By John Ruberry

Four months ago in this space I wrote this entry: Horrible season for White Sox may portend bright future.

Okay, the situation has improved somewhat since May, when the South Siders were on pace to lose a club-record 117 games, which would be just short of the modern day record for futility, 120 losses, which was well, uh, achieved I guess, by the 1962 New York Mets.

With thirteen games left in the 2018 season, the White Sox need just four wins to avoid the landmark millstone of 100 losses. The Sox haven’t reached a triple digit “L” season since 1970.

Two weeks ago I was in attendance at Guaranteed Rate Field on Hawk Day, which honored the retirement of longtime White Sox television broadcaster Ken “Hawk” Harrelson, whose best seasons as a player were with the Boston Red Sox, the South Siders’ opponents that day. The Red Sox are enjoying a stupendous 2018, they’ve already collected 102 wins. But the team Harrelson calls, this is one of his “Hawkisms,” the Carmines, were vulnerable when they visited Chicago, as they were enduring a rash of injuries among its pitching staff, including Chris Sale, who was traded by the White Sox to Boston in 2016 for several prospects, including Michael Kopech.

Kopech jerseys, number 34–Walter Payton’s retired number with the Chicago Bears–were prominently displayed in all of the Guaranteed Rate Field gift shops.

The White Sox split the four game season with the Red Sox; the game I attended was an 8-0 winner for Chicago. It was the South Siders’ sixth straight series without losing one of those series. Not only was the future bright for the White Sox that day–so was the present.

The White Sox are obviously a better team since I wrote my spring Da Tech Guy post. But injuries have plagued the team. Nate Jones, their closer, suffered what was thought to be a season ending forearm injury. But he was back in the bullpen on Friday, picking up the save as the White Sox topped the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles, by the way, have already lost 106 games. Wellington Castillo, a veteran catcher, was signed as a free agent last winter, so he could mentor Chicago’s young pitching staff. But around the time of the Jones injury, Castillo was suspended for 80 games for violating Major League Baseball’s performance enhancing drug policy. And in July, for the second time this season, right fielder Avisail Garcia, was placed on the disabled list. As in the came with Jones, both players recently returned to the roster.

First baseman Jose Abreu brought some surprising good news to the Pale Hose as he became the first team member to be elected to the All Star Game as a starter since Frank Thomas, who is now a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, did so twenty-two years ago.

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But the cruelest injury came this month. The top prospect in the White Sox farm system was right-handed pitcher Michael Kopech. His first big league three starts went well for him, including one against Boston on August 31. But two of those ended up being no-decisions as Kopech was pulled after long rain delays. In his final start, Kopech was hammered by the Detroit Tigers. A few days later it was announced that Kopech will likely undergo Tommy John surgery, missing the remainder of this season and all of the 2019 campaign.

So the present isn’t looking very good now.

But Kopech should be back by 2020, which has been the season White Sox fans have been looking towards as when the team makes its return to prominence. By then outfielder Eloy Jimenez, one of the prospects traded by the Chicago Cubs for another White Sox starter, is expected to be in his second season on the South Side.

Blogger with Carlton Fisk statue at Guaranteed Rate Field this month

Jimenez batted .337 in the minors this season.

On the quirky side, the White Sox have a Hamilton and Burr in the bullpen. That’s right, Ian Hamilton and Ryan Burr.

No other MLB team can match that pitchers duel.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

By John Ruberry

“Baseball is a lot like life. It’s a day-to-day existence, full of ups and downs. You make the most of your opportunities in baseball as you do in life.”
Longtime Detroit Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell.

For the 2018 Chicago White Sox, so far there have been a lot of downs. The South Siders, at 12-30, have the worst record in baseball. If their current pace continues, the Sox will lose 117 games and end up just a few games ahead of the most hapless teams since MLB expanded its schedule to 162 games, the 2003 Detroit Tigers and the 1962 New York Mets.

