Showing posts with label Kansas City Royals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kansas City Royals. Show all posts

Monday, July 16, 2018

White Sox (somehow) six games ahead of Royals at All-Star break

Leury Garcia
The first half of the season has been a disaster for the White Sox. They are 33-62, on pace for 106 losses, which would tie the club record set in 1970.

That's no small statement, because the Sox have been around since 1901, and they've only had three 100-loss seasons over those 117 years. We're looking at historic ineptness this summer.

Despite all that, the Sox somehow are not in last place at the All-Star break. In fact, they are six games ahead of the Kansas City Royals (27-68) in the AL Central, after winning two out of three games against the Royals over the weekend at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Here's a look back at the weekend that was:

Friday, July 13
White Sox 9, Royals 6: This game had all the elements of a matchup between two teams that are a combined 70 games below .500. There was no shortage of poor pitching and sloppy defense.

The good part for the Sox: home runs by Jose Abreu, Leury Garcia and Omar Narvaez as part of a 14-hit attack. And James Shields (4-10) pitched into the seventh inning without allowing an earned run, although another error by Yoan Moncada in the second cost Shields two runs.

The Sox took a 7-2 lead into the seventh before Shields ran out of gas, and five relief pitchers were needed to cover the final seven outs. The Royals crawled within 7-6 with two outs in the eighth, and they had two men on base when Jorge Bonifacio flied to the warning track in center field for the third out.

Fortunately, Narvaez delivered a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth to provide some breathing room, which Joakim Soria ultimately did not need. The Sox reliever earned his 14th save by retiring the side in order, with two strikeouts, in the ninth.

Saturday, July 14
Royals 5, White Sox 0: The Sox went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position and left nine men on base against Kansas City starter Danny Duffy (5-8) and two relievers. Duffy walked three and allowed four hits over seven shutout innings, and all of the Sox hits were singles.

Give Reynaldo Lopez (4-7) some credit. At least he went 7.2 innings, but he was victimized by two home runs -- one by Bonifacio in the first and the other by the final hitter he faced, Salvador Perez in the eighth.

It was a bad, boring game and one you can just flush away. Lopez forgot to throw a shutout, and the Sox bats were silent.

Sunday, June 15
White Sox 10, Royals 1: Sox bats were anything but silent in the final game of the series. Moncada had a big afternoon, 3 for 4 with three runs scored, and he finished a triple short of the cycle. Daniel Palka opened the scoring in the first inning with a two-run homer and also finished 3 for 4 with three runs scored. Garcia also had a three-hit game.

The support was plenty for Lucas Giolito (6-8), who allowed only two hits over 6.1 innings of shutout ball. He struck out eight and walked three.

For Giolito, the key inning was the first. He walked two and gave up a single to Perez, but Bonifacio was thrown out at the plate by 20 feet on that single, handing Giolito the second out of an inning in which he was struggling to find the plate. The Sox right-hander then struck out Lucas Duda to end the inning without giving up a run, despite throwing 30-plus pitches.

After that, Giolito settled in and dominated the middle innings, while the Sox bludgeoned a ragtag collection of Kansas City relievers.

It was a bad first half, but at least it ended with a lopsided win. That gives everyone something positive to take with them for the four days off over the All-Star break.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Signs of a bad offense: Low OPS

So, I was looking at the White Sox hitting statistics, and with recent slumps by Jose Abreu, Matt Davidson and Daniel Palka -- and Avisail Garcia's return to the disabled list -- the Sox don't have a single hitter with an OPS at or above .800.

Here's what we're looking at for OPS on the current Sox roster:

Davidson: .776
Abreu: .746
Omar Narvaez: .740
Tim Anderson: .723
Yolmer Sanchez: .723
Palka: .711
Yoan Moncada: .710
Kevan Smith: .692
Leury Garcia: .678
Charlie Tilson: .640
Ryan LaMarre: .634
Adam Engel: .591

Yuck.

Well, the Kansas City Royals (26-66) are coming into Chicago this weekend. Maybe that will be the cure for what ails Davidson and other Sox hitters. We shall see.

Monday, April 30, 2018

White Sox settle for three out of five vs. Kansas City Royals

When is it unsatisfying to win three out of five games in another team's ballpark? When you win the first three, then lose the last two.

Bruce Chen
That was the case this weekend for the White Sox against the Kansas City Royals, but given the Sox's 8-18 overall record, we probably should be happy they finally won a series -- regardless of circumstances or opponent.

