Mazara’s heroics lead the White Sox to a thrilling win in simulation

Coming through in the clutch: So far, Nomar Mazara’s come-from-behind three-run homer is the biggest White Sox hit in the young season. (Sean Williams/South Side Hit Pen)

Tuesday evening’s game in Cleveland came down to the wire, but the Good Guys came out on top in a 5-4 thriller.

Yasmani Grandal walked in the second inning, and he later came around to score on a sacrifice fly by Nomar Mazara (much more on him later). Grandal is off to a slow start offensively (.158/.238/.211), but it is still very early. While Grandal went hitless, he went on to draw another walk later on to reach base safely twice in four plate appearances.

Mazara’s sacrifice fly put the White Sox on the board with a 1-0 lead, and the score remained the same until the top of the fifth. That was when leadoff hitter Tim Anderson smashed a homer off Cleveland’s rookie southpaw Scott Moss. Moss was excellent in this game, only allowing those two runs (both earned) on three hits in eight innings, striking out eight. Moss appears very much ready for the show, but Anderson took advantage of one of his few mistakes and drove it out for his first homer.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, starter Gio González, making his White Sox debut (he finally pitched for the White Sox!), was on top of his game. González lasted five and two-thirds innings, which isn’t outstanding by any means, but he kept Cleveland off the board. González struck out four Cleveland hitters, walked three, and he allowed four hits. Reliever Steve Cishek had another great performance, retiring all four batters he faced, striking out one of them. Cishek, who recently came over from the other side of Chicago, has now thrown three and two-thirds scoreless innings for the White Sox, and his WHIP is an excellent 0.273.

Offense came at a premium in this matchup, so the score remained 2-0 until the bottom of the eighth, when the wheels fell off. Alex Colomé took over on the mound for Cishek, and he had a nightmarish evening. Of the five batters Colomé faced, three of them went yard. Francisco Lindor led off the inning with a homer, his third of the year. Two batters later, Franmil Reyes launched his fourth dinger, and two batters after Reyes, Domingo Santana launched his second. Then, with a 3-2 deficit, the bases empty, and two outs, Rick Rentería pulled Colomé for Evan Marshall. Carlos Santana reached on an error, and he came around to score an unearned run when Jordan Luplow drove him in with a double.

All of a sudden, entering the ninth, the White Sox trailed by a score of 4-2, and they desperately needed baserunners. The White Sox had struggled to get baserunners all evening. However, they managed to get on base when they needed to. With two on and one out, Nomar Mazara stepped up to the plate against Nick Wittgren. Wittgren missed his spot, but Mazara did not miss the ball. Mazara launched his second home run of the season, and this one silenced the Cleveland crowd.

In the blink of an eye, the White Sox were back on top, with a 5-4 lead. The White Sox did not tack on any insurance runs, so the bottom of the ninth was stressful. Rentería turned to Aaron Bummer, who the White Sox recently gave a contract extension to. Uncharacteristically, Bummer faced all sorts of problems finding the strike zone, walking two of the three batters he faced. Bummer also allowed a single, though he did record an out when Adam Engel gunned down Óscar Mercado trying to advance to third on said single. When Bummer departed, there were runners on first and second, one out, and the White Sox were clinging to a 5-4 lead.

In stepped Jace Fry, perhaps the best story from the 2018 season, in a huge spot. The batter was Franmil Reyes, who had just homered the previous inning. On the second pitch, Reyes beat a curveball (this is an educated guess; Baseball-Reference does not disclose pitch types) into the ground, and the White Sox turned a double play to end the threat and seal a thrilling victory.

And so, despite only getting five hits, the White Sox got a hard-earned victory at Progressive Field. After tonight’s victory, the White Sox’s record sits at 3-2, which is now the same as Cleveland’s record. The White Sox will wrap up this three-game in Cleveland tomorrow, and they will look to complete a sweep. Let’s get it done, but first, let’s take a look at a couple of trivia questions related to tonight:

  1. In this simulation, Nomar Mazara just became the third member of the White Sox to hit his second home run. Last season, who were the first three White Sox players to reach two homers?
  2. The White Sox drafted Jace Fry, who earned his first save since August 29, 2018, out of the same school as Nick Madrigal. Which school is this?

