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Home Plate Squatter
Posts of all things baseball ... but mostly about the Chicago White Sox.
Scatching out the wins
Another come-from-behind win for the White Sox. This team just refuses to go down.
Some people just refuse to give this team credit. But it's a team with good quality pitching and hitters who can scrap together runs to get ahead.
1. Little lineup shuffling by Ozzie, putting Aaron Rowand at the 3 spot. While he was only 1-for-4, he delivered when it counted for the second night in a row with a 2-run game winning single.
2. Jose Contreras is pitching pretty well. In the past, he would have fallen apart in situations like the 5th inning. But he kept his head in the game and got it together. Again, it simply cannot be overemphasized how good the White Sox starters have been throughout the season in staying in the ballgame for six innings or more. It keeps the 'pen fresh for the latter part of the season.
3. Cliff Politte is simply dominating these days. I don't quite know what clicked, but he's simply blowing hitters away with his fastball.
4. It was great to see Frank Thomas get a standing ovation. He deserves all the accolades and applause he gets from the Chicago crowd. And his presence in the dugout and the field makes this team instantly better.
Why does Ozzie insist on playing the likes of Willie Harris and Timo Perez so often? There's a reason why they're coming off the bench, and the Sox have enough off days to give the starters (i.e. Iguchi) some long stretches of playing time. It's important to keep the reserves fresh, but you can do that through defensive substitutions (Harris has better range than Iguchi) or pinch runners (Konerko, Everett and Thomas are all station to station runners).
All in all, it was a good series. The Sox get Kansas City at home, then the Cubs for another series with an off-day sandwiched in between. They should make the most out of the extended home stay.
It's been a while since I've posted the last time. Lot of things went on, and I haven't had time to take a breath and catch up with life.
Being in Minneapolis for work is tough, for baseball purposes. The Metrodome can be seen from my livingroom, just out the window. It's a baseball mausoleum, but at least it's something.
Thank god for WGN Superstation. Things looked bleak, especially after the Dodgers scored the third run on a wild pitch. But this team is different than the other ones. This team feels just like the 2000 White Sox. Even if they're down to the last three outs, you get the feeling that they've got a shot at coming back.
5-3 win, 6.5 game lead over the Twins. There are still a whole lot of games to play, but if the Sox keep it up, I don't see them staying home when October comes around.
1. Aaron Rowand had a good at bat. He stayed with Brazoban, and got something he can poke out into the outfield. It was a pretty cheap hit, but whatever works.
2. I don't understand why closers think it's beneath them to hold runners on base. If Willie Harris didn't steal second, the outcome might have been a lot different.
3. The heart of the lineup finally looks like something that pitchers should be afraid off. Frank Thomas, regardless of whether he can run, field or how old he is, is one of the most prolific hitters in the history of baseball. There should never have been any question whether his return would ruin the team's progress. And the 3-4-5 trio of Thomas, Konerko and Everett is pretty good, since all three are swinging the bat well. Looking up and down the roster, the only hitters with question marks are Uribe and Crede. But their defensive plays justify their playing time. And frankly, there isn't anyone else in AAA who can replace either of them right away.
Tightroping with Shingo
Sox beat up on the hapless Royals, sweeping them at home and improving to the league best 21-7 record with a 2-1 win in Chicago. Winning streak goes to 5.
Sox have done well since they dropped 2 of 3 in Oakland, and it seems the injury problems won't last. Offense has been struggling, but the pitching has negated the lack of runs, for the most part. Noteworthy
A. Jose Contreras finally wins a game, and not because he's been pitching poorly.
He went 8 innings and only gave up 4 hits while striking out 6 and walking one. The most impressive part of his day is that he only needed 102 pitches, 69 of which were strikes, to keep the team in the game. With the emergence of Jon Garland and consistent performances from Garcia and Buehrle, the starting rotation looks like one of the best in the league right now.
B. Ozzie stuck with Shingo in the crunch, and Shingo delivered. So long as Shingo is the closer, Ozzie needs to show Takatsu that he believes in him. Outings like this should build some confidence.
