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.

Preview: Chris Sale starts for White Sox against Rays tonight on CSN+

Preview: Chris Sale starts for White Sox against Rays tonight on CSN+

The White Sox take on the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday, and you can catch all the action on CSN+. Coverage begins with White Sox Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Tonight’s starting pitching matchup: Chris Sale (16-9, 3.19 ERA) vs. Alex Cobb (1-1, 6.16 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.

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James Shields gets first win in two months as White Sox beat Rays

James Shields gets first win in two months as White Sox beat Rays

James Shields’ time with the White Sox has not gone well. But Monday night was one of the bright spots, and it came against his former team.

Shields allowed just one run in his six innings of work against the visiting Tampa Ray Bays — with whom he spent the first seven seasons of his career — and earned his first win since July 26 as the White Sox opened this four-game set with a 7-1 victory at U.S. Cellular Field.

Shields didn’t exactly keep the Rays off the bases Monday, running into jams with multiple base runners on in four of his six innings. But he did keep them off the scoreboard, for the most part, getting some help from his defense with a couple double plays. He finished allowing just one run on seven hits with six strikeouts over his six innings.

The win was his first in two months after a brutal August — six starts with four losses and an 11.42 ERA — and a couple of rough outings in September. It was Shields’ sixth victory on the season and fourth since joining the White Sox compared to 18 losses on the season, 11 coming with the White Sox.

“I had a few chances my last few starts to get some wins, but sometimes those things happen,” Shields said. “I’m just trying to finish the season strong right now. Body feels good, arm feels good, so hopefully I can get another win on Saturday to end my season and move into next year.”

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With just one more start on his schedule in the season’s final week, Shields won’t lose a visually upsetting 20 games. Avoiding that number might not make losing 18 or 19 much easier for fans and observers to swallow, but teammates understand what Shields has gone through this season.

“I think we’ve all been through it once or maybe even twice in our career. He works his butt off, though,” third baseman Todd Frazier said. “He looks at film. He watches everything he’s doing. To come out with the strong outing today, even in the first inning, getting two runners on and getting out of that jam, it goes to show you his resilience. Whenever he got runners on, he looked relaxed and induced a lot of ground balls which we needed.”

Certainly Shields’ teammates picked him up Monday. The two double plays while he was in the game were just half the infield’s total on the night, two more coming in the seventh and eighth, when Tommy Kahnle and Nate Jones put the first two hitters they faced on in each frame. But the double plays helped end those threats and keep the Rays down.

The White Sox struck first with a run in the first inning, Melky Cabrera scoring on Justin Morneau’s sacrifice fly. After the Rays tied it up in the fourth with an RBI single, the White Sox punched back, Frazier doubling, stealing third base and scoring on Omar Narvaez’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of that inning.

And as Shields and the relief corps danced out of jams, the White Sox added to their score. Jose Abreu singled in a run in the fifth, but it was a pair of two-run homers off the bats of Morneau and Carlos Sanchez in the seventh and eighth innings that provided the real insurance.

The win was the third straight for the White Sox, something that while positive won’t provide much solace in a season where competing for a playoff spot is a distant memory.

But, like Shields finishing his season strong, White Sox players in general can create individual momentum for each of their offseasons and into next year with good finishes to 2016.

“We want to end on a positive note,” Frazier said. “Everybody wants to meet their goals. Baseball is the most individualistic team sport there is. You have to have your individual goals just like your team goals, and our team goals are out the door right now. You don’t want to play for yourself, but at the same time play for your pitcher a little bit and help him out.”