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Ninth Man Out

What happened?

Updated: 2018-03-05T08:13:50.091-08:00


Podsednik out (for 6 weeks), Erstad in

2007-01-23T20:07:04.656-08:00 is reporting that White Sox left fielder Scott Podsednik will be out for six weeks after groin surgery Tuesday, and that the team is also close to a deal with outfielder Darin Erstad. Right off the bat, it looks like the Sox are looking for Erstad to compete with Brian Anderson in center field and possibly help Ryan Sweeney cover left field in case Podsednik suffers a setback. Erstad has hardly been the picture of health. When he hasn’t missed considerable time as he has in three of the past four seasons, he’s battled injuries of the nagging variety that compromise his ability to be a useful player. Since the Sox are only counting on him to be a de facto fourth outfielder, that’s not a big deal. But there’s one glaring problem: Erstad can’t really hit lefties. Here’s a look at some of the recent work Sox outfielders have done against southpaws: Player OPS OPS vs. LHP Podsednik 683 562 Anderson 649 638 Sweeney* 804* 665* Erstad** 697** 614** Ozuna 809 827 *=2006 at Charlotte*=2005 I put Erstad’s 2005 season in the table because he had fewer than 100 at-bats in 2006. You can argue that even a full season is too small of a sample size to mean anything, but these numbers are not out of line with what all of these guys have done in their careers, excepting maybe Sweeney: Player Career OPS Career OPS vs. LHP Podsednik 720 675 Anderson 642 603 Sweeney N/A N/A Erstad 771 722 Ozuna 703 734 As Erstad and Podsednik have aged, their splits have become more pronounced. Anderson and Sweeney may yet come around to hit lefties better as they both approach their peaks. It appears the Sox are counting on it since only Ozuna can hit lefties. And you can hardly describe him as an “outfielder.” Even if everyone continues to hit this poorly against lefties, it wouldn’t be a disaster, especially when you consider exceptional left-handed pitching in the American League Central is dragging some of these numbers down. Only Podsednik’s splits are very drastic. While the groin surgery might help him get back on track in the stolen base department, I doubt it will help him at the plate against southpaws, against whom he looked lost through all of 2006. And that’s the rub. Podsednik is slated to be the starting left fielder. If the Sox were going to bring in an outfielder, ideally it would be a lefty-killer to take away those at-bats from Podsednik. Erstad, who was once the elite defensive center fielder in the AL, gives the Sox the luxury of letting him take all the at-bats from Anderson should he bomb at the plate again this year. But he doesn’t have the offensive skills to either platoon with Podsednik, or to take over left field outright. So the long story made short is that this is an OK signing, but not a great one. It gives the Sox some more depth, but doesn’t really solve the offensive problems in either left or center field.[...]

Sox sign some scrubs


Wiki Gonzalez gets a non-roster invite to White Sox spring training. So do Kenny Kelly and Ryan Bukvich.
The Sox needed some catching depth, and now they have it in Gonzalez, who I think is an improvement on the recently departed Chris Stewart. Gonzalez has always hit well in the minors (812 career OPS), while not carrying that success at the plate with him to the majors (666 OPS). He’ll start out at Charlotte and probably only surface in Chicago if there’s an injury to either A.J. Pierzynski or Toby Hall.
As a bonus, Gonzalez handles left-handed pitching pretty well. So if it’s Hall that goes down, the Sox won’t really miss a beat. Losing Pierzynski would hurt, but that’s true for any team that loses its starting catcher.
Bukvich is the real highlight here, and he will try to push himself into a crowded bullpen picture. He’s another reclamation project for the Sox. Bukvich comes in with solid minor-league credentials, striking out more than 11 guys per nine innings with a 3.19 ERA outside of the Big Show.
Of course, he’s also walked more than five guys per nine over the same 279 career frames. Last season, coming off Tommy John surgery in the Rangers organization, he gave up 44 hits – eight of which went over the fence – in only 35.1 innings at AAA.
Bukvich has also had problems in his brief time in the American League. With the Royals and Rangers, he’s walked almost a man an inning. He’s registered 41 walks against 39 strikeouts. He posted those numbers in 46 innings before his elbow injury.
Before the TJ surgery Bukvich didn’t have a problem with giving up HRs in the minors or his short stint in the big leagues. The strikeouts are still there, so Bukvich still has some upside left. The odds of him being real good are real small. But then again, nobody thought Matt Thornton would be good when he came over from Seattle (including me).
Tell me if you’ve heard this one: The Sox sign an outfielder who used to be a college quarterback.
Kelly is like Joe Borchard-lite – all the physical tools but without the tantalizing power at the plate. While Borchard owns a .474 career minor-league slugging percentage, Kelly sits at .398. Kelly also has the same problem making contact, striking out in almost a quarter of his at-bats just like Borchard. And I’m not aware of any scouting report that indicates Kelly is better in center field.
Simply put, Borchard is a superior player. And if he wasn’t able to stick as a reserve outfielder with the Sox last season, Kelly won’t do it this season. Look for him to share time in Charlotte.

Evaluating the offseason: Big long update


It’s still a long time before pitchers and catchers report, but if rumors of another big trade just around the corner are true, we might as well get a head start at looking at how White Sox GM Kenny Williams is reshaping his championship roster. Let’s start with the first and biggest: Traded Aaron Rowand and two minor league pitchers for Jim Thome: Knowing that Paul Konerko could be on his way out the door, and that Frank Thomas might not be able to play in 2006, Williams decided it was worth the risk of taking on Thome, who saw his 2005 season abbreviated by injuries. Some of that risk is mitigated by the fact that Philadelphia is paying almost half of the money owed to the 35-year old slugger. That means he’ll only cost the Sox about $8 million per season just three years after the Phillies gave him a six-year, $75 million contract. But it’s still a huge risk. Here’s what Thome has done the last few years: Year OBP SLG OPS+ 2002 .445 .677 191 2003 .385 .573 151 2004 .396 .581 148 2005 .360 .352 83 That’s a pretty disturbing trend. But I’m less alarmed for a couple reasons. The first is that Thome has had OPS+ seasons of 131, 125, 158, 166, 155, 152, 142, 132, 169, 191, 151, 148 and 83 in seasons going back to 1993. There are only two outliers here. The first is the 191 he put up in 2002, his last year in Cleveland and the season that earned him a $75 million payday. The other is his dismal 2005 where injuries halted his streak of excellence. So while the table above looks like an aging slugger crashing hard from his peak years put up during his prime, 2003-04 was really just a continuation of what could be a Hall-of-Fame career even without the monster ’02 campaign. And make no mistake about it, Thome is a devastating hitter. His career on-base percentage of .408 is something the Sox could desperately use in their lineup. And even if Thome’s best days are behind him, consider this: in 2005, the aging Thome posted a .360 OBP despite posting only a .207 batting average. The highest OBP on the Sox last year? Konerko’s career-best .375. In other words, his secondary skill set is still there. So if he can rebound from his injuries and even play as a shadow of himself in his glory years, Thome is an upgrade to the middle of the lineup, where we’ve fortunately seen the last of Carl Everett (.311 OBP). Of course, there is also the talent the Sox gave up, and that has to figure into the mix as far as how this trade is evaluated. Aaron Rowand could be the best defensive outfielder in baseball. But I think it’s time to admit that his great hitting year of 2004 was probably an anomaly. YEAR OPS 2002 80 2003 104 2004 126 2005 93 That the Sox have a carbon copy of Rowand in Brian N. Anderson ready to take over the job in center makes it an easy decision. Rowand probably won’t get any better with the glove, or with the bat. That’s not to say he’s not still a good player. He is, and his defense in center is a big reason the Sox pitching staff was so successful. But by the same token, his value will never be higher than it is right now. The Sox were wise to cash him in. I hope he’s appreciated in Philadelphia, where he’ll be a great fit playing between Pat Burrell and the defensively overrated Bobby Abreu (Gold Glove or no). Daniel Haigwood and Gio Gonzalez are a pair of good left-handed pitching prospects. But they’re still only prospects in the same way Corwin Malone was a prospect years ago. It’s a dangerous game to flip everyone in your farm system for the here and now, but with a wealth of minor league pitchers, it’s not a bad idea to capture value from some of[...]

