Week 4 Record: 3-3 | Overall Record: 15-12, 2nd in AL Central
The White Sox’ nine-game homestand ended on Sunday, and the White Sox finished 6-3. It was a positive homestand but an overall average week for the White Sox record-wise. However, the biggest story of the week doesn’t have anything to do with the scores themselves, as Luis Robert sustained a right hip flexor strain that will land him on the IL for a soon-to-be-determined period of time. We talk a lot about this injury and more for the White Sox this in this week’s recap, so let’s jump in!
Tale of the Tape
Game 22: White Sox 2, Tigers 5 | Box Score | Recap
Game 23: White Sox 3, Tigers 1 | Box Score | Recap
Game 24: White Sox 11, Tigers 0 | Box Score | Recap
Game 25: White Sox 3, Indians 5 | Box Score | Recap
Game 26: White Sox 7, Indians 3 | Box Score
Game 27: White Sox 0, Indians 5 | Box Score | Recap
Jordan’s Weekly Wrap-Up Thoughts
Overall, this was another fine week for the White Sox. They did a lot of what they’ve been doing so far this season: winning some nail-biters and dropping some games they should’ve won. At the end of the week, to be 15-11 and just 1.5 games behind the Royals for first place in the division is solid, especially with a matchup against Kansas City looming.
Let’s get to the biggest topic of conversation this week: Luis Robert sustained a right hip flexor strain running to first yesterday. Considering how painful it looked, we should be lucky it’s not worse than that.
Now, the typical timeframe for these types of injuries – according to my Google searches – is approximately 4-6 weeks. Even if it doesn’t end up being that long, Tony La Russa has already said Robert will be going on the IL, so the Sox are going to need some sort of solution.
I’ll get to your thoughts in a little bit on the topic, but my thought is that once the White Sox know the length of time Robert will be out, they should immediately turn to the trade market for some outside help. Charlie Blackmon, Joey Gallo, and Anthony Santander are all common names that have been thrown out there. However, if you follow my Twitter, you’d know my preference is Mitch Haniger. Haniger is currently slashing .269/.311/.546 with a .359 wOBA and a 140 wRC+ with Seattle after coming off some *unfortunate* injuries over the past few seasons. Now, these numbers are close to career-level from Haniger, who while healthy, has slashed .267/.348/.480 with a .352 wOBA and 124 wRC+. He’s also put up this BaseballSavant scorecard, which looks pretty solid to me.
Haniger is under contract through 2022, so he would likely cost a little bit. However, should Adam Eaton not return next season, Haniger serves as a great insurance policy if Yoelqui Cespedes and/or Oscar Colas are not ready for the role. The lineup until Robert returns could look something like this:
- Anderson – SS
- Eaton – CF
- Moncada – 3B
- Abreu – 1B
- Haniger – RF
- Mercedes – DH
- Grandal – C
- Vaughn – LF
- Madrigal – 2B
Looks pretty solid to me – and creates a situation of continued depth for when Robert returns.
What will mostly matter is whether or not Robert’s injury is long-term. If it’s at least two months’ worth of time on the IL, the White Sox should strongly consider making some sort of external move. Hahn’s job hasn’t gotten any easier recently with these injuries. And for those of you who say “well we needed more depth,” I’m still waiting on the depth solutions that can possibly replace two borderline Top 5 players at their respective positions.
Elsewhere, there were a lot of conversations about La Russa’s managing. The three big topics were:
- La Russa’s choice to leave Lucas Giolito in a 5-2 loss to the Tigers to open the week, when it was clear he was out of gas.
- La Russa’s choice to pinch hit Leury Garcia for Andrew Vaughn in the bottom of the 9th in a 5-3 game vs. Cleveland.
- La Russa’s choice to bench Yermin Mercedes after showing up late on Sunday.
In all three of these situations, whether you’re a “Process over Results” person or a “Results are what matter” person, you were disappointed by the results. Giolito was clearly out of gas in an early April game – if this is June, I don’t think we’d be having this same conversation. Leury Garcia came up as the tying run when La Russa was just looking for someone to “get on base” against Emmanuel Clase in a situation that called for a home run. Clase is an overpowering pitcher, and it’s going to be easier to try and jump the yard on him than it is to hit 3-4 consecutive singles to tie the game. Ironically, Garcia would proceed to go 0-for-2 over the weekend against Clase, while Andrew Vaughn would go 1-for-1. Finally, benching Yermin Mercedes came at the cost of having to watch Jake Lamb strike out with the bases loaded in the only true threatening situation the White Sox managed on Sunday. Three different games, three different talking points. No matter if you like process or results, you were disappointed. The frustration isn’t in the results for me – it’s in the fact that, so far, La Russa has not optimized the talent on this roster.
One last quick aside: I’ve also seen a lot of people say “People care more about the process than winning the game.” That’s completely inaccurate. A faulty process will still lead to wins – however, it will lead to significantly fewer wins over the course of the year. This is what “Process > Results” is all about – it’s not like I’d rather see the Sox lose with the correct process than win with the “wrong” one. A win is a win. However, one strategy will lead to more wins than the other – there’s no way around that. Pick the strategies that result in more wins: pulling your starter a bit earlier in April, valuing a game-tying home run more than 3-4 singles, and if you’re going to bench guys for rules violations, at least change the lineup a bit to maximize output.
