Friday, April 08, 2005

Indians 11, White Sox 5

Shingo Takatsu poured gasoline all over himself in the ninth inning of today’s 11-5 laugher, and was torched for three solo home runs that tied the game at five. Luis Vizcaino soaked up 2 1/3 innings of abuse, himself being pounded for six earned runs in the 11th inning.

Why was Vizcaino allowed to stay in for so long? Well, because he was the only guy left in the bullpen after Sox manager Ozzie Guillen foolishly burned his entire pen in the span of three innings.

After getting six excellent innings from starter Jose Contreras, Guillen opted to start the seventh inning with lefty Neal Cotts. Cotts was touched up for a run on a walk and a hit while only getting one out.

Now, to begin with, why the fuck is Neal Cotts on this Sox roster? I guess the answer is that the Sox don’t think he’ll ever go back to starting because his poor mechanics would lead him to break down under the workload. Fine. That’s why he’s not starting at AAA Charlotte.

But is he really well-suited to be a lefty specialist, even the No. 2 guy after Damaso Marte? Even in 2002 when Cotts struck out a very impressive 178 batters in fewer than 140 innings for Class A Modesto, he had a WHIP of 1.58.

Things looked better the next year at Class AA Birmingham, where the then 23-year-old punched out 133 in 108 innings. But he also had an unusually low hit-rate (5.57 H/9IP) that was unsustainable, and he was still walking close to five guys per nine innings (4.65 to be exact).

He’s been in the big leagues ever since. And in that time, left-handed hitters have spanked him to the tune of an .869 OPS, compared with .776 for righties. Hardly the magic you want your lefty specialist to be working out of your bullpen.

So we know two things. 1) Cotts has yet to master AAA, having never pitched there. He should, because even after a year in Chicago, he doesn’t look ready to really help an MLB team, and 2) if the Sox are choosing a way to maximize their return on him by finding a role where he won’t get hurt… well… they need to find a different role, because to get any kind of return, Cotts has to perform well. He’s not performing well in the Sox pen.

But on to the larger issue. So, the Sox have decided to carry Cotts in the pen for better or worse. And everyone has to get some work in sometime, right? Might as well put Cotts with a four-run lead for a little tune-up.

But then Cotts got in trouble. Instead of letting him work out of it, Guillen panicked and put Cliff Politte in for one batter, and only one batter before going with Marte to face the lefty Travis Hafner.

Now, with two men (Jhnny Peralta on third, Coco Crisp on first) and a four-run lead and Ronnie Belliard at the plate, why not just let Cotts try to get Belliard out? Instead, Politte comes in, gets a fly ball out that scores Peralta.

So with the tying run still not at the plate, with Crisp on first and Hafner at the plate, why not let Politte try to get Hafner? Yes, Hafner is a good hitter, but the Sox aren’t yet in dire straits. Worst-case scenario, Hafner takes Politte deep and you’re still up by a run.

Instead, Marte comes on to get Hafner, the only batter he’ll face, on a deep fly to left. Because Guillen doesn’t want Marte to face the right-handed hitters in the eighth inning, he goes with Dustin Hermanson in the eighth. Then he has just poor old Shingo in the ninth and pretty much has to let him explode out on the mound. Oh, yea, and then let Vizcaino take one for team a few innings later.

It’s just stupid to use three pitchers in one inning. I don’t care about the matchup. It’s just plain stupid.

Instead of sweeping the Indians and sitting pretty atop the AL Central with a 3-0 record when they travel to Minnesota this weekend, the Sox are tied with the Twins (2-1) and Tigers (2-1) and face what for many fans seems like a make-or-break series. To be swept by the Twinkies would be demoralizing, even for the rational baseball fan that realizes this is just the first week of the season. Just remember, every game counts…

On The Bright Side:

Contreras looked sharp. He was staying ahead of hitters, despite wasting a number of pitches that ran his counts up, and struck out four while walking only two. A lot of batters could only slap his stuff into groundball outs, and he needed only 96 pitches to work six innings, despite throwing more balls than he had to.

I’ve given the Sox the benefit of the doubt when it comes to acquiring Contreras. He’s a pretty expensive project, but on days like today, you can see the upside the scouts see when they watch him throw. It’s now the Sox’ responsibility to keep Contreras’ head grounded, which seems to be his only barrier to becoming a dominant hurler.

New Guys Look Good:

Tadahito Iguchi had three hits to raise his average to .364 on the season, while A.J. Pierzynski knocked out a couple hits, including a home run, to raise his BA to the same. They won’t keep hitting like that, but they’ve looked good. It’s nice to know the Sox were willing to take what fell in their laps when both became available last winter.


Scott Posednik went 2-for-5 to raise his OBP to .308. He has one walk on the season and has stolen one base after reaching base five times on the year.

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