Chicago White Sox

SaleGreinke earns its hashtag

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SaleGreinke earns its hashtag

Yes, it's true that Chris Sale and Zack Greinke combined for merely eleven whiffs, a total each pitcher had surpassed on his own at least once this season. But there's more to a mound masterpiece than a long trail of strikeout victims. Sale kicked it up a notch when runners threatened to score. Greinke simply chose to deny scoring position as an option. When the game ended with the South Siders' 10th consecutive goose egg (apparently the goose remains the only animal capable of producing eggs of this shape), the box score showed tremendous numbers for the two starters.

In fact, both Sale and Greinke posted game scores of at least 80. The game score (explained below) developed by Bill James is a quick and easy way to measure the quality of a starting pitcher's performance. While not perfect, I think it gets the job done while assigning a quick one-number value for the sake of comparison. Digging through the box scores, it becomes apparent that the White Sox haven't participated in a pitchers' duel of this magnitude in some time.

The last time a Sox starter took part in a battle of 80 game scores was game one of an Aug. 18, 1990 doubleheader, when the "Little Bulldog" Greg Hibbard locked horns with Nolan Ryan in a strange "David vs. Goliath" matchup in Texas.

The crafty White Sox left-hander was on his way to a career-high 92 punchouts (in 211 innings). Of course the "Ryan Express" grunted and groaned (Goose Gossage, in his autobiography The Goose is Loose, commented that "when he let go of his fastball, he sounded like a woman giving birth. Or a beast in the jungle." Bill Melton told me virtually the same thing) his way to at least twice as many as Hibbard's career high in 18 different seasons, tripled it six times and, with his Major League record 383 strikeouts in 1973, quadrupled it.

And on this August 1990 day, the 43-year old legend posted a game score of 101. What would amount to Hibbard's career high of 81 went for naught.

August 17, 1990 (game 1); Rangers 1, White Sox 0

PitcherGScIPHRBBKGreg Hibbard
8282036Nolan Ryan
1-11030015
The previous "80 vs. 80" came improbably in 1987, a year of epic offensive explosion. Floyd Bannister and Mark Langston combined to allow just three hits on a Sunday afternoon at the Kingdome. The White Sox managed two solo homers (by Donnie Hill and Pat Keedy, of course) and the lone Mariner safety came in the bottom of the third courtesy of Harold Reynolds, who was promptly called out trying to stretch it into a double. No White Sox pitcher would surpass Bannister's 95 game score until Philip Humber's perfect game (96) against these same (yet very different) Mariners 25 years later.

September 13, 1987; White Sox 2, Mariners 0

PitcherGScIPHRBBKFloyd Bannister
95910010Mark Langston
8192239
There were two others since 1980, both White Sox losses and both on May 25:

May 25, 1986: Joel Davis (82) vs. Dennis Leonard (Royals, 82)
May 25, 1983: Britt Burns (80) vs. Bruce Hurst (Red Sox, 85)

And the previous two came in consecutive games in 1979:

Aug. 15, 1979: Ken Kravec 83 vs. Mike Flanagan (Orioles, 99)
Aug. 14, 1979: Rich Wortham 83 vs. Steve Stone (Orioles, 80)

And just for fun, the Sox' Steve Trout tossed an 83 the day before on Aug. 13, 1979 (but the Orioles' Scott McGregor turned in a shabby 32) making it three in a row by White Sox starters with exactly 83.

While other recent matchups were certainly ones to remember (for example Gavin Floyd vs. Ted Lilly in 2010, Johan Santana vs. Freddy Garcia in 2005, etc.), Sale vs. Greinke fulfilled my latest obscure statistical requirements, and hopefully the White Sox offense will prevent another one of these pitchers' duels from happening for quite some time.

Game score explained and other notes

Game Score: Begin with 50 points. Add one point for each out recorded. Add two points for each inning completed after the 4th inning. Add one point for each strikeout. Subtract two points for each hit allowed. Subtract four points for each earned run; two points for each unearned run. And subtract one point for each walk.

Only six times has a pitcher reached 100 since; Ryan again in a May 1, 1991 no-hitter, Kerry Wood on May 6, 1998 in his 20-strikeout game, Curt Schilling on April 7, 2002, Randy Johnson's May 18, 2004 perfect game, Brandon Morrow Aug. 8, 2010, and Matt Cain in his June 13, 2012 perfect game.

