Showing posts with label Chris Davis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chris Davis. Show all posts

Friday, April 29, 2016

John Danks torpedoes another White Sox winning streak

John Danks is 0-4 in four starts.
From April 9 to 15, the White Sox won five games in a row. John Danks put a stop to that by getting shelled in Tampa Bay on April 16.

The Sox won six games in a row this week. Danks put a stop to that Thursday by getting shelled in Baltimore.

The veteran left-hander was staked to an early 2-0 lead on Todd Frazier's first-inning home run, but it was all downhill from there as the Orioles clobbered the South Siders, 10-2.

Danks lasted five-plus innings, allowing six runs on nine hits. He struck out four and walked two, one of which was a four-pitch free pass to Baltimore's No. 9 hitter, Caleb Joseph, in the third inning. That walk started a four-run Orioles rally that featured back-to-back home runs by Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo. By the time the fourth inning rolled around, the Sox were facing a 5-2 deficit.

Baltimore broke it open with five in the sixth. Jake Petricka, providing no relief, gave up a grand slam to Manny Machado, but realistically, the game was lost early when Danks let it get away from him.

The Sox are 16-7 through 23 games, but Danks is 0-4. His ERA has swelled to 7.25. His WHIP sits at an unsightly 1.746.

Danks' woes have created the first crisis for the Sox in this 2016 season. As we've stated before, we can't attribute this slow start to a small sample size, because Danks finished last year on a struggling note. If you combine his final 10 starts of 2015 with his first four starts of this year, you come up with an ugly 1-11 record and a 5.13 ERA.

"It's been a pretty miserable April," Danks said in this article. "I'm just not throwing enough strikes, just not throwing enough quality strikes. There's been games where I can full on eliminate a pitch, because it doesn't have a chance."

If you can believe it, Danks' velocity is down from last year. His average fastball velocity is 87.90 mph through four starts this season. That's only six miles an hour quicker than his changeup, which sits at 81.16 on average. They say you want an average variance of 9 to 11 mph between those two pitches, so Danks' reduced velocity is really killing him. It's hard to tell the difference between the fastball and the change. To the hitters' eye, it all looks the same. Danks is easy pickings for a hard-hitting team such as the Orioles right now.

By way of comparison, his fastball velocity in 2015 averaged 89.86. Danks had 15 starts, most of them toward the end of last year, where his fastball averaged 90 mph. If he touches 90 with his four-seamer, that's at least enough to give him a fighting chance with the 81 mph changeup. Right now, those lost three ticks on his fastball have put him in a situation where he needs to be pinpoint with his command, and he has been anything but pinpoint.

The Sox have to be thinking about making a change at the back of the rotation at this point. We've already seen Miguel Gonzalez come up for a spot start. Other viable options from Triple-A Charlotte include Erik Johnson and Jacob Turner.

General manager Rick Hahn has addressed several problems on this team since the end of last season -- a new third baseman, a new catching duo, a new second baseman, a new shortstop, an upgraded outfield defense. The Sox have the look of a contender, and they've come too far to show too much patience with Danks.

I'd be inclined to make a change now, but at most Danks should get no more than two more starts to pull himself together. It's hard to sustain winning streaks when you've got one starting pitcher who is putting you in a three-, four-, or five-run hole in the early innings more often than not.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Orioles add Pedro Alvarez to a lineup that already has a DH

Pedro Alvarez
Former Pittsburgh Pirates 1B/3B Pedro Alvarez agreed Monday to a one-year, $5.75 million contract with the Baltimore Orioles.

Alvarez was No. 2 on our list of top 5 remaining free agents going into March (posted earlier this week), and he figures to add power to an already-potent Baltimore lineup. Alvarez has clubbed 101 home runs over the past four seasons. Last year, he hit .243/.318/.469 with 27 home runs and 77 RBIs in 150 games with the Pirates. He also struck out 131 times.

Pittsburgh, being a National League team, most likely parted ways with Alvarez because he is a defensive liability at both first base and third base. The Orioles have Chris Davis at first base and Manny Machado at third base, which means they can have Alvarez serve as designated hitter and hide his deficiencies with the glove.

