Monday, April 4, 2011

Sox Series Preview: April 5-6 at Kansas City

Probable Pitchers
Tuesday - Gavin Floyd (0-0, 0.00) vs. Luke Hochevar (0-1, 4.76)
Wednesday - Mark Buehrle (1-0, 6.00) vs. Jeff Francis (0-0, 1.29)

The Royals have to be happy to see Gavin Floyd making the start, considering how well their current players have hit him. Small sample size, sure, but of the current roster that has seen Floyd before, only Mitch Maier has struggled to hit Gavin hard, posting a meager .200/.182/.200 line against him. Otherwise, just about everyone else has posted strong numbers against Floyd, especially Alex Gordon (.333/.385/.667 in 13 PA) and Melky Cabrera (.333/.400/.778).

More bad omens for Gavin, he is traditionally a slow starter. He walks more (6.09 BB/9), allows more baserunners (1.63 WHIP), and more runs (5.23 FIP) in March/April than any month and way above his career norms at those splits. I don't know if weather is the problem, but Floyd struggles to keep the ball on the ground early in the season. March/April is the only month of the year his ground ball percentage is under 40% and his flyball percentage is above 40%.

Thanks to the off day Monday, Mark Buehrle makes his 2nd start of the year Wednesday on a normal 4 days of rest. Barring a rain out, the first time the Sox will need to use their 5th starter, Phil Humber will be Saturday the 9th vs. Tampa Bay. Oh great, I have tickets for that game.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

April 3: Indians 7, White Sox 1

The WPA graph doesn't lie, Sunday's series finale can basically be summed up in two plays; in the top of the 4th, already leading 1-0 and with the first two batters of the inning on, Alexei Ramirez bunted into a 3-4-6 triple play worth nearly -.14 WPA and reopened the door for the Indians, who guided by Justin Masterson, kept the game close until John Danks finally made one key mistake, an 88 MPH fastball that was left dead over the heart of the plate that Orlando Cabrera crushed over the gigantic LF wall at Progressive Field. That play alone was worth .376 WPA for the Tribe, pushed their win probability north of 70% and they never looked back, bleeding 5 more runs out of Will Ohman and Matt Thornton as they salvaged the finale of this 3-game series.

White Sox MVP: Carlos Quentin is the MVP posting a .061 WPA for the day, though he owes a bit of that to Indians 3B Jack Hannahan whose throwing error on a slow, 75-foot roller off the bat of Quentin turned a tough, but not unrealistic out into essentially a double.

White Sox LVP: Alexei Ramirez, come on down! You can't bunt into a triple play without feeling the repercussions and his -.213 WPA was thanks primarily to the blunder worth -.138 on its own, but the Sox had plenty of chances to break this game open and, unlike Friday and Saturday, just could not convert. Ramirez had a few more key outs, in the 2nd and 6th innings, both times with runners in scoring position and both times inning-ending, but Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko, and Alex Rios all had opportunities at various points of today's loss to drive in meaningful runs to no avail.

Mystery of John Danks' Run Support Continues: Last season, the Sox scored 4 or fewer runs for Danks in 17 of his 32 starts and 2011 was no different. Danks had a good game today, pitching 6 innings, allowing 6 hits, striking out 8 and only allowing 2 runs. 66 of his 104 pitches were strikes, but the only one that matters was the one he threw to Cabrera, that cost him 2 runs, 1 more than he could afford to allow.

Looking Ahead: The Sox are off Monday before opening a brief, 2-game series in Kansas City. Gavin Floyd makes his season debut against Luke Hochevar for the surprising 1st place Royals.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

April 2: White Sox 8, Indians 3

Behind another impressive offensive performance, the Sox pushed their record to 2-0 for the 1st time since 2005 (COINCIDENCE?!?). Edwin Jackson was fine in 5 of the 6 innings he tossed and big games by Gordon Beckham and Carlos Quentin paced the Sox to 8 runs. The Sox again put the Indians in an early hole, pushing their win probability over 90% very early for the 2nd straight game, and while this Indian comeback actually had some teeth, in the end, the Tribe barely had more than a 33% chance to pull off the comeback.

Sox MVP: Edwin Jackson just nudged out Gordon Beckham in WPA this afternoon, .114 to .112 respectively. Beckham's games was fueled by one at bat, his 2-run double in the the 2nd the opened up a 2-0 to 4-0 and, in retrospect, gave the Sox all the runs they needed for the W today. Other than that, Gordon's day was relatively quiet, a single in the 1st inning here, a strike out there, a walk there. Jackson was solid, throwing 6 strong innings in his 2011 debut, allowing 3 runs, though 1 was unearned, but walking 4 and laboring through the 2nd inning.

