Tag:White Sox
Posted on: April 19, 2011 12:55 pm
 

Year of the closer crisis? No, just normal April

The Twins have changed closers. The White Sox have changed closers. The Cardinals have a closer problem.

And last night, when John Axford was wild (again) and blew a save (for the first time since his opening day disaster), Brewers manager Ron Roenicke was asked if his team has a closer problem. He said no.

But here's the bigger question: Is there a closer problem in baseball overall?

Or is this just a normal April?

Well, through the first 19 days of this season, there have been 24 blown saves in the ninth inning or later (including four each by Matt Thornton of the White Sox and Ryan Franklin of the Cardinals).

That sounds like a lot.

Well, through the first 19 days of the 2010 season, there had already been 26 blown saves in the ninth inning or later. The Rangers had already changed closers. The Orioles had put their unsuccessful closer on the disabled list. Trevor Hoffman was on his way out of the job in Milwaukee, and the Diamondbacks were already on the to having one of the worst bullpens in history.

So is 2011 unusual? Or is this just a typical April?
Posted on: April 6, 2011 9:42 am
Edited on: April 6, 2011 2:31 pm
 

White Sox's Dunn has appendectomy

The White Sox are hopeful that Adam Dunn won't miss much time after an emergency appendectomy early Wednesday.

The initial indication is that Dunn may miss less than a week. The White Sox announced on their Twitter account that Dunn will miss "up to five games."

Matt Holliday of the Cardinals had his appendix out last week, and the Cardinals are similarly hopeful of a quick return. Last September, Andres Torres of the Giants missed 12 days after an appendectomy.

Dunn is off to a decent start after signing with the White Sox as a free agent last winter. In four games, he has a 1.045 OPS, with one home run and 5 RBI.

Posted on: September 15, 2010 2:07 pm
 

And in 2011, interleague play will help the . . .

As it turns out, no one is making the 2010 playoffs because of interleague play.

Two of the three American League teams that did the best against the National League (the Red Sox and White Sox) won't make the playoffs at all, and the third (the Rangers) was the dominant team in the AL West, in-league and out-of-league.

The only NL team that truly excelled in interleague was the Mets, and they're not making the playoffs, either.

Still, there's no doubt that the interleague system is flawed, and that every year, some teams get easier interleague schedules (and thus, easier overall schedules) than other teams in the same division (or other teams fighting for the same wild-card spot).

So, now that baseball has released the 2011 schedule, it's worth taking an early look at how interleague play may be flawed next year:

First off, there don't seem to be as many disparities as there were in the 2010 schedule, which had the Red Sox playing four of their six interleague series against playoff teams from the previous year, while the Rays played none of their six. As it turned out, the Red Sox still outdid the Rays in interleague, 13-5 to 7-11.

Second, it appears that the 2011 schedule is somewhat truer to the original division vs. division concept. The rough matchups for 2011 have the AL East playing the NL Central, the AL Central playing the NL West and the AL West playing the NL East.

As always, those matchups don't hold up completely, both because of the desire to preserve geographical matchups (Yankees vs. Mets, Twins vs. Brewers, etc.) and because one league has 16 teams and the other has 14. So you still have out-of-the-blue series like Rockies at Yankees (while the Yankees play only three of the six NL Central teams). But there don't seem to be nearly as many of them.

So who comes off best and who comes off worst? It's subject to change, of course, because teams that make the playoffs this year may be bad next May and June, or vice versa, but here goes:

Toughest interleague schedule for an AL team: the Mariners, who play four of their six series against current NL playoff teams. They have their usual home-and-home with the Padres, and they're also one of the two AL West teams that will play both the Phillies and the Braves (the Rangers are the other).

Easiest interleague schedule for an AL team: the White Sox, who play none of their six series against current playoff teams (and only one, against the Rockies, against a team that even has a chance at making the playoffs this year).

Biggest disparity within an AL division: the East, where the Blue Jays (without a geographical rival) draw the top two teams in the NL East (Phillies and Braves) and the top two in the Central (Reds, Cardinals). Meanwhile, the Yankees and Rays avoid both the Phillies and Braves, and instead get rivalry series against the Mets and Marlins.

Toughest interleague schedule for an NL team: the Brewers, who will get three of the four AL playoff teams (Twins, Yankees, Rays), plus an extra series against the Twins.