Loaiza lands in Oakland


Imagine for a few minutes the career path of a B-list television actor. You struggle early in your career, playing bit roles and tooling around comedy clubs but then get your big break as the lead role in a network sitcom.

The show is good enough to last a few seasons, not long enough to land you big residuals once it goes into syndication, but long enough for you to get typecast. So the next thing you know, you’re sitting around Hollywood basements tossing cards around with guys like Dustin Diamond and Nick Lachey, wondering if you can land a spot on some celebrity poker show.

Then after everyone’s written you off, you land a supporting role on a cable TV show, and all of a sudden, you’re cashing paychecks again as a serious actor.

That’s probably pretty close to how Esteban Loaiza’s baseball career has been. Up through age 30, Loaiza bounced from Pittsburgh to Texas to Toronto. Some years he was decent, some years he was pretty terrible.

Then things changed when he landed on with the White Sox in 2003. He picked up a new gimmick (his cut fastball), parlayed that into a career season (154 ERA+ with 207 K in 226 1/3 innings) and looked like he was going to be set.

But that’s when the Sox pulled the plug on his little sitcom, trading him to the Yankees mid-2004. Loaiza imploded in the Bronx and had to settle for a one-year deal with the Nationals going into 2005.

Instead of falling off the table for good, Loaiza came back and leveraged a nice pitcher’s park into a 3.77 ERA. He was again striking guys out (173). And that yeoman-like effort just earned him a 3-year, $21 million contract from the Oakland A’s this week.

As one of my favorite guys to watch with the Sox in recent years, it’s nice to see Loaiza land on his feet. While some have panned the deal he just inked as an albatross for the small-market A’s, I think it will end up looking like a pretty smart move after the dust settles with the other free-agent pitchers this offseason.

Congratulations Esteban.

Sox should move to pick up Cruz


Shingo Takatsu for Jose Cruz Jr.? That’s a deal I’d make if I were Sox GM Kenny Williams. Today is the last day the Sox can deal Takatsu before he becomes a free agent, so the timing would be perfect. And the team could definitely use an upgrade on its bench. Cruz, and his ability to handle all three outfield positions, would be a good fit. And take a look at this cast of characters that manager Ozzie Guillen has been shuffling into the lineup: Player AB OBP SLG OPS Cruz 202 .347 .436 .789 Perez 100 .290 .330 .620 Everett 280 .307 .452 .759 Harris 92 .287 .228 .515 Ozuna 109 .330 .339 .670 Of course Carl Everett has been getting the bulk of his at-bats in the DH spot, but you could argue that Cruz would be an upgrade there, too. That’s pretty sad. As for the rest of these guys, there’s not much to say that the numbers don’t. Ozuna is a utility infielder, so of course he’s not going to be hitting like a monster. And as Harris and Perez sink lower and lower, it’s beginning to be an open question of whether either guy belongs on the roster. I suggested the Sox pick up Cruz around this time last year, too, because he always seems to hit for around an .800 OPS, plays great defense in the outfield corners, and can handle center field. He’s the ideal fourth outfielder and upgrades an extraordinarily weak White Sox bench. Just like a year ago, it’s still a good idea for a team in need of an upgrade. And the price will never be lower.[...]

Trade rumors send up red flags


Before anyone gets too excited about the prospect of A.J. Burnett landing with the White Sox, lets look at a couple different pitchers: IP K BB WHIP ERA Pitcher A 132 124 48 1.32 3.48 Pitcher B 119 89 53 1.32 4.38 Pitcher A obviously has a pretty big advantage in strikeout rate, but the difference in walks is almost negligible. The ERAs are obviously different, but here’s a secret: According to ESPN, Pitcher A toils in a ballpark that has a park factor of .898. Pitcher B, meanwhile, plies his craft in a ballpark with a park factor of 1.139. Despite the better K-rate for pitcher A, with everything else being close to equal, you could probably expect about the same performance from these two guys from now until the end of the season. If you hadn’t figured it out yet, Pitcher A is Burnett. Pitcher B is our own Jose Contreras. As of now, Burnett would be a marginal upgrade over Contreras, but if the cost of that modest of an upgrade is Contreras, Damaso Marte and Brandon McCarthy, then it’s probably not worth it. If the Marlins wanted to trade Burnett straight over for Contreras, that would make a little more sense. Contreras is signed for another season at what almost looks like a bargain-basement price ($7 million, less a million the Yankees are kicking in), and the Marlins are looking for cost certainty going into the future. And they surely won’t be able to afford Burnett next year, who will look to boost his $3.65 million salary into the $10 million per year range. With Marte getting older and living more dangerously with the walks by the day (his WHIP is 1.65 because he’s walked 21 in just over 29 innings), the Sox could probably live with tossing him into the deal, too. But tossing in McCarthy would be too much. For starters, McCarthy is hardly fool’s gold when it comes to being a prospect. Despite his 5.17 ERA for Charlotte, he’s still got 94 strikeouts in 78 1/3 innings. That’s phenomenal. He’s not struggling because he’s walking a ton of guys, though that’s what you might expect from a power pitcher. His 1.29 WHIP is also very good. His Achilles’ heel has been his penchant for giving up the gopher ball: he’s yielded 14. But that’s hardly reason to panic, or to toss him into a trade where the benefits are questionable. His potential isn’t worth just two months of Burnett. HANDLING THE HOT CORNER Should third baseman Mike Lowell, and his huge contract, still be a necessary part of a Burnett deal, that would benefit the Sox, right? After all, isn’t Lowell recovering from his slump, posting an .808 OPS in July? And doesn't Joe Crede suck? Well, don’t look now, but for as disappointing as Crede has been for Sox fans, he’s having as good a month as Lowell. In fact, he’s had two months as good as Lowell: April May June July Total Lowell .578 .573 .658 .808 .646 Crede .824 .494 .871 .820 .741 Now, the same issue of park factors that applies to Contreras and Burnett applies to Lowell and Crede, so in fairness to Mike, he’s probably having a better July than (Not So) Young (Anymore) Joe. But again, here the numbers are in Crede’s advantage, and adjusting for the park would only give Lowell a slight edge. Crede is still whipping him on the season tallies. It should also be pointed out that Lowell’s career-high OPS was .880 in 2003. He came close to that again in 2004 with an .870 mark, but that’s the only time he’s been within 50 points of his peak. So to assume Lowell would be much of an upgrade on offense, you have to have faith that he’s going to bou[...]

