Saturday, April 09, 2005
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.
-- 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.
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 hurt it. Why wouldn't you rather have a player that boots 10-15 extra balls per year when he's going to knock 15-20 extra dingers a year? ... The Cubs coughed up a ninth-inning lead when LaTroy Hawkins blew a save against the Brewers, who by the way are my pick for surprise team in the NL. I think Cubdom is overreacting, and if you are a true Cubs fan (which I certainly am not!) you are rooting for Jim Hendry not to panic. The only option at this point would be to overpay for someone else's garbage (Ugeth Urbina or Braden Looper or someone). ... Indians beat the Tigers. Magglio Ordonez is out with a viral infection. He'll be out until Tuesday. When you think about the money Detroit spend. Yikes! ... Former Sox pitcher Josh Fogg had a nice game against the Padres to pick up his, and Pittsburgh's, first win of the season.
Friday, April 08, 2005
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.
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
Paul Konerko was once again the catalyst for the Sox offense as his two-run blast keyed a four-run ninth-inning comeback against the Indians and closer Bob Wickman.
Jermaine Dye also smacked a home run and Juan Uribe’s sac fly drove home Aaron Rowand, who had doubled earlier and reached third on an error by Bob Wickman.
Not much to say. I think the broader-based skills of this year’s Sox definitely helped the comeback effort, but that doesn’t mean last year’s squad couldn’t have done the same.
Of course, there is the continuing frustration with “ace” Freddy Garcia. Garcia labored through six innings, using 109 pitches while striking out six and walking three – though it seemed like more as only 58 of his pitches went for strikes.
But nobody, least of all Sox fans who got to watch him last season, should be surprised that he is not the ace he was advertised to be with the M’s. At the same time, that doesn’t mean the Sox should think they’re getting ripped off. Just look at what some other pitchers got this offseason.
Can any of these guys call themselves an ace? Well, no. But these guys are all acceptable No. 2 guys in a rotation. And that’s just what Freddy Garcia is.
Before we get too made at Garcia for not living up to our expectations, we should at least appreciate what he will do for the Sox for the length of his contract. And anyway, he has a 3.00 ERA after today.
POW: Scott Posednik got his first hit of the season, but went hitless in four other at-bats. He didn’t reach base any other way, so his on-base percentage now stands at .250.Around Baseball: Twins beat M’s and remain a half game back of the Sox. … Thank got the Yankees/Red Sox series is over, for now. … Carlos Lee had a homer and four RBI for the Brewers against the Pirates today. Magglio Ordonez is still hitless this spring. He went 0-for-2 today against the Royals and left after the fourth inning because of dizziness. … Another former White Sock, Scott Schoneweiss took the loss for the Blue Jays today.
Monday, April 04, 2005
-- The Sox offense didn’t do very well, but it was only one game. Talk about a small sample size. I like manager Ozzie Guillen’s answer when a reporter asked him during the postgame press conference if the though the team was overmatched offensively, which was basically, “It’s just the first day of the season.” I don’t think you an form any conclusions about a team until at least a month into the season.
-- Speaking of Guillen, he made one very good call with Konerko and another very good non-call.
The non-call came when Konerko doubled to lead off the bottom of the seventh. I was afraid Guillen would pinch run for him. Instead, he let Konerko stay in, despite being his slowness on the basepaths. The run came around to score anyway, and if necessary, Konerko could have hit again.
Guillen did replace Konerko at first base with Ross Gload to start the ninth. Gload then made a nice play for the last out of the game. Ozzie did look smart on that one, as it’s hard to imagine Konerko ranging to his right for that one.
-- Nobody looked very good at the plate, except maybe Konerko. But at the same time, nobody looked bad, except maybe Joe Crede. Nothing the Sox’ third sacker hit left the infield, and the last shot off his bat went to the shortstop for a double-play.
It was pretty unusual for Crede in that last year, better than 47 percent of his at-bats resulted in fly balls, as opposed to 33 percent that went for grounders. It doesn’t really mean anything yet, but it’s just something of interest.
POW: I’m going to be doing something called the Scott Posednik On-Base Percentage Watch. All it is an update on how often the Sox’ new leadoff hitter is reaching base. So, as of today, the POW is .250 after a walk and no hits in three at-bats.
Around Baseball: What the fuck is going on with Javier Vazquez? The Cubs are lighting his ass up. … Speaking of the North Siders, they inked third baseman Aramis Ramirez to a 4-year, $42 million deal. Ramirez can opt out after 2006. Not a great deal for Cub… The Twins are losing to the M’s. … Pedro Martinez got roughed up today, but I think he’ll be OK. .. Milwaukee beat Pittsburgh handily today, 9-2. The Brewers are my pick as this year’s surprise team in baseball. They’ll be good offensively, they have a couple good pitchers. Now all they need is a couple young guys to step up, and they could be close to .500. When you haven’t has a winning season since 1992, that would constitute a surprise.
