Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Podsednik out (for 6 weeks), Erstad in

MLB.com is reporting that White Sox left fielder Scott Podsednik will be out for six weeks after groin surgery Tuesday, and that the team is also close to a deal with outfielder Darin Erstad.

Right off the bat, it looks like the Sox are looking for Erstad to compete with Brian Anderson in center field and possibly help Ryan Sweeney cover left field in case Podsednik suffers a setback.

Erstad has hardly been the picture of health. When he hasn’t missed considerable time as he has in three of the past four seasons, he’s battled injuries of the nagging variety that compromise his ability to be a useful player.

Since the Sox are only counting on him to be a de facto fourth outfielder, that’s not a big deal. But there’s one glaring problem: Erstad can’t really hit lefties.

Here’s a look at some of the recent work Sox outfielders have done against southpaws:



















*=2006 at Charlotte

I put Erstad’s 2005 season in the table because he had fewer than 100 at-bats in 2006. You can argue that even a full season is too small of a sample size to mean anything, but these numbers are not out of line with what all of these guys have done in their careers, excepting maybe Sweeney:


Career OPS

Career OPS vs. LHP
















As Erstad and Podsednik have aged, their splits have become more pronounced. Anderson and Sweeney may yet come around to hit lefties better as they both approach their peaks. It appears the Sox are counting on it since only Ozuna can hit lefties. And you can hardly describe him as an “outfielder.”

Even if everyone continues to hit this poorly against lefties, it wouldn’t be a disaster, especially when you consider exceptional left-handed pitching in the American League Central is dragging some of these numbers down. Only Podsednik’s splits are very drastic. While the groin surgery might help him get back on track in the stolen base department, I doubt it will help him at the plate against southpaws, against whom he looked lost through all of 2006.

And that’s the rub. Podsednik is slated to be the starting left fielder. If the Sox were going to bring in an outfielder, ideally it would be a lefty-killer to take away those at-bats from Podsednik.

Erstad, who was once the elite defensive center fielder in the AL, gives the Sox the luxury of letting him take all the at-bats from Anderson should he bomb at the plate again this year. But he doesn’t have the offensive skills to either platoon with Podsednik, or to take over left field outright.

So the long story made short is that this is an OK signing, but not a great one. It gives the Sox some more depth, but doesn’t really solve the offensive problems in either left or center field.

Sox sign some scrubs

Wiki Gonzalez gets a non-roster invite to White Sox spring training. So do Kenny Kelly and Ryan Bukvich.
The Sox needed some catching depth, and now they have it in Gonzalez, who I think is an improvement on the recently departed Chris Stewart. Gonzalez has always hit well in the minors (812 career OPS), while not carrying that success at the plate with him to the majors (666 OPS). He’ll start out at Charlotte and probably only surface in Chicago if there’s an injury to either A.J. Pierzynski or Toby Hall.
As a bonus, Gonzalez handles left-handed pitching pretty well. So if it’s Hall that goes down, the Sox won’t really miss a beat. Losing Pierzynski would hurt, but that’s true for any team that loses its starting catcher.
Bukvich is the real highlight here, and he will try to push himself into a crowded bullpen picture. He’s another reclamation project for the Sox. Bukvich comes in with solid minor-league credentials, striking out more than 11 guys per nine innings with a 3.19 ERA outside of the Big Show.
Of course, he’s also walked more than five guys per nine over the same 279 career frames. Last season, coming off Tommy John surgery in the Rangers organization, he gave up 44 hits – eight of which went over the fence – in only 35.1 innings at AAA.
Bukvich has also had problems in his brief time in the American League. With the Royals and Rangers, he’s walked almost a man an inning. He’s registered 41 walks against 39 strikeouts. He posted those numbers in 46 innings before his elbow injury.
Before the TJ surgery Bukvich didn’t have a problem with giving up HRs in the minors or his short stint in the big leagues. The strikeouts are still there, so Bukvich still has some upside left. The odds of him being real good are real small. But then again, nobody thought Matt Thornton would be good when he came over from Seattle (including me).
Tell me if you’ve heard this one: The Sox sign an outfielder who used to be a college quarterback.
Kelly is like Joe Borchard-lite – all the physical tools but without the tantalizing power at the plate. While Borchard owns a .474 career minor-league slugging percentage, Kelly sits at .398. Kelly also has the same problem making contact, striking out in almost a quarter of his at-bats just like Borchard. And I’m not aware of any scouting report that indicates Kelly is better in center field.
Simply put, Borchard is a superior player. And if he wasn’t able to stick as a reserve outfielder with the Sox last season, Kelly won’t do it this season. Look for him to share time in Charlotte.