Showing posts with label Cleveland Indians. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cleveland Indians. Show all posts

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.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

White Sox will open 2017 season at home vs. Detroit

Jose Quintana
Hey, the White Sox finally won two in a row against Cleveland for the first time this year!

The Sox used a seven-run sixth inning and strong pitching from Jose Quintana to beat the Tribe, 8-1, on Tuesday night, but let's face it: It's far too little and far too late.

Let's instead talk about the next meaningful game the Sox will play, which will be the 2017 home opener against the Detroit Tigers on April 3, 2017.

MLB released its 2017 schedule Wednesday, and we now know the Sox will begin with a six-game homestand against division rivals Detroit and Minnesota. Interleague opponents for 2017 will include the Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants and Arizona Dodgers.

You can view the whole schedule by clicking here.

With the Sox sitting at 70-74 with less than three weeks left in the season, who among us wouldn't want to look forward to a fresh start next year?

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

White Sox score in every inning for first time since 1949

Carlos Carrasco
The White Sox offense was shut out on two hits Sunday against Kansas City, so naturally, they came back Monday and pounded out 16 hits and scored in every inning during an 11-4 victory over the first-place Cleveland Indians.

It was only the 20th time in major league history that a team scored at least one run in every inning -- and the second time the Sox have done that -- the other time was May 11, 1949, during a 12-8 victory over the Boston Red Sox.

I talk a lot about AL Central players who own the White Sox, so in fairness, let's note that the South Siders own Cleveland right-hander Carlos Carrasco.

Carrasco (11-8) lasted only 3.2 innings Monday night, allowing five runs (four earned) on eight hits. His lifetime record against Chicago falls to 3-9 with a 5.63 ERA in 17 games (16 starts). His career ERA at U.S. Cellular Field spikes to 6.50.

Avisail Garcia's leadoff homer in the bottom of the fourth inning gave the Sox the lead for good. The right fielder finished 4 for 5 with three runs scored. Adam Eaton and Todd Frazier also homered as part of the onslaught. Jose Abreu went 2 for 4 and increased his team-leading RBI total to 92. He still has a chance for a third consecutive 100-RBI season.

Miguel Gonzalez (4-6) recovered from a three-run second inning to earn his second straight victory since returning from the disabled list. He went 6.2 innings and allowed nothing more after the Indians got him for three early runs. The right-hander is now 4-0 lifetime with a 3.26 ERA in five games (4 starts) against the Tribe.

At this point, one would have to believe Gonzalez is pitching to earn a spot in the 2017 Sox rotation, and he's doing a good job of it. You can do a lot worse than a 3.82 ERA from a back-of-the-rotation pitcher, and Gonzalez has posted a quality start in nine of his past 10 appearances. The only exception was an Aug. 11 start in Kansas City, where he left in the second inning because of injury.

Really, that's the only thing that gives you pause about Gonzalez: Can he stay healthy? When he's been on the mound, he's been an effective pitcher for the Sox.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Two wins in Cleveland? Too much to ask of White Sox ...

Danny Salazar
Everything was set up nicely for the White Sox to steal a series win against the first-place Cleveland Indians on Thursday night.

The South Siders had Carlos Rodon going, and he's been pitching well lately. Meanwhile, the Indians were starting Danny Salazar, who had just come off the disabled list with an elbow problem and hadn't had the benefit of a rehab assignment.

Predictably, Salazar looked terrible. He lasted only one inning, during which he walked the bases loaded and gave up a three-run double to Sox designated hitter Justin Morneau.

Alas, the Sox couldn't make that 3-0 lead stick, and the Indians rallied to win 5-4 and take two out of three in the series.

It's disappointing because, with Salazar out early, the Sox had an opportunity to pile on against Cleveland's lesser relievers. But they let the opportunity slip, mustering only run on two hits in the next five innings against the combination of Kyle Crockett and Mike Clevinger. Both those two Indians pitchers have ERAs over 5, but you never would have known it Thursday night.

Still, the Sox got to the bottom of the seventh inning with a 4-2 lead. Rodon once again did his job. He went six innings, allowing two runs on eight hits. He struck out five and walked nobody. It was his third straight quality outing -- all against contenders (Baltimore, Miami, Cleveland) -- and he probably deserved a win.

He didn't get one, because the bullpen couldn't hold on. Chris Beck gave up a run in the seventh to make it 4-3, and Nate Jones bailed him out with a strikeout to end the inning. Unfortunately, Jones was touched for a run in the eighth, ending Rodon's hopes for victory, and it was 4-4 going to the ninth.

The Sox had a chance to score against Cleveland bullpen ace Andrew Miller (7-1) when Jason Coats doubled with two outs in the ninth, but Dioner Navarro flied out to deep center and the score remained tied.

Jacob Turner (1-2) pitched the bottom of the ninth and quickly lost the game, with help from Navarro. Abraham Almonte doubled leading off, advanced to third on Navarro's passed ball and scored on a sacrifice fly to center field by Tyler Naquin.

Ballgame.

