Chicago White Sox: Felix Hernandez

Abreu, Sale named AL award finalists

November, 4, 2014
Padilla By Doug Padilla
CHICAGO -- Jose Abreu and Chris Sale were named finalists for Baseball Writers Association of America postseason awards, with the winners scheduled to be revealed next week.

Abreu was nominated for the American League’s Rookie of the Year Award, as expected, while Sale was named one of three finalists for the AL Cy Young Award.

After a season when he led the AL with a .581 slugging percentage and hit 36 home runs to go along with 107 RBIs, Abreu is expected to be a runaway winner of the rookie honor. He could become the sixth White Sox player to win the rookie of the year and first since Ozzie Guillen in 1985.

New York Yankees reliever Dellin Betances and Los Angeles Angels starter Matt Shoemaker are the other AL rookie award finalists. Abreu was not named an MVP finalist, with the candidates in that category reduced to the Cleveland Indians’ Michael Brantley, the Detroit Tigers’ Victor Martinez and the Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Trout.

Win or lose, Sale’s top-three finish means he has moved up the Cy Young Award ranks in each of the three seasons he has been a starter. In 2012, when he first moved into the rotation, sale was sixth in Cy Young balloting. Last season he was fifth and now this year he is at least third.

Sale is a finalist for AL Cy Young Award along with the Cleveland Indians’ Corey Kluber and the Seattle Mariners' Felix Hernandez.

The BBWAA award season kicks off Monday with the American League and National League rookie of the year awards. The manager of the year winners will be revealed Nov. 11, followed by the two Cy Young Award winners on Nov. 12. The awards conclude Nov. 13 when the MVP is presented in each league.

Abreu wins Players Choice rookie honor

November, 3, 2014
Padilla By Doug Padilla
CHICAGO -- Jose Abreu added even more hardware to the pile Monday, as the Chicago White Sox first baseman/designated hitter was named Players Choice American League Outstanding Rookie in a vote of his peers.

White Sox ace Chris Sale was a finalist for American League Outstanding Pitcher, with the honor ultimately going to the Seattle Mariners' Felix Hernandez.

The Players Choice Awards are a product of the Major League Baseball Players Association.

It is yet another honor for Abreu en route to what is expected to be the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award, which will be handed out Nov. 10. The Baseball Writers' Association of America is expected to announce its award finalists Tuesday.

Abreu was also honored with Sporting News’ top rookie award after an inaugural season in which he batted .317 with a .383 on-base percentage and a major league-leading .581 slugging percentage. The 27-year-old, who had 10 years of experience in his native Cuba, added a White Sox rookie-record 36 home runs, along with 107 RBIs.

Abreu also became just the fifth White Sox rookie to be named an American League All-Star and was named AL player of the month in both April and July. He was AL rookie of the month in April, June and July.

Sale went 12-4 this past season with a 2.17 ERA, missing out on the ERA title to Hernandez, who finished with a 2.14 mark. The White Sox left-hander had 208 strikeouts in 26 starts and led the AL in strikeouts per nine innings with 10.8.

Sale defying odds in Cy Young chase

September, 11, 2014
Padilla By Doug Padilla
Chris Sale David Banks/Getty ImagesChris Sale picked up his 12th win of the season against the A's on Thursday.
CHICAGO -- Rarely is Chris Sale an underdog, but the left-hander seems to be relishing the against-the-odds role as the 2014 season winds to a close.

Set to face only contenders down the stretch, which started with the Oakland Athletics on Thursday, Sale might be one of the American League’s best pitchers, but he isn’t exactly playing with a team well-versed in winning right now.

And if his game-by-game odds aren’t long enough, he is also trying to battle for the American League Cy Young Award against a pitcher in Seattle’s Felix Hernandez who has the benefit of a playoff chase working for him.

“I think it's always helped a guy that’s in a pennant race to have that,” said manager Robin Ventura, as he tried to size up the Cy Young odds. “For Chris, he's as good as anybody in the league. I think he's always going to be up there in those talks. How that's all voted on, somebody else is going to have to do that. For me, he's up there with anybody.”

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Rapid Reaction: White Sox 1, A's 0

September, 11, 2014
Padilla By Doug Padilla
CHICAGO -- The Chicago White Sox earned a 1-0 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Thursday, winning three of the four games in the final series against an American League West opponent.

