Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Playoff Preview

               I owe you guys for basically the month of September, so I figured I’d do a quick pick ‘em for the baseball playoffs. Pretty refreshing group of teams this year- even the staples like the Yankees have a newer, more exciting feel to them- and I’m more excited this year than in years past. Palehose are in a direction where our turn feels soon, and the root canal of a Cubs World Series win is in post-op: this year will be a fun one. (Hell, next year could be too for us if the Twins made the wild card game)

                Division Series

                Cubs - Nationals
                The only home field advantage factor in this series is the one less time Sox fans will have to take the Red Line north on gameday after work. I can’t imagine any opposing stadium being as nerve wracking for the Cubbies as an away game 7 for the last thing in sports to talk about being crossed off. Strasburg or Scherzer is still being decided for game one (I think they’ll go with Stephen), but I like Hendricks for the experience to keep that one competitive. Bats in the same weight class, it comes down to the pitching, and I think the Cubs’ rotation has the firepower for this series.

                Prediction: Cubs in 4

                Dodgers – Diamondbacks/Rockies
                Wild card game has yet to be decided. The Dodgers 104 wins have. Kershaw, Hill, Darvish take care of whoever wins tonight.

                Prediction: Dodgers in 4

                Astros-Red Sox
                REALLY happy to finally see the Astros make it, and you should be too if you’re a White Sox fan. Hoping for the heavyweight fight this series should shake up to be with the bats on both sides- the day games are just that little bit better when the defy time and logic by still going on when work lets out. Bring on the beautiful, four hours slugfests on days Chris Sale isn’t pitching (Hawks take priority but I will DVR that and watch it start to finish like a proud parent).
                Boston will be a sight to behold tomorrow with Game 1, Pats-Bucs, and Bruins opening night all happening at once. I don’t think Chris Sale’s first playoff start can be hyped enough, and I think Boston has the lineup to do away with the Astroturf’s homegrown efficiently

                Prediction: Red Sox in 4

                It’s odd to question a team as definitively great (see also: played mostly AL Central opponents) as the Indians. They have the make up of the regular season juggernaut, and without coming up tied with the Cubs in the Fall Classic last year, I’d probably feel more confident in axing them here.
                Equally as “I’m not really sure what to think here”, the Yankees are coming in off the shortest rebuild ever and are looking like more of a threat than I’d thought. The Kahnle-Robertson combo will certainly help, but it’s the bats that will have to overachieve for this one. Those Judge and Frazier strikeouts don’t seem as bad when it’s a regular season, but have a danger of adding up fast for five games max. Might be closer than the Tribe would like, but I think they advance

                Prediction: Indians in 5

                Championship Series:

                If you like 13 inning 2-1 games that’ll end at about 1:30 in the morning, boy will this be the series for you. Same teams as last year, different place to start: Wrigley for home field proved huge last year sans a huge night from Kershaw in game 2. As much as I’d like to think the Dodgers are more up for the task this year compared to last, I like the “been there before” pitcher more than the guy who hasn’t.  Cubbies lineup has that little bit more of an edge like the series before, and their rotation is more of a safety net for following bad starts. Cubs make the World Series for the second straight year because why not when it’s the end of days anyway.

                Prediction: Cubs in 6

                Indians-Red Sox
                Yes, a Yankees-Red Sox championship series would be great. The two blatantly best teams in the A.L. duking it out is a nice consolation prize, though.  Two teams in “win now” mode with what should be a good mix of pitching duels and slugfests that’ll likely go the distance.  I’d love to see Houston from a rooting for the underdog standpoint, but this series would be one of the more “must watch” playoff baseball of recent years.
                Both teams pretty much even, I think it comes down to home field advantage. Fenway in October is its own beast for opponents- that being said, Progressive packed with long overdue Indians fans is another Goliath entirely. Regular season fluke or not, if the Indians make it to the clincher this far in I don’t see that opportunity being squandered.  Tribes go 12 rounds to the classic.
                 Prediction: Indians in 7

