Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A Million Ways To Lose In The West - at Diamondbacks (L1-5, L 4-5, L 6-8)

       Shortest blog yet. Pitching not great. Lived by long ball died by long ball simultaneously. Team on an unexpectedly hot start meets rebuilding team on the end of a west coast road trip. Not much to dissect besides bad baseball, and that short, short left field bringing Frazier and Abreu back from the power hitting dead.
       It's hard to gauge any west coast trip, let alone one that rounds out six home games in a thirty day stretch. Probably best to take it with a grain of salt in a rebuilding year. The shades of brilliance in Seattle were enough to make it seem like not a complete waste. Hopefully we can take a couple from Detroit this weekend and at least one against Boston this time next week. For now, reset that sleep schedule, friends. Weekend of day games coming up, a beautiful thing.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Long Before Your Time Has Come - at Mariners (L 4-5, W 2-1, W 16-1, W 8-1)

                A lot to talk about with this series, though none of which as important as the Robert signing.  Could do a really long dissection of the entire series or do a little quick hits edition for the four games against Seattle. Prefer the millennial version for this one. Good things from this past series:

                Good Thing #1: Comeback on Thursday
                Live, die, and put off death by sluggish hitters getting back to their groove before blowing it in the ninth by the long ball.  Frazier’s two home runs this series were probably the most satisfying and hopefully there’s carryover to the next series for his power number boost (just 330 to right at Chase). Anderson’s two home runs were the most surprising- and after Dee Gordon’s Fernandez tribute and Forenzen’s “for you Dad” home run, I don’t doubt the tragedy to triumph story of Moss’ mother’s request either. (Didn’t mention it here yet, but kudos to the White Sox for not just allowing Tim the series off to go to his friend’s funeral but also not making a roster move in his absence. Totally and completely “we’re here for you when you get back”, and very cool.)
                Either way, two late home runs get us back in this one, one run in the ninth ends it abruptly. World’s Worst Teammate Tommy Khanle does a good job holding. If we didn’t have three of our better games all year following this, it’d be the one we really wanted back. In hindsight, not much harm done.

                Good Thing #2: No Run Support for Quintana, Alternate Ending Edition!
                Might not be the most impressive lineup to mow down, but it’s a good checkpoint to see Q thriving against teams he should be thriving against. Jose’s left center shot our only run for him (see how much easier pulling the ball makes his life?). Some unintentional Ozzie ball brings pinch runner Leury from first to third on a sac bunt and a groundout, Melky drives him in. We’re hitting in the clutch when we need to still, and that’s a very good sign to be this competitive in the front half of a non-divisional series. I hope it carries over throughout the rebuild, though I wrote last blog about how I don’t think it’s likely Melky continues to be that guy for us.

                Good Thing #3: Home Plate Real Estate- Own Don’t Rent
                At this point I don’t think I can keep thinking Avi’s great numbers are a fluke and I can’t justify actually getting upset if he cools off after two months of Ted Williams numbers to start the year. Two homers, two doubles, amongst fifteen other hits in a downright massacre. What more to say here that the box score won’t? Be it the years and years of bad offensive numbers, be it the historically bad offense this year was supposed to be, but there’s something pretty special about seeing this island of misfit hitters put double digits and then some on the board. So good a win I almost forgot we got swept by Anaheim that same week.
                Good Thing #4: It’s not us anymore!

                I’ve seen innings like Top 1 before, we’ve usually always just been on the defending end. Three walks doom the M’s early, featuring timely hitting and a lot of Kansas City Specials (that, based on this season, appear to be any hit that stayed inside the ballpark). The hitting was the obvious highlight, but it’s good to have a solid Holland start under his belt. Miguel could use one and can hopefully follow suit tonight. Pitching, defense (Yolmer with the web gem!), timely hitting, a solid win to take the series.