Here's a look back at what has happened since we left off:

Friday, April 27
White Sox 7, Royals 4 (11 inn.): Once again, Matt Davidson won a game for the Sox in Kansas City. He went 2 for 5 with two home runs and three RBIs, including a two-run blast in the top of the 11th inning that gave the Sox the lead for good.

Davidson has hit seven home runs at Kauffman Stadium this season -- a new record for a Royals' opponent -- and it's only April 30.

For the season, Davidson is slashing .462/.563/1.308 with seven home runs and 12 RBIs in seven games and 32 plate appearances in the Royals' home ballpark.

I'm guessing Davidson will have the dates Sept. 10-12 circled on his calendar. Those are the remaining three games the Sox have in Kansas City this season.

For several years, the Royals had a mediocre-at-best pitcher named Bruce Chen who owned White Sox hitters. I see Davidson's mastery of the Royals as a sort of payback for Chen.

Davidson is a mediocre-at-best hitter, but he suddenly turns into a dominant force at the sight of Kansas City uniforms. The Sox and their fans have been on the wrong end of this kind of ownership in the past, so we'll take it.

Saturday, April 28
White Sox 8-2, Royals 0-5: Most doubleheaders are split, and this one was no exception.

Surprisingly, Carson Fulmer (2-1) became the first Sox pitcher to reach two wins by tossing seven shutout innings. He allowed four hits, struck out three and walked three. It was a nice display of competence by the right-hander, even if it came against a horrible Kansas City team.

Daniel Palka collected not only his first big-league hit but his first big-league home run, as well, as he went 4 for 5 with three runs scored and three RBIs in the Game 1 win. For the first time this season, the Sox won three in a row.

Naturally, that did not carry over into Game 2, as the Sox were baffled by Kansas City left-hander Eric Skoglund. After Tim Anderson's leadoff homer, Skoglund allowed only hit the rest of his outing as he got through seven innings with a 4-1 lead.

The erstwhile Dylan Covey (0-1) was called up from Triple-A Charlotte to pitch for the Sox, and predictably, he took the loss. Although, to be fair, he ate up six innings and only one of the four runs he allowed was earned.

Sunday, April 29
Royals 5, White Sox 4: This was the most disappointing game of the series, as the Sox squandered an early 2-0 lead that came courtesy of a two-run double by Palka in the fourth inning.

Hector Santiago and Chris Volstad both gave up home runs to Kansas City's Cheslor Cuthbert, who had not previously homered this season. Cuthbert hit a solo shot off Santiago in the fourth and a three-run blast off Volstad in the fifth that gave the Royals a 4-2 lead.

The Sox battled back to tie with a run in the sixth on a triple by Leury Garcia and a run in the seventh on a two-out RBI double by Nick Delmonico. The latter hit scored Jose Abreu, who was hit by a pitch and stole second base.

However, the Sox could not complete the comeback, as Bruce Rondon (1-1) hit the leadoff batter in the bottom of the eighth inning, and the Royals ended up scoring the go-ahead and eventually winning run on a single by Sox nemesis Whit Merrifield.

I guess we couldn't get through a five-game series in Kansas City without Merrifield doing something to beat the Sox at least once, huh?

Friday, April 27, 2018

Let's have some fun with small sample sizes (White Sox vs. Royals edition)

Matt Davidson
Sometimes, statistics can be funny in April. A few examples:

(All numbers are through games of April 26)

White Sox home runs this season: 30
White Sox home runs at Guaranteed Rate Field: 8
White Sox home runs at Kauffman Stadium: 12

White Sox wins this season: 6
White Sox wins at Guaranteed Rate Field: 2
White Sox wins at Kauffman Stadium: 3

Matt Davidson home runs this season: 7
Matt Davidson home runs at Guaranteed Rate Field: 1
Matt Davidson home runs at Kauffman Stadium: 5

White Sox runs scored this season: 83
White Sox runs scored at Guaranteed Rate Field: 34
White Sox runs scored at Kauffman Stadium: 24

Why is all this so ridiculous?

Well, the Sox have only played three games this season at Kauffman Stadium against the Royals, while they've played 12 games at Guaranteed Rate Field.

But the Sox have hit more home runs in Kansas City than they have in their home stadium; they've won more games in Kansas City than they have in their home stadium; and hell, almost all of Davidson's season production has occurred in the three games they've played in Kansas City.

Davidson hit three home runs in a 14-7 win on Opening Day, and he hit two more homers Thursday in a 6-3 Sox win.

Obviously, all of this will even out eventually. Perhaps the Royals will turn the tables on the Sox before the weekend is over, but for now, the whole thing is sort of amusing.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Kansas City's bullpen -- it's not what it used to be

Brandon Maurer
Remember the time when it was a six-inning game against the Kansas City Royals? It wasn't that long ago that they had Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland at the back end of their bullpen.

