Tag Archives: Adam Eaton

An Ace Up His Sleeve?

After posting a 6.75 ERA during his stint with the Washington Nationals in 2016—which was followed by rumors that the team had tweaked his mechanics—there was lingering concern about White Sox newcomer Lucas Giolito. Giolito came as the headliner in the deal that sent Adam Eaton to Washington last December, teeing off the White Sox’s rebuilding efforts.

The trepidation was warranted as the 23 year-old certainly came with a mildly concerning resume. Giolito fell to the 16th round of the 2012 draft due to concerns about a sprained UCL, after many thought he would be taken in the first. Shortly after the draft, the Nationals scheduled Giolito for Tommy John surgery. Once he returned, the team began to work with Giolito on changing his delivery and, suddenly, the pitcher everyone expected to go in the first round looked as though his stock may be falling rapidly.

That was all before White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper, though. Cooper has become renowned for helping reinvent pitchers simply by showing them how to maximize their efforts while being true to themselves on the mound. Cooper isn’t interested in stat sheets; he’s interested in good old-fashioned feel for the game.

“I don’t think his first trip to the big leagues with us could have went any better,” Cooper said enthusiastically of Giolito’s season. “It couldn’t have gone better.”

Giolito was shut down during the final week of the season for precautionary reasons and did not make his last scheduled start. “He’s had enough innings,” Cooper said. “There’s nothing left to prove this year. There’s nothing really to gain.”

Giolito seemed just as satisfied with his success this season as Cooper was.

“Overall, this was such a crazy year,” Giolito said. “I started not the way I wanted to. I had to kind of get over some trials and tribulations down in the Minor Leagues trying to fix some things, trying to find myself and see who I was as a pitcher.”

Giolito threw 45.1 innings over seven starts for the big league club, averaging just over six innings per start to the tune of a 2.38 ERA and 6.75 K/9. He lowered his walk rate from 5.05 BB/9 with the Nationals to just 2.38 with the White Sox.

“He’s throwing strikes with four pitches,” Cooper said. “He’s got angles, he can change speeds, he can ride the ball up in the zone. He’s done everything. He’s been great.”

But for Giolito, his sights are already set on new goals for 2018. “For me, it’s get prepared to throw 200 innings,” Giolito said. “I threw, like, 175-ish this year. I feel like the next step is to get to 200. So that will be a personal goal for me next season.”

“Obviously his stuff was lights out then, his stuff is lights out now,” catcher Kevan Smith said of Giolito’s time in the minors. “I think this year is just boosted his confidence. He can see that he can perform at this level.”

Giolito may have had to work through his trials and tribulations but it’s become evident that the Giolito that once was regarded as one of the best prospects in baseball is still alive and well.

“I feel very confident,” Giolito said. “I’ve hit that point where I trust all my pitches in any count, any situation. I feel like that’s what a top end of the rotation guy has to be able to do is pitch deep into games and put up as many zeroes as possible and at the same time trust all your stuff.”

The White Sox may have moved on from Eaton, who was considered a key piece of their future during the team’s prior attempt at contention, but what they’ve gained in Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, who also came in the Eaton deal, are two young pitchers who have showed the ability to perform at the major league level and will become a pivotal piece of this club’s bright future.

“His personality and just the way he goes about his business, he’s a smart kid,” former White Sox pitcher Miguel Gonzalez said of Giolito. “He likes to learn, he asks questions just like any other guy that’s been getting called up “

With Carlos Rodon no longer a lock to begin the season with the club, the time is now for Giolito to step up to that 200-inning goal. He’ll be leaned on heavily in the near future, something that will help him become accustomed to that feeling for the coming years.

Perhaps for Giolito, all it took was getting back to basics coupled with regaining confidence. And of course, a little Don Cooper magic.

Giolito Feels Right at Home in Sox Rotation

At first glance, you’d never have guessed that Tuesday was Lucas Giolito’s first day with his new club.

