Showing posts with label Jeff Samardzija. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jeff Samardzija. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Mat Latos has mixed results in first spring outing

Mat Latos
The pitching line for Mat Latos in his first spring outing looks ugly: seven earned runs on 11 hits over 4.2 innings.

That said, the White Sox right-hander's performance wasn't without positives. He allowed only two of those seven runs through the first four innings. His fastball was clocked between 89 and 92 mph, about where it should be, and he threw a couple of sharp curveballs to record two of his four strikeouts. He also declared his troublesome left knee to be healthy after the outing.

But that fifth inning didn't go so well. He gave up two home runs and quickly turned a 3-2 lead into a 7-3 deficit (although the Sox would rally to win, 8-7). Latos noted that he gave up "a couple cheap hits" and allowed himself to become frustrated on the mound.

"I didn’t expect it to be a complete explosion, that was embarrassing," Latos told CSN Chicago's Dan Hayes. "But I’m healthy, the knee feels good. Like I said, first inning through fourth inning shows how I really feel. Just again, a dumb move by me. A blonde moment, if you will, just getting out of what I wanted to accomplish and that’s not the game plan. We don’t want to get aggravated when we’re out there. Stick to the game plan. If it’s not broke don’t fix it. I kind of let it to get me and that was a dumb, selfish mistake and we’ll progress there."

Another potential explanation for the horrible inning: Latos isn't strong enough yet to pitch deep into games. That theory was offered by manager Robin Ventura.

“I thought the first few [innings] he was crisp,” Ventura said in Hayes' report. “He looked good. He was down [in the zone]. After that, there could be a couple things in there -- fatigue, could be getting him out here for the first time. I think it’s just getting him back out here and getting him stretched out and getting him stronger. Encouraged by the start of it just how crisp he was.”

We'll get more answers as we see more of Latos in the final two weeks of spring. If he looks like the guy he was in the first four innings Tuesday as he pitches deeper into games, then he's going to help the Sox this year. Time will tell whether this fifth-inning implosion is any cause for concern.

And if you are concerned about Latos, consider this: Jeff Samardzija, the guy Latos is replacing in the Sox rotation, has an 8.53 ERA with the San Francisco Giants this spring. Samardzija has given up five home runs in 18 spring innings with San Francisco. Sound familiar? Again, I'll take my chances with Latos on a one-year deal worth $3 million over the $90 million over five years the Giants gave Samardzija.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Mat Latos vs. Jeff Samardzija: a side-by-side comparison

The White Sox created competition at the back end of their starting rotation last week with the signing of veteran right-hander Mat Latos.

We already know Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Carlos Rodon will be the top three starting pitchers on the roster. That leaves Latos, John Danks, Erik Johnson and Jacob Turner to compete for the last two spots.

Being a cynic, I'll go ahead and assume Danks' place in the rotation is safe. He's the longest-tenured player on the Sox. He is the highest paid player on the roster, and money talks when it comes to the decisions the Sox make.

That would mean the Sox would have four of the same five starting pitchers they had in the rotation last year, with Latos, Johnson and Turner competing for the spot vacated by Jeff Samardzija.

If Latos is healthy, I think he gets the job. For the sake of argument, let's assume that's the case.

Will Latos be an upgrade over Samardzija? Let's do a side-by-side comparison with last year's numbers:

Category Latos Samardzija
W-L record 4-10 11-13
ERA 4.95 4.96
FIP 3.72 4.23
WHIP 1.307 1.294
H/9 9.3 9.6
HR/9 1.0 1.2
BB/9 2.5 2.1
K/9 7.7 6.9
K/BB 3.13 3.33

Clearly, these numbers are not impressive for either pitcher, both of whom suffered through the worst seasons of their respective careers.

But a couple things to note: Latos has the excuse of not being healthy. He made only 21 starts all year. Samardzija made all 32 of his starts.

People have excused Samardzija's poor season on the grounds that he had poor defense behind him with the White Sox. I can't disagree with that point, but isn't it interesting that Samardzija's FIP (fielder independent pitcher) was worse than Latos's?

The numbers suggest that Samardzija was responsible for many of his own problems.

Now, let's compare career statistics:

Category Latos Samardzija
W-L record 64-55 47-61
ERA 3.51 4.09
FIP 3.44 3.84
WHIP 1.183 1.278
H/9 8.0 8.5
HR/9 0.8 1.0
BB/9 2.7 3.0
K/9 8.1 8.2
K/BB 3.04 2.76

Latos is the superior pitcher in every category but one: strikeouts per nine innings. And the difference there is minimal.

Which pitcher would you bet on as a bounce-back candidate in 2016? There's a strong case for Latos.

And, remember, Samardzija signed a five-year, $90 million deal with the San Francisco Giants. Latos comes to the Sox on a one-year deal worth $3 million.

I'd say the Giants are taking the far bigger gamble on Samardzija than the Sox are taking on Latos.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

USA Today publishes organizational report on White Sox

Carlos Rodon
If you live in Chicago or the surrounding area, it can be hard to find accurate, useful analysis of the White Sox organization. Most of the local media members are obsessed with the Bears and Cubs, and listening to them talk, it sometimes seems like they haven't watched a Sox game in two or three years.

They simply don't care about White Sox baseball. They dismiss the team as irrelevant, and while it may be irrelevant to them, it's still very much a passion for many of us fans. If you're a diehard Sox fan, it's far more useful to seek the national perspective on the team than to listen to the local talking heads. The national writers tend to be more knowledgeable, in spite of the fact that they have 30 teams to cover, and they tend to be more fair, as well.

