In 2016, the last gasp of the Contending White Sox managed only five wins out of 19 games against the Kansas City Royals. The Rebuilding 2017 White Sox now have 60 percent of that win total in only three chances, outscoring their erstwhile nemeses 27-8 en route to a sweep, and moving to 11-9 on the year.
1. Jose Quintana had easily his best outing of the year, striking out seven of the first nine batters he faced, finishing the day with ten overall. Although technically one of the two runs he allowed was unearned, it was unearned because he threw two wild pitches to set it up. Still, after his uncharacteristically rough start to the season, Quintana annihilating a contact-based lineup and looking like his old self was a welcome sight.
2. Avisail Garcia hit another home run, and although his overall line is drifting back toward reality as his BABIP gradually trends further away from .500, his OPS still sits a touch above 1.000 with 20 games played. Again, it’s quite early, and there are reasons to be concerned, but at a group interview in New York last Tuesday, Rick Hahn discussed how Avisail had lost 15 lbs. during the offseason, which Avisail felt improved his mobility across his upper body. We’ve also seen that he has returned to legging out infield singles — nearly adding another yesterday — and his infield hit percentage sits at 11.5, his career best, although not necessarily out of line with the 10.8 percent he managed in 2015.
Garcia may be able to supplement his line with infield hits, and make more loud contact and turn into something resembling an average major leaguer instead of the tantalizing yet tragic anchor he’d been around the neck of the team in previous years.
3. My jinx hasn’t fully sunk in yet, as the bullpen made yet another strong showing in Wednesday night’s victory. Dan Jennings, Tommy Kahnle, Nate Jones, and David Robertson combined for three more scoreless innings, striking out three and walking none. Kahnle bailed Jennings out of a jam with an exclamation point, as with two on and the go-ahead run at the plate in the form of Salvador Perez, Kahnle blasted an easy 100-mph fastball off the outside corner past Perez’s bat to end the threat.
4. I was concerned on Tuesday night when Leury Garcia appeared to hurt his back when he collided with the center field fence making a catch late in a blowout victory. If he is still feeling its ill effects he did not show it, as he joined Avisail in the Garcia Dinger Party, hitting his second of the year and stealing a base. For what it’s worth, FRAA approves of Leury’s defense in center this year, and his strikeout rate is way down, as he has gotten off to a .319/.347/.553 start this year.
I wouldn’t expect his power hitting to continue at this clip, but Leury fit the profile of an individual who had been rushed to the majors for his defensive versatility and speed, which may have disproportionately stunted his bat. Having been able to get regular playing time in Triple-A for a few years, it seems he is much more comfortable with what he is seeing out of the pitcher’s hand and he has even flashed ability against elite velocity, lining a single off of an Aroldis Chapman fastball and blasting a home run off of a Luis Severino heater in New York.
Leury may be plus in center field, plus on the base paths, and he may even be able to hit a little, and as a result, may forcibly steer his career trajectory from 25th-man afterthought to legitimate complementary piece on a good team.
5. The White Sox’ surprisingly good start has naturally led some to speculate, “Well what happens if they’re still doing well at the deadline?” Cleveland has gotten off to a middling start and nobody else in the division is particularly imposing. The White Sox also started 23-10 last year before finishing below .500, so that is worth keeping in mind. 11-9 is not 23-10.
In the unlikely event that the White Sox are still hovering around the front of the division in late July, perhaps it makes them reconsider trading their less interesting pieces like, I don’t know, Melky Cabrera, but dreams of being buyers at the deadline are immensely premature. Maybe this start should serve simply to underscore that if you don’t have any screaming deficiencies in the roster — Omar Narvaez has a .382 OBP and good framing numbers so far, the aforementioned Leury Garcia instead of a disaster in center field, etc. — that can mean just as much as having elite talent at the front of your roster.
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