Easiest interleague schedule for an NL team: the Nationals and Pirates, the only two teams who will avoid all four AL playoff teams. Not that it will help either team.

Biggest disparity within an NL division: the Central, where not only do the Brewers have four series against playoff teams while the Pirates have none, but at the top of the division the Reds get both the Yankees and Rays while the Cardinals get the Rays but miss the Yankees.

Unusual interleague series I'd most like to see: Padres at Red Sox, but only if the Padres haven't traded Adrian Gonzalez. Is he really that well suited to hitting at Fenway Park? Two others: Rangers at Braves, with Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz and the others acquired in the Mark Teixeira trade finally get to Turner Field. Diamondbacks at Tigers, but only if Kirk Gibson hangs on as the Diamondbacks manager and then names Alan Trammell as his bench coach.

Interleague series I most want to avoid: Pirates at Indians. Have fun selling tickets for that one.
Posted on: September 15, 2010 2:07 pm
 

And in 2011, interleague play will help the . . .

As it turns out, no one is making the 2010 playoffs because of interleague play.

Two of the three American League teams that did the best against the National League (the Red Sox and White Sox) won't make the playoffs at all, and the third (the Rangers) was the dominant team in the AL West, in-league and out-of-league.

The only NL team that truly excelled in interleague was the Mets, and they're not making the playoffs, either.

Still, there's no doubt that the interleague system is flawed, and that every year, some teams get easier interleague schedules (and thus, easier overall schedules) than other teams in the same division (or other teams fighting for the same wild-card spot).

So, now that baseball has released the 2011 schedule, it's worth taking an early look at how interleague play may be flawed next year:

First off, there don't seem to be as many disparities as there were in the 2010 schedule, which had the Red Sox playing four of their six interleague series against playoff teams from the previous year, while the Rays played none of their six. As it turned out, the Red Sox still outdid the Rays in interleague, 13-5 to 7-11.

Second, it appears that the 2011 schedule is somewhat truer to the original division vs. division concept. The rough matchups for 2011 have the AL East playing the NL Central, the AL Central playing the NL West and the AL West playing the NL East.

As always, those matchups don't hold up completely, both because of the desire to preserve geographical matchups (Yankees vs. Mets, Twins vs. Brewers, etc.) and because one league has 16 teams and the other has 14. So you still have out-of-the-blue series like Rockies at Yankees (while the Yankees play only three of the six NL Central teams). But there don't seem to be nearly as many of them.

So who comes off best and who comes off worst? It's subject to change, of course, because teams that make the playoffs this year may be bad next May and June, or vice versa, but here goes:

Toughest interleague schedule for an AL team: the Mariners, who play four of their six series against current NL playoff teams. They have their usual home-and-home with the Padres, and they're also one of the two AL West teams that will play both the Phillies and the Braves (the Rangers are the other).

Easiest interleague schedule for an AL team: the White Sox, who play none of their six series against current playoff teams (and only one, against the Rockies, against a team that even has a chance at making the playoffs this year).

Biggest disparity within an AL division: the East, where the Blue Jays (without a geographical rival) draw the top two teams in the NL East (Phillies and Braves) and the top two in the Central (Reds, Cardinals). Meanwhile, the Yankees and Rays avoid both the Phillies and Braves, and instead get rivalry series against the Mets and Marlins.

Toughest interleague schedule for an NL team: the Brewers, who will get three of the four AL playoff teams (Twins, Yankees, Rays), plus an extra series against the Twins.

Easiest interleague schedule for an NL team: the Nationals and Pirates, the only two teams who will avoid all four AL playoff teams. Not that it will help either team.

Biggest disparity within an NL division: the Central, where not only do the Brewers have four series against playoff teams while the Pirates have none, but at the top of the division the Reds get both the Yankees and Rays while the Cardinals get the Rays but miss the Yankees.

Unusual interleague series I'd most like to see: Padres at Red Sox, but only if the Padres haven't traded Adrian Gonzalez. Is he really that well suited to hitting at Fenway Park? Two others: Rangers at Braves, with Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz and the others acquired in the Mark Teixeira trade finally get to Turner Field. Diamondbacks at Tigers, but only if Kirk Gibson hangs on as the Diamondbacks manager and then names Alan Trammell as his bench coach.