                World Series
                What would modern sports be if Cleveland didn’t meet the same opponent again in the finals. Parity is baseball’s biggest strength (if you’re a fan of just about any team except the one this site’s about, anyway), and I shouldn’t want to see the divisional rival and the noisier neighbor battle it out again. This game is too fun to watch to not want round 2 with these teams, though. Let’s get the Fall Classic back to the Great Lakes.
                The advantage for the Cubs, no matter who they wind up playing, is Maddon having broken up a lot of the monotony of the hangover season in various ways. The advantage for the Indians is, well, we’re a great team and losing last year still sucks. Changing leadoff hitters every day, switching up pitchers, making the surprise move to make the other team second guess themselves- I don’t think it adds up to beating a starving team.
                The Royals won it after losing the year before, why not Indians.  They won 22 in a row, what’s four out of seven, even against the team that knocked you out last year.  Tribe find themselves on the right side of home field advantage this year and finally get one.

                Prediction: Indians in 6

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Resurrection - vs. Angels

                May as well give some insight into why I started this for this year, last month or so (or more) aside. Life certainly didn’t stop for baseball. I’ll make up for that.

                Tadahito Iguchi had his retirement ceremony on Thursday, the ninth straight year with the last game at home scheduled well in advance in the dwindling regular season. Not much pomp and circumstance, no new number taken of the board for good, just a cool video and a first pitch to a standing O.

                He’s known best, of course, for his home run against the Red Sox in the World Series run, a game 13-year-old me watched from behind the upper deck foul pole in left. “This could be the last game”, I remember thinking when trailing: this was still one game down and a long way to go, and I was still the third generation fan of a team that could never close it out for the previous two.

                Then came the error, the clearest, most vivid baseball memory I have. A dribbler to Graffanino, a 99 times out of a 100 grounder. The fans groan, that then all too familiar “every damn time” groan: a loss at home and two more at Fenway flash through everyone’s mind.

                Through his legs. “UUUUUUUggggghhhhhhh…HRRRRRRRRR-AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!”

                The rest is history. I didn’t watch the home run ball land below me as much as I did the crowd in the bleachers: the hugs, the beer spilling everywhere, the flags waving, the vein-popping shrieks towards the general direction of home plate. We’d pummeled them the game before, but this was the game where it started feeling real: the defending champs were on the brink of getting swept, and the future champs showed everyone they weren’t a quitting team.  The juggernaut moved onward.

                The rest OF history is why the response to me saying I’m on a White Sox is usually “why?”.  The real answer is that my grandpa was an Irish dude that was taught the game of baseball from the pennant winning ’59 squad, and because my mom was the kind of fan that lambasted the TV during Disco Demolition because it meant forfeiting the second game. (She probably thinks I could’ve come up with a better name for this site). It’s not something seen anywhere near as frequently in the city, up year or down year for the Northsiders. Not much coverage, not much sustained success, a stadium usually a barren sea of empty seats- why these guys?

                Games like Thursday are why.

 I’m not gonna do coverage for the Cleveland series- a team coming in with 100 wins and a team out of the playoffs, these games are being played for contractual obligation purposes only. Thursday is the better send off, anyway: scoreless “let’s get this season over with” four innings to start, the Angels move ahead after getting up to speed with Covey. They’d remain ahead for the overwhelming majority of the game: two runs to tie, four outs to do so with.

Why do I like the White Sox? Why do I like the 2017 White Sox, specifically? Why have a whole site devoted to a team that has their heads barely above 100 losses?

The story of the season: never quit. (Coming from someone who had to take a month off the blog, but y’know, it’s the words that count here).

3-2, 2 out, Brantly puts one in the bleachers, one last souvenir for the weekday faithful. A perfect hit-and-run brings in Anderson for the winning run two batters later. The last image of 2017 What’s Our Name Again Field is Anderson to Abreu- a sight we’ll be familiar with. It was a meaningless game at the end of September with no implications on the standings or league whatsoever, but hell if they didn’t steal one last one anyway.