There's just one problem with that: Where does that leave Mark Trumbo? I would have projected Trumbo as Baltimore's DH before this Alvarez move. Now, Trumbo is probably going to play right field, where he's just as big of a defensive problem as Alvarez would be at first base.

I wonder if the Orioles will try Davis in right field and have Trumbo play first. I'm not sure that's any better, but I won't be surprised if Baltimore manager Buck Showalter at least experiments with that defensive look during spring ball.

Baltimore is going to score some runs this season. Adam Jones, Davis, Machado, Trumbo, Alvarez, Matt Wieters, J.J. Hardy; they have a deep lineup with plenty of guys who can hit the ball off the wall and over it.

I question whether the Orioles have enough starting pitching to contend in the AL East. With a projected rotation of Chris Tillman, Ubaldo Jimenez, Yovani Gallardo, Miguel Gonzalez and Kevin Gausman, there isn't an ace in that group -- unless the 25-year-old Gausman, a former first-round draft pick, takes a giant leap forward.

I think Baltimore is going to need to play good defense behind that questionable rotation, but it looks to me like there are too many weak gloves in its projected lineup. That's going to drive Showalter crazy, as he is known as a manager who values good defense.

If the Orioles are to be a playoff team in 2016, they are going to have to outslug the opposition on most nights.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Tigers gamble on Justin Upton reversing their decline

Justin Upton
Both Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton are better players than Chris Davis. So, after Davis got paid by the Baltimore Orioles over the weekend, you just had a feeling that Cespedes and Upton would soon get their big paydays, as well.

Cespedes still is on the board as of Tuesday afternoon, but Upton agreed on a six-year, $132.75 million contract with the Detroit Tigers on Monday.

Upton hit .251 with 26 home runs and 81 RBIs for the San Diego Padres last season, and he fills the hole the Tigers had in left field.

But does he make Detroit a legitimate contender? I knew the Tigers would make big splashes this offseason. They are coming off a last-place finish in the AL Central, and their owner, 86-year-old Mike Ilitch, has shown that he's willing to spend his millions on trying to build a winner sometime before he dies.

Here's one problem for the Tigers: Several members of their core (Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez) are aging and coming off years where they've spent time on the disabled list, or played through injury issues.

Here's another problem for the Tigers: Despite an active offseason, they won't be entering 2016 with a better roster than the one they had 12 months ago.

Think about it: They have Jordan Zimmermann instead of David Price. They have Upton instead of Cespedes. They have Cameron Maybin instead of Rajai Davis. They have Francisco Rodriguez instead of Joakim Soria. The rest of their core is the same.

Which of these four would you rather have: Price, Cespedes, Davis and Soria? Or Zimmermann, Upton, Maybin and Rodriguez?

It's close, but I think I would take the group with Price and Cespedes. The Tigers had those guys last year, along with Cabrera, Martinez, Verlander, et al., but after an 11-2 start, they slumped badly. They were back to .500 by the first week of June and never got it going again. They struggled so much, in fact, that former GM Dave Dombrowski broke up the band, dealing Price, Cespedes and Soria to contending teams at the July trading deadline.

Dombrowski was ultimately fired for abandoning the win-now mentality that has existed for years under Ilitch. Normally, I'm a proponent of the win-now philosophy, but there's something to be said for a front office that realizes its window has closed. Dombrowski knew that last year, and he changed gears. Just because ownership dismissed him for that decision does not mean he was wrong.

Even with the addition of Upton, I'm looking at a Detroit roster that has significant question marks, and costs roughly $200 million. For that kind of money, a team should probably be a favorite to win its division. But to me, the Tigers (and everyone else in the AL Central) are still looking up at the Kansas City Royals, and frankly, they aren't as close to the top as they believe they are.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Chris Davis gets big bucks from Orioles; Ian Kennedy to Royals

Chris Davis
It pays to be a left-handed slugger. It also pays to have Scott Boras as your agent.

The Baltimore Orioles on Saturday agreed with first baseman Chris Davis on a seven-year, $161 million contract. The deal reportedly includes a limited no-trade clause.

