Showing posts with label Boston Red Sox. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Boston Red Sox. Show all posts

Friday, August 4, 2017

Rare good news: Two strong outings in a row for Carlos Rodon

Carlos Rodon
The White Sox (41-66) have lost four games in a row and 18 out of their past 21 after their 3-2, 11-inning loss to the Boston Red Sox on Friday night.

Now for some rare good news: Carlos Rodon has pitched really well in his past two starts, including his best outing of the season Friday at Fenway Park.

Here are the recent pitching lines for Rodon:

July 30 vs. Cleveland: 6.2 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 9 Ks, 2 BBs
Aug. 4 at Boston: 7.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 11 Ks, 0 BBs
Total: 14.1 IP, 12 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 20 Ks, 2 BBs

That 10-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio is what I like about Rodon this week. The fastball command is there. The velocity is consistently about 97 mph. The slider is working. He's getting swings and misses, and he's getting outs in a reasonable number of pitches. No walks against Boston; that's what you have to do to give yourself a chance to win. The 11 strikeouts Friday ties a career high.

And it isn't as if these outings have come against crummy teams, either. The Indians lead the AL Central. The Red Sox lead the AL East. Both are likely playoff teams. The Indians rank fourth in the AL in runs scored; the Red Sox rank fifth.

These were good performances against good teams. Too bad Rodon received two no-decisions for his effort. At least the Sox won the game against Cleveland, but it wasn't happening Friday night in Boston. Mitch Moreland hit a walk-off homer off Aaron Bummer (0-2) in the bottom of the 11th to secure the win for the Red Sox.

The beat goes on in terms of the tanking for draft position, but since Rodon is one of the few on the current roster who is supposedly part of the long-term plan, it's nice to see him picking it up out there.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Will Todd Frazier get his batting average above the Mendoza Line?

Todd Frazier (right) with Daryl Boston
There was an unintentionally humorous moment in the second inning of the White Sox game Tuesday night. Broadcaster Ken Harrelson was talking about how Todd Frazier had put on quite a display of home run power during batting practice, and how that was evidence that Frazier was feeling pretty good about his swing.

Naturally, on the next pitch from Tampa Bay starter Chris Archer, Frazier was totally fooled, made an excuse-me swing and hit a slow roller to first base for an easy out. It was an embarrassing result, and it went counter to what Harrelson had just said.

But give Hawk credit. He quickly recovered to note that Frazier "won't feel good about that swing."

That said, Frazier did make a good swing in the ninth inning, when he blasted a 430-foot solo home run to center field off Tampa Bay reliever Ryan Garton. That provided the final run in a 4-2 Sox victory that snapped a five-game losing streak.

The 1-for-4 night raised Frazier's batting average to a still unsightly .196. The Sox third baseman got off to a terrible start this year. He didn't get his first hit until the fourth game of the season, and the high-water mark for his batting average this year is .200.

He's reached that plateau twice, once May 2 and again May 20. Alas, both times Frazier couldn't sustain anything resembling a hot streak, and his average plummeted back into the .170s on both occasions.

I can't say Harrelson is wrong with his comments. Frazier has five hits in his past three games, and he has homered in two games in a row. In the ideal world, the Sox would trade Frazier in July and take an extended look at Matt Davidson at third base the second half of the season. But for that to happen, Frazier needs to sustain some sort of competence with the bat over the next six weeks.

There isn't a big market for a player who hit .225 last season and is off to a slow start this year. But, you take a look at the American League East, and you see a tight race developing that could involve three or four teams. And you see the two teams at the top, New York and Boston, having question marks at third base.

Might those two clubs see Frazier as an upgrade over Chase Headley or Pablo Sandoval, respectively? Could the Sox create somewhat of a bidding war among the two AL East powers? Possibly. All Frazier really needs to do is hit .240 with power, and he's better than those two guys.

The question is, can he still hit .240? He hasn't done it yet since he's been with the Sox, and he needs to do it soon if there's going to be any demand for him in July. If he isn't traded, he becomes a candidate for reduced playing time the second half of the year, as the Sox will need to look at younger players during a rebuilding season.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Chris Sale vs. Jose Quintana: More batting practice than pitching duel

Chris Sale
The White Sox unexpectedly roughed up their former teammate, Chris Sale, on Tuesday night.

The Boston left-hander had his worst outing of the season, allowing six runs (five earned) on 10 hits with two walks. He needed 111 pitches just to get through five innings.

Yet Sale (6-2) got the win in Boston's 13-7 victory, because Sox left-hander Jose Quintana was even worse.

Quintana failed to get out of the third inning, allowing seven earned runs on 10 hits, including three home runs, over 2.2 innings. Two of the three homers were hit by a complete stiff, Boston No. 9 hitter Deven Marrero.

Marrero, a .194 hitter even after his Tuesday night outburst, had six RBIs through his first 62 plate appearances this season. He had five RBIs in two plate appearances against Quintana.

The Boston third baseman hit Quintana's final pitch of the night -- a sloppy, get-me-over 3-2 curveball -- for a three-run homer in the top of the third inning. The blast gave the Red Sox a 7-3 lead, and it was arguably the most poorly executed pitch I've seen from a Sox pitcher all season.

Just brutal.

Not that the Sox didn't fight back. They got one in the third on an RBI single by Tim Anderson and two in the fourth on a home run by Todd Frazier to cut Boston's lead to 7-6.

However, Dan Jennings failed to take advantage of a lefty-on-lefty matchup in the fifth, as Jackie Bradley took him deep for a three-run homer to put Boston ahead 10-6. The Sox didn't have another comeback in them after that.

