While managers have different preferences about using "small ball," it strikes me that the White Sox rarely use sacrifice bunts in games where one run can make the difference. Is this a strategical decision or are they just bad bunters? -- Bob Dunn; Palm Desert, Calif.
I’m glad you brought this up because there are many schools of thought on this. The biggest question is whether you play for one run earlier than normal and who is at the plate at the time.
I really hate when a team bunts with a runner at second with no outs, but I’ll give you an example of how it worked perfectly. Joe Maddon called for the bunt in the first inning against the Sox after Desmond Jennings led off with a double. Sean Rodriguez moved Jennings over to third on a sacrifice bunt, and Zobrist followed with a sacrifice fly.
It’s only one run, but with David Price on the mound, it felt like five runs against the Sox.
It all depends on who is at the plate in a sacrifice situation. I think the Sox should be better at this. And after watching John Danks bunt a few times, I wouldn’t hesitate to use him in a sacrifice situation. He executed a sacrifice bunt lat Saturday that set up two runs and helped his cause. Curt Schilling was one of the best at helping his cause with sacrifice bunts that led to runs and giving himself more margin for error when he returned to the mound.
The Sox have played a major league-leading 34 one-run games (14-20), so you can’t help but think that a sacrifice bunt would have helped improved that record. But at the same time, they weren’t so great with runners in scoring position.
Sox players complained about losing a day off in Florida because of the scheduled make-up game against the Cubs. It only proves that they have already "mailed it in" and their focus is so misguided and supports the on-field results we have witnessed this pathetic season. Also, it's time to break up the "good old boys network" in the organization. It amazes me that the Cardinals and A's can field competitive teams every year, particularly Oakland with their constrained budget. -- Len Gestout; Appleton, Wisc.
Is your reference to the ‘’good old boys network’’ referring to the fact there haven’t been many changes in the baseball side? I’ve said before that many outside of the organization praise the chairman for his loyalty. But at the same time, I’ve liked the addition of Buddy Bell as a strong set of eyes for this organization.
St. Louis has been incredibly impressive with its drafting and player development. It seems like every pitcher that goes through their system throw 95 mph or harder, and that their position players who come through their farm system are very polished. Matt Carpenter isn’t going to make you walk to the other side of the street, but he gets the job done and was a deserving All-Star. Daniel Descalso was a third round pick, and his tools don’t jump off the charts, but it seems he gets the job done when asked.
Bob Melvin has done a tremendous job with Oakland, and Phil Garner deserves a lot of credit in making Josh Donaldson a dependable third baseman. The A’s scouts also have done an exceptional job of identifying dependable pitchers from other organizations like Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, Ryan Cook and All-Star Grant Balfour.
The Sox have added one pro scout in the past five years while Marco Paddy has added a presence in Latin America. I’m curious to see if there will be any changes or retooling on the amateur side, although there were some duties changed prior to the last evaluation period.
What is up with Tim Anderson? Is he playing in Bristol yet, and is there any word on how he is doing? Also, any of the White Sox's draftees looking especially promising? Looks like Jacob May moved up to Class-A already. -- David Simon
Tim Anderson is performing very well at Class-A Kannapolis (he didn’t play for Bristol), batting .305 with four doubles, three triples, eight RBIs and nine stolen bases (in 11 attempts) in 25 games. He has struck out 32 times in 95 at-bats, but his on-base percentage is .395.
May was promoted after only 12 games at Advanced Rookie-Great Falls, which is usually the case with a college draft pick. He’s batting only .109 in the same amount of games with Kannapolis. Next year will be a better measuring stick for him.
I’m careful not to hype up the draft picks out of high school so soon, but Matt Ball hasn’t allowed an earned run in his first four games at Bristol, and second round pick Tyler Danish has a 2.45 ERA in six appearances.
Also, infielder Toby Thomas, a 21st round pick, batted .423 with two home runs and eight RBIs and was named the Appalachian League’s player of the week for July 8-14.