That's why I look forward to reading articles about the Sox from national publications such as USA Today's Sports Weekly, which recently published its organizational report on the Sox. Not that any of this should be taken as gospel. Like anything else, I agree with some things in the article and disagree with others, but it's just nice to read a perspective that is outside the usual local talking points.

A few things that caught my attention from this article:

1. They expect the White Sox starting rotation to be better in 2016 than it was last year. It's an interesting thought, because the Sox rotation ranked No. 4 in the majors in WAR, according to FanGraphs.com. In fact, the Sox rotation was the best in the American League a year ago, according to those rankings. The writer of this article sees the departure of Jeff Samardzija to the San Francisco Giants as addition by subtraction, and there's no question Samardzija had a poor year last season. While I share the author's confidence in Chris Sale and Jose Quintana -- and I also expect Carlos Rodon to take the next step forward in his development -- I think Erik Johnson is a question mark as a replacement for Samardzija. Sure, Johnson won International League pitcher of the year honors at Triple-A Charlotte last year, and he showed well in six big-league starts at the end of the year. But Samardzija's team-leading 214.1 innings have to be covered by somebody. Johnson won't do that alone; he has only 86.1 big-league innings under his belt to this point. I question whether the Sox have built enough depth at this point to cover back-of-the-rotation starts.

2. The author doesn't think much of the Sox's bullpen, an area that has gone mostly unaddressed this offseason. Sox relievers logged a league-low 441.2 innings last year. I attribute that to the Sox having a strong rotation, plus manager Robin Ventura's tendency to stay with his starters too long. The writer of the article agrees that figure speaks to the quality of the Sox rotation, but also says a lack of bullpen depth perhaps handcuffed Ventura last season. Contrary to local beliefs, the author notes that David Robertson delivered in the closer's role, but the arms behind him were described as merely "serviceable." We'll see if Nate Jones can stay healthy and lock down the eighth inning for the Sox in 2016. If he can, that makes a big difference.

3. The prospects list is remarkably similar to the one provided by Baseball America, with shortstop Tim Anderson, RHP Carson Fulmer, RHP Spencer Adams and 3B Trey Michalczewski making up the consensus top four. The only variance is the inclusion of RHP Tyler Danish at No. 5. Danish was No. 6 on the Baseball America list, so there isn't much disagreement on who the top Sox prospects are. It's worth noting the author thinks Fulmer is close to contributing in Chicago. I expect Fulmer to remain the minors for all of 2016, but we'll see. You still hear some people saying Fulmer projects as a reliever, and this article alludes to that possibility. I don't think that's going to happen. Fulmer has three pitches and never showed any sort of stamina problem during his college days. For me, he stands a good shot of cracking the Sox rotation early in 2017.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

White Sox pitcher Jeff Samardzija turns in the worst performance of his career

The end of the 2015 regular season is less than three weeks away. It can't come soon enough for White Sox starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija, who is enduring a baffling terrible second half.

Samardzija turned in the worst start of his career Tuesday night as the Sox absorbed a 17-6 pounding at the hands of the Oakland Athletics.

The right-hander put the Sox in a 5-0 hole in the first inning. He failed to make it through the fourth inning -- he didn't record an out in that fourth, in fact -- an inning in which the Athletics would score 10 runs.

Samardzija's final line: 3 IP, 11 H, 10 R, 10 ER, 3 BBs, 3 Ks.

From June 7 through July 28, Samardzija posted 10 straight starts of seven innings pitched or more. His season highlight came July 9 when he threw a four-hit shutout against the best offensive team in the league, the Toronto Blue Jays.

But since Aug. 1, it has all gone very wrong. Samardzija is 1-8 with a 9.24 ERA since that date. On Tuesday, he became just the third pitcher in MLB history to allow nine or more earned runs in a game three times in the same season. The others are Jaime Navarro (1997) and Brett Tomko (2003).

Sox fans are all too familiar with Navarro, and he's unfortunately become a convenient comparison to make with Samardzija.

Navarro, like Samardzija, pitched for the Cubs before joining the Sox and had a respectable amount of success. Navarro went a combined 29-18 with a 3.62 ERA from 1995-96 on the North Side. In 1997, he moved eight miles south to the White Sox and put up poor numbers that rival those of Samardzija this season.

Navarro (1997 White Sox): 9-14, 5.79 ERA, 1.622 WHIP
Samardzija (2015 White Sox): 9-13, 5.27 ERA, 1.354 WHIP

Of course, Navarro was a free-agent acquisition who was making some bucks with the Sox, so that meant his spot in the rotation remained secure no matter how poorly he performed. From 1997-99, he made 87 starts for the South Siders, went 25-43 with a 6.06 ERA and stole $5 million a year from Jerry Reinsdorf. That was big money in late 1990s dollars.

The good news for Sox fans is the Samardzija train wreck won't continue on for three years like the Navarro disaster did. Samardzija's contract is up at the end of the season. You have to believe both the player and team are eager to move on.

Position players pitching in September

Another sign of White Sox mismanagement: Two position players pitched in Tuesday's debacle. Utility man Leury Garcia worked a scoreless eighth inning, while shortstop Alexei Ramirez pitched a scoreless ninth.

Sure, the Sox bullpen has been used a lot this week. Chris Sale lasted only three innings in a Sunday loss to the Minnesota Twins. Monday's game lasted 14 innings, and as we've chronicled, Samardzija was knocked out early Tuesday. But with the September roster expansion, a team shouldn't need to resort to risking the health of position players to eat up innings on the mound.