Why the Sox? Because when we’re good, our home runs crack a little louder, go a little farther, hurt the opponent a little harder. Because when we’re good, we scrape, claw, and bowl over anyone for that extra base. Because when we’re good, that’s when the fans come: entire families, multiple generations, tried and true Chicago originals with mustard stains on their Greg Luzinski jersey. And we’re LOUD: the upper deck got moved back when Your Ad Here Park was built, but we’re all still right on top of every batter that comes to the plate, and you’d better be on the home side when you do. And we’ll all be in black, rally towels and Modelos in hand, drowning out Thunderstruck into an absolute battle for the right side of 27 outs. We’re big, bold, eff you Chicago, and you’ll be hearing from us soon.

At least, that’s the hope. Baseball is a fickle mistress, and she’s been away for a while for us Southsiders. But now, the goal feels that little bit closer. That next big Iguchi type at-bat feels a lot less distant. I can almost make out a packed Comiskey, sitting in my actual seat as opposed to wherever I decided, standing next to an actual human being as opposed to the bag of the guy two seats over. I can almost hear a crowd- a CROWD, not people at a baseball game, a full-blown CROWD- deafening the packed house for reasons other than a Noise-O-Meter or a free t-shirt. I can almost feel the games counting for something. I can almost feel the crisp fall air at a baseball game: not the last gasp of winter in April. Not the lake effect on a July night. The nervous, teeth-chattering, sweating under three layers and death-gripping the rally towel for warmth and stress relief… THAT fall weather.

It was a meaningless game at end of September. And we came back and won. And you better believe that if we don’t quit when the game doesn’t count, we sure as hell won’t when it does. 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Reynaldo Recap

                 Following the rest of this series is a little up in the air for me this weekend, and I’d like to shake things up in the dog days anyway. The most noteworthy part of the series, barring more Moncada heroics or neighborly spats turned benches cleared (good for the soul sometimes), was the White Sox debut of Reynaldo Lopez last night. Has been inevitable for a while now, and he made the most of his first start last night. Deserves a full breakdown.

                Scouting Report:

                Giolito was the headliner initially for the Eaton deal, but Lopez was the one coming in with actual major league experience.  I thought it was a couple starts and relief appearances back in Washington but didn’t realize until this week that he pitched in the NLDS. The fastball is what you notice first, flirting with triple digits on occasion, and the slider complements that very well- 85 with a lot of movement. Throws a good curve and, on the rare occasion, a change-up (we’ll get into that later).
                1st inning:

                Good first impression on the leadoff batter: Merrifield watches a slider go by for a called third. Fastball coming in at 97 mph pretty consistently, and he’s hitting his spots with it for the most part. He really brings the heat next at-bat, getting Cain swinging at 98 on the gun. Lot of scouts have said we’ll probably be getting used to that.

                Dances around Hosmer a little too much and forces the walk. Standing ovation follows- Melky Cabrera returns to the Southside for his first game as a Royal. (A pretty funny moment when we’re all sitting back down and the guy next to me yells “Now strike him out!” with great comedic timing.) Gets him to fly out to shallow left. Hit 99 and 100 in this inning supposedly- guessing that’s the hometown speed gun talking.

                2nd inning:

                The filthiest thing I saw all night came in the first at-bat against Moose: fouls off four fastballs and is down 1-2. Throws another fastball out of the zone (98) and follows it up with a 78 mph curve to get him swinging. Almost unfair, that bait.

                Have said in a previous post about Rodon that young strikeout-oriented pitchers make me a little nervous: the huge upside for them is outs without a ball put in play, the downside is my three sins of strikeout pitchers. The first sin is catching on to the gameplan right away: eventually the Royals start watching a lot of curveballs, which a strikeout pitcher tends to throw for less accuracy. If trying to just get an out (usually a groundout), it has to be in the zone enough for the batter to swing at with enough movement to negate solid contact. A strikeout pitcher will want much more movement with less intent to throw a strike: doesn’t matter if it’s in the zone or in the dirt if the outcome is the batter swinging and missing. Royals catch on and adjust accordingly.

