Five Takeaways From The Opening Series In Oakland
|Kenny Karst-USA TODAY Sports|
Before we get there, I want to take a look back at the first four games of the season, and look back at the five things I'm taking away from the series win against Oakland.
1. The Starting Pitching Was Excellent: If you had told me going into the series that Mat Latos would have the best performance of any of the starters during the four games, I'd have figured the Sox were starting the year 1-3 at best, yet, here we are.
After Latos' six scoreless innings on Thursday, the White Sox starters finished the series having pitched 25.2 innings with 23 strikeouts, three walks, seven earned runs, and only 22 hits allowed. I'll gladly take those numbers all year, thanks.
Latos was the only starter not to strike out at least six hitters, as Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Carlos Rodon had 21 between them. Of the four, Rodon gave up the hardest hit balls, but even he managed to settle down after three innings and give solid innings.
The most promising starts were Rodon and Latos. We know what Sale and Quintana are, but if Rodon and Latos continue to pitch as well as they did in this series, well, this team might be pretty damn good.
2. Jose Abreu And Todd Frazier Struck Out Too Much: I'll start with the good. Of the 16 runs the White Sox scored in the series, Abreu and Frazier drove in six of them. That's what you expect from the middle of your order, but I wasn't completely thrilled with what I saw, even if Abreu is hitting .313.
In the four games the White Sox struck out 28 times. Abreu and Frazier combined for 11 of them. Abreu in particular struggled, as he's gone to the plate 17 times this year, and has headed back to the dugout due to a third strike six times. Sure, he's sprinkled plenty of hits in between, but he's having a lot of trouble recognizing breaking balls early, particularly ones down and away in the zone.
He looked horrible on a lot of swings, which he's prone to do from time to time, so I'm not totally worried, but it's still somewhat alarming.
As for Frazier, he's only 2-for-17 to start his White Sox career, with five strikeouts. Some of this is just due to shitty luck. When he's putting the ball in play, for the most part, he's hitting the ball hard. It's just he's hitting the ball right at people. His BABIP is sitting at .091. That's clearly going to even out as the season goes along, unless he has been cursed by Skyline, the Cincinnati God of Shit Chili.
Still, I'd like to see these two put the ball in play more often, because the rest of the offense outside of Adam Eaton wasn't magnificent.
3. The Offense Was Spotty, But Good Enough: The good news is that, after striking out in more than 20% of their at bats last season, the Sox offense had a K-rate of 18.7% in the first four games. Take away Abreu and Frazier, and those numbers drop significantly. It's just, overall, the offense wasn't great.
If you remove Abreu and Adam Eaton, the White Sox had 20 hits in the four games. We've already seen what the White Sox offense looks like when only Eaton and Abreu hit. We called it 2014 and 2015.
As a team the Sox hit .245 in the series, but while that number isn't awful, there were a lot of empty innings. If not for the four-run ninth inning on Thursday, the numbers would look even worse. Hell, even with them, scoring only 16 runs over a four-game series isn't exactly something to get excited about. Especially when you consider that the Oakland pitching staff consists of Sonny Gray and a bunch of Quad-A pitchers.
Now, there's no reason to panic about any of this, as it's four games into the season. Three of those four games were played at night in a stadium that isn't exactly giving when it comes to runs, especially once the sun goes down.
It's something to keep an eye on, though, if for no other reason than all the scars from the last few years of flailing bats.
4. The Bullpen Appears A Bit Iffy: As good as the starter were, the bullpen sure made things interesting. David Robertson and Matt Albers combined to pitch four scoreless innings.
The rest of the bullpen?
5.1 IP, 3 ER, 8 K, and 5 BB.
The walks in particular are worrisome. Jake Petricka has literally walked half the batters he's faced.
I believe that Albers, Nate Jones and Robertson will prove to be a very solid back three in the pen as the season goes along, but if the starters struggle, the guys in between could prove problematic.
5. The White Sox Played Good Defense: Two errors in four games? You're damn right I'll take that. While I am worried, and will continue to be worried about Jimmy Rollins' range at shortstop, I was rather comfortable with everything else I saw.
At no point in the last few years would I have ever used the word "comfortable" to describe how I felt watching this team in the field. Let's hope it continues.