Showing posts with label Albert Pujols. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Albert Pujols. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Jose Abreu, Carlos Rodon resurgent in August for White Sox

Jose Abreu
There's no sugarcoating it: Jose Abreu has not had a good season for the White Sox.

His struggles are one of the main reasons the Sox are languishing in fourth place with a 60-64 record -- and rank 14th out of 15 American League teams in runs scored.

Nobody saw it coming. After all, Abreu made history in 2015, becoming only the second player in major league history to total at least 30 home runs and at least 100 RBIs in each of his first two seasons. (Albert Pujols is the other).

However, the drop-off has been noticeable this year. Take a look at Abreu's numbers:

2014: .317/.383/.581, 36 HRs, 107 RBIs, .964 OPS
2015: .290/.347/.502, 30 HRs, 101 RBIs, .850 OPS
2016: .285/.341/.455, 17 HRs, 70 RBIs, .796 OPS

With 38 games to play, it's unlikely Abreu will hit that 30-and-100 plateau again. So, what do we make of this? Is Abreu in decline at age 29? Or is it just a bad year? Even good players have bad years. (See Frank Thomas in 2002 and Paul Konerko in 2003.)

I've heard some Sox fans say the team should unload Abreu this offseason because "he's done." I think that's an overly negative view. Quietly, while most people have stopped paying attention, Abreu has had a monster month of August.

Here are his numbers this month: .373/.427/.680, 6 HRs, 14 RBIs, 1.107 OPS in 19 games.

Pretty good, huh?

Abreu went 2 for 3 with three RBIs in Tuesday's 9-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. He homered in his third straight game. For me, the most important thing about that home run was the pitch and pitch location. It was a middle-in fastball from Philadelphia starter Jake Thompson, and Abreu turned on it and ripped it into the left field seats.

For most of the season, Abreu has been helpless against middle-in fastballs. He's been jamming himself, popping up or swinging and missing against that pitch. The Abreu of the last two years hits that pitch hard to left field. That was the Abreu I saw last night, and it's been that way most of August. It's encouraging to see, and it's indicative that his skills are still there.

The Sox need Abreu to finish strong. They need him to show that he still can be the centerpiece of the lineup. If he follows up a good August with a good September, maybe we can dismiss the first four months of this season as a rare slump for a very good hitter.

Speaking of needing a strong finish, pitcher Carlos Rodon also is trying to erase a poor first half. Like Abreu, he also has had a resurgent August. The left-hander fired 6.2 innings of shutout ball in Tuesday's win over Philadelphia.

For the month, Rodon is 2-0 with a 1.46 ERA with 20 strikeouts and only six walks in 24.2 innings, covering his last four starts. Philadelphia is not a good offensive team, so I can't put too much stock in Rodon shutting them down. However, he's also posted strong starts against two clubs that would be in the playoffs if the season ended today (Baltimore, Cleveland), plus another one against a team that is in the postseason hunt (Miami).

For the season, Rodon is 4-8 with a 4.02 ERA in 21 starts. The overall numbers impress nobody, but again, a strong finish from him would make the Sox feel better about their starting rotation looking forward to 2017.

Monday, July 18, 2016

White Sox begin second half with pathetic showing vs. Angels

Hector Santiago
The White Sox couldn't have asked for a worse start to the second half of their season.

They were outscored 16-1 in a three-game series against the last-place Los Angeles Angels. Entering Monday's play, the Sox have scored just one run in their last 41 offensive innings dating back to July 9. They have lost four in a row to slip back below .500 at 45-46, and they are nine games behind the first-place Cleveland Indians in the AL Central.

The Sox also are 5.5 games back in the AL wild-card race, with five teams to pass. That is not good position. Let's have a brief look back at the poor weekend in Los Angeles.

Friday, July 15
Angels 7, White Sox 0: Former Sox lefty Hector Santiago had his way with the South Siders in this game. He struck out five men the first two innings and went on to throw seven innings of shutout ball. He allowed just five hits and walked nobody. He finished with seven strikeouts.

Sox starter Miguel Gonzalez kept his club in the game most of the way. He had allowed only two runs through six innings, but poor defense led to the wheels coming off in the seventh.

First baseman Jose Abreu misplayed a ball off the bat of the Angels' Daniel Nava into a "double," and an error by Tim Anderson put runners on first and third with no outs. The two defensive miscues ended Gonzalez's night and set the table for a five-run Angels rally that saw the Sox burn through three relievers. Anderson committed a second error in the inning that did not help matters.