Sunday, April 03, 2005
Just keeping up with old friends... here are some of the former White Sox players fighting for spots on Opening Day rosters:
Matt Ginter, who was sent to the Mets for Timo Perez last year, won't make the Mets bullpen so instead goes to Pittsburgh, where he should be a lock. The 26-year-old righty had a 4.54 ERA last year in 69 1/3 innings spread over 14 starts and one relief appearance. Former Sox closer Roberto Hernandez, who was last seen starting fires in Philadelphia's bullpen (4.76 ERA for the Phils in '04), was added to the Mets' roster, effectively taking Ginter's spot.
Outfielder Chris Singleton will make Tampa Bay's roster as a reserve outfielder. This comes after the D-Rays also picked up Michael Restovich off waivers from the Twins, and signed the lousy (ED: and now suspended for steroids) Alex Sanchez, formerly Detroit's CF. During his time with the White Sox, Singleton was a premier defensive CF, with range factors of 3.01, 3.00 and 2.56. That last number must have been a bad omen. Even though it was still better than average (the league RF that year was 244). Singleton was traded for Willie Harris after that season, and has been below average every since.
Singleton also saw the power in his bat evaporate. As a rookie for the Sox in 1999, the then 26-year-old had 54 extra-base hits, including 17 home runs. He hit 38 and 33 the next two years, and saw mild resurgence in Baltimore in 2002, when he had 45 hits that went for extra bases (30 doubles). Then the roof caved in with Oakland in 2003. He had only 26 extra-base hits and saw his on-base percentage stay near .300.
Leg injuries cost Singleton a job with the Pirates last spring, and it's probably the same nagging problems that are costing him his speed and defensive range. At his advanced age (33 on April 15), Singleton is unlikely to reclaim the skills that made him valuable earlier in his Major League career.
Wilson Valdez, who the Sox cut last week, was picked up by the Mets, who tried to send him to AAA and lost him to the Mariners. With Seattle's bleak infield situation, Valdez looks to make that team. Some irony: Benji Gil, who came to camp with the Sox in 1998 and lost the SS job to Mike Caruso, was sent from the Mariners to the Mets for a PTBNL.
Crappy former Sox Ruben Sierra and Tanyon Sturtz will both hang out on the fringes of the Yankees' roster. That they won jobs defies probability. That the Yankees have them on guaranteed contracts and didn't really bring in anyone to compete with them screams it even louder. How they hell does a good organization do that?
Scott Schoneweis will likely make the Blue Jays in their bullpen, where he belongs (if anywhere on a MLB team). Toronto elected to cut Billy Koch in what's become a bizarre situation. At least Billy got some guaranteed cash out of the deal.
Former Sox relief prospect Joe Valentine looks like he'll make the Reds' roster. He was traded with Keith Foulke to Oakland, who later flipped him as part of a deal for Jose Guillen. Lefty Kelly Wunsch looks like he'll stick in the Dodgers bullpen. He'll be a teammate of former Sox minor-league Olmedo Saenz, who won a job as a backup infielder. The Pirates elected to keep pitcher Rick "Whiny Boy" White and former Sox draft pick Bobby Hill. Pitcher Cal Eldred looks like he'll stay in St. Louis. In Colorado, Greg Norton will keep his job as a utility infielder.
Also in the mile-high city, Charles Johnson, who was slated to be the team's third-string catcher, was traded to the Red Sox and promptly released. Johnson, 33, was scheduled to earn $9 million dollars of a backloaded 5-year, $35 million deal he signed with the Marlins after a career year in 2000, when he hit .304/.379/.582. The teams are eating various portions of the contract because even with his .350 OBP last year, his usefulness is limited. His power is falling off, even playing in Coors field, so at best he's an OK backup. He'll be a good fit when he joins Singleton in Tampa.
Jon Rauch and Gary Majewski, the pair of pitchers Sox GM Kenny Williams gave up to bring back Carl Everett last season, were sent to AAA by the Washington Nationals. That makes three former Sox pitching prospects that won't rejoin the Expos/Nats. Rocky Biddle was released in the offseason. Antonio Osuna does make the club there. Alex Escobar, who the Sox claimed on waivers last summer, went on the DL, so will be temporarily spared from being demoted or released for the third time in the last nine months.
Pitcher Jason Bere and outfielder Jeff Abbott won't make the Indians roster, and Jason Grilli won't make it with the Tigers. Catcher and former Sox farmhand Humberto Quintero, who Williams traded for D'Angelo Jimenez in 2002, was sent from the Paders to the Astros for Tim Redding. Quintero should be starting ahead of Brad Ausmus in Houston, but won't. The consolation is that even if Quintero doesn't have much of a career, he still got traded for some nice swag a couple times.
Former Sox first-round pick and draft-loophole free agent bonus baby Bobby Seay was designated for assignment by the Devil Rays. With a 3.28 ERA in 44 MLB innings, and a functioning left arm, he'll get more chances. Must be a great life.