AL CentralAnalysis

Is It Too Early to Press the Panic Button for the White Sox?

To say that the White Sox season has been disappointing through 6 games would be an understatement. After all, this was supposed to be the season that we saw a different result. Since December 6, 2016, White Sox fans knew that the upcoming years were going to be tough. A lot of losses, a lot of ups, and plenty of downs. It’s easy to understand why fans are panicking and impatient. 284 losses since that trade, and this is the first time that the White Sox have fielded a team capable of making the playoffs and being competitive. So that begs the question: Is it too early to press the panic button after only 6 games?

Most people might look at a team like the White Sox sitting at 2-4, with the talent on their roster and think that they’ll be fine. But in a season where every game counts much more than a normal season, with more spots up for grabs in the postseason, it’s easy to get impatient. Personally, it isn’t the record or the shortened season that makes me panic, but more-so the way they are losing and the questionable decisions that are being made by the coaching staff and the front office. One of the glaring decisions to start the season was to slot Reynaldo Lopez third in the rotation against the Twins. Lopez struggled mightily in 2019, specifically against the Minnesota Twins. Lopez’s career numbers against Minnesota are a 1-5 record in 8 starts, 6.48 ERA, and 1.440 WHIP. Starting pitchers like Dylan Cease and Carlos Rodon seemed to be more qualified to be the third pitcher in the rotation, leaning closer to Rodon, since he’s a lefty and the Twins mash against righties. Lopez struggled in his start against the Twins, only able to get 2 outs, and giving up 3 hits, 4 earned runs, and 2 walks on 38 pitches prior to leaving with a shoulder injury. It seemed obvious that there was something wrong with Lopez from the start, as his fastball averaged 95.4 MPH last season, and it sat at an average of 92.3 MPH, with some fastballs dropping below 90. A drastic drop in velocity such as this usually means there’s an injury, but it took 38 pitches and wincing after throwing for the medical staff and Renteria to check on Lopez as they removed him from the game, and later was added to the 10-day Injured List

We have now seen each starter pitch once, and it has all been abysmal, with the exception of Dallas Keuchel (and Carlos Rodon to an extent.) Lucas Giolito gave up a first pitch home run to Max Kepler, and a total of 7 earned runs in 3.2 IP, but I fully expect him to return to his 2019 form. In his second start on Wednesday against the Cleveland Indians, Giolito looked like the ace of the staff and pitched 6 scoreless innings with 6 strikeouts and 2 walks on 4 hits. Dallas Keuchel is 1-0 in 5.1 innings with a 3.38 ERA, 1 K, and 0 BB, 3 hits and 2 earned runs, while Giolito/Lopez/Cease/Rodon combined for an 0-4 record in 10.1 innings, a whopping 17.42 ERA, 8 K, and 8 BB on 20 hits and 20 earned runs through their first time through the rotation. Obviously, I think this issue with the starting pitching will be fine. Giolito’s appearance was 2019-esque, and in a pivotal series finale with the Indians. It’s also worth noting that there was a ‘pitching staff only’ meeting prior to Wednesday’s matchup.

The lineup construction from Ricky Renteria has been questionable to say the least. Fans showed their displeasure on social media, expressing their confusion about the order of the lineup. On Sunday, Renteria released his lineup which had Nicky Delmonico in the lineup and in front of highly-touted prospect Luis Robert, Leury Garcia starting at second base following crucial mistakes at the same position the night before, and not playing Yasmani Grandal, who signed a 4 year, $73 million contract in the offseason. When you have someone like Grandal on your roster, you find a spot for him, whether that is behind the plate, at first base, or at DH. More outrage came from fans on Tuesday when the lineup was released for the latter of the doubleheader. Most notable in the lineup was Nicky Delmonico, who is slashing .125/.222/.125 with 0 HR. While Delmonico has been playing more due to the absences of Nomar Mazara and Eloy Jimenez for the time being, there is no reason to be batting him clean-up when guys like Edwin Encarnacion, Luis Robert, Jose Abreu, and Yasmani Grandal are readily available. In fact, Delmonico has more at bats than Yasmani Grandal through 5 games. Continuing to bat Luis Robert in the seven-hole boggles the minds of Sox fans, especially when he is already slashing .348/.375/.522 and putting up numbers like this on StatCast:

For someone who is taking his first at-bats against Major League pitching, it is incredible to see what he is doing. Nobody putting up the numbers that Robert has can justify batting him in the lower-third of a lineup.

Keeping prospect Nick Madrigal on the ‘taxi squad’ for a week so the team can accrue another year of service time sounds smart for the future of the organization, but ultimately is hurting the current state of the team. Being able to start Madrigal at second base would’ve allowed the team to start Leury Garcia in right field, while Eloy Jimenez would cover left field (Delmonico/Engel while Eloy is injured). Keeping prospects away from the team to accrue service time is something that a rebuilding team does, not a competitive team. Starting guys like Delmonico at clean-up might be a cool experiment for a team that is expected to lose 90+ games in a season, but in a season where each game matters so much, it does not make sense. It’s time for the coaching staff and front office to realize that these games, especially against the top two teams in the division, matter more than they currently think.

So is it time to push the panic button? No. Despite the red flags so far, it appears that players such as Nick Madrigal will be called up this weekend to control second base, Nomar Mazara is going to return from his undisclosed injury after reporting to the Schaumburg squad earlier this week, and Eloy Jimenez returned Wednesday after his collision with the left field wall. When these players return, the filler players will find their way from the active roster and to the squad in Schaumburg. The starting rotation should be able to find their groove following their meeting, and hopefully when these players start to return to the lineup, Renteria will be able to construct his lineup in a successful order. Expect Madrigal and Mazara to be called up for the series with the Royals, and players like Nicky Delmonico to be DFA’d to make room. With upcoming series with the Royals and Brewers, plus plenty of games against the Tigers, Royals, and Pirates across the short season, the White Sox have plenty of time to make up ground.

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