I'm baffled as to why the Sox didn't allow a Quad-A innings-eater such as Scott Carroll or Junior Guerra to join the roster for the last month of the year. Either of those two men could have saved the Sox some embarrassment in this latest loss.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

John Danks has the lowest WHIP of any White Sox starter in the second half of the season

An absurd ninth-inning meltdown by Tyler Flowers and David Robertson prevented White Sox left-hander John Danks from picking up his eighth victory of the season Monday night, but it didn't change the fact that Danks turned in a quality outing in the Sox's 8-7, 14-inning win over the last-place Oakland Athletics.

Danks went seven innings, allowing just three hits. Granted, all of them were solo home runs, but can anyone really complain about the so-called No. 5 starter giving up three runs over seven innings? I don't believe so.

The overall numbers don't look great for Danks; he's 7-12 with a 4.56 ERA this year. But I'll bet you didn't know he has the lowest WHIP of any Sox starter since the All-Star break. His ERA is the second lowest over that same span, behind only Jose Quintana, who has been the Sox's best pitcher over the last two months.

Here are the second-half numbers for each member of the Sox rotation:

1. Quintana: 5-1, 3.28 ERA, 1.369 WHIP
2. Danks 3-4, 3.60 ERA, 1.200 WHIP
3. Carlos Rodon 4-4, 4.10 ERA, 1.298 WHIP
4. Chris Sale 4-5, 5.00 ERA, 1.302 WHIP
5. Jeff Samardzija 3-8, 6.46 ERA, 1.450 WHIP

Not sure what to make of all this, other than to say this isn't the way the Sox drew it up. Quintana has done his job, but Sale and Samardzija are supposed to be the two best pitchers. Samardzija has been consistently terrible. Sale has been up and down, mainly because he keeps inexplicably getting roughed up by the Minnesota Twins.

One thing we can say: Danks is not responsible for the Sox's inability to make a second-half push. He stunk the first half, yes, but he's routinely done his job in more recent outings -- including Monday night.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Jeff Samardzija is having problems early in games

I'm not going to spend too much time breaking down the White Sox's 15-2 loss to the Texas Rangers on Tuesday night.

The Rangers are hot. They've won 10 out of 12 games to pull their record over the .500 mark (27-25). They jumped on Sox starter Jeff Samardzija for four runs in the first inning after two were out Tuesday, and the rout was on from there.

The bad first inning continued a season-long trend for Samardzija, who has had a lot of problems early in games.

Check out Samardzija's ERA by inning this year:

1st inning: 11.45
2nd inning: 6.55
3rd inning: 4.09
4th inning: 4.09
5th inning: 2.45
6th inning: 2.00
7th inning: 1.50
8th inning: 0.00
9th inning: N/A

You hear about pitchers getting stronger as the game goes on, but Samardzija's numbers are an extreme case. He's given up a total of 38 earned runs in 11 starts this season -- 22 of them have scored in the first two innings of games, including 14 in the first inning.

Overall, the Sox (23-27) have been terrible early in games this year. They've been outscored 45-14 in the first inning, and 104-60 in innings 1 to 3.

That's an awful lot of playing from behind, and Samardzija has been one of the main culprits in digging the Sox a hole in the early innings.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Unfounded 'concerns' about four left-handers in the White Sox rotation likely to resurface

With Carlos Rodon officially in the White Sox starting rotation, the team now features four left-handed starters -- Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and John Danks are the others.

That means it is time to brace ourselves for more Chicago media fiction about how having four left-handers in the rotation is somehow a detriment to a team.

When you read that tripe, don't buy into it. Instead, just reflect back on this past week's results as evidence that this is a nonissue.

The Sox threw two lefties back-to-back Tuesday and Wednesday against the Milwaukee Brewers. Here were the results:
Jose Quintana

Sale: 8 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 11 Ks, 1 BB
Quintana: 7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 10 Ks, 1 BB

Does it seem to you that facing Sale on Tuesday gave the Brewers any tactical advantage when they went up against Quintana on Wednesday? Doesn't look like it to me. Quintana was every bit as effective as Sale was.

Let's go back even earlier. Rodon pitched the second game of a doubleheader against the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday night. Less than 24 hours later, the Reds faced another Sox lefty, Danks. Under the prevailing media theory, the Reds should have been at an advantage against Danks, having faced another lefty in Rodon the previous game. Let's take a look at results:

Rodon: 6 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 8Ks, 4 BBs
Danks: 7 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 4Ks, 3 BBs

Look at that. The Reds didn't do much against either of the two lefties, despite facing them in back-to-back games.

This is why Sox fans should ignore this invented "concern" about having too many left-handers. The Sox's 2005 World Series team had four right-handed pitchers in the rotation, and that never seemed to be an issue. So why would four left-handers be a detriment? Someone is going to have to explain that to me.

Handedness doesn't matter that much. Just give me guys that can pitch. As it stands right now, ironically enough, the one Sox pitcher who is struggling is the lone right-hander, Jeff Samardzija.

Samardzija hasn't been able to get his fastball inside to righties, and as a result, he's allowed 13 extra-base hits to right-handed batters this season (8 doubles, 1 triple, 3 home runs).

Right-handed hitters are slugging .505 against Samardzija for the year. By way of comparison, right-handers slugged just .359 against him last season, and have slugged .378 against him in his career.

