Tag: Zach Duke

Robin Ventura

Robin Ventura gets a vote of confidence


Votes of confidence from team brass are superficially nice I suppose, but they often are the harbingers of a manager hitting the unemployment line. It’s probably a correlation/causation issue as you don’t get them unless your team stinks anyway. There is a reason why votes of confidence are often prefaced with “dreaded.” You really don’t want to be in the position to get one in the first place.

That’s what happened with Robin Ventura on Friday night, however, with Kenny Williams doing the voting. From Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com:

On Friday, Williams, the White Sox executive vice president, said he doesn’t believe the White Sox manager or his staff is to blame for the team’s struggles. Ventura had said earlier Friday he feels he has strong support from Williams, general manager Rick Hahn and chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, all of who he’s in constant contact with. Ventura joked that Williams’ approval could be seen as a “kiss of death” before noting his appreciation.

Guess we’ll see. The White Sox loaded up on talent in the offseason, trading for Jeff Samardzija and signing David Robertson, Melky Cabrera, Adam LaRoche, Zach Duke, Emilio Bonifacio and Geovany Soto. Despite that they stand at 32-41 which is good for last place in the AL Central.


Jose Abreu sticks up for manager Robin Ventura

Robin Ventura

The White Sox lost their fifth game in a row on Sunday, falling 13-3 to the Twins. They’re now 8-14 in last place in the AL Central, a far cry from where prognosticators thought they’d be after an offseason in which they added Jeff Samardzija, Melky Cabrera, Adam LaRoche, David Robertson, and Zach Duke.

As a result of the failures of the White Sox, manager Robin Ventura has started to take some heat. First baseman Jose Abreu stuck up for his manager, though, urging people to blame the players, not the manager. Via Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune:

“We cannot blame Robin for the situation of the team,” Abreu said through a team interpreter Sunday morning. “It’s our fault because we are the ones who are playing. We are the people who are in the field.

“If the people want someone to blame, it’s the players, not Robin. He’s doing what he can do, but the results aren’t there.”

Among lineup regulars, Abreu and Avisail Garcia are the only ones with an above-average adjusted OPS (a.k.a. OPS+) at 139 and 119, respectively. The starting rotation has been a disaster as the 5.40 collective ERA is third-worst in the American League. It’s tough to see a way in which Ventura could have managed his team, with those results, to a better record than 8-14.

2015 Preview: Chicago White Sox

Jose Abreu

Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2015 season. Next up: The Chicago White Sox.

The Big Question: Should we be taking the rebuilt White Sox seriously as contenders?

It got largely overshadowed by the non-stop wheeling and dealing in San Diego, but the White Sox also had an extremely busy offseason as general manager Rick Hahn attempted to turn an 89-loss team into a potential contender in one winter.

Hahn beefed up the rotation behind ace Chris Sale by trading for impending free agent Jeff Samardzija, remade the bullpen by signing closer David Robertson and setup man Zach Duke, added a pair of good bats to the lineup in first baseman Adam LaRoche and outfielder Melky Cabrera, and even gave manager Robin Ventura a bit more bench versatility in utility man Emilio Bonifacio.

Hahn had a busy, productive, high-impact offseason, but will it be enough to pull the White Sox up from 73 wins to the 85-plus typically required to be a factor deep into September? Fortunately for the White Sox they were starting with two hugely valuable, young building blocks in Sale, who finished third in the Cy Young balloting at age 25, and first baseman Jose Abreu, who won the Rookie of the Year award and finished fourth in the MVP balloting at age 27. Not many 73-win teams have two elite players around which to build.

Sale won’t be ready for Opening Day after breaking his foot in late February, but assuming he’s back in the rotation by mid-April the White Sox top three of Sale, Samardzija, and Jose Quintana is one of the best in baseball. Their bullpen, which was a major weakness last year, now has a shutdown closer in Robertson, allowing guys like Duke, Jake Petricka, and and Zach Putnam to settle into setup roles. And within a couple months last year’s No. 3 overall pick, stud left-hander Carlos Rodon, should be ready for his call-up.

The turnaround offensively won’t be as dramatic, but it doesn’t need to be. Chicago ranked in the middle of the AL pack in run scoring and is essentially replacing the corner outfield/designated hitter trio of Adam Dunn, Dayan Viciedo, and Alejandro De Aza with LaRoche, Cabrera, and Avisail Garcia, who returned from injury to play 46 games down the stretch. Toss in center fielder Adam Eaton’s on-base skills atop the batting order, plus Alexei Ramirez having more pop than the average shortstop, and even with second base and catcher being question marks this has a chance to be a much deeper, more dangerous lineup surrounding Abreu.

Going from 73 wins to 85-plus wins in one offseason is extremely difficult, but the White Sox absolutely look like a team that should have a winning record and contending in a relatively mediocre AL Central division is entirely doable.

What else is going on?

  • For a long time Carlos Rodon was the presumed No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft, but then his stock dipped a bit and both the Astros and Marlins passed on the North Carolina State ace. Six months later it’s probably safe to assume both teams would do things differently, because Rodon struck out 38 batters in his 24-inning debut, ranked as a top-20 prospect by both Baseball America and MLB.com this offseason, and then impressed this spring with a 19/3 K/BB ratio in 12 innings. He looks just about ready and has top-of-the-rotation upside.
  • Because he was 27 years old and a superstar in Cuba it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison to put Abreu’s numbers up against other “rookies” … but why not. He had a 169 OPS+ last season. Here’s a list of all the other first basemen in MLB history to top a 150 OPS+ as a rookie: Mark McGwire, 164 in 1987. That’s it. That’s the entire list. Even setting aside the whole rookie thing, the last 27-year-old first basemen with a higher OPS+ than Abreu were Miguel Cabrera in 2010 and Frank Thomas in 1995. And then no one else since 1962.
  • Adam Eaton played so well in his first season with the White Sox–hitting .300 with a .362 on-base percentage and solid defense in center field–that Hahn signed him to a long-term contract extension that keeps him under team control through 2021. Eaton lacks power, but his on-base skills and speed are top notch and are an ideal fit atop the lineup and in front of Abreu. Eaton hit .348 in the minors, including .364 with 40 steals in 133 games at Triple-A.

Prediction: One of the biggest improvements of any team in baseball, going from 73-89 to at least .500 in a division where four of the five teams figure to win 80-something games. But just short of the playoffs.

White Sox, Jeff Samardzija agree on $9.8 million salary, avoiding arbitration

Jeff Samardzija
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Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the White Sox and starter Jeff Samardzija have avoided arbitration, agreeing on a $9.8 million salary for the 2015 season. Samardzija was entering his final year of arbitration eligibility.

The White Sox acquired Samardzija along with minor leaguer Michael Ynoa in a trade with the Athletics in December. They sent Marcus Semien, Josh Phegley, Chris Bassitt, and Rangel Ravelo to Oakland in return.

Samardzija, 30 on January 29, finished the 2014 season with a combined 2.99 ERA between the Cubs and Athletics along with a 202/43 K/BB ratio in 219 2/3 innings. The right-hander is one of several big off-season additions by the White Sox, joining outfielder Melky Cabrera, closer David Robertson and reliever Zach Duke, and DH Adam LaRoche.