How it happened: Chris Sale had another dominating start Thursday, giving up just two hits over eight scoreless innings. Marcus Semien, getting the start at shortstop, broke a scoreless tie in the sixth inning with a home run, his fourth of the season. A’s starter Scott Kazmir was sharp himself, giving up one run on four hits over eight innings. Jake Petricka pitched the ninth inning for his 13th save. There were seven total hits in the game that lasted 2 hours, 18 minutes.

What it means: Sale continues to help his Cy Young Award chances with the dominating outing against the playoff-contending A’s. Not helping his award cause is the fact that he spent time on the disabled list this season and his chief competition for the award is a pitcher for the Mariners Felix Hernandez who is battling to get his own team in the playoffs. Sale not only led the American League in ERA heading into the day, but also in strikeouts per nine innings at 10.63. He was second in the league in win percentage (.786) and WHIP (0.94).

Outside the box: Sale is trying to become the first White Sox pitcher to lead the AL in ERA since Joel Horlen, who had a 2.08 mark in 1967. His current ERA of 1.99 would be the lowest from a White Sox starter since Wilbur Wood in 1971 (1.91). He now needs eight strikeouts to join Ed Walsh (1907-08, 1910-12), Tom Bradley (1971-72) and Javier Vazquez (2007-08) as the only pitchers in franchise history to record back-to-back 200-strikeout seasons.

Off beat: If the White Sox look worn down as the season nears its conclusion, don’t blame the starting pitchers. With Sale’s outing, the starters now own a 1.99 ERA over the last seven games a run that started on Friday. All seven of those starts have been quality. The starters have now allowed two earned runs or less six times in that span.

Up next: The White Sox will send left-hander Jose Quintana (7-10, 3.38 ERA) to the mound Friday against Minnesota in the opener of a three-game series. The Twins will counter with right-hander Phil Hughes (5-9, 3.55) in the 7:10 p.m. start from U.S. Cellular Field.

Rapid Reaction: Mariners 3, White Sox 2 (14)

July, 5, 2014
Padilla By Doug Padilla
CHICAGO – The Chicago White Sox could not hang on and fell 3-2 to the Seattle Mariners in 14 innings Saturday to even the three-game series at a game each.

How it happened: The Mariners’ Brad Miller doubled home the go-ahead run in the 14th inning off White Sox reliever Ronald Belisario, who was in his third inning of work. The White Sox could have won it before extra innings, but relievers Eric Surkamp and Zach Putnam combined to give up two runs that let the Mariners tie it. The White Sox broke through against Felix Hernandez in the eighth inning on an RBI double from Dayan Viciedo and a sacrifice fly from Tyler Flowers for a 2-0 lead. Jose Quintana went 7 1/3 scoreless innings, matching a season high with 10 strikeouts. Jose Abreu’s hitting streak was snapped at 18 games. The White Sox had four hits in 47 at-bats.

What it means: No matter where they turn, the White Sox can’t find somebody they can trust to close games. Matt Lindstrom struggled before going down with an ankle injury. Belisario was pitching well in a setup role, but couldn’t handle the ninth inning. Now the closer-by-committee setup isn’t getting it done either. That doesn’t even include closer candidate Nate Jones, who has been out almost the entire season with a back issue.

Outside the box: With his single to lead off the game, Adam Eaton has now reached base in 27 of his last 28 contests. He entered Saturday with a .311 batting average, five triples and 16 walks over his previous 27 games and a .343 average and a .439 on-base percentage over his previous 19 games.

Off beat: Abreu nearly clubbed his 28th home run of the season in the fourth inning, but his drive to center field was caught at the top of the wall by the Mariners’ James Jones. Had Abreu gone deep it would have been the fifth former Cy Young Award winner he had homered off after Clayton Kershaw, R.A. Dickey, Justin Verlander and David Price.

Up next: The White Sox will send right-hander Hector Noesi (2-6, 5.33 ERA) to the mound Sunday in the finale of the three-game series. The Mariners will counter with right-hander Taijuan Walker (1-0, 4.50) in the 1:10 p.m. start from U.S. Cellular Field.

Chris Sale may be the best starter in MLB

June, 7, 2014
Schoenfield By David Schoenfield

Who is the best starting pitcher in baseball right now? I think you can make a strong case for Chris Sale, who maybe isn't the first guy who pops into your head, in part because he did miss a few starts with a tender elbow -- technically a strained flexor muscle -- but he's returned to the White Sox and been nearly unhittable.