It's the same old, same old for the Sox against division opponents. They are 3-9 against the Indians this year, including 1-5 on the road. They are now a combined 11-27 against Cleveland, Detroit and Kansas City.

This sounds like a broken record, I'm sure, but the narrative of the past several seasons has been the Sox's inability to hold their own against the AL Central teams they play all the time.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

White Sox finally get a win vs. Cleveland

Adam Eaton
The Cleveland Indians were 62-0 when leading after eight innings entering Wednesday night's game against the White Sox.

However, the longer a streak goes, the more likely it is to end. The law of averages in baseball eventually catches up to you.

The Sox ended that 62-game streak -- and their own seven-game losing streak in head-to-head matchups with the Indians -- by scoring five runs in the top of the ninth inning off Cleveland closer Cody Allen.

Adam Eaton's first career grand slam capped the rally, which erased a 7-5 deficit and lifted the Sox to a 10-7 victory.

Allen struck out Justin Morneau to begin the ninth inning, but he would not retire another batter.

Todd Frazier and J.B. Shuck both reached on infield singles, and Tim Anderson drew a walk to load the bases. Kudos to Anderson, who overcame a bogus strike call on 3-1 to reach base. The full-count pitch was close, but also out of the zone, and that one was correctly ruled ball four. It would have been easy for a young hitter such as Anderson to get anxious after having a bad call go against him on the previous pitch, but he maintained his discipline and earned the walk.

Anderson has walked five times in his last 10 games, after drawing just two walks in his previous 47 games. The Sox can hope this means the 23-year-old is starting to get a better grasp of the strike zone.

Dioner Navarro's bloop single made it 7-6, and that set the stage for Eaton. The Sox's right fielder fell behind 0-2 in the count -- both pitches were curve balls --  and he looked foolish on a half-swing for strike two. But Allen went to the well one too many times, throwing Eaton a third straight curve. This time, Eaton waited back nicely and lined it into the right field seats for the go-ahead hit.

David Robertson allowed two base runners in the bottom of the ninth, a leadoff walk and a one-out single. But he struck out Rajai Davis and got a groundout from Brandon Guyer to preserve the lead and earn his 30th save in 36 opportunities.

Jacob Turner (1-1) pitched a scoreless eighth inning to pick up the win. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Cleveland's Corey Kluber moving up the list of Cy Young candidates

Among American League starting pitchers, I'm not sure I can find a real obvious favorite for Cy Young. The award might go to the pitcher who gets hot over the last six weeks of the season.

One guy to keep an eye on: Cleveland's Corey Kluber.

Corey Kluber
The Indians right-hander picked up his fourth consecutive win Tuesday, when he defeated the White Sox, 3-1.

Kluber is now 5-0 with a 1.80 ERA over his last seven starts. For the season, he's 13-8 with a 3.15 ERA and a league-best 3.01 FIP. He ranks fourth in the league in strikeouts with 163, and he plays for a first-place team.

Yeah, I like his Cy Young chances if he keeps winning.

Thing is, the Sox had their chances Tuesday night. They got seven hits in six innings off Kluber, including four for extra bases. But, as so often has been the case, the big hit was lacking, and Justin Morneau's solo home run in the sixth represented the only run the Sox could muster against the Cleveland ace.

The "beneficiary" of the offensive misery was once again Jose Quintana (9-9). The Sox left-hander allowed just two runs over six innings, but got saddled with another hard-luck loss.

The second Cleveland run wasn't Quintana's fault. He had Rajai Davis picked off in the third inning, but Sox first baseman Jose Abreu threw high and wide of second base. Davis should have been the first out of the inning, but instead he was safe with a "stolen base." (#typicalWhiteSoxnonsense) Two outs later, Mike Napoli's RBI double gave Cleveland a 2-0 lead, and that was all Kluber and the Indians bullpen needed.

Midseason acquisition Andrew Miller worked two scoreless innings of relief, and Cody Allen pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his 23rd save for the Tribe, who enter Wednesday's play with a six-game lead in the AL Central.

The Sox? They've lost 12 out of 18 overall, and have dropped their last seven head-to-head meetings with the Indians. During those games, they've been outscored, 36-13.

Have we mentioned that the Sox have a lot of problems with divisional opponents during the Robin Ventura Era? I believe we have.

Friday, June 24, 2016

The bizarre won-loss splits of the 2016 White Sox

These numbers are through games of June 23:

White Sox vs. Cleveland: 2-7 (.222)
White Sox vs. Detroit: 2-4 (.333)
White Sox vs. Kansas City: 2-7 (.222)
White Sox vs. all other teams: 30-19 (.612)
Total: 36-37 (.493)

So, the Sox are a combined 6-18 (.250) against the three teams ahead of them in the AL Central standings. I'd say that sums up why the Sox are in fourth place.

Between now and the All-Star break, the Sox play Toronto (June 25-27), Minnesota (June 28-30), Houston (July 1-3), the New York Yankees (July 4-6) and Atlanta (July 8-10).

