The Miami Marlins will hope an interleague series with the Chicago White Sox can change their fortune as they look to end the month of June on a positive note. Both the Marlins and White Sox have had disapponting 2013 seasons to this point, but the Sox have a much better chance to turn things around.
To preview the series between the White Sox and the Marlins, I had an email chat with James Fegan, editor of South Side Showdown, the Fansided White Sox site. Justin and his staff do a wonderful job also of covering everything Sox-related, from the latest news to full-analysis on just about everything.
James and I chatted about everything from former Marlins and White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen to the almost as embarrassing offense as the Marlins.
Without any further ado, here is my chat with Justin:
Ehsan Kassim: How is Robin Ventura doing in his second year on the job? Do you guys ever miss Ozzie?
James Fegan: The big thing for Robin with all the players, and even some people in Baseball Operations who felt their information was dismissed by Ozzie, is that he’s very even-keeled and subdued. People know what to expect from him, everything he says is very measured. His outrage tends to build over time and is vented in predictable ways. This, and him not being in a simmering feud with the GM, earned him a lot of the credit when the team played a lot sharper–less errors, less botched outfield relays, that type of stuff–in 2012.
Nowadays, the team leads the league in errors despite Ventura’s rigorous practices still being in place (maybe it was luck all along) and they also can’t hit so any game they’re in is a nail-biter. This places added scrutiny on him being fairly archaic tactic-wise, prone to over-tinkering with his relievers, and overly trusting of poor-hitting veteran reserves…you know, like every single manager in the world.
I’d say he’s average, but was definitely the right change of pace at the time he was hired.
Ehsan: The White Sox have the worst offense in the majors currently (I count the Marlins as a AAAA team), what has been the problem for them so far?
James: Yeah, it’s a lot more embarrassing when this what you come up with when you’re “trying” to win a division. The whole team has really unified behind a hacktastic, impatient approach and the home run power they tout–or at least the power necessary to hit it out of U.S. Cellular–isn’t making up for it. Across the board, nearly everyone’s strikeout rate is a stretch beyond career norms and their walk rate is a bit below.
At a less broad level, the power core of this lineup–Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn–have both been miserable. Besides for the first half of last season, this is who Dunn is now. He strikes out well over 30% of the time, has lost most of his ability to hit doubles (look it up, it’s weird. Even when the HR total returned last year) and is brutalized by the shift to where even a .200 batting average is a dream. Obviously batting average is not the end all, be all, but it’s hard to get on base at a decent rate hitting under .200. He’s recovering a bit from a disastrous attempt to get more aggressive early in the year, but still hitting .163/.256/.405.
Konerko is 37 and is finally starting to look it. His power, patience and contact rate are all down and while he’s slumped before and looked like he found his ability to turn on pitches again Wednesday night, I’m not optimistic he can execute his role anymore.
Ehsan: On the other hand, the Sox rotation has been amazing. What has been the key to their success?
James: Anyone and everyone who looked like they have had a passing chance at developing into a starter the past year, has done so. Call it the Cooper influence, but…
–Chris Sale has gone from an exciting prospect to the without-a-doubt ace of the staff.
–Jose Quintana was a minor league free agent with little more than a 90 mph fastball that he could spot, and he just took a no-hitter into the 7th against the Red Sox and owns a 3.69 ERA (in a severe hitter’s park) over 188 career MLB innings–and is still just 24.
–Hector Santiago was stuck in A-ball for three seasons, was a failed closer and garbage-time reliever last year and is now striking out over a batter per inning.
—Dylan Axelrod was pitching in independent league ball not too long ago, has about the least impressive complement of stuff you’ll ever see from a major leaguer and is only in the rotation because of Danks’ injury, yet has only had two bad outings all year.
Ehsan: How are our old friends Alejandro De Aza and DeWyane Wise doing for the Sox?
James: Alejandro is a source of frustration. Everyone was delighted that he managed to stick as a highly-serviceable leadoff man last season, but this year his strikeout rate has ballooned, as the book on his vulnerability to low-and-in breaking balls is out. An odd spike in power is the only thing keeping him playable, but a .295 OBP is no good at the top of the order. His odd discomfort with center field also gives Ventura more reason to play Dewayne Wise.
Wise got a guaranteed contract this season based on a flukey hot streak–which still wasn’t very good at all–and some key hits in the stretch run of 2012 and now provides something the White Sox could get at least two younger guys in AAA to do for less money: good outfield defense, pinch running and a pretty worthless left-handed bat.
Ehsan: With the Sox sitting at 21-24 and in fourth place in the Central, are they looking to become sellers at the deadline? If so, who could be available?
James: The White Sox have resisted rebuilding as much as possible since Kenny Williams took the GM seat in 2001, and since Rick Hahn took over this winter, there’s been nothing to suggest that the approach of piecemeal rebuilding (not actively tearing down but slowly adding prospects through the draft and international free agency) has fallen out of favor.
In a sick way, I would like them to fall behind enough that their hands are forced into fire sale. But even with their poor start, this team probably pitches too well to not finish within spitting distance of .500.
It hurts to say it because he’s the only consistently enjoyable offensive player, but I can’t imagine a more attractive trade chip than Alex Rios. He’s a big bat a team could convince themselves is capable of moonlighting in center field, and he’s got just the right amount of contract left to neither feel like a burden nor a potential albatross. Jake Peavy is an easy choice too and has stated a willingness to be move. Like Rios, he is signed through 2014 with an option for another year.
Jesse Crain is a bullpen rental, but having a career year thus far.
A big thank you to James for taking his timeout to talk to us. We at Marlin Maniac wish all White Sox fans the best of luck in the upcoming series. If you get a chance, please check out South Side Showdown for the questions I answered for James.