That's something to watch when Samardzija takes his next start Sunday, and isn't it interesting that the Sox only righty is having more trouble with right-handed hitters than any of the lefties in the rotation?

The Sox will play a three-game series in Oakland this weekend. Here are the pitching matchups:

Friday: Rodon vs. Jesse Hahn
Saturday: Danks vs. Jesse Chavez
Sunday: Samardzija vs. Scott Kazmir

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Miserable first inning typical of White Sox malaise

This isn't a newsflash, but the White Sox stink on the road.

Sure, they had a nice 4-2 homestand, taking two out of three from both the Detroit Tigers and the Cincinnati Reds, but it's naive to think the Sox's early-season struggles are over until they can resemble a major league team while playing away from the comfortable environs of U.S. Cellular Field.

The Sox fell to 2-12 on the road Monday with a 10-7 loss to the NL Central cellar-dwelling Milwaukee Brewers, and the South Siders wasted no time reminding fans just how bad a team they are. The first inning of this game was disgraceful.  Let's take a moment to review the sad timeline:
  • Milwaukee leadoff hitter Gerardo Parra hit a grounder toward second baseman Micah Johnson, whose lame attempt to backhand the ball was a failure. The ball deflected off Johnson's glove for a "single." The play should have been made. It was not.
  • Parra successfully stole second base, and catcher Geovany Soto's throw was nowhere near the bag. Parra had a good enough jump that he probably would have been safe regardless, but Soto still looked like a fool with his lame toss.
  • Ryan Braun, the second Milwaukee hitter of the game, hit a weak grounder to shortstop that Alexei Ramirez kicked for an error. The play should have been made. It was not. Runners on first and third, no outs.
  • Adam Lind, the third Milwaukee hitter of the game, hit what should have been a double-play ball to Johnson, who was too slow to field it and too slow to get the ball to Ramirez. The Sox did force Braun out at second base, but Lind was needlessly safe at first. The play should have been made. It was not.
  • Sox pitcher Jeff Samardzija hangs a slider to Milwaukee cleanup hitter Carlos Gomez, who homers to put the Brewers up 3-0.
Amazing, isn't it? Four batters into the first inning, and the Sox had already made a handful of glaring miscues. Is it any wonder this team is 12-17?

Samardzija eventually dug the team a 6-0 hole, and to the Sox's credit, they did battle back against inferior Milwaukee pitching to tie the game at 7-7 in the eighth inning.

Alas, reliever Zach Duke had his first bad outing of the year. He gave up three runs, including home runs by Elian Herrera and Khris Davis, in the bottom of the eighth inning. That Milwaukee rally sealed the Sox's fate. It was a fate they deserved after another night on the road of pitiful defense and subpar starting pitching.

Monday, May 4, 2015

It may be early May, but it's getting late for the White Sox

The White Sox embarrassed themselves over the weekend.

The Minnesota Twins, who were picked to finish last in the AL Central by everyone, outscored the Sox 31-8 over four games and swept the series.

The Sox committed four errors in Sunday's 13-3 loss, and there could have easily been five or six errors charged had it not been for some hometown-friendly scorekeeping in Minnesota.

Let's credit Sox radio broadcaster Ed Farmer, who said on air Sunday, "This has been the worse exhibition of people playing baseball that I've seen in my 20 years in the booth."

I'm not a big fan of Farmer's work, but I applaud him for being the only person associated with the White Sox willing to tell it like it is. The team is in disarray, and they deserved to be criticized.

Contrast that with the TV booth, where Ken Harrelson continues to insist the Sox "are a good team playing bad baseball."

Hearing such nonsense only adds to the frustration of fans, who have seen no evidence the Sox are "a good team." The South Siders lost 99 games in 2013; they lost 89 games in 2014; and this season has looked like an extension of that misery to this point. Sorry, Hawk, but there is no track record of success here for the organization or the fans to fall back upon.

The Sox have stunk for more than two years, and they will be considered a bad team until they prove otherwise. There comes a point where you cross the line from being "in a slump" to just being a bad team doing the things that bad teams do. Right now, I'd say the Sox are getting very close to being written off as another bad team.

After Monday's off day, they welcome the first-place Detroit Tigers for a three-game set at U.S. Cellular Field.

The Tigers are seven games ahead of the last-place Sox entering Monday's play, so a Detroit sweep would leave Chicago 10 games out and gasping for air. The Sox have to respond right now, and believe it or not, they are catching a break with the pitching matchups for this series:

Tuesday: Jeff Samardzija vs. Shane Greene
Wednesday: Chris Sale vs. Alfredo Simon
Thursday: Jose Quintana vs. Kyle Lobstein

The Sox are sending their three best starters to the mound, while the Tigers will pitch the back end of their rotation. The Sox will not see Detroit ace David Price, nor will they see No. 2 starter Anibal Sanchez. Justin Verlander remains on the DL.

This is set up for the Sox to right the ship and get a series win. They better, or the fan base might jump off the wagon entirely. There isn't much time left for excuses. Results need to improve immediately.


Thursday, April 30, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 24, 2015

Some thoughts on the White Sox-Royals brawl

You can watch the video here if you haven't already seen the fracas between the White Sox and the Kansas City Royals on Thursday night at U.S. Cellular Field.

For the record, the Royals won the game, 3-2, in 13 innings, and for me as a Sox fan, that's the most frustrating part of the whole evening. The Sox have lost the last five head-to-head meetings with Kansas City, and 15 out of the last 18, dating back to last year.

