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. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

My Kind Of Crosstown, Part I - Chris the Cubs Fan Talks Sox

Things just don’t happen like you expect them to…

Or do they?

What you would expect is the rebuilding White Sox to lose (badly) in the Crosstown Series to the Cubs, who came into baseball’s second half with a record of 8-1, the best in baseball.  But that didn’t happen.  As my dad always says: “That’s Baseball.” (Clever, right?)

And here I was—with those expectations—flexing my National League rules muscles with Kyle Hendricks giving the Cubs the early lead on Monday with an RBI groundout.  The Sox staff couldn’t possibly know what to do with a bat in their hands?  Nor could their no-name roster handle last year’s ERA leader.  Hendricks didn’t last long and threw a lot of early pitches in his first start back from the DL, unfortunately.

But no matter. The Cubs recently rejuvenated offense would soon begin their mash parade on Miguel Gonzalez.  After all, he would worsen as the game went on—as his ERA has risen from 3.56 in the first three innings of his starts to close to 5.00 in the 4th or later.  Surely the Cubs could handle a placehold starter?  Or they’d just wait to attack the dilapidated Sox bullpen whose best members have been dealt for prospects and a chance to win on a contending team this year.

All the while, the buzz from the crosstown rivalry in the stands on a picture-perfect day at Wrigley Field didn’t inspire or spill onto the field for the home team.  The Cubs simply looked scared or overwhelmed by playing their counterpart from the South side.  Meanwhile, the White Sox—as it seems they typically do against the Cubs—came to play and win.  “Pathetic” was the word I used to describe the Cubs performance on Monday.

Because, after all, there were some things that were not surprising in that game.  As I mentioned, the Sox came to play.  The Cubs left 12. men. on. base.  12.  (Opportunities abound for that young Cubs offense but even last year where so many RISP were overlooked by an abundance of runs, they have had to rely on far fewer chances and an inability to capitalize on quality chances for potential runs this season.)  And Joe Maddon asked for and received his death/loss wish when he called upon BOTH Justin Grimm and Koji Uehara to relieve Hendricks in the 5th and 6th.  Seriously: if you send Uehara out to throw a wobbly splitter over the heart of the plate at 87mph every pitch, you’re gonna have a bad time. 

In the end, give Gonzalez credit.  He pitched very well and took advantage of the fact the Cubs have never seen him.  Swarzak was also able to conquer the butterflies and lock down his first save, even with a patented late-inning “Fake Rally” brewing.  Also- should I start calling Adam Engel (…who?) “New Spanky?”

Tuesday was a little different and a little more “fun”—for many reasons.  Wilson Contreras set the tone with the 3-run homer in the first yet John Lackey did a very John Lackey thing in giving up a 2-run double to his counterpart, Carlos Rodon.  (Quit complaining about the pitcher’s hitting rule—it’s not so bad when that happens, eh?  Although of course I’m biased because the Cubs pitchers have been among the highest home run hitting staffs in baseball over the past 5-10 years.)  When Big John also managed to plunk back-to-back batters in the 5th, once again, the sort of mindless hype given to this series reared its ugly head.  (Seriously: everyone needs to chill out about these games.  The moment shouldn’t be too big for the Cubs to face their “rival” from across town…and I thought the Sox wanted to tank? Just play baseball, people!) Manager Rick Renteria tried to suggest that these wayward fastballs were intentional (and later retaliated.  Don’t you DARE hit our prized new rookie!  There, there, Yoany…)  No Ricky, he didn’t want to purposefully load the bases, even with two outs.  He’s actually just that bad.

(What’s more fun—I can assure you—is seeing Kris Bryant actually argue a third strike call.  I think I even saw him utter a nasty word.  So he is human after all… Although if I was him I’d want to be ejected after shooting a baseball off my tibia… it was still a terrible call, but I digress…)

Still, it turned out more “as we expected” with a 7-2 win in the end for the Cubs.  And that’s ok.  Ever since the mighty schedule people have changed this series to a measly 4 games in a row at the end of July every year, the hype has been diminished if not snuffed out.  With the current state of affairs, the Cubs should win this thing more and the Sox should sort of welcome that (with a “better draft position” at stake, according to another of my Sox fan friends.)  Let the players settle it on the field with both teams trying but not taking this too seriously.  My prediction of a road-team sweep on both sides is unfortunately off the table… but my non-hot take of a split of this series is still at large… That’s things as we expect, right?