Bradley, the No. 8 hitter in the Boston order, is hitting .214 this season. So, yeah, I'd say it was a night where the Sox were insistent on giving up three-run homers to the absolute worst hitters the Red Sox have to offer. It would be one thing if they were getting their brains beat in by Mookie Betts, who did have a solo home run Tuesday, but it was Bradley and Marrero who combined to beat the Sox.

Hard to accept.

And what the hell is wrong with Quintana, you ask? Well, all seven runs he allowed Tuesday night came with two outs. He can't extricate himself from innings; he can't get key outs when he's pitching out of the stretch. It's hard to be successful that way.

This season, opponents have a .316/.385/.611 slash line against Quintana when they have men on base. By way of comparison, opponents slashed .247/.309/.375 against Quintana with men on base last season.

Significant difference, isn't it? That's the crux of the problem: Quintana cannot execute any of his pitches from the stretch right now. His fastball command is off. His curve is hanging, and he's getting hurt -- even by poor hitters.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

White Sox off to 4-1 start on seven-game homestand

Melky Cabrera
Back to blogging after a holiday weekend. I hope everyone had a good Memorial Day, and it was a weekend that featured some good baseball from the White Sox.

The Sox are 4-1 through five games on their current seven-game homestand. They took three out of four from the Detroit Tigers, winning Friday and Sunday and splitting a straight doubleheader Saturday.

But I'd say the most surprising and rewarding win of the weekend was Monday's 5-4 victory over the Boston Red Sox in the opener of a three-game series.

The doubleheader and the injury to Dylan Covey created some chaos for the Sox's starting rotation, and left-handed reliever David Holmberg was pulled out of the bullpen to make a spot start. His mound opponent was former AL Cy Young Award winner David Price, and while Price was making his first start of the season after being on the disabled list, this was not a matchup that was favorable for the Sox.

However, Holmberg provided four credible innings. He allowed only one run through the first three before giving up two in the fourth, but you can hardly blame him if he ran out of gas. He isn't stretched out to be a starter. Still, the game was tied 3-3 after those four innings -- Melky Cabrera his a three-run homer for the Sox in the third -- and I don't think we are in any position to complain about Holmberg keeping things even against Price.

The Boston left-hander was on a 90-pitch limit, so the game was destined to come down to bullpens -- a battle that the Sox won.

Mookie Betts hit a home run off Gregory Infante in the top of the fifth, but that was the only run the Red Sox got against four Sox relievers.

The South Siders rallied from a 4-3 deficit with two runs in the bottom of the seventh off Boston's Matt Barnes. Yolmer Sanchez hit a leadoff triple and scored on a double by Kevan Smith. Two outs later, Cabrera added his fourth RBI of the day on a softly hit single up the middle that scored Smith with the go-ahead run.

Tommy Kahnle pitched a scoreless eighth, and David Robertson got three outs in the ninth for his eighth save in nine chances.

The task gets harder Tuesday for the Sox, as Boston will start Chris Sale, who still is the best pitcher in the American League. The Sox already have clinched a winning homestand, but it would be a real success if they can steal one of the next two games against the Red Sox and finish up 5-2.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

White Sox make underwhelming trade of Chris Sale to the Red Sox

Chris Sale
Four consecutive losing seasons -- and five losing seasons out of seven -- would lead to front office changes in most organizations around baseball.

But not the ever-loyal White Sox.

General manager Rick Hahn and executive vice president Ken Williams are still here, and despite total failure in recent years, they are being allowed to embark on a long-term rebuilding project.

They started that process Tuesday by trading ace pitcher Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox for infielder Yoan Moncada, pitcher Michael Kopech, pitcher Victor Diaz and outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe.

In other words, the Sox did exactly what I hoped they wouldn't do -- trade the best pitcher in the American League, the crown jewel of the organization, the face of the franchise, for a package of ifs and maybes.

Make no mistake about it, the Red Sox made a great trade. Consider these facts:

  • Sale is a five-time All-Star. 
  • He's placed in the top six in the AL Cy Young voting for five consecutive years, and he probably would have won the award twice by now if he had been pitching for a good team. 
  • Sale's 3.04 ERA over the past five seasons is the lowest of any American Leaguer with at least 500 innings pitched during that same period.
  • Sale was 6-0 with a 1.55 ERA and 0.82 WHIP against Boston's AL East rivals -- New York, Toronto, Baltimore and Tampa Bay -- in 2016.
  • With the acquisition of Sale, Boston's odds of winning the 2017 World Series went from 10-1 to 5-1 in the blink of an eye. 
  • Sale is under team control for three more years, at the bargain rate of $38 million for the life of his contract.
So, that's what Boston got today.

What did the White Sox get? Your opinion is as good as mine.

Moncada is the No. 1 ranked prospect in all of baseball, so there's that. He's a switch-hitter, but it's unclear whether he'll be a second baseman, a third baseman or a center fielder moving forward. He hit .294/.407/.511 with 15 home runs, 62 RBIs and 45 stolen bases over a combined 491 plate appearances in High-A Salem and Double-A Portland in 2016.

He went 4 for 19 in eight games in a cup of tea with Boston at the end of the season, and those are the only ABs he's had above Double A so far.

Kopech, 20, has a 100 mph fastball and a temper to match. He sidelined himself for three months last year after breaking his hand in a fight with a teammate. He pitched only 56.1 innings in 2016, going 4-1 with a 2.08 ERA in two stops in A-ball. He had 86 strikeouts, but also 33 walks. He is not close to the major leagues.

The same is true for Diaz, 22, who has never pitched above A-ball. He went 2-5 with a 3.88 ERA and 10 saves in 37 games at that level in 2016.

Basabe, 20, also has never played above A-ball. He played at two Class A levels in 2016, playing 110 games and hitting .264/.328/.452 with 12 home runs and 53 RBIs.

Bottom line: Moncada is the only one of these four guys we're going to see in the major leagues in the next two years. Kopech is a good prospect, but with his control problems, he's got some work to do.