The Sox cannot call themselves a contender if they're going to continue to allow Kansas City to walk in and kick their ass game after game and series after series. When is enough going to be enough?

The Royals are a good team; they got to the World Series last year for a reason, but let's not pretend they are some sort of juggernaut like the Yankees were in the late 1990s. Even in the loss last night, White Sox pitchers were able to keep the Royals off the scoreboard for 11 consecutive innings. What does that tell you? Kansas City is not some sort of elite fighting force that cannot be stopped. The Royals are beatable. The problem is more with the White Sox, who have developed an identity as a team that cannot execute in clutch situations and routinely beats itself.

That's what I'm mad about today as a Sox fan, much more than the fight.

But looking at the fight, it strikes me as bizarre that Adam Eaton is getting so much blame from Kansas City and its fans. Supposedly, Eaton "said something" to provoke Yordano Ventura, the Royals pitcher. I don't doubt that Eaton "said something," but whatever he said, the home plate umpire had to have heard it. He was standing right there; yet Eaton was not among the five players ejected from the game.

If Eaton had said something that inflammatory toward Ventura, don't you believe he would have been tossed? I do. The umpires seemingly had no reservations about sending the people who were in the wrong to the showers. Ventura, Edinson Volquez and Lorenzo Cain of the Royals were all rightfully ejected, as were Jeff Samardzija and Chris Sale of the White Sox. I firmly believe Eaton would have been ejected if he had deserved an ejection. The umpire, who was standing right there when the whole thing went down, apparently did not see Eaton as the instigator.

I believe Eaton "said something" that was misconstrued by Ventura. That happens. It's part of the game. Both players were apologetic about the incident, and I think fans of both teams should be able to let that part of the brawl go without further discussion.

What went on after that was far more troubling. Cain and Samardzija were instigators. Both were way out of line, both in actions on the field and words after the game. We should expect better from two quality players who should be acting as leaders for their respective teams. I wouldn't be surprised if Samardzija gets the longest suspension of anyone involved in this fracas. As a Sox fan, I'm disappointed in him.

There's no excuse for throwing wild sucker punches on the field, and Volquez merits a lengthy suspension for his actions, as well. There's also no reason for Sale to be anywhere near the Kansas City clubhouse while the game is still going on.

It's time for the managers and the team leaders on both sides to get this nonsense under control, especially Kansas City, which has brawled with three different teams in the first 17 days of the season.

And from a White Sox perspective, it's long past time to man up and start beating the Royals, not with fists and purpose pitches, but rather by playing good baseball.

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, 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, April 9, 2015

Jeff Samardzija joins list of newly acquired White Sox starters to struggle on Opening Day

Jeff Samardzija had a pretty forgettable turn as an Opening Day starter for the White Sox on Monday. Sadly, that's been the state of things throughout history when the Sox have put a newly acquired hurler on the mound to kick things off.

Here are the guys who started a season opener in their first tour with the Sox:

David Wells (2001)
Arrival: Wells, a free-agent-to-be, was the big offseason acquisition for the Sox after they won a surprising division title in 2000. Mike Sirotka was sent to Toronto in a swap of lefties in which Chicago got the better end, but only because the guy they traded had a bum shoulder and never pitched in the majors again.

Opening Day: Wells was solid, giving up a pair of runs over six innings for a quality start in a 7-4 win against Cleveland.

The Season: Wells wasn't the missing piece for the Sox's rotation. The big pitcher gave up at least four earned runs in half of the 16 starts he made that year before an injury forced him out in June, conveniently after he dogged Frank Thomas for not being tough enough to play through a torn triceps.

Postscript: It was one-and-done for Wells and the Sox when the aging hurler went back to the Yankees, where he previously had his most successful seasons and would go on to have the best of his late-career run.

Jaime Navarro (1997)
Arrival: Navarro was the second-biggest free agent splash the Sox made before this year. The other was signing Albert Belle to what was then the richest contract in baseball. Navarro, who had won 29 games over the previous two seasons with middling Cubs teams, was given four years and $30 million as the less-costly alternative to either re-signing the Sox's own free agent Alex Fernandez, or luring Roger Clemens to the South Side.

Opening Day: Navarro pitched six innings against Toronto, gave up five runs -- three earned -- on five walks and seven hits that included a couple home runs. The Sox still prevailed, 6-5, with reliever Tony Castillo getting the win and Roberto Hernandez recording the save.

The Season: The only thing that would make Navarro's first start anomalous from his inaugural campaign with the Sox is that he struck out eight batters. He was not prolific in recording Ks the rest of the time, but was pretty good at issuing walks, hits and especially home runs on his way to a 5.79 ERA in just less than 175 innings.

Postscript: Navarro was maybe the worst free agent signing in Sox history. In a classic Jerry Manuel decision, the surly right-hander was given the ball on Opening Day again the next year. The walks, home runs and attitude kept getting worse. Stints of banishment to the bullpen over the next couple years did nothing to improve his over-6.00 ERAs. The last year of his contract was dumped on the Brewers in exchange for taking back Jose Valentin and Cal Eldred, who both had great moments with the Sox.

Ricky Horton (1988)
Arrival: Then-GM Larry Himes dealt Jose DeLeon to the Cardinals for Horton and an outfield prospect named Lance Johnson. DeLeon was part of an exodus of rotation stalwarts from the previous season as Himes also traded Floyd Bannister and Richard Dotson. Horton had done good work as a swingman for St. Louis, posting a 3.12 ERA starting 36 games and finishing 53 over the previous four seasons. The Sox planned to slot the lefty right into their rotation.

