South Side Morning 5: White Sox achieving advanced levels of bumslaying

1. The Twins were supposed to be carried by their offense. With a full year of Miguel Sano and his monstrous power, solid-average to plus veterans Brian Dozier, Trevor Plouffe and even old friend Eduardo Escobar, and the growth a slew of promising youngsters including Byron Buxton and Max Kepler, the Twins were supposed to hit enough to at least somewhat make up for their weak starting rotation, with some even thinking it would be enough to vault them into contention.

Instead, they are cold. Impossibly cold. Historically cold. Cold like Minnesota, even.

“Fewest runs scored thru nine games in Twins history:

14 – 2016

20 – 1981

22 – 1976

24 – 2003

24 – 2011

Twins are 5-for-66 (.076) with RISP.”

-Aaron Gleeman

So as much as the White Sox pitching has been dominant-and it has, with a team ERA of 2.25 and 7 quality starts in 9 games- getting jazzed about shutting down the Twins might be akin to excitement about how well an NFL offense runs a skeleton drill.

To be safe, let’s fall back on preseason expectations and massage them a bit. The starting rotation will be the strength of the Sox, with potential to be top-5 in baseball, and the Twins offense will probably have a solid season, but could through some growing pains due to all of their youth.

They’re also not nearly good enough to dig out from 0-9.

2. In that vein, the process of determining whether Mat Latos is floating by on smoke and mirrors, succeeding on some sustainable veteran guile, slowly regaining his stuff, or just a guy who has declined into being a decent No. 4 who has faced two bad offenses.

Even though he sat 90-92 mph for most of the day, Brooks tagged Latos as topping out at 95 mph during Thursday’s six innings, along with a tighter version of the curveball and slider he trotted out in his opener. It’s still hard to look at Latos and imagine that he was an absolute stud top-end starter just a couple years ago, but he moves his fastball around too effectively and can provide enough very looks to think No. 4 starter work is below his qualification level.

3. Melky Cabrera should be hitting second, or at least is both a guy originally signed to hit at the top of the lineup and currently providing the most compelling case for it, if that’s enough to qualify. After two more hits Thursday, he has a .378 OBP and has walked three times and struck out twice in 44 plate appearances. So rarely is there a confluence between actual hitting skill and the typical abilities associated with a “bat-handling” No. 2 hitter.

Mauricio Rubio of 2080 Baseball noted that Cabrera’s level swing path means he’ll never hit for regular power, so all the more reason to slant his responsibilities toward getting on in front of Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier. There’s no need to make this complicated. Stack the good hitters on top of each other in front and let the rest take care of itself.

4. An offensive boost has been hard to find early from the catching platoon of Alex Avila and Dioner Navarro, who have combined for an ideal .121/.171/.121 batting line through nine games. It’s obviously far too early to fire off an emergency flare from the dugout, and a good example of that is that only the Blue Jays are getting worse offense from their backstop, and they have Russell Martin.

But a troubling trend is that their essentially half-time split means Navarro is getting plenty, or mostly, at-bats against right-handed pitching, against whom he has a .250 multi-year TAv, and is much more dependent on his pitch calling and game management being attributes to provide value.

5. It wasn’t a big event for me to be hopping mad about sports as a pre-teen, but the angriest I can remember being was after reading a letter to the editor in SPORT Magazine–prompting me to write a letter to the editor in response to a letter to the editor–that protested Jackie Robinson‘s placement on a list of the best athletes of the Century, claiming his impact was “purely social,” as if the color barrier in baseball had been opened for the Johnny Giavotella of the 1940s.

Robinson retired with a .311/.409/.474 batting line and a career 132 OPS+ despite his MLB career not beginning until he was 28. He stole nearly 200 bases in 10 seasons, including 12 in his final year at age 37. During his six-year peak from ages 30 through 35, playing primarily as a second baseman, not once did he post a sub-135 OPS+, an incredible amount of offensive contribution for a middle infielder. It was a different era for contact and strikeouts, but I defy you to not be staggered by a hitter with 740 walks to 291 strikeouts. Robinson was a hero; a man who showed unimaginable bravery in the face of daily, abject racial hatred and venom, and carried himself with grace in the face of endlessly scrutiny and he was a no-doubt Hall of Fame player.

Lead Image Credit: Brad Rempel // USA Today Sports Images

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