito of all pitchers.

Last edited 10 days ago by Augusto Barojas
upnorthsox

Yeah was going to look at how the different rotations would effect everyone else but thought I’d start with Cease.

Augusto Barojas

Letting Giolito play the biggest role in deciding the fate of their season would be such a Tony thing to do. If Tony was still around and responsible for that decision, people would no doubt roast him for it, esp if Giolito loses.

I’d be thoroughly impressed with Cairo if he makes the switch. It would give them their best shot at taking 3 or 4 vs the Guardians, obviously.

As Cirensica

I don’t think it is a big deal because I see the Guardians games with a different view. I am more worried about how the White Sox finds a way to score runs. If Cease pitches a gem, that does not guarantee a win because the Guardians pitching is pretty solid. However, if the White Sox can score 4 or 5 runs, then the probability of winning is high even with Giolito starting.

upnorthsox

Actually, I can just take the Cease rotations and use it for Giolito, so Wednesday:

Rockies, Cleveland, DET, @SDP

If he pitches Thursday:
@CLE, CLE, @MIN, @SDP

Giolito has much better road splits.

upnorthsox

Cueto would be:

@DET, DET, @MIN, MIN

Johnny shut out Detroit his only time facing them this year.
If we get really lucky we could skip his last start vs MIN and have him pitch 1st game of playoff.

upnorthsox

For Lynn it would be:

@DET, CLE, @MIN, MIN

Lynn has not been good at all vs MIN this year(9.19 ERA).
He would be in line to pitch game 3 of ALWC.

upnorthsox

Kopech would be:

COL, @DET, DET, @SDP, MIN

Unless the division comes down to the last game of the season, I see no way he pitches the finale vs MIN.
Kopech has not won a game since July 26th vs @COL.
DET is hitting .125 vs Kopech in 3 starts.

gibby32

The question is not whether Kopech has “won” a game, but whether the team has won the games that Kopech has started.

upnorthsox

No, I mean he hasn’t won a game since July 26th. No great revelation or insight, just an observation when looking up his vs COL and noticing that it was in fact his last win.

metasox

Cease didn’t do well with extended rest recently. And, IIRC, he was pretty vocal prior to the game that it would affect him. 5 days may be as much rest as he should get. If I were switching anyone, I would consider Lynn on regular rest. Though his knees could use the extra day

upnorthsox

You could go Lynn:

@CLE, CLE, @MIN, @SDP

While it’s normal rest for @CLE, it’s 5 days for both CLE and @MIN
He’s still in good position for the ALWC.
You might need to just skip Giolito.

upnorthsox

With Cease going:

COL, CLE, DET, @SDP

You can do Cueto:

@DET, CLE, @MIN, MIN

That sets you up perfectly for the ALWC with Cease, Lynn, Cueto.

Kopech would go:

COL, @DET, DET, @MIN, MIN

He would be in good shape for relief.

That leaves Giolito with

@DET, DET, @SDP and if needed the finale with MIN

Giolito would be in good shape for long relief if he isn’t used in the finale. Otherwise he sits out the series.

chipporter

THIS ^^^^^^

#3 for HOF

I agree. The Sox have to take 3 of 4 against Cleveland if they want a realistic chance of catching them. The best way to do this is give Cease 2 starts against them.

vince

He firmly reminded them that mediocrity and complacency no longer would be tolerated. 

The problem long term is “tolerating mediocrity and complacency” might as well be the front office and ownership’s motto.

Augusto Barojas

It’s a great attitude, but attitude can’t fix a roster with poor defense and other glaring weaknesses such as no RF. But can there be any doubt that the Sox best stretch in 18 months came under Cairo? Addition by subtraction, plus maybe Cairo has some great qualities himself. He is surely an enormous improvement over the opposite of what a team needs from a manager.

roke1960

That snippet by Nightengale should be a real eye-opener for Rick and Jerry. After reading that, there is absolutely no way that Tony should manage another game. For the first time in a year and the players were called out and held accountable, and behind closed doors, not to the press like LaRussa did with Yermin. Good riddance, Tony.

ChiSoxND12

Sox had best record in baseball in mid June of last year. Past 13ish months has been chock full of mediocrity, but to call it 18 months is incorrect

dwjm3

This is a solid point you make. Cairo’s speech apparently had a nice short-term impact, but in the long haul it is tough to build on his message if the organization isn’t committed to excellence.