I'm shocked Davis got this kind of money, especially in what has been a cool market for free-agent hitters. Sure, Davis hit a league-leading 47 home runs last year and amassed 117 RBIs, but he's also just two years removed from a 2014 season where he hit just .196 and got suspended for using performance-enhancing drugs.

Also, if you look at the 29-year-old's career, he only had two good years in his 20s -- 2013 and 2015. What in the world makes the Orioles believes Davis will be productive for seven years into his 30s? 

It will not happen, and you have to wonder whether Boras got Baltimore to bid against itself in this deal.

This signing could be good news or bad news if you're a White Sox fan, depending on your perspective. First the good news: the Orioles won't be signing Yoenis Cespedes now. As recently as Friday, we heard reports that Baltimore was offering the free-agent outfielder a five-year deal worth $90 million -- an offer the Sox would be unlikely to match or beat. But now that the Orioles have made their move to sign a hitter, that's one less potential landing spot in play for Cespedes or Justin Upton.

Now for the bad news: If Davis is worth seven years and $161 million, then aren't both Cespedes and Upton now in position to demand at least that much money and years, if not more? If that's what the market will bear, then the Sox aren't going to pay. And I'm not sure they should, frankly.

Kansas City signs RHP Kennedy

Speaking of questionable contracts, how about the Royals giving $70 million over five years to Ian Kennedy?

Kennedy was great in 2011 with the Arizona Diamondbacks, but he's never been able to duplicate that success:

2011: 21-4, 2.88 ERA
2012: 15-12, 4.02 ERA
2013: 7-10, 4.91 ERA
2014: 13-13, 3.63 ERA
2015: 9-15, 4.28 ERA

Kennedy's 4.28 ERA last year came with pitcher-friendly San Diego as his home ballpark, so that doesn't bode well for a smooth transition to the American League.

In fairness, there are a few things that might make this OK for the Royals. First, their outfield defense is much better than San Diego's, and that should benefit a fly-ball pitcher such as Kennedy. Secondly, Kennedy has previously worked with pitching coach Dave Eiland; both were in the New York Yankees system when Kennedy was a young prospect.

Third, the Royals looked similarly foolish when they signed Edinson Volquez, who like Kennedy had his fair share of struggles in the National League. As it turns out, Volquez has turned his career around in Kansas City and been solid under Eiland's tutelage.

Kansas City is obviously banking on a similar improvement from Kennedy.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

White Sox vs. Orioles -- no fans allowed; I watched it on TV

I had a chance to watch Wednesday's game between the White Sox and Baltimore Orioles on TV, and as expected, it was a little weird to be watching a game where no fans were in attendance.

The ballpark was closed to the public because of the recent rioting in Baltimore, so nobody saw the Orioles thump the Sox, 8-2, in person except for some scouts and assorted members of the media.

I have to say the game felt extremely odd for the first three or four innings, but after that I got used to it.

For at least the past 30 years, I've been listening to White Sox announcer Ken Harrelson say "Souvenir, right side" every single time a right-handed hitter hits a foul ball over the first-base dugout. Sox first baseman Jose Abreu hit just such a ball in the top of the first inning Wednesday, and Harrelson caught himself in mid-sentence, realizing that foul ball would not be a "souvenir" for anybody on the "right side," because there were no fans in the park. Harrelson instead said, ".... And ... that's a foul ball into the upper deck." For one afternoon, he was forced to drop one of his familiar catchphrases.

A fielding error by Abreu opened the door for the Orioles to have a big inning in the bottom of the first, and have a big inning they did. Baltimore scored six runs off Sox starter Jeff Samardzija to put the game out of reach early, and it was quite bizarre to hear no cheers coming from the crowd while the hometown Orioles were playing well.

Chris Davis launched a 3-run homer well over the right-field fence during that six-run rally. It was the kind of shot that always draws a reaction from the crowd, even if it's hit by a member of the visiting team, but in this case all you heard was the crack of the bat and then silence. It was eerie in a way.