C. Sox didn't need a single hit to score 2 runs. Peg that to Andy Sisco, but the batters laid off when the KC relievers didn't get the ball over the plate. That's how they should play the game. Don't give away outs, and make them prove that they can make their pitches.
D. Zack Greinke is 0-3, but not for the lack of trying. He pitched a great game, going 7 2/3 innings while giving up 2 hits, striking out 5 and walking one. And he did it on 85 pitches, 53 of them strikes. He just needs to find a way to stay in games longer.Concerns
A. Paul Konerko's hitting .190, with a .726 OPS. I'm actually impressed at his OPS, considering how poorly he has been hitting lately. He needs to turn that around and be the run producer. With the loss of Lee and Ordonez, and Frank slow to recover from his surgery, he needs to be the big bad power hitter.
Looks like it's gonna be another slow start, just like in 2003. But it seems that he's hitting the ball hard, just at fielders. It'll turn around, so long as he stays with his swing.
B. Jermaine Dye is 8-for-22 from April 26 to May 5. That's better, but still not good enough. 3 of those 8 hits were doubles, and he has only driven in one run.
The watch continues.
C. Shingo needed 28 pitches to get 3 outs today. He stuck in there and got it done, but he didn't locate. He was ahead of Sweeney before he walked him, and he had a chance to get Stairs out before he walked him, too. Then he threw behind Terrence Long to move the go-ahead run to 2nd. He makes it harder than it needs to be, and you can't survive in the majors that way.
Time to Regroup
The Sox can't shake off the West Coast Syndrome, and they go 1-2 in the Oakland series by losing a close game Wednesday afternoon by the score of 2-1. They are now 16-6.
I suppose it is somewhat of a comfort that the Sox kept it this close with all the injured players in the infield.
Chris Widger played Third, while Joe Crede and Jermaine Dye spelled shortstop. Pretty bizarre, and I'm actually quite surprised that there was only one error committed.
The Tigers series is at home, starting on Friday. Contreras, El Duque and Jon Garland are scheduled to face off against Nate Robertson, Jason Johnson and Wilfredo Ledezman. Sox could use a good series at home to rebound and finish the month strong.Noteworthy
A. Freddy Garcia had another strong outing, going 7 innings and giving up one earned run on 4 hits, two walks and four strikeouts. But there is a fairly big problem about the way he is pitching, which I will get to in a little bit.
B. Jose Contreras looks like he's going to be ready to go Friday night, recovering from a strained lower right hamstring. Herm Schneider knows what he's doing, so he should be ready to go.
C. Willie Harris is swinging the bat pretty well so far, going 2-for-4 while spelling Tadahiro Iguchi at 2B. Harris is 9-for-24 this season.Concerns
A. Freddy Garcia's strikeouts are down. A lot.
So far, he has 19 strikeouts in 35 innings - which translates to 4.89 strikeouts per 9 innings. The lowest K/9 IP ratio he has sported prior to this season was 5.72 in 2000, when he was pitching for Seattle.
His K to BB ratio is not bad at 2.11, as opposed to 1.23 in 2000. Having said this, Garcia is mainly a strikeout pitcher. The fact that he's not getting strikeouts has to be a point of concern, at any time in his career.
However, hitters are only hitting .210 against Garcia with a .582 OPS. These stats are far better than any of his season totals, as well (.241 in 2000, .625 in 2001 are his best season totals so far). And he has only given up 7 extra-base hits, including 3 home runs. Perhaps he's pitching effectively, with hitters hitting balls into outs.
B. Tadahiro Iguchi, Juan Uribe and Pablo Ozuna are all nursing injuries from the strange night that was Tuesday, when the Sox lost 9-7. Hopefully Schneider can get them ready for the Tigers series, because the Sox don't have the organizational depth to supplant these players. Hence the reason why Widger played Third and Crede and Dye played Short.