Joliet Orange Sox

The Luscious Locks article was very weird and very interesting. I think the comments about mixing sweat and rosin to get grip are a good possible explanation.

ayeitsfabes

Also an explanation for why Cease touches his head basically every pitch

GrinnellSteve

My wife keeps wondering why he isn’t called out for that.

Right Size Wrong Shape

Your wife should get an account. It sounds like she has a lot of White Sox thoughts.

upnorthsox

I’m sure she has a lot of good thoughts, but like a good husband he only pays attention to the ones that are White Sox related.

GrinnellSteve

I pay attention to her thoughts about baking cookies…

upnorthsox

I suffer that blindspot too.

She wasn’t even a baseball fan when I met her. It’s a big part of her life now. I’m pretty lucky that way.

ParisSox

Or you are cruel to have done that to her, considering our fate as White Sox fans.

gibby32

A week from today, the White Sox will have a great deal of clarity as to what they need, as they are to begin a 3 game series against the Guardians. Starting yesterday, the Guardians play 9 games in 8 days; over the same span, the White Sox play 6 games in those 8 days. At the start of the Guardians-White Sox series, they will have played the same number of games and the strength of schedule will favor the Guardians, albeit slightly. If the White Sox are within 2 games, they will have a decent shot, even taking only 2 of 3. If it is 3 or more, without a sweep, their odds decline dramatically.

Augusto Barojas

Cleveland has their destiny in their own hands. If they go 12-11 even with a basically cream puff schedule, the Sox would have to go 15-6 or better to win the division, unless they sweep Cleveland and win the tiebreaker. Going to be very tough, Thursday’s game by itself will have a lot to say. If the Sox win and can gain ground, the last 2 1/2 weeks could be interesting. Or, it could easily be basically over by this weekend.

Cease should start vs the Guardians. I just don’t see how they can overlook the importance of an almost must-win game and take their chances with Giolito.

HallofFrank

To be fair, you could argue that the White Sox have their destiny in their own hands. Usually, I take that phrase “destiny in their own hands” to mean that if they win out, they win. In other words: they don’t need something to happen outside their control.

Well, that’s true of the White Sox. If they win out, there’s nothing Cleveland can do to stop them.

calcetinesblancos

You really have to give credit to Cairo for taking the stance that while he’s the manager, he’s going to do things his way. He could have easily bought in to the whole “don’t step on Tony’s toes” mantra that everyone else seems bound by, but he didn’t. This is major league professional baseball, and the goal is to win as many games as possible. It would be nice if Tony La Distraction could practice what he preaches just once.

loch

I guess anything can happen with Madrigal’s future, but right now the Madrigal-Kimbrel-Pollock thing is kinda 🤷🏻‍♂️

At least Sox were able to get some good out of it.

calcetinesblancos

I like Nick and I did not want to see him keep getting hurt, even while playing for the scrubs. But it’s generally a sound assumption that people who get hurt constantly don’t magically start getting hurt less often as they age.

vanillablue

Selling high on Madrigal was a smart move by Hahn. Trading him for a reliever we didn’t need was not.

gibby32

Yeah, the problem is he preside over drafting him shortly before the trade. It’s hard to give him even modest credit.

a-t

It wasn’t really overdrafting? Every mock draft I can find besides KLaw’s had Madrigal going between 3 and 5, and most of them had him going to the Sox at 4. The lower body injuries weren’t part of his profile at all at the time; he was recovering from a broken wrist from a HBP when drafted was all. It didn’t work out, but that awful hamstring tear is what changed his trajectory, not drafting or development errors.

asinwreck

Terry Francona is 14 years younger than Tony La Russa, but his body might be 14 years older.

Maybe. We have no idea how infirm La Russa is. After today’s Nightengale nugget that La Russa had his pacemaker inserted before the season and this procedure “repaired” it, who can say what major health problems Tony and Jerry have been keeping secret?

Speaking of health, what are the odds that Nick Madrigal will ever play 100 games in the same season?

ParisSox

that’s such a shame about Madrigal. With that bat control that we saw, I really thought 3000 hits was a distinct possibility for him.

As Cirensica

Really? All I saw was a Juan Pierre in the best scenario. Turns out Madrigal might be another Ryan Theriot

Right Size Wrong Shape

Juan Pierre could run the bases.

TheBigHrabosky

Mike Caruso

gibby32

So did he.

BenwithVen

Even healthy he was such a let down. Bad baserunning, and an arm so weak that he struggled turning the most obvious of double plays. I really have no idea how he was so hyped coming into the draft.