Sometimes first-year draft picks are asked to change their mechanics or alter their batting stance, so I wouldn’t read too deeply into statistics for their first pro season.
Currently the White Sox are the third worst team in baseball. Assuming this horrid pace keeps up, who are the top draft picks in 2014? Perhaps this year will be a blessing in disguise and we'll draft the next cornerstone of our franchise. -- Jim, Chicago
Funny you mention that because look at the way Washington vaulted into post-season contention with Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, but it came at the expense of some miserable years.
The consensus first pick in the 2014 draft is North Carolina State left-hander Carlos Rodon, and everything I’ve read is that he’ll advance quickly.
As you probably know, the Sox build a solid foundation through the draft in 1987-90 with the likes of Jack McDowell, Robin Ventura, Frank Thomas and Alex Fernandez. But that came at the expense of some losing seasons.
But none of the four were first overall picks, which means you can find productive players with the right set of eyes and judgment.
The list of top players is fluid from now to next June. The top college names I’ve seen or even had watched glimpses of are pitchers Tyler Beede of Vanderbilt, Aaron Nola of LSU, Michael Cederoth of San Diego State.
As in past years, I’m always curious to see if there’s a high school kid that’s too promising for the Sox to pass up. But they might need a fast-track player, assuming they pick in the top five.
I read your column with great interest, especially the part about Rick Hahn painting a rosy picture for the Sox because their rotation is under contract through next year and ranks first in the league in opponents batting average and third in ERA. I know our hitting has been pathetic, except for a couple of players, but I don't believe our starters are that good, with the exception of Sale.
Is it his record that is keeping the stats for the entire rotation looking so good? Quintana looks like a world beater one start, and then can't find the plate in his next start. Axelrod hasn't shown that much and Santiago is another who looks good one start, and then blows up the next. Peavy is not the same as he used to be and with all his injuries can't be counted on.
So what makes Hahn so optimistic? I don't see it, and just because their under contract does not amount to more wins. I think stats are deceiving and I believe in this case they are. I believe you need at least two dominant starters like Sale and maybe three in order to win more. Do you think the Sox can win with this current rotation they have? -- Vern Z.; Tinley Park
Yes, I think they can win, but it’s tough to match Detroit’s rotation right now. The biggest issue is run support, and not just because it can translate to more victories. Having helps you pitch with a margin for error and pitch less defensively. The pitchers also haven’t received the greatest help from the defense.
Why don't you zip it up about an Alexei Ramirez trade and leave that decision to the GM? Enough already. -- Paulette Marotta
OK, I’ll let my fingers do the talking.
Ramirez hasn’t made an error in his past 16 games. He still has committed 14 errors.
He finished the first half with a seven-game hitting streak, raising his batting average from .277 to .286 and looks more comfortable at the second spot. He would help the overall plan if he would take more pitches when it’s obviously apparent that Alejandro De Aza has second base stolen easily.
He has played in all 92 games, which is admirable. But the Sox don’t have a bonafide backup shortstop currently on the roster to give him an extended spell.
Are these the five most tradeable White Sox? Jesse Crain, Matt Thornton, Ramirez, Alex Rios and Paul Konerko? Also, when will Dylan Axelrod be out of the rotation? When are the Sox going to try to get a real leadoff hitter? And what measures are the Sox ever going to try to play the game right organizationally right in moving runners along? I have been a diehard Sox fan living in North Dakota for 52 years. I would stipulate in every manager’s contract that if we hit into the most double plays during the year, the manager is immediately terminated. Nobody is worse than the Sox with this --- for years! Keep the starting pitching. They keep us in games. -- Mark Wisnewski; Lidgerwood, N.D.
Thornton is gone, so I’d add Matt Lindstrom to your list. He has pitched very well after a rough start. Axelrod isn’t in the rotation for the first five games. Alejandro De Aza has performed better lately in the leadoff spot, but his base running can be baffling, to say the least.