Interleague series I most want to avoid: Pirates at Indians. Have fun selling tickets for that one.
Posted on: September 12, 2010 8:51 pm
Edited on: September 12, 2010 9:05 pm
 

3 to watch: The Seeing the seeding edition

The players say it matters. The managers say it matters.

Ask Joe Maddon about the three games his Rays play against the Yankees this week, and the four games they play next week, and he'll tell you how important these games are. He'll tell you how great this is going to be.

"I definitely believe you're going to see playoff-like intensity in every one of those games," Maddon said. "I think you're going to see a very intense seven games. I do."

We don't.

They could be seven great games. They're definitely seven games that we wouldn't mind watching, especially the CC Sabathia-David Price matchup that kicks off the first series on Monday night.

"I want to see that, too," Rays left fielder Carl Crawford said. "When we have matchups like that, I become a fan."

It's a great matchup, between two teams that are separated by half a game now, and have been within 2 1/2 games of each other for 49 straight days. It's potentially a great series.

It's won't be playoff-intense, not the way Giants-Padres was playoff-intense, not the way Braves-Phillies next week may well be playoff-intense.

For playoff intensity, you need playoff pressure. And you only get playoff pressure if the loser goes home.

When the Yankees meet the Rays, the winner may well get to raise an American League East championship flag. The winner may well get home-field advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs.

The loser won't go home.

Instead, the loser becomes the wild card, with nearly as good a chance to hang the flag that matters on opening day next year. All they're really playing for is playoff seeding.

Baseball has had the wild-card system for 15 years, which means there have been 30 wild cards, and 30 teams that finished in first place in the same division as the wild card.

Twelve times, the division winner advanced further in October than the wild card did. Ten times, the wild card advanced further than the division winner. The other eight times, both the wild card and the division winner were eliminated in the first round.

So is there an advantage to finishing first? Maybe.

Is there a significant advantage? Definitely not.

In fact, with the AL East winner likely to face Texas in the first round, with Cliff Lee potentially going twice in a best-of-5 series, you could even argue that this year, the team that finishes second has the advantage.

In recent weeks, a few people have renewed the push for adding a second wild-card team in each league. The idea is that the two wild cards would have a play-in game (or a play-in series). Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated presented an excellent case last week.

In that system, Yankees-Rays would be huge. It still wouldn't be loser-goes-home, but at least it would be loser-is-at-a-big-disadvantage.

In that system, it might well be "playoff-intense."

In this system, it simply leads off this edition of 3 to watch:

1. No, we're not that excited about Yankees-Rays. But we are excited about Sabathia-Price, the pitching matchup in Yankees at Rays, Monday night (7:10 ET) at Tropicana Field . With Felix Hernandez allowing seven runs and losing to the Angels on Saturday night, we're even tempted to call this a Cy Young showdown. Sabathia would help his credentials with a 20th win. Price would help his with a win over the Yankees (especially since Hernandez has three of them). Sabathia is the seventh pitcher to go for a 20th win against a Tampa Bay team. Five of the first six succeeded. The one who didn’t? Sabathia, when he lost to Price last Oct. 2.

2. Through 143 games last year, the Twins were 5 1/2 games behind the Tigers. Through 143 games this year, the Twins are six games ahead of the White Sox. So are you ready to declare the American League Central race over? Not just yet, but it will be over if Chicago doesn't sweep the three-game series that opens with Twins at White Sox, Tuesday night (8:10 ET) at U.S. Cellular Field . The last time the Twins were swept in Chicago was in 2008, which is the same year that ended with a Twins-White Sox one-game playoff to decide the AL Central winner. The game-winning home run that night, of course, was hit by Jim Thome, then with the White Sox, now with the Twins.

3. Near the end of the Giants-Padres game Sunday, Giants announcer Mike Krukow asked partner Duane Kuiper who to root for when the Padres play the Rockies this week. Tough question, because the Giants begin the week percentage points behind the Padres, but just 1 1/2 games ahead of the third-place (and hard-charging) Rockies. It another fascinating series in baseball's most interesting division, with the team that just ended a 10-game losing streak meeting the team that now owns a 10-game winning streak. The Padres won't see Ubaldo Jimenez, but they will see Jason Hammel, who starts in Padres at Rockies, Tuesday night (8:40 ET) at Coors Field . Hammel and Jimenez are the only pitchers who own three wins over the Padres this year, and if he wins Tuesday, Hammel could become just the seventh pitcher with at least four wins over a single opponent this season. The other six: Chris Carpenter (five wins vs. the Reds), Sabathia (four vs. the Orioles), Ryan Dempster (four vs. the Brewers), Chris Volstad (four vs. the Nationals), Roy Halladay (four vs. the Mets) and Price (four vs. the Blue Jays). Oh, and Kuiper's answer to Krukow: "I'm rooting for a 25-inning game."