                Lopez walks one and strikes out the next two- slider working early. Four change-ups supposedly thrown to Gordon, which would surprise me.

                The second sin of strikeout pitchers? Pitch count. Five strikeouts, 42 pitches through 2.

                3rd inning:

                Butera lines out on the first pitch, which is the best thing that could’ve happened to Lopez. He needs a quick inning if he’ll make it through six.  The next at-bat doesn’t help: he walks Merrifield, luckily not wasting many pitches in doing so. I’m curious to see how he adjusts his gameplan for a situation where I’d assume he’d look to forcing a double play.  He does no such thing: baits Cain with an off speed then blows him away with a fastball. Gets a first pitch pop up the next at-bat, and he’s out of the inning on ten pitches.

                4th inning:

                The first sin of strikeout pitchers: the hitters adjust accordingly

                The second sin: high pitch counts

                The third sin: you miss your spot, you’re in trouble. Home run trouble.

                It happens to every single strikeout pitcher, most obviously with Rodon and Shields. It was also my one critique of Chris Sale: a lot of lines featuring 10 K’s, 1 home run. The more you dance around batters and the more bait pitches you throw, the more pitches they hit the living snot out of when you miss your spot. Case in point: Moustakas.

                I thought it was a change-up Lopez threw there, apparently it was a hung slider. He wasn’t using it as a bait pitch so much as he did the curveball, but sometimes your slider doesn’t- well, slide. Moonshot to the right field bleachers, lead cut in half.

                The Royals get more aggressive at the plate this time through the order, following the homer with two hits on two pitches. Now I’m really curious to see what he does in a less implied double play situation. The foul out to hold ‘em was probably the highlight of the inning (another good outcome for strikeout pitchers).

                5th inning:

                Great diving catch by Engel saves Lopez the runner on nobody out trouble. Slider still coming in at around 85, but the fastball is losing some of the heat. (More of a fastball pitcher problem than a strikeout pitcher problem, but those overlap more often than not). Not sure if it’s necessarily a result of this, but Cain had a collision with the wall earlier in the game that it looked like his wrist took the brunt of. Lopez, that in mind or me looking to far into it, jams him for the foul out to first. If so that’s a great pitching mindset.

                Tim has trouble with a ground ball and Abreu saves him with a pick. Seemed to catch him off guard, and understood: it was Lopez’s first groundout of the game.

                6th inning:

                Lopez likely done after this. Was likely done before the Moose home run, but that probably sealed the deal (and unfortunately cost him the win). Homer came on a change-up, which going in I’d heard Lopez throws very sparingly. Like, four change-ups a game sparingly. He can get outs on his regular pitches, and it’s rare to be really, really good throwing five different pitches. Eventually we might be forcing the issue on those change-ups.  Gets a groundout and a pop out to close it out.

                Overall there’s a lot of potential here for him. When he’s on he’s filthy: some of those 98’s on the corner and late moving sliders were absolutely unhittable. Six K’s are nice, but the wins are better, and unfortunately only two mistakes were enough to cost him that victory. Have a feeling he’ll have a couple more of those games before this rebuild moves to phase two. So it goes here. 

Pray for the league

Friday, August 11, 2017

Big And Bright - vs. Astros (W 8-5, W 7-1, W 3-2)

                Series like this for Houston must be why college admissions require second semester grades from seniors. For the White Sox, awesome, sweeping from a great team. For the Astros… work week series against a last place team? Not a red flag in the dog days. Doesn’t seem like we saw the best of Houston this homestand.

                Don’t always get to talk about a series win here, though, so let’s dive in. Avi didn’t miss a beat coming back from the DL, putting us on the board right away Tuesday. More small ball follows for three more runs. Safe to admit that Keuchel didn’t have his best stuff- again, weekday game, last place team. ‘Stros tie it up right away before Kevan Smith takes over with a double and a homer respectively. I boil the good from this game down to consistent good starts from Holland, who definitely needed a win after getting cheated out of one last start, and the young guys getting it done, which was a very pleasant theme all series. Bullpen rocky, but that’s old news.