If you were trailing in the late innings against the Royals, you were done. Plain and simple. Kansas City used that dominant bullpen to win back-to-back American League pennants in 2014 and 2015, and it won it all in 2015.

Those days now are gone. Only Herrera remains from that juggernaut bullpen, and he's pitching the ninth inning these days -- not the sixth or the seventh as he did during the Royals' heyday.

And right now, it looks as though Kansas City is going to struggle to get through the seventh and eighth innings and get save opportunities for Herrera.

The White Sox on Saturday victimized Kansas City's setup-man-for-now, Brandon Maurer, scoring three runs in the top of the eighth inning to rally for a 4-3 victory.

Sunday's game was snowed out, so the Sox left Kansas City with a 2-0 record.

With the Sox trailing 3-1, Yoan Moncada started Saturday's rally with a 433-foot home run off Maurer. Two outs, a single and a walk later, Welington Castillo took a 3-0 fastball from Maurer off the right-center field wall for a two-run double to give the Sox a 4-3 lead they would not relinquish.

Give manager Rick Renteria credit for green-lighting Castillo on a 3-0 pitch. It wasn't an obvious call because Castillo was 0 for 8 on the season to that point, while the on-deck hitter in that situation, Tim Anderson, already has two home runs this year.

Bullpen management was the other storyline in this game. Nate Jones worked a scoreless eighth, while Joakim Soria held off Kansas City in the ninth to earn his first save in a Sox uniform.

Is that the way Renteria is going to handle late-inning, high-leverage situations moving forward? Possibly, but not necessarily.

Jones likely is the Sox's best reliever when healthy, and he was summoned to face the heart of the Kansas City order in the bottom of the eighth. He struck out Mike Moustakas and Lucas Duda, before a single and flyout concluded the inning.

That left Soria to face the bottom of the order in the ninth, and he worked around a broken-bat single by Alex Gordon and a walk to Jon Jay to get the save.

But what if the bottom of the order had been due up in the bottom of the eighth? Would Renteria still have used Jones, and then gone to Soria to face the top of the Kansas City order in the ninth? We don't know, but I will say I like the idea of using Jones to pitch in the most high-leverage situation.

In this particular game, that situation was the eighth inning, with powerful left-handed hitters Moustakas and Duda coming up for the Royals. Renteria went with Jones, and the move worked out for the Sox in this case.

Friday, March 30, 2018

White Sox tie MLB record with six home runs on Opening Day

Matt Davidson
Let's take a moment to rejoice: It's March 30, and the White Sox are alone in first place in the American League Central Division.

OK, that isn't worth much, but the traditional day off after Opening Day is much more enjoyable when your favorite team's record is 1-0.

I wasn't expecting the Sox to win Thursday, especially with James Shields on the mound, but an offensive onslaught allowed the South Siders to blow out the Kansas City Royals, 14-7.

The Sox hit six home runs on Opening Day, which ties a major league record -- the 1988 New York Mets were the other team to do it. And Matt Davidson became only the fourth player in MLB history to hit three home runs in an opener -- George Bell (1988), Tuffy Rhodes (1994) and Dmitri Young (2005) were the others.

Davidson's performance overshadowed a two-homer game for Tim Anderson. Jose Abreu also homered for the Sox.

Indeed, Sox fans are feeling good today, but they weren't feeling so good at 3:28 p.m. Thursday afternoon, about 13 minutes after the season began. The Sox went three-up, three-down in the top of the first inning against Kansas City starter Danny Duffy, and Shields put the Sox in a 4-0 hole only four batters into the bottom of the first inning.

Lucas Duda's three-run homer put the Royals ahead 4-0, as the first four Kansas City batters recorded hits. Same old Shields, right.

Well, it's no secret I'm not a fan of the 36-year-old veteran, but after that horrible start, the right-hander settled down and gave up nothing over the next five innings. He got through six innings, allowing only the four runs that came across in the first.

If you would have told me Thursday morning that Shields would get through six innings and give up four runs, I would have taken it. So, I'll take it.

Not to mention, Shields was better than Duffy, who fell apart the second time through the batting order. The Kansas City left-hander battled shoulder problems during spring training, so perhaps he just wasn't ready to go more than a few innings. He limited the Sox to one hit through the first three innings, but the roof caved in on him in the fourth.

Avisail Garcia doubled. Abreu homered. Davidson homered. Anderson homered. Yolmer Sanchez walked. Adam Engel singled. Yoan Moncada doubled. All of a sudden, it was 5-4 Sox, and the rout was on from there.