The other two guys, well, they are long shots.

If you feel like this is an underwhelming return for the best pitcher in the league, you're not alone. I was hoping for a MLB-ready position player, plus two other legit prospects.

This trade is not that.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

It will be Cleveland vs. Toronto in the ALCS

Corey Kluber
Expect the unexpected in the MLB playoffs. How many of you had both Cleveland and Toronto advancing to the ALCS this year? Be honest. I sure didn't. I think most people picked Boston and Texas. Guess what? Both the Red Sox and Rangers got swept, and everything we assumed about the American League going into the playoffs was wrong.

Cleveland finished off a three-game sweep with a 4-3 win Monday at Fenway Park. The Red Sox had their chances, but they left two men on in both the eighth and ninth innings. Indians closer Cody Allen was able to shut the door in both innings.

I didn't like Cleveland's chances coming into the playoffs because its starting rotation was beat up. Two of its top three pitchers -- Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco -- are on the disabled list. The Indians' ace, Corey Kluber, had a groin strain that kept him out the final week of the regular season and caused him to not be able to make a Game 1 start in the ALDS.

Kluber proved he was healthy, however, with a brilliant performance to win Game 2. In Games 1 and 3, the Tribe got just enough out of back-of-the-rotation starters Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin, and manager Terry Francona used his underrated relief corps brilliantly to secure those two wins.

Francona brought relief ace Andrew Miller in during the fifth inning of Game 1 and the sixth inning of Game 3. He's got three good high-leverage relievers in Miller, Bryan Shaw and Allen, and he showed he's not afraid to use them for the last four or five innings of a game to protect a precarious lead.

When your starting pitching is beat up, but your bullpen is strong, that's precisely what you have to do to chart a course for victory. Give the Indians credit for pulling this off. They knocked out the team that many perceived as the favorite in the American League.

David Ortiz's brilliant career with the Red Sox is now over, but spare me the stuff about how he "deserved a better ending." Ortiz has three World Series rings, and he had many fine moments with Boston. No one is promised the chance to go out on top, and most athletes do not. He'll get over this loss, I'm sure.

In the other ALDS, how about Toronto knocking the stuffing out of the 95-win Rangers? The Blue Jays scored 22 runs in the three-game sweep, and if you buy into the theory that the "hot team" wins in the playoffs, well, the Blue Jays look like the hot team.

Two things to look for in the ALCS: First, will Kluber be healthy enough to make three starts? He should be in line for Game 1. With all the other injury problems, does he start Game 4 and Game 7, if necessary, as well? In my opinion, he should.

Secondly, can the Blue Jays overcome the fact that the Indians have a far superior bullpen? Toronto closer Roberto Osuna is good, and he toughed it out through some shoulder discomfort in the ALDS, but I don't know that I trust Jason Grilli, Brett Cecil, Joe Biagini and the other assorted mediocre options the Jays have in the bullpen.

If games are close in the late innings, it should be advantage Tribe.

Of course, the first round of the American League playoffs taught us that things that should be aren't necessarily so. The more you watch, the more you realize that you really know don't much of anything.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Here's why Boston might not beat Cleveland in the ALDS

Rick Porcello
Most of the experts are anticipating a Boston-Texas ALCS this year, so of course, Cleveland and Toronto both won Thursday in their respective ALDS Game 1s.

The Red Sox have become the popular pick to win the AL pennant going into the playoffs. Maybe it's just sentimental -- I think media members root for the story -- they want that Cubs-Red Sox World Series; they want that "David Ortiz retires on a high note" narrative.

But picking Boston is not without merit. The Red Sox have the best lineup in baseball. They scored 878 runs this season, the most in MLB. The second-highest run total in the AL belongs to Boston's first-round opponent, Cleveland, which scored 777 runs.

Here's the problem with the Red Sox: Their top two pitchers have a track record of stinking it up in the playoffs.

Rick Porcello is a Cy Young candidate this year. He went 22-4 with a 3.15 ERA. It was the best year of his career by far. Nobody can take that away from him.

But, he was awful in a 5-4 Game 1 loss to the Tribe on Thursday. He allowed three home runs in the span of nine pitches in the bottom of the third inning. Roberto Perez, Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor all took him deep. Porcello pitched just 4.1 innings, allowing five earned runs on six hits. He put the Red Sox in a hole their powerful offense could not quite escape.

Porcello has no track record of postseason success. He's 0-3 with a 5.66 ERA lifetime in nine playoff games. Granted, only three of those nine appearances are starts, but he's yet to show he can do the job when the bright lights come on.

Boston's No. 2 starter, David Price, is in a similar boat. His regular-season numbers this year were quite respectable, 17-9 with a 3.99 ERA. But in the playoffs, he's 2-7 with a 5.12 ERA in 14 games. And, oh yeah, both his two wins came in relief. In eight playoff starts, Price is 0-7 with 5.27 ERA.

These two guys have got to come through for the Red Sox if they have hopes of winning their fourth World Series title since 2004, and it needs to start Friday when Price takes the ball for Boston against Cleveland ace Corey Kluber in Game 2.

Also, maybe we should be taking the Blue Jays more seriously. They throttled the Rangers, 10-1, on Thursday, and while Marco Estrada is not a household name, he's starting to build a resume as a clutch pitcher. He tossed 8.1 innings of one-run ball for Toronto in Game 1, and he's 3-1 with a 1.95 ERA in four playoff starts over the past two seasons.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Chris Sale's loss to Philadelphia costly to his Cy Young chances

Chris Sale
In case you were wondering -- and I'm sure you are -- the White Sox are 49-70 in their last 119 games. That is not a small sample size: This team stinks, and it has stunk for a long time.