                Wednesday was a clear mission for me to retire the “live by the long ball” rhetoric. Sans the Tim Anderson (thank God) home run, all runs scored on singles or doubles, a great sign of moving the chains in the batting order. Love Beloved Son Moncada’s walks and Delmonico’s hot start, especially the middle of the order. Gonzalez back to his solid self, lasting eight with little difficulty, a tough feat against a team where half the lineup’s around .300. 

                Thursday. The Moncada game. Why I said give it a full month before actual concerns about him. Why the average doesn’t mean much. Why this guy has all the makings of the real deal. Welcome to the show, companero.

                The obvious before last night: dude gets on base. I’ve already brought up his vision at the plate here, but he has a knack for picking his pitches. It’s a great tendency to have compared to prospects who get impatient at the plate and swing at bad pitches, which leads to seeing less pitches, which leads to never really figuring out pitch sequences in major league at bats. Yoan’s seen a lot of pitches so far and seems to be getting the hang of how they’re pitching to him.  He also only has trouble with one pitch, change-ups, which means fouling those off in favor of other pitches. Different story if two or more pitches are a weakness. 

               Taking a 99 mph fast ball to the opposite field bleachers in the bottom of the ninth is a very, very good thing, with winning it on a base hit to boot. He’s here to stay, folks.

Credit Chicago Tribune

                 EDIT: Thanks to u/ChromiumSulfate for reminding me how days of the week work

Monday, August 7, 2017

Tankapalooza- Recap at Red Sox (L 5-9, L 2-3, L 1-4, L 3-6)

"Yuck"- Dennis Eckersley describing rehab starts and the White Sox weekend series. Lopez on Friday most likely if you haven't heard. Besides Nick's first career homer and some solid at bats from Yoan, not much to say besides onwards with the tank.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Kids These Days - vs. Blue Jays ( W 7-6, L 4-8, L 1-5)

              Time for new memos in the home Comiskey clubhouse. 16x20, framed, bold, multiple copies to each infielder…

              Always yield to your outfielder



          The heart attack symptoms have worn off since Monday, so it won’t be more than a couple days off for Yoan in a one step on the shallow end ladder entrance to the big leagues.  A play like that involving your top prospect will make you question where the nearest defibrillator is, me watching Twitter like a hawk after. The true outcome: rookie Moncada making a rookie mistake, which Willy unfortunately took the brunt of. 

It happens. It also shouldn’t affect the timeline for our other prospects, whatever each one might be.  Aren’t going to become major leaguers playing in a bubble.

And we got a win out of it! I personally don’t care if we lose out, but post-collision, that’s a win I wanted to see. I haven’t brought up Davidson much here given his uncertainty in the 2020 plan- third baseman is the most likely future external hire for Rick given Donaldson and Machado’s upcoming free agency. Write Sox also has a great tweet comparing his stats to Josh Fields of 2007, and it’s a near mirror image. 22 home runs is 22 home runs, well worth a long tryout based on this year. Games like Sunday and Monday also make you forget the strikeouts pretty fast. Put that win on Renteria’s resume- these guys really don’t quit under him.

The next two games were rebuild as scheduled.  Opposing home runs, strikeouts, men left on base (today’s leadoff triple not scoring especially brutal)- all a day in the life at this point. Holland had the quasi-rebound start I was hoping for: way too many strikeouts and men left on to help him out today. Tankers gonna tank, and grab some bench ten times.

Biggest big picture news (unfortunately because of Garcia’s injury) was Delmonico’s call up. Did well for the first two games: clearly some jitters, especially yesterday, but some very solid contact. Ozzie mentioned it in the postgame Monday: it’s good to have prospects come up and struggle against good teams, and this part of Toronto’s rotation followed by a four game set in Boston would be just that.  Not expecting much over the Mendoza with this upcoming small sample size, with Tuesday making me feel a little more optimistic about something in the .260-.270 range. Short fences to right in Fenway if he wants to get some power on that swing, provided Austin Jackson isn’t roaming around center. 

