Showing posts with label Dewayne Wise. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dewayne Wise. Show all posts

Thursday, February 23, 2017

White Sox to retire Mark Buehrle's No. 56

White Sox players celebrate Mark Buehrle's perfect game in 2009.
The White Sox on Thursday announced that they will retire Mark Buehrle's No. 56 jersey in a ceremony June 24 at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Buehrle spent 12 seasons with the Sox and collected 161 of his 214 career victories with the South Siders.

The former 38th-round draft pick made four All-Star teams, won three Gold Gloves, tossed two no-hitters -- including a perfect game -- and was a key member of the Sox's World Series-winning rotation in 2005.

"Mark Buehrle is one of the most accomplished pitchers in franchise history," White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement. "Mark carried himself with class and professionalism throughout his career, and his popularity with staff, teammates and Sox fans is very well deserved. Although a very humble person, he certainly showed a flair for the dramatic on the mound, from a no-hitter to an unforgettable perfect game to a World Series title. A standout on the field and a standup teammate in the clubhouse, it is our honor to retire Mark Buehrle’s No. 56 and to welcome him into the legendary class of all-time White Sox greats."

Buehrle is one of my all-time favorite Sox players. His jersey hangs in my closet. There are so many good memories of his career that it's hard to pick a favorite, but I'll do it anyway.

I've been to hundreds of Sox games in my 40 years on the planet, but I've only seen one no-hitter in person. It was Buehrle's, on April 18, 2007, against the Texas Rangers. He faced the minimum 27 batters in the 6-0 win. He walked only one -- Sammy Sosa -- and he promptly picked Sosa off first base.

I saved my ticket stub from that game and all the clippings from the newspaper the following morning. Those materials are now framed and hung on a wall in my living room. It's a game I'll never forget the rest of my life.

Buehrle provided so many other great moments for the Sox and their fans -- getting the save in Game 3 of the 2005 World Series after pitching seven innings as the starter in Game 2; the 12-strikeout performance against the Seattle Mariners in a game that lasted only 1 hour, 39 minutes; the one-hitter against Tampa Bay in his first full season as a starter; the famous flip-between-the-legs play on Opening Day 2010 -- I could go on like this for hours.

But instead, let's just celebrate Buehrle's career by watching all the outs from his 27-up, 27-down masterpiece against Tampa Bay on July 23, 2009. This is a clinic in how to pitch. Only six of the 27 outs were strikeouts, but just notice the weak contact on most of the other 21 outs. Aside from the spectacular catch by Dewayne Wise in the top of the ninth inning, it's just routine play after routine play for Sox fielders. Enjoy:



Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Adam Eaton looks like a solution to two long-standing White Sox problems

The White Sox have sputtered as a team over the past six weeks, but center fielder Adam Eaton has continued to establish himself as a major league player.

Judging by the attendance figures and a relative lack of media coverage, few in Chicago have noticed that Eaton has been one of the best players in the American League since the All-Star break.

In Tuesday's 7-5 Sox win in Kansas City, Eaton went 4 for 5 with a double, a triple, two runs scored and a brilliant diving catch on a sinking liner off the bat of Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer. The performance raised Eaton's season batting average to .303.

But, the thing that stands out most about Eaton is his improvement throughout the year. His first-half numbers weren't bad by any means, but he's taken it to a new level since mid-July. Check out these splits:

First half: .270/.340/.372
Second half: .365/.418/.462

His season splits now stand at .303/.367/.403. This is arguably the best performance we've seen from a Sox leadoff hitter in the past 10 years, and it's definitely the best production the Sox have gotten from a leadoff hitter since Scott Podsednik surprised everyone with a resurgent year in 2009.

If you look at the past decade, you'll see the Sox have had their problems in center field.

Here's the revolving door the organization has had at that position since Aaron Rowand was traded for Jim Thome after the 2005 season:

White Sox center fielders:

2005: Rowand
2006: Brian Anderson, Rob Mackowiak
2007: Darin Erstad, Jerry Owens
2008: Nick Swisher, Anderson, Ken Griffey Jr.
2009: Dewayne Wise, Anderson, Alex Rios
2010: Rios
2011: Rios
2012: Alejandro De Aza
2013: De Aza
2014: Eaton

That's 11 players in 10 years. Swisher and Rios were corner outfielders who were asked to play out of position. Erstad and Griffey Jr. were declining players at the end of their careers. De Aza and Mackowiak couldn't handle the position defensively, and were put in center field for the purpose of getting another left-handed bat in the lineup. Anderson, Owens and Wise stunk and didn't belong out there for any reason.

