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Analysis White Sox

White Sox: Left Behind?

While the title of this column is a nod to the song that made me a fan of Slipknot, it’s also a call to action for our White Sox.  We know there are many areas that this team needs to improve this winter if they have serious aspirations of opening the contention window in 2020 but one area in particular is their performance against LHP.  While I feel like I’m committing a grave sin against my fellow southpaws by writing this, I think it’s an important, yet, under-looked area of needed improvement for the team.

When we look at the team’s performance against southpaws in 2019, the overall picture is a disasterpiece and makes we want to scream:

PAs 1,429                  14th
BB% 6.2%                  28th
K% 24.0%                    9th
BB/K 0.3                   27th
AVG 0.272                     8th
OBP 0.325                    16th
SLG 0.428                    18th
OPS 0.752                    19th
ISO 0.155                    25th
BABIP 0.341                     1st
wOBA 0.319                    16th
wRC+ 100                    12th

The Sox are in the middle of the pack in terms of plate appearances against lefties, but their overall performance is below average.  You might look at the 100 wRC+ number being 12th in all of baseball and think I’m crazy for thinking this, but here’s something to consider: wRC+ is going to factor in elements such as base running and the ability to avoid hitting into double plays.

When your lineup features above-average runners: Leury Garcia, Tim Anderson, Adam Engel, Yoan Moncada and Ryan Cordell it’s clear to see that the speed element has helped the team in this particular statistical column.  Oh yeah, they also have the highest team BABIP against LHP this year without much else to show for it and I’m sure that’s totally sustainable from year-to-year.

I know the American League Central isn’t loaded with left handed pitching in general, particularly in the rotations, however, given extreme bullpen usage in the game today I think it is paramount that the White Sox address this issue over the winter.  The team does already employ some players that are solid against southpaws and a few players that are out-performing their career splits.

Career OPS vs LHP 2019 OPS vs LHP
Garcia .685 .812
Anderson .789 .756
Moncada .649 .737
Abreu .926 1.000
Jimenez .732 .732
McCann .809 .859

As you’ll notice above, Jose Abreu has proven historically to be a lefty masher and I think this is something important to consider when evaluating the first baseman’s future with the team (think short-term) and realize that not all hope is gone.  James McCann has also proven to be an above-average performer against southpaws and a viable option in the years to come.  It’s been particularly interesting to note the considerable improvements from Leury Garcia and Yoan Moncada in 2019 hitting against lefties.

Moncada’s is likely nothing more than added experience for the 24-year-old stud and a very welcomed sight, while Garcia’s jump is something rather interesting to behold.  I may be a little bit of a skeptic concerning Leury Legend’s ability to continue this in 2020, but if he can, this fact coupled with his defensive versatility will almost ensure he is a lock to keep a roster spot.

How Do They Fix It?

So you’re probably looking at all these stats and thinking, ok Magellan, how are the Sox going to get better in the future against southpaws?  More specifically, who will make them better?  Rest assured, I don’t have nameless solutions:

Career OPS vs LHP 2019 OPS vs LHP
Brian Dozier .856 .913
Yasmani Grandal .751 .843
Kevin Pillar .771 .864
Nick Castellanos .885 1.128
Robinson Chirinos .860 .982

Above you’ll see 5 players, I would target if I were in charge to help fix this issue in 2020 and beyond.  These players come across a wide range of ages, positions, and contractual statuses but in my opinion, all could be had this winter.

If you’re like me, you still have many dead memories of Brian Dozier crushing balls against the likes of Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, Carlos Rodon, and John Danks (what about Danks?).  The fact is Dozier just crushes left handed pitching.  The 32-year-old second sacker is a below-average player against righties at this point in his career but he would serve as an ideal top of the order hitter against southpaws.

Bringing in Dozier this winter could also help serve as a stop gap until Nick Madrigal‘s contractual control clock hits zero, thus allowing us to be done with Mr. Gatorade Bath who has diluted this lineup for far too long.  Everything ends in life and hopefully bringing in a player like Dozier will end the Yolmer era at 35th/Shields.

Yasmani Grandal fills so many voids for this team it’s just ridiculous at this point.  Aside from being one of the top framers behind the plate, Grandal is a power hitter capable of swinging from both sides of the dish.  For his career, Grandal has been about league-average against southpaws, but he’s seen a huge spike this season.  Is this a sign of an altered approach at the plate that will carry from one season to the next?  Even if he reverts back closer to his career norms, I believe his agent should receive one of the first calls the Sox front office makes this winter.

You might see Kevin Pillar’s name on this list and think, I’m hitting grandpa’s old cough medicine again.  While you’re not entirely wrong, Pillar would serve a very functional purpose.  As outlined above, he is raking against LHP in 2019 and his career numbers are above-average.  Pillar would also be similar to Dozier in that he would be a stop gap until they liberate LuBob from Charlotte.

Once La Pantera actually arrives at 35th/Shields he would serve as a valuable 4th outfielder spelling the abysmal Eloy Jimenez late in games and being able to man right field against southpaws as well.  So far in 2019, Pillar has 3 DRS in RF while playing in spacious Oracle Park for the Giants.  San Francisco is going to need to tear it down completely after their ill-fated attempt in July of this year failed, so I think Pillar could be had for a minimal cost.

Should Grandal’s asking price be too rich for the Sox (which it probably will be given who cuts the checks), a viable catching option for this team would be Robinson Chirinos.  Chirinos’ framing numbers have taken a negative turn in 2019, however, his bat hasn’t.  Chirinos has been mauling southpaws all season, and the 35-year-old backstop could be a valued addition to what will still be a young rotation next season.

Finally, we come to Nick Castellanos.  Castellanos is atop the shopping list for many Sox fans this winter.  Castellanos is getting to experience baseball in Chicago firsthand following his July trade to that team up north, and he is making the most of it.  Castellanos looks right at home in the Windy City and appears to be rejuvenated since leaving the armpit of America that we call Detroit.

More importantly, Castellanos is a lefty killer.  The .885 career OPS against southpaws speaks volumes already, but in 2019 he has an absurd 1.128 OPS against southpaws.  As a former lefty pitcher, I feel personally violated by even typing that number, but nevertheless Castellanos would provide some nice balance to the Sox lineup should they pursue him this winter.

All things considered, there are some very viable options available for the Sox this winter to attack a team deficiency so that it is no longer a negative one.  It will be interesting to see how they manage their roster configuration and plentiful financial resources (I’m looking at you old man, and I know I’m not the only one) to address this over the winter.  Should the Sox be successful in adding players of the caliber listed above, they will prove to be a more well-rounded team capable of overcoming handedness issues that have plagued them in recent memory.

Follow Steve on twitter.

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1 comment on “White Sox: Left Behind?

  1. Tommy Parada

    What the hell is a slipknot? What are you, some kind of a sailor; or is it seaman???

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