Tuesday, April 26, 2005

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.

























*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.

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.

Scott Posednik had the night off. His on-base percentage rests at .384.

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.

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