My Kind of Crosstown, Part I - Disco talks Cubs

                Aren’t those pitcher at-bats fun, kids?! Nothing I love more when I go to the ol’ ballpark than watching bad man Miguel Gonzalez hitting with runners on! Forget that stain on the game designated hitter, children, it’s that strategy of whether to pinch hit for our starting pitcher in the top of the second inning that’ll save the game! Those bunt attempts, that’s what’ll bring the crowds in!

                Maybe a little bitter considering the runs Carlos Rodon drove in.  I’m writing about the Cubs this series, anyway, but I had to get some American League pride out of the way first thing (I grew up with Frank Thomas, pry the designated hitter option out of my cold, dead hands). Aside from being far and away the better team, being without a designated hitter for the majority of their games denies Kyle Schwarber his inherent birthright of the position he was born to play. Swing away, Hoosier boy, to the moon! No man leaps out of bed at the thought of playing left field!

                The most common take/criticism/complaint/tweet from the end of the world from Northsiders this season has been them struggling compared to last season.  Thus far the Cubs are not on pace for their anticipated 115 wins (prediction taken from various shouts on the Red Line approximately twenty minutes after a 2016 Cubs win). Last year was a juggernaut, jet-fuel, Roadrunner paced adrenaline junkie rampage that would make Hunter S. Thompson blush, and for every pulse-pounding bat out of hell drive to Vegas, there’s the stiff drink taper back at the hotel and anti-drug convention on the Strip.  It’s a season that will never be replicated by anyone, let alone the players currently on the come down right after it.

                For this year’s edition, the sign of a good team is the “next man up” setup. Though more of an addition by subtraction strategy, the rotating door leadoff man (now apparently Zobrist’s spot to lose) has been the most consistent example of this. Putting players like Schwarber and Rizzo put just as much faith in their replacement clean up hitters as it does the big names at the top of the order: they got on base, someone’s still got to drive them in.  Not many other teams have the luxury of affording a bat like Rizzo’s being taken away from an RBI opportunity at least once a game.

                Cubbies have also had their fair share of blowout losses (can’t seem to recall us having a game scheduled for the day before the All-Star break either, weird), but they’re very much a one at-bat away team still. Part Palehose pessimism, part Cubs lineup giving no real room to breathe, yesterday wasn’t over until the very end. Have said it a million times here, but we’re a lineup that wins if and (aside from a couple games) only if we get the timely home runs.  We also give up a LOT of them, hence me repeating “live by the long ball, die by the long ball” a million times here. Lived by it Monday, died by it early Tuesday.  (Carlos Rodon doesn’t like the thought of home run balls being thrown back, wants to make sure someone goes home with a souvenir).

                Coming into the year I didn’t think the N.L. Central would be a division that you could hover around .500 and be competitive in, but the Cardinals decline and the trending towards reality Brewers have kept the Cubs afloat. With the playoff experience under their belts, I think the first half of this year will be a gone and forgotten footnote on the team.  Decent pitching and this lineup should be good to keep the other side of the league nervous through fall.

                Fun to see some good games to start out a series I usually don’t think lives up to the hype. Today’s beanball fireworks were odd. Abreu’s HBP I can live with- those are bullets off Superman’s chest at this point- but don’t you scorn our Beloved Son again, Lackey. Hell hath no fury like a pissed off Hawk Harrelson (“WHAT ARE YOU DO-ING WEG-NER?!?!)

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Soy Un Perdedor - at Royals (L 6-7, L 2-7, L 4-5)

                I’ve always compared a bad bullpen to a bad offensive line: it’s the most frustrating, it’s the hardest to fix, and it’s the most obvious flaw when it’s the weakest part of your team.  Grant it, this isn’t previous years when our relievers were rotating tryouts: there’s help coming, and hopefully soon. Reynaldo Lopez should be the next man up (shoutout to u/Chicago_45, I agree), and Kopech’s worth a look at some point as well.

                If you’re a baseball purist that never leaves early or a clockwatcher that hates games going over three hours (not much in the middle of that venn diagram), this won’t be a fun second half. I’m hoping we can make the first six or seven innings bearable and keep on tankin’ on by the time most of our family fanbase is out of the parking lots with the kids in bed. I didn’t expect to see the bullpen completely bottom out after the Yankees trade, but I’m sure the chaos has a little bit to do with this weekend’s struggles.  That and Shields and Holland not being able to keep the ball in the park (hopefully innings-eating Derek is back soon).