Quick Update


It's been a long time since I've been able to find the time to write, and the sporadic entries will probably continue at least through the rest of this month. But I have some time right now, so let's catch up on what's happening on the south side.I think the best way for me to do that is with a little season review and a look forward, position-by-position.First Base:Paul Konerko is still struggling with his batting average (.237 through June 10), but as I've mentioned before, he's still getting on base (.349 OBP). I don't think he'll finish the year with an average below .260. In fact, I think he'll eventually hit closer to .300. Once more hits start falling in for him, Konerko will probably lift his team-leading .838 OPS to around .900. No worries here.Second Base:Tadahito Iguchi seems to have found his power. After going all of April with only three extra-base hits (all doubles), Iguchi has now cracked five home runs and has sent 17 hits for extra bases, including a pair of triples. He's making adjustments at the plate, and I believe his .869 OPS in May is closer to his ability to than his .729 OPS from April. Even if we have to settle for something in between, his .778 OPS for the year still ranks him among the 10 best second basemen in baseball right now.Third Base:After a putrid month of May (.155 BA, .495 OPS... ughh, I feel sick), Joe Crede has been torching everyone to the tune of 1.248 in the first third of June. So pretty much, what you see is what you get -- a streaky hitter that's probably going to finish with an OPS between .725 and .750. That's pretty much the story of Crede's career, which makes him a good candidate to be replaced at the trade deadline. Though I would be surprised if there were a better option available on the market that won't come at a prohibitive cost. Crede is still a middle-of-the pack hitter among third basemen, and let's not forget that he's putting together a better season that Adrian Beltre, Mike Lowell or Eric Chavez.Shortstop:There's no way around the fact that Juan Uribe has struggled this year. He's playing average defense at short (middle of the pack in Zone Rating, Range Factor and Fielding Pct.), and his bat has been horrible. He hasn't been the Cristian Guzman (.468 OPS) or even Royce Clayton (.581) kind of bad. But he's been bad (.655 OPS). Can he turn it around?The answer is I don't know, but if he's going to he's going to have to find his power. So far this season, 67 percent of his hits have been singles. Last year only 58 percent of his hits went for one base. That doesn't sound like much, but you're talking about a dozen extra-base hits. That's huge. Especially for a player like Uribe, who's hitting value is almost exclusively tied to his ability to uncork the regular home run.This poses an interesting problem for Sox GM Kenny Williams. After a big year last year, he inked Uribe to a 3-year deal and everyone expected the 25-year-old shortstop to be present and future of the position. Now Uribe is easily the worst hitter in the Sox lineup. If you're Williams, what do you do? You could go out and get another shortstop, but what does that do to Uribe -- both his production and his attitude -- over the next two year's of his contract? You could sit and wait for Uribe to find his power stroke again. But if it doesn't happen this year, it could sink the team's title hopes.After popping 23 homers a year ago, it's safe to say Uribe won't come close to that with only four this year. But if he could recapture some of his form from last year, he could be a boost for the Sox down the stretch. At this point, waiting to see if that happens is probably the best option for now.Catcher:A.J. Pierzynski has been as good as advertised. His .800 OPS is second-best on the team, and far, far exceeds the suckitude the Sox got from the position the second half of last year. Pierzynski also has nine home runs -- only two away from [...]

White Sox 5, Cubs 1


Posts have been in short supply here, mostly because I've been short on time. I've still been watching a lot of White Sox games, but I haven't had the time to watch and write about them. That's still the case, but for something as big as the Cubs-Sox series, I just had to make time.Despite my life-long loyalties to the South Side, I had never hated the Cubs with the fiery passion that burns inside of most White Sox fans. That is, I never did until the winter of 2003-04.The Sox had at least been fringe contenders for the better part of the previous dozen seasons. They had very good teams in 1992 and 1993, and a team many felt was World Series-bound before the 1994 season was cut short. After scuffling in '95, the Sox hung around in '96 and '97, even blowing the Wild Card the last month of the season. That mercifully cost then-Sox manager Terry Bevington his job.After a modest rebuilding project from 1998-99, the Sox were back with a division title in 2000. That followed a string of second-place finishes that continues today.While coming thisclose so many times has been frustrating, Sox fans have at least been able to enjoy a team that hopes to contend almost every year.Not so for the Cubs.After a division title in 1989, the Cubs finished fifth, fourth, fourth, fourth, fifth, third, fourth and fifth from 1990-97. Behind Sammy Sosa's historic 1998 season, as well as brilliant pitching from some rookie named Kerry Wood, the Cubs would overcome a Brant Brown gaffe that cost them the last game of the season by beating the Giants in a one-game playoff to win the Wild Card.The Cubbies would appear overmatched on paper in their first-round matchup against Atlanta. That still looked to be the case when the game was moved from paper to grass with the Braves taking Game 1 by a 7-1 score .But then in Game 2, Kevin Tapani, who switched directly from the South Side to the North Side two years earlier, pitched brilliantly. He took a 1-0 lead into the final inning and looked like he would tie the series at one game apiece. With Wood going in Game 3, Cub fans had reason to be hopeful.That was before Javy Lopez erased the shutout, and most of the Cubs playoff hopes with a ninth-inning blast. The Braves scored one more off Terry Mulholland in the 10th and went on to sweep the series with a 6-2 win the Game 3. Greg Maddux was the winning pitcher for Atlanta.The Cubs stayed in the race the next season until going into a full-out death spiral that began with a sweep at the hands of the Sox in June of that year.So outside of one surprising season in the sun, the Cubs had been a non-factor in the pennant race for almost 15 years.Then came 2003.Behind a quartet of aces, led by Wood and second-year hurler Mark Prior, the Cubs pitched their way into an NL Central title and the postseason. They again faced the Braves, only this time came out on top 3-2 in the series -- even beating Maddux once along the way.Anyone paying attention to Chicago baseball knows what happened next: The Cubs come within a few outs of the World Series, at least until an Alex Gonzalez error and Dusty Baker's decision to leave Prior in too long derail their chances. Oh, and some Bartman guy caught a foul ball.Despite throwing Wood and Prior in games 6 and 7, the Cubs never recovered. But that winter, they did reload for 2004. Maddux, who left the Cubs with some acrimony back in 1993, just as his run of dominance was beginning, returned as the fifth(!) starter. Derek Lee, who helped sink the Cubs in the '03 postseason took over at first base. Aramis Ramirez would be around for a whole season. LaTroy Hawkins would give the team a reliable setup man. Todd Walker would give it depth at second base. And everyone else would be back, healthy and happy.At some point that winter, confidence turned into arrogance on the North Side. Wrigleyville was flooded with irrational exuberance. And the smugn[...]

The beat goes on for the Southsiders


Since the last time your faithful narrator checked in, the White Sox finished off a sweep of the Blue Jays, dropped a couple bad losses to the Devil Rays of all teams, and ensured themselves at least a split with the AL East-leading Orioles by taking the first two games of a four-game set with the birds from Baltimore.The Sox have now won seven straight at home and overall are 11-2 in their last 13 games. And for the most part, the basic formula has remained the same. Let the starter work deep into the game, let the offense scratch out a few runs and then let the bullpen nail it down.The only time the bullpen didn't nail it down was in the 7-6 loss to the Devil Rays. But that by itself hardly constitutes a meltdown. In fact, since the last time I've written about it, the bullpen has remained rock-solid.Dustin Hermanson has yet to allow a run in 18 1/3 innings and appears to have emerged as the de facto closer. But as good as he's been with a .76 WHIP, Cliff Politte has been even better with a .68 WHIP and 17 strikeouts in 13 1/3 innings. Politte's ERA now stands at 1.35.Damaso Marte has also been pitching well with a 1.93 ERA, despite a 1.71 WHIP. He's been walking a tightrope with 12 walks in 14 innings, but he's helped bail himself out with 16 strikeouts. Something will have to give, though. Either Marte tops walking guys or his ERA will skyrocket.The other two big pieces -- Shingo Takatsu and Luis Vizcaino are both scuffling with ERAs of 7.00 or higher. But there are plenty of reasons to like the work they've been giving the Sox lately.Both survived disasterous outings against Cleveland on April 7. In fact, of the 20 earned runs the pair has given up this season, nine were against the Tribe that afternoon. That must hurt, especially for Vizcaino, who was left hung out to dry because he was the last man in the bullpen.I know it's a slippery slope when you begin saying things like "without such-and-such outings, pitcher X has X.XX ERA." But without the Cleveland game, Takatsu's ERA is 3.38 and Vizcaino's is 4.60.Takatsu has struck out 12 men per 9IP while walking a handful and allowing his share of hits. Vizcaino has not been striking guys out (5.63 K/9), but has avoided home runs (1 allowed this year). So when you look at their peripherals, those adjusted ERAs sound about right for what they're getting done on the mound. Not enough to qualify them as studs, but even with the ass-busting ERAs they're still touting, they haven't been bad options for the Sox.I guess the other shoe could still drop, as we're only a month and a half into the season. Small sample sizes are still an issue, but short of overuse, even when the clock strikes mid-season, it's hard to see the whole bullpen turning into a collection of pitching pumpkins.So lets talk about last night's game.GAME NOTES:Taking the ball:Mark Buehrle tossed another eight innings last night, putting him on pace to throw more than 270 innings. The last Sox pitcher to throw more than 250 innings in a season was Alex Fernandez, who had 258 in 1996. The last time a White Sox pitcher tossed more than 270 innings was 1975, when Jim Kaat and Wilbur Wood both crushed that mark with 303 2/3 and 293 1/3 innings, respectively.There's still a lot of season left, and I'd be surprised if Buehrle managed to throw that many innings. But I think at this point we can also be surprised if he doesn't throw more than 220.Something else interesting of note is that out of the last 10 non-strike-shortened seasons, the only years the White Sox didn't have a left-handed pitcher toss 200 innings were 2000, when Mike Sirotka managed only 197 because of injuries down the stretch, and in 1997, when Wilson Alvarez threw 145 before being traded to the Giants. Alvaraz still finished the year with 200+ innings.Not out of the woods yet:Paul Konerko went 2-for-3 and keyed Friday's Sox win wi[...]