The Sox have 12 of the next 15 at home (only the Houston series is on the road), and none of them are against the triumvirate of doom known as Cleveland, Detroit and Kansas City. I'd say it would behoove the Sox to make a run right now, although I still will be skeptical even if they do.

The recipe for a playoff spot *must* include wins over Cleveland, Detroit and Kansas City. The Sox have yet to show us they can win against those teams with any consistency.

Monday, June 20, 2016

White Sox get swept once again vs. a divisional opponent

"Poor Jose" Quintana
The White Sox are once again on a losing streak, having been swept in a divisional series against the Cleveland Indians over the weekend. Let's take a look back at the carnage:

Friday, June 17
Indians 3, White Sox 2: Jose Quintana ranks fourth in the American League with a 2.63 ERA. He's also 0-6 in his last seven starts because the Sox offense has scored only five runs total when Quintana has been on the mound during that same span.

It's no wonder we're seeing classic satire such as this when describing Quintana's hard-luck career pitching for a perpetually underachieving Sox team.

In any case, Quintana was spared a loss Friday. The Sox trailed 2-1 in the ninth inning, but back-to-back doubles by Brett Lawrie and Avisail Garcia off Cleveland closer Chad Allen tied the game.

While Quintana was spared, the team was not. Carlos Santana hit a walk-off home run for Cleveland on a hanging slider from Sox reliever Nate Jones in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Jones jumped ahead of Santana 0-2 with two good sliders. Sox catcher Alex Avila called for a fastball on 0-2, but Jones shook him off for another slider. Moral of the story: If you're going to throw the same pitch to a major league hitter three times in a row, you better make it a good one.

That third slider to Santana was as bad as it gets.

Saturday, June 18
Indians 13, White Sox 2: So, that James Shields trade isn't working out so well. The veteran right-hander needed only 11 pitches to get the Sox blown off the field in this game.

Shields walked Santana on four straight pitches to start the first inning. Jason Kipnis narrowly missed a two-run homer on Shields' sixth pitch of the game. The ball hit the fence for a double and placed runners on second and third.

Francisco Lindor hit an RBI single on the eighth pitch from Shields, and Mike Napoli connected for a three-run, opposite-field homer on pitch No. 11. At that point, it was 4-0 Indians, and the game was over.

Cleveland ended up scoring five runs in the first inning and three more in the second. All eight were charged to Shields, who was removed after lasting just 1.2 innings.

Shields has allowed 22 runs (21 earned) on 24 hits with nine walks in his first three starts with the Sox. We were told he is an "innings eater," but so far he's thrown only 8.2 innings.

In other words, he's recorded 26 outs as a member of the Sox, while allowing 22 runs. Let that ratio roll around in your brain for a moment. He's allowed 15 first-inning runs since the trade.

It makes no sense at all for Shields to remain a member of the starting rotation. You can't keep running a guy out to the mound who is putting your team four, five or six runs down in the first inning. Yet the Sox have stated Shields will make his next start Thursday in Boston.

Have I mentioned the Shields deal is the type of trade that gets GMs fired?

Sunday, June 19
Indians 3, White Sox 2 (10 innings): After the way the first two games went, Sunday's game just had a feeling of inevitability to it. Sox starter Carlos Rodon pitched pretty well; he went 6.1 innings and allowed only two runs.

That's not a bad outing at all, although it was disappointing that Rodon blew two leads. The Sox went ahead 1-0 in the first; the Indians tied it in the bottom of the inning. Melky Cabrera hit his sixth home run of the season in the fourth to put the Sox up 2-1; Rodon served up a home run to Juan Uribe in the bottom of the inning to make it 2-2.

It stayed that way until the bottom of the 10th when Jose Ramirez hit a two-out single with the bases loaded off Sox closer David Robertson to win the game. The Sox never trailed until the moment they lost, but watching the game, there was never a single moment where I thought they would win. Sometimes you just know it isn't going to end well.

The loss dropped the Sox (33-36) 5.5 games behind the first-place Indians. The South Siders have lost the last six head-to-head meetings with Cleveland, and they are 0-9 in road games against divisional opponents Cleveland, Kansas City and Detroit. They have been swept in three-game series in all three of those cities.

Overall, the Sox are now a combined 6-18 against Cleveland, Kansas City and Detroit -- the teams that remain relevant in the AL Central race. Manager Robin Ventura is now 140-190 (.424 winning percentage) against divisional foes during his tenure.

The Sox have dropped 26 of 36 since their 23-10 start. This "slump" has continued on for six weeks, but all the decision-makers in the organization still had jobs as of Monday morning.

People wonder why the Sox have a dwindling fan base and poor attendance. Personally, I can't blame people for not wanting to put up with this anymore.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Robin Ventura's winning percentage is down to .427 against divisional opponents

After a 23-10 start, the White Sox are now reeling, stuck in a freefall that has no end in sight.

They've lost 18 of 24 games. Their record entering Tuesday's play is a mediocre 29-28. Where they once led the AL Central by six games, they now trail the first-place Cleveland Indians by 3.5 games.