C. The Jermaine Dye watch contiunes. He went 0-for-4, striking out once and leaving 3 men on base. He's hitting an unhealthy .171, and he has struck out 16 times while only walking thrice so far this season. His OPS is at .505.
That's just not going to get it done.
Ugly game, ugly loss, but still 16-5.
I only got to keep up with the game via MLB Gameday Audio. But what an ugly game. The talking heads on ESPN expected it to be a pitching duel between Buehrle and Harden. Naturally, they combine for 11 1/3 IP, allow 20 hits and give up 13 runs (only one unearned).There's really no good way to describe this game. The words "putrid" and "repugnant" come into mind, but those are probably over the top. Mental gaffes and bad plays put an end to the 8-game winning streak.On the other hand, it's unreasonable to expect the Sox to win them all, obviously. They're going to have these kinds of games once in a while. I really hate how they gave this game away in a hand basket with a ribbon on top, but in the end, it's one game. If they win tomorrow afternoon, that's still a 2-1 series in Oakland. It's a long season. No reason to panic. This is just how it goes.NoteworthyA. Sox made 4 errors (3 official, but Willie Harris should have made that play in the bottom 8th), gave up 10 hits, didn't convert on a bases-loaded chance in Top of the 8th, and they only lost by 2. This is not to say that they played well. But the fact that they had to play this badly to lose, as Ed Farmer said, is somewhat comforting.B. Iguchi went 3-for-5 today, driving in 2 runs on the Top of the 6th with a single off of Rich Harden. Good to see him cashing in with runners on base. Rowand went 3-for-5, as well, and even Jermaine Dye went 2-for-5. C. Defense turned 3 double plays earlier in the game. Only had they been able to keep it up for the entire game. ConcernsA. The trainer's room is filling up. Juan Uribe hurt his leg (I'm not sure exactly how it happened yet), and Pablo Ozuna got hurt when he got hit by a pitch on the Top of the 7th. Pierzynski's got a bum toe, and Contreras has a hamstring problem. On top of this, Frank Thomas isn't progressing too well in his rehab. Guys in the big leagues need to stay healthy, because there really isn't a whole lot of depth in the minor leagues. I'd rather not see Greg Norton (who the Sox recently signed) and Jeremy Giambi playing for us anytime soon.B. Defensive lapses and bogus plays really cost this game. Jermaine Dye dropped a ball he should have caught, and Willie Harris missed a ball the runners didn't even run on. And under no circumstances should a pitcher be allowing the tying run to score on a balk. This game was probably an aberration, but guys need to be focused on the field. Some of these plays were just mental mistakes, I think.C. I hate to continue picking on Jermaine Dye, but he left 4 guys on base today despite the two hits. Again, it's early, and he's going to have time to work himself out of the funk. But RF is a power position, and the Sox simply need Dye to start producing.From the WatchtowerA. Carlos Zambrano blew his gasket again in a 11-9 Cub loss to the Reds. Dusty Baker, as usual, defended his player, even going as far to say that Zambrano is a mature individual. Unfortunately, mature major league starters don't get themselves taken out of ballgames twice in the same month. Furthermore, he got kicked out of the game before he got through the 5th - forcing the Cubs to use 6 different relievers today. Zambrano's got great stuff, and he can be dominant when he's got his head in the game. But I wouldn't want him on my pitching staff. He's irresponsible, he's unreliable and he's not a professional.B. John Smoltz finally got his first win of the season, going 6 2/3 innings against the Mets while only giving up 1 run on 7 scattered hits. He only struck out 3 guys while walking two, but he pitched well enough to keep his team ahead. This game was supposed to be another pitching duel, and it sort of was. Save for Pedro Martinez's bad start against the Braves lineup on the top of the 1st, he pitched effectively - going 7 innings, giving up 7 hits while allowing only one more run to score. He also struck out 8 guys while walking 2. Braves won, by the way, by 4 to 3. C. The real pitching duel was [...]
