Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Curse of Believing in Curses

So the Daily Herald's Mike Imrem wrote an article about trading Starlin Castro. Reasonable enough, right? It's an idea that's been floated on this very blog, no less. Unfortunately, the logic behind the argument is...less than sound.. Allow me to indulge myself and tackle this in a fashion that blatantly rips off Fire Joe Morgan.

The Cubs have to trade Starlin Castro for his sake and theirs.
Okay, that might be a little extreme, but trading Castro could be a very good idea. He’s young, cheap and talented, but his flaws might prevent him from developing much further. He’s a guy that would command a lot of talent in return, which the Cubs could use at roughly Every Single Position.

Let’s think about how we can explain this. Hmmm. OK, here goes.
Well, if the above isn’t enough: he walks less than someone who has entertained the thought of purchasing a Rascal scooter; he hasn’t shown much power and counting on him to develop some as he ages is risky; his value is tied to his batting average never ever dipping below .300, which is a Herculean task for non-Ichiros; his defense stands out as noticeably bad on a team that features Alfonso: Not Just Old Anymore, But Also With One Functioning Leg. Is that enough?

Castro is a threat to Wrigley Field the way emerald ash borer is to some suburbs.
He’s infected and infectious.
The Cubs’ curse that has spread through this franchise for decades has wrapped its hands around the young shortstop and can’t be expected to let go.
Tortured metaphor aside (if you think it’s bad now, wait -- things are about to get all 24 in here), there might be some value to this. The Cubs, historically, are an organization that hasn’t prioritized getting on base. While Epstein and Hoyer will hopefully change the culture, it might be too late for Castro to develop patience and foisting him off on someone else before everyone else figures that out could be a good idea. It’s not like he’s actually referring to a literal curs--

Kerry Wood was inflicted, too, and had to retire recently. Ryan Dempster is and has to be surgically removed via trade or free agency.
Oh! Okay, we’re into some Real Stupid territory here. Ryan Dempster is 0-3 with a 2.90 ERA. The Cubs are trading him because he'll get a good return due to being a good baseball player. Also, because they'd go 74-88 even with 1999 Pedro pitching every game. Kerry Wood’s curse was having a frisbee-esque breaking ball that happened to be impossible to throw without destroying your elbow, then being managed by Dusty Baker. The intolerable consequence of this curse is that Wood had to move to the bullpen and become a good reliever until he was 34, because no other relievers have dropped off a cliff before and all pitchers stay good through their mid 30s.

Apparently nothing can be done about Alfonso Soriano except to let him rot away to his roots in left field.
Ha! Like a tree. Remember, earlier, when he said the Cubs were literally cursed with an infestation like one that might affect a tree? That’s what this is playing off of, in case you missed it. (Alfonso Soriano, of course, wasn’t a product of money burning a hole in Jim Henrdy’s pocket; on any other team, paying a guy $136 million over 8 years at age 31 would have worked out fine! Cursed!)

Jeff Samardzija? Well, the Cubs can only hope that he is a mighty oak immune to the outbreak.
I’m going to gloss over the fact that some people don’t fit this narrative by weaving it into this hilariously topical analogy. Bryan LaHair is like a newly discovered redwood, super old but strong. Tony Campana and Darwin Barney? A pair of bonsai, tiny and flying under the radar of the destructive Mythical Curse That An Adult Believes Is Affecting A Baseball Team. David DeJesus is a cactus, or something.

Castro hasn’t been so fortunate, as events of the past week demonstrated.
First, a baserunning blunder. Then, forgetting the number of outs in an inning. Overall, suffering a bad case of brain cramps.
First, he made a mistake. Then, he made another mistake?! So many curses I feel like I’m listening to a Bob Saget stand-up routine! (which is, by the way, one of the few activities on this planet that is equally as enjoyable as watching the Cubs play baseball.)