The Sox added three runs in the fifth, three in the seventh and three in the eighth.

The only concern I have from this game is the struggles of relief pitcher Juan Minaya, who gave up two runs and could not finish the ninth inning. Minaya walked a batter and threw two wild pitches in his two-thirds of an inning, and that wildness has been a pattern going back to his last couple of spring training outings.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, he was 9 for 10 in save opportunities down the stretch in 2017, but I don't think he should be the closer now, with Nate Jones healthy and Joakim Soria also on the roster.

It will be interesting to see how manager Rick Renteria uses the bullpen the first time the Sox are in a late-inning, high-leverage situation.

The Sox have two more games with the Royals this weekend, weather permitting. Right-hander Lucas Giolito will pitch for the Sox at 6:15 p.m. Saturday. He'll be opposed by Kansas City right-hander Ian Kennedy. Reynaldo Lopez gets the start for the Sox at 1:15 p.m. Sunday. The Royals will counter with right-hander Jason Hammel.

Monday, March 19, 2018

White Sox Opening Day starter: James Shields

James Shields
There's nothing like Opening Day. For many baseball fans, including me, it's more exciting than Christmas morning was when I was a little kid.

However, that enthusiasm is somewhat lessened when you know your favorite team is almost certain to begin the season 0-1.

Such is the case for me this year, as the White Sox have named 36-year-old James Shields as their Opening Day starter.

Yuck.

Shields has made 43 starts with the Sox since he was acquired midseason in 2016, and he's gone 9-19 with a 5.99 ERA. The veteran right-hander has given up a whopping 58 home runs over those 43 starts, and his 5.23 ERA in 2017 actually was lauded as being an improvement after the 6.77 ERA Shields posted in 22 starts with the Sox in 2016.

Double yuck.

So what could be the justification for starting Shields against the Kansas City Royals on March 29? Well, once upon a time, in place not named Chicago, Shields was a respectable major league pitcher. Believe it or not, he's made seven previous Opening Day starts -- four with the Tampa Bay Rays, two with Kansas City and one with the San Diego Padres. So, he has experience, and the moment shouldn't rattle him.

In those seven starts, Shields is 2-2 with a 4.75 ERA, although in fairness to him, five of those seven starts were quality, and the two rough outings were enough to inflate his ERA. But that was then, and this is now, and Shields simply hasn't done anything in the past two years to inspire confidence.

There's no reason to believe he's the Sox's best pitcher, so you won't catch me calling him the "ace." There are aces, and then there are guys who start on Opening Day. Shields is the latter, not the former.

Here's one silver lining: Shields is scheduled to pitch twice on the season-opening road trip to Kansas City and Toronto. His second start should come April 4 against the Blue Jays, which means there's no way in hell he will be anywhere near the mound when the Sox open at home April 5 against the Detroit Tigers.

If pitchers remain on schedule, Lucas Giolito is in line to start the second game of the season against the Royals, which would mean it would be his turn for the home opener April 5. Right now, it's looking like Reynaldo Lopez will pitch the third game, and Miguel Gonzalez the fourth.

Carson Fulmer and Hector Santiago continue to compete for the fifth starting rotation spot. Fulmer will make a spring start today -- March 19 -- against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Jake Burger done for the season; injuries to prospects a buzzkill for White Sox

First the good news: White Sox pitching prospect Michael Kopech's fastball-changeup combination looked good in his spring debut Monday, when he tossed two scoreless innings against the Oakland Athletics. The Sox are 3-1 this spring after their 7-6 win over the A's.

Too bad that wasn't the story of the day.

Jake Burger, the Sox's first-round draft pick in 2017, was lost for the season Monday with a ruptured Achilles in his left leg. Burger was running out a routine grounder when he collapsed in pain about 15 feet before reaching first base.

Injuries to prospects have become an alarming trend for the Sox, and we're not even to March yet. Micker Adolfo, who has one of the best outfield arms in the farm system, is going to be relegated to DH duty this season because of a sprained UCL and a strain in his flexor tendon.

The Sox don't want Adolfo to lose at-bats, so he's going to try to play through it, but midseason surgery still is an option.

We already know Zack Burdi, a 2016 first-round draft pick, is out after having Tommy John surgery last summer. And top hitting prospect Eloy Jimenez is not playing right now because of a sore knee.

The injury to Jimenez is not severe, but it's hard to maintain optimism for the coming season when bad news is being piled on top of bad news on the injury front.

Burger's injury has led to increased speculation that the Sox might sign veteran third baseman Mike Moustakas, who incredibly remains a free agent after hitting 38 home runs for the Kansas City Royals last season.