Opening Day: With the top three starters from the previous season gone, the start could have gone to prospects Jack McDowell or Melido Perez (acquired in the Bannister trade). Or journeyman Dave LaPoint, acquired from St. Louis the previous year. Or scrap-heap reclamation Jerry Reuss. Instead they went with Horton, who gave up five runs -- four earned -- in an 8-5 win against the Angels, gutting his way into the ninth before putting two men on and yielding to Bobby Thigpen for the save.

The Season: Horton had a nice April going 3-3 with a 3.43 ERA, but then the wheels fell off. He was thrashed his first three starts of May before being pulled from the rotation. By July his ERA was touching 6.00. By September he was a Dodger, where he did little to impress out of the bullpen, not even appearing in the World Series that year for Los Angeles on its way to a title.

Postscript: Horton was bad and out of baseball after a couple more years. That was probably fine for the Sox, who were really after Johnson in the DeLeon trade. It was Johnson that was in center field once the Sox broke through to win 94 games two years later with McDowell, Perez and Greg Hibbard (also in the Bannister trade) leading the rotation. More pitching was on the way for the resurgent franchise that was still in transition when Horton came and went.

Ed Durham (1933) / Sad Sam Jones (1932)
Arrival: Jones and Durham share an entry because they started openers back-to-back during the darkest days of the White Sox franchise. Jones was part of a package that included Bump Hadley and Jackie Hayes for Carl Reynolds, an outfielder coming off a disappointing year, and infielder John Kerr. Durham was traded for four guys, only one of whom appeared in the majors after 1933.

Opening Day: The then-39-year-old Jones started the 1932 campaign for the Sox with a complete game in a 9-2 win against the St. Louis Browns. He got the Opening Day nod with Hall-of-Famers Ted Lyons and Red Faber not being able to take the ball until later in the season. Durham tossed seven innings in a 4-2 win over the Browns on Opening Day the following year.

The Season(s): Jones had a respectable year, going 10-15 but with a respectable 4.22 ERA in that day. That would be pretty representative of the work the Sox would get from him, more sporadically, over the next there seasons. Durham, then just 25, might have appeared to a more promising long-term piece. But after reportedly injuring his arm in his Opening Day start, he labored to a 4.48 ERA in 23 more games -- 20 of them starts -- and was gone from baseball after the season.

The Postscript: It's the popular perception that the White Sox entered baseball's wilderness after the 1920 season when eight of their players were given lifetime bans for throwing the 1919 World Series. That's partly true in that the Sox were awful in 1921, but they did bounce back to 77-77 record the year after and finished above .500 in 1925 and 1926. The gutted Sox rosters of the early- and mid-20s were overall mediocre, but with Hall-of-Famers Eddie Collins, Harry Hooper and Ray Schalk, plus solid players like Johnny Mostil and Willie Kamm, they were mostly respectable.

That changed by the end of the decade, when Collins, Hooper, Schalk and Mostil saw their careers wind down with no replacements at hand. Over six seasons from 1929-1934, the Sox had a .377 win percentage. For six years they had a worse winning percentage than they had in any single season except 1948. It wasn't until 1936 when Luke Appling hit .388 that the Sox again posted a winning record.

The Sox were grasping at straws when they hauled Jones and Durham in to help fill out pitching staffs that were among the worst in baseball for half a decade.

When the Sox added Samardzija, they were in a more enviable position, already in possession of a left-handed ace (Chris Sale), a lefty who could be an ace on many teams (Jose Quintana) and yet another lefty prospect who could develop into an ace (Carlos Rodon).

Let's hope the current state of the Sox franchise continues its divergent path from the one taken by the early 30s Sox, while Samardzija recovers to pitch better for the Sox that anybody else on this list.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

White Sox give fans an Opening Day to forget

Opening Day of the baseball season is supposed to be about new beginnings and new hope. Unfortunately for the White Sox and their fans, Opening Day 2015 proved to be way too reminiscent of 2014.

The Kansas City Royals won 13 of 19 meetings against the White Sox on their way to the American League pennant last season, and they continued their mastery of the South Siders on Monday with an easy 10-1 victory.

You would like to think with all the acquisitions the Sox made over the offseason things would be different now, but at least for one day, the faces have changed but the results remained the same.

Starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija pitched poorly in his Sox debut. His fastball command was erratic at best. His offspeed pitches weren't working at all, and the result was five Kansas City runs on six hits over six-plus innings. Samardzija walked three and hit two batters, and he struck out just one. There wasn't anything good to say about his outing, other than the fact that the Sox were still in the game -- down 4-1 -- when he left the mound in the seventh inning. It could have been worse.

Relievers Dan Jennings and Kyle Drabek also struggled. By the time that seventh inning was over, Kansas City held a 9-1 lead. A 3-run homer by Alex Rios (off Drabek) was the highlight of the frame for the Royals, but in many ways, all five of those runs were gifts.

First off, Samardzija and Jennings each walked a batter to give the Royals two baserunners with nobody out. But it looked like Jennings had a chance to get out of the inning, as he got Lorenzo Cain to ground out and struck out Eric Hosmer. But with runners on second and third and two outs, Sox manager Robin Ventura needlessly ordered an intentional walk of Kendrys Morales.

Ventura wanted the left-handed Jennings to face the left-handed hitting Alex Gordon, but as we discussed when Jennings was acquired, he's not a lefty specialist. He actually gets right-handed hitters out at a better clip than lefties, so giving the Royals a third walk and a third baserunner in the inning was foolish move.