No New Posts


Due to a heavy workload, I won't be able to post again until this weekend. I apologize to anyone that's been looking for updates the last few days.

Chicago 5, Toronto 3


The White Sox survived a Timo Perez start in center field to pull out a 5-3 win at Toronto on Friday. A.J. Pierzynski's bloop single scored two runs to make a winner out of Orlando Hernandez, who pitched seven solid, if not spectacular innings.I mentioned earlier this week that I secretly root for Timo Perez because he bunted for a base hit in a key bases-loaded situation during an important game against the Twins. Not only did he reach base on one of the best bunt plays I've seen the last few years, but he also drove in the tying run (nevermind that the Sox went on to lose the game 5-4).But it goes deeper than that.Like I'm sure other baseball fan's do, I pick and choose teams to root for in league opposite of my favorite team's league. Not the same team every year, but whichever squad I latch onto for some reason or another. In 2000 it was the New York Mets.At first it had nothing to do with Perez. It had more to do with Robin Ventura, who was one of my favorites when he wore a Sox uniform. But there were a lot of interesting dudes on that team: Mike Piazza, who's always seemed like a swell guy whenever he's not coming across as a homophobe; Mr. Hawaiian Puch Benny Agbayani, the kind of career minor leaguer that's fun to root for; Rick Reed, who I like despite his would-be-union-busting past; Turk "99" Wendell; two guys named Bobby Jones; and Rickey Henderson, still in his prime when it came to referring to himself in the third person.Even some guys I don't like to root for were having decent seasons, like "Operation Shutdown" Derek Bell (101 OPS+) and the mostly useless Lenny Harris (117 OPS+ in 132 at-bats over 76 games).So I was rooting for the Mets, and when Perez came up and gave them an .809 OPS in 49 at-bats, it was neat. And then in the postseason, he batted .300 in the NLDS and NLCS combined. Especially in the NLCS against the Cardinals, it seemed like he scored every time he got on base. And I guess with seven hits, one walk and eight runs scored, he did.Moreover, at the time we all thought he some 23-year old. He was young. He had potential. He had some upside for a Mets outfield that was mostly old and lousy.If Timo's .643 OPS in 2001 didn't kill his prospectdom, then it was completely done in when he aged two extra years the winter before the 2002 season like a lot of other Latin American players.So things have really stayed unchanged since then. He still sucks with the bat, and he's no great shakes with the glove either. Witness Friday night in Toronto:In the second inning with two two Blue Jay runs in, Perez charged in and caught a Russ Adams fly ball for the second out. Rather than regroup and at least threaten a throw home, he flipped the ball to second base in an attempt to double off Alex Rios. Rios was safe and the slow-ass Greg Zaun scored from third. Darrin Jackson, calling the game on TV, said the run was likely to score anyway. But I don't think they send Zaun's not-so-fleet-feet if Perez come's up looking to throw home... even with his soft-tossing arm.Then in the ninth inning, Adams made Perez his puppet again when he hit a ball to center that Perez charged to catch, but didn't come near enough to catching. The ball went past him for a double. It was a play that probably gets made by either Aaron Rowand or Scott Posednik. That might be an unfair comparison since both of those guys are superb defenders. But by comparison Timo looked bad.So Perez isn't a good hitter and isn't a great defender. So why root for him?Because he's the underdog. Because there's no reason root against him. Because I'm sure he'd be a nice enough guy if I ever meet him sometime.Maybe if Timo were stealing time from some young, up-and-coming outfielder becasue of some manager's fetish for his "veteran presence" or some crap like that. That would be a go[...]

Chicago 2, Royals 1


Fun game, but no post tonight. I'm getting behind on my real-world responsiblities. But I'll be back at it sometime Saturday morning.

White Sox 4, Royals 2


The White Sox took home a 4-2 win and became the first team in the majors to reach 20 wins on Wednesday despite their No. 2-through-5 hitters combining to go 1-for-14. Jermaine Dye picked up some of the slack in the six hole with a 2-for-3 night, while A.J. Pierzynski and Joe Crede clouted home runs from the seventh and eighth spots, respectively. With only six hits and two walks, it’s probably not a game the Sox deserved to win, especially with starter Freddy Garcia walking a tightrope by allowing eight hits and two walks through 6 1/3 innings. But they all count, so they’ll take it. Maybe the best thing the Royals have going for them is that first baseman Mike Sweeney went 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles and two RBIs, lifting his average to .321. He also leads the majors in doubles with 10. It’s not the kind of “good thing” for the Royals in that they need him to play better to help them win games. It’s the kind of “good thing” where they need him to play better so they can ship him out of town. Sweeney is owed $11 million this season, as well as each of the next two years. He’s also due a $1.5 million per year raise if he’s dealt anywhere. What looked like a good deal after 2002, when Sweeney signed for five years and $55 million, is now an albatross. Because Sweeney has played below his .877 career OPS the last two seasons while also missing more than 50 games each year, he’s not considered a good risk for a contending team looking for long-term help. But if the Royals are resigned to paying off a chunk of the contract, how well Sweeney plays will help determine how much they’re on the hook for. Putting on a Royals hat for a minute, I don’t think it would be a good idea for the Royals to pay a significant amount just to get rid of Sweeney. He wouldn’t bring much in the way of prospects, and given the Royals other 1B/DH options, they’re better off eating the money and leaving the guy that’s been the face of the franchise out there, even if it amounts to little more than a PR move. But Royals owner David Glass probably doesn’t see it that way. If he could get by with paying half the contract and sticking league-minimum guys out there like Calvin Pickering, he’d rather do that because he’s still saving almost $20 million bucks over three years. And that’s the Wal-Mart way. The Sox aren’t looking for a first baseman (imagine for a minute how ultra-Christian Sweeney would get along with Ozzie Guillen swearing in his face), so this really only effects them in that they might get to play an even worse Royals team later on this year. GAME NOTES: Why are we here again?:Apparently, the only purpose Neal Cotts had in Wednesday’s win was to come on in the sixth inning and walk Ruben Gotay. After getting nobody out, he was relieved by Cliff Politte. I haven’t written a word about Cotts in a while, and that’s because nobody has seen him since April 24. Since back-to-back bad outing against Cleveland raised his ERA to 8.10, he’s brought that back down to 3.86, despite a still scary WHIP of 1.71. Nothing personal against Cotts, but I still don’t know why he’s with the Sox instead of at Charlotte. Is it really in his best interest to only get sporadic mop-up work? He’s on pace for only 42 innings this year. More importantly for Sox fans, is it important to waste a roster spot on a guy that’s going to come in for a couple games, not pitch very well, and then not see action again for another week or so? So once again, here’s a call to let Cotts learn his trade very fifth day for the Knights. Closing the door:Dustin Hermanson pitched 1 2/3 innings to pick up his fourth save. Nobody is using th[...]