                The Moncada watch is going to be the one thing getting me through this losing streak, and it was interesting this weekend. The triple was a thing of beauty, and he’s got an uncanny eye at the plate for someone so young. Not concerned with his average if he’s hitting the ball hard. Maybe we’ll even get a dinger out of him this week to make the inevitable bullpen collapses against the Cubs more manageable.

                Speaking of the Cubs, check out that Eloy Jimenez statline from today to drown those sorrows.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Crosstown Commentary: “Q”uite the Trade

Wait… how did I get here? All these references to black and white, south not north, something about a rate that’s guaranteed not chewing gum?  Allow me to introduce myself: you can call me Chris the Curmudgeon Cubs Fan (or just Chris.)  I’m being allowed to contribute to Disco Demolished as a North-Side supporter (gasp!) because I like baseball.  And I love Chicago.  And the founder of this blog is a longtime friend of mine.  So here goes!

Fortunately for all of us, the two Chi-town teams gave me a great lead-off as a contributor to this blog with a certain trade that happened exactly one week ago.  A deal that many thought would never happen because of the societal implications on our fair city was announced early Thursday morning July 13th—and I swear I could hear “Kumbaya” mixed with “Why Can’t We Be Friends” ringing through the streets.  The White Sox traded Jose Quintana to the Cubs for prospects Eloy Jimenez, Dylan Cease and two others.

But you knew that already.  Maybe as a Sox fan you even turned on the Cubs game this past Sunday just to see Q deal one more time before fully moving on.  (It was quite the first performance, I must say: 7 IP, 0 R, 3 H with 12 Ks- a Cubs’ debut record.  His curveball was simply nasty.)  However, amidst the rebuild I’m sure many fans saw Quintana’s departure coming.  So perhaps you weren’t as sad as you’d normally be about losing a player of his caliber.  His landing spot being the team across town?  That might make you kick some dirt in protest…

Never fear, though!  Let this Cubs fan tell you what you’re getting in return.  Eloy Jimenez—the headliner of the deal—is projected to be an absolute stud.   Many major league comparisons have been drawn between him and Giancarlo Stanton.  His power is just that pure.  Reserve the left corner outfield spot for him in about 1-2 years (as he still sits in low AA ball) and trust that with a bit more development, the #14 overall prospect in 2016 will flourish into a great player.  Additionally, Dylan Cease will be joining the Sox.  He came in at #97 in last year’s prospect rankings and his stuff was also highly touted as legitimate.  A great slider and a plus fastball for starters, he had time and baseball IQ on his side to develop a third pitch and be a starter one day. (Once again—not for a while.  Cease was even lower in the minors than Jimenez: high-A.) 

The Cubs had the luxury of being patient with these two prospects having stacked their farm system with plenty of other talented players after several years of terrible baseball gained them many top-10 draft slots.  But Cubs fans knew they were coming and were excited for their time to come.  That’s why, when I heard the news that BOTH Jimenez and Cease would be traded for a viable #2 starter, I was slightly disappointed.  Sure, I knew what we would be getting with Quintana and was quite pleased with that for several reasons: addressed a need this year, controlled and at a bargain price for his stature.  And that’s the sign of a good—or should I say fair—trade.  Both sides should feel it yet be optimistic about the future. 

Theo Epstein—I’ve been told by non-Cubs fans—has gained a reputation for allegedly “ripping other GMs off.”  I don’t think that’s the case here- Cubs gain for the now, Sox gain for the later. I’ll concede the Addison Russell acquisition for Jason Hammel.  But getting Arrieta and Strop for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger was a move of taking players the Orioles had essentially given up on for players that were having good seasons on a terrible team by May of 2013.  That’s just taking advantage of opportunity and scouting.  Once they let Arrieta pitch like he wanted to- which they saw a mile away- he turned out to be great.  Sabermetrics.  Boom.  Should be what happens here with Quintana, though he did pitch like he wanted to- the run support was another issue.

Turns out Rick Hahn is taking a page out of Theo’s book.  He is doing a great job of getting the best packages for his best players and restocking the minors for a healthy longevity of his team.  It worked for the Cubs and Astros. Now many other teams are realizing it’s the way things have to be done.  (It’s also true that this was always the case and that trying to get around that approach doesn’t work.) And in turn, as evidenced by this crosstown trade, it allows a club to flip prospects for major-league proven commodities.  Especially pitching, which is always a gamble for every team coming up through the minors.  My guess is after the Cubs drafted Brandon Little and Alex Lange (LSU starting staff headliner from the College World Series), they felt they could make them their pitching projects of the future and deal Cease. 