Jon Garland Gets It Done
Tonight's 6-0 win in Oakland was big in many ways. Batters executing when it mattered, solid defense in the infield and a great pitching performance from Jon Garland. He stifled the Oakland lineup, throwing the 2nd shutout of his career.Hard to believe, but this is a 16-4 ballclub. Compare that with 2004, when the Sox' best month was September (17-12). Hell of a run so far. I was skeptical when they let Magglio Ordonez walk and traded Carlos Lee. But it looks like Kenny Williams finally found a right bag of candy. ObservationsA. It's kind of ridiculous to talk about the win in this way, but it still must be pointed out that the Sox actually won the first game of a series in Oakland.In 2004, their one and only win at the Coliseum came on July 17, the third match of the four game in which the sox lost 3 games by no more than 4 runs. It may sound silly, but this team needs games like this to build confidence and show to themselves that they're a different team from last year.B. Chris Widger? Are you kidding me? Hitting a 2-run home run after almost a 5 year long-ball drought? I guess it'd be silly to expect him to do it again, but hell, it seems like there's somebody who wasn't expected to contribute much coming in and getting it done lately. C. It's good to see Paul Konerko drive in those two runs in the top of the 9th to drive in the nail further. He was 1-for-5, but he got up there and put the game out of reach. Widget's 2-run shot was enough, in retrospective, but a good team doesn't let up when they have a chance to tack onto the lead. Sox hitters should do more of this. D. Shouldn't have taken me this long to get to it, but Jon Garland pitched a hell of a ballgame. He didn't overpower guys (only 3 strikeouts), but he made the smart pitches. Only one of the 4 hits gave up was for extra bases, and he only gave up one walk. And he pitched 79 of his 116 pitches for strikes. That's impressive.And the best part is that he let the bullpen corps a much needed rest. Jose Contreras and Orlando Hernandez only pitched 8 1/3 innings in their starts at Kaufmann Stadium, forcing Ozzie to use 4 relievers two days in a row with Hermanson nursing his sore back. If Garland didn't get past the 6th inning today, the pen would have been in some serious trouble. E. Juan Uribe is a terrific defender. He made some really terrific plays on top of the 9th, especially when he was able to get to the Jason Kendall grounder and make a strong throw to get him out at first. Looks like there will be some good defense down the middle of the diamond. Rowand is a centerfielder with good range and an adequate arm, Uribe's a superior defensive shortstop, Iguchi makes the plays he needs to make. And the Pierzynski/Widger combo looks pretty solid. I think the 2005 White Sox feature one of the best defensive lineups that South Siders have seen in some time. There are no real glaring defensive deficiencies. While they may not be able to score as many runs as last year, they probably won't give away as many runs on botched plays.ConcernsA. Iguchi doesn't seem to be converting the scoring opportunities as well as it was first expected. Granted, he's still adjusting to a new league, new culture and new pitchers. But he left 6 men on base in 5 at bats today. Maybe it's just a bad day for him, but he's had a few days similar to this. B. Jermaine Dye is looking, well, bad. He went 0-for-5 today, striking out twice. With Frank Thomas struggling to come back from his injury, Sox need his bat. For all the hoopla about speed and moving runners along, somebody eventually has to drive them in.C. Sox drew 2 walks in 36 at bats. Still no panic button yet, though.From the WatchtowerA. How rare is it to see a bench-clearing shenanigan start between the pitcher and a runner on 2nd base? I've never seen that before.B. Oliver Perez looks like he's shaking off the rust, outdueling Roy Oswalt in a 7 2/3 inning effort in a 2-0 Pittsburgh win[...]
Well, there's the long-awaited series sweep. Probably should have lost this one, butI don't think there's any reason to argue about a W on the board.
Running short on time because of work, but a few observations:
A. There's always someone different getting it done. Today, it was Pablo Ozuna with a key pinch-hit double in the Bottom of the 8th.