White Sox 5, Royals 4


Tadahito Iguchi hit his first home run of his major league career and Carl Everett drove home the tying and winning runs in the Sox’ 5-4 win against the Royals on Tuesday. First of all, is there a worse team in baseball than the Royals? Royals RANK Win-Loss 29 Pythagorean 28 Runs Scored 27 Runs Allowed 26 If not for Pittsburgh and Colorado, it would be a pretty clear case. But, these are the games the Sox have to win. Much noise has been made about how the Sox have to beat the Twins if they’re going to win the AL Central. But how about beating the Tigers and Royals? Lets go back to 2003, when the Sox finished four games behind the Twins: TEAM RECORD AGAINST Twins 9-10 Royals 11-8 Tigers 11-8 Now, the Royals were having a surprising season, winning 83 games when most people thought they’d lose 90 going into the year. And the Twins did out-do the Sox by a game. But only a .579 winning percentage against the Tigers? The 119-loss Tigers that had two in five of their last six to avoid baseball history’s top spot for modern futility? The Tigers had a .421 winning percentage against the White Sox …. And a .245 winning percentage against everyone else. That’s three games the Sox gave back. Those wins could have made their last series with the Royals that season meaningful. The larger point is, you have to beat the best teams in the league to prove you can play with them in the post season. But you don’t get to the postseason unless you can clean up against the lousy teams. Which the Sox didn’t do that year. GAME NOTES: What hot start?:Paul Konerko went 0-for-3 and is in danger of his batting average slipping below .200. With his prolific homer output early this season, it’s not like he’s having a stretch as bad as his first half in 2003. But maybe we’re getting to the point where we can think about it. Konerko’s a good player, but the Sox should be leery of signing him to a big-money, long-term deal. Can still hit:While most groaned at the acquisition of Carl Everett when Sox GM Kenny Williams picked him up for the second straight year, it hasn’t worked out badly for the team. Everett’s .819 OPS is second on the team behind Iguchi’s .833 mark. That’s not great, but think about where the Sox would be without his bat. He’s also shown signs of heating up, with five of his seven walks on the season coming in just the last week. That mean’s he’s not slipping into any hacktasticaly bad habits. My opinion is that the Sox still overpaid for him by giving up two pitching prospect (though marginal ones) and still taking on all of his salary. But not only has he helped them out so far this year, but his ability to play the outfield will give the Sox some flexibility when Frank Thomas comes back. POW:Scott Posednik’s on-base percentage dipped back to .352 after a 1-for-4 evening without any walks. The hit loomed large, however, as he scored the tying run. Not that that’s an excuse for his .619 OPS. On Deck:Freddy Garcia (2-1, 2,83) against Runelvys Hernandez (1-3, 5.06) and the Royals. Here’s to winning ugly against the bad teams.[...]

Chicago 8, Detroit 0


Jon Garland just keeps winning after pitching is second straight shutout Sunday against Detroit. Garland gave up only four hits, struck out six and walked only one. I don’t know that there’s anything else to say about it. After Sunday’s game, his ERA is a ridiculously low 1.38. His WHIP is a meager 0.79. His batting average against is a crazy-silly .133. Now, even the most optimistic of Sox fans knows this won’t continue. But we’re all still curious as to whether this is just a hot start for Garland, or if he’s really turned the corner. I think we’ll just have to wait and see. For what it’s worth, Garland’s season so far reminds me of the season Derek Lowe had with Boston in 2002. There are some parallels between the two, such as both being sinker balers, but beyond that their histories diverge a bit. Lowe was 29 when he had his monster season, and before that he was primarily a reliever. In fact, he saved 42 games for the Red Sox in 2000. Meanwhile, Garland has been a mainstay in the Sox rotation since moving to that role full-time during the 2001 season. Here’s a look at what Lowe did in April, and what Garland has done so far. PLAYER G WL ERA BAA WHIP SO BB IP Lowe 5 4-1 2.04 1.29 .70 22 9 35.3 Garland 5 5-0 1.38 1.33 .79 17 6 39 Both players benefited from insanely low BAAs. Lowe had an edge in striking guys out, but Garland is better in the walks department. But neither guys picked up a ton of punchouts. This may not be very instructive, but it’s a fun comparison. There’s not really any way to glean what Garland will do based on what Lowe did (though he did finish the season with a 2.58 ERA with a .211 BAA). Looking at Lowe, however, gives us an obvious example of how flaky batting average can be. When he was hit for .272 in 2003, his ERA jumped to 4.47. When his went all the way up to .299 last season, he was hammered to the tune of a 5.42 ERA. Garland has been pretty similar in his career, though more consistent with the BAA. YEAR BAA ERA 2000 .292 6.46 2001 .277 3.69 2002 .258 4.58 2003 .260 4.51 2004 .269 4.89 2005 .133 1.38 The only year that defies the correlation between BAA and ERA is 2001, but the difference there is that Garland came out of the bullpen in 19 of his 35 games. So, pretty much all we know so far is that if Garland can keep from giving up hits, he’ll keep dominating. Big surprise, huh? But not likely. The BAA will go up, so will the ERA. But at least we can dream about a season like Derek Lowe had in '02. GAME NOTES: Back-to-Back:Garland was the first Sox pitcher to throw back-to-back shutouts since Jack McDowell did it in 1991. Sox fans all know McDowell was a good pitcher, and that he was an innings horse. Starting in 1990, Black Jack had inning totals of 205, 253.7, 260.7, 256.7, 181.7*, 217.7 and 192.0. From 1991 to 1993 he had complete game totals of 15, 13 and 10. He led the league in complete games three times in his career. He pitched pretty badly for Cleveland that last season in the run of IP listed above, and after that he was pretty much washed up, never pitching more than 76 innings in his next three seasons with ERAs north of 5.00 each year. He was done by 30. So are the Sox going t[...]

Chicago 4, Detroit 3


Sox manager's Ozzie Guillen's small ball approach paid off for his team as the Sox were able to rally for three runs in the seventh inning of a 4-3 win against Detroit on Saturday.After Aaron Rowand led off the inning by getting hit by a pitch, A.J. Pierzyinski and Joe Crede followed with singles, the later scoring Rowand from second and making the score 3-2. Still with no outs, Ozzie Guillen instructed Willie Harris to bunt. Harris was able to execute and moved noted non-speedsters Pierzynski and Crede to second and third. Pierzynski would score on a groundout by Scott Posednik and Tadahito Iguchi singled to center to score Crede. The Sox left the inning with a 4-3 lead.Let me explain first that I'm all for the big inning. I'm a big proponent of Earl Weaver baseball. But lets face it, Harris wasn't going to hit a three-run home run. Outs are scarce, but here's why I think having Harris bunt was the right call:Having Harris swing away meant the most likely outcome would have been:1) A groundout that probably would have turned into a double play, creating two outs.2) A soft fly ball that gets caught, and if it advances any runners, it's probably Pierzynski to third, leaving the double play in orderorC) Harris strikes out.One of those three things probably happens two out of three times.And after that the Sox are counting on Posednik to drive in whoever is left on base? Please.Guillen decided to give up one out to get two guys in scoring position. That gave the Sox two chances to drive in guys with a base hit, and at least one chance to drive a guy in on a groundout or a flyout to tie the game. And that's what happened. The Sox got a run despite Posednik's weak grounder, and then Iguchi picked up Crede on third with a base hit.If the situation is different, say the score were 7-2 with Detroit in front earlier in the game, then you would probably want Harris to work the count, try to slap a hit or draw a walk. That would be dangerous too, because you'd still have a man on first base, and the ball Posednik followed with would have probably been double-play material, thus getting you only one run anyway. But that's a 1-in-3 chance you have to take when you need a bundle of runs.In the seventh inning of Saturday's game, however, the Sox only needed one run to tie and another to take the lead. And it still let them get to the heart of their order... Carl Everett and Paul Konerko both got to bat in the inning.In fact, it was the big ball hitters that were disapointing for the Sox in the seventh. Everett got on base, but then Konerko hit into a fielder's choice. Had there been only one out, it would have been a double play.But the point here isn't that letting the big guys swing away is a bad idea. It's a good idea, and if it had been Everett or Konerko putting down the bunt, it would have been a ridiculous play. You need those guys to do what they're good at, which is draw walks and hit home runs. But even Barry Bonds, the most successful hitter in baseball and maybe the best hitter ever, is only "successful" half the time, and less than that when you account for the situation. Most good hitters are only sucessful one out of three times. And the best hitters in the game can still kill a rally by grounding into a double play.The guys the Sox had coming up in the lineup -- Harris and Posednik -- have by no measure Bondsian prowess. They're not even "good" hitters. So Guillen was absolutely right to cash in the runs he knew he could get. I would agree that is really "smart ball."GAME NOTES:Take your base:After being hit by 10 pitches last year, Crede was hit by his third of 2005 in the fifth inning. That doesn't count the inciden[...]