                Felt good to get some wins against a team at pretty much our level. Tough pitching matchup tonight and a better than we thought Diamondbacks team, I’m not sure we hold up for this series, but we’re officially three days away from games that start at hours made for actual people again. Then onto the weekend and the team I’d like to see us put a sixteen spot on the most. 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

EMERGENCY POST: Welcome to the show, Luis Robert

             WOW. I'd be lying if I said I wavered from my "expect the worst hope for the best" fandom approach at any point before it was official. It was between us and the Cards for most of the week I think, and it's probably less of a toss up than it always is when it comes down to the last two. But when it gets down to the little details (eh, probably the couple difference in millions, though it's just breaking that the Cardinals actually outbid the Sox), you never know. Some quick heat of the moment celebratory hits:

              -  Supposedly what swayed Robert was a video featuring Renteria, Moncada and Abreu. Ricky's obviously in the typical "each year's a one year deal" manager approach (probably an extended one given the rebuild), and Moncada's got the safety cushion of "you are my son that we traded the best pitcher in franchise history for, with you I have to be pleased". But in terms of how the rest of the rebuild will shake out: this means Abreu has to stay at this point, right? I'm not sure his current trade value or what international contract stipulations there are on his deal, but now we're sort of locked in to him for the long run now that he'll be playing mentor for two young guys now. Abreu will figure out playing first and his hitting will solidify in whatever direction he's taking it (I still think whatever weird "let's start hitting for average now" hitting plan we put him on after his rookie year is still messing with him to this day), but in terms of trade baits for July, it's down to just Q, Robertson, and Frazier now. (Definitely in that order).

              -  Outfield just got more interesting. Melky's contract is up after this year, and I'm not really sure what to do there. He probably has more than one season left in him, though probably not as productive as most seasons prior and probably not with the White Sox if he also thinks he's got a couple more years left. Not sure I see us taking on a $25-30 million contract for an aging hitter in the "let the kids play" phase of the plan. All Garcias are making their case for sticking around a while- Willy seems to be handling the big leagues pretty well, and Leury and Avisail's not cooling off anytime soon numbers speak for themselves. It's a great problem to have, but also sort of banks on all three sustaining their success through this season and the next. I'm not sure what the plan is for calling Luis up, but for a 20 year old that's never seen an MLB affiliated pitch, put him in the minors for a full year at least. This means hoping the Tres Garcias carry their weight through this year and the next, with May and Delmonico as possible back ups (and that doesn't make me feel more reassured). 

             - For the ultimate good news of the day, think we can call #TankForBeer off. I mean, we could still go ahead with it, but I don't see much incentive for a full on tank when we just signed a top five pick today. You could probably make the argument that southern college baseball might be better MLB prep than the Cuban League, and I'd probably then ask you when Gordon Beckham's number retirement ceremony is taking place. It's more likely that we're through our first week of freshman year fun April and into the mid-semester "I actually don't know what I'm doing" May, and a top 10 draft pick is still pretty feasible. But if I'm following this team this year (and guys, I know we're a "win or we don't show" fanbase, but this is absolutely huge news and you have to love the cojones on this team for the moves they've made. Now's a good time to start tuning in consistently), it's nice to know that we aren't necessarily going to completely bottom out and that we'll continue the Wild Whacky Kind of Tanking Kind of Great White Sox 2017 season. And that if I'm going to keep watching Avi getting stranded after two out hits, Frazier's mid-life crisis, and everyone else ensuring we meet our strikeout quota, at least I can think of sunny days and long sips of Pacifico Clara as Luis Robert bombs land all around me in the bleachers, A man can dream. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Wing and a Prayer - at Angels ( L 3-5, L 6-7, L 8-12)

            So that’s why the only people who stayed up that late on a weekday are alcoholics.

            Definitely a stiff drink series for the Palehose. It’s interesting to see us go outside the Central and see where we really stack up against the rest of the league. The answers thus far:

            Yankees/Orioles/Probably any A.L. East opponent: I think what we did resembled playing baseball

            Padres: Hard fought two out of three against a AAA team and Wil Myers

            Angels: Take away Trout, Pujols, starting pitching bottoming out, bullpen taking the series off, defense catching the early flight to Seattle, and runners left on base, and we had these guys right where we wanted them!