The fact remains that Cease was probably best starting prospect that Cubs had and when you want to acquire a starter from another team, they will want pitching in return (at least.)  This trade was necessary for the Cubs with Arrieta almost assuredly gone in the offseason.  Scott Boras is going to demand way too much for a guy who’s pitched his arm off helping the Cubs win a lot of playoff baseball the past two years and as I said- there’s not much pitching in line for the Cubs in the minors (my one knock on Theo and his work so far in Chicago.  I think I’ll get over it…)  But make no mistake; the White Sox now have plenty of arms and position players to make them serious contenders in a few years and that is great for baseball and the city.  So… you’re welcome.  And thanks for Q. 

Come Fly With Me - Dodgers, Trade, Yoan Recap

                In the midnight hour, the “drop everything and go” game was finally circled on the calendar.

                But first, the brief series recap. Kershaw deserves much better than the west coast sports treatment, not even needing his best stuff to shut us out game one. These Dodgers will eat strikeout pitchers alive: the way to beat them seems to be pitching incredibly carefully, and not giving them extra outs. Rodon gave up four homers and walked three. Most notable player was Chicago weather, sparing us an additional inning of obvious rebuild work and cutting game two short.

                The real news was never going to take place on the field this week, though. Frazier, Robertson, and Kahnle are the latest Reinsdorf one way ticket purchases, going Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and heading from the Midwest to the Big Apple.  Kahnle is the obvious biggest loss- Frazier seemed to need a change of pace, Robertson had about five games of actual closer work this year- but he’s what got us Blake Rutherford in all likelihood. Missed him already last night when Beck was struggling and my first thought was “who… who’s left?”

                What’s in it for the Yankees:

                Hot Toddy: 318 to left at Yankee Stadium, so the five hundred fly balls that fell less than 10 feet short this year will finally be souvenirs. As the season wore on it became clear that some big change was needed, and this could be the fix for him. Having Judge around him should give him some peace of mind as well- guessing he took a lot of pressure on himself this year with a young roster. I’ve been guessing Boston for about a month now for where he’d land, now I’m not sure how much interest he really garnered there.  Which makes sense- we’ve done our mega-deal with them already, what more would they want to give us, especially for a power hitter in a down year? I’d expect a hot start from him: he wants to prove to himself that he can put a rough first half behind him, and being on a competitor should be the adrenaline rush he didn’t have at White Sox Daycare this year.

                Robertson: If there’s one fanbase I would not expect to forgive and forget, it’d be the Yankees. Dave only has one black mark on his Pinstripes card, but it’s a big one: his blown save technically set the stage for Derek Jeter’s walk-off last game, but I wouldn’t expect to head back to New York without expecting a couple “but if…”. Honestly, I think his biggest issue is just going to be adjusting back to bonafied closing situations: he’s had one run games, he’s had two inning saves, he’s had runners on and I need multiple outs here. He hasn’t had “it’s Sunday at Fenway, it’s the rubber game, it’s the heart of the order coming up” this year. He hasn’t had “two on, two outs, Bautista’s up, and I’m pitching the ninth next inning” this year.  There’s a different pressure to a closer on a competitive team that doesn’t happen on teams like the White Sox, and I think he’ll have a blown save or two in the dog days as he’s adjusting. In the few actual save situations this season, he’s been very solid, and if he keeps it up I think the Yankees will be close to even in the closing department.

                World’s Worst Teammate Tommy Kahnle: I can’t imagine any major league baseball player being less than friendly, and LaTroy Hawkin’s word is known as canon league-wide, so thank God this character issue is out of our clubhouse.  Far and away the most reliable of the relievers this year- again, not much else in the bullpen now that he’s gone. Guessing he’ll thrive in the adrenaline rush. Biggest get for the Yankees in this trade, and deservedly so.

                The Sox haul:

                Blake Rutherford: The top prospect, officially our tenth in the Top 100, but one I’m gonna wait on.  Too much of a climb left for a single-A 20 year old, but the potential’s there.  Curious to see where he’ll fit in for an outfield that’s already pretty crowded at the moment. .281 with 55 strikeouts so far: assume he’ll fit right in to our power hitting tradition once he gets more loft on the ball more consistently.

