TCS Morning 10: Familiar disgrace

1. It just wouldn't be a White Sox season without the eventual slide toward full-blown humiliation. It just wouldn't have their natural full dramatic sweep from beginning with moderate goals of slipping into the playoffs via some lowered bar for performance, quickly dousing that already jaded optimism with a disappointing start, before capping their demise with some season-ending demolition to confirm that the Sox haven't merely underperformed, but are simply in another class from any team any non-diehard would waste a casual glimpse at. In this case, the Sox aren't close enough to any race for their deconstruction to be dealt by the hands of a superior rival, so the last-place A's would have to do.

September baseball is full of incompetence, Quad-A players that don't belong, and odd game management reflective of teams that are losing their reasons to keep up appearances, but in losing to the A's 17-6 in an emblematic Jeff Samardzija-led implosion, the Sox still found themselves capable of lighting a tire fire that blazed bright enough to attract the gawking eyes of passerby who usually only crane their necks toward this forgettable franchise for the queries of "Is Chris Sale pitching? Is Jose Abreu at bat?"

2. To attempt to tally up the incompetence in random, exhausting fury: the Sox allowed 19 hits, 29 baserunners, had two errors (both in one play by Mike Olt), threw 230 pitches (92 of them balls) used two position players to pitch (in September with expanded rosters), had their starter Jeff Samardzija post a Game Score of -3, faced 55 total A's hitters, allowed the first seven A's batters in the 10-run fourth to reach base, and they probably could have gotten out of the fourth inning one at-bat sooner and with one less run, if Micah Johnson could turn a double play without double-clutching every time.

3. Yesterday we ran some older quotes from Jeff Samardzija in better times, where his position on pursuing free agency seemed so deeply entrenched that there was no chance he would ever accept a qualifying offer. Unfortunately, he is now pitching so horrendously that even the slim threat of his return is bonechilling. Throwing a cutter charitably described as "loopy, 86 mph hand-propelled garbage," Samardzija was shelled for five runs in the first, including an infield single that he fumbled around with for so long that Billy Butler rumbled home on it (Samardzija was a multi-sport athlete in college, if you remember).

Yet, The Shark has been so awful in the first inning that this hardly raised an eyebrow, and after a clean second, it seemed like his customary disappointing and unworthy outing. I admittedly was still fooled, even after the Eric Sogard RBI triple in the third. It was only after he couldn't retire any of the first five batters he faced that all the air raid sirens started going off.

In truth, he was pretty much worthless from the start, and letting him get thumped for 10 earned runs on 11 hits over three innings is the product of extreme disinterest in his performance beyond his predilection for gobbling up cruddy innings at a large rate. When someone is rolling sludge over the heart of the plate on a regular basis, how can you tell when he's in trouble? Letting your high-profile starter--even a huge disappointment of one--wear it to such a comic extreme isn't a great look, but concern toward maintaining this relationship has to be at an all-time low at this point. And why not? Anything to drive him away.

4. This was really a thematically perfect occasion for a coup-de-gras on the Samardzija Trade disaster; a sound move playing to the Sox strengths that has still completely mushroomed. The Sox dealt for a high-ceiling starting pitcher, and got the very worst from him possible despite their top-flight pitching coach and jettisoned a bunch of role players, only to field a roster that bled out from a 1000 papercuts and ran out sub-replacement detritus in their lineup on the daily. What better ending than watching those role players drill their would-be ace? Marcus Semien and Josh Phegley combined to reach base seven times and scored six runs, and Phegley's teammates jokingly fanned him off in the dugout because he was so hot from jogging around the U.S. Celluar basepaths.

If they gave out any Shark Tank merchandise at this game it should all be collector's items. Maybe promote your self-developed starter with a longer track record next time?

5. This evening wouldn't have been possible without the tremendous contributions of Daniel Webb, Samardzija's brother in shaggy hair, poor command and developmental failure. Webb, like Samardzija, has three pitches that flash big potential to be plus, and throws them to seemingly random locations.

As the most unreliable reliever you could think of, Webb was a fine selection to come into a game where the Sox were already dead, but not much of a fireman. He allowed seven of the eight batters he faced to reach base, walked three, and etched another chapter into a feckless major league existence that's seen him fail to live up to the requirements for high-leverage work, and languish pointlessly in the disparate conditions of long relief work. It's hard to tell if there's a plan for him besides "give up," which would give him another thing in common with Samardzija.

6. Leury Garcia and Alexei Ramirez pitched Tuesday night, which doubled as the most entertaining part of the game and another source of humiliation as the Sox needed two position player innings even with expanded September rosters.

Garcia, a grizzled veteran at this point, lived comfortably at 86 mph with his fastball, and got some very nice armside run to strike out Jason Pridie for his first career whiff. He also got under his pitches a lot, which will happen because he's three-and-a-half feet tall. Garcia hit a batter, but hitters are going to have to understand he owns the inner half of the plate.

The star of the night was Alexei Ramirez, who matched Garcia with a shutout inning of his own, and while he didn't get a strikeout, he flashed a lot more potential by touching 90mph with mid-70's curve, and uh...a ~65 mph mystery pitch? Ramirez's motion was troubling. He drops and drives like a pitcher, but the Sale-like three-quarters release combined with an off-balance finish toward first base make it hard for him to repeat, meaning his future is likely in the bullpen and not the rotation. He also hit a guy. Seems to be a trend.

Ramirez shook off Geovany Soto multiple times, suggest the Sox have another pitcher who will need Tyler Flowers as their personal catcher.


7.  Mike Olt--get this dude off the team. That's it.

8. Everyone is still chattering about Trayce Thompson's long-term potential even though he was out of the lineup Tuesday night after face-burgering himself and spraining his elbow in the previous game. Robin Ventura played it cautious with his excitement:

This is, after all, what Baseball Prospectus called Thompson a month ago: a useful reserve outfielder who can defend all three positions and pop balls out of the park on occasion while probably hitting .230 or worse. That's the rut he likely falls into unless all of a sudden his loud tools realize magically at the major league level.  And well..

Of course, in the meantime, Trayce is out with that elbow issue and missing out on precious games to trick us into hoping. What a shame he couldn't participate in Tuesday night's gem!

9. Frankie Montas is almost certainly starting half of the Detroit doubleheader next Monday after more or less passing the test of keeping things together for three innings of work on Sunday. I mean, he walked a batter per inning and nearly got obliterated twice, but his stuff played up well enough and they don't have any days off for nearly the rest of the season, so he's throwing. The standards have dipped in the last 24 hours.

Tyler Flowers talked up his breaking ball having different forms, reminiscent of Carlos Rodon, or Chris Sale darting between a slurve and a hard slider, and seemed intrigued about continuing to work with him.

He throws a variation in different counts, so we’re figuring out how to use that. I thought he did a really nice job executing pitches later in counts, going for the strikeout and making sure he’s down. That only works when you can throw it for strikes, and he was doing that.
— Tyler Flowers

Oh great, another pitcher that has to work with Flowers.

10. There's a game Wednesday night. It's a reminder that life is a relentless churn, a never-ending trash compactor gobbling up bones, flesh and souls, coughing blood and misery out of its rusted exhaust pipe. Erik Johnson is scheduled to pitch.