Some of these woes can be traced to the Sox's inability to defeat divisional foes, which has been a problem for as long as Robin Ventura has been the manager, if not longer.

The Sox have played 10 of their last 13 games against AL Central opponents. They have gone 1-9 in those 10 games, including nine straight losses. They took the first game of a doubleheader against the Cleveland Indians on May 23, then lost the next three games of the four-game series.

From May 27 to 29, they lost three in a row to the Kansas City Royals, blowing a four-run lead in the seventh inning the first game, a six-run lead in the ninth inning the second game, and a two-run lead in the eighth inning in the finale.

After a brief respite in which the Sox won two of three from the New York Mets in an interleague series, the South Siders were swept in a three-game series against the Detroit Tigers over the weekend. The Sox were outscored 22-9 in the series and generally looked overmatched against a fourth-place Detroit club (which, by the way, is now tied with the Sox for third).

Here's a look at the Sox's divisional record for each season during the Ventura era:

2016: 9-12
2015: 32-44
2014: 33-43
2013: 26-50
2012: 37-35
Total: 137-184

The only winning year against the division was 2012, and even that was skewed because the Sox went 14-4 against the 96-loss Minnesota Twins. They struggled against other divisional foes.

This year, that 9-12 mark is a bit deceiving, as well, because the Sox are 6-0 against a Minnesota club that enters Tuesday's play with a miserable 16-40 record. Against legitimate teams -- such as Cleveland, Kansas City and Detroit -- the Sox are a combined 3-12.

Ventura's winning percentage over four-plus years against his own division is down to .427. Not that his overall winning percentage is very good -- it sits at .462. But the Sox have shown they cannot win critical games under his leadership.

How much longer can the front office allow this to go on? 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Chris Sale's nine-game winning streak ends vs. Indians

Chris Sale fell to 9-1 with a 6-2 loss to the Indians on Tuesday.
I had a bad feeling Chris Sale's winning streak was going to end Tuesday against the Cleveland Indians.

Sale had opened the season with nine victories in nine starts, but a couple of factors were working against him going into Tuesday. First, the nine hitters in the Cleveland batting order entered this matchup with a collective .304 career batting average against Sale.

Secondly, the Indians were getting their second look at Sale this season. The Sox ace beat Cleveland on April 9, but that was the closest Sale had come to losing a game previously this year. Sale walked off the mound after the top of the seventh inning that day, trailing 3-2. A five-run Sox rally in the bottom of the seventh allowed him to escape with a 7-3 win.

He had no such luck as he was pounded for six runs on seven hits in just 3.1 innings Tuesday. The Indians won, 6-2, behind Josh Tomlin (7-0) and have cut the South Siders' lead in the AL Central to just 1.5 games.

It was a strange outing for Sale, who had been using a "less is more" approach throughout his red-hot start. He wasn't throwing his high-90s heat as often, instead backing his fastball down into the low 90s and relying on location to get swings and weak contact early in the count. The result? Much greater efficiency and three complete games, including two in a row, albeit with fewer strikeouts.

But in this one, Sale came out firing 96 and 97 mph bullets. I thought he was overthrowing everything, frankly. His command was spotty at best, but he got through the first 2.2 innings unscathed. That's when the wheels came off.

Jose Ramirez won a 10-pitch battle with two outs in the third, working a walk. Sale was cursing himself on the mound after a 3-2 breaking ball missed well outside. He seemed to lose control of his emotions, as Francisco Lindor followed with a single, and then Mike Napoli hit a two-run triple to put the Indians up 2-1. Carlos Santana walked on seven pitches, and then former Sox infielder Juan Uribe won a nine-pitch battle with a single that scored Napoli for a 3-1 lead. Sale finally fanned Marlon Byrd to end the inning, but only after 43 pitches were required.

Things got no better in the fourth as Chris Gimenez homered to start the fourth to make it 4-1. After a strikeout, Sale walked Rajai Davis and Ramirez consecutively. An RBI hit by Lindor increased Cleveland's lead to 5-1 and ended Sale's night. Reliever Zach Putnam allowed one of the inherited runners from Sale to score, which means Sale was charged with all six runs -- or as many as he had allowed in his past seven starts combined.

The Sox had no answers for Tomlin, who allowed two runs on five hits over eight innings. He struck out six and walked just one.

It's been a rough two weeks for the Sox (27-20), who are 3-6 so far on a 10-game homestand that began with the team enjoying a five-game lead in the division. The South Siders could use a win Wednesday behind left-hander Jose Quintana, who will be opposed by Cleveland right-hander Corey Kluber in a 1:10 start.

Friday, April 8, 2016

I went to Opening Day at U.S. Cellular Field, and it snowed

How's this for baseball weather?:


That was the scene at U.S. Cellular Field on Friday before the White Sox's first home game of the season against the Cleveland Indians. The game resulted in a 7-1 Cleveland victory. More on that in minute, but five years from now, when people talk about Opening Day 2016 the main thing they are going to remember was the bone-chilling cold (temperatures in the 30s, wind chills in the 20s) and snow.