            Certainly helps our standings in the draft. Back to the scene of the crime:

Game 1:

Probably Renteria’s first “Ventura” moment (I always thought those were overblown, the bullpen was a rock and a hard place scenario for his whole tenure).  The Trout home run was pretty predictable and Pelfrey had been struggling for several batters by then. Even if it’s a competing year, I don’t mind pushing a pitcher early in the year to gauge limits. Preferably for a younger pitcher, and preferably knowing a three run home run 100 pitches in is that limit, but there are a couple games a year to stretch a pitcher a batter or two. A Monday in Anaheim seems about right.

            Good to see Abreu get another dinger that night and Wednesday night. I’m probably completely wrong, but it seems like a lot of his long fly balls have been going to deep center. Power numbers probably go up if that happens.  Again, probably totally wrong, but it seems like most home runs come the hard way this year with him.

            Game 2:

Two things Renteria’s said that seemed like the usual manager hype jargon: “little things like hitting to the right side with runner on second, less than two outs”, and “we don’t quit”. I’ve said before that the former’s been pretty great this year (at least better than previous years), and the latter was definitely proven again Tuesday. Avi continues not coming back to earth and brings Melky in. Todd, incredibly clutch in the weirdest ways possible this week, gets a double that barely leaves the infield and ties that game. (I felt for the ump and that “out NO WAIT SAFE” call. Was probably the biggest “don’t do this” from umpire school back in the day. Been there, man.) Get the lead in the 11th, proceed to blow it right after to the generational talent hitter that is Pujols. It’s the sort of game where the loss doesn’t matter quite as much as how hard a win it was for the other guys: it’s hard not to get the “if we’re competitive now, just you wait” feeling in a game like this. Especially in a rebuilding year, coming back from three runs with our backs against the wall is a very good sign.

Game 3:

It’s spring training so it’s a shitty scouting report, but I remember Shoemaker racking up a good amount of strikeouts against us in March (Davidson ironically playing in that one). The K’s are pretty frustrating yet again, but they don’t seem to be happening in as many crucial moments as year’s prior. Davidson seems to be mellowing out, even with the power hitter strikeout handicap.

Another earned run heavy start for Miguel, but a more reassuring one. He’s best when he’s eating innings, and going close to six after a four walk, forty pitch inning still had us in it.  That game goes south a lot quicker when most pitchers have four walks (Speaking of strike zones, Coop’s ejection reaction is the early favorite for gif of the year. Can’t watch it without hearing that think “born in a batting cage” baseball coach voice.)

In other news, Mike Trout. Sweet jeebus. Has to be the best athlete on the planet that absolutely no one is talking about. The ultimate victim of the west coast time zone bias. (Which is definitely alive and well, what jobs in the world do people have that they can stay up for these west coast trip games with ease?) Really hope the bullpen, of all things, isn’t bottoming out. It’s been a pretty painless rebuild in the grand scheme of things but if we start racking up 7-1 or 4-2 bullpen losses that’s gonna take a lot of wind out of the fanbase’s sails.

Bats not silent but only there for bits and pieces, pitching never really there, Sox get swept. What did we learn, kids? That a team built to lose several games will wind up losing several games in a row, and that Trout and Pujols deserve to be in a time zone made for actual people.  

                              And I thought 8:30 playoff hockey games were bad

Monday, May 15, 2017

Will Play For Beer - vs. Padres (L 3-6, W 5-4, W 9-3)

                What happens when an immovable average team meets an unstoppable tank?

                We get weird series like this past weekend, for starters. First game, first inning, first pitch, you could tell it was going to be an anything goes series: Miguel misses his spot and Szczur makes him pay right away. The vantage point from our self-upgraded up but to the left of home plate seats made it tough to gauge the fly balls, but this was one you could hear go out. Was the start of Miguel missing his spots, both in the big Padres’ hits and getting behind in counts early. Not something that’s been habit for him this year.

