South Side Morning 5: Next stop, World Series

1. “The last time the #WhiteSox were 3-1 they won the 2005 World Series.”

-Bob Nightengale.

Well, then. Those are the stakes.

2. Mat Latos didn’t really have no-hit stuff Thursday afternoon, numbers aside. Low-90s with a loopy curve and five swings-and-misses in 88 pitches doesn’t scream “breakthrough,” but Latos’ rave reviews for his battery-mate were still eye-opening. Dan Hayes reported the extent of his devotion:

“Latos gave all credit to Navarro for the way he handled him. When he arrived in camp, Latos said one reason he signed with the White Sox was to once again work with Navarro, whom he briefly played with in Cincinnati in 2012. Latos trusts Navarro and said he only shook him off once during an 88-pitch effort, only to step off the mound and go back to the veteran catcher’s gameplan.”

Our friends over at BP Toronto are very reverent of Navarro’s pitch calling abilities as well, credited standout years from Marco Estrada in 2015 and old friend Mark Buehrle in 2014 to alterations in their approach and variety shepherded by Navarro behind the plate.

A sterling reputation for pitch-calling would explain why the Sox were willing to take him on despite the poor framing reputation and bad numbers against right-handed pitching, and at this rate, it’ll be interesting to see how the preference for personal catchers blend with strict platooning.

3. Adam Eaton leads all of baseball with nine hits after the first four games, and his .563/.611/.750 line ranks him in the top-10 among other extreme first-week showings. Eaton didn’t collect his ninth hit until his 13th game of the season last year, and is a career .257/.317/.351 hitter between April and May, and has pretty much never had a hot start in his career.

This Spring, working back from his shoulder surgery would have provided a fine excuse for an early slump, yet Eaton is at his field-spraying best from the jump. What is his ceiling if you take the slumps out of 2014 and 2015? That’s not really how baseball works, but Eaton’s 2014 slump could be tied to him working back from injury, and the 2015 April does not really have parallels to anywhere else in his career. It’s a thought. An idealistic thought that the first four games of the season allow.

4. Hopefully Melky Cabrera snapping awake and reaching base three times out of the No. 2 hole on Thursday will give him some traction at the top of the lineup. If the Sox are going to tie a hand behind their back and refuse to throw a Eaton-Jose Abreu-Todd Frazier combo at pitchers to start games, Cabrera is their best chance to get a plus-bat and an above-average OBP out of that slot.

Jimmy Rollins‘ career-high OBP was only .349, and he hasn’t been above .330 since 2011. Cabrera posted a .351 mark in 2014. It’s one thing to give reverence to a veteran, it’s another thing to bank on him for something he was never particularly great at.

5. Mystical Matt Albers did it again Thursday, extending his scoreless appearance streak to 22 games, despite throwing an indistinguishable combination of three-quarters slop, and having to clean up another Zach Duke mess with runners on the corners and one out. It will be interesting to see how Ventura continues to balance Albers’ profile seeming destined for mop-up, extra-inning, and pitching-while-behind work, and his runaway success.

A reliable source of work could be cleaning up for left-handers, since Ventura has clearly noticed Duke and Dan Jennings are a cut below the rest of his corps. Duke’s near-disaster Thursday was the first time Ventura even had him face more than one batter, and Jennings hasn’t appeared at all. It’s not maximum efficiency, but neither one has shown themselves to be deserving of much beyond LOOGY work, so “cleaning up” could be a new regular function for Albers, while the eighth and ninth innings stay reserved for his betters.


Lead Photo Image Credit: Kenny Karst // USA Today Sports Images

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