Eaton is none of those negative things. He has proven he can play the position, and he's proving he can hit major league pitching. Sox GM Rick Hahn can rest easier now knowing he has a 25-year-old player who looks like a long-term solution in center field.

If you look at Sox leadoff hitters from the past 10 years, you'll see that Eaton compares favorably:

2005: Podsednik .290/.351/.349
2006: Podsednik .261/.330/.353
2007: Owens .267/.324/.312
2008: Orlando Cabrera .281/.334/.371
2009: Podsednik .304/.353/.412
2010: Juan Pierre .275/.341/.316
2011: Pierre .279/.329/.327
2012: De Aza .281/.349/.410
2013: De Aza .264/.323/.405
2014: Eaton .303/.367/.403

Eaton's .303 average is second only to Podsednik in 2009. His .367 on-base percentage is easily the best in this group. The .403 slugging percentage ranks fourth on the list, and it's a heckuva lot better than anything the Sox ever got out of punch-and-judy Pierre.

Obviously, the free-agent acquisition of Jose Abreu last offseason was a game-changer for the Sox organization. They now have that middle-of-the-order presence to build a lineup around. But almost as importantly, they solved two major holes -- center field and leadoff hitter -- with the acquisition of one player.

Eaton has established himself as a big part of the White Sox core moving forward.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Late, great (and not-so-great) additions, Part 1

With players having reported to spring training, teams are pretty much set as far as the major pieces of their rosters. Sure, there's jockeying for starting jobs, along with guys vying for spots on the back ends of benches and bullpens. But there's not really much left on the free agent market, even with the trend of some players signing later and later in the offseason.

This year you still could grab a starting shortstop (Stephen Drew), a middle-of-the-rotation pitcher (Ervin Santana) or a DH/first baseman (Kendrys Morales). That's only because those guys are clinging to the hope that a huge contract is on the horizon. For the most part, what's left are bench players (Kelly Shoppach, Laynce Nix, Andres Torres), organizational depth (Tyler Greene, Casey Kotchman), rehab projects (Jair Jurrjens, Johan Santana, Andrew Bailey), last-gasp attempts (Placido Polanco, Juan Pierre) or various arms to fill up a pitching staff (Jon Garland, Mike Gonzalez, Brett Myers).

The White Sox and Cubs don't look positioned to cull the cream of what's left, even if the price comes down. Even if they were, neither Chicago team has done well with last-minute additions.

By last-minute, I'm talking about a player signed after the start of February, but before Opening Day. That's when most of the good free agents are off the market, but before the season starts and the roster crunch some teams face creates a different kind of market.

We're just looking at the last 25 years, and not counting the post-strike year in 1995, when the work stoppage pushed free agency back and left everyone scrambling.

First here are the top five late-signing players for the White Sox, and later we'll look at the Cubs:

1. Kevin Tapani (Feb. 3, 1996)
Tapani signed late because while he was a solid innings-eater, he lacked overpowering stuff and owned a less-than-spectacular track record. At the age of 33, there were no takers for his services until the Sox offered him a one-year, $1.5 million contract.

The right-hander lived up to expectations, chewing up 225 innings with an average-ish ERA (4.59 -- average back in the swinging mid-90s) for a team that contended for a wild card before folding late. Like the Sox, Tapani also faded down the stretch, posting a 6.81 ERA in 71 1/3 innings from the start of August until the end of the season.

That didn't stop the Cubs from offering Tapani a five-year, $24 million contract the following offseason to be mostly mediocre, though he was very good in 1997 and almost won Game 1 of the 1998 NLDS against the Braves before Cubs manager Jim Riggleman left him in one batter too long.

As far as what the Sox got out of Tapani, though, they couldn't have really asked for more.

2. Danny Darwin (Feb. 7, 1997)
Darwin was the next-year edition of the Tapani signing. A very solid pitcher over most of his career, Darwin had trouble finding a job as a 41-year-old before the Sox gave him a one-year, $475,000 contract hoping he could help the back end of a suddenly needy rotation that had lost Alex Fernandez and Tapani to free agency and Jason Bere to injury.

