TCS Morning 10: Playing out the string

1. This weekend offered some comforting return to White Sox normalcy--no, not just the part about playing pointless late-August baseball and lacking any real hopes of the playoffs--but the part where they get a series win against the Mariners, where Seattle routinely looks incompetent and the Sox just kinda stand there. In particular, they stood there while the Seattle bullpen walked 10 batters in 9.2 innings and nearly lost two games singlehandedly, rather than just one.

We can look at Seattle, full of great preseason expectations and a mandate to win now, and think there but for the grace of God go the Sox, two games worse and about to fire their GM, as opposed to just having their executive VP hired away by another organization. So much better!

2. John Danks was awful. He got bombed for seven runs by a mediocre offense in a run-suppressing ballpark. His stuff hasn't looked good since the beginning of the month and that was likely a fluke. He's a bad starter on a long contract, which is fine enough for a No. 5 starter, but removes your margin of error for the rest of the rotation.

2016 is the last year of his deal. Maybe get rid of him, but maybe between him and Adam LaRoche, you can only eat so many eight-figure salaries in one off-season.

3. Speaking of which, what a weekend for that old dude. LaRoche started in three of the last four games, pinch-hit in another, and collected five hits, four for extra-bases, and two impressive long balls. One had to suspect his slump and decline was not to the severity of "he will never do anything positive in a major league game ever again," but it had started to feel that way. Even a hot finish to the year would only get him to league-average at this point, and it will be less important to focus on the 'LaRoche was pretty good once he got over his slump' line the Sox will try to sell, and better to center on that he's 36 (come November), had a year where he had no real value and saw his strikeout rate spike and power dip in a manner that usually preludes retirement.

Just sayin'.

4. Carlos Rodon's Saturday wound up not being the display of a completed transformation to a new and better self that it started out as. He walked four over several innings and the defense and bad luck-aided sixth inning breakdown was not a pretty moment. But he still recorded his third-straight quality and efficient performance since Tyler Flowers took the role of his battery mate. Rodon is increasingly getting ahead of hitters with his fastball early in counts, and it's not hard to notice that some of the eye-popping velocity hits in the upper-90s have gone away along with that. Taking a few pegs off the velocity is more palatable when 92 mph from the left side works just fine.

Rodon is also going strong at just a shade under 120 innings on the year across MLB and Triple-A, probably one more start from hitting the 123.1 he threw between the pros and college last season. It seems like the White Sox current plan is 'keep going until we get a reason not to.'

5. I got overly excited on Friday night and said something like "Carlos Sanchez has been hitting .296/.329/.444 since June 1" and "he's been very serviceable for 10-11 weeks." The cut off was July 1, and he's been a serviceable player for seven weeks. Just seven. He was still bottoming out in June. Hard. Seven weeks is much more in the realm of "one single hot streak."

It's all dependent on him finishing out the rest of the season without reverting back to hitting like a pitcher again, but Sanchez has the potential to switch the second base position over from the column of "must improve" to "upgrade if possible" on the offseason checklist. Sanchez has famously had grueling adjustment periods before tackling new levels of competition, but still probably has a utility man bat, just a better utility bat than Tyler Saladino. By the way, the third base is definitely under "must improve." They should just carve it into that column. It's always going to be there.

6. After striking out 14 Mariners Friday night, while walking one and allowing a friggin' three-run homer to Mark Trumbo in the only inning he had more than one baserunner, Chris Sale is now having the best and worst season of his career. His ERA, 3.34, is a career-high, both for raw total and in league-wide context. Even the more charitable FanGraphs' estimation for U.S. Cellular Field rates Sale as only 16% above league average for run prevention. 

His FIP is of course a full run lower, and is his career-best, because he's striking out one out of every three batters he faces and posting Phil Hughes-level control numbers. Sale's home run rate has seen a small, inconsequential increase. The same goes for his BABIP, which is where we start factoring in his cruddy defense, which has spiked the ERAs of everyone on the staff this year (Avisail dropped a ball that got called a double just on Friday), but there's been such a gulf between Sale cooking and his struggles with command where he seems hard-pressed to make it through six innings that I wonder if this is the most efficient approach for him. I'd be willing to sit through another 12 K/9 season to figure out, of course.

7. Saturday night's ninth-inning comeback and extra-inning victory boosted their record in extras to 11-3,  the most victories any MLB team has recorded this season. Second place belongs to those Mariners, who have somehow played 20 extra-inning games on gone 10-10. The best winning percentage belongs to the 8-2 Royals. The Sox have been this great in toss-up sudden death games, broken nearly even in toss-up one-run games (22-24), and are still, so, so bad overall.

8. Early reviews on pace of play rules are positive. This New York Times piece offers an interesting look at the more aggressive applications in the minors, but there's a been a marked improvement from more subtle tweaks in the bigs. The Sox themselves are averaging 2:59 times for games this year, after 3:08 in 2014.

9. On a somber personal note for everyone in the TCS family this weekend; Nate Jones has walked one batter in each of his last two appearances. His FIP for 2015, is no longer negative, but rather an extremely human 0.91. All we can console ourselves with is his perfect 0.00 ERA and 10 strikeouts over 6.1 innings.

10. Jeff Samardzija goes Monday night for the White Sox. Seven or less more starts, issuing him a qualifying offer, having him reject the qualifying offer, and then that's it. That's what's left of this doomed, rushed marriage. Gone are the delusions of Samardzija breaking out as a "second ace," gone are the bevy of below-average players shipped to Oakland, Samardzija's hope of fetching triple-figures after this garbagey's all gone, man.