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. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Jackson? Rizzo? Forget it. For now.

The Chicago Cubs have gotten off to a scorching 8-15 start good for a second to last start in the National League. Of course, this is something to have been expected considering the rebuilding approach the franchise has chosen to embrace. 

However, this hasn’t quieted the fan base calling for the likes of Triple A studs Brett Jackson and Anthony Rizzo to receive their call from Iowa. 

Rizzo has immediately staked his claim at first base early on in the PCL, smashing 7 HR’s and 23 RBI in 22 games played. He's also hitting .384 and sporting a very healthy OPS of 1.093. 

Brett Jackson has been the subject of much debate as to whether or not he could step in and take the seemingly empty center field role from the recently departed Marlon Byrd. Jackson, however, has left more to be desired from his early season play. The center fielder is batting .236 through 22 games while striking out 28 times equating to a ridiculously awful 27% strikeout rate. 

Nonetheless, the fans who are enduring the rebuilding process continue to clamor for a peak at what their future holds. Judging by the headline of this post one can determine where this is going.  But don’t get me wrong, I would love to see what both of them can muster up, especially with this season essentially being lost in April. But, the term rebuilding in baseball can be a confusing one. While it does indicate that the Cubs are focusing on the future, I believe calling both of them up right now to be a little too early.

Without the previously mentioned Byrd, who was traded to the Red Sox, the Cubs have been platooning Tony Campana, Joe Mather, and Reed Johnson at CF. Fans have been calling for the Jackson call up since then, but the platoon works better for now. Reason being mostly because Jackson only has a grand total of 70 games at the AAA level, while still garnering a strikeout rate of 29%. Brett Jackson needs seasoning. He needs to work on cutting the strikeouts down to a respectable level before imagining himself in the Cubs leadoff role.

His talent is unmistakable, however. He has been projected for a high OBP once given a major league opportunity, and combining that with his speed at the top of Cubs lineup is why fans are asking for an immediate call up. But the Cubs brass is making the correct move by letting him gain experience in AAA while closely monitoring his every day progress.

Anthony Rizzo is another one that requires the same answer, but for different reasons. Rizzo already had his major league call up last season while with the San Diego Padres. The person who made that call? Current Cubs General Manager (and former Padres GM) Jed Hoyer. Hoyer and Rizzo have an extensive history, after Hoyer poached Rizzo from the Red Sox when he departed them in 2009. Jed and Theo, for that matter, have an undying love for Anthony Rizzo. Taking a single prospect from organization to organization shows consistency on their part, and shows they truly believe in him. 

If his call up last season shows us anything though, it proved maybe Rizzo isn’t ready for the majors just yet. He is on the same tear through the PCL that he was on last year when he hit 16 HR’s and 63 RBI over 52 games before making his major league debut on June 9th, 2011. 

He was sent back down after posting struggling numbers, to which Jed Hoyer agreed he was sent to the majors too quickly. I plead with Jed not to make the same mistake again. The start Anthony is having this season is somewhat of a confidence builder, and I believe seeing him at Wrigley anytime before September would be premature judging solely on the struggles he showed in San Diego last year.

Patience is a key to a rebuilding season. Recently, we have been lucky as Cubs fans considering we haven’t had to witness a team this bad in a while. But risking the confidence of our young stars by calling them up too early shouldn’t be on the agenda. Let them learn from their mistakes in AAA for now. 

This Cubs fan can wait until September.  And so can you.