All we get for Thornton is a minor league outfielder batting .247, and we give them cash, too? What is going on? Maybe they can sell us a bridge, too! -- Fred Meyer; Henderson, Nev.
I look at this trade in the following ways: Had Thornton stayed, he was going to be a serviceable left-handed reliever on a last place team and would depart the following year to free agency. The money the Sox save from this deal – slightly less than $2.5 million – will cover more than half of their first pick in the 2014 draft.
And this was probably the best offer received, so if Brandon Jacobs blossoms into a bonafide major league outfielder, then it’s a good deal for the Sox who need to add depth to their list of prospects. They can still do deals with Boston before July 31, and they could get more in a deal involving Jesse Crain if he’s healthy.
I haven’t asked a question in a while -- so I hope you’ll indulge me with a two-parter. With the Sox clearly being sellers moving toward the trade deadline, do you think they will adopt the strategy to make a concerted effort to focus primarily on position players when negotiating what they get back in return for their trade chips, or will they simply go by the best offer available? A pitcher’s health is always at risk, which means so too is the return on investment. So when trying to restock the cupboards, the less riskier proposition would seem to be trading for everyday players -- not too much unlike what the North Siders recently did when they drafted Kris Bryant instead of two viable, front line pitching prospects.
Also, does the signing of Micker Zapata mean that the White Sox have been able to rebuild their reputation in Latin America? -- Al Bloom; Montgomery, Ala.
There are various ways to attack this. I’d expect that the team that acquires Alex Rios and/or Jake Peavy in any trade would take on almost, if not all, the money left on their contracts. I think the teams interested in those players know the Sox will be asking for specific players and that there’s enough competition for their services as of this writing.
There are specific areas the Sox would like to address in their minor leagues, but there are only so many teams that provide a match. That’s where it gets tricky. The Sox do a good job of developing pitching and have some talent coming soon in that area, so I can see them emphasizing position players in their talks.
Shortly after David Wilder was fired, a scouting director told me that the Sox could quickly re-establish themselves in Latin America with time and financial investment. Marco Paddy’s presence, last year’s signings in the international draft and the signing of Zapata, as well as the new rules involving Latin America players are steps in the right direction.
The recent demotion of Jordan Danks -- yet again -- and promotion of Blake Tekotte (perhaps "journeyman” is too harsh) is puzzling to me. Ventura says it is to give Danks more regular at-bats at AAA, yet Tekotte is getting a regular platoon in center. Have the Sox effectively given up on Danks? I mean how many more options does he have left? -- Jimmy D.; Sugar Land, Tex.
Jordan Danks has two options left. He could benefit from a change to another organization, but I believe he is deserving of another chance if Rios is traded.
Given that the trade of Thornton brings an outfielder with somewhat questionable hitting credentials when the Sox have four of their higher draft choices outfielders who have been consistently struggling at the plate in the minors, is it fair to ask whether Sox scouting is just not that good? -- John Johnson; Tucson
I can’t give you a short answer on this one, other than to break it down this way.
The acquisition of Jacobs is typical of Sox trades of the past in that they acquired a very talent player who currently is raw. There’s no reason to rush him yet, but it’s time for him to turn the corner.
Jared Mitchell’s season has been very puzzling because it appeared he was turning the corner, based on the end of last season and this spring. I’m not sure he’ll make it to the Sox’s big league roster.
Trayce Thompson was headed for UCLA had the Sox not signed him, and I think he’ll still make the Sox’s major league roster at point next year. The Sox have given him plenty of resources as a high school draft pick.
Keenyn Walker can still be productive if he cuts down his strikeouts. He’s stolen 31 bases despite batting only .206.
I know it’s been a tough first full year for Courtney Hawkins, but he still has 15 home runs and 42 RBIs, and he’s only 19.
The addition of Jacobs adds positive competition to the outfielders at the upper levels.
As for the rest of the draft picks, the biggest question for me is whether some of these pitchers can maintain their effectiveness as starters or will be resigned to contributing as non-late inning relievers.