It did stop snowing for a little while, and the ballpark looked great for pregame ceremonies:


And, did I mention this new center field scoreboard is awesome?


On the field, there weren't many positives for the Sox, who fell to 3-2 with their worst performance of the season's first week.  We should have seen it coming. John Danks entered Friday's action with a 5-14 record, with a 5.29 ERA, in 26 career starts against Cleveland.

Make it 5-15 in 27 starts.

Danks gave up seven runs, five earned, over five innings pitched. He sucked the life out of the sellout crowd by giving up three runs in the top of the first inning, plus two more in the second. The "here we go again" feeling that was so prominent in the ballpark during these last three losing seasons of 2013-2015 was back again immediately with the Sox down 5-0 an inning and a half into the home portion of the schedule.

There were physical mistakes (Alex Avila's throwing error in the first inning that cost the Sox two runs) and mental mistakes (Avisail Garcia getting picked off first base with runners on first and second and one out, down 5-0, in the bottom of the second inning). There was an alarming lack of offense -- only three hits all day.

Todd Frazier went 2-for-3 with a solo home run, a single and a walk. Beyond that, the only offense was a single by Austin Jackson. This marked the second straight year the Sox were limited to just three hits in their home opener. Last year's 6-0 loss to the Minnesota Twins was utterly forgettable and sadly a predictor of misery to come.

We can only hope today's performance is an aberration and not a foretelling of another bad season on the South Side.

The only other good thing we can say? Well, Dan Jennings and Zach Putnam combined for four scoreless innings in relief of Danks. If not for that, it would have been worse than 7-1.

Without question, this game was one to forget, unless you're talking about the weather.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Nick Swisher released by Braves

Nick Swisher
The Atlanta Braves released veteran outfielder and first baseman Nick Swisher on Monday.

The 35-year-old former White Sox knucklehead hit just .195 with four home runs and 17 RBIs in 46 games for Atlanta last season. Here's the funniest line from the AP story:

"There was no room for [Swisher] on the roster after the Braves signed Kelly Johnson, Jeff Francoeur, Gordon Beckham and Emilio Bonifacio to contend for spots on the bench."

Yes, it's true, Swisher's career has bottomed out to the point that Beckham and Bonifacio are considered better uses for roster spots on a rebuilding Atlanta team than he is.

Swisher is set to make $15 million this year, but the Cleveland Indians are paying most of that bill after trading Swisher and outfielder Michael Bourn to the Braves last season in exchange for third baseman Chris Johnson. Any team can now sign Swisher for the pro-rated portion of the league minimum.

I was horrified this morning to see the Sox listed as one of six possible landing spots for Swisher, according to an article on cbssports.com. Other teams listed are the Los Angeles Angels, Kansas City Royals, San Diego Padres, Philadelphia Phillies and Cleveland.

Swisher has hit just .224/.315/.373 in the three years since he signed a four-year, $56 million contract with the Indians. He has stunk for a long time. He's coming off surgeries on both his knees. He's 35 years old. I'd say he's done.

I hope the Sox stay far, far away from this guy. When Swisher was with the Sox in 2008, his nickname was "Dirty 30," as he wore uniform No. 30. I called him "Dirty .230" because that's about all he could hit.

At this point, a .230 average from Swisher would qualify as wishful thinking for any team that signs him.

Friday, May 22, 2015

John Danks vs. AL Central: AL Central wins

Whatever good vibes the White Sox generated with their six-game winning streak are gone now, after the team dropped three consecutive games to the last-place Cleveland Indians at U.S. Cellular Field this week.

The latest loss came Thursday night, a 5-2 Cleveland victory that wasn't as close as the final score indicated. The game started at 7:10 p.m. It was basically over by 7:30. Sox starter John Danks gave up four runs in the first inning, including home runs to Nick Swisher and Mike Aviles, and the Indians tacked on another run in the second to seize an early 5-0 edge.

The score remained the same until there were two outs in the bottom of the ninth, when Sox catcher Tyler Flowers hit the traditional, ceremonial meaningless home run to make the score look better in the paper.

The larger trend I took away from this game, though, is that Danks really struggles against AL Central division opponents. The teams than know him best tend to get to him early and often. I checked the numbers, and for the most part, they confirmed my suspicions. Danks is just plain lousy against three of the four teams he pitches against most regularly:

Danks vs. Indians: 5-13, 5.29 ERA
Danks vs. Twins: 7-14, 5.67 ERA
Danks vs. Tigers: 6-10, 5.11 ERA
Danks vs. Royals: 8-1, 2.73 ERA
Danks vs. AL Central: 26-38, 4.83 ERA

The Royals have to be wondering what they are doing wrong. For the Indians, Tigers and Twins, it's a fight at the bat rack when they see Danks is pitching. Those hitters probably can't wait to get to home plate.

Take out the stats against Kansas City, and Danks is 18-37 with a 5.38 ERA against Cleveland, Detroit and Minnesota.

If you're wondering why the Sox can't seem to beat divisional foes these past few years, Danks is among the culprits.

