Hey everyone, I wanted to wait until we were settled in at our new home before putting out word here, but we’ve got some great news: South Side Hit Pen has moved to Sports Illustrated!
For those of you left hanging by a sudden drop-off in production, I’m sorry. That’s on me, my bad. I think I relied on the power of social media a bit too much, and left some of you in the dark. Plus, we have been a little busy over there turning on the lights, dusting the corners, and so on.
But the good news is, South Side Hit Pen is in better shape than ever. All the same features, coverage and interaction you’ve come to expect from our team here, and even dating back to South Side Sox, are coming with us. Plus, there is a video element at Sports Illustrated that we could never have dreamed of incorporating at our prior homes. And the community and commenting elements at our SI site are far more dynamic than what we can attempt here, so you’ll be invited to play a bigger role in the coverage and community than ever before.
Best yet, with Sports Illustrated, we will be credentialed media for home games at Sox Park, providing a lot of insider content we could never do on our own at WordPress, or even with SB Nation.
What’s most important to note here is that there’s no way we could have made a leap like this without your readership, interaction, and support. Your interest in our site validated many ideas that aren’t often seen in sports blogging — a diverse masthead, multiple equal voices on site, a mission statement that didn’t forget (in fact, led with) fun. Our little collective got noticed, and now we’ve been promoted to the bigs.
I’ll be issuing an additional statement to our Patreon supporters, but the short of is that every supporter of the site will be given a free initial membership to our site at Sports Illustrated, which also includes some nice bells and whistles beyond our White Sox site.
So, again, once more, thank you to everyone who has read and followed us over these eight months. This site will remain here and intact at WordPress, for the time being; nearly all of our stories were imported to South Side Sox at Sports Illustrated, so nothing here will be lost if and when this WordPress site is shuttered.
Practice makes perfect: in his Friday night practice session, White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito asks fans for setting advice during a Twitch stream. Not a fan of pulse pitching myself. Meter all the way. (twitch.tv/generalgio)
With the delay of the baseball season throwing many fans in the doldrums, a hero has risen to pull us out of our Springtime funk: the Sony PlayStation game, MLB The Show 20. The game was released on March 17, days after MLB announced the suspension of all spring training games due to the Coronavirus pandemic. MLB would later announce the ultimate delay of the 2020 season, and with many variables and questions still in the air can we forecast when the season will begin? Will we see any season at all?
While far from a viable replacement for IRL baseball, the Show has already been used creatively to get us through flattening the curve; NBC Sports Chicago hosts a simulated stream of the game, called by none other than Jason Benetti and Chuck Garfien.
If you’ve been grasping for any drops of baseball lately, fret no more: the MLB Players Leaguebegins Friday and runs through April 28, with a postseason to follow. All 30 teams will duke it out online in a 29-game regular season, represented by one ballplayer-gamer of choice. Each player will receive a $5,000 donation to go to a Boys and Girls Club affiliate; the winner will receive an additional $25,000 donation.
Your Chicago White Sox will be represented by none other than the club ace, Lucas Giolito. Giolito is an avid gamer; he’s a seasoned Rocket League player, has admitted he has an affinity for Animal Crossing, and while there’s no baseball on the horizon, he’ll occasionally stream Call of Duty: Warzone sessions with teammates Carlos Rodónand Dallas Keuchel.
Though you can watch the Player’s League streams for free, fans interested in investing in Giolito’s gaming journey can subscribe to his new Twitch channel for a fee of $4.99. A subscription, as opposed to a follow, gives you a fancy subscriber badge, ad-free viewing, as well as an exclusive chat just for subscribers.
Giolito said during his practice stream on Friday night that he will be pocketing no revenue he receives from his Twitch channel; instead he plans on finding a charity and donating accordingly. “It’s all about interacting with the fans,” Giolito said. “And just having fun gaming.”
Gaming for good. We at SSHP can get behind that.