In fact, he has been unhittable when facing left-handed batters: They're 0-for-32 against him on the season. In his past four outings, Sale has allowed four hits in 25 innings for a .051 batting average against.

Is he the best? Let's do a quick roll call.

Chris Sale

The case for: 5-0, 1.59 ERA in seven starts. Has allowed a .126 average against with a 52-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His slider has been known to make grown men cry. He had a 3.05 ERA in 2012 and 3.07 in 2013, while pitching in one the best home run parks in the majors. Distinctive three-quarter delivery and unusual arm angle have earned him the nickname "The Condor," which is worth bonus points. Arguably improving as strikeout rate has increased and walk rate decreased.

The case against: Has just one 200-inning season in his career and may not get there this year. This hit rate is unsustainable. Concern about elbow. Only one of his seven starts has come against a team with an above-average offense (and that was Cleveland, which ranks seventh in the AL in runs per game).

Clayton Kershaw

The case for: He's been the best pitcher in baseball the past three years and should have won three straight Cy Young Awards (he has two). He's 4-2, 3.32 and people say he's struggling even though his strikeout and walk rates are both better than last season. If God needed one pitch to get out the Devil, he just might choose Kershaw's curveball. He's averaged 232 innings the past three seasons. He's pitched in front of a shaky defense, especially with poor range from exiled center fielder Matt Kemp and shortstop Hanley Ramirez. Take away that seven-run game where he lasted 1 2/3 innings and he's been as dominant as ever.

The case against: A 3.32 ERA is a 3.32 ERA. Missed time with a sore back, so you have to worry about that. Has actually allowed three extra-base hits, including a home run, off that curveball, which is three more extra-base hits than he allowed last year with it. Got hammered in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series by the Cardinals last year. Only one outing of more than seven innings this year.

Yu Darvish

The case for: If you were going to sculpt a pitcher from clay and infuse him with life, you'd want him to look like Darvish and possess his right arm. He's 5-2 with a 2.04 ERA while pitching in a hitters' park. He's leading the AL in strikeouts per nine innings for the second straight year. Darvish has allowed just three home runs this year after allowing 26 in 2013. Kershaw has allowed a lower batting average (300 innings minimum) since 2012, but Darvish doesn't get to face pitchers. He's walking fewer batters, and over his past four starts -- which included games against Toronto, Detroit and Washington, three good offensive teams -- he allowed four runs and struck out 41 in 31 2/3 innings.

The case against: Hey, he's never thrown a complete game either. Still runs up big pitch counts, which can lead to early exits. Has missed a couple of starts with neck stiffness -- this following a nerve problem in his lower back that hampered him last September.

Masahiro Tanaka

The case for: He's 9-1 with a 2.02 ERA and has 12 quality starts in 12 starts. Leads AL starters in lowest OBP allowed. He's 33-1 over the past two seasons. His splitter has been outlawed by multiple religious groups for defying the laws of nature; batters are hitting .135 against it with 48 strikeouts, two walks and one home run (by Melky Cabrera, on Tanaka's first pitch of the season, which means he's since thrown 315 splitters without much damage). He's rebounded from his one loss with three straight one-run starts.

The case against: It's only 12 starts, so let's see what happens as teams see him again. The quality start stat is a little dubious since he allowed four runs in six innings in his defeat, but only three of the runs were earned. He's allowed eight home runs, so the long ball may prove to be an issue. Struck out 10-plus batters three times in his first five starts but hasn't done it since.

Max Scherzer

The case for: The reigning AL Cy Young winner is 6-2 with a 3.20 ERA; his strikeout, walk and home run rates are essentially the same as last year. Few pitchers can match his four-pitch arsenal of four plus pitches. Has had four starts with no runs allowed this year. Have to admire the guts to turn down a reported $144 million contract and hit free agency after the season.

The case against: Has never thrown a complete game in the majors. If you're talking about the best at this very moment, Scherzer has allowed 16 runs in his past three starts. Hit rate is back up this year. Had one great season but career ERA is still 3.64.

Adam Wainwright

The case for: Talk about a workhouse. Led the NL in innings (and wins) in 2009 and again last season. This year, he's once again leading in innings and wins. He's 8-3 with a 2.31 ERA and holding batters to a .194 average. His curveball has been known to break knees, spirits and bank accounts. Has a 2.53 career postseason ERA and is the prototypical staff leader. He's third in the majors since 2012 in FIP (fielding independent pitching) behind only Kershaw and Felix Hernandez. Has had six games this season of seven-plus innings and no runs.