The Sox dropped their fifth consecutive game Wednesday, an 8-3 loss to the lousy Philadelphia Phillies, and they've been outscored 36-17 during this losing streak.

The South Siders (72-80) are just two losses away from clinching their fourth consecutive losing season, and they'll need to win at least four more times just to equal last year's 76-86 record. They have the schedule to do it -- Tampa Bay and Minnesota are coming to town for the last week of the season -- but it remains to be seen whether the Sox can muster enough energy to care about these final games.

This late-season misery continues to hammer home the point that the organization needs numerous changes -- in the front office, on the coaching staff and most of all on the field. We've highlighted all those things on this blog at different points during the year, and we're still waiting for some sign that team brass has noticed problems that seem so obvious to us as fans.

Maybe when the season ends ...

In any case, even ace Chris Sale caught the suck bug in Wednesday night's game. The All-Star lefty has had a good second half of the season, although his outstanding pitching has not often been rewarded in the win column.

Unfortunately, this outing against Philadelphia will not go down as one of his finer moments. He gave up six runs over four innings and hit three batters. It was ugly, and the poor performance ended his stretch of six straight outings where he pitched eight innings or more.

Sale had averaged 118 pitches per start over the stretch, so maybe the heavy workload has started to catch up with him. His velocity seemed to be down a touch last night, and he was all over the place with his slider to right-handed batters (causing the three HBPs). Fortunately, Sale only threw 72 pitches Wednesday, and there's an off day Thursday, so that lesser workload and extra day in between starts could allow him to recharge before he faces Tampa Bay on the next homestand.

This bad game lifted Sale's ERA to 3.23. He trails the other two major Cy Young award contenders in that category now. Boston's Rick Porcello is at 3.08, and Cleveland's Corey Kluber is at 3.11. While Sale's 16-9 record is fairly impressive pitching for a bad team, his odds of winning the award are not good considering he's going up against two pitchers on likely playoff teams. Kluber is 18-9 for the Indians, and Porcello is 21-4 for the Red Sox.

A lot of people like to talk about how wins are a poor measure of a starting pitcher, and I agree, but at lot of those old-school voters don't. They want to see a pitcher who wins for a good team get the Cy Young. And, hey, if Porcello gets it, who am I to say he doesn't deserve it? He's 10-2 with a 2.40 ERA the second half, and he just had an 89-pitch complete game in a critical win over Baltimore in his last outing.

I think Sale is going to settle for third in this year's Cy Young vote. There's still time, I suppose. If he is awesome in his last two starts, and Kluber and Porcello both falter like Sale did Wednesday night, things could still change. But I wouldn't bet on it.

It's hard to justify postseason awards for anyone on this White Sox team.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

White Sox settle for 3 out of 4 in Boston

Jose Abreu
The pitching matchup for Thursday's series finale between the White Sox and the Boston Red Sox did not bode well for Chicago: James Shields vs. Rick Porcello.

After all, Shields had allowed 22 runs in his first 8.2 innings as a member of the Sox, and Porcello entered Thursday's play with an 8-2 record -- including a 6-0 mark at Fenway Park.

The Sox lost, 8-7 in 10 innings, but it had nothing to do with the Shields vs. Porcello matchup. Both men turned in mediocre starts and were gone before the sixth inning was over. Frankly, this Sox loss would have been easier to take if Shields had just gotten knocked around again.

Instead, the Sox squandered two leads and blew two golden chances to score with the bases loaded in the eighth and 10th innings, and it's impossible to feel like they shouldn't have come away with a four-game series sweep.

The Sox led, 4-1, in the sixth when Shields cracked. He departed after walking David Ortiz and Ryan LaMarre consecutively to start the inning. Matt Albers provided no relief, hitting a batter and loading the bases before giving up a pair of singles. One of the singles was of the infield variety, with Brett Lawrie making an errant throw that didn't help matters.

The Sox had to use a second reliever, Dan Jennings, who extricated the team from the mess, but not before Boston had surged in front, 5-4.

Jose Abreu answered for the South Siders, clubbing a three-run homer in the top of the seventh off Junichi Tazawa to give the Sox a 7-5 lead.

That would be short-lived, as Boston scored one in the seventh off Chris Beck and another in the eighth off Nate Jones to tie it at 7.

But the real issue for the Sox here was the inability to put the game away by taking advantage of prime scoring opportunities. The South Siders loaded the bases with nobody out in the top of the eighth inning. But J.B. Shuck popped out to shallow left, Tim Anderson struck out swinging and Adam Eaton grounded out weakly to second base.

The failures kept the Sox lead at a meager one run (7-6), and Boston tied it off Jones in the bottom of the inning.

The same exact situation presented itself in the top of the 10th inning. Lawrie at third, Alex Avila at second, Avisail Garcia at first, bases loaded, no outs. Shuck popped out to shortstop. Anderson struck out swinging. Eaton struck out swinging. Once again, no runs, and a heaping pile of frustration.

In the bottom of the inning, Matt Purke lost the game. He walked two hitters and gave up a game-ending single to Xander Bogaerts.

At that point, it felt like Boston was finally putting the Sox out of their misery. They had their chances. They blew them, and Boston finally handed them the loss they deserved.

It's disappointing, because a four-game sweep of the Red Sox could have really built some momentum for the upcoming homestand against Toronto and Minnesota.

Instead, we're once again talking about an infuriating loss. We're once again talking about a sub-.500 Sox team (36-37), and we're looking at a team that is in fourth place, six games out of first.

On Monday, I think any Sox fan would have been more than happy with three out of four in Boston. From that perspective, it was a good series. But, in the bigger picture, it's still difficult to see a path to the playoffs for this deeply flawed Sox team.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

White Sox ace Chris Sale becomes first 12-game winner in majors

Chris Sale
White Sox ace Chris Sale became the major leagues' first 12-game winner Tuesday night, as he tossed seven innings of one-run ball to lift the South Siders to a 3-1 victory over the Boston Red Sox.