Nerves didn’t appear to be a concern for Giolito on the day of his first big league start with the White Sox. His head wasn’t buried in a phone or an iPad. He wasn’t tucked away from everyone, preparing for the night. Instead, Giolito was entertained by his fellow pitching teammates who were playing a game of cards. Laughs and smiles aplenty.

Surrounding oneself with veteran pitchers such as Mike Pelfrey, James Shields, and even the recently successful Juan Minaya on your first day in the clubhouse seems to be a smart way to break yourself in.

“I’m excited to watch him pitch tonight,” pitcher Miguel Gonzalez said of Giolito. Gonzalez’s favorite thing the Giolito brings to the White Sox? Not his power curve or pitch mix, but his personality. “Just the way he goes about his business, he’s a smart kid, he likes to learn, he asks questions just like any other guy that’s been getting called up,” Gonzalez said. “We’re excited to have him with us.”

Giolito joined the White Sox organization last December during the annual Winter Meetings in the trade that sent Adam Eaton to the Nationals for Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning.

With the sudden success and emergence of Lopez, the hype surrounding Giolito was cast aside for a bit after what some would consider a rough start in Triple-A Charlotte. Giolito pitched to a 4.48 ERA in 128 innings with the Knights—the most innings Giolito has pitched in a season so far in his career.

After questions surrounding mechanical changes Giolito made when with the Nationals organization, the White Sox have been patient getting Giolito back to being comfortable with his execution on the mound, as well as working to strengthen his three-pitch repertoire.

“His mechanics are much more sound than they were in spring training, maybe than where they were last year with the Nationals,” Knights pitching coach Steve McCatty, formerly the Nationals pitching coach, told James Fegan of The Athletic. “He’s repeating pitches a lot better. He still has some things he’s working on. The command of the curveball is getting better but also he has a really, really good changeup.”

“His past what, three starts have been really good, I don’t even need to see the video to see what he was doing well,” catcher Kevan Smith said. “Every time he’s commanding the zone, when he’s down in the zone with his heater, dropping his curveball in for strikes first pitch and using it as a put away pitch. He’s an impressive guy out there when he’s on and I’m sure he was doing all of that with his changeup as well, so when he has all three pitches working for him he’s pretty untouchable.”

Giolito’s pitch-to-watch will be that much improved curveball that Smith is so high on—a pitch that Giolito is now consistently throwing for strikes and feels confidence in.

“It’s just a big feel thing for these guys, you kind of see if they have [the curve] or not in the bullpen before the game and obviously [Giolito has] been having it,” Smith continued. “It’s a day-to-day thing, just keep working with him and see what he’s changed and just kind of move him around and just keep working towards success each time.”

Giolito found himself surrounded by familiar faces in the Sox clubhouse on Tuesday. His locker is right next to former Charlotte teammates, and recent alumni, Nicky Delmonico and Yoan Moncada.

“He’s got electric stuff, you know he goes out and competes everyday and he throws the ball well,” Delmonico said. “He’s got great composure on the mound and no matter what I think he’s going to be very successful up here.”

Giolito may no longer stand alone as the headliner in the Eaton trade that helped the White Sox begin a strong foundation for their rebuilding efforts. That space may now be shared with Lopez. Regardless, Giolito has made improvements from a year ago when he pitched just 21 innings of baseball with a 6.75 ERA in Washington.

“Obviously his stuff was lights out then, his stuff is lights out now,” Smith said. “I think this year is just boosted his confidence. He can see that he can perform at this level I think confidence is a big factor in baseball. If you believe that you can success at this level then you will.”

The Latest Garcia to Take Off for the White Sox

It isn’t unfair to say that the 2017 White Sox are not exactly the most interesting team in Major League Baseball this season, so much so that most folks are keeping a sharp eye on their minor league system with perhaps even more interest than their big league roster.