My position on Moustakas hasn't changed: If you can get him on a two- or three-year deal at reasonable money, you have to consider it. Before the injury, Burger's projected timeline for arriving in the big leagues was about 2020. Now, you have to back that up to 2021, and questions only will increase in terms of his ability to stick at third base.

So, the Sox need somebody to man that position for the next three years, at least, and there are no other obvious solutions within the system. Time to look outside the organization? Perhaps, but I wouldn't go handing out a five- or six-year contract to the 29-year-old Moustakas as a result of this.

If the Sox want to sign a shorter-term stopgap, I'm cool with that. I would argue they needed a stopgap at third base even before this Burger injury occurred, so nothing has really changed.

Friday, January 5, 2018

White Sox acquire relievers Joakim Soria, Luis Avilan in three-team deal

Joakim Soria
It has been somewhat surprising that the White Sox have not addressed their depleted bullpen through free agency, but perhaps their plan all along was to acquire a couple of veteran relievers through a trade.

The Sox on Thursday added veteran right-hander Joakim Soria from the Kansas City Royals and left-hander Luis Avilan from the Los Angeles Dodgers as part of a three-team deal.

It seems as if the Royals might be looking to clear some salary in order to make a bigger offer to free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer. In addition to sending Soria to Chicago, they sent left-handed reliever Scott Alexander to the Dodgers.

Los Angeles also receives minor-league infielder Jake Peter, who is the only player the Sox parted with in this deal. Peter had a nice year in 2017, hitting a combined .279 between Triple-A Charlotte and Double-A Birmingham, but he's blocked by Yoan Moncada, Tim Anderson and Yolmer Sanchez in Chicago, and didn't appear to be part of the Sox's long-term plan.

Kansas City receives infielder Erick Mejia and right-handed pitcher Trevor Oaks from the Dodgers as part of the deal.

The only way this trade doesn't work out for the Sox is if Peter somehow becomes more than the utility infielder most people believe he is.

Although neither Soria nor Avilan figure to be part of the Sox's long-term plan, either, the two veterans provide a short-term solution in the late innings -- at least for the first half of 2018 -- and if they pitch well, they could be candidates to be traded midseason to contending teams in exchange for prospects who are more highly regarded than Peter.

Soria, 33, has 204 career saves, so I think we have a good idea of who has the ninth inning for the Sox when the season opens. Soria is not the pitcher he was in the past -- his ERA was an ordinary 3.70 for Kansas City last season -- but he has experience as a closer, and he kept the ball in the ballpark in 2017. He allowed only one home run in 56 innings, and at Guaranteed Rate Field, you want relief pitchers who keep the ball out of the air.

Avilan, 28, was 2-3 with a 2.93 ERA in 46 innings and 61 games with the Dodgers last year. The left-hander's main value comes in getting left-handed hitters out. In 2017, left-handed hitters slashed .195/.290/.280 against Avilan, while right-handers slashed .292/.376/.449. This is a pitcher that can be effective if manager Rick Renteria puts him in favorable matchup situations.

With this trade, here's how the Sox bullpen might look if the season started today:

Right-handers:
Soria
Nate Jones
Juan Minaya
Danny Farquhar
Greg Infante

Left-handers:
Avilan
Aaron Bummer

Assuming a 12-man pitching staff, those likely are your seven relievers. Other bullpen candidates include right-handers Thyago Vieira, Jose Ruiz and Dylan Covey, plus left-hander Jace Fry.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Is Eric Hosmer going to end up back with the Royals?

Eric Hosmer
The hot stove has been cold this winter, with not much happening over the first two months of the offseason.

But we are starting to hear more rumors about a potential landing spot for free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer, and he may be back with the Kansas City Royals.

According to a USA Today report, the Royals have offered Hosmer a seven-year, $147 million contract to stay in Kansas City, where he won a World Series (2015) and has been the face of the franchise for most of this decade.

Early speculation this offseason linked Hosmer to the Boston Red Sox, but those rumors died down after the Red Sox gave Mitch Moreland a two-year deal. The only other team involved with Hosmer, strangely, seems to be the San Diego Padres.

The same USA Today report says that San Diego has offered Hosmer a seven-year deal for $140 million. That would be $1 million less a year than Kansas City's offer.

I've never quite understood why the Padres are looking to open the pocketbook for Hosmer. San Diego's most productive hitter last season was its first baseman, Wil Myers, who totaled 30 home runs, 29 doubles and 74 RBIs.

