TCS Morning 10: A good end to a bad half

Now that we've had an extra day to be lazy and not write...

1. Let's start by refusing to cut down and minimize what the Sox accomplished over the past two weeks. They went 9-3 vs. some quality baseball teams (St. Louis, Baltimore, Toronto, Chicago), and the fact that they did it without scoring hardly anything (35 runs, less than three per game, despite two 11-inning affairs) does not make it flukey nonsense. This team, if it ever was or will be successful, is a light-hitting, good-pitching club, and in all likelihood, the next good Sox team will be another light-hitting, good-pitching club. It's the M.O., even if it reflects irritatingly consistent problems. 

It was good play, and even if the offense was the same-old, same-old, it featured newly sharp defense. Another hot stretch like this and they'd be right in the second Wild Card morass with Baltimore and Toronto, and two more would actually put them in the playoff picture.

2. Which brings us to the bigger conflict: the Sox needed a big hot streak to be within another hot streak of being worth talked about. It's factoring that in that you begin to talk about the sustainability of getting dueling dominant outings from Chris Sale and Jeff Samardzija, the best stretch of Jose Quintana's season to-date, and magic like Carlos Rodon pitching over six walks, or John Danks throwing seven shutout innings, and still needing to fight tooth-and-nail through six one-run games. It doesn't speak well to how the team will fare if/when things go back to normal. 

If they remain the best pitching team in baseball, well, then they might have something.

3. Even if they were, the restrictions of a Jose Abreu-free lineup that the Sox toiled under Sunday might be too much to bear. Robin Ventura gave the Sox offensive breadwinner Sunday off in an attempt to give him five-straight days off for vague "leg/foot" ailments as well as rest for the middle finger injury he originally suffered in May. Abreu had ankle issues throughout 2014 and made a disabled list trip, so without knowing the severity of what he's dealing with now, it's hard to say the difference between his 2014 and 2015 performance is health.

Robin's move to sit him is a cagey one that I applaud, since Sunday featured the least favorable pitching matchup anyway, but for someone as hard-charging as Ventura to be taking his foot off the gas during a presumed turnaround stretch is disconcerting. I'm not a fan of shutdowns, but if Abreu's condition is such where he needs an extended absence to actually see progress, a disabled list trip could be in order if/when they officially sell at the deadline.

4. Chris Sale is pitching in the All-Star Game Tuesday, at the prompting of his All-Star team manager, over the muted objections of the manager of his employing team. His All-Star manager is also the manager of a team that has a four-game series against his regular team after the All-Star break, as they try to hold on to the top overall seed in the American League. As White Sox crises go, Sale throwing for an inning in the middle of a week off between starts is pretty minor, but if this is about as clear of an example of what kind of conflict of interest can arise from this format.

5. Chris Sale is not starting in the All-Star Game, Houston's Dallas Keuchel--with his superior innings load and shinier ERA--is getting the honor instead. Esteban Loaiza once started the All-Star Game in U.S. Cellular Field and I cheered it like a moron, so from an ethical standpoint, I can't bemoan a sinkerballer who just wrapped a half-season of sinkerballing to perfection getting rewarded over an insane top-3 MLB pitcher playing in front of a cruddy defense. Also, how do I get mad about both items No. 5 and No. 6?

6. Hector Santiago is an All-Star!!! Santiago and his shiny 2.33 ERA were a late, injury-replacement to the team, but what a cool honor for a former 30th-round Sox draft pick who at one point was stuck in High-A for three years in a row. Anyone who remembers Santiago with the Sox knows he's an A++++ with fan interaction who defined himself with his resilience during what was a really awful time for franchise. I considered it, and immediately felt awful about pivoting from honoring Santiago's accomplishment to arguing how he's not that good and the Adam Eaton trade is good, but I don't think his hot start is some new point to jump off on a re-evaluation of it. The Sox dealt from strength to patch up a weakness. That's what you try to do in trades, not fleece people.*

*Not that fleecing is wrong, you're just not working with idiots, is all.

7. Is Adam LaRoche a "bust" so far? It's a angrily defended position in several corners of the White Sox sphere, and, well, he hasn't been great or fulfilled our greatest hopes, I just wonder if he's a very good target. LaRoche is hitting a very underwhelming .222/.327/.374, for a below-average 96 wRC+.

On the other hand, LaRoche's undoing is a foreseeable one. He can't hit lefties. They're only 73 of his 315 plate appearances on the year, but when you hit .191/.233/.235 against them, it can go a long way to dragging down the whole season line. He's .233/.355/.421 against righties (118 wRC+) which is not a revelation for a platoon bat at the 1B/DH position by any means (for example, CONOR was better last year), but is certainly rosterable. Just maybe not this roster.

Just like the best hammer is still a pretty crappy wrench, a lefty platoon bat with no real partner is just a bad hitter who is easily exploited. My pre-season speculation that Geovany Soto might wind up being the best right-handed bench player in the group has come to rather horrifying fruition, and is kind of a useless designation, as Robin Ventura is hesitant to burn his backup catcher. J.B. Shuck and Conor Gillaspie, both seem like decent bench ideas in theory (Shuck actually has been useful in practice), but having Gordon Beckham as the first right-handed bat off the bench has gone about as well could be expected.

As a result, more and more LaRoche has been nobly fighting and dying against lefties on his own, and we're seeing the result.

8. Frankie (TCS sources confirm this is the preferred identifier) Montas got straight-up torched in the Futures Game on Sunday (four hits, three earned runs, two outs recorded) but touched 101 mph on national television.

Montas then told reporters that he's hit 102 mph this season. I like this dude.

9. So, uh, Tyler Saladino? The White Sox gave a surprise call-up, starting role, and spot near the top of the lineup to the soon-to-be 26-year-old utility guy, at the third base position that began with so much insurance to not be terrible (Gillaspie can hit righties! Beckham can field! Bonifacio is a major leaguer!) and has wound up terrible anyway. As Jim Margalus got going Monday, there's a lot of ways to read this action and "TYLER SALADINO IS YOUR NEW FULL-TIME THIRD BASEMAN" is still the most counter-intuitive one. Or at least it's an incomplete statement. The roster crunch alone would dictate that the Sox are not just going to carry a bushel of useless infielders, so either the other shoe is about the drop for a disappointing veteran, Saladino is getting a profoundly bizarre cup of coffee, or there's a trade in the works.

Carlos Sanchez would seem to be the guy easiest and most deserving of being optioned, but he played all weekend and actually played relatively well. A trade is the most confusing option, because the value of any of these guys is minimal, and a deal for an upgrade would need to make damn sure it's getting an asset that's useful beyond 2015 because...uh...well I don't know how much you've seen of the 2015 squad...

10. Carlos Rodon is now sixth in all of baseball in total walks with 41, and has issued 15 more free passes than anyone else on the team. He has a 98 ERA+. He's kind of a marvel. He'll be more of a marvel when he stops walking the park every other time out and settles into one of the better pitchers in baseball, but he's his own kind of marvel right now. When we said "Rodon will be better than Noesi, even if he's not ready yet," this is what we meant. Well, maybe not this, but yes, this.

Follow The Catbird Seat on Twitter @TheCatbird_Seat and James @JRFegan.