                It’s tough to get the “but y’know, we might still have a chance” feeling with this team, especially when real time decisions are made for development rather than winning a baseball game.  (I’m sure Asche pinch hitting in the ninth was to give us a position to win and nothing else, right?) But this series did have that vibe throughout. Friday wasn’t much besides Leury continuing his absolute tear but no one else getting productive hits, but come bottom 7, with Garcia’s second home run sitting in the right field stands, top of the order coming up with the firework clouds still hovering with just one out, it certainly felt more realistic a comeback opportunity than at any point last year. We won’t often need to be, but there’s just enough of a competitive edge to this team to make me think we can be competitive when we need to be.

                That wasn’t how things ended Friday. Same start Saturday: leadoff homer for the Padres. We’d trade homers until The Many Wild Pitch Adventures of Jose Abreu ends in a rattling tying run. In a race to see who’d make the last blunder, Kahnle throws an ill-fated fastball that winds up tying the game.

                I’d like to say the walkoff hit- solid contact in the clutch by Yolmer and great, great hustle by Saladino- is a difference between last year and now. And why not- we certainly saw enough bullpen losses last year.  It is the sort of win you’d like to see more against Boston at the end of the month, or a Central opponent just because, not necessarily the most blatant rebuild roster in the league. But, again, competitive when we need to be. No time wasted after blowing the lead- get ‘em over, get ‘em in, get this over with. (Sending more guys home on plays like that has been a really refreshing difference, as well. Hustle won this game.)

                Rubber game. Hoo boy, was the weirdest saved for the very end. Don’t want to recap a pretty unique series with my usual “this is different than last year” narrative, but this, THIS was the definitive this ABSOLUTELY would not have happened last year game of the season so far. Quintana had another “stellar but for two or three really bad pitches” outing similar to the one against Kluber last month. And boy, the stage was set for another Q mental health check loss. One run early, nuthin’ after (and with bases loaded, no outs).  One bad pitch late, down 3-1. No way to win, but still up to lose.

                What more to recap that eighth besides my scorecard that’s essentially pure scribbles after trying to fit it all in? Yes, probably doesn’t happen with any other team.  Maybe a late bases loaded walk, maybe a power hitter scoring on a botched bunt for some unholy reason, but probably not both in the same inning with another six runs tagged as well.  If nothing else, this was a series that we wanted to see the bats firing on all cylinders at some point, and we made up for two games of not doing so and then some in this eight run eighth.  Not sure we can expect it more than once a series, but again, if we need to do it, it looks like we somehow can find a way to do so.

                Really it would just be nice to steer away from the long ball narrative juuuuust a little. Not holding my breath for more innings like that eighth, but hopefully the Cali dry heat can spark the bats across the board. If anything this series showed that we are tanking, but not tanking THAT hard.

                Some pre-West coast best coast trip quick hits:

-          In terms of actually tanking and should we be losing more- basically, to Seth Beer or not to Seth Beer- I think we’ve got enough prospects that it’s not entirely warranted. Plus, historically great hitter from a southern college as a top prospect… where have I heard that before…

-          Soto. Hell, man. I prefer Narvaez’s plate approach, but this is a huge bummer for an already beat up pitchers and catchers list.

-          Welcome to the show, Smith and Infante. Was a little worried we’d be seeing the “Fulmer probably should’ve spent more time in the minors” story part II.

-          Not that anyone’s counting, but as of now Chris Sale is scheduled to start the Tuesday game when Boston’s in town. Get them tickets now (or get whatever and sit wherever day of, same thing we always do, Pinky!)

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Regressing to the Meh - vs. Twins (L 2-7, L 6-7)

          Well, at least we got the forecast right.
          It felt like a series of who can be slightly less worse to pull off the victory. The Shields' injury is still making me really, really nervous- rough start from Pelfrey aside, I'm pretty pessimistic about his good start to the year carrying over. Momentum came to a standstill at the worst time.

          Seen the gif of that eighth inning Rosario swing? That's essentially the recap, unless we want to get into how home runs to surrender the lead the inning after getting it are generally not good.