Check out Lucas Giolito’s first game, against Luke Jackson of the Atlanta Braves on Sunday, April 12, at 8 p.m. CST by dropping by Giolito’s Twitch channel — again, that’s https://www.twitch.tv/generalgio.
It’s been a challenge, running separate White Sox sites for about eight months now. One of the downfalls is not being able to be in two places at one time.
So what should have been a timely obit early Thursday here, now turns into a Friday memoriam. And though I wrote on the passing of Ed Farmer at age 70 over at South Side Sox already and there is sure to be overlap, we can’t go without acknowledging the man who, with nearly three decades in the radio booth on the South Side, was a voice of a generation.
Not every game can we pass sitting in a man cave, corner bar or family den, sitting back with a beverage and pausing-rewinding unbelievable plays. Many of us are stuck on the road, or at work, or otherwise on the move and in desperate need of the trusted companion that is White Sox baseball on the radio.
And that’s just what Ed Farmer was to any of us who had a habit of listening to the game. His career in Chicago not only fairly well mirrored Hawk Harrelson’s, but the two had striking similarities. They both filled that rare role of color men in play-by-play shoes. And while Hawk steered toward intentional, and for a long time wildly entertaining, bombast, Farmio often struck a similar tone, more quietly. His was a sort of muted hyperbole.
He and longtime radio parter Darrin Jackson were well-matched. Both understated broadcasters, still willing to cut through the bull and lend a former player’s eye to the action.
It’s neither a surprise that DJ was loving in his tribute to Ed:
“My heart is broken, but my mind is at peace knowing my dear friend is no longer suffering,” Jackson said, in a team statement. “Ed was a competitor who also was everyone’s best friend. I saw firsthand how hard Ed fought each and every day and season after season to keep himself healthy and prepared to broadcast White Sox baseball. I first got to know Ed during my time in Chicago as a player and am honored to have been his friend and radio partner. My heart goes out to [wife] Barbara and [daughter] Shanda, the only people he loved more than the White Sox and his hometown of Chicago.”
Nor that his voice seemed to be cracking in his remarks to White Sox media on Thursday:
Many fans, friends and colleagues wrote and tweeted about Farmer yesterday, as the news sunk in that the radio voice of the White Sox was gone. And so many new him better than me. But still, on the beat even for a brief time, all of the regulars get close. I marched right into the TV booth well before one of my first games to tell the Hawk what a profound influence he was on me as a fan, and a writer. Steve Stone was (and I presume still is) a conspiratorial character on the road, taking time to chat after every game with writers and even fans, asking the temperature of the room before always giving you his take — the right one. DJ was sympathetic and caring, checking in, offering support, slowing down to stride alongside and put a new guy at ease. Heck, I even got to fulfill a childhood dream of holding court with Wimpy: Catching some trouble, and doling some out, too.
Farmer was a bit different from all of them. A man’s man, sure, like most ex-athletes, but yet very soft, surprisingly vulnerable. Losing parents very young (38 and 41) will do that — as will flying through the windshield of a car that crumpled your bike in the middle of a pro baseball career, or being yoked by a lifelong disease that you understand will likely kill you one day. For a prep phenom, major leaguer at 21, All-Star, beloved broadcaster, Farmio had seen some shit.
And he’ll tell you, bombastic or barely audible both. When the Notre Dame volume went up, I tuned out and went to see which classic artist Omar Vizquel was studying on this particular road trip. But when approached with a question about his career, or a game situation that had me puzzled, Farmer was thoughtful and measured, unfailingly precise in his assessments. He downplayed his own greatness, whether as a promising hoops star or a guy (then) among the Top 200 in all-time saves — just so long as you clearly did know his place in the game.
By listening to him on a broadcast, you would not have thought that gentility was his personal brand. But behind the man behind the mic, and even stitched into some of his best broadcasts on a repeat listen, it’s there.