The Sox (18-20) welcome divisional rival Minnesota to the U.S. Cellular Field for a three-game set this weekend. Fortunately, Danks is not slated to pitch in the series. Here are the weekend matchups:

Friday: Jeff Samardzija (3-2, 4.58 ERA) vs. Phil Hughes (3-4, 4.76 ERA)
Saturday: Chris Sale (3-1, 4.36 ERA) vs. Trevor May (2-3, 5.15 ERA)
Sunday: Jose Quintana (2-4, 4.13 ERA) vs. Kyle Gibson (3-3, 2.98 ERA)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Trevor Bauer puts halt to White Sox winning streak

The day after longtime White Sox nemesis Bruce Chen announced his retirement, the South Siders ran into another pitcher who gives them all kinds of trouble.

Unlike Chen, at least we can say Trevor Bauer has good stuff.

The Cleveland right-hander retired the first 11 batters he saw Tuesday and limited the Sox to just one run on four hits over 7.1 innings to spark the Indians to a 3-1 win. Bauer struck out seven and walked three to improve to 3-1 on the season.

This was the third time Sox hitters have seen Bauer this year, and they haven't been able to solve the riddle yet. Here are Bauer's pitching lines in those three starts:

April 15: 6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 8Ks,. 4 BBs
April 20: 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 7Ks, 2 BBs
May 19: 7.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 7Ks, 3 BBs

Add it all up and Bauer is 2-0 with a 1.33 ERA in those three outings. He's struck out 22 and allowed only 12 hits in 20.1 innings.

The loss puts a halt to the Sox's season-best six-game winning streak and drops them back to .500 at 18-18.

Game 3 of this four-game set with the Indians is Wednesday night. The Sox will send rookie left-hander Carlos Rodon to the mound against Cleveland right-hander Shaun Marcum.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Chris Sale vs. Corey Kluber: It lived up to the hype

Two aces took the mound Monday at U.S. Cellular Field with White Sox left-hander Chris Sale going up against Cleveland's Corey Kluber, the reigning Cy Young award winner in the American League.

Neither pitcher figured in the decision, but the matchup did not disappoint. Both pitchers were brilliant:

Kluber: 9 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 12 Ks, 1 BB
Sale: 8 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 7 Ks, 2 BBs

I guess you might give Kluber the slight edge, since he pitched one more inning than Sale and fanned five more batters. But I'm sure Sale won't mind that since the Sox extended their winning streak to six games with a 2-1 win in 10 innings.

The Sox have now won 10 of their last 13 games and have pulled their record above .500 (18-17) for the first time this season.

A game like this is usually decided by one mistake here or there. Both teams played errorless ball, but if there was a mistake made, Cleveland made it in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Sox center fielder Adam Eaton was on third base with two outs when Jose Abreu swung and missed a Kluber breaking ball that was in the dirt and deflected maybe just 10 feet away from home plate. Eaton boldly dashed for home as Cleveland catcher Roberto Perez scrambled to retrieve the ball. Both men dove for home plate and arrived at just the same time. Perez would have tagged Eaton out -- if he had held onto the ball. Instead, he dropped it in his attempt to apply the tag. Eaton scored, tying the game at 1-1.

It remained that way until the bottom of the 10th, when Carlos Sanchez delivered a two-out, game-winning single on an 0-2 pitch from Cleveland reliever Zach McCallister. Pinch runner J.B. Shuck raced around from second base to plate the decisive run.

About the only negative for the Sox: Shuck was pinch running for Avisail Garcia, who somehow tweaked his right knee while drawing a leadoff walk in that 10th inning. Garcia is hitting a team-best .338, so the Sox don't need him going on the shelf for any length of time. I imagine the Sox will be cautious and give Shuck the start in right field Tuesday for the second game of this four-game divisional set.

The pitching matchup for Tuesday won't be quite as marquee as this one was, but it will still be good. Sox lefty Jose Quintana (2-3, 4.39 ERA) will face Cleveland right-hander Trevor Bauer (2-1, 3.67 ERA). I wouldn't be stunned if that one ends up fairly low-scoring, too.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Jose Abreu says White Sox need to play better, then White Sox beat Indians

It would be meathead-ish to say the White Sox's 6-0 win over the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday afternoon had anything to do with first baseman Jose Abreu's pregame comments.

Nevertheless, it was nice to hear the best player on the team speak up and acknowledge it hasn't been going well for the Sox in the early going, and that things need to improve soon.

"We have to be more a unit, like a team -- the players, the coaches, everybody. Because we need to start playing well … better," said Abreu through interpreter and White Sox Spanish-language broadcaster Billy Russo, according to an article on whitesox.com.

Abreu's comments came after the Sox hadn't done much offensively the first two games of the series against Cleveland, especially early in games. In Monday's opener, they rallied to win, 4-3, with four runs in the bottom of the ninth inning. On Tuesday, they managed to get the tying run to the plate in the eighth inning, but no comeback was forthcoming in a 6-2 loss.