Today's game seemed to be a pretty standard Edwin Jackson game. When he's on, he can be brilliant, but his lapses in command have always held him back from being an elite pitcher.

That is the 1st inning at bat for Michael Brantley, who struck out swinging on a devastating 84 MPH slider down and in. Set up by a pair of mid-90s fastballs called for strikes, Brantley meekly flailed at the off-speed stuff that had a nearly 10 MPH drop off from the heaters. For the entire game, Jackson's 2- and 4-seem fastballs averaged 92-93 MPH while the changeup and slider were down around 84-85 MPH.

Here's Brantley's at bat in the 2nd inning. This is Jackson at his very worst. Already panicking because the Tribe had scored 3 runs, with his defense failing behind him, he relied solely on his fastball and frankly could not find the plate. This is the challenge for Don Cooper and the Sox. Maximize his effectiveness and limit the wildness.

Sox LVP: For the 2nd straight game, Alex Rios draws the collar, 0-4 and a -.047 WPA, although at least 2 of his outs were well hit, the flyout to end the 1st traveled about 345 feet where the wall is 348 feet deep and probably would have left the yard if the wind had been blowing right to left instead. The line drive to end the 2nd was just an excellent defensive play by Jack Hannahan. If this seems familiar, it is, Rios started last year in the same funk, .174/.269/.391 through the 1st week of the year but only a .167 BAbip. No worries.

Indians MVP & LVP: Jack Hannahan posted a .061 WPA, best on the team, even though he only had 1 hit in 4 at bats, but it was a good one, driving in 2 of the Tribe's 3 runs. Carlos Carrasco's 6.2 innings of 7-run baseball earned him a -.280 WPA, by far the worst for the Tribe.

Looking Ahead: The Sox go for the sweep, John Danks takes the mound against Justin Masterson. The national sports media is taking note, Sox fans.

Friday, April 1, 2011

April 1: White Sox 15, Indians 10

I know everyone is going to piss a fit about the Sox bullpen allowing a 14-run lead melt to 5 over the course of the final 4 innings, but a quick look at the game WPA graph shows the truth, the Tribe were never in this game. Their WPA was under 1% from the 4th inning on, and only hit 0.5% for one at bat, Shin Soo-Choo's inning-ending strikeout in the 8th inning.

Needless to say, the Sox offense looked phenomenal today, mercilessly pounding Fausto Carmona and Justin Germano. While the stats look ugly for the bullpen; 0.2 IP, 3 R for Will Ohman, for example, here's the one that sticks out to me: 1 walk. That's how you pitch when you have a big lead. You throw strikes, you don't mess around the corners, and you force the other team to make a comeback. Give the Indians credit, they made things a lot more interesting than I expected, and the fact that Matt Thornton had to get up and start warming maybe is a moral victory, but in the end, it would have taken a monumental comeback at basically any point in this game after the 4th inning.

White Sox MVP: Adam Dunn may be the traditional storyline today, it was his White Sox debut, and he was classic Adam Dunn; striking out with 2 on in the 1st and hitting a towering home run in his next at bat, but Carlos Quentin quietly had a huge day at the plate, posting a .166 WPA fueled by two of the biggest hits today for the Sox, his 2-out RBI single in the 1st was huge and then his 2-run homer in the 3rd turned this game into a blow-out.

White Sox LVP: Not hard to pinpoint this one, when your team pounds out 18 hits and you account for 0? Sorry, Alex Rios (-.075)

Indians MVP & LVP: Carlos Santana was the diamond in the rough for the Tribe, who went 3-5 with a HR, 3 RBI, and 2 R. How did they get this guy for Casey Blake? Shin-Soo Choo is your losing side LVP, posting a -.056 WPA, almost all thanks to one at-bat, his inning-ending double play in the 1st (-.051). By the time he stepped to the plate again, the Sox had opened up a 14-run lead and anything he did would have been essentially meaningless.

Looking Ahead: The 2nd game of the series is tomorrow afternoon at 12 o'clock Chicago time. Edwin Jackson, who was identified as a break-out candidate by MLB Rumor's Tim Dierkes, totes the rubber for the first time in 2011 against 24-year-old Carlos Carrasco, who will be making his 13th career start.