And while even those of us who came to depend on the radio to connect us to our White Sox may tend to understate the medium’s importance, and that of its purveyors, Farmer made a mark:
“Ed Farmer was the radio voice of the Chicago White Sox for three decades, and he called no-hitters, perfect games and of course, a World Series championship,” White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a team statement. “His experience as a major league All-Star pitcher, his wry sense of clubhouse humor, his love of baseball and his passion for the White Sox combined to make White Sox radio broadcasts the sound of summer for millions of fans. Ed grew up a Sox fan on the South Side of Chicago and his allegiance showed every single night on the radio as he welcomed his ‘friends’ to the broadcast. I am truly devastated by the loss of my friend.”
He was a hometown boy made good, and through his own goodness planted roots here after his playing career dissolved into what-ifs and tall tales.
And what’s great, in its own painful way, is that even in death, we never stop learning about these men we watched, listened to, and admired. I was today years old when I found out that Basketball Hall of Fame GM Jerry Krause didn’t just lobby the White Sox to acquire Farmer in 1979 (they listened), but that Krause was the original scout to sign him for Cleveland.
Just like Farmer’s playing career was largely overshadowed by the stars of the starting rotation and pen, there were more colorful, even stronger, broadcasters in town during Farmer’s career. But he cared deeply for our team, and that affection bled through his announcing work. It’s not for nothing that some of the best highlights from 2005, or for any White Sox season stretching back almost three decades, feature Farmer’s voice on the soundtrack.
Today, the White Sox put it perfectly, with a wonderful tribute:
“When the world is running down, you make the best of what’s still around”
-The Police, 1980
The Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to put it mildly is impacting the world and the U.S. like perhaps no other event at least since 9/11.
It’s brought out the best in some people and the worst in others as panic — a lot of it driven by misinformation via social media — has basically shut down most things Americans find enjoyable and distracting. Baseball did not escape the carnage with the initial news that the season, originally slated to open March 26, would be pushed back at least two weeks.
Then yesterday came the news that major league baseball would follow the Center for Disease Control’s opinion that all gatherings of over 50 people be stopped for at least the next eight weeks. Meaning in the best possible circumstance baseball could resume around May 11. But the fact is after a delay that long “spring training” would have to be resumed for an undetermined length, which would mean starting the season on Memorial Day weekend. Again, that’s a best case.
I’ve been hearing, and at CBS Sportsline Matt Snyder is reporting, that the season could start around July 4 or even later.
Time to call a halt to the entire season right now.
Send everyone home, and do what you can to get ready for next year.
A radical view? Perhaps. But consider if the season were to start around July 4, you are probably playing about 81 games. Is that enough to crown true divisional champions? And what happens if the CDC’s guidelines are still in place on August 1? As Snyder wrote, that simply would be too little time to truly see who are the best teams: “For example, in 2018 through 40 games, the following teams would have made the playoffs: Mariners, Diamondbacks, Pirates and Phillies. The following wouldn’t have been in the postseason: Dodgers, Brewers, Cubs, and Rockies. The Indians would have won the AL Central at 20-20.”
Let’s be clear, this is a totally unknown situation with no prior precedent. Baseball was played through World War I, through the “Spanish Flu” and through World War II at the insistence of President Franklin Roosevelt. The entire season hinges on how soon this virus can settle down and start declining.
But no one has any idea of when that could happen. So rather than keep everyone waiting and hoping for something that right now in the words of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the CDC, is “going to get worse before it gets better,” let’s end the speculation.
Could actually be a blessing in disguise, short-term pain for long-term gain?
The current collective bargaining agreement ends after the 2021 season. Numerous players over the past months have all brought up the dreaded word: strike. The reasoning? Because while it is within the contract guidelines, the owners have for all intent and purposes used the luxury tax as a quasi-salary cap.
When the Boston Red Sox, who make money hand over fist, claim they can’t afford to re-sign one of the best players in the game (Mookie Betts) and trade him to get under the tax threshold, something is dramatically wrong. By the way, Red Sox owner John Henry is “only” worth $1.5 billion … that’s with a “B,” folks.