Sale (12-2) allowed just four hits and one walk. He equaled his season high in strikeouts with nine.

Rookie shortstop Tim Anderson staked Sale to an early lead by hitting the first pitch of the game from Boston starter Clay Buchholz over the Green Monster for his first career home run. The Sox added one more in the first inning when Adam Eaton doubled and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Melky Cabrera.

The Sox remained ahead 2-0 until the third inning when Boston scored its lone run on two singles and a sacrifice fly by Mookie Betts. The Red Sox loaded the bases after that, as Dustin Pedroia singled and Xander Bogaerts walked. But Sale escaped any further trouble by striking out Hanley Ramirez on a nasty slider.

Boston never threatened against Sale the rest of the night.

Todd Frazier connected for his 20th home run of the season in the fourth inning to put the Sox ahead 3-1 and complete the scoring. Nate Jones and David Robertson combined for two innings of shutout relief, with Robertson earning a four-out save -- his 18th of the year.

The Sox (35-36) have won two games in a row for the just the second time in June, and with the team playing in Boston, ESPN is predictably starting the rumors about how the Sox need to trade Sale to the Red Sox.

Sale is probably the best pitcher in the American League, and he is signed to a team-friendly deal through the 2019 season. His production and his contract make him one of the most valuable players in baseball. I have no doubt the Red Sox would covet him for their rotation. What team wouldn't?

But here's the thing that really pisses me off about these "trade Sale" articles: The authors always make it sound as if Sale can be had for a package of prospects who are currently toiling at Double-A or Triple-A.

I don't think so, friends.

The White Sox should not trade the best pitcher in the league unless they are getting at least one major league position player in return. The ESPN author of this Red Sox article touts the three "young, inexpensive" stars on the Boston roster -- Bogaerts, Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr

My message to "Red Sox Nation" and ESPN is this: If you want the best pitcher in the American League on your roster, it's going to cost you one of either Betts or Bradley Jr. Highly regarded prospects aren't enough.

The White Sox are not anybody's farm team, and you're not acquiring a potential Cy Young winner for nothing more than a package of ifs and maybes, because after all, prospects are nothing more than ifs and maybes. There are plenty of teams out there that could use Sale, and I'll bet you one of them will be willing to send along a player or players who are already big-league caliber.

Any club that acquires Sale is getting three and a half years of an All-Star pitcher in his prime at cost-controlled price. I'm sorry, but that's worth more than Double-A players. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Just like El Duque? Not quite but the White Sox will take it

Remember this?


I know. That's a silly question. If you're a White Sox fan, of course you remember Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez coming into a bases-loaded, no-outs jam with Sox clinging to a one-run lead in Game 3 of the 2005 ALDS.

Hernandez retired Jason Varitek, Tony Graffanino and Johnny Damon in succession without giving up the lead, and the Sox went on to win and complete the sweep of the then-defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox. Given what was at stake, Hernandez's performance that day became legendary, and is often cited by fans as being among the greatest moments during the 2005 championship run.
Zach Duke

On Monday night, current Sox reliever Zach Duke found himself in a similar predicament. He was summoned from the bullpen in the bottom of the ninth inning in a tie game. The Red Sox had the bases loaded, and there was nobody out.

OK, OK, let's not get carried away. This is June, not the ALDS, and there wasn't nearly as much on the line Monday night as there was that night in October 2005. But the venue was the same (Fenway Park in Boston), and Duke is English for "Duque," so we can draw some parallels there.

In any case, with the bags full, Duke retired Dustin Pedroia, Christian Vazquez and Ryan LaMarre in succession without giving up a single run, forcing the game to extra innings. Duke's teammates rewarded him with a win, as Jose Abreu's two-out, two-run double off Boston closer Craig Kimbrel lifted the South Siders to a 3-1 victory.

Back to the bottom of the ninth: Sox right-hander Zach Putnam walked three consecutive hitters to start the inning. Obviously, something wasn't right with Putnam, who was placed on the DL on Tuesday with an elbow injury.

Manager Robin Ventura summoned Duke into an almost impossible situation. According to FanGraphs, the Red Sox had a 93.8 percent chance of winning when Duke took the mound. Then, the Red Sox sent Dustin Pedroia to the plate as a pinch hitter. The All-Star second baseman was getting a rare day off, and came to bat with a robust .302 batting average. For his career, Pedroia has only struck out about once every 10 plate appearances, so the odds of him putting a ball in play that would win the game were high, to say the least.

But Duke did a masterful job of setting Pedroia up. He threw Pedroia a steady diet of breaking balls inside. They were far enough inside, in fact, that Pedroia could do nothing but hit them foul. On three occasions, Duke came inside with offspeed pitches. On three occasions, Pedroia hit foul balls down the left-field side.

Ahead in the count 1-2, Duke had Pedroia looking for offspeed pitches, so he wisely went with the fastball. His 1-2 heater missed, but his 2-2 heater had the plate. Pedroia, still with the thought of the inside breaking ball in his mind, swung late and swung through it. Strike three.

In retrospect, Pedroia was the biggest out of the inning.

The Red Sox's win expectancy still was at 83.6 percent as Vazquez came to the plate. But Duke used the overanxious 25-year-old's aggression against him. Duke threw five pitches in the at-bat, none of them for strikes. Vazquez swung at three of them, the last of which he chopped weakly toward the center of the diamond.

Tyler Saladino, serving as the Sox's fifth infielder, fielded it but made a lousy, one-hop throw to the plate. Catcher Alex Avila made the scoop and kept his foot on the plate to record the force at home. Two outs.