These are baseball boo-boos that Castro likely rarely made in his native Dominican Republic, in the minor leagues or in his worst nightmares.
Can I say that something probably happened without looking it up if it makes my story easier? That’s in the AP stylebook, right? “Starlin Castro never once tripped on his shoelaces before coming to Chicago, I’d guess, in the reality that I’ve created. Explain that hypothetical scenario I just made up, curse-deniers!”

Theo Epstein, the Cubs’ president in charge of curing all ills, is planting the seeds of a new culture and can’t risk having a daffy-odil seed in the mix.
INT - Cubs clubhouse, 2013. Hot-shot prospect Anthony Rizzo is getting ready for batting practice when he hears a voice calling from the rafters:
“Psst...Rizzo. Yeah, you.”
“...Starlin? But I thought you were--”
“Oh, they might have traded me, but they can never trade The Curse. Hey, don’t you ever get bored standing there, never swinging at those balls out of the strike zone? Is there really any fun in fielding your position competently? Why not, instead of being good at baseball like you have your whole career, let me persuade you to play poorly?”
“You know, now that you mention it, that does sound appealing...”
*evil laughter* *lightning bolt crashes*
--Excerpt from my screenplay, “The Phantom of the Wrigley” / What Mike Imrem thinks will happen in real life

One option Epstein has is to try to save Castro for the Cubs by drilling a hole in his trunk and injecting chemicals into his system.

The better option is to cut Castro down, load him on a truck and haul him off to another major-league parkway.
“Hey, Mike? This is your editor. Listen, loved the article, just had one question: do you mind if we cut the section where you graphically describe taking an axe to Starlin Castro and then feeding him to a woodchipper?”

History indicates that once a Cubs player is out of the Wrigley Field environment, he has a chance to recover from the curse.
A good guess is that’s what Epstein and his personnel posse lean toward, even if they won’t say so.
No, that actually happens to be a “bad guess.” A “good guess” is that Epstein, who went to Yale, won multiple championships with the Red Sox and happens to be a grown man who can function without a caretaker, doesn’t believe in a made-up thing that doesn’t exist. He probably chooses to run the team based on how the players play baseball instead. You might be trying to guess what An Idiot thinks, in which case: you nailed it!

On the surface, Castro is a tempting candidate to rehabilitate. He’s a quality hitter, eventually should add power and can evolve into a plus defender.
The only problem is that the Cubs have cursed him already as evidenced by his recent gaffes.
Oh my god, not only does he literally believe in a curse, but he thinks all that Starlin Castro’s actual flaws will be fixed! He wants to trade Starlin Castro, who he believes will turn into what would undoubtedly be an all-star calibre player year-in and year-out, SOLELY ON THE BASIS OF HIM BEING A CURSED HUMAN BEING. Mike Imrem, who is by all accounts above the age of nine, believes that a baseball player has a fantastical supernatural affliction that will cease to affect him as soon as he is on a different baseball team. This is a belief that he is not ashamed to vocalize. Next up: get rid of James Russell; he’s a witch!

So, yes, Starlin Castro has to be traded before miscalculating outs becomes contagious.
Daily Herald staff: I urge you to remove Mike Imrem from your organization, before being a fucking moron becomes contagious.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Attendance Issues? Why Do You Care?

It's no secret the Sox are having some problems getting people out to the ballpark.  Despite the first place standing and a team that's playing solid, if not considered good, baseball.

What bothers me is that people can't get enough of talking about it.  Whether it's on the radio, in the papers, in your office, or on the street, you are likely to hear people talk about the Sox poor attendance.

If you are in the White Sox front office this is concern number one.  Because it pays their bills.

But if you are a fan, why do you care?  The Sox have proven over the past 15+ years that when they have a team that has a chance to win, they will make the necessary moves to try and make it happen.  Paying the players has never come down to how many butts are in the seats.

Don't believe me?  Take a look at attendance number since 2000.  

The Sox have spanned from 1.67 million to 2.96 million over this time.  The big jump was obliviously during, and after the World Series season in 2005.

