Facts, trends and stats about Ventura's first year managing Sox

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Facts, trends and stats about Ventura's first year managing Sox

With spring training just about a month away, let's take a look at some points of interest regarding the second-year White Sox skipper: a few things to look back at and think about going forward.

1. Late in 2011, the White Sox realized they were roughly forty-five feet off in their judgement of who should be managing the team (at least according to measurements taken from 1989-1997). They obviously needed someone a little more fiery.

Fiery? In their first seasons as a major league manager, Robin Ventura (4) was ejected twice as many times as Ozzie Guillen (2). Also, did we forget the showdown with Nolan Ryan? Two things on that memorable (or forgettable) incident:

- One, Aug. 4 of the upcoming season will mark the 20th anniversary of Ventura getting several hits off (from?) the Hall of Fame hurler (unspectacularly, the game will be in Detroit).
- Two, Ventura right now is still younger than Nolan Ryan was when he placed the White Sox third baseman in a headlock in Arlington that fateful day. And he'll still be younger through the end of the 2013 season.

2. Ventura is deathly afraid of Jeff Francoeur.

Ok, not really. But Frenchy was issued more intentional walks by White Sox pitching than any other batter in 2012, with four. During the DH era (1973-current), the White Sox intentionally walked a batter four or more times in a season on just fifteen occasions (to 14 different batters).

Of these fifteen seasons, Francoeur's 81 OPS is by far the worst. Second worst was John Briggs of the Twins and Brewers in 1975, who was IBB'd four times (116 OPS). The average OPS of the non-Francoeur seasons was 146.

Regardless of Francoeur, Ventura ordered only 29 IBB on the season, the fifth-lowest total in the American League. Under Guillen, the Sox were perennially among the American League leaders in IBB issued (including a league-leading 50 in 2011).

The one player to be walked 4 times in a season on two occasions by Sox pitching? Mickey Tettleton in 1992 and 1993.

3. Plenty of pinch running.

The 2012 White Sox paced the Majors with 64 pinch runners used, a full 19 more than the next highest total (Minnesota). Unsurprisingly, the Major League leader in being pinch run for was Paul Konerko (25), followed by Billy Butler (20).

4. No White Sox team in franchise history boasted more pitching appearances than the 2012 bunch.

The 628 pitcher games tied 2000 (that's 3.88 pitchers used per game) for most of any Southsider squad. And Ventura kicked it up a notch once rosters expanded in September, using 4.81 pitchers per game during the final month (plus October). In the first eleven games of September, he averaged exactly six pitchers used per game.

5. Ventura's White Sox posted a 71.7 percent stolen base success rate. Much better than the recent records of Ozzie Guillen (whose teams posted three of the five lowest single-season SB rates in the AL from 2007 through 2012), but still below league average (75 percent).

One notable trend was Ventura's reluctance to steal third, going only 23 at that bag. The other 107 White Sox stolen bases were of second. Two players in the AL stole 20 or more bases in 2012 without once taking third: Alex Rios and Alexei Ramirez.

6. Ventura seemed much more comfortable than Guillen giving the 3-0 green light. The 2012 Sox went 4-14 with two home runs (the team's first two 3-0 homers since Jim Thome did it twice in 2007). That may not seem like much, but consider the fact that they went a combined 5-17 over the previous five seasons (12-33 overall under Guillen with a 3-0 count).

7. Ventura is a .300 lifetime hitter against pitchers he managed in 2012:

- 1-6 vs Jake Peavy
- 1-2 vs Brian Bruney, with a home run
- 1-1 vs Will Ohman, with a double
- 0-1 vs Brett Myers

8. A July 14 loss in Kansas City prevented Ventura from becoming the first Sox skipper to get a birthday win since Terry Bevington on July 27, 1995. He'll get another chance in Philadelphia this summer on the last day before the All-Star break.

The last White Sox rebuild: Bobby Howry remembers aftermath of '97 'White Flag' trade

The last White Sox rebuild: Bobby Howry remembers aftermath of '97 'White Flag' trade

Bobby Howry wasn't aware of the fact he was part of one of the more infamous transactions in White Sox history until a few years after it happened. 