Players are furious over this and the fact that, again within the legal limits of the bargaining agreement, teams are keeping top prospects down in the minors long enough to gain an extra year of free agent control. The Cubs’ Kris Bryant sued over this maneuver.
In short, the players are ready to go to war over these issues. Now if the 2020 season is cancelled it’s possible both players and owners would think twice about causing another situation where games wouldn’t be played. Going two years out of three without baseball could be the death knell for the sport at the professional level.
Cancelling the season could in the long run be beneficial to the sport and ensue another time period of labor piece and uninterrupted seasons.
As a White Sox fan, I’m really upset over this entire situation. Like some incidents in the past, the Sox have had no control, but have been hurt significantly. From the social unrest of the 1960’s which gave the perception that Comiskey Park was “a dangerous place,” to 1981 when an exciting White Sox team was only 2 ½ games out of first place when the labor impasse cancelled the season for two months, to 1994 when a very good Sox team leading the division and in excellent position to make the postseason in back-to-back seasons for the first time in history saw the season wiped out with the last games being played on August 11.
As a Sox fan posted on Twitter, “It’s clear White Sox fans just can’t have nice things.”
Let the baseball gods screw over the Tigers for a change, or the Cardinals, or even better the Cubs, and stop dumping on the White Sox every time it seems the team is ready to turn the corner.
Do I want baseball in 2020? Sure. Do I want a truncated season that runs into late November with playoff games at neutral sites or domed stadiums (which has already been publicly discussed)? No, thank you.
Time to call it a day and move on as best we can until things can return to normal.
C’mon back soon, baseball: We need you more than ever. (Kim Contreras/South Side Hit Pen)
That headline comes out like a deep philosophical question, but we can veer wide of the deep thoughts for now, at least.
I had some thoughts about where we’re at in baseball, and with both South Side Hit Pen and South Side Sox, with a podcast over at SSS. Feel free to give it a listen, especially if you’re thirsty for a little baseball talk … any baseball talk.
Here at SSHP we’ve still got plenty of stuff cooking for you during this unscheduled break:
Top 100 Prospect countdown
History from Mark Liptak
Miscellaneous features and player profiles
Results from the Armour Square Park League
And of course, we’ll update you with news from the baseball world, as it comes.
As always, thank your for reading SSHP! We hope to be back and chronicling a groundbreaking season from the White Sox sooner than later.
Locked in: Yoán Moncada signed a deal that could keep him with the White Sox through 2025. (Clinton Cole/South Side Hit Pen)
Rejoice, White Sox fans. The front office increased the odds of a contention window expansion today. Yoán Moncada and the White Sox have agreed to an extension that could keep Moncada on the South Side through the 2025 season. Previously, Moncada was set to become a free agent at the conclusion of the 2023 season.
South Side Hit Pen’s own James Fox really was on top of things last Monday, wasn’t he? Can’t say I’m surprised.
Sources: The #WhiteSox and Yoan Moncada are in discussions on a contract extension. It should be for 6+ seasons and the total outlay would be the largest in franchise history if completed.
Ken Rosenthal was the one who officially broke the news this afternoon.
3B Yoan Moncada in agreement with #WhiteSox on five-year extension with a club option, sources tell The Athletic. Dollars not yet known. Would potentially buy out two free-agent years. If option is exercised, Moncada would hit open market after age 30 season.
This deal will guarantee Moncada $70 million over the first five years (2020-24). When all is said and done, Moncada could earn $90 million depending on the White Sox’s decision after the 2024 season. For the first five years, the AAV will be $14 million, and if the White Sox pick up the option for 2025, the AAV will be $15 million.
Considering Moncada’s performance in 2019, this deal appears to be a bargain for the White Sox. Moncada slashed .315/.367/.548 with a 141 wRC+, putting his offensive production well above average. Moncada’s defense at third base was an improvement over what we had seen from him at second base. According to FanGraphs, Moncada was 4.3 defensive runs more valuable than an average third baseman in 2019 (had been 3.7 runs below average at second base in 2018). If we combine such strong production with the bat and the glove, we get a player who is really freaking good. Like, 5.7 fWAR in only 132 games good.