After the series, the Sox went out and signed Jim Thome.  But wouldn't you think that after the '06 season they would make a big move because they had a lot more butts in the chairs?  Nope.  The Sox barely made a move that off season  How bout in 2010.  Attendance was down about a 100,000 and the Sox go out and make a huge move to get Adam Dunn.

I've tried to find a correlation between big free agent signing and attendance, and I can't do it.

So that brings me back to my point.  If it doesn't affect the players on the field, why do you care that people aren't in the seats?

It can actually be a more enjoyable experience when the house is not packed to the brim.  You can buy a ticket on the day of the game, usually for a reasonable price ($5 tickets all week).  You can find a parking space, and be able to get out of it relatively easily when the game is over.  The lines at the concession stands are not outrageous... not to mention the bathrooms.  And the concourse is generally a bit more open and easier to navigate.

Stop complaining.  It's not all bad.  Don't be embarrassed that people are not in the seats.  Attendance numbers do not win baseball games.  Just keep cheering on the ball club and hoping they win.  If you can get out to a game, great, if not, that's okay.  Represent the Sox in your own way, and don't let anybody tell you that you are not a fan because you don't go to games.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Hawk Shouldn't Apologize

Tonight Ken "Hawk" Harrelson is expected to make some sort of apology in regards to his blowup Thursday afternoon after Mark Wegner threw Jose Quintana out of the game.

I'll get to the apology and how ridiculous I feel this is, but I'll start by talking solely about Hawk and his "homer" style.

Like him or not Hawk Harrelson is a character.  And part of the character are his catch phrases, his stories, and his unbelievably over the top love for the team he broadcasts.

That's what Hawk is, that's what Hawk has been, that's what Hawk will always be.  

Personally, I'm not the biggest fan in the world of Hawk Harrelson, however, I do feel that it would be a shame if Hawk were to "tone it down" or even worse, no longer be the Sox play by play guy.

Hawk bothers me because of repetitiveness and lack of attention to the game at times.  Whether it's "quickly 0-2" every single time the count goes there, or "in my 7 decades of baseball", or even "don't stop now boys" Hawk has made habits of using certain sayings.  

I love catch phrases.  He Gone, Put it on the Board, Stretch, I use these in everyday situations.  But it's the "non catch phrases" as I'll call them that get to me.  We don't care about Carl Yastrzemski or Sandy Koufax.  We don't care that how the game was different (and often positioned as better) 50 years ago.  The count is quickly 0-2 but not quickly 2-0, or 1-1.  

That's what bothers me about Hawk.  But all in all, I do like that he's the voice of the Sox.  I believe the catch phrases give Sox fans a personality.  It bands Sox fans together, and you hear these phrases all the time at the ballpark.

But it's not only at the Cell.  You hear someone say "stretch" to someone reaching for a box of cereal in the grocery store, you are likely to say "get on back there" and instantly have a connection to a stranger that wouldn't have happened.  That's because of Hawk.

Hawk gives Sox fans a common vernacular.  It allows the 16 year old male fan to talk baseball with the 55 woman who's liked the Sox as long as she's lived.  These terms and this insane homerism become ingrained in Sox fans, and the passion pours from the TV speakers into our brains.  Hawk Harrelson's voice, is your voice as a Sox fan.

So when Hawk goes off on Mark Wegner, he's saying exactly what you are thinking.  I know when I saw the ejection I instantly jumped off my not-so-comfy couch and yelled "hey, that's not right."  Hawk may have said a little more than that, but I bet I would have to if someone was in my apartment here to listen (other than Wiglaf, but he doesn't talk back).

Hawk is not the standard broadcaster.  He's not doing national games, and therefore he's not supposed to be unbiased.  Hawk is Hawk because of stuff like this.  Hawk is famous for saying crazily homer stuff.  And not once has Hawk broken an FCC rule when he does it.  You can tell he's mad, but it's PG.  

So to make him apologize for this is outrageous.  Did he blast Mark Wegner a little too much?  For you and I, maybe, but deep down in Hawk's mind, no I don't think he thinks he did.  