                Tyler Clippard: Lot of searches on Gif sites for “people celebrating” by Yankees fans when his departure was announced. Journeyman with an ERA a tick below 5.00- and our new closer. They teach us in the Midwest to swerve into the skid.

                 Ian Clarkin: Injury prone and then some- elbow issues, torn meniscus, and shoulder soreness since getting drafted in 2013. Not someone I’m feeling reassured about after Burdi going down.

                Tito Polo: Spitting distance of .300 and speedy in single A. Also apparently getting his power numbers up. Also, minor league player, major league name.  Crowded outfield once again, but definitely some steal potential here.

                Not feeling quite as good about this trade as some of the others, but there was less value on our end.  Essentially moving pieces that weren’t going to play much of a part in the rebuild to begin with.

                Now for the biggest news of the week, and the day our lives forever changed: the Yoan Moncada call up.

                I personally would not have minded (at the start of the season, preferred) him just riding it out in the minors until next season. Of all the prospects we’ve gotten, this is not the one I want to rush.  If I’m resigned to a lost year and waiting for the future, I’d rather make sure all of our prospects are major league ready at all cost and have them be overprepared later than “seems like a good time” now.

                That being said, what a difference one call up makes. Have never bought a spur of the moment ticket faster than when the news broke. The Red Line was packed… in the Dan Ryan direction! 45 minutes to game time, and I actually had to wait more than five minutes at 35th Red Hots. I waited in an actual line at concessions, as opposed to walking swiftly to the concourse, walking back to my seat, without missing a pitch in between innings. Entire sections of the Park sold out on TicketMaster, to the point where we actually waited until after his first at-bat to scout open seats to move down to.  It was what I hoped would happen with all of these call-ups: support the rebuild, and give the kids a warm welcome when they come up.

                I don’t want to do a first game recap of how I thought he did. I will say he had some pretty ballsy takes in his walk (based on the replay- I wasn’t calling balls and strikes from the upper corners) and some good contact on his line out. And I’ll let the excitement of getting to see the Beloved Son outweigh my “keep him in the minors” logic hardwire. I think the biggest key is patience with him, as he’ll probably make a couple errors and might struggle at the plate, and some meatheads might wonder why this is the guy we traded Sale for. My success line for him is .260 while making the plays he needs to make at second. Welcome to the show, Yoan, and thanks for putting up with us, all recently traded folks. Hope you like the new pinstripes. 

If you set zoom to 150% and squint you can see Yoan Moncada

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Fish Out Of Water - vs. Mariners (L 4-2, L 4-3, L 7-6)

Catching a ball at a game- the odd pro bono souvenir that’s one of the weirder boys to men things (sometimes vice versa- “Give it to the kid! Give it to the kid!”). I’m public now and can poke my head out of internet anonymity as an Illinois alum, meaning my usual bleacher bum habit was a little more justified Friday with the Illini Night promo. Ticket + hat + early entrance for BP, and I took advantage of all of it.

Sometime in ’05 we got tickets that included the voucher for getting into the park early to watch the Sox take batting practice. My most vivid memories from that game are Damaso Marte getting booed out of the park on a four pitch walk, and me missing the one ball hit close to me after not backing up on it. History fixed the former, and Friday was my chance to fix the latter.

Actually going was a pretty spontaneous thing, so I didn’t bring a glove as opposed to the last time. Given that last time was a long time ago, it was going to be intentional anyway: I’m now “if you bring it, you HAVE to catch it” age for glove at a game.  Plan B was the fish net trick from “Faithful”- I went with Plan C of finding the seats early and having them hit it to me. “See, kids, this is how it’s done. I think.”

The good news, the plan worked: two balls hit right to me. The bad news: fool me twice, déjà vu- through my right hand, three rows back. Think the sun was a factor in the ’05 flub, but pretty ideal conditions with the overcast this time around. The second was a ricochet that hit off a glove two rows below and off my left thigh.  Have seen enough off the glove plays not work out to rule against an error here. Got it when it hit the ground and gave it to some kid at the end of the row when it was all over: “I got it at the Sox game batting practice after I missed one then someone else missed the next and I did too ‘cus it was a tough hop but it landed in front of me and I picked it up” isn’t the story to come home with.  Have been the “didn’t catch one today” kid enough to sympathize with them- probably because I’m now the grown-up version.