Still, Jennings made the pitch he needed to make to get out of the inning, but a weak grounder by Gordon somehow eluded both Alexei Ramirez and Micah Johnson and squirted into center field for a two-run single and a 6-1 Kansas City lead. It was a play Johnson should have made, but the play is at least partially Ramirez's fault because he jumped in front of the Sox rookie and perhaps screened him from seeing the ball.

The inning should have been over with the Royals still leading 4-1. Instead, it continued and Rios hit his home run to end any doubt on how this afternoon would end.

The Sox looked bad in all aspects, and it was hard not to feel like there wasn't some carryover from a poor ending to spring training. The South Siders had lost their last two exhibition games, a 10-2 drubbing against Arizona and a silly 10-2 loss to the Triple-A Charlotte Knights. Ventura had warned his team that enough was enough, and that the sloppy play needed to end.

That warning went unheeded, and similar results ensued in the opener in Kansas City. There were three silver linings from this game. 1) Jose Abreu homered, ending needless worries about his lack of power during spring training; 2) Johnson got his first big-league hit out of the way; and 3) it only counts as one loss and there's another game on Wednesday.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Carlos Rodon shows promise in dominant outing against Royals

There's a reason the White Sox made pitcher Carlos Rodon their first-round pick in the 2014 draft: He's got a 95 mph heater, and more importantly, a big-league ready slider.

Rodon put his nasty breaking ball on display Wednesday night in a spring training start against the Kansas City Royals, and the results were spectacular. He worked four scoreless innings in Chicago's 6-0 win, recording nine of his 12 outs via the strikeout. He walked none and gave up four hits, all of them singles.

I just finished watching the outing on my DVR, and by my unofficial count, eight of the nine strikeouts were with the slider. That pitch breaks quick down-and-in to right-handed batters and down-and-away to lefties. The Kansas City hitters had no chance. They were swinging right over the top of it.

I know what you're thinking: Spring training numbers don't count. You're right, but consider this: The defending AL champs from Kansas City had eight of their nine regulars in the lineup to face Rodon. Catcher Salvador Perez was the only notable absence.

Here is the list of Rodon strikeout victims from Wednesday: Alcides Escobar, Alex Gordon, Eric Hosmer, Alex Rios, Erik Kratz, Escobar again, Lorenzo Cain, Hosmer again, Kendrys Morales.

All familiar names except for Kratz, who was catching in place of Perez. This was not a "B" lineup by any stretch.

Rodon still needs to go back to Triple-A to start the season and work on his changeup, which both Omar Infante and Morales got base hits against in this outing, but I came away impressed that Rodon was able to do that kind of work against established players.

Samardzija to start opener; Sale throws bullpen session

The worst-kept secret in Sox camp is no longer a secret. Jeff Samardzija will be the starting pitcher on Opening Day, manager Robin Ventura announced Wednesday.

A lot of ink got spilled on this issue, because Ventura previously told the press he knew who his starter would be, but declined to reveal that information. Nonetheless, anyone with a calendar who knows pitchers work every five days, and who knows how to count, could have figured out Samardzija was going to get the nod in the opener. He's been on schedule to start April 6 for more than two weeks. What should have been obvious to all is finally official.

And, really, does it matter that much who starts on Opening Day? It's mostly symbolic, and everyone will have long forgotten about it when mid-August rolls around. I think most observers are aware that Chris Sale is clearly the Sox's best pitcher. He's just not going to be available to make that start this year.

And speaking of Sale (broken foot), he threw a short bullpen session Wednesday and remains on track to make his season debut April 12 against the Minnesota Twins.

How important is Sale to the Sox? Consider this quote from Kansas City TV broadcaster Rex Hudler, which I heard while watching Wednesday's game:

"Anytime you have a series against the White Sox, and you don't see (Sale), that's a break."

That about sums it up.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Tuesday thoughts: Matt Davidson, Brad Penny, David Robertson

I was on board with the move last offseason when White Sox GM Rick Hahn traded closer Addison Reed to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for third base prospect Matt Davidson.

In theory, it's a trade I'd still endorse today. Closers have a short shelf life, and while Reed is a solid relief pitcher, he is not All-Star caliber. It's not a bad baseball move to trade a player like that for someone you believe will at some point play every day in your infield.

That said, it's hard not to be discouraged about what we've seen since Davidson joined the White Sox organization. 2014 was a terrible year for him. His slash line at Triple-A Charlotte was .199/.283/.362. His 20 home runs and 55 RBIs hardly made up for the 164 strikeouts in 539 plate appearances.

You'd like to believe it was just a poor season -- it can happen to any player -- and that Davidson will bounce back this year. Maybe he will, but it's been an ugly spring for him so far. He's 1-for-12 with four strikeouts in the Cactus League, and he committed errors on back-to-back plays Monday that opened the door for the Diamondbacks to score four unearned runs in their 6-2 win over the White Sox.

Davidson continues to struggle both with the bat and with the glove. He turns 24 next week, so you can still say he counts as a prospect, but it will be hard for the Sox to keep him in their plans if he doesn't show anything this year.

Penny getting a long look

Quick quiz: Name the pitcher who has logged the most Cactus League innings for the White Sox this spring.

It's not Jeff Samardzija or Jose Quintana. It's veteran right-hander Brad Penny, who is in camp on a minor-league deal.