The man is opinionated, and to make him apologize for his opinions, when you hired him to spew them during your teams broadcasts, is wrong.  And simply put, he shouldn't do it.  But he has to. 

So when you hear the apology tonight, just know, this wasn't his choice no matter how sincere he may sound.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Hold on to Big Mo

In the 2nd inning of this afternoon's game the Sox loaded the bases with no outs.  The top of the order was coming up, and they went down 1-2-3 without moving a single base runner.

The following inning, Luke Scott nailed a pitch to the opposite field and tied the game at 1.

This was a possible turning point not only in today's game, but as part of this current hot streak, and potentially the entire season.

In year's past, the Sox would crumble under these failures.  We've seen it so many times, that I actually took to Twitter and said, this could be the end of this magical little win streak.

Luckily these Sox weren't having any of it.  The very next inning they struck for 2 huge runs that took the momentum that they had and squeezed it even tighter.

Then the Quintana ejection fiasco.  Another situation that could have gotten out of hand that the Sox just rolled over like a measly speed bump.

I wasn't buying into the whole "this team has a different feel" thing.  But I think now I have no choice.  Not only are they playing excellent baseball, but they are also NOT doing what they have been known for doing over the past few seasons.

Call me crazy, call me a homer, but I'm starting to really believe in this ball club.

On Fire Doesn't Say Enough About Dayan Viciedo

Most of us have been caught up on Paul Konerko and his quest for .400.  Or A.J. and his ridiculous .447 average with runners in scoring position.  Or even the mammoth Donkey Punch that won Monday afternoon's game.

But what many people have been missing is just how well Dayan has been playing.

The Tank is now hitting .280 with 11 HR's and 27 RBI.  But that doesn't tell half the story.  Viciedo has bene on an unbelievable tear as of late.  Let's just take the last 15 games.

In these games Dayan has 25 hits adding up to a .424 average, 8 of his 11 HR's, 22 RBI, and an OPS of 1.281.

Viciedo is the White Sox 7 hole hitter.  An OPS over 1.00 is good for anybody at any spot in the order.  But for a guy who has been, and will likely to continue to hit towards the bottom to be at 1.281 for a stretch of half a month is amazing.

In only 5 of these 15 Viciedo did not drive in a run. He drove in multiple runs in 6 of the 15.  Before this stetch, Dayan was hitting .196 on the year and his OPS was a poor .530.  Now, .280 and .804.

But my favorite part of what Viciedo has been doing is how he's been spraying the baseball around the yard. At US Cellular field Viciedo has 25 hits.  8 have gone to left, 12 to center, and 5 to right.  If you cut the field directly in half, he has 15 hits to the pull side and 10 to the opposite field.  It's incredibly difficult to pitch to a guy who's hot, but when he's hot an spraying the ball all over the field, it's nearly impossible.

Not surprisingly the Sox are 12-3 in these 15 games.  Sure there have been other factors such as the afore mentioned Paulie, A.J. and Dunn, but no one has done more than Viciedo to turn this thing around for the South Siders.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Konerko for Cameron

Paul Konerko is playing out of his mind right now.  And with are coming some numbers that are beginning to make people want to rank him among the legends of White Sox history.

So that got me to thinking, how did we get to this point.

In 1998 the White Sox and Reds made a 1 for 1 trade.  Sox center fielder and up and coming star Mike Cameron was traded for young 1B Paul Konerko.

As I posted on my Twitter earlier, check out this newspaper article about the trade that brought Konerko here.

What strikes me in this article is the last sentence.  "The reds had projected Konerko as their power hitter of the future... but he struggled both at the plate and in the field."

Or how about this comment from the Sun Times on the trade.  "While it might seem to be a swap of disappointments, the Sox obtained protection for at least two positions."

You can take the time to compare what Paul has done compared to Cameron.

But as Paul continues to become a White Sox legend himself, just take the time to remember how he got here.  And with that, look across the city, and wonder what might be for the Cubs future if they decide to move Mike Cameron-esque Starlin Castro.