Later, Baltimore center fielder Adam Jones made a fine running catch on a drive off the bat of Sox catcher Geovany Soto. Again, the cheers were conspicuous by their absence.

The Orioles enjoyed an 8-2 lead by the time the fifth inning concluded, and with the outcome no longer in doubt, I felt like hitters from both sides started giving away at-bats over the final four innings. I saw a lot of first-pitch swings and a lot of quick outs. The game was played in just one hour, 58 minutes. It seemed like the players were eager for the whole ordeal to be over, and I can hardly blame them for that.

As I watched the late innings, the game started to feel like your usual run-of-the-mill blowout, the kind where the crowd leaves early to beat traffic. There was nothing notable happening in the game, so the lack of cheers, boos or otherwise was less significant.

Any in case, I've never watched a game like this before, because there never has been a game like this before. Hopefully, nothing like this ever happens again. No one wants to see any city burn like Baltimore has the past couple days, and you hope Major League Baseball never has to take safety precautions like this again.

This was a one-of-a-kind game. As far as I'm concerned, it can stay that way.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Buck Showalter, Matt Williams named Managers of the Year

So, Ned Yost guided the long-suffering Kansas City Royals to the World Series this year, but he still didn't win American League Manager of the Year.

Instead, that honor went to Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter. Can you tell the voting was done after the conclusion of the regular season, but before the playoffs?

Based upon the regular season, Showalter deserved the award. His Orioles won 96 games, an 11-game improvement over 2013, and captured the AL East title. Until Baltimore got swept in the ALCS by the Royals, it had not lost four consecutive games since May, nor had it dropped consecutive home games since June 28-29.

Avoiding long losing streaks is a good way to win a division, and that kind of consistency always reflects well on a manager. In addition, the Orioles were without catcher Matt Wieters and third baseman Manny Machado for long stretches of the season, and first baseman Chris Davis was a combination of bad and suspended throughout the year. Baltimore overcame all that and won its division going away.

Showalter was rewarded by receiving 25 of the 30 first-place votes on the Manager of the Year ballot. He finished with 132 points, ahead of Mike Scioscia of the Los Angeles Angels, who had four first-place votes and 61 points. Yost finished third with 41 points.

On the National League side, Matt Williams of the Washington Nationals joined Houston's Hal Lanier (1986), San Francisco's Dusty Baker (1993) and Florida's Joe Girardi (2006) as the only men to win Manager of the Year in their first seasons as a major league manager.

I thought Williams inexperience showed in a four-game NLDS loss to the eventual World Series champion San Francisco Giants. Some of his pitching moves didn't make much sense to me, but again, this award is based upon the regular season.

You'd have to say Williams did as good a job as any NL manager during the regular season. He guided the Nationals to a league-best 96 wins, and his club destroyed the NL East, winning the division by 17 games.

Williams received 18 first-place votes and totaled 109 points in the balloting. Pittsburgh's Clint Hurdle, the 2013 NL winner, garnered eight first-place votes and finished second with 80 points. San Francisco's Bruce Bochy was third, collecting three first-place votes and 30 points. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

White Sox designate Scott Downs for assignment; Eric Surkamp called up

The White Sox on Thursday designated left-handed relief pitcher Scott Downs for assignment.

Downs, 38, was 0-2 with a 6.08 ERA in 38 appearances this season. Downs was working on a one-year, $4 million contract, with an option for 2015. The Sox will eat about $2 million as a result of this decision, but this is the right move to make -- especially since the $4.25 million option for next year would have vested had Downs reached 55 appearances.

Apparently, the walk Downs issued to Chris Davis in the middle of Wednesday night's eighth-inning meltdown was the final straw in what has been a string of poor performances by the washed-up lefty.

Whenever a player gets designated, it's never about one single game. Downs has been bad all season, and the Sox letting him go only reinforces the point I made after last night's loss -- why do managers feel the need to bring a left-hander into the game just because a left-handed hitter is at the plate? In particular, why bring a left-hander who has pitched so poorly that he's on the verge of release into a high-leverage situation? How is that fair to the team?