Sox Opening Series Preview: April 1-3 vs. Cleveland

Probable Pitchers
April 1 - Mark Buehrle (0-0, 0.00) vs. Fausto Carmona (0-0, 0.00)
April 2 - Edwin Jackson (0-0, 0.00) vs. Carlos Carrasco (0-0, 0.00)
April 3 - John Danks (0-0, 0.00) vs. Justin Masterson (0-0, 0.00)

Weather Will be a Factor
The Sox's workout yesterday was notoriously cancelled thanks to several inches of snow that fell in Cleveland. Getting today's game in should be no problem, even if it's a bit chilly, but there are sunny skies today over Cleveland, however, the forecast for Saturday and Sunday are much less pleasant, snow, rain, and cold dominating the forecast.

Key Newcomers Are Hot
Brent Morel and Adam Dunn represent the only turnover in the Sox's Opening Day lineup from 2010 to 2011 and both started out spring very, very cold. The last few weeks of the Spring season have been very friendly to both, Morel especially who finished the preseason hitting .303/.338/.364. The million dollar question with Brent is if his bat will ever be Major League-caliber, but for now, the Sox seem to have enough pop in their lineup to hide the kid at the bottom of the order, so long as he's playing stellar defense at third.

Buehrle Passes Pierce as Sox's Most Prolifict Opening Day Starter
When Mark Buehrle takes the hill today in Cleveland, he will make his 9th Opening Day start for the Sox, breaking the franchise mark that he currently shares with Sox legend Billy Pierce. A look back at his previous Opening Day starts:

April 1, 2002 - White Sox 6, Mariners 5 - Coming off his breakout 2001 season, Buehrle opened the 2002 year by outdueling future teammate Freddy Garcia, pitching 6 strong innings, holding the M's (who won 114 games the previous year) to 1 run on 2 hits. The Sox's offensive MVP was Paul Konerko, posting a .205 WPA on the back of a 3-5 game with a big 2-run double in the 7th. Despite leading 6-1 going into the 8th, the bullpen nearly coughed the win up. Antonio Osuna, Gary Glover, and Damaso Marte allowed 4 runs in the frame and Keith Foulke loaded the bases in the 9th before getting Mike Cameron to fly out to right for the 27th out.

March 31, 2003 - Royals 3, White Sox 0 - A 2-run second was Buehrle's only blemish but ultimately doomed him and the Sox, who could not figure out Runlevys Hernandez en route to the shutout loss.

April 5, 2004 - Royals 9, White Sox 7 - The 1st game of Ozzie Guillen's tenure as Sox manager was a disaster. Buehrle had an OK game, allowing 3 runs (2 earned) on 8 hits in 6.2 innings, but left as the winning pitcher of record before the wheels fell off. The Sox entered the 9th inning leading by 4 runs, but a 6-run Royal rally off Cliff Pollitte, Billy Koch, and Damaso Marte spoiled the afternoon, with the loss punctuated on a 3-run walk-off homer by Carlos Beltran.

April 4, 2005 - White Sox 1, Indians 0 - In a win that foreshadowed the monumental season ahead, Buehrle outdueled Jake Westbrook for 8 strong innings, allowing just three baserunners. The Sox manufactured the game's lone run in the 7th, on a lead-off double by Paul Konerko, deep fly out by Jermaine Dye advancing the runner, and error on Indians 3B Aaron Boone on a sharply hit ball by Aaron Rowand. Shingo Takatsu pitched the 9th for the save in a game that lasted only 1 hour, 51 minutes.

April 2, 2006 - White Sox 10, Indians 4 - After raising the championship banner in a pregame ceremony 88 years in the making, the Sox showed no signs of a World Series hangover, pounding 10 runs on 9 hits against the Tribe, chasing CC Sabathia in the 3rd inning, and getting introduced to Jim Thome who crushed a mammoth 2-run homer in his White Sox debut. Buehrle had a shaky outing, allowing all 4 runs in 4 innings, but left the game early after a rain delay. Brandon McCarthy pitched 3 perfect innings for the win.

March 31, 2008 - Indians 10, White Sox 8 - Returning to the Opening Day role after a 1-year hiatus, Buehrle sure didn't look like an ace. After a 1-2-3 first inning, he allowed 7 runs before being yanked in the 2nd. Despite his poor outing, Buehrle didn't take the loss, as the Sox steadily clawed their way back into the game, highlighted by a 2-run double by Paul Konerko in the 7th, tying the score at 7. Octavio Dotel, however, served up a 3-run homer to Casey Blake with 2 outs in the 8th to seal the loss.