Myers played outfield earlier in his career, and reports indicate he would be willing to move back to the outfield in order to make room for Hosmer. That's good. That's great. But isn't there a reason Myers was moved to first base in the first place? Yes, there was. He's not a good defensive outfielder, so why put him back at a position where he will hurt his team? Shouldn't San Diego be keeping Myers right where he is?

Don't get me wrong: I'd rather have Hosmer at first base than Myers. Hosmer hit .318 last season, while Myers hit only .243. And I'll take Hosmer's 25 home runs and 90-plus RBIs with good defense at first base over what Myers has to offer.

However, the Padres went 71-91 in 2017, and they have much bigger holes on their roster than first base. Shouldn't they be addressing those? And is San Diego really in a position to win next year even if it adds Hosmer. I say no, and against that backdrop, why would Hosmer want to sign there?

Hosmer reportedly wants an eight- or nine-year deal, but there has to be at least some appeal for him to go back to Kansas City on a seven-year deal and be considered a local hero.

If not the Royals, then who is going to sign Hosmer? He can't possibly pick the Padres over the Royals, can he?

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

This year's free agent class is not real strong

Eric Hosmer
The games are over and baseball withdrawal is setting in, so it's time to start talking about free agency.

This year's crop of free agents, honestly, is uninspiring. Most fans are looking ahead to next fall, when big names such as Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Dallas Keuchel are scheduled to hit the open market. Some teams, in fact, might not be active in free agency this year because they intend to save money to get involved in next offseason's bonanza.

But in the meantime, we have this offseason to talk about, and a good chunk of the key free agents come from the Kansas City Royals. First baseman Eric Hosmer, outfielder Lorenzo Cain, third baseman Mike Moustakas and shortstop Alcides Escobar all are available.

Need pitching? The best starting pitchers available include World Series goat Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb and CC Sabathia. Wade Davis is the top closer on the market. The next-best reliever after that probably is Los Angeles Dodgers setup man Brandon Morrow.

Other hitters on the market include outfielders J.D. Martinez and Jay Bruce and catcher Jonathan Lucroy.

The other intrigue this winter involves Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton. The slugger is owed $275 million over the final 10 years of his contract, and it's unclear at this point whether new ownership in Miami will seek to trade him.

If Stanton is traded, that likely will be a bigger impact move than any free agent signing this offseason.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The offseason's most lopsided trades

Wade Davis
Wade Davis is 32 for 32 in save opportunities for the Cubs this season, and that got me thinking about some of the most lopsided trades of the past offseason.

I'm came up with three of them, and two of them benefited NL Central contenders. I'm not talking about veterans-for-prospects trades here. Most baseball trades these days fall into that category, and it will be three or four years before we can fully understand who "won" those deals.

No, I'm talking about the "good, old-fashioned baseball trades" that involve major leaguers changing teams.

I uncovered three such deals, and two in particular, that were horribly one-sided.

1. Boston Red Sox trade 3B Travis Shaw to the Milwaukee Brewers for RP Tyler Thornburg

Milwaukee has been perhaps the biggest surprise in the National League this season, if not all of baseball. Did you think the Brewers would be only one game out of the second NL wild card spot on Sept. 20? Did you think the Brewers would be only 3.5 games back of the Cubs in the NL Central at this stage of the season?

Me neither.

And all Shaw has done is hit .275/.349/.523 with 30 home runs, 32 doubles and 96 RBIs. Milwaukee's rebuilding effort has been accelerated by Shaw's breakout season in the middle of its lineup.

Thornburg? Well, he hasn't thrown a pitch for the Red Sox this season. He's out for the year after undergoing surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome.

The Red Sox are leading their division despite this lopsided trade, but if they are being honest with themselves, they'd have to admit they missed Shaw for much of the season. Third base was a black hole in Boston until prospect Rafael Devers was called up from the minors to man the position.

Boston's three-game lead in the AL East might be a little bigger right now if it had kept Shaw as its third baseman to start the year.

2. Kansas City Royals trade RP Wade Davis to the Cubs for OF Jorge Soler

Simply put, the Cubs would not be in first place by 3.5 games had they not acquired Davis in the offseason. He has been outstanding, and he is the reason the Cubs are 73-1 when they take a lead into the ninth inning. You can't do better than 32 for 32, right?

The only game the Cubs lost when leading after eight wasn't Davis' fault -- Hector Rondon blew that one.

Meanwhile, in Kansas City, the Royals thought Kelvin Herrera could close games. They were wrong. Herrera has a 4.56 ERA, almost two runs higher than his career norms, and he's blown five saves and lost his job as closer here in September.

The Royals are 73-77 and have faded from playoff contention.