Penny has worked 7.2 innings thus far. His results have been mixed. He's allowed three runs on 11 hits, and opponents are hitting a robust .355 against him. But, he has struck out six men, and he's only walked one. Unlike some other pitchers who are trying to make the roster (Daniel Webb, cough, cough), Penny is throwing strikes.

He's been a starter for most of his career, and there is obviously no room for him in the White Sox rotation. But team brass is giving him a long look this spring, perhaps considering whether he can be the 12th man on the pitching staff -- the guy who works in long relief or makes a spot start when needed.

Because of service time rules, five days before opening day, the Sox have to either add Penny to the major league roster, cut him, or give him a $100,000 bonus for staying on the minor league roster.

Every team needs a staff saver. Could Penny be that guy? He hasn't pitched himself out of contention yet.

Robertson working on command issues

Speaking of closers, David Robertson hasn't been sharp in his first few spring outings. He allowed two runs in 2.2 innings pitched, while walking three and striking out just one.

Cause for alarm? No.

I watched Robertson work an inning Sunday against the Los Angeles Angels, and by my unofficial count, he threw nothing but fastballs and cutters during his 23-pitch outing. Robertson has a put-away breaking ball in his arsenal, but he didn't use it even once -- despite facing both Mike Trout and Albert Pujols in that inning.

Robertson walked two, but got out of trouble when Pujols grounded into a double play.

It was clear from watching the outing that Robertson doesn't have command of his fastball yet, so that's what he was focusing on when he stepped on the mound Sunday -- results be damned.

That's why it doesn't make sense to put too much stock in spring training numbers. Guys might be working on specific things, and they may not be doing things the same way they would in a regular-season game.

It's an important thing to remember as a fan, even though it is sometimes hard not to draw grand conclusions from what you're seeing in spring ball.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Jeff Samardzija, Tyler Flowers agree to one-year deals; White Sox have all arbitration-eligible players signed

The White Sox have agreed to contracts with their final two arbitration-eligible players, signing pitcher Jeff Samardzija and catcher Tyler Flowers to one-year deals.

Samardzija, 29, went a combined 7-13 with a 2.99 ERA last season with the Cubs and Oakland Athletics. He was acquired in December to be the No. 2 pitcher in the White Sox rotation behind Chris Sale. Samardzija, who is eligible for free agency next winter, will make $9.8 million in 2015.

Flowers, 28, agreed on a $2.675 million deal. The Sox starting catcher hit .241 with 15 home runs and 50 RBIs last season. He figures to be the guy behind the plate again, unless GM Rick Hahn comes up with another move in the 79 days between now and Opening Day.

The Sox previously agreed to contracts with four other arbitration-eligible players. The salaries all came in right around where MLB Trade Rumors expected them to:

Samardzija:
Projected salary: $9.5 million
Actual salary: $9.8 million

Flowers:
Projected salary: $2.1 million
Actual salary: $2.675 million

Hector Noesi:
Projected salary: $1.9 million
Actual salary: $1.95 million

Dayan Viciedo:
Projected salary: $4.4 million
Actual salary: $4.4 million

Javy Guerra:
Projected salary: $1.3 million
Actual salary: $937, 500

Nate Jones:
Projected salary: $600,000
Actual salary: $660,000

Total projected salary for these six players: $19.8 million
Actual salary for these six players: $20.4225 million

Monday, December 15, 2014

White Sox sign Melky Cabrera to play left field

After the White Sox acquired pitcher Jeff Samardzija last week, we said that wouldn't be enough to make the South Siders a legitimate contender.

We said they needed to press forward and fix other holes, including the ongoing problem in left field. On Saturday night, general manager Rick Hahn addressed the outfield issue, agreeing to terms with Melky Cabrera on a three-year, $42 million contract.

Critics of this move will note Cabrera was busted for PED use while with the San Francisco Giants in 2012. I'm not too concerned about that because the switch-hitter has continued to produce since that incident, suggesting his success wasn't entirely the result of chemical enhancements.

Check out Cabrera's numbers over the past four years:

2011 with the Kansas City Royals: .305/.339/.470, 18 HRs, 87 RBIs
2012 with San Francisco: .346/.390/.516, 11 HRs, 60 RBIs
2013 with the Toronto Blue Jays: .279/.322/.360, 3 HRs, 30 RBIs
2014 with Toronto: .301/.351/.458, 16 HRs, 73 RBIs

Cabrera has hit .300 or better in three of the past four years, with the only exception being his injury-riddled 2013 season where he was limited to 88 games. If he's healthy, he's going to hit.

Here's the thing I like about Cabrera. He doesn't care if there's a left-handed pitcher or a right-handed pitcher on the mound. Here are his platoon splits over the past four seasons:

vs. LHP: 308/..350/.477
vs. RHP: .309/.352/.451

We can see there is more pop in his bat from the right side of the plate, but the batting average and on-base percentage are essentially the same from either side. This is a guy manager Robin Ventura can just pencil in every day in the No. 2 spot in the batting order, regardless of who the opposing pitcher is.

Defensively, Cabrera possesses one of the better throwing arms in the league, although his defense has regressed a bit the past couple years playing on the artificial surface in Toronto.

I think the Sox need to focus on defense when selecting a fourth outfielder, because neither Cabrera nor right fielder Avisail Garcia can play center field, if something should happen to Adam Eaton. Whoever the backup outfielder is must be able to handle center field adequately, which means Dayan Viciedo is going to be shown the door one way or another before next season begins.

We'll see if Hahn can get Viciedo out of town in exchange for the bullpen arm he still needs.