No one should be surprised that Downs failed. He's failed all year, and now he can go fail somewhere else. 

Left-hander Eric Surkamp has been called up to take Downs' place on the 25-man roster. Surkamp, 26, was picked up on waivers from the San Francisco Giants in December. He was once a top prospect in the San Francisco system, before Tommy John surgery stalled his career.

In 14 games (11 starts) at Triple-A Charlotte this season, Surkamp is 3-4 with a 4.54 ERA. Those numbers might not impress, but he's been trending the right way recently. He was named the Triple-A International League Pitcher of the Week for June 16-22. He owns a 2.63 ERA over his last four starts, with 31 Ks in 24 IP.

Surkamp has posted some good peripheral numbers in the minors. He has struck out more than one batter per inning -- 84 Ks in 73.1 IP. He has walked only 17 and given up just eight home runs -- about one every nine innings -- this year. He's been throwing strikes, missing some bats and generally keeping the ball in the park. We'll see if he can make these numbers translate to the big-league level.

The left-hander has a plus curveball, which is the reason for the high strikeout total. His fastball sits in the high 80s, so he's not going to overpower anybody with that pitch. The key for Surkamp will be locating his fastball well enough to keep big-league hitters from hurting him. Then, if he's ahead in the count, he can use his breaking ball as an out pitch.

The standard isn't real high here. All he has to do is be better than Downs, and in a rebuilding season, the Sox have nothing to lose by seeing what Surkamp has to offer. 

Robin Ventura's strict adherence to lefty-righty matchups costs White Sox in Baltimore

Anyone who has ever watched a game with me knows my biggest pet peeve in baseball is walks. I hate pitchers who walk people. I hate giving hitters a free 90 feet. Just throw the damn ball over the plate, will you?

But, a close second on that list of pet peeves is the way modern-day managers adhere strictly to lefty-righty matchups at all times. Robin Ventura's belief in lefty-righty matchups played a significant role in the White Sox' 5-4 extra-inning loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday night. Ventura is hardly the only manager in baseball guilty of this sin -- all of them do it these days -- but the bottom of the eighth inning of Wednesday's game is a good case study in why this lefty-righty stuff drives me absolutely bananas.

The Sox were leading 4-0 going into the fateful eighth inning. Starting pitcher Hector Noesi had been sailing along until that point, but he gave up back-to-back singles to start the frame. With runners on first and second, the middle of the lineup was due for Baltimore. Ventura likely didn't want Noesi to face Steve Pearce, Adam Jones or Chris Davis for a fourth time, so he correctly went to the bullpen and brought in reliever Zach Putnam.

Putnam did a fine job. He retired Pearce and Jones on fly balls to center field, and his stuff looked good. The runners were still planted at first and second with two outs, and Putnam looked poised to work out of the jam and keep the Sox ahead by four runs.

Alas, Davis is a left-handed hitter, and by golly, we can't leave the right-handed Putnam in to face a left-handed hitter, can we? No. That would be dangerous. So, Ventura summoned his washed-up lefty reliever, Scott Downs, who by the way failed to retire Davis when he faced him on Tuesday night.

The Sox are lucky Downs didn't give up a three-run homer to Davis during the course of the at-bat. He hung Davis two breaking balls. Fortunately enough, Davis fouled off both of them. Eventually, Downs walked Davis to load the bases (did I mention I hate walks?), which brought Nelson Cruz to the plate.

Cruz, a strong right-handed hitter, ranks second in the American League in home runs. You can't leave Downs in to face him, so Ventura had no choice but to go to the bullpen once more. He summoned Javy Guerra, which is probably as good a call as he could have made under the circumstances, but I trust Putnam more than Guerra. It would have been nice to have Putnam on the mound in that high-leverage spot, but he had already been relieved of his duties.

Guerra fell behind in the count and eventually served up a game-tying grand slam to Cruz. Baltimore went on to win the game in 12 innings.

I firmly believe that if Putnam had been allowed to face Davis, he would have retired him, and the Sox would have taken a four-run lead into the ninth. More than likely, the outcome of the game would have been different.