Skeptics note that 2019 was Moncada’s first year where he was clearly above league average, and his strong season at the plate was aided by a .406 BABIP. While he has yet to put up back-to-back strong seasons, Moncada’s approach at the plate was entirely different in 2018 versus 2019. In 2018, Moncada displayed a lack of aggressiveness at the plate that resulted in lots of backward K’s on the scorecard. While Moncada walked frequently (10.3%), he struck out a ton (33.4%), and when he put the ball in play, it was not particularly sharp contact (90.6 mph average exit velocity).
In 2019, however, we saw a different kind of hitter. While Moncada’s more aggressive approach resulted in less walks (7.2%), he struck out much less often (27.5%), and his average exit velocity of 92.8 mph ranked seventh in the majors. When players hit the ball hard, and they run as fast as Moncada (72nd percentile for sprint speed, per Baseball Savant), they tend to end up with a high BABIP. Sure, .406 is unsustainable, but it is not quite as crazy as many pessimists believe.
So, is Moncada going to be a 141 wRC+ player for the remainder of his contract? Probably not. But, can we count on him to be above average on a consistent basis? After last year, that seems like a safe bet. For that reason, this is an excellent extension, and it is surprising that they managed to pull this off for that price. Bravo, front office, for getting this deal done!
Far from a bummer: The White Sox’s best reliever in 2019 has signed a long-term deal that could keep him on the South Side through 2026. (@BallparkPost)
Aaron Bummer, 26, has signed a five-year with the White Sox. As per the agreement, Bummer will earn $1 million in 2020, $2 million in 2021, $2.5 million in 2022, $3.75 million in 2023, and $5.5 million in 2024. Those totals add to $14.75 million, but Bummer’s guaranteed money ends up at $16 million, as this deal includes team options for 2025 and 2026. If the White Sox do not decide to bring him back for either of those seasons, they will owe the lefthander a buyout of $1.25 million. If the White Sox bring him back, Bummer will earn $7.25 million in 2025 and $7.5 million in 2026, which would bring the total value of this deal to $29.5 million over seven years.
Bummer was the White Sox’s most reliable reliever in 2019. In 67 ⅔ innings, Bummer had a 2.13 ERA, 3.41 FIP, 3.49 xFIP, and 0.990 WHIP. Those numbers rendered him a 1.3 WAR player per FanGraphs and a 2.8 WAR player per Baseball-Reference, a remarkably high total for a reliever.
As expected from a pitcher with those numbers, Bummer had quite a few great moments last season, but given the circumstances, one performance sticks out more than the rest. Most White Sox fans will remember the June 18 game at Wrigley Field as the game Eloy Jiménez hit a go-ahead, ninth-inning home run. While that home run was the highlight of the game, and arguably the season, that game may have played out much differently had Bummer not been on top of his game. When Bummer entered the game in the sixth inning, he inherited a runner on first and nobody out, but the North Siders could not manage anything in two innings against him. When all was said and done, among White Sox players, only Jiménez had a higher WPA (+.242) in that memorable game than Bummer (+.216).
Granted, relievers’ performances are often volatile from year to year, and 2019 was Bummer’s first season as a pitcher who was clearly above average. Despite these factors, this seems to be a great deal for both sides. Given Bummer’s 2019 performance, he could regress quite a bit and still be worth this contract. In addition, Bummer looked like an entirely different pitcher last year than he was in 2018. It seems safe to say that in the future, Bummer will look more like his 2019 self than his 2018 self. Props to the front office for getting this one done.
Boom, Clap: Home runs, anyone? Edwin Encarnación looks to add some offensive power to the White Sox lineup. (@MLB)
After passing today’s physical, Edwin Encarnación’s one year, $12 million deal became official. The deal also includes a $12 million club option for 2021, with no buyout. Kodi Medeiros was outrighted from the 40-man roster to make room for Encarnación.