Anyway, baseball was played this weekend, and some decently entertaining baseball at that. Another hit to the dead horse for the new readers: we live by the long ball, we die by the long ball. Prototypical James Shields start: strikeout mentality without the K’s to show for it, walks, and a bad home run given up. Had a weirdly slow pace for a game without many scoring plays, though we did do a good job bringing Paxton’s pitch count up.  Friday night bleachers a blast as always: had a frat reunion the row in front of us and a family behind us, combining for bipolar heckles of Gamel in left: “Ben! You look like a Spice Girl!” chirps from the Sig Chis met with “Don’t listen to them! You’re handsome!” from the wise for their age first graders. Gamel didn’t take them too personally, throwing a ball up to a fan back and to our left. He traded it to frat row for a Modelo, to louder applause from the crowd. Probably should’ve held Junior to the same standard.

Saturday night, another die by long ball. Melky’s had a couple “team on my back” games this year, Saturday being one of them. Seems to take an odd liking to the leadoff spot. Two homers for three runs enough for the M’s.

Sunday rounded out the sweep, and the Mariners win three straight the Earl Weaver way. Was great to see Narvaez get a dinger, and it was great the whole series to see Avi rope a couple. Errors killed us, and it always stings a little bit more when it’s Anderson: I’m big on the guy and think it’s just a sophomore slump. But some of the errors he’s made this year have been real head scratchers. Defense, stellar bullpen that gives up one run in an entire series, and three run home runs- that was the Weaver quote verbatim, right? Mariners win in extras.

Some quick hits:

-          Another trade from Genghis Hahn: Yeyson Yrizarri to us for international monies. I can take this time to admit how little I still know about how international signing works, aside from us not being able to use much of it for a little while. Either way, we’re probably going to be sitting on that cash for a little while now after signing Robert, so there’s not much lost here for us. Biggest pro about him so far: 70 for throwing on the scouts’ 80 scale.  Could have a converted pitcher experiment on our hands if his hitting doesn’t pan out.

-          Zach Burdi. Brutal. Probably was going to get the first call up of any of the prospects, be it this September or the start of next season. The biggest thing going forward with him now is going to be control: a couple miles an hour off a fastball that hits 101 won’t kill a career, but a 95 mph fastball that misses consistently will. Some John Danks PTSD here. It’s not the career killer it used to be, so get well, Burdi.

-          Hey Boston, I see you had a 16-inning loss yesterday and seem to have had a rough weekend on offense. Perhaps we have a third baseman that can provide some fresh legs for you. (And he definitely didn’t strike out in extras in an all fastballs at-bat today, no sir)

-          It’s interesting now that the dust has settled to see the deals that almost went down for Quintana- methinks the Brewers had the next best package and that pressured Theo into getting it done. Still not sure why the Cardinals never expressed interest. Braves supposedly offered Albies, and I’m guessing not much else (don’t think Q would’ve made sense for the Braves anyway). Astros and Yankees supposedly expressed some interest, but we don’t want to give them the edge for the 2019 ALDS and ALCS.

I’ll also give a nod to White Sox Dave’s tweets after the Quintana trade: this series probably wasn’t a fluke for us. With Quintana gone, there aren’t going to be a lot of winnable games for us coming up. We’re going to lose a LOT of baseball games for the rest of this season.  Now, though, is the time to show your support for the work Jerry, Hahn, Ricky and the rest of the White Sox organization have put in.  Come on a night with a cool giveaway. Come for the Crosstown and wear your white and black. Head over after work for a weekday game, get your $3 second market tickets, and sit wherever. The moves are purposeful, the plan’s in place, and this is going to be a great team. Show up for rebuild, phase one and boost attendance- tickets might not come as cheap sooner than we think.  

"We may have overbought for the 4th, but hey, free promo"

Thursday, July 13, 2017

It's Louder Uptown - Quintana Trade Recap

                Ol’ Richie Gatsby wheelin’ & dealin’ & doin’ the damn thing.  It’s been an if not when deal since this time last year, with me admittedly going back and forth from “just let us have one good start every five days to get us through this season” and “send the man anywhere for mental health reasons” a dozen times on this site alone. We knew the price was high for Q, and today we found out just how high, to the tune of “welp” in various harmonies from Cubs fans.

