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

         ALWAYS YIELD TO YOUR OUTFIELDER

          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.

                

Friday, July 28, 2017

My Kind Of Crosstown, Part II - Chris the Cubs Fan's Take

I'll tear the bandage off quickly... The Sox starters didn't look too bad in the first three innings of their respective starts on Wednesday and Thursday. But, predictably, the Cubs took both games on the South side and won the Crosstown Cup 3-1 in 2017. (A hollow victory...) Ultimately, Shields' pitch count got the better of him in game one at Guaranteed Rate Field and got literally slugged out of the game. (Crazy stat about his six consecutive starts mid-season that totalled a 24+ ERA. Since then he had gone six starts with a 2.12 ERA. Once again- baseball.) Moncada flashed some "future hype" with a strong home run to dead center but the recently reverted reliever-from-starter Mike Montgomery covered the last three innings of a strong start from Jake Arrieta. He's finally beginning to regain some form- and when that happens, ask any team if theycan score more than 2 off him. The young Sox also didn't help themselves with some defensive miscues in the infield. Does Moncada play shortstop? Because 22 errors for Tim Anderson just doesn't seem to be cutting it. I thought Pelfrey would stifle the Cubs a bit more on Thursday. (He had very similar numbers to Jon Lester, his opponent, coming into the matchup on the season aside from wins.) He did well in the first three, but as we've seen that doesn't always mean a good end result. The long ball was once again was prominent for both teams but more prevalent for the Cubbies. In the end, as we've discussed, a pretty predictable series. The Sox beat up on the rebuilding Cubs a few years ago and the Cubs do the same here. Until next year, the Crosstown Cup will live on the North Side.

My Kind of Crosstown, Part II - Disco's Take

                Feel no need to splurge for that McGregor-Mayweather fight anymore- the pitching matchups in our homestand portion were the biggest mismatch of the sports year.

                The Cubs can hit, and we can’t pitch. Some very solid pitching outings from Arrieta and Lester, capped off with the majority of the Cubs lineup getting hits against us.  (Kyle Schwarber, two home runs as the DH. Makes you think.)  A four game set with the defending champs is a tough National League draw after playing the Dodgers less than a week, and it’s been pretty obvious from those two series where both teams are at.

                But hey, first home run for Moncada, right?

                On the GM side, the bullpen’s a Catch-22. If you’re struggling, we let you labor, if you’re decent, we’ll trade you. From where Swarzak started with us, it almost has to feel good to be trade worthy. Curious about the return in Cordell, a 25 year old outfielder hitting .284 in the minors.  Assuming he’s an upcoming roster expansion addition. For Dan Jennings, a first baseman prospect is the prize, one who’s having a down year in average but with decent power and 44 RBIs. Don’t hate the thought of having a back up plan if Abreu’s play at first keeps regressing, but Gillaspie seems to need a little more progress. We’ve got the time for it, anyway.


                Cubbies, meanwhile. So hot right now. Buckle up for this weekend if you’re a Brewers fan. And hope the breeze on 94 cools off hot bats.