Soler? Injuries have limited him to 32 games, in which he has hit .151/.255/.269 with two home runs and six RBIs. Good job, good effort.

What a steal for the Cubs and what a disaster for the Royals.

3. Seattle Mariners trade OF Seth Smith to Baltimore Orioles for SP Yovani Gallardo

It isn't even that Smith is any good. He's his usual mediocre self -- .257/.341/.434 with 13 home runs and 32 RBIs in 108 games.

But it's insanity for anyone to think trading for Gallardo is a good idea. The washed-up right-hander has been a predictable disaster for the Mariners, going 5-10 with a 5.72 ERA. Mercifully, he's been removed from the Seattle rotation after a performance similar to that of James Shields throughout the year.

What do you think? Am I missing any trades that were woefully one-sided?

Thursday, September 14, 2017

White Sox damage Kansas City's wild card hopes

The 2012 White Sox lost the AL Central by three games. And from Aug. 7 until the end of that season, the Sox lost nine out of 11 games to the Kansas City Royals.

The 2012 Royals were a 90-loss team, but the Sox couldn't do anything against them coming down the stretch, and I've long felt the inability to beat Kansas City was the reason the South Siders missed the playoffs that year.

The Sox haven't played meaningful September games in the five years since, while the Royals have won two American League pennants and the 2015 World Series. Kansas City has tortured the Sox for most of this decade, and frankly, I will probably carry the scars from this 2016 loss for the rest of my life. It is the worst loss I've ever endured as a Sox fan.

So, given all that history, it is with great joy that I report that the last-place Sox (58-87) damaged Kansas City's 2017 playoff hopes this week by taking two out of three at Kauffman Stadium.

This was a series the Royals (72-73) needed to win. They didn't win it, and now they are four games out of the second wild card with three teams to pass as they embark on an 11-game road trip that starts in Cleveland against an Indians club that has won 21 games in a row.

Good luck, Royals. There isn't a Sox fan alive that has any sympathy for you.

Here's a look back at this week's series:

Monday, Sept. 11
White Sox 11, Royals 3: Jose Abreu almost hit for the cycle for the second time in three days. He came to the plate in the top of the ninth inning needing a home run, but he ended up drawing a walk from Kansas City reliever Trevor Cahill.

The Sox's first baseman went 4 for 5 to lead a 17-hit attack. Adam Engel and Yoan Moncada added three hits each, with Engel capping off a six-run sixth inning with a three-run home run.

The offensive outburst allowed right-hander Reynaldo Lopez (1-3) to pick up his first victory with the Sox. Lopez allowed three runs in the fifth inning, but he got through six, allowing eight hits. The Sox are hopeful it will be the first of many wins for the hard-throwing 23-year-old.

Tuesday, Sept. 12
Royals 4, White Sox 3: Dylan Covey had a miserable first inning. He walked the bases loaded and gave up a grand slam to Brandon Moss to put the Sox in an early 4-0 hole.

But Covey (0-5) settled down and retired 14 out of 15 hitters at one point, and the Sox had their chances to come back and win the game. They outhit the Royals, 13-4, but left 10 runners stranded.

The Sox had runners at first and third with nobody out in the top of the ninth inning, but could not get the tying run home against Kansas City reliever Scott Alexander.

Moncada struck out, Abreu popped out and Matt Davidson grounded out, ending an unsatisfying offensive day for the Sox.

Wednesday, Sept. 13
White Sox 5, Royals 3: The Sox solved Alexander in the rubber match of the series with two runs in the top of the ninth inning that broke a 3-3 tie.

Tim Anderson singled, advanced to second on a wild pitch and stole third as Moncada walked. That put runners on first and third with one out for Abreu, who delivered a sacrifice fly for his 93rd RBI of the season and 4-3 lead. Avisail Garcia's two-out RBI single plated Moncada and capped the scoring.

Juan Minaya (3-2) sealed the win with a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth. It's too bad Lucas Giolito didn't get the win after he pitched 6.1 innings of one-run ball. Alas, Danny Farquhar allowed two runs in the eighth to give up the lead, and the Sox starter got a no-decision.

But Giolito can take the positives out of the start. He allowed only four hits despite not having his best stuff. His ERA is down to 2.56 in five starts, and he's positioning himself for a job in the 2018 Sox rotation.

Monday, August 14, 2017

White Sox lose two of three to Kansas City Royals

Reynaldo Lopez
Hey, that winning streak was fun while it lasted, wasn't it? It reached four when the White Sox beat the Kansas City Royals on Friday night, but reality set in over the weekend as Kansas City prevailed in the final two games of the three-game series.