In 1997, with the White Sox only 3 1/2 games behind the division-leading Cleveland Indians, general manager Ron Schueler pulled the trigger on a massive trade that left many around Chicago — including some in the White Sox clubhouse — scratching their heads. Heading to the San Francisco Giants was the team's best starting pitcher (left-hander Wilson Alvarez), a reliable rotation piece (Doug Drabek) and a closer coming off a 1996 All-Star appearance (Roberto Hernandez). In return, the White Sox acquired six minor leaguers: right-handers Howry, Lorenzo Barcelo, Keith Foulke, left-hander Ken Vining, shortstop Mike Caruso and outfielder Brian Manning. Only Foulke had major league experience, and it wasn't exactly good (an 8.26 ERA in 44 2/3 innings). 

Howry was largely oblivious to the shocking nature of the trade that brought him from the Giants to White Sox until, before the 1999 season, he was featured in a commercial that referenced the "White Flag trade."

"I don't even know if I knew it was called that before then," Howry recalled last weekend at the Sheraton Grand Chicago at Cubs Convention. 

The trade was a stark signal that youth would be emphasized on 35th and Shields. Both Alvarez and Hernandez were set to become free agents after the 1997 season, and the 40-year-old Darwin wasn't a long-term piece, either. With youngsters like Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Lee rising through the farm system, the move was made with an eye on the future and maximizing the return on players who weren't going to be long-term pieces. 

Sound familiar? 

It's hardly a perfect comparison, but when the White Sox traded Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox in December for four minor leaguers — headlined by top-100 prospects in Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech — it was the first rebuilding blockbuster trade the organization had made since the 1997 White Flag deal. Shortly after trading their staff ace at the 2016 Winter Meetings, the White Sox shipped Adam Eaton — their best position player — to the Washington Nationals for a package of prospects featuring two more highly-regarded youngsters in Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. 

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And there still could be more moves on the horizon, too, for Rick Hahn's White Sox (Jose Quintana has been the subject of persistent rumors since the Winter Meetings). But for those looking for an optimistic outlook of the White Sox rebuilding plans, it's worth noting that the club's last youth movement, to an extent, was successful.

Only Howry (3.74 ERA over 294 games) and Foulke (2.87 ERA, 100 saves over 346 games) became significant long-term pieces for the White Sox from those six players brought over in 1997. And it wasn't like Schueler dealt away any of the franchise's cornerstones — like Frank Thomas, Albert Belle and Robin Ventura — but with future starters in Lee, Ordonez and Chris Singleton on their way the White Sox were able to go young. A swap of promising youthful players (Mike Cameron for Paul Konerko) proved to be successful a year and a half later. 

And with a couple of shrewd moves — namely, dealing Jamie Navarro and John Snyder to the Milwaukee Brewers for Cal Eldred and Jose Valentin — the "Kids Can Play" White Sox stormed to an American League Central title in 2000. 

"It was great," Howry said of developing with so many young players in the late 1999's and 2000. "You come in and you feel a lot more comfortable when you got a lot of young guys and you're all coming up together and building together. It's not like you're walking into a primarily veteran clubhouse where you're kind of having to duck and hide all the time. We had a great group of guys and we built together over a couple of years, and putting that together was a lot of fun."

What sparked things in 2000, Howry said, was that ferocious brawl with the Detroit Tigers on April 22 in which 11 players were ejected (the fight left Foulke needing five stitches and former Tigers catcher/first baseman Robert Fick doused in beer). 

"About the time we had that fight with Detroit, that big brawl, all of a sudden after then we just seemed to kind of come together and everything started to click and it took off," Howry said. 

The White Sox went 80-81 in 1998 and slipped to 75-86 in 1999, but their 95-67 record in 2000 was the best in the league — though it only amounted to a three-game sweep at the hands of the wild-card winning Seattle Mariners. 

Still, the White Flag trade had a happy ending two and a half years later. While with the White Sox, Howry didn't feel pressure to perform under the circumstances with which he arrived, which probably helped those young players grow together into eventual division champions. 

"I was 23 years old," Howry said. "At 23 years old, I didn't really — I was just like, okay, I'm still playing, I got a place to play. I didn't really put a whole lot of thought into three veteran guys for six minor leaguers." 

White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Collins discusses staying at catcher

White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Collins discusses staying at catcher

White Sox 2016 first round pick Zack Collins joins the podcast to talk about his future with the White Sox, when he hopes to make the big leagues and the doubters who question whether he can be a major league catcher.   He discusses comparisons with Kyle Schwarber, his impressions of Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, why his dad took him to a Linkin Park concert when he was 6 years old and much more.