Saturday, July 16
Angels 1, White Sox 0: I've criticized James Shields quite a bit on this blog, but let's give credit where credit is due: He was outstanding in this game. He pitched a complete game and allowed only two hits. Unfortunately, one of those hits was a leadoff triple by Yunel Escobar in the first inning. Mike Trout got that run home with a RBI groundout, and that was all the Angels needed.

The Sox made Los Angeles starter Matt Shoemaker look like the second coming of Don Drysdale. The right-hander struck out 13 and allowed only six hits in a complete-game shutout.

It was inexcusable, however, that the Sox did not score after Adam Eaton's leadoff double in the ninth inning. Abreu failed to advance the runner with a groundout to shortstop. That was huge because Melky Cabrera followed with a single. Eaton stopped at third on the hit, and he would have scored if Abreu had done something to advance him.

Instead, it was first and third with one out -- still a favorable situation for the Sox -- but neither Todd Frazier nor Justin Morneau could make any contact against the tiring Shoemaker. Both men struck out, securing one of the more unacceptable Sox losses of the season.

Sunday, July 17
Angels 8, White Sox 1: Remember back at SoxFest when I asked Rick Hahn about organizational depth with starting pitching? He said Jacob Turner and Chris Beck were in line as fallback options should anyone in the rotation get injured. My reaction to that was, "Gulp."

Well, Carlos Rodon is on the disabled list, so there was Turner on Sunday, making his first big-league start of the season despite a 4.71 ERA at Triple-A Charlotte.

Results were predictable, as Turner allowed eight runs on seven hits in just four innings of work. He walked three and allowed two titanic home runs by Albert Pujols.

Eaton ended the Sox scoreless streak in the third inning with a two-out RBI double, but the South Siders could muster up nothing else against Jered Weaver, who is 12-2 lifetime against the Sox.

The one bright spot: Two scoreless innings of relief from Carson Fulmer in his big-league debut. The first man Fulmer faced was Pujols, the future Hall of Famer, and he struck him out on three pitches. He showcased his whole arsenal. He grabbed strike one with a fastball, got a swinging strike on changeup with the second pitch, and then Pujols could not check his swing on a slider for strike three.

Fulmer threw 15 of his 21 pitches for strikes. He allowed only one hit. He struck out two and hit a batter. Nice debut overall in an otherwise miserable afternoon for the Sox and their fans.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Tuesday thoughts: Matt Davidson, Brad Penny, David Robertson

I was on board with the move last offseason when White Sox GM Rick Hahn traded closer Addison Reed to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for third base prospect Matt Davidson.

In theory, it's a trade I'd still endorse today. Closers have a short shelf life, and while Reed is a solid relief pitcher, he is not All-Star caliber. It's not a bad baseball move to trade a player like that for someone you believe will at some point play every day in your infield.

That said, it's hard not to be discouraged about what we've seen since Davidson joined the White Sox organization. 2014 was a terrible year for him. His slash line at Triple-A Charlotte was .199/.283/.362. His 20 home runs and 55 RBIs hardly made up for the 164 strikeouts in 539 plate appearances.

You'd like to believe it was just a poor season -- it can happen to any player -- and that Davidson will bounce back this year. Maybe he will, but it's been an ugly spring for him so far. He's 1-for-12 with four strikeouts in the Cactus League, and he committed errors on back-to-back plays Monday that opened the door for the Diamondbacks to score four unearned runs in their 6-2 win over the White Sox.

Davidson continues to struggle both with the bat and with the glove. He turns 24 next week, so you can still say he counts as a prospect, but it will be hard for the Sox to keep him in their plans if he doesn't show anything this year.

Penny getting a long look

Quick quiz: Name the pitcher who has logged the most Cactus League innings for the White Sox this spring.

It's not Jeff Samardzija or Jose Quintana. It's veteran right-hander Brad Penny, who is in camp on a minor-league deal.

Penny has worked 7.2 innings thus far. His results have been mixed. He's allowed three runs on 11 hits, and opponents are hitting a robust .355 against him. But, he has struck out six men, and he's only walked one. Unlike some other pitchers who are trying to make the roster (Daniel Webb, cough, cough), Penny is throwing strikes.

He's been a starter for most of his career, and there is obviously no room for him in the White Sox rotation. But team brass is giving him a long look this spring, perhaps considering whether he can be the 12th man on the pitching staff -- the guy who works in long relief or makes a spot start when needed.