It was tough to see a five tool guy like Cameron go, but sometimes the return works out just fine.

Can This Continue?

The Sox are on a tear right now.  There's no if's and's or but's about it.  5 in a row and 9 of the their last 10.

But it's come in a bit of an unfamiliar way.  The Sox have scored 9 runs in each of their last 4 games for the first time since 1936.  They've actually allowed 24 runs in the past 5 games good for almost 5 a game. Usually that doesn't cut it.  But the Sox have score 52 runs in those same 5 games.

So the question I pose is, can this continue.  The simple answer is, yes why not.  Here's why.

The Sox are hitting .255 as a team.  That puts them at 6th best in the AL.  Nothing spectacular.  How bout pitching?  Well, they are posting a 3.93 ERA on the year.  7th in the AL.

But let's break it down a little more.  The reason I see the Sox being able to continue this better play is because for every positive, there are near equal opposites.  Paul Konerko is hitting .399.  Sure, that's well above what we can expect.  But on the same token, Alexei is hitting .219.

How bout Pierzynski.  He's sitting over .300 at .312.  Very good for him.  Beckham is hitting .224.

Let's move to pitching.  Peavy has been dominant.  6-1 with a 3.07 ERA.  Well, Gavin is at 4-5 with a 5.02.  Sale, good.  Danks, bad.

Is it fair to say Alexei is as far down as Paul is up? Gordon is down as A.J. is up? Peavy and Floyd? Sale and Danks?  I'd say yes.  Absolutely.

And then there's the Rios', Dunn's, Viciedo's of the world.  Let's take a look at what they're doing compared to career numbers.  Rios is a career .275 hitter.  He's hitting .281.  Dunn's career numbers average out to .245, 38 HR's and 96 RBI.  He's currently hitting .244, and is on pace to hit 51 HR's and drive in 120.  Not too far off.

Dayan is a little different because he's a relative unknown.  But look at his hit chart.  There are blue dots (or hits) all over the field.  When guys spray the baseball, it's very difficult for pitchers to adjust to them.

So in short, the Sox are playing great ball right now.  No they will not be able to keep scoring 9 runs a game.  And no they are not going to win 9 out of 10 too often.  But they are 36-22 through 48 games.  That puts them on pace for 88 wins.  But if we go off expected win loss, which takes into account you run differential, the Sox would be 27-21.  That'd be good enough for 92 wins.

And that would be playing just like they have thus far for the rest of the year.  Call me crazy, but I'm actually starting to buy in.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The offense, one month in: Dr. LaHair and Mr. Soto

A small sampling of offensive stats from the 2012 Chicago Cubs Season thus far, presented without comment other than the following three general observations:

1) There are two (2) good offensive regulars on this team. There is one (1) additional acceptable one. (Tony Campana, while undeniably Awesome As All Get-Out, probably hasn't been up long enough to make even a premature judgement.)
2) It is going to be crushingly depressing when Bryan LaHair starts hitting like a mortal human.
3) What if Starlin Castro ever stops hitting .340?


Cubs with 75+ plate appearances: 7 (Starlin Castro, David Dejesus, Darwin Barney, Ian Stewart, Alfonso Soriano, Bryan LaHair, Geovany Soto)

Bryan LaHair + Starlin Castro: 26 extra-base hits in 220 PA
Alfonso Soriano, Geovany Soto, David DeJesus, Darwin Barney and Ian Stewart: 29 extra-base hits in 514 PA

Rank of Cubs hitters amongst NL players with 75+ PA (of 111)

Batting Average: 2, 6, 65, 71, 74, 97, 109
On Base Percentage: 3, 28, 32, 89, 90, 97, 102
Slugging Percentage: 2, 32, 73, 77 84, 100, 105

Bryan LaHair reaches on a hit over 2.5 times more often than Geovany Soto does. Bryan LaHair strikes out 2.5 times more often than Geovany Soto reaches on a hit. Bryan LaHair reaches on a walk 1.25 times more often than Geovany Soto reaches on a hit. Geovany Soto reaches on a hit 1.5 times more often than Bryan LaHair hits a home run.