Not pictured: Austin Jackson thinking how much more fun last year was

Monday, July 31, 2017

Staying Central - vs. Indians (L 3-9, L 4-5, W 3-1)

                Two more pitchers now White Sox extended family members now. Friday showed us why.

                It’s tough to gauge pitchers in a purposeful tank season, for no other reason than “why waste a major league caliber arm’s time”.  The somewhat risky (as in “who can make this tank bearable every five days or so”) move to acquire Holland has at this point proven to not be his needed change of pace: yesterday makes double digits in loss column, now three losing affairs away from his career high, from his rookie year.

                Grant it, it’s the stud-loaded Indians roster in front of him and not the consistently best in the west Texas Rangers behind him. He was a .500 pitcher before us, but that’s the benchmark I’d like him to be hovering around. He’ll take the mound against Toronto coming up, which should have enough starpower to feel good about getting outs against and enough “good team in a bad year” vibe to get a quality start against. No run support didn’t help Friday, but six runs in barely over four innings tossed is the story.

                If we had to sum up the season so far (or at least post-Yankees trade), it’d probably be the highlight of Infante drilling Guyer with the bases loaded. What a White Sox way to lose one. Saturday night crowd, great giveaway jerseys everyone’s stoked about, game close until past the point where families have stuck around… then a bases loaded hit by pitch in the top of the ninth. If we’re going full-blown tank and having an Airplane! movie emergency landing of a bullpen, might as well make it entertaining while doing so. The bright spot: great comeback against a great team, with guys who are part of the plan driving those runs in.

                Of that plan, Sunday is why I still think Rodon will be someone that sticks around. Any hesitancy stems from my overall skepticism of young strikeout pitchers: it trends towards overpitching and risky pitches, and a higher pitch count early. The bad for strikeout pitchers has been Rodon’s starts of late: 4 runs in 4 innings despite 11 strikeouts against the Cubs is the biggest example. The good would be Sunday, going toe-to-toe with a no-hitter and making only one mistake on that home run ball. Wins and losses don’t matter anyway, and now’s the time for him to work out any kinks: he’s not the Sox child prodigy anymore, but barring injury and bad habits, I’d expect him in for the long haul.

                Moncada watch: thought he was ok in the cleanup spot. I don’t necessarily see that being where he winds up, but I’ll take doubles and dingers with men on. Once we have our trying to win baseball games roster I imagine he’ll take second in the lineup: that vision at the plate is no joke. For now let’s ride Sensai Saladino out while we have him.

                Lastly, Cowboy Melky, we hardly knew ye. A big bright spot in the lineup when we needed him most. Makes sense for the Royals in their last dance with these champs season. The versatility of him at the plate makes him a pretty easy fit in most rosters, and it’d be interesting to see if he’s the spark they need to make the Tribe sweat a little.

                Our return, meanwhile:

                A.J. Puckett

                Hovering around .500 in high-A. Seems to eat up a decent amount of innings and keep the ball in the park. Not sure where he falls into the 2020 plan at age 22.

                Andre Davis

                Copy + paste “young strikeout pitchers”. Nearly 90 Ks on the year with an ERA above five.
                Can never have too many pitching prospects, which is how the trade was made.  A lot of the reactions to the more recent trades has been apathy in regards to the return on them. A fair enough response given the absolutely massive returns on the Sale, Eaton, and Quintana trades. Melky Cabrera also isn’t an Adam Eaton: a proven but aging slugger won’t get the same return as a young, speedy juggernaut with a cannon of an arm. Hahn’s master plan is all but in place, and any recent deal is to swap out players that won’t be part of it. Melky, sadly, was the next one to fall into this category.

                He was probably the most realiable player on an unreliable team his time here. Any vet who stuck with us these past couple years deserves a lot of props. Go make the Central race we're out of a little more interesting, Cowboy.