Showing posts with label Corey Kluber. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Corey Kluber. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Cubs rough up Indians starter Josh Tomlin, force Game 7 in World Series

Addison Russell
Well, Game 6 of the World Series sure was boring, wasn't it? The Cubs trounced the Cleveland Indians, 9-3, on Tuesday to even the series at 3.

This one was lopsided from the outset. So lopsided that I don't have anything nuanced to say about it. (Not that I ever do.) It was a strong performance by the Cubs, and a poor performance by the Indians. How's that for analysis?

Game 7 is Wednesday night in Cleveland.

You could tell that Cleveland starter Josh Tomlin just did not have it pitching on short rest from the very start of this game. Sure, he retired the first two hitters, but he hung a sloppy 0-2 curve to Kris Bryant, who deposited it in the left-field seats for a 1-0 Chicago lead.

Tomlin then hung a curve to Anthony Rizzo and left a changeup high in the zone to Ben Zobrist. Those two at-bats resulted in singles for the Cubs, and placed runners on first and third. The Indians' defense then failed Tomlin as center fielder Tyler Naquin and right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall stood and looked at each other as a lazy fly off the bat of Addison Russell fell in for a "two-run double."

Just like that, it was 3-0 Cubs. The game was essentially over there, but for good measure, the Cubs blew it open with four runs in the third inning

A walk and two singles to load the bases ended Tomlin's night, and Russell cleared 'em off with a grand slam off Cleveland reliever Dan Otero. 7-0. No drama on this night. Jake Arrieta worked 5.2 innings of two-run ball to get the win.

I did think it was interesting that Cubs manager Joe Maddon used Aroldis Chapman in the seventh inning. The Chicago closer entered with two on and two out in a 7-2 game, and finished that inning by inducing a groundout by Francisco Lindor.

Chapman also pitched a scoreless eighth. After the Cubs got two in the ninth on a Rizzo home run, Chapman returned to the mound in the bottom of the ninth and walked the leadoff man before departing. He threw 20 pitches and was charged with Cleveland's third and final run, which came across after he left the game in the ninth.

I'm certain Chapman will be available for Game 7. It's all hands on deck in these situations. But it's worth noting that Chapman threw 42 pitches in an eight-out save in Game 5, plus the 20 pitches in Game 6. That's a greater workload for him than usual. Will it matter? We'll see.

You can't really blame Maddon, because you can't win Game 7 if you don't get to Game 7, and I've never faulted a manager for going to his best reliever in a must-win situation. I do think there is some chance fatigue will catch up to Chapman, if he pitches Wednesday -- and I assume he will.

Momentum is on the side of the Cubs at this point. They've won the past two games. This victory in Game 6 was an overwhelming one. The Indians will now be forced to go to their ace, Corey Kluber, on short rest for Game 7. Kluber won Games 1 and 4 for Cleveland in this series, and like Chapman, we also have to wonder how much he has left in the tank. His mound opponent will be Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks.

Two things that could help the Indians: 1) They are playing at home. Cheering fans don't win games, but all things being equal, you'd rather be at home than on the road in Game 7. And 2) Cleveland's top three relievers -- Andrew Miller, Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw -- did not appear in Game 6. They will be rested and ready to go. Indians manager Terry Francona could turn the game over to them as early as the fifth inning, if necessary.

So far this series has featured two epic games -- Games 3 and 5. Each team won one. The other four games have been lopsided, with each club taking two one-sided victories. Here's to hoping Game 7 is a close one, and not another snoozer.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Indians push Cubs to the brink with dominant Game 4 win

Corey Kluber
First things first: Can we please stop with the narrative about Cubs pitcher John Lackey being great in the postseason?

Yes, Lackey has had some good playoff moments, such as this game, but he's also gotten his butt kicked in some playoff games, such as this one that is fondly remembered by all White Sox fans.

I keep hearing from both local and national media that Lackey is an awesome playoff pitcher, but frankly, at age 38, it looks like his best days are past. The right-hander has been nothing but mediocre for the Cubs in the postseason. He hasn't worked past the fifth inning in any of his three starts, and he's posted a pedestrian 4.85 ERA in only 13 innings.

Lackey was once again so-so Saturday night, allowing three runs (two earned) on four hits over five innings in the Cubs' 7-2 loss to Cleveland in Game 4 of the World Series.

The Indians now enjoy a 3-1 series lead and have three chances to close out the Cubs. Game 5 is Sunday night at Wrigley Field.