Brian LaHair's batting average on balls in play, minor leagues, 2006-2011: .361
Brian LaHair's batting average on balls in play, major leagues, 2012: .535
Brian LaHair's batting average thus far this season: .380
Brian LaHair's expected batting average thus far this season, if his BABIP was at his minor league rate: .263

Albert Pujols has hit infinitely more home runs than Alfonso Soriano on the year. Soriano will be paid $3 million more than Pujols over the remainder of Soriano's contract.

Number of walks Starlin Castro has taken:
Number of walks Starlin Castro is projected to take over a full season at current rate: 17
Number of plate appearances Starlin Castro is projected to have over a full season at current rate: 693
Number of players in baseball history who have taken fewer walks in at least as many plate appearances over a full season: 1 (Woody Jensen, 1936 - 16 BB in 731 PA)
Number of extra-base hits Alfonso Soriano has hit: 4

Monday, May 7, 2012

Doubleheader Facts

The Sox and Indians will face off twice today as part of a day night doubleheader.

In the past 9 seasons the Sox have participated in 19 doubleheaders.

They are 20-20 in those 40 games.

4 times the Sox were victorious on both ends of the double dip, most recently last September when they swept the Twinks.

But the Twinks are also the team who handed the Sox one of the worst doubleheader sweeps in MLB history back in 2007.  20-14 in game one, and 12-0 in game two.  If the Sox score 14 runs in the two games today, they'll almost definitely fare better than that.

The Sox have been very good in doubleheaders recently posting a 7-3 record in the past two years.  They haven't been swept since 2008, and have swept two teams themselves in the past two years.

In 2012 there have been 3 doubleheaders already played and there are 4 others (including today's Sox one) currently scheduled.  Only 1 of the 3 that has been played was swept, that was San Fran over  the New York Mets.

Records indicate that doubleheaders are swept by one team or the other just over 26% of the time.

Below is a list of how the Sox fared in reach of their 20 doubleheaders since 2003.

2011 - Swept MIN, Split with CLE (3-1)
2010 - Split with DET, Split with KC, Swept BOS (4-2)
2009 - Split with SEA, Split with DET, Swept by DET, Split with CLE (3-5)
2008 - Split with BAL, Swept by TOR, Swept DET (3-3)
2007 - Split with NYY, Swept by MIN, Swept DET, Swept by BOS (3-5)
2006 - None
2005 - Split with TEX (1-1)
2004 - Split with TOR, Split with BAL (2-2)
2003 - Split with CLE (1-1)

Chris Sale the New What?

By now I'm sure you've heard that Chris Sale has been lifted from the rotation and dropped at the back of the bullpen to become the new Sox closer.

The reasoning, or at least what we we were told, is because Sale has experienced some tenderness in his elbow.

An injury.  Remember when Quentin got hurt, did we move him to shortstop afterwards?  How bout Derrick Rose, is he the new power forward?  Cutler to play DB?  No no no.  You do not change a guy's position to account for an injury.

Now we've all heard of guys getting old and no longer being able to play the field.  Instead of them hitting 4 times and playing the field, instead they just hit 4 times.  That makes sense.

But moving a starter to a closer?  100 pitches in 1 day, rest for 4, then do it again.  Or, 20-30 pitches 3 out of 5 games or so, and warm up every once in a while and not get in the game.

Sure you are saving about 20 or so pitches a week, but what about stress?  Every pitch a closer throws is a high stress pitch.  Think the guy with tenderness can handle that every other day? 

Chris Sale should be out for the rest of the year.  He should be shut down, and should be spending the next 10 months strengthening his arm.  This guy has top notch quality stuff.  He could be an ace.  And now we are going to stick him at the back end of the bullpen and hope he has the right mentality to get the job done. 

Oh yeah, and all of this was done without consulting Chris, and against his will.  Nice.  Good way to treat the best prospect you have for your future.