Posted on: September 5, 2010 10:31 pm
Edited on: September 6, 2010 9:18 am
 

3 to watch: The Saving the Padres edition

Last Friday, the Padres had a seven-game losing streak, and we told you that it was all right, because five of the last 10 teams to make the World Series had a seven-game losing streak at some point during the season.

Now the Padres have a 10-game losing streak. Any chance history can help?

Not really. Of the 350 teams that have made it to the postseason, only two had a 10-game losing streak. Those two were 1951 Giants (think Bobby Thomson) and the 1982 Braves (think . . . Joe Morgan?).

The Braves were in first place, 6 1/2 games ahead, when they slipped up against the Giants in the middle of August and went on a losing streak that lasted 11 games. They actually lost 15 of 16, going from 6 1/2 up to four games behind, before recovering. They won the division on the final day of the season, when Morgan's seventh-inning home run for the Giants eliminated the second-place Dodgers.

And who managed that Braves team? Joe Torre, whose Dodgers play in San Diego this week. So as the Dodgers try to extend the Padres' misery, Torre can explain to Bud Black that this crazy season can still be rescued.

On to 3 to watch, with a reminder that two of the big series this coming weekend actually begin on Thursday (Giants at Padres, Cardinals at Braves):

1. For all the fuss over Manny Ramirez, the most significant acquisition the White Sox made this summer may have been Edwin Jackson. In five starts for the Sox, Jackson is 3-0 with a 1.47 ERA. Meanwhile, the guy he was traded for, Daniel Hudson, has gone 4-1 with a 1.99 ERA in seven starts for the Diamondbacks. And the guy Jackson was traded for last winter, Max Scherzer, is 8-4 with a 1.90 ERA in his last 16 starts for the Tigers. We bring all this up because Jackson faces Scherzer, in White Sox at Tigers, Monday afternoon (1:05 ET) at Comerica Park . This is a big week for the White Sox, because they need to stay close enough to the Twins to make next week's three-game showdown in Chicago meaningful.

2. It's not that long ago that the Padres' big Mat Latos question was how they would hold their 22-year-old ace within his innings limit. Now, with Latos scheduled to start in Dodgers at Padres, Monday night (10:05 ET) at Petco Park , it's whether Latos can be the guy who stops this losing streak. Latos hasn't gone more than two starts without a win all season, and he's at two now, having taken a no-decision in a 3-2 loss to the Phillies (while allowing just one run in seven innings) and again in a 5-2 loss to the Diamondbacks (while allowing just one run in six innings). Of course, before this losing streak began, the Padres hadn't lost more than three in a row all year.


3. Two Septembers ago, when the Rays went into Fenway Park with a 1 1/2-game lead over the Red Sox, we still weren't sure the Rays were that good. Heck, they still weren't sure they were that good. "If you want to be true with it, you say you want to be who [the Red Sox] are," Rays veteran Cliff Floyd said that week. You can bet no one on the Rays will be saying they want to be what the Red Sox are this week. You can also bet that we'll have some memories of 2008, especially when 2008 playoff hero David Price starts for Tampa Bay in Rays at Red Sox, Tuesday night (7:10 ET) at Fenway Park .


Posted on: August 29, 2010 9:37 pm
Edited on: August 30, 2010 12:08 pm
 

3 to watch: The Manny magic II? edition

Whether you like Manny Ramirez or not, you've got to admit that he carried the Dodgers into the postseason two years ago (and nearly carried them into the World Series, too).

Any chance he does the same for the White Sox, who he joins this week (possibly tonight in Cleveland)?

Your first instinct is to say no way. Manny was 36 years old then; he's 38 now. He had two months with the Dodgers; he'll have one month in Chicago. The Dodgers were just two games out of first place when he joined them; the White Sox are 4 1/2 games back now. The Dodgers had nine games remaining with the Diamondbacks, the team they were chasing (and went 7-2 in those nine games); the White Sox have only three games remaining with the first-place Twins.