Boston's win expectancy dropped 66 percent as LaMarre came to the plate. The 27-year-old outfielder had just been recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket. It was his first at-bat in a Red Sox uniform. He was just 2 for 26 in his previous major league at-bats with Cincinnati last year, and he was overmatched by Duke.

The Sox lefty got ahead with a fastball, which LaMarre fouled off. Duke then fired three straight breaking balls down and in. None of the three were strikes. The overanxious LaMarre waved at two of them. No contact. A second strikeout for Duke, and miraculously, the Sox were out of the inning.

Abreu came through in the top of the 10th, connecting for the two-run double on a 99 mph heater from Kimbrel. Avisail Garcia and Adam Eaton scored on the hit, and the Sox broke their three-game losing streak.

Will clutch performances by Duke and Abreu finally spark the Sox out of their six-week-long malaise? I don't know, but it was a big win -- an unexpected win -- Monday night. That said, it doesn't mean much if the Sox can't back it up with another win Tuesday.

Putnam to DL; Beck recalled from Charlotte

As I indicated a few paragraphs up, Putnam is headed to the DL with ulnar neuritis in his pitching elbow.

The Sox have recalled Chris Beck from Triple-A Charlotte. The right-hander is 4-3 with a 4.47 ERA in 15 appearances (7 starts) with the Knights this season. I would not expect too much from Beck. The 25-year-old is a fringe prospect at best, and he'll probably join Matt Purke as a low-leverage pitcher out of the Sox bullpen.

The Sox saw their starting pitcher (James Shields) get knocked out in the second inning Saturday night. They played a 10-inning game Sunday. They played a 10-inning game Monday. It's fair to say the Sox relief corps is perilously thin going into Tuesday's game against the Red Sox.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Erik Johnson's stay in the White Sox rotation a short one

Erik Johnson is back in Charlotte.
Erik Johnson's audition for the fifth spot in the White Sox starting rotation did not go well Thursday night, as he suffered a 7-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox.

Johnson needed 81 pitches to get through the first three innings, and he was fortunate to get through five innings. He allowed four runs on eight hits, walking three and striking out six. He did retire seven of the last eight hitters he faced, and ended up throwing 108 pitches.

Still, he was optioned back to Triple-A Charlotte after the game.

The Sox (19-10) still have a four-game lead in the American League Central despite losing two out of three to Boston. They'll look to get back on track this weekend with a three-game set against the Minnesota Twins.

Mat Latos, Chris Sale and Jose Quintana are lined up to pitch in this series. Carlos Rodon will get the opener of a three-game series that starts Monday in Texas, but then the Sox will need a fifth starter again for Tuesday's game against the Rangers.

The guess here is Miguel Gonzalez will get his second opportunity to try to secure the spot. The right-hander allowed five runs on 11 hits in 5.1 innings against the Toronto Blue Jays on April 25, a game the Sox eventually won, 7-5.

Gonzalez most recently pitched Wednesday for Triple-A Charlotte, which would put him in line to pitch Tuesday. He's 1-0 with a 2.65 ERA in four starts for the Knights. He's thrown only 17 innings, however, as one of those four starts was cut short when he was struck with a line drive in the first inning.

In other pitching news, Sox reliever Jake Petricka has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with a hip problem. Right-hander Tommy Kahnle has taken that spot in the bullpen.

With Johnson's demotion, veteran right-hander Scott Carroll has been recalled to take a spot in the bullpen, according to a tweet by CSNChicago's Dan Hayes. The Sox bullpen has worked seven innings the past two games, and Carroll is the kind of pitcher who can provide multiple innings in relief, if necessary.

The Sox also are sending catcher Alex Avila on a rehab assignment. Avila has been on the disabled list since straining his hamstring April 23.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Ill-timed walk costly for Carlos Rodon vs. Red Sox

Carlos Rodon
We know how the national media slobbers all over Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz. No doubt, the ESPN guys were excited by the game-changing, two-run homer Ortiz hit off Carlos Rodon in the fifth inning of Wednesday's 5-2 Boston win over the White Sox.

The home run turned a 2-1 Chicago advantage into a 3-2 Boston lead. The Red Sox finished the game off from there.

But from a White Sox perspective, I'm not so concerned about the home run Ortiz hit. Rodon served up a fat fastball, and he knows it. But the real sin Rodon committed in that inning was allowing Ortiz to get to the plate in the first place.

Rodon retired the first two hitters easily in that fifth inning, but then he issued a four-pitch, two-out walk to Xander Bogaerts. That's inexcusable with Ortiz on deck. In a one-run game, you go right at Bogaerts. If he hits his way on -- and he might because he's a good hitter -- so be it. But you can't afford to just give him first base and allow Ortiz to hit with a man on. Rodon was asking for it, and Ortiz made him pay.

If Rodon retires Bogaerts, the inning is over. The 2-1 White Sox lead stays intact. Ortiz leads off the next inning, and even if he hits one to the moon, the best he can do is tie the game. That's what you want when you're playing Boston -- you want to keep yourself out of situations where Ortiz can beat you. Rodon failed to do that, and he got beat.

Just overall, Rodon needs to work on limiting his walks. He's averaging 3.8 walks per nine innings through his first six starts this year. He's issued a team-high 14 walks in 33 innings, and his 1.394 WHIP is too high for a pitcher with his talent. The Sox are 2-4 in Rodon's starts. He'll start winning games when he stops giving away so many free bases to the opponent.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Chris Sale closing in on White Sox franchise record for strikeouts

With the White Sox languishing at 59-66 in late August, it can be hard to manufacture much enthusiasm for the remaining 37 games of the season.

That said, Chris Sale's starts should remain appointment TV for Sox fans. Sale got the shaft from his teammates (again) Wednesday night, receiving a no-decision after firing seven shutout innings in Chicago's 3-0 loss to the Boston Red Sox.