           Tonight was interesting. On Southside Hitmen night, our most Hitmen game of the year: down 6-0 way early, we make it more interesting than it probably should have been. Three run home run by Melky (Bullpen Bar shots could count as double) and a flat out tattooed shot by Davidson keep us in it, and a late threat after a wild pitch puts runners on 2nd and 3rd almost makes it a complete comeback. Nothing doing between that and heart of the order in the next inning. I'm pretty torn between letting Abreu go through the rough start at first for the greater good and not letting easy plays like his error tonight cost us more than it already has. That double play not panning out is the story of the game, and the bad errors at first look especially bad when they extend a key inning and are just reallllllllllllly should have had that errors. But hey, wasn't expecting it to be that interesting a game, and can at least say we turned 6-0 to a one run game. Even if it's not when we need it the most, the fight's there.

           Some other things since I essentially took the week off:

          - Has been brought up already but is relevant after playing the Orioles: in Red Sox-Orioles the series before, when Barnes got ejected for throwing at Machado with a pitch that hit the bat, is he the first pitcher to ever get tossed for throwing a strike?

         - I'm not entirely on board with the idea of ties, and I'll be even more old man yells at clouds at any designated runner on second addendum, but there is absolutely nothing to gain from an 18 inning game in May.

         - Somewhat of an apprentice turned sensai moment on that Davidson home run: great two strike hitting that I haven't seen as much from Todd this year. Though if you're gonna throw a high fastball to get the batter to chase a pitch, you better make sure that's all that pitch is there for.

         - With the Moncada talk lately, I think I'm the only one still in the "better off not seeing an major league pitch this year" camp. We've been pretty bad with rushing players before they're ready, and I'd prefer his momentum into next year be a .315 year in the minors than a .210 month in the majors. Let's not Gordon Beckham the best thing we have going anywhere in the franchise.

        - Dog day is always the "absurd concept that looks like an absolute blast every time" promotion, but if I'm walking my territorial dog in any baseball warning track, I'm hoping he gives the one leg salute to the Wrigley ivy rather than piss on Comiskey.

         Overall, two quite not there yet teams playing games with several not quite there yet moments. It's bad to miss the limbo and want us to turn it around against the Padres, right? Because I'm going into tomorrow expecting to watch that South Park postseason baseball episode play out in real life.

                                         "But who does sit in that patio area in dead center?"

Thursday, May 4, 2017

There Is No Try - at Royals (so far) (L 1-6, W 6-0, L 1-6...

We live by the long ball, we die by the long ball. Everyone hits or nobody hits. In a series most noted for me still getting accustomed to the Royals as a lackluster team again, so far it’s exchanging times turning the lineup over. Royals had a solid win Monday- even with that offense, losing 10 straight was pretty unlikely to happen.  Bats strike first but only strike once, while Royals make the mistakes hurt. May strikes out to end it as Hahn books his ticket to Charlotte.  Next game, complete opposite:  Quintana’s first stress-free game of the year. Two in the second and third, and everyone’s hitting.  Moving the chains looks beautiful when we do it. Game 3, other side again: bats don’t wake up until the ninth when Abreu homered (power Jose is BACK). A nuthin doin' game.

They're up now (POWER JOSE) but I'll miss the end of this game and most likely the next series- hate to devastate my two readers, but life's taking me away this weekend. It's top 2 now so there's not much to say here, but some quick hits:

- Charlotte game was awesome yesterday. If you wanna feel good about this rebuild, definitely tune in. Having an exciting farm system is the cherry on top of this weirdly in the race so far season. 
- Nate Jones, what the hell?
- Rodon, WHAT THE HELL. 
- Shields' extended injury has me pretty worried at this point. High pitch count and a roller coaster of long fly balls or strike outs only, but the turnaround from last year was great. If anyone needed to keep the mojo going it's him. Hopefully he's back soon and back to his April self.
- Davidson just homered. Him at third, Hot Toddy DH. For like, one week. Humor me for one week. It'll be great, I promise.

Anyway, see you sometime next week. Shoutout to the Redditors who'll go a week without my shitposts. Until next time, viva la longball.