Guaranteed Rate Field, home of the White Sox, has been anything but sweet for them. Their record is a pitiful 5-16 there so far this season.. On a cold afternoon in April, just 974 fans were in attendance as the host dropped a game against the Tampa Bay Rays. It was at home when the team’s sole 2017 all star, right fielder Avisail Garcia, suffered a hamstring industry which placed him on the disabled list. Just two nights ago left fielder Nicky Delmonico was put on the DL after his right hand was broken after getting hit by a pitch. And it was on the South Side last month when reliever Danny Farquhar collapsed in the dugout when he suffered a severe brain aneurysm, which knocked him out for the season.

On the upside, the team slogan for 2018 is “Ricky’s Boys Don’t Quit,” a reference to manager Ricky Renteria, a patient man–that’s the type of skipper the Sox need–Ricky Renteria. While plagued by some bad baserunning miscues, the White Sox aren’t infected by laziness. It’s just that they don’t have very many good players. First baseman and designated hitter Jose Abreu is the only South Sider batting over 300. MSN Sports listed the best player so far this season for each team, for the Sox they chose right hand starter Reynaldo López, who coincidentally starts at home this afternoon against the Texas Rangers. His ERA is a 3.50, but his record is 0-3 with 46 innings under his belt, which led its writer Greg Papke to opine that it “shows how abject the team is that he has failed to win a game despite those solid numbers.”

Team statistics betray the awful truth. The White Sox rank next to last in Major League Baseball in ERA and runs scored and they’re at the bottom in WHIP, that is, walks plus hits per inning pitched.

“Ricky’s boys don’t quit, as the Sox marketing plan insists,” the Chicago Tribune’s Paul Sullivan remarked last week, “but neither do they score nor pitch.” The White Sox were expected to perform poorly this year, but not this badly. Last season they lost 95 games, but they ended last September one game over .500.

Back to the good news:: The White Sox are only nine games out of first place, but they play in MLB’s worst division, the American League Central, which the Cleveland Indians, at 22-22, leads. And the Sox are only a half-game behind the team ahead of them in the Central standings, the Kansas City Royals, who obviously are also enduring a horrible 2018.

But help is on the way. Last summer the White Sox traded their ace, Chris Sale, to the Boston Red Sox for several prospects, including Yoan Mocada, who is their starting second baseman this season, and hard throwing starter Michael Kopech, who is currently pitching in AAA and is expected to join the Sox later this season. Also last summer the White Sox traded another starter, Jose Quintana, to the Chicago Cubs for two of that organization’s top prospects, Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Crease.

Earlier this decade the Houston Astros, who the White Sox swept in the 2005 World Series, went through a similar rebuilding process. Now they are the reigning World Series champions. In 2011 the Astros lost 106 games, in 2012 they dropped 107 games, and the following season 111 games.

Then the upswing began.

UPDATE 7:20pm EDT: My post must have been good luck for the White Sox. The heretofore hard luck López pitched eight shutout innings this afternoon against the Rangers while giving up only two hits. His record is now I-3.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Yesterday the Boston Red Sox clinching of at least the 2nd wild card berth was overshadowed by Chris Sale getting his 300th strikeout of the season in the 8th inning of a shutout of the Baltimore Orioles.

In the American league, where since 1973 a starter doesn’t get the privilege of facing a .150 hitter every 9 batters this is a rare feat and this story at MLB.com on the subject notes just how rare it is.

To put into perspective how rare a 300-K season is in the offensive-minded AL, consider that Sale joined Randy Johnson (1993) as just the second AL lefty to achieve it since the designated hitter was instituted in 1973. The only other AL pitchers to reach 300 over that same span aside from Sale, Johnson and Martinez? The legendary Nolan Ryan, who did it five times.

I have nothing but admiration for Chris Sale achievement, and to be in the company of Hall of Famers Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez is pretty damn good but think about what that last sentence means.

Nolan Ryan struck out 300 AL batters more times than Sale, Johnson and Pedro COMBINED. In fact Sale will have to achieve this season’s milestone twice more just for those three to pull even with Ryan.

That’s how good Nolan Ryan was.