Because of service time rules, five days before opening day, the Sox have to either add Penny to the major league roster, cut him, or give him a $100,000 bonus for staying on the minor league roster.

Every team needs a staff saver. Could Penny be that guy? He hasn't pitched himself out of contention yet.

Robertson working on command issues

Speaking of closers, David Robertson hasn't been sharp in his first few spring outings. He allowed two runs in 2.2 innings pitched, while walking three and striking out just one.

Cause for alarm? No.

I watched Robertson work an inning Sunday against the Los Angeles Angels, and by my unofficial count, he threw nothing but fastballs and cutters during his 23-pitch outing. Robertson has a put-away breaking ball in his arsenal, but he didn't use it even once -- despite facing both Mike Trout and Albert Pujols in that inning.

Robertson walked two, but got out of trouble when Pujols grounded into a double play.

It was clear from watching the outing that Robertson doesn't have command of his fastball yet, so that's what he was focusing on when he stepped on the mound Sunday -- results be damned.

That's why it doesn't make sense to put too much stock in spring training numbers. Guys might be working on specific things, and they may not be doing things the same way they would in a regular-season game.

It's an important thing to remember as a fan, even though it is sometimes hard not to draw grand conclusions from what you're seeing in spring ball.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Jose Abreu named the Sporting News AL Rookie of the Year

White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu on Monday was named the AL Rookie of the Year by the Sporting News. This award is voted on by players, and Abreu received 149 of 160 votes in a landslide victory.

The honor comes as no surprise. This year, Abreu became the first major league rookie to rank in the top five in each of the Triple Crown categories -- average (.317), home runs (36) and RBIs (107).

He led the league with a .581 slugging percentage and became the fourth player ever to top 30 home runs, 30 doubles and 100 RBIs in his rookie season. The other names on that list are Hal Trosky, Ted Williams and Albert Pujols.

Angels pitcher Matt Shoemaker finished second with four votes. Yankees pitchers Dellin Betances and Masahiro Tanaka tied for third with three votes each. Amusingly, White Sox infielder Marcus Semien finished fifth with one vote.

Semien spent about half the season at Triple-A Charlotte, so you have to wonder which knucklehead player submitted that vote.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Tigers are crazy for giving Miguel Cabrera $292 million

The Detroit Tigers on Thursday gave first baseman Miguel Cabrera a 10-year, $292 million contract. I'll be honest: The length of this deal and the amount of dollars included shocks me. I'm floored.

Don't get me wrong, Cabrera is a great hitter. He won the American League Triple Crown in 2012 and has earned league MVP honors in each of the past two seasons. No one would be surprised if he won the MVP again in 2014.

But why did the Tigers need to do this deal now? They had Cabrera locked up through the end of the 2015 season. Cabrera was set to make $44 million over these next two years. That's a lot, sure, but in the current marketplace that's not an unreasonable price to pay for the guy who is right now the best hitter in baseball. It might even be considered a bargain.

However, Cabrera is just three weeks shy of his 31st birthday. His body started to show signs of breaking down last season. In fact, the Tigers traded Prince Fielder and moved Cabrera from third base to first base, in part, to lessen the wear and tear on his body. Like everyone else, Cabrera has a shelf life, and I question whether he will still be considered the best hitter in baseball three or four years down the road.

So why did the Tigers add eight years and $248 million to the contract of a player on the wrong side of 30? You got me. You can't even justify it on the grounds that the Tigers are in win-now mode and needed to lock up Cabrera, because they already had him signed for this year and next.

You would think the absurd contract given to Albert Pujols prior to the start of the 2012 season would be a cautionary tale for clubs. At the time he signed, Pujols was 32 years old. He had just led the St. Louis Cardinals to the 2011 World Series championship. He was considered by many to be the best hitter in baseball, and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim awarded him with a 10-year, $240 million deal.

Unfortunately for the Angels, that move has not worked out thus far. They have not made the playoffs in the first two years of Pujols' deal. The 34-year-old played just 99 games in 2013 and slumped to a career-low 17 home runs and 64 RBIs. He was even being booed by some of the hometown fans in Anaheim.

And there are *only* eight years and $212 million left on that contract. Good luck with that, Angels.

It's not too hard to envision a similar scenario unfolding with this Cabrera contract. There are decades worth of evidence that suggest sluggers decline in their mid-30s, and the Tigers will be paying absurd dollar figures for a fading superstar.

