TCS Morning 10: The most important game of the season was won

1. The most shameful chapter in White Sox history is over; they have re-taken the season series bragging rights away from their brothers in shame and disappointment: the Seattle Mariners. The White Sox overcame a garbage start from Jose Quintana to win 6-5 in extras, giving them four victories over Seattle against three losses, and were aided strongly on Sunday by the most representative remaining avatar of recently ousted GM Jack Zduriencik's regime: Shortstop Brad Miller.

If given my choice, I prefer the Mariners' response (signing Robinson Cano to all the money in the world) over the White Sox' in their shared crisis of not being able to develop a middle infielder.  But on this Sunday it was their guy, Miller, who chucked the routine final out of the game into right field for no damned reason at all.  Meanwhile fellow underwhelming infielder Tyler Saladino grabbed the glory with a fisted walk-off single, reached base three times, and uncorked his wild throw over Jose Abreu's head at a far lower-leverage moment.

In the end, neither player, team, or organization is really markedly better than the other. If the last seven years of White Sox had been under one man's stewardship rather than including a transfer of power, there would probably be a head on a pike in Chicago as well. Which is why I depressingly stake so much validation on beating Seattle.

2. The Sox did a somewhat notable thing by striking out 19 Mariners over 11 innings on Sunday; a product of two separate bizarre occurrences rather than a singular accomplishment. The Sox bullpen was absolutely aces, striking out 11 in 5.2 innings of one-run work with only a brief flash of Zach Duke marring their record. They held the Mariners in place while the Sox offense lethargically reeled in a bad rookie starter and a godawful bullpen. The other half of the accomplishment was Quintana striking out eight batters in 4.1 messy innings. When you strike out eight guys in barely more than four innings, but still allow more hits than strikeouts, something bizarre is happening.

3. It's nice that his stuff was still working to some degree and it'll be sad to turn in my saberist card after all these years, but I don't think Jose Quintana is supposed to strike out that many hitters? If he has a trademark coup-de-gras, it's going upstairs with 91-93 mph heat, which isn't much of a coup-de-gras at all - which is the point. Nothing he throws is individually overwhelming, he's all about getting ahead of hitters, and being able to command all parts of the zone so readily that he can tie hitters in knots by sequencing them correctly. Falling behind and having to challenge hitters takes away a lot of his momentum.

Strikeouts and wipeout curveballs are definitely a large part of Quintana's game, but more of a by-product of his goal of trying to get bad swings and mess up timing. The Blue Jays broke Chris Sale's double-digit strikeout streak earlier this year by hacking early and often, because they didn't want to be put in the position of trying to make contact off him with two strikes, but for Quintana to be getting that deep in the count on the regular it's just increasing the chance he puts something that can be handled in a bad location.

4. Quintana will eventually be fine. This Samardzija character, though...he did not have a good August: 6 GS, 0-6, 8.82 ERA, 33.2 IP, 47 H, 8 HR, 13 BB, 31 K.

Obviously it's not fair to entirely blame Samardzija for August, since there's not really a starter who could reasonably guarantee to win all six games with this offense and defense, but I don't say this because I don't want to blame Samardzija for everything. He somehow transformed into an even bigger pumpkin than he had already been right as the Sox abandoned their last best chance to extract max value from him. Now they'll be lucky to have him to actually reject his qualifying offer, otherwise it's time to start hoping he turns around his falling strikeout rate and year of hideous, crossfire mechanics under Don Cooper to have a make-good year at age 31.

Another year of cheering for this dude

5. Try to think of a significant injury the White Sox have suffered this season. Any regular member of the lineup, save for J.B. Shuck's hamstring issues, any member of the starting rotation, any high-leverage reliever beyond Nate Jones and Zach Putnam's re-occurring groin issues. There hasn't been one. The Sox routinely pace the field when you take a 10-year view of DL days, but this is shaping up to be on of those years where they significantly widen their lead on major league baseball. It's both a shining credit to Herm Schneider, and a grisly hint at how bad they could really be if they deal with the same hiccups as other teams.

6. Coming back up in Putnam's stead is Daniel Webb, who was surprisingly great when he first arrived in Chicago this year (10 strikeouts in 7.2 innings, with no earned runs in his first six appearances) and slowly became really, really awful (18 hits, 12 walks, just five strikeouts in 15.2 innings since).

Webb, a 26-year-old with three plus pitches and no concept of where any of them are going, has been consistently just good enough to get major league opportunities and just bad enough to stay on the fringes and receive highly irregular work, ranging from high-leverage innings, to three innings of mop-up at one point this seasons, to his infamous 50-pitch outing last year.  He probably doesn't have the command to ever being anything special, but it doesn't help that they've stopped really being committed to treating him like such.

7. At the beginning of the season, the Indians were the smart person's pick for the AL Central title. Now they'll go into September with a losing record, their team President is leaving for Toronto, and their owner is trying to get someone to buy a minority stake in the team so that they can actually spend some money on players, but everyone thinks he's overvaluing the franchise.

It may seem like I've rededicated this series to just finding franchises that seem worse off than the Sox, but I actually haven't officially decided on this being the permanent focus.

8. Matt Albers had another strong outing, coming in with runners on base, stranding both of them, and then proceeding to throw two shutout innings. Given that the White Sox needed a Brad Miller error on the last out of the game just to force extras, Albers' help was pivotal as far as this game is concerned.  While his "True Talent" is not commensurate with his 1.63 ERA, the fact is that his FIP is now also down to a respectable 3.96, making him one of the best mop-up guys I can think of off the top of my head. The White Sox have been so disappointing all year and they still managed to hover near a wild card spot until into late August. One wonders if they mightn't have stolen a few more wins earlier in the year if Albers hadn't been on the DL for LARPing Mike Tyson's Punch Out with the Royals.

9. Robin Ventura: In-Game Tactician is one of the worst versions of Robin Ventura you can find - far worse than Robin Ventura: Calm Guy or Robin Ventura: Fielding A Bunt Barehanded, for example.  However, to his credit, he deployed Robertson correctly and was rewarded for doing so - bringing him in in a tie game and allowing him to go for two innings as he and Tyler Flowers were painting corners.  Fortunately - unlike several other times when Ventura has used his closer in a non-save situation - he was rewarded with a victory.

10. The White Sox are now 12-3 in extra inning ballgames on the season. If one analogizes extra inning games to one-run games, the conclusion is that this is some combination of an effective / deep bullpen as well as a healthy dollop of luck. If they were, say, 9-6 in extra innings their record slips to 58-71, matching their Pythagorean / run differential-based record. They are currently on pace for a 76.5 win season-- with less fortune in extras, they'd be on pace for 73 wins again.

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