Among this misshapen team of veterans mixed with young players just breaking into their new roles, there is an unlikely, yet possibly extremely beneficial, story blooming in the progression of utility man Leury Garcia.

Besides his memorable appearance pitching against the Boston Red Sox a few seasons ago (likely just behind Adam Dunn as my favorite White Sox Position Player Pitching appearance), there isn’t much that comes to mind when you think of Garcia. He’s part of the trifecta of Garcias on the White Sox roster and has taken on the role of filling Adam Eaton’s shoes in centerfield. That’s about it.

The arrival of new White Sox manager Rick Renteria has installed a fresh coaching perspective to this team and perhaps revived a stale bench. These days, Garcia is seeing a bounty of playing time—more than he’s seen at this point in the season during any year of his career. The consistency seems to be having a positive effect on his performance.

Garcia has always been a fourth outfielder type. A player who has struck out anywhere from 46 to 26 percent of his plate appearances. Just last season, Garcia walked at a rate even lower than Tim Anderson. Garcia’s only true asset was his undeniable speed which aids in his ability to steal bases (21 over his four year career).

Things are a bit different now. Garcia is currently slashing .302/.340/.479 over 104 plate appearances — just around 70 shy of how many plate appearances Garcia previously racked up over any full season of play.

After Friday’s two-home run game against the Padres, Garcia is now comfortably slugging near the .500 mark. His slugging percentage rose nearly 70 points that evening because small sample sizes this early in the season show drastic fluctuation. . Unfortunately, that isn’t sustainable for Garcia. His speed, however, should help him keep his OBP at a healthy level. Garcia is also putting up a 126 wRC+, meaning that he’s sitting 26 points above league average. Again, Friday’s game tacked onto that number, but Garcia was still around a 100 wRC+ before Friday’s game, which is league average. League average is not a term that I suspect anyone ever felt would be attached to Garcia.

Besides seeing more regular playing time, what’s the major difference been for Garcia this year? Well, it’s actually quite obvious once you look a bit deeper into his numbers. Garcia’s plate patience and ability to read good pitches to hit has skyrocketed:

O-Swing% O-Contact% Z-Swing% Z-Contact% SwStr%
2014 37.9 67.3 69.3 83.5 11.9
2015 31.4 45.5 66.7 77.8 16.1
2016 32.3 65.6 69.8 77.6 13.3
2017 32.8 79.3 73.4 89.5 7.2

Garcia’s outside-the-zone swings have become extremely productive. He’s barely raised his percentage of swings outside the zone, while tacking on nearly 14 percentage points to his outside-the-zone contact rate. Garcia is also seeing pitches in the zone better, swinging at them just 4 percentage points higher than last season, while making 12 percent more contact.

And this is all while Garcia has only raised is overall swing rate by 3 percentage points, added a ton of quality contact, and lowered his swinging strike rate by 5 points. Oh, did I mention that his strikeout rate has nearly halved this season? Garcia struck out in 27 percent of his plate appearances last year. This year, he’s striking out at just a 13 percent clip. Pretty impressive. (His walk rate is still menial but, hey, the guy can’t fix everything at once.)

Garcia may never be an everyday player on a strong, contending team but, if he continues to see regular at bats during a time when the White Sox can afford for him to scuffle in the name of finding his stride, Garcia will round out to be a solid, valuable asset to the future of the White Sox’s bench arsenal; a major key to the success of any well rounded team. Looks like all Garcia needed was to be given a chance to show that he is able to play successfully at the Major League level, something he wasn’t truly afforded in his previous seasons on the South Side.

Chris Sale Heads to Boston, White Sox Get Haul

The day after the 2016 season had ended, the White Sox called a press conference to announce Ricky Renteria as their new field manager. General Manager Rick Hahn was there to introduce Renteria and, in so doing, spelled out a few things about the coming off season and what it would bring for the organization. You’d be able to tell, he said, the direction of the club by the first big move they make.

Chris Sale is headed to Boston and a massive prospect haul is headed back to the White Sox.