Detroit 3, Chicago 2 (11 inn.)


After overachieving in the one-run game department, the Sox are coming back to earth a bit after dropping a 3-2 game to Detroit on Friday. The Sox have now lost three straight after starting out 16-4.Jose Contreras held up the pitching end of the bargain, giving up only three hits and three walks in six innings. The Sox also managed to get on base with a season-high 11 walks to go along with seven hits. Where things went south for the South Siders was in leaving 16 men on base.Aaron Rowand, Willie Harris, Joe Crede and Scott Posednik combined for five walks, but all four also combined to go 0-for-16.I don't want to bad-mouth walks, because they're the byproduct of a good approach at the plate, but man, a hit or two sure would have been nice.The outburst of patience that hit the Sox lineup helped lift the team on-base percentage up to .314. That's still only good for 24th among MLB teams, but it's better than being second-to-last like the Sox were recently. It also moves them ahead of Cleveland, Oakland and Los Angeles in the American League.Amazingly, despite also ranking near the bottom in slugging percentage (23rd), the Sox are still18th in runs scored. One huge scoring night, or a couple pretty good scoring nights, could put this team in the top 10 in runs among all 30 MLB teams.Still, that's not sustainable unless the Sox start hitting better, and even manager Ozzie Guillen has come out in the media and said so.This team really needs Frank Thomas back.GAME NOTE:Living up to expectations:When the Sox signed Tadahito Iguchi, most observers of Japanese baseball thought the second baseman would forfeit a lot of his power, but be able to sustain his average and keep drawing a fair number of walks. So far, those observations have been spot-on.Iguchi on the season has hit .324 with enough free passes (4) to keep his OBP up at .365. And of his 24 hits, only three have gone for extra bases. All three have been doubles.My guess is Iguchi drops in average a little, picks up a few more walks and sees a little spike in his power numbers as he gets more comfortable on this side of the Pacific Ocean. I can see his OPS going from .715 (going into Saturday's game against Detroit) to around .775. Nothing super, but nothing for a second baseman to be ashamed about."I never hit.":That's what manager Ozzie Guillen told the media after GM Kenny Williams joked (we hope) about activating the former shortstop to take over his old position while the Sox healed some injuries. I think it's funny because a fair number of commentators cracked that Guillen would want to field a lineup of nine light-hitting shortstops when he took the job after the 2003 season.So far, that hasn't been the case. Not only has Guillen come out and pointed to his team's offensive deficiencies, but he also hasn't loaded the team up with his batless bretheren. He even had the chance to do it when the Sox had Wilson Valdez around.For the record, Guillen batted .264 with a .287 OBP and a .338 slugging average in 7,133 at-bats in 16 seasons. He had 28 home runs, and three times reached his career high of four. Here are his top 10 matches in similarity scores.1. Alfredo Griffin (940)2. Bill Russell (924)3. Joe Tinker (923)4. Billy Jurges (913)5. Roger Peckinpaugh (901)6. Phil Rizzuto (891)7. Roy McMillan (891)8. Marty Marion (890)9. Art Fletcher (889)10. Don Kessinger (887)All of those guys except Griffin and Rizzuto have managed in the major leagues. So apparently, light-hitting middle infielders make good managerial material the same way backup catchers do.POW:Posednik is still in the same OBP territory (.347) with his two walks being nullified[...]

Sox streak snapped, lose last two in Oakland


While it was sad to see the White Sox’ eight-game streak come to an end, especially on a pair of miffed fly balls late in the last two games against Oakland, it was a pretty nice run. For now the Sox need to think about what’s going to happen with their roster. After injuries to infielders Pablo Ozuna, Juan Uribe and Tadahito Iguchi, the Sox had to resort to desperate measures in Wednesday’s 2-1 loss. Joe Crede played his first major league game at shortstop, while Chris Widger played his first professional game ever at third. Then after Crede was given the boot by umpires in the ninth, Jermaine Dye took over at shortstop for the first time since before he was a pro. With the team with its back against the wall, I have to say I’m impressed with the creativity Sox manager Ozzie Guillen showed by moving his players around the way he did. After all, what would have been the options? The Sox could have optioned lefty Neal Cotts and brought up an infielder from Charlotte. That probably wasn’t a good idea, since the shortstop options there included 30-year-old Felix Martinez and recently re-signed Greg Norton, who probably can’t handle the position anymore at the tender age of 32. Angel Gonzalez, who is hitting .333 with a .424 on-base percentage for Birmingham (Class AA) might have been an option, too, but besides the fact his numbers have only been over 48 at-bats, I don’t know that we can even coin his hitting thus far a success. He’s slugging .354 with one extra-base hit this season. He’d get the bat knocked out of his hands in the majors. So, even ignoring the fact that Cotts is the freshest arm in the Sox pen at the moment, it doesn’t look like the Sox had any internal options, making the first plan ineffective. That means the other option, putting one of the injured guys on the DL, wouldn’t work out either. The Sox would still be working with the same options. In addition to that, I’m sure the Sox wouldn’t want to risk losing one of those guys for 15 days if it turns out the injury isn’t very serious. In the case of Osuna (swollen/bruised wrist) and Iguchi (bruised knee), they probably just need a few days to heal. Uribe, with his hamstring injury, might really need a visit to the DL. So the Sox got by with what they had, and it seemed to work out OK. At least it worked out well enough that nobody should be bemoaning the loss of Wilson Valdez. GAME NOTES: Moving to his left:Joe Crede acquitted himself well at shortstop, or at least as well as you can expect from a guy that hasn’t played the position in almost five years. He didn’t make an error and was involved in a pair of double plays. This got me thinking about the last time the Sox moved their regular third baseman over to shortstop. It was May 20, 1994, in another game in Oakland. Craig Grebeck had to leave the game, so then-manager Gene Lamont shifted Robin Ventura off the hot corner over to shortstop. Sure, you could point out other guys like Juan Uribe, Greg Norton, Chris Snopek or any of the other guys the Sox have trotted out to third base and say, “Hey, didn’t those third basemen play some short?” To which I’d respond, “Yes, they did, but they weren’t THE team’s third baseman.” What makes this so special is that Joe Crede has rarely played the position, and if not for the injuries in Tuesday’s game, would never be asked to. Unlike those other guys that were utility infielder types. So how did Ventura do? He made his ninth and 10th errors of the season in eight chances, to begin and end his caree[...]