Lackey was outpitched by Cleveland ace Corey Kluber, who allowed one run on five hits in six innings. He struck out six and walked one, while improving to 4-1 with 0.89 ERA in five postseason starts. Kluber pitched on three days' rest, and will be prepared to pitch again in Game 7 if the Cubs somehow extend this series that far.

Kluber left the mound after the sixth inning with a 4-1 lead, and the Tribe broke the game open moments later in the top of the seventh on a three-run homer by second baseman Jason Kipnis. Cleveland got Lackey out of there after five, then capitalized for four runs off Chicago middle relievers Mike Montgomery, Justin Grimm and Travis Wood.

The Cubs had somewhat of a moral victory in the eighth when Dexter Fowler homered off Andrew Miller, thus proving the Cleveland relief ace is mortal. Miller already has set a record for playoff strikeouts in a single season with 29, and that Fowler homer was the first run he has allowed in 17 postseason innings.

Having a 7-2 lead allowed the Indians to rest closer Cody Allen for a night. Dan Otero closed out the ninth inning with no difficulty.

We can't count the Cubs out of this yet, as they have the edge in the pitching matchup in Game 5. Ace Jon Lester is going for the North Siders, and he'll be opposed by the one Cleveland pitcher who has not been doing his job in these playoffs, right-hander Trevor Bauer.

We'll see if the season ends Sunday, or if there will be a Game 6 on Tuesday in Cleveland.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The World Series Game 1 hero is ... Roberto Perez?

There are three players in Cleveland Indians franchise history to have a multi-homer game during the playoffs: Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome and, of course, Roberto Perez.

Cue Cookie Monster and his famous song, "One of These Things Is Not Like the Other Things":




Indeed, Thome has 612 career home runs. Ramirez has 555 career home runs. Perez has, well, 11 career home runs. But the career .220-hitting catcher managed to go deep twice Tuesday in Game 1 of the World Series, becoming the unlikely hero in Cleveland's 6-0 victory over the Cubs.

Perez also became the first player in World Series history to have a multi-homer game while batting in the No. 9 spot in the order. Not bad for a guy who is "Plan C" for the Indians behind the plate. Perez is only playing because Yan Gomes has been a combination of injured and bad all season, and because Jonathan Lucroy rejected a trade to Cleveland at the deadline and went to play for Texas instead.

In the biggest game of his life so far, Perez clubbed a solo home run off Cubs ace Jon Lester in the fourth inning to increase Cleveland's lead to 3-0. The home run had an exit velocity of 112.9 mph, making it the hardest-hit ball off Lester all season, according to Statcast.

Perez capped his night by hitting a three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning on a hanging slider from Cubs reliever Hector Rondon. That made the score 6-0 and took all the drama out of the ninth inning.

Cleveland pitching was good again in this game, with Corey Kluber, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen combining to strike out 15 Cubs hitters. Kluber had eight strikeouts through three innings and finished with nine Ks in six innings. Miller pitched out of a bases-loaded, no-outs jam in the seventh, striking out Addison Russell and David Ross to close the inning. He also struck out Kyle Schwarber with two on and two out to end the eighth and snuff out the Cubs' last legitimate chance to get back in the game.

Game 2 is Wednesday night, and the start time has been moved up an hour to try to avoid a weather delay. Rain is in the forecast for Cleveland. The Cubs will try to even the series behind right-hander Jake Arrieta. The Indians will counter with right-hander Trevor Bauer.

The best news for the Cubs right now is the fact that Kluber won't pitch in Game 2. And, Miller might be limited, as well, after throwing 46 pitches over two innings of work in Game 1.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Blue Jays better start scoring some runs against the Indians' starting pitchers

Jose Bautista
Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista believes "circumstances" are favoring the Cleveland Indians thus far in the ALCS.

The Indians have taken each of the first two games, by scores of 2-0 and 2-1, and the Toronto hitters apparently are getting frustrated.

“All you gotta do is look at the video and count how many times (Cleveland pitchers) throw pitches over the heart of the plate,” Bautista said Sunday, as reported by Mike Vorkunov. “They’ve been able to do that because of the circumstances -- that I’m not trying to talk about because I can’t. That’s for you guys to do, but you guys don’t really want to talk about that either.”

It sounds as if Bautista believes the umpiring is going against Toronto, and perhaps he's trying to get some calls to go his way and his teammates' way in Monday night's Game 3. Some have suggested the Blue Jays believe the series is "rigged" in favor of the Indians. That's a reach.