Sale struck out seven Boston hitters Wednesday to increase his season total to a personal-best 229. (He struck out 226 during the 2013 season.) Why does that matter, you ask? Well, Sale is closing in a club record that has stood for more than a century.

Hall-of-Famer Ed Walsh holds the Sox record for strikeouts in a single season. He fanned 269 hitters in 1908; that's 107 years ago. Sale's 229 strikeouts this year stand as a modern-era record, and he needs just 41 more to set a new all-time franchise mark.

We'll assume the Sox will not push Sale too hard in September with the team out of the race, but it's reasonable to believe the ace left-hander will start about six of the remaining 37 games. Sale is averaging just more than nine strikeouts per start this season, so if he continues that pace for six more starts, he would end up with about 283 strikeouts. Walsh's record would fall.

As Sox fans, we have no hope of any team glory this year, so use the rest of this season to appreciate the individual greatness of Sale. This is a team record that nobody has come close to touching in our lifetimes. It's possible, maybe even likely, that it will be broken sometime in the next six weeks.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Trayce Thompson: The right-handed platoon bat the Sox have been looking for?

It's no secret the White Sox are not a good hitting team, but their offensive woes are particularly acute against left-handed pitching. Here are the Sox's team hitting splits:

White Sox vs. RHP: .255/.310/.394
White Sox vs. LHP: .240/.292/.344

The team batting average and on-base percentages take a dip against left-handers, and there's a significant drop-off in slugging percentage. The Sox could use a hitter or two who hit lefties well, and right now the hope is rookie outfielder Trayce Thompson becomes one of those guys.

Thompson went 3 for 4 and finished a home run short of the cycle Tuesday against Boston lefty Wade Miley, leading the Sox to a 5-4 win over the Red Sox. Thompson's two-run double in the bottom of the seventh inning provided the winning margin.

With that performance, Thompson is hitting .522/.560/.957 in 11 games (6 starts) since he was called up. We know, of course, he will never keep up that pace, but his performance thus far against left-handed pitching is worth noting: He's 10 for 17 with two home runs and five RBIs.

It shouldn't be hard for Thompson to keep his roster spot and serve in a platoon role if he can produce above-average numbers against lefty starters.

The Sox lineup is full of guys who struggle against lefties:

Adam LaRoche vs. LHP: .163/.198/.325

Carlos Sanchez vs. LHP: .179/.225/.269

Adam Eaton vs. LHP: .227/.271/.295

Melky Cabrera vs. LHP: .230/.258/.333

Jose Abreu vs. LHP: .240/.307/.375

Even Abreu, the Sox's best hitter, is a mere mortal when he sees a left-handed pitcher. Thompson is a nice luxury for manager Robin Ventura to have, because now he can sit LaRoche on days when the opposition throws a left-handed starter. Thompson can handle any of the three spots in the outfield defensively, so Ventura has his pick of DH'ing Cabrera, Eaton or Avisail Garcia on the days Thompson plays.

We don't know yet how "real" this early hot surge from Thompson is, but it sure is refreshing to see the Sox farm system send a potentially useful position player to the major leagues.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Oakland, Detroit, St. Louis biggest winners at trade deadline

If there's one thing we learned at the MLB trading deadline, it's that GMs believe front-line starting pitching wins in the playoffs. On Thursday, we saw three contenders make bold moves to solidify their respective starting rotations for the stretch drive.

Oakland, Detroit and St. Louis were each willing to include established major-leaguers in trades in order to acquire the front-line starters they coveted. All three of those teams now have a better chance to get to the World Series and win it than they did just 24 hours ago.

Thursday's frenzy started with a blockbuster deal between Oakland and Boston. The Red Sox sent ace pitcher Jon Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes to the A's in exchange for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.

My initial reaction to this move was shock. How often do you see the cleanup hitter on the team with the best record in baseball (Cespedes) moved at the trading deadline? But the more I thought about this deal, the more I liked it for Oakland.

Cespedes is a big media name and a dangerous hitter, but he's not a great hitter, as his so-so .256/.303/.464 slash line will attest. From the seventh inning on, Cespedes has a slash line of .191/.236/.330 this year. This tells us there are plenty of ways to get him out with the game on the line. Opposing managers can bring in that power right-handed reliever to shut down Cespedes in the late innings. You don't have to fear him. You can pitch to him.

No doubt Oakland GM Billy Beane knows this, and that's why he was willing to part with Cespedes -- especially when the return is a legitimate ace with tons of postseason experience in Lester, who possesses a lifetime 2.11 ERA in the playoffs. During the Red Sox' run to the championship last year, Lester went 4-1 with 1.56 ERA in five starts. His only loss was a 1-0 defeat.

Lester is a money pitcher, and the A's are October ready with him, Jeff Samardzija, Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir in their rotation.

Beane's big move put the pressure on Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski to respond. Respond he did, acquiring Tampa Bay ace David Price just minutes before the trading deadline.

The Tigers paid a price, though, in the three-team swap. The deal cost them two players off their 25-man roster. Center fielder Austin Jackson is now a member of the Seattle Mariners. Left-handed starting pitcher Drew Smyly is now with Tampa Bay.

In a bizarre scene Thursday, the game between the Tigers and the White Sox had to be halted mid-inning so Jackson could be removed from center field at 3:56 p.m. EDT -- four minutes before the deadline.

Jackson is an inconsistent hitter, but make no mistake, the Tigers will not be able to replace his defense in center field. Who is going to play center field in Detroit now? Rajai Davis? Will they ask Torii Hunter to turn back the hands of time and move from right field to center? I don't know.

Maybe the Tigers are hoping fewer balls get hit into the outfield with the addition of Price.