Why do managers insist on removing an effective right-handed pitcher from the game just because a left-handed hitter is at the plate? Why do managers feel they need to burn through three or four relievers in the seventh or eighth inning? To me, if you bring in enough relievers, eventually you are going to stumble on a guy who doesn't have his stuff.

Putnam had his stuff. What excuse is there for not sticking with him? There is none.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Ronald Belisario's cold streak coincides with his promotion to closer

Remember back on June 12 when the White Sox were only 2.5 games out of the AL Central lead? Some were talking about this team potentially making a surprise run at the division title. Yeah, that was fun while it lasted. Since then, the bottom has fallen out.

The South Siders have now dropped nine out of 11 and have fallen a season-worst seven games (35-42) below .500. They trail the Detroit Tigers by 7.5 games in the division, and they have lost five consecutive games after Monday's 6-4 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.

This latest defeat should not have happened. Ace Chris Sale was in line for the win after allowing just two runs over six innings. He pitched out of a pair of bases-loaded jams to give the Sox a chance at victory. Jose Abreu hit his 22nd home run of the season and drove in three runs, and things were looking good with the Sox up 4-2 in the eighth inning.

Then, the wheels came off. The Orioles got a solo home run from catcher Caleb Joseph off Zach Putnam to tighten the score to 4-3 heading to the ninth. Sox "closer" Ronald Belisario then presided over a spectacular meltdown.

After jumping ahead of Steve Pearce 1-2 in the count, Belisario served up a fat pitch that Pearce hit for a leadoff single. Adam Jones was next hit by a pitch to move the tying run into scoring position and put the winning run on base with nobody out. After Nelson Cruz struck out, Belisario hung a 3-2 slider to Chris Davis, who hit a three-run home run to lift the Orioles to a come-from-behind win.

It's pretty hard to miss the fact that Belisario has been awful since being named closer following an injury to Matt Lindstrom on May 20. Since that date, Belisario has appeared in 13 games, going 7 for 10 in save opportunities. He's allowed 11 earned runs in 11 innings pitched during that stretch. That's easy math: a brutal 9.00 ERA.

Thing is, you can't fault Sox manager Robin Ventura for going to Belisario, because he was the hot hand at the time of Lindstrom's injury. Prior to May 20. Belisario had gone 12 consecutive appearances without surrendering an earned run.

But as soon as he was named closer, Belisario's effectiveness disappeared. Coincidence? I don't believe so. I think Belisario is one of those guys who is just more comfortable pitching the seventh or eighth inning. That's what he's done for most of his career, and he doesn't seem able to handle the responsibility of pitching in the ninth inning.

The closing situation has not gone well for the Sox this year. Lindstrom and Nate Jones, the two top candidates for the job coming into the season, are both on the disabled list. Daniel Webb was mentioned as a potential candidate by pitching coach Don Cooper in the spring, but he has been too wild (25 walks in 35.1 IP) to be trusted in any high-leverage situation - let alone closing.

Belisario is essentially the Sox' fourth option as a closer. It looks like they'll have to find a fifth option, because Belisario is not getting it done.

Friday, November 15, 2013

No surprise: Miguel Cabrera and Andrew McCutchen win MVPs

I don't have any brilliant analysis to offer about this year's MVP awards, but since we've been talking about postseason honors on this blog this week, I should probably note that Detroit third baseman Miguel Cabrera and Pittsburgh center fielder Andrew McCutchen have been named the MVPs of their respective leagues.

Neither vote was a surprise. Cabrera led the American League in batting average (.348), on-base percentage (.442) and slugging percentage (.636). He ranked second in home runs (44) and RBIs (137) behind Chris Davis of Baltimore.

Cabrera got 23 of the 30 first-place votes and finished comfortably ahead of Los Angeles outfielder Mike Trout. Davis took third in the balloting.

McCutchen won in a landslide, picking up 28 of the first-place votes in the National League. He batted .317 with 21 home runs, 84 RBIs and 27 stolen bases. He also played an excellent center field in leading Pittsburgh to its first winning season and first playoff appearance since 1992.

Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt finished second, while St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina took third.