Then again . . .

In Manny's first 32 games with the Dodgers, he hit .407 with 10 home runs and 29 RBIs. And after dropping three games behind Arizona when they lost Manny's debut, needed just 39 games to turn that three-game deficit into a 4 1/2-game lead.

They needed help from the Diamondbacks, who went 15-23 over that span.

The White Sox would need help from the Twins (or at least from the teams that are playing the Twins).

Can history repeat? It sure seems unlikely, but it sure will be intriguing to see if it can.

On to 3 to watch:

1. Before Manny plays a home game for the White Sox, he'll visit his first two big-league homes, with series against the Indians and Red Sox. Not surprisingly, he has good career numbers at both Progressive Field and Fenway Park. He has incredible career numbers against the Indians (.352, 16 home runs, 46 RBIs in 51 games). Ramirez could be in the lineup as soon as White Sox at Indians, Monday night (7:05 ET) at Progressive Field , but in any case he should join the Sox during this series.

2. After A.J. Burnett completed a winless August by allowing nine runs to the Manny-less White Sox last Friday, Yankees manager Joe Girardi waited two days to announce whether Burnett would remain in the rotation. He will, Girardi told reporters Sunday, but the A.J. watch will be on in full force if he doesn't pitch well in A's at Yankees, Wednesday night (7:05 ET) at Yankee Stadium . If there's one thing that is most worrisome for the Yankees heading into September and October, it's the rotation. Andy Pettitte remains on the disabled list, and in five August starts, Burnett had a 7.80 ERA.

3. Speaking of key pitchers who were winless in August, Tim Lincecum's next assignment is a big one, facing Ubaldo Jimenez in Rockies at Giants, Wednesday night (9:15 ET) at AT&T Park . The Giants lead the Rockies by three games entering this week's series, but both teams trail the Padres in the National League West and the Phillies in the NL wild-card race. Lincecum's August ERA, by the way, was nearly the same as Burnett's (7.82). Jimenez went 1-3 in August, losing his last three decisions, but his ERA for the month was 2.83.


Posted on: August 19, 2010 11:39 pm
 

Ozzie: AL Central 'going all the way to the wire'

MINNEAPOLIS -- It'll be interesting to see where the American League Central race is a week from now.

Today, it still feels like the Twins are in control, even after Thursday's 11-0 White Sox win in the teams' last head-to-head meeting until Sept. 14 -- and their final scheduled game at Target Field this year.

But if the White Sox really did get going by scoring 23 runs in three games this week, as manager Ozzie Guillen suggested, then they should do well this weekend in Kansas City and next week at home against the Orioles.

The Twins host the Angels this weekend, then play four games in Texas. It's possible, though perhaps not likely, that this race could get close again before it's over.

"If we score runs, we'll be fine," Guillen said. "I predict this thing is going to be all the way to the wire. We will fight. I don't know how far we'll go, but we'll fight like a champion.

"This team has come a long way. I told the guys when we took the field, 'Let's enjoy this moment.' I like the way they're playing."

Guillen talked about the hitting, but if the White Sox are going to make a run like the one they made after falling 9 1/2 games back in early June, they'll probably need to do it the same way they did it the last time -- with strong starting pitching.

From June 9 to the All-Star break, when the Sox went 24-5 and went from 9 1/2 back to half a game in front, the rotation had a combined 2.43 ERA. One big difference between then and now is that Jake Peavy was still active for most of that stretch, before he was lost for the season on July 6.

A White Sox team with an ace like Peavy would be a lot more dangerous now, not to mention a lot more dangerous if they did make the postseason.

At least the Sox still have Mark Buehrle, their de facto ace before the Peavy trade. After John Danks and Gavin Floyd gave the Twins a combined six first-inning runs Tuesday and Wednesday, Buehrle set a different tone Thursday by setting the first eight Twins down in order, and carrying the shutout through seven innings.

Buehrle admitted that this was a game the White Sox basically had to win.

"We can't give up," he said. "We've got [41] games left. But if you're down six games, the chances are slim."

They're not down six games. They're down four games.

They're not totally done. They're just trending the wrong way.

Let's see where this is in another week.
 
 
 
 
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