Friday, June 23, 2006

Fourteen Rotations

All baseball teams, even good ones, go through some tough stretches. However, good teams tread water through their tough stretches, while others watch their seasons sink.

Last year the Sox played 500 ball for stretches than would go on a few long winning streaks. The only exception was their nerve-wracking 7 game losing streak in August.

This year's team seems to be following a similar pattern. The main reason the Sox are able to still put up W's during the bad streaks is their depth in the starting rotation. It's just not likely that all five pitchers will start slumping at the same time.

So far the Sox have only played less than 500 ball three times through the rotation. They have yet to lose all five games in one rotation.

On the winning side, the Sox have posted two perfect turns through the rotation and three 4-1 records. Rotation 15 has gotten off to a 2-0 start as the Sox try to win 8 straight games for the seventh time in the last two years tonight against the Astros.


Friday, June 16, 2006

Friday Quickies

Baseball Prospectus had a White Sox Notebook entry yesterday (no subscription required) focusing on Brian Anderson's defense.
Anderson is producing on defense at a RATE of 124, meaning that if he keeps up his current play he'll have saved an astounding 24 runs above the average centerfielder (think the once-spectacular Andruw Jones since 2004) over 100 games. Since 1900, no centerfielder has kept up a 124 RATE for a full season--not Willie Mays, Tris Speaker, Curt Flood, or Jim Edmonds.

They give the usual disclaimer about small sample sizes but conclude that BA's defense is worth keeping him in the line-up every day.

I guess I'll throw my two cents in about the latest Ozzie controversy. First, I think Ozzie was wrong to berate Tracy in the dugout after failing to hit Blalock. But it's not that big of deal. While Tracy is a rookie, he's 25 and I would hope he has the maturity to handle being yelled at by Ozzie.

Hell, when I was 16 I made two errors at shortstop that blew a game for my high school team. After the first error that led to the tying run scoring, my coach reacted by taking a bat and slamming it againt a fence-pole and then shouting out to the field "E-6!". That motivated me so much that when the very next ball was hit to me, I booted it again and let the winning run score.

Getting yelled is just part of baseball and my experience left no emotional scars on me whatsoever. Honestly, I was completely at ease with it by the time I turned 30.

The Chicago Rush won the Arena Bowl last week and Teddy Greenstein says:
The Rush's ArenaBowl game Sunday on NBC was popular in Chicago, equaling ratings for the French Open men's final earlier in the day.

Um, Teddy, I don't think popular means what you think it means.

The Cubs are planning on platooning Matt Murton with Fast Freddie Bynum in left and may possibly send Murton down to the minors.

At this point, I'm starting to feel sorry for Cub fans as this season is going from bad to worse. Certainly, Murton is having a ton of trouble against righties, batting only 226 with a 298 on base percentage against them. But the Cubs are probably going to have the worst record in the National League by the end of the month and are going nowhere fast. Why not let Murton, a rookie, try and work things out? He may actually have a long term future for the Cubs as a starter, as opposed to Bynum, who doesn't look like he should be on a major league roster.

And if you platoon Murton, how in the world does it make sense to platoon him with Bynum? Bynum is hitting 236 against righties with a a 263 on base percentage. He is slugging better than Murton against rights (455 to 297) but his other numbers suggest that he his at-bats should be kept to a minimum.

If the Cubs want to make a serious run at trying to get back in the playoff race (which I would not advise) they would be better off putting Walker in left and platooning Murton with Jacque Jones, who is hitting 204/232/407 off lefties, in rightfield. If you combined Jones' numbers against righties (316/350/546) with Murton's against lefties (375/444/571), the Cubs would get tremendous production out of their rightfield position.

Even if they made this change the Cubs would still have a lot of other holes to fill. Their best option is to let Murton play every day and see if he can develop some power and start hitting righties.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Big Comebacks

The Sox carried over the offense from Sunday night's 9th inning and beat the Rangers tonight 8-3. The Sox may not have won Sunday night, but by finishing the game strong with 6 runs in the ninth they were able to carry some momentum into the start of their seven game road trip.

Sunday night's loss reminded me of a similar comeback by the Twins in September 2003. The Sox were on the winning side of that game but on the losing side of the momentum shift. I think most Sox fans would remember this as the Jose Paniagua Game.

The Sox took a 8-2 lead into the ninth of that game. The Twins scored 4 runs off Paniagua and actually brought the winning run to the plate before Tom Gordon struck out Michael Cuddyer for the final out.

This would be the only game Paniagua would pitch for the Sox and the last game he pitched in the majors. He earned his release by getting ejected in the game and then flipping off the umpire as he walked off the field.

At the time, I was just happy the Sox pulled the game out as it moved them 2 games in front of the Twins with just 3 weeks left. Losing it would have been a disaster.

In the end, it wouldn't matter. While the Sox were able to hold on to their lead in the ninth they were not able to hold off the Twins down the stretch. They would go on to lose their last five games against the Twins and finish four back in the standings.

How much did this comeback effect the Sox? It's hard to say. But I think the fact that baseball teams play a game on a daily basis and the play same team three or four times in a row makes these momentum shifts more pronounced than what you might find in other sports.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Return of Grinder Ball

The last two victories over the Tigers rekindled memories of the many one run victories the Sox had last season. They have been a little bit harder to come by this year.