There's no denying Detroit has a monster rotation now: Max Scherzer, Price, Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez. The first three on that list are former Cy Young award winners. Think they may be tough to beat in a short series?

Yeah, even with the hole in center field, I think so.

Meanwhile, the St. Louis Cardinals made the boldest move among National League teams. On Wednesday, they added Justin Masterson to their rotation. They followed that up Thursday by acquiring John Lackey from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for pitcher Joe Kelly and outfielder Allen Craig.

I like this trade for the Cardinals. Lackey has some age on him -- he's 35 -- but he's another guy who shines on the postseason stage (3.03 career ERA in 19 games). St. Louis knows that well, since Lackey shut the Cardinals down in the clinching game of the World Series last October.

Craig and his .237/.291/.346 slash line will not be missed in St. Louis, especially since his departure creates an opportunity for top prospect Oscar Taveras to play every day in the outfield.

Injuries have limited Kelly to seven starts this year. I suspect his 4.37 ERA and 1.457 WHIP also will not be missed in St. Louis.

Even if the Cardinals don't get Michael Wacha back, they have a front four of Adam Wainwright, Lackey, Masterson and Lance Lynn in their rotation. I don't think it makes them the favorite in the National League, but they would at least have a fighting chance in a short series against Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Their chances are certainly better now than they were before these deals.

There were several other deadline deals made on Thursday. We won't analyze all of them. This blog is already long enough. You can find a list of other trades here.

We'll wrap it up by saying Oakland, Detroit and St. Louis were the biggest winners at the deadline. Who will be the biggest winner on the field? We'll find out between now and late October.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Cardinals deal for Justin Masterson; Cubs add Felix Doubront

The day before the trading deadline proved calm Wednesday, with only two deals being made -- and only one affects the pennant race.

The St. Louis Cardinals acquired pitcher Justin Masterson from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Double-A outfielder James Ramsey.

It's been a tough year for Masterson, who will be a free agent at the end of the season. He began the year as Cleveland's ace, but he has slumped to a 4-6 record with a 5.51 ERA in 19 starts. He is on the disabled list with right knee inflammation, but the Cardinals expect to activate him for a start Saturday against the NL Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers.

It's not surprising to see St. Louis move to upgrade its rotation, which is iffy once you get past Adam Wainwright.

Michael Wacha, who was the Cardinals' No. 2 starter in the postseason last year, is on the 60-day disabled list with a shoulder problem. Joe Kelly recently came back from an injury, and Shelby Miller is talented, but inconsistent. Lance Lynn is respectable as a middle-of-the-rotation arm, but he's probably not the guy you would want starting Game 2 of a playoff series.

With Wacha on the shelf, the Cardinals don't have that second guy they can count on and pair with Wainwright. St. Louis has the prospects necessary to acquire another ace, such as Jon Lester or David Price, but perhaps they've decided the asking price is too high.

Instead, they are hoping Masterson can get healthy and regain his 2013 form, when he went 14-10 for the Tribe with a 3.45 ERA, 195 strikeouts in 193 innings and a league-high three shutouts.

He's capable of being a No. 2 guy on a contender, if the injury issues are past.

Cubs acquire Doubront from Boston

In a move of lesser consequence, the Cubs on Wednesday acquired struggling left-hander Felix Doubront from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for a player to be named later.

Last week on MLB Network Radio, I heard Jim Bowden mention that Doubront had asked the Red Sox to either move him into the starting rotation or trade him.

The Red Sox elected to trade him.

Doubront won 11 games in each of the previous two seasons, but this year he was 2-4 with 6.07 ERA in 17 games (10 starts). A pitcher with an ERA over 6 is in no position to be telling team brass what his role should be. Doubront is lucky the Boston front office sent him to Chicago, and not to Triple-A.

Obviously, Doubront wants to start, and he might get that opportunity with his new team. The rebuilding Cubs have little to lose by giving him 10 starts or so between now and the end of the season.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Red Sox designate A.J. Pierzynski for assignment

The Boston Red Sox on Wednesday designated former White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski for assignment.

Pierzynski, 37, has posted a .254/.286/.348 slash line with four home runs and 31 RBIs in 72 games with Boston this season. He's been slumping as of late (.194 since June 1), and with the Red Sox reeling in last place with a 39-51 record, it's not surprising they are looking to change directions. Pierzynski is being moved along so Boston can spend the rest of 2014 taking a look at 23-year-old catching prospect Christian Vazquez.

I know news of this move will immediately cause some White Sox fans to call for the team to bring Pierzynski back for one last hurrah on the South Side. He and Paul Konerko could retire together, they'll say.

I'll say this much: There is no denying the Sox have a hole at catcher. Tyler Flowers has backed up his .129/.187/.214 June with a .000/.050/.000 start to July. Last year, management excused Flowers' poor hitting because he was playing with a right shoulder injury that required surgery. I don't think there is any excuse this time. Flowers is simply a lousy hitter and nothing more than a backup catcher -- at best. It's time to move on from him as a starting player.

However, that does not mean the Sox should turn to Pierzynski. Nostalgia is fine for fans and media, but front office people need to look forward. The Sox need to find a long-term solution at catcher. With each swing and a miss, Flowers is proving once and for all he is not that guy. However, Pierzynski is not that guy at age 37 either. The Sox would be wasting his time and their own time by bringing him back.

I'm on board with the Sox making a change at catcher, but for me, that change is more playing time for 24-year-old Adrian Nieto. Is Nieto the catcher of the future? I don't know. I say, let's see more of him behind the plate and get some answers.

So far this year, Flowers has appeared in 75 of the Sox' first 91 games, while Nieto has appeared in just 30. It's time to even that playing time out a little bit. If the Sox were to bring Pierzynski aboard, he would just be in the way of what I hope is more playing time for Nieto the second half of the season.