Answers

  1. José Abreu, Yoán Moncada, and Tim Anderson.
  2. Oregon State University.

SSHP Podcast 20: 2020 promotions

(@WhiteSox)


Amber Giese hops on the podcast with Brett Ballantini to talk about her debut South Side Hit Pen article summarizing the best and worst of 2020’s promotional schedule across major league baseball. We also trace her entry into baseball fandom, what keeps her there, and what factors beyond the obvious (Gio González!) that led her to taking on the White Sox as her new No. 2 team.

Hey man, we’re on Apple Podcasts!

Meet the Players: Amber Giese


It seems with every addition to South Side Hit Pen, some new ground is broken.

In the case of Amber Giese, it’s in adding a writer who’s mostly brand-new to White Sox fandom. But here’s the thing: When you find a great writer, you get ’em on board first, ask questions later. 

And yet it’s clear that Amber has the chops, not just as a writer, but a fledgling White Sox fan. Props to Scotty Pods, visceral distaste for the Cubs, a general sense of resignation over the fortunes of her teams … yep, she’s one of us.

Amber made her debut on site earlier today, a survey of all the wildest and wackiest team giveaways across baseball in 2020. Make sure to give it a read, and follow her on Twitter @ColdWars.

Most importantly, give Amber a warm welcome to South Side Hit Pen!


Name Amber Giese [it rhymes with easy]

Hometown I was born, raised, and continue to live and work in Milwaukee. I own a house on the northwest side of the city — just two miles from the home in which I grew up. I’m really spreading my wings.

White Sox fan since Dec. 20, 2019, when Gio González was returned to the White Sox. That’s the day I decided to commit myself to the team. Hello, White Sox bandwagon.

That’s right. A 34-year-old, hyper-emotional junkballer made me a White Sox fan. Yasmani Grandal did a bit of the pre-work, but Gio really brought us together.

I’ve always followed the AL Central closely, as it consists of small markets and underdogs, but now I’m committed to following one team religiously and enjoying their journey to the 2020 World Series, during which they will face off against my beloved Milwaukee Brewers. Proud bandwagoner. Happy to be here. Trying to learn as much as I can as quickly as I can.

First White Sox memory I went to opening day at Milwaukee County Stadium on April 26, 1995; I was seven, and thrilled my parents let me miss school. The matchup was White Sox at Brewers, and the Brewers won, 12-3. I remember my dad specifically saying, “This season is going to be different, Amber.” It wasn’t. It was like all the Brewers seasons of the 90s. Sad. With concrete falling everywhere from an old, dying stadium.

In 1995, the Brewers went 65-79. The White Sox went 68-76.

I know how to pick ’em.

Favorite White Sox memory I went to my first game on the South Side in August 2014 with my sister, as she had just moved to Chicago. The team gave away Tony La Russa bobbleheads, and I thought this was hilarious. Mine still sits on a shelf in my basement, collecting dust.

The people were friendly. The Chicago dogs were good. The White Sox lost to the Tigers by four runs — a real bummer.

Favorite White Sox player Current? Gio González. The emotion. The thighs. The five to six tedious innings of junkballing. It’s all wonderful. You’re going to love him. You’re going to hate him.

All-time? It’s a tossup between Paul Konerko and Scott Podsednik. I appreciate kings who propel their teams to World Series victories, especially when enabling the White Sox to do it before the Cubs.

I’m petty.

Go-to concession food at Sox Park I hate most variations of hot dogs, but I love Chicago-style hot dogs. And Sox Park has good ones.

Favorite baseball movie I have two. The first is A League of Their Own because it’s about women who actually played baseball — not just a fluffy romance that happened to have women baseball players.

The second is Little Big League solely because of the baseball highlights montage set to “Runaround Sue” by Dion DiMucci.

South Side Hit Pen on the field I played catcher in grade school through high school because I was a little clunky but had a good arm. I hit the ball far, but was slow on the base paths. I think “clunky but powerful” still describes me well overall.

True or false: Every jumbled pile of person has a thinking part that wonders what the part that isn’t thinking isn’t thinking of. Truem because I blindly trust They Might Be Giants. I don’t even have to rationalize this.

South Side Hit Pen Podcast 4: The Stove is running Hot

 

Just Like Heaven: Santa Hahn packed the stocking with both Keuchel and Gio González this week. (Tom Borowski/South Side Hit Pen)


This week, Brett Ballantini and Joe Resis discuss a scorching Hot Stove for the White Sox, with the free agent signings of Dallas Keuchel and Gio González. Is the rotation finally Covey-proofed? Will White Sox Twitter chill? Have the White Sox really not been meaningfully in first place since 2012?

