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Hitless Wonders

Watching Quick Pitch on for a wrap-up of each day's games, blast after blast disappears deep into the dark environs of the outfield seats as the Giancarlo Stantons and Bryce Harpers of the world trot around the bases.

Sadly, White Sox hitters have failed to be featured on any regular basis.

As the Sox returned home Friday evening from a more than respectable 5-4 road trip, manager Rick Renteria's lineup included six players hitting below .200. Included was rookie centerfielder Jacob May, who was 0-for-24 at the time. Designated hitter Cody Asche checked in at .069, and flu-ridden Todd Frazier was 3-for-27 for a .111 mark.

Was it any surprise that Cleveland's former Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber pitched a complete-game shutout, allowing a measly three singles to the anemic home team as the Indians registered a 3-0 victory?

Indians' righthander Carlos Carrasco had similar luck the next night, blanking the Sox for eight innings as Cleveland romped 7-0. Again, the White Sox managed just three singles.

Going into Sunday's series' finale with Cleveland, a ballclub which dropped 2-of-3 to the Sox just a little more than a week ago, the White Sox were hitting a major league low .205 as a team, scoring only 49 runs in 16 games or a tick above three per game.

The Sox showed a bit more life on Sunday, trimming the Indians 6-2 and raising their batting average to .211.

May finally broke his 0-fer streak at 26 on Saturday when he grounded sharply up the middle into center field. That was the lone bright spot as the Sox scoreless streak soared to 23 innings. Combined with a 9-1 drubbing by the Yankees last Wednesday, the Sox were outscored 19-1 in the three-game stretch.

Aside from the numbers, there remain a few other curiosities about this particular slump.
To begin with, there has been virtually no criticism of hitting coach Todd Steverson, who was hired prior to the 2014 season. A year ago the Sox were in the middle of the pack in runs scored. In 2015 the team ranked 28th.

Greg Walker was the team's hitting coach for eight seasons before resigning after the 2011 season, following manager Ozzie Guillen, who was fired, out the door. Toward the end of his tenure, Walker, who played nine seasons on the South Side, received plenty of flak - some from then-general manager Kenny Williams - even though the Sox' offense was superior to what it has been the past few seasons.

So far Steverson hasn't been targeted for the lack of an offense. We'll see how long that lasts.

Renteria has brought fresh enthusiasm, credibility and confidence to the organization, but why he keeps using Asche both at DH and in the field while Matt Davidson sits on the bench is somewhat of a mystery. Asche, who bats lefty, has been starting against right-handed pitching. After Saturday he was 2-for-32 against righties.

Davidson, who bats right-handed, usually gets the nod against left-handers although when facing righties, Matt has seven hits in 22 at-bats including three home runs and 10 RBI. It's not as though Asche, who played four seasons with the Phillies before the Sox signed him as a free agent, has a proven track record. He's a .235 lifetime hitter.

In defense of Sox hitters, they have faced some of the league's best in Justin Verlander, Kluber, Carrasco (twice), and the Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka. The Twins' Ervin Santana, who is 3-0 with a 0.64 ERA, has beaten the Sox twice on a yield of one run and three hits over 15 innings.

In their first 17 games, the Sox have been shut out three times while scoring just a single run in four others.

As ineffective as the Sox hitters have been, their pitching, for the most part, has been just the opposite. After Derek Holland gave up a single run on Sunday to lower his ERA to 1.99 and even his record at 2-2, Renteria's hurlers lead the majors in ERA with a mark of 3.09. The opposition is hitting just .224 against the Sox.

All of which goes to show how a team can win eight games in 17 outings without scoring many runs.

This has happened before on the South Side. The 1967 team was tied for first place as late as September 6 despite a team average of .225. They averaged just 3.2 runs per game that season when they eventually finished fourth at 89-73, three games behind the pennant-winning Red Sox.

Not surprisingly, pitching led the Sox that season with a 2.45 team ERA. Using a four-man rotation featuring Gary Peters, Joe Horlen and Tommy John along with a superb bullpen that included Wilbur Wood, Hoyt Wilhelm, Don McMahon and Bob Locker, the Sox remained competitive for the whole schedule.

If you really want to step back in time to find a winning team that couldn't hit, consider the Hitless Wonders, the 1906 White Sox. That club won the American League pennant before defeating the Cubs in the World Series, four games to two. Those guys hit .230 as a team, averaging 3.7 runs a game.

They virtually had to scratch for runs, considering that, as a team, the Sox hit just seven home runs the entire season. Of course, this was the Dead Ball Era. Babe Ruth was just 11 years old at the time. The Philadelphia A's led the league in homers with 32. Giancarlo Stanton may have that many by the All-Star Game.

However, the Hitless Wonders didn't have to score much since the pitching staff threw 32 shutouts. Four guys won at least 17 games. Like Yogi said, "Good pitching beats good hitting, and vice versa." Or something like that.

The distressing aspect at this time is that Sox pitching could be in trouble since the reinvigorated James Shields went on the disabled list last week for the first time in his 12-year career with what was described as a strained right lat. In three starts this season, Shields has been solid, winning his only decision and posting a 1.64 ERA.

Rookie Dylan Covey, who was pitching in Double-A a year ago, has shown he probably is not big-league ready in his two starts. Veteran Mike Pelfrey, brought up to replace Shields, was getting tagged hard in Charlotte and allowed two earned runs in four-plus innings Saturday. Shortstop Tim Anderson's error led to a couple of runs, but Pelfrey seems to be a stopgap measure rather than a guy who can win at the major league level.

Ailing Carlos Rodon appears to be weeks or even months away from joining the team. Then there's Jose Quintana, purportedly the ace of the staff. Heretofore, Quintana was the leader in no decisions. That's not the case so far this year. In four starts, Jose has four decisions - all losses. He pitched reasonably well two games and very poorly in the others.

Farm Report
Superprospect Yoan Moncada is hitting .300 with four homers at Charlotte. He's struck out 21 times in 60 at-bats. Nicky Delmonico, a 24-year-old infielder who hit five spring training home runs, is batting .328 at Charlotte. He's never played an inning in the majors, but he is a left-handed hitter. Maybe give him a look in place of Asche?

Top draft choice in 2015, pitcher Carson Fullmer had another good outing last week at Charlotte, yielding just one earned run in six innings. He's now 2-1 with an ERA of 4.24. The best news is that he's walked only three batters in 17 innings. You may see Fullmer on the South Side before the season ends, but a solid year at Triple-A seems to be in the cards for him at the present time.

Finally, look for a guy named Dane Dunning to move up. The third player coming over from Washington in the Adam Eaton deal, Dunning wasn't as well-known as pitchers Lucas Giolito or Reynaldo Lopez, both of whom saw action with the Nationals last season. Dunning, just 22, is a right-handed pitcher at Single-A Kannapolis. In three games covering 20 innings this spring, Dunning is 1-0 with a 0.45 ERA. He's allowed only 11 hits while walking just one batter and striking out 26. He should not sign any long-term lease on an apartment in Kannapolis.


Former Bill Veeck bar buddy Roger Wallenstein is our White Sox correspondent. He welcomes your comments.

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Posted on Oct 22, 2021