Although both games ended with the Sox on top 4-3, the games differed greatly on how the final outcome was achieved. The first game had the huge mometun swing provided by Cintron's 3 run-homer in the eighth. The guys at provide Win Probabilty charts showing the win probability after every at-bat for all MLB games. The chart from Tuesday's game reflects the dramatic shift in win probability after Cintron's homer.

Tigers at White Sox, 06/06/06

Before Cintron's at-bat the Sox had about a 20% chance of winning. After the three-run blast their chances improved to 80%. That is about as large of a percentage swing you will see in one at bat.

Wednesday's game wasn't quite as dramatic as the teams went back and forth until the Sox scored the final run of the game in the bottom of the seventh.

Tigers at White Sox, 06/07/06

By the way, for those of you who aren't familiar with the fangraphs website, it is quite remarkable. Not only do they keep track of Win Probabilty Added totals for individual players, but they have player charts for almost every meaningful individual player stat by career and season. It's a very unique and useful way of looking at players stats, and it's free.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Big Bad Bobby

Although Bobby Jenks started the year slowly I didn't think he pitched as badly as his numbers suggested. Sure he had a couple of bad outings that shot his ERA up to 5.53, but for the most part he was getting the job done, blowing just one of his first eleven save opportunites.

Since his last blow-up on May 10th, Jenks has been almost unhittable, striking out 17 batters in the last 10.2 innings and giving up only four hits (and one of those was a mis-play by Ozuna). After getting his second straight save against the Tigers tonight, Jenks dropped his ERA to 3.20.

Jenks On a Roll
thru 5/10/0618111014.295.52173159.25.0
after 5/10/06910710.200.00441714.34.25

The funny thing about Jenks recent dominance is that he is completely predictable on the mound. Throw fastballs until you get 2 strikes then put the batter away with a curve. You know what's coming, I know what's coming and the batter knows what's coming. And they still can't hit it.

Reversal of Fortune

The Tigers looked like they were on there way to an important series opening victory last night as the White Sox squandered a number of scoring opportunities.

The Sox would again put two men on base with one out in the eighth. To be honest, I was expecting another rally to end without any runs scored. As the count went full to Alex Cintron I started to hope for a walk to load the bases. I did not expect Cintron to hit a 3 run homer giving the Sox a 4-3 lead going into the ninth.

But that's what happened last night as the Sox got their most important victory of this young season. I would also call it the most exciting home run this year, edging out Brian Anderson's game tying home run with two outs in the ninth off Mariner's closer Eddie Guardardo and Pablo Ozuna's (ed: cut and paste) game tying home run with two outs in the ninth off Mariner's closer Eddie Guardardo.

All three home runs were unexpected as none of the three are sluggers (in fact it was Ozuna's first career homer). But a three-run late-inning bomb, turning a likely defeat into victory, against a team you are trying to catch in the standings, is definitely more thrilling than a game tying home run against a not very good Mariners team.

And just a reminder, Kenny Williams landed Alex Cintron for a AAA reliever that did not make the D-Backs roster.

Jayson Stark on last night's game.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Sox Waste Garland's Effort

Jon Garland pitched well last night, only making one mistake in the second, giving up a 2 run homer to Brad Wilkerson. He was charged with a third run after two outs in the seventh when Jeff Nelson came in and gave a double that scored Gary Matthews Jr. from first.

The bullpen again had issues last night and again they were not give any help from Ozzie. With the scored tied at three in the eighth Ozzie pinch hit for his best outfielder, Brian Anderson. Mackowiak came to bat with two outs and a runner on first.

This is not a situation where there is a high probability of scoring a run so I didn't see the necessity of taking Anderson, and his defense, out of the game. I'm not sure how much your chances of scoring increase by hitting Mackowiak in this situation. But I knew after Anderson left the game there was almost a 100% that a game changing ball would be hit to his replacement in center field.

I don't know if BA gets to Matthews Jr. drive to the center field wall that scored the winning run in the ninth, but he had a better chance of making the catch than Mackowiak.

The Sox offense better start pounding the ball because it doesn't look like the team is going to get a lot of help from Ozzie and the bullpen in close and late situations.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Garland Takes On Rangers

It’s up to Jon Garland tonight to be a streak-buster. Yikes. Garland’s main problem this year has been giving up the long ball and the Rangers are not a good match-up for him in that department. Garland can go a long way towards turning around his season by shutting down the Rangers tonight.

But just in case Garland falters again, the offense better be ready to go. They should be able to score some runs off Texas starter Kameron Roe, who come in with a 4.49 ERA. Roe has done well on the road this year (2.79 ERA) and he did get a win against the Sox last year during their August slide. Let's home the Cell reminds him of the Ballpark at Arlington where his ERA is 5.94.

Let’s hope Ozzie gives Anderson the start in center despite facing a righthander. I would gladly give up some offense for the defense BA brings to the team. And I’m not convinced a strict platoon situation with Mackowiak makes sense anyways as I’ve haven’t noticed BA having problems specific to righthanders. Anyways, you might as well give BA a chance to hit against mediocre righties such as Loe and save Mackowiak for the tougher ones.

And please, oh please, let this article be a joke.