                Despite the constant talks, I’m not really sure when Q started getting talked about on a league-wide level. My gut says winter meetings, but only after Sale got dealt. Even last year’s trade deadline talks were “if not Sale, why not Quintana?”.  He’s a tough pitcher to put into perspective for the rest of the league- face value for this deal is a lot for a 4-8, 4.50 ERA guy- and it would be a long, sad tale featuring a lot of gifs of Tyler Flowers and Adam LaRoche striking out. Here’s a quicker breakdown of the trade:

                Jose Quintana

                Take Hawkisms for what you will, but one’s been absolutely true: If Jose didn’t have bad luck, he’d have no luck at all. His White Sox tenure was a house on Indian burial ground, featuring 65 no-decisions in five and a half seasons. Keep repeating for any “buts” your Cubs friends might have for Q: 169 career starts. 65 no decisions.  He’s not the “Cy Young winner if on any other team” pitcher Chris Sale was, but this is a dangerous pitcher to have on the bump with any semblance of consistent run support.

                For what it’s worth, here’s the most “bad luck Q” game I’ve seen in person, from last year:

                Here’s how that went:

-        The bad: Q gives up two home runs to Brian Dozier, for a game total of 4 earned runs. Most analyses of Quintana would start and end there.

-        The good: Q goes seven full innings. Dozier would have three of the Twins’ six hits against him. Of those Dozier home runs, one was a solo shot: they would go 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position. The dagger was a three run home run, which came after 6.2 innings pitched. Through five Quintana had only given up the home run and a leadoff double that did not score. He’d strike out eight on the day.

-        The Minnesota Twins would go on to lose 103 games.  The starting pitcher for them that day was Kyle Gibson, who entered the game 0-5 in 7 starts with a 6.05 ERA.

-        The White Sox would get shut out. They would give Quintana 4 hits of support and go 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position.

-        Jose Quintana would get the loss.

These starts seemed to happen at least once a month for Q. For a full recap of Jose’s time with the Sox, watch Shawshank Redemption and turn it off when Warden Norton gives Andy another month in solitary. Make Wrigley his Zihuatanejo, Northsiders.

Mean time, the Sox haul:

Eloy Jimenez

Not much to say here that Cubs fans haven’t already.  The fact that fans were trying to figure out a way to fit him on the major league roster post-All Star Break is a hell of a review, be it the overreaction to the flat first half or legitimate ready-now excitement. Huge testament to Q that the asking price was this high throughout the process, and that the Cubs have enough faith in him to give up a top 5 prospect for him.

 I can’t think of a better farm system than ours now with his addition, at least for position players (Braves may still be about even with pitching). We have an odd abundance of outfielders now, with or without Avisail “Suddenly an All-Star” Garcia. Hoping this is a good adrenaline shot for May and Willy.

Tough loss for the Cubs, but their window is now.  There’s enough star power on their roster to retool later if need be.  I think it’s mostly a surprise because of how prospect oriented Theo is, but I hold his judgment to the same level of my grandparents and lifelong monks. Q will pitch this year’s division clincher, Jimenez will hit home runs five rows behind my bleacher seats in three years. It’s a win for everyone.

Dylan Cease

Kopech and Giolito are near foaming at the mouth level excitement this year.  That being said, pitching prospects are the development equivalent of hitting on 15, and going into this I wanted one more (as many as possible, really). Cease seems like a sneaky good addition, coming in at No. 97 on the Baseball America prospect list with a mean curve. I’m not too sure where he falls on the timeline as a 21 year-old single-A pitcher, so I’m not expecting him to get called up with the rest of the class of 2020, but can’t be too careful and a good buffer if the arms we already stocked up don’t pan out.

Matt Rose

Sox tweet says first baseman, scouting report says third baseman. I’ll leave Cub fans to comment and clarify.  I don’t want Moncada playing third, so if he pans out, I hope it’s the latter (though this season has me a little more skeptical on Abreu’s defense). Supposedly very speedy with decent hitting, though hitting .217 in single-A currently. A wait and see.

Bryant Flete

Second baseman on Baseball America- he’ll want Hakuna Moncada at third a lot more than I will. .285 last year .305 this year in single-A. I see him more as a utility guy than a starter in the 2020 plan.

                It’s a win for both sides when it comes down to it. It’s the same “I can’t believe we wasted your prime” feeling I got with Sale, but Q needed a change of scenery much more than he did. For us, follow course. For the Cubs, let’s get some runs. It’s overdue for your new guy.