South Side Morning 5: Slump busted in just in time

1. The 2008 and 2005 White Sox both dealt with seven-game losing streaks at one point. When the 2005 club did it in August, they immediately ceded four games of their once enormous AL Central lead to the Indians, who would eventually shrink a 15-game deficit into just 1.5 games before being finally beaten back in the final week. When the 2008 club did it, they erased the mild optimism of a 14-10 start to the year and lost five games in the standings in again, just a week.

19 teams total have weathered a losing streak as long as eight games–the streak the Sox were staring when the fell behind 4-0 after five innings Tuesday–in the Wild Card era and lived to see the postseason, and four of those 19 teams have come since the playoffs expanded again in 2012. None of those teams can be found in the the last two years, though, and no White Sox playoff team ever–there have only been nine in 115 years–has endured an eight-game losing streak.

As such, Tuesday night’s sudden comeback in New York not only salvaged the sanity of a weary club, but saved the Sox from the brink.

In the wake of this breakthrough, reports of the Robin Ventura managin’ long craved finally began to surface.

The timing for the players to reveal this is a little convenient, or well-strategized, as it serves to show Ventura providing value as the team returns to form, rather than efforting in vain before another loss. But if we want to drive a stake in the ground for the argument of Ventura as a leader of men, this will be a moment to call back to if the team endures a jaw-droppingly awful stretch and stays in the playoff race.

It would be a fair credit to hand him, but might paint an overly dramatic view of Ventura’s leadership. He’s not a confrontational team meeting type, but a steady supply of positivity. Todd Frazier was making notes of his positive reinforcement even back when the home series against the Royals was going in the tank, and it’s easy to see this new bulletin on words of encouragement in a similar vein. Despite his demeanor, it’s always been clear Ventura is active, and not indifferent, it’s just a question of whether it works.

2. It was a good time for warm, fuzzy feelings to make their way into the clubhouse, because the pre-game statements from a Surprisingly Present in New York Rick Hahn were open for interpretation.

A charitable read is that Hahn wants to close himself off for good as an outlet through which to second guess or double check the in-game work of Robin Ventura, and to make it sound like it would be as out of place to ask Hahn about tactics as it would be to ask Ventura about potential trades.

A more dastardly way to read it is that Hahn is claiming he can only vouch for all the information and prep work that goes into the in-game decisions, and is throwing up the shruggie as far as the actual product on the field.

The former sounds a lot more like what a public statement from someone as cautious as Hahn would be trying to put out, but votes of confidence for coaches and managers are often more notable for what they leave open rather than what they plainly state.

3. Tyler Saladino was already regularly making a show of all the athleticism on defense he could flash that Jimmy Rollins could not, but now that he’s capped off an improbably hot month of May (.372/.417/.545) with two home runs in the last three games, and his absurd Tuesday night with a go-ahead blast (off a right-hander), reaching base in all four plate appearances, and his first two stolen bases of the year, he’s blowing his elder off the field. Rollins only got 21 more plate appearances in May and hit .206/.275/.302.

There’s a lot of fun in Saladino’s game right now, even if he shouldn’t be looked at as much more than a good utility hitter on a hot streak. He’s sitting at .290/.320/.449 with a good glove at short, which should be enough to hold off a raw prospect on a hot streak, even if Tim Anderson is “forcing the issue” as Hahn put it. That is real organizational value being provided by Saladino, because not every Sox prospect–especially the rawest ones–needs to be promoted after their first good month in Charlotte.

4. Mat Latos benefitted greatly from the fifth starter treatment Tuesday. Two errors are certainly the last thing the regular starter most starved for strikeouts in baseball needed, but they also shifted the focus to how he dodged total disaster in the first two innings, and away from how much of his own work played into pushing the game closer.

His slider was his best pitch and he used it aggressively to rack up a season-high five strikeouts, but his fastball was still low-90s with lots of mistakes up in the zone, and the Sox yanked him after five innings without letting him complete a third trip all the way through the order. Objections about his stuff and its viability remain, but treating Latos more like the Latos who has shown up in Chicago and less like the former No. 2 starter can only help.

5. Robin Ventura hinted that Austin Jackson could return by Friday, making his absence a very reasonable three games, which is both suitable for avoiding a disabled list stint and maintaining a tolerable level of J.B. Shuck as the everyday centerfielder.

Turf toe is a sprained ligament and time will tell how much this will be an issue limiting and re-aggravating Jackson’s speed-based game over the rest of the season. He was showing some No. 2 hitter properties when he went down, which was a relief given Ventura’s insistence on a speedy, contact guy in that slot, though if Brett Lawrie ever comes out of his funk, he could be dynamite at that spot, where he was tried out Tuesday.

If Saladino provides any service, it’s displacing a No. 2 hitter option that offers a name brand but not the production. If Saladino himself becomes the No. 2 hitter, well, then, all is lost again.

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

Related Articles

Leave a comment

Use your Baseball Prospectus username