April 7, 2009 - White Sox 4, Royals 2 - Buehrle himself had a fairly mediocre game, allowing 2 runs on 6 hits in 5 innings and was in line for the loss, however, 4 innings of scoreless relief by Clayton Richard, Octavio Dotel, and Bobby Jenks kept the Sox in the game, who finally took advantage in the 8th inning, courtesy of a 3-run Jim Thome home run.

April 5, 2010 - White Sox 6, Indians 0 - A game that will be forever remember for Buehrle's spectacular, between the legs, falling down in foul territory flip to Paul Konerko in the 5th inning was one of his best Opening Day starts. He allowed 3 hits and walked 1 in 7 scoreless innings of work, as the Sox were again paced by Paul Konerko, who gave the them all the cushion they'd need with a 2-out, 2-run homer in the 1st inning off Jake Westbrook.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Dear Ken Williams, Grow a Pair and Cut Mark Teahen

With three weeks until Opening Day, it is feeling like an eerily quiet Spring down in Glendale. Aside from the post-separation name-calling between Ozzie and Bobby Jenks and the astounding progress being made by Jake Peavy, there doesn't feel like there's much to talk about regarding the Sox. There are no real position battles, most of the rotation is just about set, and really, the only question marks on the roster at this point are the last man out of the bullpen and who will end up the 4th outfielder.

All that being said, there's a pressing issue with the Sox that needs to be talked about. Mark Teahen. And not in the good, oh you're hitting .569 against mostly A-ball level quality pitching, but in the, someone give him his walking papers and get the him the hell off our team.

When the Sox acquired Teahen last off-season for Chris Getz and Josh Fields, it was a "meh" kind of a deal, but then they went and did something stupid like offer him a multiyear contract extension. So now we're on the hook for $4.5 and $5.5 million the next two years for a guy who can't play any defensive position adequately and hasn't had a good year at the plate since 2006. Brilliant.

He's already essentially ceded his starting job at third base to rookie Brent Morel, despite the fact Morel is hitting a robust .143/.250/.238 this Spring (yes, in Arizona), Morel is still at least an above average defensive third baseman. The Sox seem to have plenty of firepower offensively as it is, but need a steady glove at the hot corner when your pitching coach preaches pitching to contact as often as Don Cooper does. Teahen, thus far this Spring, has had 18 balls hit his way and committed 4 errors, plus tripped over the bag trying to catch a routine pop-up in foul territory.

But aside from his awful play and awful contract, what scares me the most about Mark Teahen... Ozzie Guillen, who has shown himself to be tremendously stubborn in the past and play guys far, far too often despite their pitiful performance. We've all seen this show before, Mark Kotsay was one of the worst offensive players in the American League in 2010, posting a -0.5 oWAR last season yet still got 359 plate appearances, 3rd most of the bottom 60 in the league behind only Baltimore SS Cesar Izturis and Seattle 3B Jose Lopez, although in fairness to those two, I should point out they were both adequate defensive players, off-setting their lack of production at the plate. Mark Kotsay's primary position? Designated hitter. I can't make this stuff up.

This has been going on throughout Ozzie's managerial tenure. So even though every indication from Teahen's time with the Sox points to him as the 25th man at the far end of the bench, you just know that's not how it will play out. As soon as Morel shows signs of struggle, Teahen will be right back in there, bobbling ground balls, sailing throws over Paul Konerko's head, and harmlessly flying out. Jerry Reinsdorf and Ken Williams have invest $125 million into this roster, with the assumption an exciting play-off contender will bring fans out in force. And yet, they allow mediocre talent like Teahen stick for no discernible reason other than he scored a sweet deal and they can't bring themselves to eat the $10 million it would take to kick him to the curb.

Look, I realize that the 2011 season doesn't hinge solely on Mark Teahen, but I'm also pretty convinced that had the Sox not bought out his arbitration years last off-season he would have been non-tendered and shown the door. You can correct your mistake, Ken Williams, and handcuff your manager's ability to make curious lineup moves, by hanging that pink slip in his locker.

Do it. Please.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Zack Greinke Fractures Rib

Apparently, he did it playing hoops.

He won't miss much time, but still...

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Rick Morrissey Says The Darndest Things

I like Carlos Zambrano a lot. He's one of my favorite Cubs of all time, and one of the greatest pitchers in the history of the franchise. I've written a lot about him lately, but I don't want to give readers the false impression that this blog is an unapologetic supporter of Big Z, no matter the situation. 