At least with Pujols, he was a free agent, and you can make the case the Angels had to go big to get the player to sign. The Tigers, in contrast, already had the player under control and were bidding against themselves. That makes it all the more crazy.

This if further evidence that oftentimes baseball players get paid based upon what they have done in the past, not on what they will do in the future. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Does anyone want these five MLB free agents?

Ubaldo Jimenez
Does your favorite team still need a starting pitcher? Well, there are two free agents out there who might interest you. Both of them had ERAs of 3.30 or better last season -- in the American League, no less.

How about a middle-of-the-order hitter? There are two free agents available who can almost certainly give your team 20 home runs and about 75 or 80 RBIs.

Need defense? The starting shortstop from last year's World Series championship team is available, too.

The Super Bowl is over, and it's almost time for spring training to begin. However, pitchers Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana are without contracts. Also without a job are first baseman Kendrys Morales, outfielder Nelson Cruz and shortstop Stephen Drew.

All five players were given qualifying offers to return to their 2013 teams on a one-year, $14.1 million deal. All five declined and elected free agency. Here on Feb. 4, the waiting game continues for each player.

Why? Phil Rogers explained it in a recent column on MLB.com. Any team that signs one of these five guys would have to give up a first-round draft pick to that player's former team.

These days, teams are a little slower to part with those draft picks. Remember when the St. Louis Cardinals lost Albert Pujols in free agency? Don't cry for the Cardinals because they used the compensatory draft pick they received from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to select pitcher Michael Wacha, who was last seen helping the Cardinals to the 2013 NL pennant.

And don't cry for the Angels either. When they lost Mark Teixeira in free agency after the 2008 season, they received a compensatory draft pick from the New York Yankees and used it to select outfielder Mike Trout, who is probably the best young position player in the sport today.

So, if you're wondering why decent major league players like the five listed above are still looking for work, look no further than the rules about compensatory draft picks. GMs are now figuring the loss of a valuable draft pick into the "cost" of signing these free agents, and accordingly, they aren't willing to give as much money to guys like Ervin Santana. Clubs are going to wait until the last minute to sign these players, once the price comes down to bargain levels.

Eventually, these five players are going to get a contract with somebody. You won't need to cry for them either, because they won't go hungry. But they probably aren't going to get the money they believe they're worth, and they may not even get the $14.1 million they could have had by staying with their 2013 teams.

Most -- if not all -- of these players would already be signed if they weren't tied to draft pick compensation. But this is the gamble they took when they refused those qualifying offers, and here they sit on Feb. 4.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Miguel Cabrera has 40 and 120 -- with a quarter of a season left

If Miguel Cabrera played for a team that wasn't in the American League Central, I would really like him. Come to think of it, the only reason I dislike him is because he plays for the Detroit Tigers -- a hated rival of the White Sox.

The guy is just an awesome hitter, and as a fan of baseball, I respect just how good Cabrera is at his craft. The reigning Triple Crown winner slugged his 40th home run of the season Sunday in the Tigers' 6-3 win over the Kansas City Royals. Cabrera also had an RBI single in the game, lifting his season RBI total to 120.

Cabrera, who leads the American League with a .360 batting average, became just the third player since 1921 to have at least 40 homers and 120 RBIs while batting .350 or better through 116 games. The other two names on that list are Babe Ruth and Jimmie Foxx.

As baseball fans, I think the Steroid Era made us all feel like 40 home runs and 120 RBIs in one season isn't much of an accomplishment anymore. In recent weeks, I've heard two different radio commentators in Chicago opine about how one day Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo is going to "hit 40 home runs and drive in 120 runs every year."

Really? Even if Rizzo develops into an All-Star hitter, he isn't going to do that. I don't think people respect just how hard it is to put up 40 and 120 in a single year.

For Cabrera, as great as he is, this is only the second time he's had 40 and 120 in the same season. Frank Thomas accomplished the feat just three times in his brilliant 19-year career. Albert Pujols, who preceded Cabrera as the best hitter in the game, has done it four times. Cincinnati first baseman Joey Votto, who is beloved by statheads as an OPS machine, has never totaled 40 and 120 in the same season.

Even noted steroid cheats Alex Rodriguez (six times), Sammy Sosa (four times) and Barry Bonds (three times) didn't hit 40 homers and drive in 120 every year.

Those are difficult plateaus to reach, and that makes what Cabrera is doing this year all the more impressive. At the rate he's going, 50 home runs and 150 RBIs are well within his reach.