Augusto Barojas

To have a guy whose health is so poor that he needs a pacemaker – and a couple weeks off in September during crunch time as a result – to manage a pro sports team is so stupid that the word ‘stupid’ is completely insufficient to describe how opposite of intelligent TLR managing has been. Cairo is a human being with actual energy, the Russa is half dead, maybe more than that.

Yeah I think we can all cease lamenting the Madrigal trade. He’s been hurt more than Eloy. All the Nellie Fox comparisons drove me crazy. Nellie played in 12 all star games, which will almost surely be 12 more than Madrigal ever will. His self created ‘countdown to 3000 hits’ was laughable, he might have to play until he is Tony’s age to achieve that.

joewho112

I am excited for the pitch clock. Better pace of play, more steals, and maybe more hits especially in later innings.

SocksO’Graham

Remember when the media was worried #7 would not get along with TLR? Well maybe TLR’s new approach was to not hold him accountable in order to be liked. Tim is too nonchalant of a player and especially as a team leader for my tastes.

calcetinesblancos

Tim being called nonchalant is a first.

upnorthsox

But he’s nonchalanted to first more than a few balls.

soxexile

Assuming that Nightengale wouldn’t write anything about TLR without approval from Reinsdorf, is there anything significant in his comment that TLR’s return for 2023 is not certain? He could instead have written a “TLR is raring to go, and will be back in the dugout just as soon as his doctors give the OK” piece.

dwjm3

Probably just means he hasn’t been briefed by Jerry yet.

a-t

Everything uncertain publicly has been strictly medical, so it’s possible that his doctors won’t actually clear him. My thinking is that Tony’s family is maybe trying to persuade him to not return to not risk his health.

Augusto Barojas

For fans to have to legitimately worry about Tony coming back, is so, so, so STUPID!!

a-t

Odds obviously aren’t in the Sox’s favor, and Cleveland’s opponents are not very tough. That said, the rainout makeups stacked up on Cleveland while they have two starters out offer a glimmer of hope, plus the almost entirely cupcake schedule for the Sox. The Cleveland bullpen is going to be ridden very hard down the stretch.

The key to the season might actually lie with Minnesota. Their five-game set in Cleveland right before Cleveland comes to us for the final 3 games is crucial— it’s Minny’s last crack at the leaders, so that will be do-or-die for them. If they can at least take 3/5 and help wear out the CLE bullpen, there’s no better setup for the Sox to sweep CLE right after.

upnorthsox

Cupcake? If it comes down to us needing to take 2 of 3 from Minny at the end(and it likely will) I’ll be in full on dread mode.

a-t

You seen what Minnesota looks like recently? They’re flawed and hurt and they’re outright collapsing

upnorthsox

Yes, and the more they look like KC the more worried I get.

a-t

Lol fair enough. But also… if they’re mathematically eliminated by that final series, they’ll have no reason to play their recently injured guys like Buxton, Mahle etc

charlie

Well stated.

a-t

News— Lynn will start Thursday @ Cleveland instead of Gio, so it seems that they’re swapping Lynn and Gio in the rotation. Good move if so— sets up as well as could be hoped for the final four vs the Guardians. First makeup game @ CLE is now scheduled to be Lynn v McKenzie, and the three-game set at home goes from Cease v McKenzie, Giolito v Bieber, Lynn v Pilkington to Cease v McKenzie, Lynn v Bieber, Giolito v Pilkington. Unfortunate that we see McKenzie and Bieber for 3/4 of these games, but 3/4 of Lynn and Cease is as good a counter as you can ask for.

Nothing to do but go win ‘em, though. Also, Gio has still been decent vs Cleveland this year— 3.86 ERA, 3.61 FIP in three starts.

Last edited 10 days ago by a-t
Augusto Barojas

That makes so much more sense than Gio going twice against the Guardians. That would have been ridiculous, imho. His ERA is 3 runs higher than Cease, and he has been their worst pitcher this year consistently. He might do better than he’s pitched in a bigger game, but it’s crystal clear that Lynn is better at the moment, and it’s not close.

ParisSox

This makes me happy

chisoxt

In an alternate universe it Would have been nice to have watched the 1994 season play out had our wonderful owner not been so hawkish in dealing with the players association resulting in cancellation of the season and World Series…Similarly, I wonder what may have this season had the Chairman canned TLR in June as he should have, or better yet not even hired him to begin with. See the pattern here folks?

Jason

They certainly would have sold more tickets this year.

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