The direction, it seems, is getting younger, deeper and better. Questions remain, of course, as to just how deep and thorough the seeming rebuild will be. As for the Red Sox, they’re getting one of the best pitchers in baseball. In his seven years with the White Sox, Sale both made the All Star team and finished in the top six of the Cy Young voting each year he was a member of the White Sox rotation. A voracious competitor, Sale wasn’t without incident with the Sox. Still, in the end, his focus was on winning games. Unfortunately, that’s something the club wasn’t able do enough of and in moving Sale, they hope to deepen a young talent base that will mature into contenders.

As for the return on Sale, it’s huge. Yoan Moncada is rated by many as the top prospect in baseball. Though his first eight games at the big league level were a struggle, he was promoted to the Bigs straight from AA. It’s not unthinkable that the White Sox would keep Moncada in the minor leagues to start the 2017 season. He’ll turn 22 in May 27th so some seasoning could be worthwhile. Regardless, Sox fans should be able to dream of a stellar double play combo in Tim Anderson and Moncada and witness it in just a short time.

Michael Kopech is the the second best prospect in the deal and was the third ranked player in Boston’s treasure chest. Kopech, though it may be a bit apocryphal, reportedly hit 105 mph during a minor league outing last year. At 20 years old with flowing blond locks and a huge frame, the comparisons to Mets Ace Noah Syndergaard are many. Kopech’s arrival to the majors may be a bit farther away as he’s only thrown at the high A level. Outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe, ranked 8th in the Red Sox system, and right hander Victor Diaz complete the haul.

While the return on Sale has plenty of value, questions remain about how much more the White Sox intend to do this winter. It’s conceivable that with their number one starter traded, they see what kind of impact their still talented core could make come April. Equally understandable would be the idea of trading off key members of that core. Jose Quintana, Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton and Todd Frazier would all bring back quality returns. Like the Yankees at last summer’s trade deadline, the White Sox could be have a rebuild well underway and have talent ready for competing at the majors in short order.

You can hear the latest on the White Sox each Saturday at noon on White Sox Weekly with Connor McKnight on WLS AM 890.

Robin Ventura will not return in 2017

After the White Sox lost 6-3 to the Twins, ending the 2016 season, Robin Ventura addressed the media for the last time as the manager of the club.

“It’s the right time,” Ventura said. “It’s more of a personal decision than anything. I love being here. The organization means a lot to me. You can go as hard as you can and really the only thing you know is how you conduct yourself, how you conduct your business and how you treat people. I’m good with that.”

Ventura’s managerial career was, unfortunately, short on wins. With a career record of 375-435, Ventura and the Sox turned in four consecutive losing seasons. With Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Adam Eaton and Jose Abreu as a core for most, if not all of that time, talent has been present but wins were wanting.

“It’s not like they’re going to be putting a statue [of me] out on the concourse,” Ventura admitted. “You wish you would have just won more but, absolutely, [I’d] do it again.

At 23-10, the 2016 White Sox started as hot as any team in baseball. Since that start, the club played to a 55-74 record and in fourth place in the AL Central.

“I think what’s hardest is we started off so well,” Ventura said. “So you had the optimism that you were going to keep that rolling and then it didn’t continue. That’s the hardest stuff.”

Multiple reports have said that bench coach Rick Renteria will step in as manager but Ventura wouldn’t comment on that. Renteria went 73-89 in his only season as the manager of the Cubs in 2014. He was fired when Joe Maddon left the manager’s job of the Tampa Bay Rays.

White Sox General Manager Rick Hahn will address the media Monday morning. Be sure to check back with WLS AM 890 for the latest news.