Fixing a Hole: White Sox still looking to patch rotation

Who’s on the South Side starters short list to sign? This guy! (@HyunJinRyu99)


Zack Wheeler is truly the one who got away for the Chicago White Sox.

A swift and sudden deviation from the franchise’s free agent strategy was evident after the embarrassing escapade involving the pursuit of Manny Machado last winter, with many fans sick of hearing about the White Sox settling for second and bragging about being hypothetical bridesmaids.

Atypical to the Machado discussions, the front office handled the Wheeler negotiations like a large-market operation should. With Wheeler, the organization was out in front of the pack and jumped the marketplace in a similar fashion to how they landed free agent catcher Yasmani Grandal in November. Cold, hard cash had more to do with the early signing than anything else, and a similar plan was put together to land the 29-year-old righthander.

There were many reports linking the White Sox to Wheeler prior the Winter Meetings, more fact than fiction as the front office was bearing down on its top pitching target. But after offering five years and $125 million and making a significant gamble on upside, the White Sox were spurned once again. For no fault of their own, Wheeler ended up remaining closer to his family on the East Coast and the White Sox were left pondering what the future would entail without their pitching prize.

The front office had reason to believe that a deal with Wheeler appeared imminent — until he changed course. The South Side decision makers have lost out similarly for pitchers like Jordan Lyles and Wade Miley who chose a destination (Texas) or familiarity (Cincinnati) instead of taking the money to play in Chicago. These things happen every year in free agency, and not only to the White Sox.

The organization will have to take the arrows that they’ve rightfully earned after 11 straight seasons without a playoff appearance. The White Sox just haven’t secured the trust of their fanbase, regardless of how sound their 2020 free agent plan actually was. People don’t like to be told how to act, but irrationality is at an all-time high in response to the perceived inaction by the club on the pitching front. A minor league signing as minute as Ross Detwiler‘s return had social media in an uproar, despite the need for depth at Triple-A Charlotte being an offseason necessity as well.


Salvageable winter for Sox? 

There are still two free agent starters on the market who would offer the White Sox a stabilizing force in the middle of their young rotation going forward. Bruce Levine of 670 The Score has reported on the club’s interest in lefties Dallas Keuchel and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Mark Feinsand of MLB.com wrote a detailed piece on Scott Boras’ remaining clients, and the two southpaws are among them.

According to Feinsand, Boras seems to be focused on getting deals completed. “The pitching market has obviously been fast and furious as it was from the start,” Boras says. “Clubs are identifying their needs, and we’re certainly narrowing the corridor of finality. It could happen soon.” While baseball’s most recognizable power agent wouldn’t disclose the names of interested parties, Feinsand listed the White Sox as one of the primary suitors for both pitchers.

Ryu signed with the Dodgers back in 2013 after pitching multiple seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization. He just completed his best season as a professional after compiling a 4.8 fWAR and finishing in second for the National League Cy Young Award. The 6´3´´, 255-pound southpaw has battled myriad injuries in his time pitching in the United States. He was mostly healthy in his 182 ⅔ innings last season. The 32-year-old lefty posted a 2.32 ERA with a 3.10 FIP. Ryu only threw 82 ⅓ innings in 2018 but posted a 1.97 ERA in that limited time. That innings total was fewer than 2017, when he threw 126.

Keuchel’s market was nonexistent at a price point that suited him last offseason, so he signed a one-year placemarker deal late and joined the Atlanta Braves after the All-Star break in 2019. The 31-year-old southpaw no longer has a draft pick attached to his services, making his market more vibrant this time around. The 6´3´´, 205-pounder posted a 3.75 ERA with a 4.06 xFIP in 112 ⅔ innings last year. However, Keuchel hasn’t been the same since his 5.7 fWAR campaign for the Astros back in 2015.

Keuchel has a solid reputation as a teammate and has a long history of working positively with younger starters. He still induces lots of ground balls and would fit in nicely as a stabilizing force in the middle of the White Sox rotation. After seeing the deals already inked on the free agent market, it appears that Dallas would be seeking a four-year contract at a similar annual average value to what Madison Bumgarner pulled down in Arizona.