Abreu correctly noted the Sox were having better at-bats late in games, but of course, what's really needed is a good approach on a consistent basis.

"We have to start the game with that mentality and that fierceness to try to create opportunities, not just wait until the ninth inning to see what happens," Abreu said. "But I think that we are OK. I hope so. I am very confident that we will be OK at the end of the season."

They will be OK at the end of the season if they play like they did Wednesday. Abreu backed those comments up by going 2-for-4 with three RBIs in the victory. He hit a solo home run in the first inning to give the Sox an early lead, and his two-run double in the seventh capped a three-run rally that put the game away.

Cleveland's Corey Kluber, the 2014 AL Cy Young winner, gave up a career-high 13 hits and was touched up for all six runs.

Meanwhile, Jeff Samardzija picked up his first win in a Sox uniform with a workmanlike six shutout innings. Samardzija did not have his best stuff, but he pitched out of jams in four of his six innings.

  • The Indians had runners on first and third with one out in the second inning. They did not score.
  • The Indians loaded the bases in the third inning. They did not score.
  • The Indians had runners at first and second with two outs in the fourth. They did not score.
  • The Indians got a leadoff double in the sixth inning. They could not score, despite Samardzija being over 100 pitches at the start of the inning.
Eight of the nine Sox starters had at least one hit. Adam Eaton, Melky Cabrera, Abreu, Adam LaRoche, Alexei Ramirez and Micah Johnson had two hits each.

This win was as good as any the 6-8 Sox have had to this point in the season.



Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Carlos Rodon shaky in White Sox debut

Couldn't White Sox manager Robin Ventura have found a little less stressful of a situation for rookie left-hander Carlos Rodon to make his major league debut?

Talk about walking right into the fire.

Rodon entered Tuesday's game against the Cleveland Indians in the top of the sixth inning, with the Sox trailing 2-1 and Cleveland runners on first and third with two outs.

The game was on the line, and the Sox likely would have been better served to turn to a veteran reliever in that situation. Rodon almost certainly had some jitters and it showed. He walked the struggling Brandon Moss on four pitches to load the bases, then fell behind 2-0 in the count to Sox killer Ryan Raburn.

Eventually, the count went to 3-2, and Raburn fouled off three pitches before looping a broken-bat single into left field to drive home two runs and increase the Tribe lead to 4-1. In case you were wondering, Raburn now has 79 career RBIs against the Sox. He has no more than 24 RBIs (Kansas City) against any other major league team.

Rodon got out of that sixth inning without further damage, but then walked the first two hitters he faced in the seventh. Both walks came around to score after a sacrifice bunt, a sacrifice fly and a single as the Tribe went on to beat the Sox, 6-2.

The rookie did work around a one-out double in the eighth and recorded his first major league strikeout, so at least there's that.

Rodon's final line in his debut: 2.1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3BB, 1 K.

It was not a good night for the Sox or Rodon, but at least the first-night nerves are out of the way for the South Siders' prized prospect.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Was Monday's comeback win a slumpbuster for the White Sox?

If you watched Monday's game between the White Sox and the Cleveland Indians, you know it was looking like another lifeless loss for the South Siders.

The Sox were limited to no runs on four hits over the first eight innings by the combination of Cleveland starter Trevor Bauer and two relievers, and the Indians took a seemingly comfortable 3-0 lead into the ninth.

But it all unraveled from there for closer Cody Allen and the Tribe, as the Sox rallied for a 4-3 win. Chicago had six hits in the ninth inning, and it benefited from a tactical error by Indians manager Terry Francona and just poor pitching by Allen.

The key play came with one out and runners on second and third in the bottom of the ninth, when Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez sent a deep drive into center field. Francona had started Mike Aviles, an infielder by trade, in center field and inexplicably allowed him to remain in the game late, despite his regular center fielder (Michael Bourn) presumably being available off the bench.

I think Bourn makes the catch on Ramirez's ball for the second out of the inning, but he wasn't out there. Aviles was, and he took an odd route to the ball and seemingly didn't know where the wall was. He pulled up short, and the ball hit the base of the fence for a two-run double that brought the Sox within a run at 3-2.

Allen would completely implode from there, failing to record another out. Tyler Flowers, Gordon Beckham, Adam Eaton and Melky Cabrera delivered four consecutive singles, with Beckham's hit tying the game and Cabrera's winning it.

The victory improved the Sox record to 5-7, which strangely sounds a lot better than 4-8, although it's only a one-game difference. The question is whether a come-from-behind win like this can get the Sox going for the first time this year.

Well, it depends a lot on Tuesday night's starting pitcher, Hector Noesi. Quite a few Sox fans had hoped Saturday's 12-3 thumping of the Detroit Tigers was the slumpbuster Chicago was looking for. Unfortunately, any "momentum" from that victory dissipated quickly when Jose Quintana gave up a grand slam to Yoenis Cespedes in the first inning Sunday. The Tigers waxed the Sox, 9-1, in that game and put any thoughts of  Chicago building on Saturday's win to rest.