B. Sometimes I wonder if this team's too aggressive on the basepaths. On the same play that drove in the winning run, Aaron Rowand ended up getting thrown out at home. Why risk an unnecessary out on such a close play when you have an opportunity to knock in 2 more runs? I don't think the double was good enough to warrant Rowand, coming from 1st Base, to be waived all the way.
C. El Duque with another outing of living dangerously, giving up 6 walks, but he pitchced pretty well. He probably should have gotten out of Bottom of 5th without giving up the tying run. Having said that, he needs to get his control in order. He can't keep getting away with walking so many batters.
Also, he needs to be more efficient in his pitches. He threw 111 pitches, 61 of them for strikes, in 5 innings. Ozzie had to use Politte, Cotts and Vizcaino for the 2nd day in a row. And Hermanson's unavailable with a bad back - or as far as I heard -.
It's early in the season, sure, but it's important to monitor the relievers' progress, especially the number of innings they're throwing. Even if Buehrle and Garcia pitch 200+ innings for the season (which I think they will, barring injury), bullpen will be taxed significantly if Contreras, Hernandez and Garland can't eat their share of innings.
D. Ozzie went with Takatsu again. Good. Takatsu looked pretty good, for the most part. He fell behind the count a couple times, but he came back and got a strikeout, a ground ball and a easy fly ball to leftfield. That's his 6th save.
Ozzie needs to make sure Takatsu's feeling confident. He's still got some filthy stuff, and his fastball's picking up on velocity. He'll be good. Ozzie needs to just give him the ball when the 9th inning comes and game's on the line.
14-4, But 144 to Go
The Sox win again 3-2 in 10 innings, thanks to some good hustle play, luck and a 2-out hit. They've got the best record in the league, and they're beating up division rivals. That will play a factor later on in the season.NoteworthyA. Joe Crede looks like he finally turned a corner. He went 2-for-5 today, extending his hitting streak to 14 games - tying for the season high set by Brian Roberts of Baltimore Orioles.B. Juan Uribe swung the bat real well, going 3-for-4 and driving in a run on Top of the 2nd with a double. He was also part of the mix on the Top of the 10th, moving AJ Pierzynski to third in a solid 2-out single that led to Rowand's game-winning RBI hit. C. The bullpen held up, save for the unfortunate run given up in the Bottom of 8th. Politte, Cotts, Vizcaino and Marte combined for 6 2/3 IP, giving up 6 hits, 1 ER, 3 BB and 5 KsConcernsA. Jose Contreras left the game in the bottom of the 4th with a strained lower hamstring. This could be leave cause some problems for the starting rotation, if the injury forces Contreras to go on the DL. Hermanson's too valuable in the bullpen to be a spot starter. Neal Cotts may be a good option, but that leaves the 'pen short of a left-handed reliever and I don't know how good an option Kevin Walker will be since he struggled during Spring Training.The most logical option would be Brandon McCarthy, who was terrific during spring training. But the Sox have a history of rushing young pitchers out of the system that ends up setting them back (Jon Rauch, Jon Stewart), and McCarthy has been a little sluggish coming out of the gate in Charlotte - with a 4.76 ERA in 17 IP, although his K to BB ratio stands at 21:5. It would make sense to let him get at least a dozen more starts in AAA to get his bearings set and work out his changeup a little bit more.Perhaps Jon Adkins or Josh Stewart could fill in for a couple starts, but they haven't done so well, either. I guess the wild card is Robert Person - the 35-year-old righthander who missed all of last year because of arm surgery. I remember reading that he may be called up soon. B. Jermaine Dye and Paul Konerko are struggling, for the most part. Both of them struck out thrice today. The one who really concerns me, though, is Dye - at least Konerko's got 7 HR and 13 RBI. Dye's hitting .180, with 3 HR and 8 RBI and has struck out 12 times. For the White Sox to sustain their success, Dye needs to come around and start hitting. For all the talk about smallball, this team still relies on power when it gets down to business. If Dye can't produce, then the Sox need Frank Thomas to step in and contribute right away. If so, then Everett will be able to move to rightfield and platoon with Dye, which will negate the lack of production from Dye. But Dye has a good track record - until his injury with the Athletics. And I think he will come around. Just the matter of when.C. Sox drew 3 walks in 40 at bats. It's a bit alarming, but I haven't pushed any panic buttons yet. From the WatchtowerA. Good day for Korean starting pitchers in New York City.In the Texas Rangers' 10-2 victory over the New York Yankees, Chan Ho Park improved to a 2-1 record, pitching 6 2/3 innings while giving up 3 hits and one run. It's good to see the pitcher who paved the way for all the Korean players to reach the majors succeeding after years of criticisim, ridicule, injuries and disappointments. He's no longer a guy who overpowers hitters, but a pitcher who relies on location and a good sinker. The one concern is the number of pitches he threw - 122. Only 66 of them were for strikes, and he had to work out of a lot of 3-2 counts. He struck out 6, but also walked 5. He shouldn't make it harder on himself than it already is to face major league hitters by issuing free passes.At Shea, Jae Weong Seo was unexpectedly called up to make a start against the Washington Nationals and pitched [...]