Another rumored name to fill the gaping hole in the rotation is Boston’s David Price. Feinsand and others have also linked the former Commodore to the White Sox in trade discussions. The Red Sox have indicated a need to get under the competitive balance tax, and shedding some of his exorbitant salary could be one way to appease the wishes of ownership. It doesn’t seem likely that new baseball operations chief Chaim Bloom would attach a guy like Andrew Benintendi to move Price’s deal, but Boston could offer to pay down the contract substantially.

The rumor is that Boston might be willing to eat $30 million of Price’s contract, and a three-year, $66 million outlay would be much more palatable for the White Sox. Price is a leader and lauded as a fantastic teammate. The 34-year-old former first overall pick is recovering from wrist surgery but should be ready for spring training. The southpaw posted a 2.3 fWAR with a 3.62 FIP and averaged almost 11 K/9, making him an attractive alternative if things don’t work out on the free agent market.


Insulating the rotation

According to reports, a familiar face will be playing his home games at 35th and Shields for the first time.

The White Sox drafted González with the 38th overall pick back in 2004. He’s never actually pitched a game with the big league club, but this is his third spin with the organization. The 34-year-old lefty offers insulation to a starting rotation in need of two veterans. González is a back-end starter at this point in his career, a fly ball pitcher who walks too many guys, but he posted a 3.50 ERA and accumulated 1.4 fWAR in 87 innings with the Brewers last year. He’s also familiar with new catcher Grandal and is said to be an excellent teammate.

González is a move in the same vein as Wade Miley or Martin Perez would have been. The White Sox need to procure two starters this offseason. The order in which they do so isn’t important. The perceived lack of a Plan B for the organization has ruffled the feathers of an impatient fan base that is ready to win. The organization has a stated goal of adding two starters this winter, and they should be held to that platitude. The quest for another starter should continue as this latest González contract becomes finalized.

Michael Kopech and Carlos Rodón will likely pitch at some point for the 2020 Chicago White Sox. Dane Dunning and Jimmy Lambert are on the mend from elbow surgery and should be knocking on the door as well. The starting rotation at the conclusion of next season will look much different than it looks currently. While the same figures at the top of the organization remain, the franchise as a whole is much different.

The decision makers stated a need for starting pitching, and they meant it. González is a step in the right direction. Will the front office make a trade for a former Cy Young winner, or destroy its Boras narrative instead?

The team’s intention is to add someone to their rotation who is better than what they’ve already added. The time to prove it is now.

 

Once again, Gio González is going to the White Sox

Look who’s back: Gio González returns to the White Sox, and it looks like he will finally make a major league appearance for them. (@Stadium)


This afternoon, the White Sox agreed to terms with left-handed starting pitcher Gio González. As a result, the 34-year-old veteran will join the organization for the third time in his career.

The White Sox have quite the history with González, even though the southpaw has not yet pitched a game in the majors for them. The White Sox drafted González in the first round (38th overall) in the 2004 draft. However, in the 2005-06 offseason, the White Sox traded González to the Phillies along with Aaron Rowand for Jim Thome. The following offseason, González rejoined the organization in another trade with Philadelphia. This time, Freddy Garcia went to the Phillies, while González and Gavin Floyd came to Chicago. In the 2007-08 offseason, for the third time in as many years, González was involved in a trade. This time, the White Sox sent him to Oakland in a deal for Nick Swisher.

Fast forward about 12 years, and here we are. González has had a successful major league career, and he appears to still have quite a few solid innings left in him. In 12 major league seasons, González has a 3.68 ERA, 3.65 FIP, 3.86 xFIP, and 32.3 fWAR. Last season, González posted a 3.50 ERA, 4.04 FIP, 4.45 xFIP, and 1.4 fWAR in 87 1/3 innings for the Brewers.

One caveat to González’s game is that he does not typically give bullpens a light day. In 17 starts last season, he averaged just under five innings per start. The good news is that the innings he did provide were usually strong. Of those 17 starts, González allowed more than three runs only three times, and he allowed more than two runs only five times. Sure, González benefited from being caught by Grandal, but the good news is that Grandal will catch him again.

Prior to this signing, if the White Sox had stood pat, they would have likely needed Dylan Covey and/or Carson Fulmer to start a few games at the beginning of the season. In the fourth year of a rebuild, that would have been unacceptable, and the front office deserves credit for ensuring that did not happen. González is a good addition to a rotation that was in desperate need of help. While the White Sox cannot afford to end their offseason acquisitions here, this is a step in the right direction. It is time to keep this momentum going and add another piece to the rotation. Ryu, I see you.