After the inspired rally on Monday, the Sox are once again in position to potentially get something started. If they get a good outing from Noesi on Tuesday, maybe they will. But the joy of Monday's win won't mean a thing if Noesi goes out and gives up four or five runs early in the game.

The Sox need their starting pitcher to put up some zeroes early, and if they can score in the early innings against Indians starter Carlos Carrasco, then maybe things will start to snowball their way.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

White Sox juggle starting rotation for weekend series vs. Tigers

Since we last posted, the White Sox split a brief two-game series against the banged-up Cleveland Indians.

The Sox got six solid innings from starting pitcher Jose Quintana on Tuesday, and relievers Dan Jennings, Zach Duke and David Robertson combined to strike out eight batters in a 4-1 Chicago victory in the series opener.

On Wednesday, a combination of poor infield defense and lack of clutch hitting did the Sox in, as they dropped a 4-2 decision to a Cleveland club that is currently missing three regulars (Michael Brantley, Yan Gomes, Nick Swisher) from its lineup.

The series leaves the Sox with a 3-5 record, which isn't completely terrible given an 0-4 start, but it's still not an enviable position -- especially since both the Detroit Tigers (8-1) and Kansas City Royals (7-1) are off to red-hot starts in the American League's Central Division.

That makes this weekend's three-game series in Detroit more crucial for the Sox than most April series would be. The South Siders already are 4.5 games off the pace in the division, and it would be bad news if they were to go into Comerica Park and get swept.

No matter how "early" it is, it's hard to feel good if you fall 7.5 games off the division lead just two weeks into the season. That makes it important the Sox squeeze out at least one win, if not two, against the Tigers.

It won't be easy, because the Tigers have David Price, Anibal Sanchez and Shane Greene lined up to pitch the three games. Price and Sanchez are always tough, and Greene hasn't allowed a run in either of his first two starts of the season -- both Detroit victories.

Perhaps sensing the need to match up, Sox manager Robin Ventura has wisely decided to skip Hector Noesi's turn in the rotation for Friday's game. Instead, Jeff Samardzija will pitch, and I think we can all agree he gives the Sox a better chance than Noesi would against Price, the Detroit ace.

That lines up Sox ace Chris Sale to face Sanchez on Saturday. The Sox haven't announced a starter for Sunday's game yet, but they could (and probably should) go back to Quintana on regular rest for the series finale.

With Detroit playing well and the Sox struggling out of the gate, Ventura simply cannot afford to concede any games to the Tigers by putting the erratic Noesi on the mound.

One other thing to keep an eye on in this series: Detroit has stolen an AL-high 13 bases through its first nine games. Meanwhile, the Sox have surrendered a league-high 11 steals through their eight games.

The Sox had better start holding opposing runners closer this weekend.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Cy Young Awards: One surprise, one obvious

The 2014 American League Cy Young Award winner is ... Corey Kluber?

Yes, the relatively unknown Cleveland right-hander earned 17 of the 30 first-place votes and totaled 169 points, edging out Seattle's Felix Hernandez, who had 13 first-place votes and 159 points. White Sox lefty Chris Sale was third on 19 of the 30 ballots, so he placed third with 78 points.

Kluber expressed surprise to win the honor. I'm right there with him. I'm stunned. I figured Hernandez would prevail.

Let's do a side-by-side comparison of the two pitchers:

Hernandez: 15-6 W-L, 236 IP, 248 Ks, 2.14 ERA, 0.915 WHIP, 2.56 FIP, 6.5 H/9
Kluber: 18-9 W-L, 235.2 IP, 269 Ks, 2.44 ERA, 1.095 WHIP, 2.35 FIP, 7.9 H/9

When I first heard the results of the vote, I thought it was flatly ridiculous, but you can see how Kluber has a case. He went 5-1 with a 2.09 ERA in September, and that strong finish put his final numbers in the same ballpark with Hernandez.

Speaking of ballparks, I think we can all agree that Cleveland is a tougher place to pitch than Seattle. I think we can also agree that Seattle has a better defensive team than Cleveland. The numbers geeks really like that FIP (fielder independent pitching) stat, and Kluber was the best in the American League in that department. He also led thel eague in strikeouts. Those were the arguments in his favor.

However, I still would have voted for Hernandez. He had 16 consecutive starts from May to August where he allowed two runs or less. He led the league in WHIP, and he allowed almost a hit and a half less per nine innings than Kluber did. Hernandez also led the league in ERA. For the final month, Kluber was the better pitcher, but for the totality of the season, I thought Hernandez was the best and most dominant pitcher in the league. As an opponent, he was the guy you least wanted to see on the mound.

Thirteen voters agreed with me. Seventeen did not. That's how Kluber won.

Clayton Kershaw wins NL Cy Young

Clayton Kershaw won the NL Cy Young Award for the second consecutive year in a far less controversial vote. His name appeared first on all 30 ballots (150 points) after he went 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA for the NL West Division champion Los Angeles Dodgers.

There's really no argument with this one.

Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto placed second with 112 points. Adam Wainwright of St. Louis was third with 97 points.