Offense across MLB stuck out like a sore thumb in 1987: (Below are MLB totals)

YearRunsgameHome runs
19854.333,60219864.413,81319874.724,45819884.143,18019894.133,083

Avisail Garcia's 'big head' isn't getting in the way of defensive improvements

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USA TODAY

Avisail Garcia's 'big head' isn't getting in the way of defensive improvements

Avisail Garcia's "big head" almost cost the White Sox on Friday night. At least, that's Reynaldo Lopez's humorous theory. 

With the game on the line and the Royals' tying run dashing for the plate, Garcia slipped a bit before making a clutch recovery to nail Whit Merrifield. The craziness continued after the tag as Narvaez caught Lorenzo Cain drifting off first base to seal a win. 

"I was watching the game on the TV here," Lopez said, "and then when I saw the hit from Cain, and I saw that Avi fell down because he has a big head, I was concerned but at the same time I saw that his throw, he has a good arm and he made a very good throw." 

Just your average 9-2-4-6 double play to end a game on the South Side, right? 

"Obviously, when he slipped we took a little gasp," Renteria said. "But we were talking about his body control to be able to maintain himself enough to get up and make the throw that he did. Unbelievable. It's pretty exciting finish to a ballgame that kind of got a little ugly early on."

Ugly is an apt way to describe the first few innings. Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada both made errors in the Royals' six-run third inning, and Lopez capped it off with a wild pitch that allowed Eric Hosmer to score. But it went from an eyesore loss to an overzealous "we could make noise in 2019" rebuild win from there, and Garcia's defense -- of all things -- played a significant role. 

Garcia's outfield assist in the ninth was his second of the game. The first, an absolute strike to cut down Alex Gordon in the sixth, didn't involve a slip, though. 

And while much has been made of Garcia's breakout year with the bat, he believes his defense is hugely improved, too. 

"I think 100 percent," he said. "I just try to get better every day with hitting and defense. That’s baseball so get better in everything."

He has 12 outfield assists on the season, up from five a year ago. And despite his overall fielding percentage being down, his strong arm may give him a stronger defensive reputation. 

"Since last year, he's always had an excellent arm," Renteria said. "I think his accuracy is something to be pointed out too because as off balance as he was, he's made some throws to the plate that have been really spot on."

Renteria attributes Garcia's accuracy to the outfielder putting in extra time with Daryl Boston. 

"(Boston) has those guys throwing, and none of you guys are out there watching them work, but they'll throw quite a bit to the bases, especially second base," Renteria said. "They'll get deep and they'll work on doing that, so that's just a part of their routine."

The evolution of Avi carries on. 

Forget about it: Yoan Moncada's ability to play through mistakes

Forget about it: Yoan Moncada's ability to play through mistakes

Yoan Moncada could have mentally taken himself out of Friday’s game in the third inning.

The White Sox prized prospect booted a routine groundball in the frame, contributing to a long, damaging Royals rally. A few singles, a Tim Anderson error and five runs later, it seemed as if the inning would never end on the South Side.

Mercifully, the Sox were finally able to return to their dugout because Moncada refocused and refused to allow one physical error to compound. 

The skilled second baseman ranged up the middle to scoop a hard-hit Brandon Moss grounder, preventing any further damage. One inning later, he pummeled a two-run blast to center to give the White Sox the lead for good.

It’s that type of short-term memory that has impressed the Sox in his first major league showing with the club.

"I don't think he consumes himself too much in the mistake,” Rick Renteria said after the 7-6 win. “Maybe he's just thinking about what he's trying to do the next time."

Moncada’s quite polished for a 22-year-old infielder who hasn’t even played a full season in the majors. His athletic ability allows him to make the highlight-reel plays frequently, so now it's about continuing to work on his fundamentals. 

“He's really improved significantly since he's gotten here,” Renteria said. “Not trying to be too flashy. The great plays that he makes just take care of themselves. He's got tremendous ability.” 

Since being called up, Moncada has added value to what is the arguably the best second base fielding team in the MLB. Although no defensive metric is perfect, between Moncada, Tyler Saladino and Yolmer Sanchez, the White Sox second basemen lead the league with 19 defensive runs saved above average. The Pirates have the next highest amount of runs saved by second basemen with 10, according to Baseball-Reference. 

With the enormous range, though, comes the inexperience. In just 46 games, Moncada has tallied eight errors. 

"It happens to the best of them," Renteria said. "He's one of the young men, along with (Anderson) and even (Jose Abreu), who are looking to improve a particular skill, which is defending."

It serves as a reminder that the likely infield of the future still has a ways to go.