Three up, three down: A mix of early good, not so good for White Sox
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As the 3-3 White Sox thaw out after a harsh 9-7 loss to the Tigers in 10 innings Thursday in their home opener, let’s split their half-dozen games this season in half with a three-up, three-down overview.
To review, the Sox opened the season with two wins against the Royals in Kansas City, lost two of the next three to the Blue Jays in Toronto and were on the cusp of a nice 4-2 start before blowing a four-run lead against the Tigers.
1. The Sox are scoring runs. Through Thursday, they were first in the majors in homers with 2.33 per game and second in runs with 6.0 per game.
The key factors?
• Tim Anderson (an explosive 1.080 OPS with three walks after he drew 13 all last season).
• Matt Davidson (in the cleanup spot with a 1.354 OPS, four homers, eight RBI, nine runs, four walks after he drew 19 last year).
• Yolmer Sanchez (1.300 OPS, .400 batting average, seven RBI).
• Jose Abreu (.320 batting average, .970 OPS, two homers).
• Avisail Garcia (team-high nine hits, including the longest Sox homer — 481 feet — since Statcast began measuring in 2015).
2. It’s early, but in spring training, Anderson looked like a player ready to have a breakout season, and he raised it another notch in the first six games with three homers, a 4-for-4 effort in stolen bases and seven runs scored. He’s still striking out a lot (nine), but the walks are a healthy sign.
3. This season is about development, and the starting rotation gets a collective passing grade for its first time through. Lucas Giolito was acceptable, Reynaldo Lopez very good and Carson Fulmer encouraging. Against the Royals, Giolito battled through four walks to log a quality six-inning start by the definition of the stat, despite being “out of sync” and not having his best stuff. Lopez and Fulmer both had their good stuff for the Jays, with Lopez allowing a run and two hits and striking out six and Fulmer leaving in the sixth inning with a 3-1 lead and five strikeouts against one walk.
1. The bullpen has been bad, with 20 runs allowed in 20 innings. The only reliever who hasn’t allowed a run is lefty Aaron Bummer, who might be the only one in the long-term picture.
2. Yoan Moncada hit a 433-foot homer against the Royals but only has three other hits (and four walks) in 30 plate appearances as the leadoff man. He has a .154 average and 11 strikeouts, including four in an 0-for-6 game against the Tigers. Before you jump off a cliff, keep in mind that Moncada’s performance in 2017 trended upward late, he’s embarking on his first full season at 21, and he’s experiencing cold weather for the first time. Also, on the plus side, Moncada doesn’t chase pitches out of the strike zone, and he has a good eye and considerable talent, which figures to win the day over time. But how he handles breaking pitches this year bears watching.
3. After leading the majors in errors in his first full season in 2017, Anderson has one error, plus two mishandled ground balls scored as hits, and was spared a throwing error on a routine throw when Abreu made a swipe tag. This is a key development year for the 24-year-old, and he knows the importance of his glove at a premium position. “It’s going to get better,” he said this week. “I trust in my work and trust what I do. I just have to keep working.”
Getting better is what 2018 is all about. One hundred fifty-six games to go.