White Sox 6, Oakland 0


With help from Chris Widger’s first home run since August 9, 2000, Jon Garland tossed a complete-game four-hitter at Oakland in a 6-0 White Sox win Monday night in Oakland. Garland, who lowered his ERA to 1.80, walked only one batter and struck out three. After watching the game, I have to admit, Garland is still a puzzle to me. His strikeout rate is way down (3.3 per 9 IP), but his K/BB rate is way up (2.2 vs. 1.34 in his career), largely because he’s given up only five walks in 30 innings. Garland is on pace to toss 243 innings after going the distance Monday. Surely he won’t get that many, but even if he stayed on target for that workload at his current walk rate, he would only issue 41 free passes. That would be a career low for Garland among his complete big league seasons. YEAR BB IP BB/9IP 2001 61 117 4.69 2002 112 192.7 5.23 2003 108 191.3 5.08 2004 113 217 4.69 2005 41* 243* 1.50 *projection based on 162 game schedule A couple weeks ago I compared Garland to Brad Radke, not in the sense that they’re similar, but in the sense that Garland could be a successful pitcher without striking out a ton of guys – a la Radke. Well, cutting your career BB/9IP rate from near 5 to about 1.50 would represent a quantum leap. Is that sustainable? It just might be. Long lauded for having a tremendous sinking fastball, Garland has never been able to really establish himself as a ground-ball pitcher. Going into this year his ground ball-to-fly ball ratio was only 1.27. He’s also given up his share of titanic home runs. This year it’s been different. Garland has his G/F ratio up to 2.10. He’s also only given up one jack so far. Again, even if he goes 243 innings as projected, that would be only eight for the year. Could Garland, now 25, finally be harnessing that sinker and using it to get guys out? Well, we’ll have to see. He’ll have to continue to keep the ball down, especially in Comiskey Park. And he’ll have to keep guys off base. And watching tonight, he still looks like he likes to nibble at the zone at times. But in the meantime, it looks like something has flipped the switch, as Garland is pitching like Sox fans imagined he would when he first joined the big league staff in 2000. Fans should enjoy it now, even if it’s only an April mirage. FLASHBACK:Widger’s first jack in nearly five years put the Sox up 2-0 in the seventh inning. Ironically, his last bomb came off White Sox pitcher Mike Sirotka in a game the Sox won 19-3. It was a solo shot back then, and the last run scored in the game. Incidentally, Frank Thomas had two home runs in that game, while M’s pitcher Jamie Moyer was roasted for 11 earned runs. The win kept the Sox eight games in front of Cleveland and gave them an American League best 68-45 record. Chicago finished the year as division champs with an AL-best 95 wins. Monday, Widger raised his OPS from .481 to .760 with his 2-for-4 night. Talk about a small sample size. POW:Scott Posednik had the night off. His on-base percentage rests at .384. ON DECK:Mark Buehrle (3-1, 2.61 ERA), will go against early season dominator Rich Harden (2-0, 0.44 ERA). In addition to the microscopic ERA, Harden is also striking out more than a batter per inning. He’s also walked six men in just over 20 innings.[...]

Back in blogging form: catching up


Since your faithful author was last seen pontificating on matters related to the Pale Hose, the team has done nothing short of turn the rest of the league on its ear by going 10-2, earning itself the best record in baseball. All I can say is, “Wow.” The run has included two-game sweeps of Minnesota and Detroit, as well as a three-game sweep of the Royals, who get more pathetic and desperate by the day. The White Sox have now won seven in a row as they square off against Oakland tonight. Should we be stunned by this turn of events? Even as a Sox fan, I have to think so. The Sox have thus far been 9-1 in one-run games this year, and are playing above their Pythagorean projection. Not that I think Pythagorean is a perfect measurement, because there are things that can happen every that that skew the numbers. But I think we can be sure that if the Sox don’t improve their team on-base percentage of .298 (which ranks last in MLB), they’ll be in trouble. The Sox have had plenty of margin for error because of the stellar pitching they’ve gotten over the first part of the schedule. Their team ERA of 3.12 trails only Florida (a phenomenal mark of 2.12) and Atlanta (2.90). Chicago is the only American League team in the top five in team ERA. Two things I think we can count on going forward: 1) The Sox’ ERA will go up2) The Sox’ OBP will also go up I think the second is the more likely of the two to see a significant increase, because most of the players dragging down the Sox team OBP are players you wouldn’t expect to stay mired in a season-long slump. For instance: Jermaine Dye: The Sox’ new right fielder is batting .177 with a .215 OBP and a .323 slugging average, which adds up to an abysmal .538 OPS. No matter what you think of Dye’s talent level, we know he’s better than this. Even if he puts together a poor season, the Sox can count on more production from his spot. Aaron Rowand: Even if he’s never going to play as well as he did in his huge 2004 season, he’s better than his current .235/.278/.353 line. Carl Everett: Everett’s OBP (.254) is lower than his batting average (.258) primarily because he’s drawn only one walk this year. In his career, Carl has averaged 50 free passes per season. Unless he has a radically different approach at the plate, he’ll be able to lift his OBP. His career level is .346, with a .272 batting average. So take .020 off his career average, and that’s still not bad. In fact, it’s a whole lot better. Other guys that are pretty low are Paul Konerko (.329 this year, as opposed to .344 career) and A.J. Pierzynski (.283 this year compared to .334 in his career). Add to that mix a healthy Frank Thomas (.434 OBP last year and at .429 over the course of his Hall-of-Fame career), the Sox should be in OK shape. Their lack of on-base ability was truly exposed last year when the Big Hurt went down, but they won’t be as bad off as they were. Guys who could be playing over their head in the OBP department? Scott Posednik: His .383 mark is better than his off-the-charts (for him) 2003 in which he posted a .379 OBP. He’s on pace for 60 walks, which is about what he did each of the last two seasons, so he’ll have to keep his batting average up if he’s going to be effective. It remains to be seen if he can do that. But that’s nothing we didn’t already know going into the year. Joe Crede: Despite taking much criticism from this author, Crede looks like he’s putting together a nice litt[...]

No new posts for a while


I am sorry there haven't been many posts lately. I'd like to continue posting after every game, but it's been tough in the early going with my schedule. I hope to be back on track by Monday afternoon.

White Sox 2, Indians 1


Freddy Garcia was calm and in control for eight innings Monday when the Sox beat the Indians 2-1 in Cleveland. Garcia retired the last 14 batters he faced an used only 109 pitches. After Garcia's last time out, I made the comment that he's not an "ace" pitcher, and I'm sticking to that. It is interesting to note that by similarity scores (found on Garcia finds himself alongside some other guys that are considered aces:1. Matt Morris (956)2. Kevin Millwood (956)3. Ben McDonald (955)4. Jose Guzman (951)5. Larry Christenson (943)6. Tom Lovett (941)7. Pat Jarvis (940)8. Mark Mulder (932)Garcia is comparable to none other than the man he outdueled on Monday. And both guys are kind of similar in that they're good top-of-the-rotation guys, but not really aces because they walk a few too many guys (60-70 per year) and don't strike out a ton of guys (usually only 140-180 per season). Matt Morris is the same way, but with just a little better control (he averages 60 BB per year).And the pitcher most like Garcia through age 29, his age during his last full season? Drumroll please..... former Sox pitcher Bartolo Colon. Of course Colon could dial up the strikeouts better, and was also a bit wilder.For .GAME NOTES:-- Catcher Chris Widger, giving starter A.J. Pierzynski the day off, surprised me when he was the only Sox player to draw a walk Monday. He's never drawn more than 30 in a season, and in any season where he's had at least 100 at-bats, he's had an on-base percentage higher than .308 once -- a .325 back in 1999. Old player skills setting in? Sox fans can only hope so.-- Sox lefty reliever Damaso Marte came in and got two batters in the ninth, but he gave up a walk when he didn't go right after Indians DH Travis Hafner. I can understand wanting to work carefully to Hafner, especially in a one-run game, but since Marte has the stuff to overpower left-handed hitter, that's what he should be doing.OPS AGAINST MARTE 2002-05RH Batters: .688LH Batters: .470In 13 career at-bats, Hafner has a career OPS of .760. But that's mostly because of a .375 on-base percentage bolstered by three walks, including one yesterday. Hafner has also struck out seven times in those 13 at-bats, so it seems to me like the lefty-hitting DH is more likely to hurt Marte by taking a free pass.POW:Scott Posednik raised his on-base percentage back up to .333 by going 2-for-4. He also stole a base, scored a run and plated another with two-out RBI single in the seventh that gave the Sox the lead for good. Is small ball really working? That remains to be seen, but I suspect Scotty P. is going to have to raise his OBP a bit to remain effective on offense the entire season.ON DECK:The Sox play again at Cleveland on on Wednesday where Jose Contreras (1-0, 1.50 ERA) re-matches with Cliff Lee (0-1, 13.50). It will be interesting to see what the Tribe does against Contreras after seeing him for the second time in two weeks, and might tell us a little bit about what we can expect from the big Cuban righty for the rest of the year. [...]

