Saturday, April 30, 2005

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 still
18th 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.


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.

Posednik is still in the same OBP territory (.347) with his two walks being nullified by his 0-for-4 showing at the plate.

On Deck:
The second of three against Detroit. Orlando Hernandez (2-1, 2.47) will take on Jason Johnson (2-1, 4.35). It would be nice to see the Sox tee-off on the Tigers' Opening Day starter from a year ago.

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