Stats on 35th: This Week by the Numbers
This Week’s Numbers:
70, -0.087, 1.0, 4, 0.196
Through 5 starts, Dylan Cease’s 28.2% K-Rate is in the 70th percentile in baseball. Last season, his 17.3% K-Rate was in just the 14th percentile in baseball. This is legitimate progress for Cease, as he continues to get more swings and misses to start the season than he did last year. If he can continue to throw strikes as he did against Detroit, he’s going to continue to make strides this season.
Yasmani Grandal has been a topic of conversation due to his brutal start to the 2021 season. However, a look under the hood shows brighter times ahead for Grandal. Currently, Grandal’s wOBA is .292. That’s not good! However, his xWOBA – based on the quality of contact – is .379. That’s really good! This -0.087 difference between xwOBA and wOBA is one of the highest in the league. What this means is that Grandal has experienced a rough patch with a little bit of bad luck in there, along with the suboptimal approach of hitting too many ground balls. A slight change in attack angle will make a huge difference for him.
Grandal is currently striking out at the lowest rate of his career (19.2%) and walking at the highest rate of his career (23.3%). With Robert out with an injury, the White Sox are going to need Grandal to step up – and he’s primed to do so, so let’s give it some time.
Guess who is quietly having a top 3 season at his position right now? It’s Yoan Moncada, whose 1.0 fWAR has him tied for 2nd among AL 3B in Wins Above Replacement. Moncada has quietly turned it on as of late, and just like with Grandal, he is going to take on an increasingly important role in the offense with Luis Robert’s injury.
The White Sox came into this season knowing they were going to rely on some young players to help finish off their offense and pitching staff. As a result of their quality of talent, the Sox now have 4 rookies in the top 10 of fWAR among pitches and hitters combined. Yermin Mercedes (1.0, T-1st), Nick Madrigal (0.5, T-4th), and Andrew Vaughn (0.5, T-4th) are among the leaders among hitters, while Michael Kopech (0.9, 2nd) is the lone White Sox rookie pitcher in the top 10 among pitchers.
It’s been a really solid start for the White Sox rookies this season, and if they can continue to improve and remain strong parts of the White Sox’ offense and pitching staff, this team is going to do a lot of winning over the course of the year.
The last number this week comes from Twitter user @GoCubs49, who has been digging into Dylan Cease a little bit. As he details, part of Dylan Cease’s problem was an inconsistent release point that showed improvement in his start against Detroit. Thanks to Steven for this great stat!
Fan Question of the Week
The Fan Question of the Week revolved around Luis Robert, no surprise there:
I mentioned most of my thoughts here in my weekly recap. Basically, start by figuring out the timeline for Robert’s recovery. After that, I’d go see if Seattle is willing to move Mitch Haniger. If I had to guess on a return price, it would likely start with a guy like Jared Kelley – I doubt Jonathan Stiever cuts it here. That’s a decision you as a fan personally have to make as to whether or not you think it’s an acceptable enough return to part with Kelley.
Thanks to everyone who sent in their thoughts for this question! Here’s five in particular I wanted to comment on – though I appreciate everyone who sent in thoughts. Keep doing it every week, because I pick five new people every week!
1. @RealSagacity: This is a pretty common response in Joey Gallo. I like your return here in Stiever – I think with one year left on the Gallo contract that this would be solid. Even if Robert’s timeline isn’t nearly as bad as we might assume it is, Gallo’s bat would be huge for the home stretch of this season.
2. @AustinKorbel: I think you’re right about the most likely scenario. If this isn’t a season-long injury (which, to be fair, it doesn’t sound like it is), my guess is the Sox will remain internal and utilize their resources at the Trade Deadline when they have a better idea about what they REALLY need for the home stretch.
3. @WhatRUDoing34: If Dalquist and Sanchez were enough for Haniger, I’d make that move even if Robert isn’t out for too long. That’s far too much value to pass up in my mind.
4. @SignPuigs: I think this is a really good outside-the-box choice. Peralta is hitting .300/.358/.510 this season with a .366 wOBA and 129 wRC+. Pretty solid start. He has the same number of years of control as Haniger, so it will be interesting to see if one of those two teams is willing to accept a lower price. Good pick here though.
5. @joeysox1952: I laughed way too hard at this to not include it in here.
Top Highlights of the Week
1) Dylan Cease Throws a “Complete Game” Shutout vs. Detroit
2) Tim Anderson hits his second career Grand Slam in a 7-3 Victory Saturday
3) Yermin Mercedes homers into Jim Thome/Eloy Jimenez Territory
4) Carlos Rodon sets a Career-High with a 12 Strikeout Performance
5) Leury Garcia plays Hero in the Sox’ 3-1 Doubleheader Victory
The Week Ahead: Interleague Play and a Divisional Foe
The White Sox will be on the road this week with some off days mixed in, and they will first head to Cincinnati for two games before traveling out to Missouri to take on the first-place Kansas City Royals. These are two incredibly interesting series, especially the divisional clash with KC as a test of where both teams are.
Monday: OFF DAY
Tuesday: Dylan Cease vs. Jeff Hoffman, 5:40 PM CT
Wednesday: Dallas Keuchel vs. Sonny Gray, 11:35 AM CT
Thursday: OFF DAY
Friday – Sunday: Series vs. Royals… Carlos Rodon, Lance Lynn, and Lucas Giolito are the projected starters
Same time, same place next week Sox fans. Have a great week and enjoy the restful days off!