The White Sox have an off day before resuming action with three games against Minnesota, so I want to use the downtime to catch up with three plays that I saw over the weekend that perfectly encapsulated what we know about the individuals involved in said plays.
That’s so Dioner: I assume most of you have read Jeff Sullivan’s dissection of the White Sox’ catching problem at FanGraphs, but I have a feeling it’ll be worth revisiting time and time again. Sullivan calls it a "hidden catastrophe,"which is only a stretch because it’s quite evident to those of us who were monitoring what the Sox sacrificed by overhauling the position. Sullivan’s post isn’t an epiphany in that case, but it does quantify what we’ve been seeing.
To summarize: The White Sox are pitching to the fourth-worst strike zone of any team since 2008, mainly because they are leaking strikes from the bottom of the zone like a paper bag full of ice cubes on a hot day. We’ve seen that, and we’ve heard it (Hawk Harrelson’s umpire complaints have increased exponentially, and that’s with him working just half the games). Chris Sale, Carlos Rodon and Jose Quintana are second, fourth and fifth in terms of strikes lost this season, with Mat Latos right behind them.
And it hasn’t been worth it because Dioner Navarro has been a disaster offensively (.214/.270/.366). Alex Avila, also a below-average receiver, at least gets on base. Plus, Avila was signed first, which left a sensible platoon with Tyler Flowers on the table. Navarro was the second catcher signed, overturning said table.
Anyway, I bring this up because Navarro had the emblematic uncalled strike on Saturday with Dan Jennings on the mound against Devon Travis in the eighth inning.
Navarro set up for a first-pitch slider on the outer half. It caught the inner half instead, but by plenty.
Is it the umpire’s fault? Yes, especially since it’s Angel Hernandez. But these are the kinds of strikes that Navarro doesn’t get called because he turns his glove over and brings his whole arm into the act, even on an 82-mph slider. With that technique, it’s like he believes the best in umpires, and they’ve never deserved that benefit of the doubt.
At least Navarro is showing some slugging this month. He’s lost 12 points of batting average but gained 18 points of slugging because four of his five hits have gone for extras bases. He’s going to need a lot more of those to bail out the front office on this decision.
This play featured three mistakes. The first was merely physical, as De Aza popped up the bunt, which happens. Then he slammed his bat in frustration and didn’t run to first, assuming it was going to be caught. When Jim Johnson let it drop to start a 1-6-3 double play attempt, De Aza took off, only to undermine that effort by diving into first.
De Aza’s hitting .169/.221/247 with the Mets, putting him in a position to be cut once their DL clears up.
That’s so Conor: Conor Gillaspie has resurfaced with the Giants, and although it’s an even year, he’s not benefiting from the magic San Francisco usually receives. He’s hitting .219/.286/.359, which is more or less what he hit with the Sox during his last half-season in Chicago.
But he occasionally has enough to rise to the moment, and he did on Sunday with a walk-off double.
Toward the end of the clip, Giants broadcaster said, "As Bruce Bochy likes to call Conor, ‘Mr. Happy.’"
That’s where the highlight ends, prompting me to go to MLB.tv. Picking up where they left off, analyst Mike Krukow picks up the theme.
Krukow: "Well, Mr. Happy comes up big. He gets the biggest hit of the day."
Kuiper: "And if Conor Gillaspie was ever going to smile, it would be right now. And he did."