Sunday, April 10, 2005

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.

-- 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 5.43
2001 4.69
2002 5.23
2003 5.07
2004 4.69

Garland 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 1.05 in 2000 to 1.49 last season. A pitcher can still be successful without big strikeout numbers, but Garland will have to walk a lot fewer guys to get into that territory. For an example, just look at his pitching opponent on Saturday.

Brad Radke Career
K/9: 5.46 K/BB: 3.27

Yea. Garland has a long way to go.

-- It's a scary thought for Sox fans to think about what Twins catcher Joe Mauer would do if they moved him out from behind the dish. That's not a dig at his defense, though he did have a passed ball in Saturday's game. It's more of a comment on his ability to stay healthy while catching. I believe in his bat, and think he could do a lot of great things. As a baseball fan, I'd like to see that.

-- Konerko still hitting well, drilling his third home run. He's hit in every game this year.

-- It was nice to see Cliff Politte and Damaso Marte each go 1 1-3 innings on Saturday. That's a lot better than what happened during Thursday's mess, where each only faced one batter and Sox manager Ozzie Guillen burned his entire bullpen. He's got to get past this on-the-job training stuff.

-- Don't look now, but the Sox have the best record in the American League at 4-2.

Posednik went 1-for-4 and his on-base percentage dipped to .318, down from a season-high .333. No stolen bases, but Posednik did have a nice hustle play to score on the Mauer passed ball in the seventh inning. He hit into a fielders choice and went from first-to-third on a throwing error by J.C. Romero.

The Indians' Jake Westbrook was hammered by the Tigers on Saturday. It's no secret I'm not a Westbrook fan. He was way over his head last year. ... The headline on ESPN's scoreboard page says it all: Angels snuff out Lima Time and Royals. ... Richard Hidalgo, my first choice of free agents the Sox should have targeted for right field, hit his second home run of the season in a 7-6 Texas win over Seattle. ... Former White Sox pitcher David Wells got hammered for the second time in as many starts, giving up six earned runs in just more than six innings as Boston lost 12-5 to Toronto. Boston is struggling a little early at 2-3, but don't look for that to continue. ... The Mets are still winless and Oliver Perez of the Pirates got hammered again.

The two best left-handers in the American League face off tonight as Mark Buehrle goes against Johan Santana. The game is on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball. Wow. This is going to be a fun one to watch.

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