Twins 5, White Sox 2


After the White Sox plated a couple early runs, reigning Cy Young-winner Johan Santana settled down and proceeded to make every hitter in the Sox line his personal bitch. An error proved costly for Sox starter Mark Buehrle. Otherwise, not much else to report.

Sox take two games in a three-game series, though, so that’s something.

On Deck Today:

Sox go to Cleveland and face Kevin Millwood for the second time in two weeks. Freddy Garcia takes the hill for Chicago.

White Sox 8, Twins 5


Despite the supposed shift to defense, the Sox are still punching their fair share of home runs, hitting three Saturday night in an 8-5 win over the Twins..Are the Sox really more of a small-ball team than last year? With Chicago's offseason moves being highlighted by the Carlos Lee-for-Scott Posednik swap, pust the decision to let Magglio Ordonez walk, that seems to be how fans and local scribes are characterizing the change.I don't buy it. Let's run down the team by position:First Base: Paul Konerko (2004) vs. Konerko (2005).Verdict: Push.Second Base: Willie Harris (2004) vs. Tadahito Iguchi (2005).Iguchi has less speed and more power. Sox actually going the other way here. Verdict: Big Ball.Shortstop: Jose Valentin (2004) vs. Juan Uribe (2005)You could argue that Uribe is more of a small-ball player than Valentin and his 30 home runs in '04. But I don't think this move has to do with a shift in philosophy. It had more to do with economics. Uribe is younger, cheaper and potentially better this season. This move was more about the personel on-hand for the Sox. Verdict: Push.Third Base: Joe Crede (2004) vs. Crede (2005)(Not-So) Young (Anymore) Joe gets one more crack at the third-base job. Verdict: Push.Catcher: Miguel Olivo (2004) vs. A.J. Pierzynski (2005)Olivo was always touted for his power potential, but really he only played like a part-time catch-and-throw guy. Pierzynski is an obvious offensive upgrade, and doesn't carry the defensive rep of the Sox' former receiver. That perception might not be the reality, but conventional wisdom says the Sox didn't go small ball here. Verdict: Big Ball.Left Field: Lee (2004) vs. Posednik (2005)This one was also fueled by economics, with Lee due $8 million and Posednik slated to earn close to the league minumum. But it's obvious this is where the Sox wanted to add "speed and defense." Verdict: Small Ball.Center Field: Aaron Rowand (2004) vs. Rowand (2005)Verdict: Push.Right Field: Magglio Ordonez (2004) vs. Jermaine Dye (2005)Ordonez is gone because the Sox didn't want to ink him to an insane contract. Economics, pure and simple. Dye plays better D, and I guess that fits in with a small-ball approach, but I don't think Dye fits the small ball mold. Verdict: Push.Designated Hitter: Frank Thomas/Carl Everett (2004) vs. Carl Everett/Frank Thomas (2005)Verdict: Push.So it goes 2-1 in favor of Big Ball for the Sox, with a fist full of pushes because the the same guys are manning the position, or because the decision wasn't about philosophy. That doesn't mean the Sox will be a more offensive club than last year. It just means I think the small ball story line has been way overplayed. The only thing Sox GM Kenny Williams did was pursue available upgrades where they fit into his payroll.Now back to the Sox/Twins series.GAME NOTES:-- Crede, Uribe and Timo Perez all had big hits, including Perez' shot in the seventh inning. I don't have time to look the stats to verify this right now, but I suspect that it helps all of those guys that radRadke generally stays in the strike zone. They've all been known to chase stuff off the plate.-- Sox pitcher Jon Garland struck out only one guy is six innings. Here's a look at Garland's Ks per nine innings:2000 5.432001 4.692002 5.232003 5.072004 4.69Garland is only 25-years-old, but his strikeouts are going the wrong way. If there's a bright side to this, his K/BB rate his improved every year he's been in the big leagues, going from 1[...]

White Sox 5, Twins 1


Nice to see Orlando Hernandez have a nice outing. He needed just more than 100 pitches to go seven innings, for the most part because he didn't walk anyone. He did strike out five. There's no secret and no mystery to it. If El Duque stays healthy, he's a great pitcher. Here's hoping the Sox keep him healthy.Meanwhile, Aaron Rowand did a little something at the plate, driving in two runs with a homer in three at-bats. I don't know that we can say he's officially heating up with the bat, but you can't argue with what he did Friday night.Paul Konerko continues to rake, picking up a walk and a hit. His batting average actually fell to .429. Could Konerko have an even better year that last year? Well, it's too early to tell. It would be nice, both for the Sox' ability to contend, and for Paulie, because he's by all accounts a nice guy. I don't think it would bode well for the Sox keeping him, however.RANDOM NOTES:-- Twins 1B/DH Matt LeCroy went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts against the Sox on Friday. Last season, in a fantasy baseball league I play in, a friend was asked if he would add LeCroy to a trade to get a deal done. The answer: LeCroy was untouchable. Supposedly, LeCroy was supposed to hit like a middling firstbaseman, but because he qualified at catcher, he would be a good-hitting catcher on a fantasy team. Well, LeCroy didn't hit as well as a lot of catchers that were available. So now some f us have a running joke about needing to acquire LeCroy to push our teams towards a fantasy championship.-- Friday's game featured two thirdbasemen that are off to slow starts. Joe Crede went 0-for-4 to drop his average to .077 on the season. Michael Cuddyer went 1-for-4 to raise his average to .133, but he left two men in scoring position. Neither guy is going to be a world-beater this season, and both should rebound. Cuddyer will probably be the better hitter over the course of the season.-- Twins SS Jason Bartlett is having some success in the early going after beating the craptacular Juan Castro for the starting job at short. He's batting .385 in the early going, and while it's not a roubust .385 (he has 1 extra-base hit and no walks), it is probably enough to let him keep his job should he tail off a little bit. That's not necessarily good for the Sox, because Bartlett's a better hitter than Castro, but it's good for Bartlett. He was the underdog in the position battle, and it's hard not to root for him.Which brings me to an interesting philosophical question. Why root for your team's arch nemesis to play the better player when it could hurt your team in the standings? Easy. Because I'd rather have my team win because of what it does right, as opposed to hoping for misfortune to befall others. All things being equal, it's better to be good than lucky.-- Nice job by Dustin Hermanson working on back-to-back days. After Thursday's disaster against the Indians, Sox manager Ozzie Guillen made the right call by letting Hermanson work two innings. Dusty fanned three, gave up two hits and walked none. He has yet to be scored on this year.AROUND BASEBALL:Former Sox SS Jose Valentin lifted the Dodgers for the second time this week with a home run, this time a two-run shot to cap a four-run ninth-inning come back. I work with a Dodger fan at work, and I told him this when his team picked up Valentin: people will beef when he boots a ball, but he's still going to help a team more than he'll hur[...]