Why the No-Go for Shingo?
The first month of the regular season isn't even over yet, and the White Sox already have a closer controversy.
Shingo Takatsu, who established himself as a dependable closer in 2004 with a 2.31 ERA and 19 Saves in 59 appearances, has looked wild so far in 2005. Despite his five saves, he sports an unsightly 9.64 ERA, mainly caused by the April 7 outing when he gave up 3 solo shots in 2/3 innings, blowing the save and eventually leading to the discombobulation of Luis Vizcaino - the sacrificial lamb from the White Sox' bullpen.
As Cheat's Southside Blog
points out, Takatsu has struggled to stay ahead of hitters. This is a significant problem, since he doesn't have a dominant fastball to overpower hitters when he can't locate his breaking balls within the strike zone. Furthermore, he's lost velocity on the fastball - he's hovering somewhere between 83 to 86 mph this season, a significant drop from last year's range of 85 to 88 (I even saw him hit 91 a couple times). I suppose the change of pace would still work if he could take a little more off of his slider and curve, but I think that would slow down those pitches to a point where hitters can just stay back and make solid contacft. Since his fastball is fairly mediocre, batters are simply letting the breaking pitches go by and waiting for a fastball to bust out of the park.
Having said these things, I think it's still a bit premature to talk about closer by committee or anything like that. Takatsu's 2005 sample is 4 2/3 innings pitched - that's just not enough, in my opinion, to say that he's not going to cut it. Also, there needs to be credit given to him for his performance from 2004. Perhaps there is an inherent bias toward Takatsu because he isn't the ideal closer that baseball people want - a tall, imposing figure who complements a 95+ mph fastball with a biting slider or a chainsaw cutter. But the bottom line is that his frisbees, 55 mph changeups and a mediocre fastball got the job done for the White Sox last year. He deserves a better fate than second-guessing in the first month of his second season, and certainly more confidence shown to him by Ozzie Guillen than in April 19, when he got yanked with a 1 out, 2 run lead for Damaso Marte. If Guillen wants Takatsu to be his closer, he should give him the opportunity to work it all out on the mound early in the season so there aren't any doubts as to whether he can be dependable at the end of the season. Better to blow some leads earlier in the season than later, I think, when the pennant race gets heated and number of games left are dwindling.
Even as I find less and less time to do things, I drive myself crazy with my urges to write about anything and everything that comes to my mind. This is just one more of my crazy projects.
Let me say first off that baseball is my first love. And let me also say that most of what you will see here will relate, in one way or another, to the Chicago White Sox.
Mostly, I just want to voice my opinions/rant about something that catches my attention/irks me/pisses me off beyond belief. About something that I truly enjoy. About something that I would kill to see it in person with a hotdog in one hand and a cold Pepsi in the other. If people cross upon it and like it, great. If not, that's cool, too. This is for me primarily. Not anybody else.
Hopefully I'll be able to get situated and start writing real entries soon. Until then, I'm off.