Sox Top The American League

Chicago White Sox's Jose Abreu (79), celebrates his game winning single with Adam Eaton (1) and Brett Lawrie (15) against the Texas Rangers during the eleventh inning of a baseball game, Saturday, April 23, 2016, in Chicago.The White Sox won 4-3 in eleven innings. (AP Photo/David Banks)
Chicago White Sox’s Jose Abreu (79), celebrates his game winning single with Adam Eaton (1) and Brett Lawrie (15) against the Texas Rangers during the eleventh inning of a baseball game, Saturday, April 23, 2016, in Chicago.The White Sox won 4-3 in eleven innings. (AP Photo/David Banks)

By Connor McKnight

White Sox Pre and Post Game Host on WLS AM 890

The White Sox have the best record in the American League.

At 14-6 the Sox have tied their best 19-game start since 2006. They’ve gotten it done with spectacular pitching, highlight-reel defense and just enough hitting.

Just enough.

The offense, it would seem, is an easy enough fix. Really, it comes down to two guys doing exactly what everyone in the industry thought they’d do. In a way, the fact that Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier have struggled out of the gate is a best-case problem; those two will hit.

When that starts, and they’re coupled with Melky Cabrera’s .400 OBP and Adam Eaton’s constant table-setting (.309/.356/.397), the run-scoring issues should—in a rather profound way—resolve themselves.

Pitching and hitting often vacillate throughout a season. Defense, we’re told, is more stable. Granted, guys can have bad days or weeks but typically, the type of defense we see over the course of a season is a relative constant.

Defensively, the White Sox have been stellar. In most cases, it’s affecting their margin for error—for the better.

Look no further than the triple play Friday night against the Rangers—the very first 9-3-2-6-2-5 triple play in MLB history. Triple plays, as they go, are rare enough but when they do happen, they’re even rarer when they start in the outfield. (Around 10% of triple plays have been started by outfielders. Thanks to JJ Stankevitz of CSNChicago.com for that number.)

Adam Eaton’s break on the line drive from Mitch Moreland was just another example of his impressive work in the corner this year. Eaton has been able to read fly balls from the corner and it’s shown; FanGraphs has Eaton leading MLB in Defensive Runs Saved at seven. Abreu’s back-and-forth with Ian Desmond after the Rangers outfielder had overrun first base showed… well something, I’m not sure what exactly but let’s give Pito some props for the athleticism. Plus it was ridiculously fun to watch.

Brett Lawrie did a great job yelling for Abreu to throw home after he’d tagged out Desmond. Abreu couldn’t have assessed the situation himself after going three-rounds with Desmond (how could he?) and Lawrie was there to help out.

After Abreu had thrown home (from his knees, no less) Dioner Navarro and Tyler Saladino worked together to cut Prince Fielder from the herd and line him up for the third out of the inning. Saladino made, perhaps, the most heads-up play in the entire mess. His decision to run to third and freeze the runner there then cut the corner and force Fielder into a no-win decision.

There it is all in one play. Improvement from incumbent players, better communication on the field, smarter decision making.

When a team isn’t hitting it needs all of those gears to mesh to win ballgames. They’ve meshed, clearly, and now the White Sox have a cushion to get the offense sorted out. No doubt sooner would be better than later but with an unrelenting April schedule (27 games in 28 days including a stretch of 19 straight) and dates with homer-happy offenses in Toronto and Baltimore, the Sox have another test in front of them.

Remember though, the White Sox have the best record in the American League.

White Sox win opener

White Sox WLS Logo

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Chris Sale struck out eight in a solid season debut to build off his franchise record last year, and the Chicago White Sox beat the Oakland Athletics 4-3 on Monday night.

Adam Eaton hit an RBI triple and Jimmy Rollins drove in a run during a four-run third inning in his first game with the White Sox playing back home in the East Bay.

What had been planned as a marquee matchup between two American League aces never happened. Oakland right-hander Sonny Gray was scratched because of food poisoning that sent him to the emergency room.

Sale didn’t get his opening day start last season, when Jeff Samardzija took the ball after Sale was slowed by a broken right foot. Sale went on to finish 13-11 with a team-record 274 strikeouts.