But holy shit, do the usual suspects in this town make it easy.
I’m here to defend the sorely misunderstood dugout skirmish and sing the praises of the cleansing clubhouse dust-up. I’m here to say that, yes, sometimes violence is the answer, as long as we’re not talking about dugout war criminal Carlos Zambrano.
First of all - "war criminal." Nicely done, not excessively hyperbolic in the slightest. But Rick, I'm afraid the rest is going to need some clarification. You say that a baseball season is a long, emotional ride and sometimes the tension between players just needs to be released. Except when Carlos Zambrano does it. Since you're a professional writer and all, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. Please explain to me how Carlos Silva erupting on teammates during the fourth spring training game of the season is acceptable, yet Carlos Zambrano's eruptions, generally in June, are unacceptable?
I’ve excluded Zambrano because he’s his own category. He’s a serial smasher of Gatorade dispensers and a recidivist dugout exploder. He needs to stop that stuff.
I guess that makes sense?

Yeah, it would be super annoying if Big Z started smashing stuff between innings of every start, regardless of the situation. Except he doesn't do that. In fact, Zambrano's most famous "explosions" have been for the exact same reasons that you're espousing in this column.

I can understand why you would fail to mention that many people consider the Zambrano-Barrett fight the turning point of the initially dismal 2007 season that ended with a division championship. Or how after his skirmish with Derrek Lee in the dugout after poor defensive support in 2010, he was lights-out the remainder of the season. I mean, if someone were to point out that Z's most notable tirades (a) were inspired by poor team performance, and (b) had an overall positive impact on the team, which is exactly why you're defending the Silva-Ramirez skirmish in the first place, it would make this jab at Z even more inexplicable.

You're losing me Rick, but just because I like you I'll read your next sentence.
On the other hand, there’s a small voice in my head saying, “Yes, but didn’t he go 8-0 after his nasty altercation with Derrek Lee last year?’’ did go ahead and mention it.

I have to hand it to Rick. It takes stones to blatantly not try this hard. How else can one explicitly contradict himself so many times within the same column and still have the balls to turn it in? I'll bet this is what his e-mail signature looks like:
Rick Fucking Morrissey.
Columnist, Sun-Fucking-Times

Just for kicks, here are some other ideas Rick Morrissey column ideas from the past few days:

"The King's Speech was riveting and certainly deserving of the Oscar for Best Picture. It was a welcome change from the tired, British historical dramas from years past."

 "To all those decrying the election of Rahm Emanuel as mayor because they think he is not a resident, let me remind you he was only gone for a few years serving the United States. You know who wasn't a resident? Gery Chico, who went fishing in the Boundary Waters from early April, 1986 to mid April, 1986."

"Someone needs to get Charlie Sheen's children out of that house. Kids should not be raised in that kind of circus environment. Unless, of course, it's fun as shit. If it is, then they can stay."

"You know what I love? Bacon. But you know what I can't stand? Bacon."

Friday, March 4, 2011

Dave Kaplan Jinxes Cubs out of the Albert Pujols Sweepstakes

There's still 4 weeks until Opening Day and it seems like a pretty large chunk of Cub fans I know are just about ready to quit on this season. It's not hard to see why, the Cubs are coming off a 75-win year, they're already fighting in the dugout, and management doesn't seem to have any real, tangible plans for improvement, other than just waiting out the Alfonso Soriano deal.

Stop me if I'm wrong, but the biggest short-term fantasy here on the North Side centers on the 2012 off-season and the spending spree the Cubs will be able to afford. They can shed nearly $52 million off their current payroll by declining options on Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Silva and letting Kosuke Fukudome and Carlos Pena walk. Throw in the fact that the biggest fish in the free agent pond in 2012 is a superstar who is the face of your archrival, and well, it's easy to see where this is going...

To that effect, enter Dave Kaplan, of the Chicago Tribune and Comcast Sports Net, who ended the Cubs' hopes of landing Albert Pujols about 240 days before he can even file for free agency by unveiling his blue-pinstriped #5 jersey on Chicago Tribune Live yesterday.

At least you all know who to go Bartman on when Pujols signs a long-term, below market value deal to stay in St. Louis for the rest of his career.