So what can we expect from this acquisition? First of all: dingers.
“Edwin is a professional hitter, someone who makes each and every at-bat count,” says GM Rick Hahn in today’s press release. “His long track record of power is impressive and as a veteran run producer, Edwin adds another threatening bat to our lineup, lengthening our batting order and increasing Rick Renteria’s offensive options on any given night.”
Though Encarnación just turned 37, his offensive production has certainly not slowed: For Seattle and New York last year, the January 7 birthday boy hit 34 home runs in 418 at-bats. His ISO was also at a career high, at .287. Between 2012 and 2019, Encarnación has amassed multiple 30-plus home run seasons, hitting 42 for Toronto in both 2012 and 2016. Encarnación has also started 723 games at DH; the position should be familiar to him as he settles in on the South Side.
Another area that Encarnación can potentially also help the White Sox in is walks, an area they were dead last in the AL in 2019. According to his Baseball Savant page, Encarnación’s 2017 BB% was at a career high of 15.5%, which placed him at the top 3% in the league. In 2019, his BB% dropped off a little bit, to 11.9%; however, the MLB average was at 8.8%. Encarnación joins fellow patient hitter Yasmani Grandal, whose 2019 BB% was at 17.2%.
Here’s to a season full of the long ball, and busting out the parrot emoji with reckless abandon.
Funky fresh delivery: Cishek’s unorthodox pitching motion will help provide a contrast to the straight overhand fire spewed by much of the White Sox bullpen. (@MarinersPR)
The recent run on relievers signing around MLB was starting to look like the few remaining options in a heated game of musical chairs, but Rick Hahn was able to grab one with time to spare, and it’s a pretty decent option to boot, as former Cub Steve Cishek has signed a one year, $6 million contract to pitch for the White Sox in 2020. This contract has an option for 2021 for another $6 million, with the conditions surrounding that option still to be announced.
Reliever Steve Cishek and the Chicago White Sox are in agreement on a one-year, $6 million deal, sources familiar with the agreement tell ESPN. The contract includes an option that could take the deal to a second year at $12 million total.
Considering that relievers like Will Harris and Daniel Hudson both signed for significantly higher amounts and yearly commitments, Cishek looks to be a perfect middle ground solution that will not hamper the Sox budget to potentially improve and add talent midseason.
Entering his 11th season, Cishek has lived the nomadic life of a hired reliever for whichever employer is willing to take on his services. A 6´6´´, 215-pound right-handed sidewinder, Cishek pitched the previous two seasons for the Chicago Cubs, providing a consistent option out of their bullpen. In 2019, his numbers dipped slightly (though not outright terribly) to a 2.95 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP. He does have peripherals that are very pleasing to the analytical eye, with an average exit velocity of 84.5 mph and a hard-hit rate of 25.9% per Baseball Savant. And the wOBA on Cishek’s fastball was a miniscule .138, so even when he throws it straight, his funky delivery clearly has a significant effect on the batter’s ability to square it up.
I would expect to see Cishek serve as one of the veteran bridges to Alex Colomé, but if the man with the tilted hat falters, Cishek has closing in his background, notching seven saves last season and 132 in his career.
Let’s welcome Steve to the South Side, and breathe a little easier that the bullpen heading into 2020 is just a bit more secure!
In what can only be termed a rollicking Hit Pen podcast, Janice Scurio and Colleen Sullivan join Brett Ballantini in the Luis Robert extension aftermath to discuss La Pantera, the innovative “just writing some crap down” research technique, manifesting Yasiel Puig to the South Side with vision boarding and Puigpaganda, a Matt Albers comeback, and more.
Follow Janice on Twitter @BallerLibrarian, Colleen @ColleenSullivan, Brett @BrettBallantini and South Side Hit Pen @SouthSideHitPen.