While Darwin held up his end of the bargain (4.13 ERA in 113 1/3 IP), the Sox didn't. Other more highly touted (and much higher-paid) free agent pitchers Jaime Navarro and Doug Drabek were disasters, while the offense underwhelmed with a disappointing Albert Belle and Robin Ventura missing to injury.

Controversially, Darwin was packaged with Wilson Alvarez and Roberto Hernandez as part of the infamous "White Flag" trade. Other than that, this signing probably far exceeded what the Sox could have asked for.

3. Kenny Lofton (Feb. 1, 2002)
The Sox needed a center fielder while Lofton, just a few months shy of his 35th birthday, was coming off what would be the worst season of his very good career. That understandably scared off would-be suitors, so the Sox swooped in with a one-year, $1 million contract.

Lofton only disappointed people expecting him to recapture the glory days of his mid-20s. For the Sox he batted .259/.348/.418 and swiped 22 bases before being shipped off to the Giants for spare parts. Lofton went on to be a useful, and affordable, piece for contending teams through his 40th birthday. It's just that the 2002 Sox weren't a contending team.

4. Dewayne Wise (March 5, 2008)
This is where the list takes a turn for the worse. Is it a love affair that's still going on to this day? It's easy to be frustrated to see Wise on your team when he's been pressed into duties beyond his abilities. For a fourth outfielder, he still had his moments for the Sox.

5. Wil Cordero (March 23, 1998)
A domestic assault incident the previous year earned Cordero his release from the Red Sox. After a guilty plea in the offseason, the Sox were the only team to offer him a $1 million contract with a team option, only then because of his ties to then-manager Jerry Manuel from their days with the Expos, and his agreement to submit to tests and ongoing counseling.

If this story has any kind of a happy ending, it's that Cordero has seemingly put his history of violence behind him, at least by public indications. His talent was also rehabbed enough to last seven more seasons in the big leagues as a part-time player, though the rebuilding Sox never had much use for him. With Mike Caruso and Ray Durham ensconced in the middle infield, Cordero's inability to make good throws from third base, and lack of a bat big enough (.267/.314/.446 in 371 PAs) for first base or a corner outfield spot, the team said goodbye at the end of the year.

...to be continued when we look at late Cubs signings...

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Nick Swisher fails Indians in the clutch

I'll admit it: I can't stand Nick Swisher, and I was cheering against the Cleveland Indians in Wednesday night's American League Wild Card game for just that reason.

Swisher is one of my all-time least favorite White Sox players. He was only on the South Side for a year (2008), and that was one year too many in my book. He batted .219 and got benched in favor of Dewayne Wise late in the season.

The national media likes to portray Swisher as "always laughing, always smiling" and "great in the clubhouse." Maybe he is, and I don't pretend to know what goes on in any major league clubhouse. What I do know about Swisher is he is overmatched against upper-echelon pitching. His weaknesses always come to the forefront in the playoffs. In 47 career postseason games, he is hitting .165 (26 for 158) with 48 strikeouts.

Swisher cemented his reputation with another lousy playoff showing Wednesday night as the Tampa Bay Rays advanced to the ALDS with a 4-0 win over the Indians. Swisher went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts and looked pathetic during a critical at-bat in the bottom of the seventh inning. The Indians were trailing 3-0 at the time and had two men on with two men out. Tampa Bay summoned reliever Joel Peralta from the bullpen to replace eventual winning pitcher Alex Cobb. Peralta easily struck Swisher out on three pitches, and Cleveland's best and final chance to get back in the game went by the boards.

In the bottom of the fifth inning, the Indians had a golden opportunity -- runners on first and third with nobody out. They failed to score after Michael Bourn struck out, Swisher grounded out weakly to first and Jason Kipnis grounded right back to Cobb for the final out.

All told, Bourn, Swisher and Kipnis went 0 for 12 with 12 baserunners stranded. That's not what you want from your 1-2-3 in the lineup. For Swisher, failures in the playoffs have become all too common. He just can't do anything against quality pitchers from quality teams. I have to say I don't feel the least bit sorry for him.