Jake Peavy Returns, Dayan Draws a Walk (Updated)

Jake Peavy makes his return to anything resembling competitive baseball this afternoon, starting against the Angels in Peoria, Arizona. Peavy is slated to throw 2 innings like Buehrle, Floyd, Jackson, and Danks before him. Normally this wouldn't be much more than a "Yay! Baseball's back" kind of story, except that we're still less than 9 months shy of Jake's last game (coincidentally, against the Angels) when he tore his lat muscle off his shoulder.

I thought today's start would have been blog-worthy enough until I read the ESPN Chicago fluff piece about the Sox starters still not allowing a hit in Spring yet when this bomb was dropped,

Peavy said he is shooting for an April 10 regular season return at home against the Tampa Bay Rays.

I was at the game last July when Peavy was injured and yeah, you could tell he was done for the year and probably more. I could see that from my seats out behind the bullpen in right field. Considering he is still blazing path on recovery that is completely unknown, you'll have to excuse me if I don't breath every inning he is on the mound this year.

Update... Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman tweeted this afternoon that Peavy is telling everyone his target date to return to the Sox is May 1.

Dayan can Walk! The Sox beat the Mariners yesterday, 6-1 for their 1st win of the Spring, but after glazing over the box score, the big story is the strong start to Spring Dayan Viciedo is having, 2-3 with a run and a walk! This is huge news to anyone who has followed the kid's career and development thus far. In his brief stint in the Majors last season, Dayan walked twice in 106 plate appearances. Pardon my rudimentary math for a moment, but hitters in the American League averaged 1 walk every 11.77 plate appearance in 2010 (7,367 walks in 86,725 plate appearances). For 106 trips to the dish, that should have resulted in 9 walks. Add 7 walks to Dayan's numbers and his OPS is over 900, which is staggering considering his 22nd birthday is later this month.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Carlos Zambrano Fails Again

In his recap of the Cubs 8-7 loss in Mesa, Paul Sullivan astutely points out that the fault lies with Carlos Zambrano. Z left after three innings of scoreless work and a 1-0 lead, but mentioned afterwards that his arm felt fatigued after the start.

There are two reasons why this loss is his fault. The first, of course, being that it is inexcusable for a starting pitcher to have a tired arm in the first week of spring training. In fact, it is unheard of. If Z is not in physical shape to throw complete game shutouts in early March, then he is of no help to this team. You know who is ready to throw complete game shutouts right now? Koyie Hill.

The second reason why this loss is on Z (and remember, this is clearly the most important story to be told from today's game) is because despite succeeding in not allowing any members of the opposing team to score, he himself failed to drive in any runs. Everyone knows that the Cubs are so bad on defense that a one-run lead is essentially worthless. If Z really cared about his team's chances of winning, he would have gone out there and knocked in a couple himself. Right Paul?

...okay, now I'm just confused.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Viciedo Shines in the Field... Wait, what?

Though the return of actual baseball is always a welcomed relief from the dredges of winter, it's hard to get too jacked up for these games when the majority of the guys playing have numbers in the 90s and are on the chopping block between a plane ride to Charlotte or Birmingham.

All of this could be yours... If you fail.

That being said, there have certainly been a few things to capture the irrational sense of optimism this time of year nurtures (unless, of course, your team is already fighting in the dugout)... Juan Pierre is a workout machine and batting .500! Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd, and Edwin Jackson all didn't allow any hits in their 1st start!

That doesn't mean everything we learn in the early days of March is uninteresting. Take Dayan Viciedo, who turned some heads in Tuesday's game against Milwaukee by playing right field like a Major League right fielder, taking proper routes to balls and showing off his arm, nailing a runner at 3rd on a single to right. This is a critical step in the development of Dayan, who is now entering the third year of a four-year, $10 million contract that to this point has produced a total of 106 Major League plate appearances with very mixed results. Though Viciedo has played the outfield before in Cuba, he was a 3B and 1B in his two seasons in the Sox farm system, but has been essentially shut out from moving up the corporate ladder by Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn, and Brent Morel.

Though's contract section states Viciedo will remain under the Sox's control until the 2015 season, I'm not entirely sure how these weird international contracts always work, and since Dayan has switched agents from the Sox-friendly Jaime Torres to Jerry Reinsdorf''s Personal Satan, Scott Boras, I'm sure if there's a way out of this deal after it expires in 2012, he'll find it.

Still, the Viciedo to RF storyline is one of the more intriguing of the 1st week of the Spring season. Since the Sox obviously feel confident enough in the near-future of their corner infielders (sidenote: Also possible Viciedo was just too terrible defensively to justify any more playing time there) what does that say about their future plans at the corner outfield positions? Pierre is entering his contract year and Kenny Williams purportedly spent a chunk of the winter trying to move Carlos Quentin for pitching help.