The case against: His BABIP this season is .252, far below his .320 of 2012 and .311 of last season, so his hit rate may increase moving forward. Gets to pitch in the NL Central, which, let's face it, has had some pretty weak offenses in recent years, except the team Wainwright pitches for. Does have some blowup starts -- a seven-run and six-run game this year, a nine-run and six-run game last year. (Hey, we're nitpicking here.)

Felix Hernandez

The case for: His FIP is second in the majors over the past three years -- 2.62 to Kershaw's 2.57, and he does that facing deeper lineups. He's 8-1 with a 2.57 ERA this year and just three home runs allowed. Has topped 200 innings in six consecutive seasons. That changeup, oh that changeup. Shakespeare would write love sonnets about it if he were alive today. Batters are hitting .143 against it with 49 strikeouts and three walks and one home run (praise you, Matt Dominguez). Has pitched in front of a lot of lousy defense the past couple of seasons, particularly in 2013, when the Mariners' outfield was especially atrocious. Has the best strikeout-to-walk ratio of his career and faces the pressure of often having to win with one or two runs of support nearly every start. Nicknamed "King" and nobody really has an issue with that.

The case against: Gets to pitch half his games at Safeco Field, where fly balls go to die. Hasn't had an ERA under 3.00 since 2010 or a complete game since 2012. Hasn't had a no-run game yet this year. Can he pitch in a pennant race or big-game situation? Has never had to do that.

Hisashi Iwakuma

The case for: Since he joined the Mariners' rotation in July 2012, he has the best ERA in the AL. Led AL pitchers in Baseball-Reference WAR last season and finished third in Cy Young voting. (See above for notes about bad defense and offense.) His splitter is a thing of beauty: Over the past two seasons batters have hit .174 against it with 99 strikeouts, eight walks and four home runs. Has handed out just four walks in seven starts.

The case against: Missed time with a finger injury this year and wasn't always the most durable pitcher back in his Japan days. No career complete games in the majors. His strikeout rate of 6.4 per nine innings is a little mediocre and he's allowed six home runs after allowing 25 last year. Isn't nicknamed "King."

Johnny Cueto

The case for: Leads the majors with a 1.68 ERA while pitching in that bandbox in Cincinnati. That Luis Tiant-like spin-and-twirl delivery is awesome. Has three complete games and limited batters to a .151 average. His strikeout rate has increased for the third year in a row and is up to 27 percent. With his fastball/cutter/slider/changeup arsenal, he's a four-pitch pitcher and can throw any of them at any time. Has given up more than two earned runs just once so far. One of the best right-handed pickoff moves ever means he shuts down the running game -- one stolen base allowed this year after just three the previous two years (runners were 1-for-10 off him in 2012).

The case against: His .187 BABIP is simply unsustainable. ERA is helped by five unearned runs. Has had trouble staying healthy, making 24 starts in 2011 and 11 last year, so has reached 200 innings just once.

With apologies to: Anibal Sanchez, Julio Teheran, Tim Hudson, Zack Greinke, Madison Bumgarner, David Price, Mark Buehrle, Corey Kluber, Jon Lester, Stephen Strasburg and Sonny Gray, left off for reasons of space, previous track record, lack of a track record, or simply the belief that their hot start isn't sustainable.

Axelrod's confidence fit for a king

April, 5, 2013
Padilla By Doug Padilla
[+] EnlargeDylan Axelrod
Jerry Lai/US PresswireDylan Axelrod will make his 2013 debut for the White Sox on Saturday.
CHICAGO -- Dylan Axelrod could have been matched up against Cy Young in his first start of the season and he wouldn’t have complained.

As it is, the Chicago White Sox's No. 5 starter will have to face a Cy Young Award winner when he goes toe-to-toe with the Seattle Mariners' Felix Hernandez in Saturday afternoon’s game at U.S. Cellular Field.

“Yeah, I know who is (out) there,” said Axelrod, who has a record of 3-2 with a 4.78 ERA in parts of the last two seasons with the White Sox. “I’m just pitching against the lineup so I feel like if I go out and put up a good effort, we are going to have a chance to win.”

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Jose Abreu
.317 36 107 80
HRJ. Abreu 36
RBIJ. Abreu 107
RA. Ramirez 82
OPSJ. Abreu .964
WC. Sale 12
ERAC. Sale 2.17
SOC. Sale 208