South Side Mid-day 5: The benefits of success

1. Hitting being contagious, or a contagion, as Hawk would say, might not scan, but the White Sox certainly enjoyed some effecting of cascading success Wednesday. So brutal was their treatment of Gavin Floyd, Pat Venditte, Drew Storen, and Brett Cecil over the first two nights of action (and all season), that with Marco Estrada rolling into the seventh, manger John Gibbons opted to stick with a starter who had been making note of his barking shoulder throughout the night, and was over 110 pitches.

Estrada was hesitant to discuss the extent of his soreness other than he expects to keep pitching without interruption, so at this point it does not seem like a leading AL East contender necessarily broke one of their most reliable starters to duck a putrid bullpen, but it was a reminder of how success can force other teams. Last year, Chris Sale‘s strikeout wave forced the Jays into an ineffectual aggressive attack against him, and he and Jose Quintana, and even Mat Latos will not go much farther without teams trying to alter their approach, but maybe things will get weirder. Perhaps the Sox seventh inning heroics will push team to take away the soft underbelly between their tiring starter and the non-elite members of their bullpen, where the Sox have frequently chosen to strike.

2. Put Josh Donaldson‘s post-game comment to SportsNet in the “Jose Quintana May Still Be Underrated” file.

“Quintana was locating today. But honestly, I don’t feel like there should be a left-handed pitcher, especially two days in a row, who should be able to go through our lineup like that,” Donaldson said. “We need to reevaluate some things.

“I think some people need to evaluate their approach. Chris Sale’s Chris Sale. But we have a lot of big time right-handed bats in this lineup that should be able to handle Quintana,” Donaldson continued. “He’s had a good start to the season. But it looked to me like he was throwing a lot of heaters. And I don’t believe there’s anybody that should be able to come in through here and throw a lot of fastballs and have that kind of success he had against us.”

To be fair, confidence and high personal standards are a good thing, and Donaldson is the reigning AL MVP for a team that nearly scored 900 runs last season AND he reached base all three times versus Quintana Wednesday night. There are legitimate reasons for Donaldson to be miffed, but he might be making wrongheaded assumptions about Quintana’s fastball. It’s not a weak contact or strike-grabbing pitch, it’s a putaway pitch that he sits 90-94 mph with great extension and run.

His signature move is going up the ladder with his heater to get whiffs, but he put it on the hands of right-handers or painted the outside edge with equal measure Wednesday. He definitely had a particularly successful night, but he has the seventh-highest whiff per swing rate on his four-seam fastball (minimum 100 pitches) in all of baseball this season. If anyone was going to dominate this Jays lineup with heaters, Quintana would be one of the most likely candidates.

3. Chris Sale, the guy intentionally throttling down his fastball to grab strikes early in the count, is still 10th in baseball in whiff/swing rate with his four-seamer, which is pretty amazing since his slider and changeup are both wipeout pitches on their own. Less amazing is Mat Latos‘ place on this list of 93 qualified pitchers.

It is 93rd. His whiff/swing rate on his four-seam fastball is 0.00%.

We all knew that Latos has been opportunistic with his run prevention so far, but this heightens up scrutiny on him getting his slider and overhand curveball working, because this is post-shoulder surgery Freddy Garcia levels of bat missing with his fastball early on.

4. Daniel Webb has been called up to the big club, replacing Miguel Gonzalez, who has been optioned back down after an uneven spot start. Webb, though just 26, has established an exhaustive (and exhausting) reputation for having no command of his promising raw stuff. It’s not Webb’s fault that his very presence is a callback to the bad old days of the Sox bullpen, but given that the Sox spent time in the offseason stacking depth to move Webb down in the pecking order–most notably Tommy Kahnle, who is outperforming Webb so far at Triple-A Charlotte (12 strikeouts, three walks and a 3.00 ERA in nine innings)–this is likely a highly temporary detail as the Sox continue to carry an extra arm.

5. CSN Chicago’s Jeff Nuich tweeted out that the White Sox broadcast peaked at 115,000 homes, their highest CSN rating in over two years. There’s no doubt that figure helped by the Blackhawks and Bulls both ending their seasons early and the Cubs being rained out, but as Crain’s Danny Ecker noted the Sox being dead-last in baseball in TV ratings means they regularly averaged under 30,000 viewers on a given night, so blowing away that average is meaningful. Moreover, actually having a good showing on this rare opportunity for a larger platform is as important as the ratings bump–however temporary–itself.

It’s all revenue in other people’s pockets, but a stable build up alongside some actual sustained success could eventually change how the White Sox do business.

Lead Photo Credit: John E. Sokolowski – USA Today Sports Images

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