Carlos Must Go

UPDATE: I forgot to give a h/t to Aisle 424 for bringing my attention to the Rosenbloom piece earlier this offseason, cause I sure as hell don't read Steve Rosenbloom on my own.

By now I'm sure anyone reading this is aware that a dugout scuffle between Carlos Silva and Aramis Ramirez had to be broken up after a disastrous first inning against Milwaukee today. After giving up several runs along with three defensive errors behind him, Silva apparently returned to the dugout angry and words were exchanged.

Carlos must be held accountable. This type of behavior is simply unnaceptable on a major league roster, and after all, Carlos has a reputation. After a few spring training games, we can clearly see that nothing has changed with the addition of Carlos. Time to cut ties.

Yes, Carlos Pena must go.

You'll recall from the offseason that Pena was signed solely to play the part of Jaime Escalante in the rowdy, out-of-control Cub clubhouse. Steve Rosenbloom heard from former Playgirl model Steve Stone (h/t to Another Cubs Blog) why the Cubs shelled out $10 million for Pena:

The Cubs signed Pena to provide a strong Latin presence in a clubhouse screaming for something more adult than Zambrano’s screaming. But it’s more than Zambrano. There’s Alfonso Soriano, who supposedly ruined Felix Pie by teaching him every bad party habit. There’s Aramis Ramirez, who refuses to dive for balls, and isn’t that a great example? There’s a history here that goes back to kicking out Mark Grace and turning over the clubhouse to Sammy Sosa, the ultimate team play -- no, wait, never mind.
The Cubs recognized how the latin faction had overridden the clubhouse and posed a threat to their up-and-coming latin youngsters, Starlin Castro and Geovany Soto. They were still salvageable from the latin stink of Zambrano and company and still had a chance to be successful. So the Cubs went out and bought the happiest, friendliest latin that money could buy to protect them and change the poisonous clubhouse atmosphere.

There's the dangerous and selfish Carlos Zambrano who needs anger management to function as a human being. There's Alfonso Soriano, who the Cubs feared would teach Castro and Soto how to party all night at seedy latin clubs (instead of learning how to party the right way from Randy Wells: body shots off of Trixies at Red Ivy). Of course there's Aramis Ramirez, involved in the altercation today, who sets a negative example for the kids by just flat out REFUSING to dive for balls on defense:

SeƱor Pena, I'm disappointed. You were supposed to change things. The latins are as rowdy as ever. What are we paying you for? Won't someone please think of prospects?
"How do I reach deez keeds?"

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cubs Playoff Odds Expand By 17%

Per Colin Wyers at BP, the Adam Wainright injury has further tightened the NL Central. The Cards' playoff odds have dropped from 58 to 44%. The Brewers and Reds each jumped four points to 39% and 23%, respectively. (How the Brewers are not favored to win this division, I don't know.)

Most importantly, the Cubbies playoff odds have expanded a whopping 17%, exploding from 11.1% all the way to 13%.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

(East Side = Third Place)

Does it make me a bad person if when reading the news regarding Adam Wainwright's elbow I heard this in the back of my head?

In all seriousness, this is serious. Wainwright is easily one of the top six or seven pitchers in the National League, and he's been a steady anchor for their rotation for years. When you add in Chris Carpenter's general inability to stay healthy, that equals a whole mountain of expectation and pressure on the young Jaime Garcia to repeat his rookie success.

This is sad news to fans of dominant pitching, and yet another swift kick to the nuts of the self-appointed "Greatest Fans in Baseball." There's no word yet on how severe the injury is, but the Albert Pujols Farewell Train might have just derailed.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Baseball Prospectus Projects a ".500 Kind of Summer" in Chicago

Baseball Prospectus's annual PECOTA Projections for the entire league were fully released today and the Worldwide Leader in Sabremetrics wasn't particularly impressed with either the Sox or Cubs, projecting them to finish 82-80 and 80-82 respectively.

I'm going to pick up my copy of Baseball Prospectus 2011 sometime next week so I can start to look over their analysis of the Sox's roster.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Chris Sale to the Bullpen

All it took was one semi-rambling post from me for the Sox to finally make a decision about Sale.