I personally don't think MLB rigs games, and I don't buy into the notion of curses or conspiracies. What motivation would MLB have to tell umpires to make calls favoring the Indians? Cleveland is a small-market team, and it isn't like the league stands to get a big ratings bump if the Indians advance.

All of this is foolishness, and the only circumstance working against the Blue Jays right now is their inability to hit the quality pitching being run out there by the Indians. Toronto is a dead fastball hitting team, and Cleveland has a bunch of pitchers -- both starters and relievers -- who can make quality pitches with their breaking balls.

The Indians' bullpen has been nothing short of spectacular. As a group, they've allowed just two earned runs in 16.1 IP this postseason, and they've been facing good offenses, too -- Boston and now Toronto. That will pencil out to a 1.10 ERA. And, oh, Cleveland relievers have struck out 27 men in those 16-plus innings.

Left-hander Andrew Miller, of course, has been the main reason for that. He's struck out 17 and is unscored upon in 7.2 postseason innings this season. He's formed an unhittable bridge between the Cleveland starters and closer Cody Allen, who has pitched four scoreless innings in the playoffs.

Manager Terry Francona has shown he's not afraid to go to Miller as early as the fifth or sixth inning. He can do that because he has another dominant option in Allen, and two other pretty good middle relief options in Bryan Shaw and Dan Otero. Cleveland has the deepest bullpen of the remaining four teams, for sure.

As we've mentioned before, the Indians' shortcoming is the injuries to their starting pitchers. Corey Kluber is the ace, and he's been tremendous: He's allowed nothing in the postseason. But with Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco sidelined, Cleveland is forced to rely more upon Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer than it would like.

But Tomlin was really good in Game 2, allowing just one run in 5.2 innings. He's a breaking ball pitcher, and he used that pitch effectively against the Toronto hitters. He's not overpowering, and he sure as heck wasn't going to give Toronto too many fastballs to hit. Smart pitching.

The Blue Jays will face Bauer in Game 3, and I'd recommend they think less about the umpiring and figure out a way to score early -- before Miller, Shaw and Allen, et al., become involved in the game. Wouldn't hurt, either, if someone from that lineup could do some damage against a curve ball or a slider. The Indians are going to keep throwing them until the Blue Jays show they can hit them.

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.

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.

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.



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.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Clayton Kershaw vs Chris Sale: The folly of All-Star Game selections

Today, we compare stat lines from two of the game's elite pitchers:

Player A: 13 starts, 10-2, 1.85 ERA, 87.1 IP, 115 Ks, 12 BBs, 0.87 WHIP, .199 BAA
Player B: 13 starts, 8-1, 2.16 ERA, 87.1 IP, 96 Ks, 16 BBs, 0.87 WHIP, .194 BAA

Player A is Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who is quite rightfully recognized as the best pitcher in the game.

Player B is Chris Sale of the White Sox, who doesn't get much publicity because, well, he plays for the "second team in the Second City."

The two pitchers have made the same number of starts and thrown the same number of innings this season. Kershaw has a slightly better ERA and a few more strikeouts, which you would expect for a National League pitcher who gets to strike out the opposing team's pitcher on a regular basis. However, the WHIPs of the two pitchers are identical, and Sale has a slight edge in opponents' batting average.

You would think both of these pitchers would be no-brainer selections to the All-Star Game. Kershaw was rightfully chosen and is a candidate to start the game for the National League. Sale, meanwhile, is relegated to the fan vote, where he will compete with Dallas Keuchel, Rick Porcello, Garrett Richards and Corey Kluber for the final roster spot.

No offense to any of those other four men, who are all having good seasons, but Sale is better than all of them and should have been selected to the team without having to go through this vote. The White Sox are not contending in the American League this year, but if you're a fan of an AL contender, and you want homefield advantage in the World Series, you want Sale on that AL roster. He's the best left-handed pitcher in the league by any measure.

I know some people say Sale missed time with an injury early in the season. They might say he doesn't merit selection because of that. To that, I say nonsense. Kershaw also missed time due to injury early this season. That doesn't change the fact that he belongs in the All-Star Game.

Again, Kershaw and Sale have made the same number of starts this season. In my world, they should both be candidates to start the All-Star Game, early-season injuries be damned.

To be honest, I can't devise a system that would result in complete fairness in terms of All-Star Game selections. No matter who votes -- fans, media, players, managers -- they all bring their biases with them. There always have been snubs, and there always will be snubs.

I just happen to think Sale is the biggest snub this year, and I hope he gets the last spot with the fan vote. Since the All-Star Game "counts" these days, you want the best players representing your league. Sale is clearly in that category.