Assuming that Jake Peavy will not be ready Opening Day (and they have a plan for that, as they could go to a 4-man rotation for most of April and only need a 5th starter twice), the pitching staff should shore up something like this:

Rotation: Buehrle, Danks, Floyd, Jackson, Philip Humber/Lucas Harrell
Bullpen: Sale, Thornton, Ohman (yes, Cub fans, that's who you think it is) from the left; Santos, Pena, Crain, Gregory Infante from the right

Happy White Sox Day!

It seems coincidentally fitting that on the same day Chicago is getting a break from a cold winter with a wave of Spring-like warmth, the Sox open camp today in Arizona. Yes, winter is on its last legs. Soon, spring and summer will be here.

Last year, the Sox won 88 games in an emotionally ravaging roller coaster of a season that saw the Sox fall as far as 9 games under .500, rattle off an 11- and 9-game win streak in June, lead the division at the All-Star Break, and unravel in September. At age 34, Paul Konerko had his best season at the plate, hitting .312/.393/.584 with 39 homers and 111 RBI en route to finishing 5th in the AL MVP voting, while Bobby Jenks' swan song with the White Sox saw him post career-worsts in IP, H/9 IP, and BB/9 IP before getting called out by Ozzie's son via Twitter on the way out the door.

In between all that mess, Jake Peavy suffered an injury so rare there is no established timetable for his return, the Sox posted the best record in the American League from June 9 on (when they hit their nadir of 9 games under .500), Alexei Ramirez turned into arguably the premier shortstop in the A.L., and oh hey, we replaced the Mark Kotsay/Andruw Jones Blackhole of DH Ineptitude with Adam Dunn.

There will be plenty of time for deeper analysis of this team as the spring rolls on, but for now we can just review some of the banner headlines for the (very) early 2011 season.

What to Do with Chris Sale
This time last year, Chris Sale was a senior at Florida Gulf Coast University. Now, the 13th overall pick of the 2010 Draft is at the Major League camp, working alongside the Sox starting pitching rotation. To date, Sale has 33.2 innings of professional baseball experience under his belt so to say his road to this stage has been extraordinary might be an understatement.

To be fair, one of the major reasons Sale's name is even in the discussion as the Sox's 5th starter is the uncertainty of Jake Peavy's status. Though his surgery and rehab (to this point) have been deemed successful, there's not much known about a detached latissimus dorsi muscle, so his return date is still pretty speculative.

Still, there's reason to worry about Sale's rush to the Majors. One of the main reasons cited for him falling to the Sox at 13 in last year's Draft was some concerns about his mechanics and frame. At 6'5''/170 it's not a stretch to compare him to another lanky, rail-thin starter, Brandon McCarthy, who also pitches out of the maligned Inverted W (Sale, McCarthy). Since bursting onto the scene with the Sox in 2005, McCarthy has had nothing but arm troubles.

Farm System Completely Barren
Last year's deadline deal that sent Dan Hudson to Arizona for Edwin Jackson has been called both a savvy acquisition and a desperate move, mostly depending on your opinion of Kenny Williams. Regardless though, it is fact that the Sox farm system is one of, if not the weakest in the game. The Sox simply do not have much in terms of tradeable assets, either in terms of young players or salary wiggle room. The departure of Hudson and the promotion of Beckham leaves the Sox with 1 blue chip prospect, Sale, who will likley be spending most of his summer in Chicago. Add the fact that signing Adam Dunn cost the Sox their 1st round pick in compensation to the Nationals and the White Sox don't pick until the Sandwich Round, 47th overall, this June.

Down on the farm, Dayan Viciedo proved to the world he could hit Major League pitching during his time in Chicago. The young Cuban slugged .519 in 106 plate appearances. Unfortunately, he also demonstrated he has no eye for the strike zone yet, striking out 25 times while drawing just 2 walks. Former top prospect Tyler Flowers crashed and burned in 2010, hitting .220/.334/.434 as a 24-year-old in a AAA bandbox. The supposed crown jewel of the Javier Vazquez deal seems to have played himself out of serious contention for playing time with the Sox. The only other interesting player of note is Jared Mitchell, whose 2010 season was lost during the last week of his impressive Spring performance when he broke his ankle making a play on a ball at the wall. Mitchell did return for the Arizona Fall League, but looked rusty and rushed as he hit a meager .163/.239/.200 in 24 games for the Saguaros.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

And We're Back!

Our long hiatus is finally over. For the remainder of the offseason, 2T1C will be back in business.

A sincere apology for checking out for so long. Rest assured, it was for a good cause: clawing my way through my first semester of law school.