The Sox (45-70) finished their six-game homestand with a 4-2 record, which was a pleasant surprise despite some weekend ugliness. Here's a look back at this latest series.

Friday, Aug. 11
White Sox 6, Royals 3 -- Reynaldo Lopez finally got his opportunity, and he started his Sox career in electrifying fashion. He struck out five of the first eight hitters he faced, and turned in six quality innings.

The rookie right-hander allowed two solo home runs to Kansas City third baseman Mike Moustakas, but he kept the Royals off the board otherwise. He struck out six and walked three in receiving a no-decision.

The game was tied at 2 heading into the bottom of the seventh, when the Sox broke it open with a four-spot. Tim Anderson's two-run homer capped the rally, which also featured a go-ahead RBI triple by Adam Engel. The center fielder became the first Sox player to collect two triples in a game since Alejandro De Aza in 2011.

Aaron Bummer worked two scoreless innings of relief to pick up his first major league win.

Saturday, Aug. 12
Royals 5, White Sox 4 -- Hey, a quality start by James Shields!

Sure, Shields put the Sox in a 3-0 hole after two innings, but he didn't give up anything else over a six-inning outing. And the Sox got him off the hook, eventually rallying to take a 4-3 lead on Leury Garcia's two-run single in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Alas, the lead did not stick.

Reliever Chris Beck did what he does best -- walk people. Bummer relieved after Beck walked Lorenzo Cain to start the the eighth inning, and the rookie left-hander took the loss this time -- serving up a two-run homer to former Sox outfielder Melky Cabrera.

It stunk to see the four-game winning streak come to an end, but this game was an entertaining, back-and-forth contest. You can live with losses such as this one during a rebuilding season.

Sunday, Aug. 13
Royals 14, White Sox 6 -- In contrast, Sunday's loss was not one you could live with. It was a parade of terrible pitching that started with Derek Holland and continued with Mike Pelfrey, Beck, Greg Infante and Brad Goldberg.

Holland (6-12) allowed seven earned runs and didn't make it out of the third inning. Those who followed him weren't much better. Sox pitchers combined to give up 16 hits and walk nine batters in a boring game that took 3 hours, 38 minutes to play.

A fan seated behind me at Sunday's game pointed out that Holland is only here to "eat innings," which is true enough. I would be fine with that if Holland would, you know, actually eat some innings. It's ridiculous for him to get bombed like that and overexpose an inexperienced Sox bullpen. That's been a season-long complaint of mine: veteran innings-eaters failing to eat innings.

There were some positives offensively. Anderson continued his improved hitting with his 13th home run of the season. And rookie Nick Delmonico extended his hitting streak to 10 games, going 1 for 3 with a double and an RBI. Delmonico stung the ball into the right-center field gap three times. He was robbed of a double by Cain in the fifth inning, and robbed of a home run by Alex Gordon in the ninth inning.

Still too early to say whether Delmonico is going to stick in the majors, but he's been having consistent at-bats since he was called up from Triple-A Charlotte.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Weekend in review: White Sox lose two of three to Indians; Melky Cabrera traded to Royals

The view from the Guaranteed Rate Club on Sunday
Hey, at least the White Sox won one out of three over the weekend against the first-place Cleveland Indians. At this point, could we have expected better? I don't think so.

I made it out to two of the three games, and fortunately, the one that was a real snooze was the one I did not attend, a 9-3 loss Friday night.

The Sox also lost Saturday, 5-4, but I enjoyed having dinner at the Stadium Club before the game, and I got a sweet 1917 Sox replica jersey for my trouble. And it wasn't a terrible game to watch. The Sox were in it the whole way, even though they blew it in stupid fashion -- with the score tied at 4 in the top of the ninth and the bases loaded with two outs, Sox reliever Gregory Infante plunked Cleveland's Brandon Guyer to force in the winning run.

Still, I've seen enough 10-2 losses this year that losing 5-4 doesn't seem so bad anymore. It's all a matter of perspective.

And, on Sunday, my friend and I were named StubHub fans of the game or some damn thing, and we had our seats upgraded to the Guaranteed Rate Club right below the press box behind home plate. We got all we could eat and drink for free, plus a free T-shirt, in exchange for our willingness to be on the Jumbotron and smile and wave for the camera during a mid-inning promotion for StubHub, which we learned is the official fan-to-fan ticket marketplace of Major League Baseball or whatever.

In any case, that deal was way too good to pass up, and we gleefully took advantage of it. As an added bonus, Carlos Rodon pitched 6.2 innings of one-run ball, and Matt Davidson hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning to lift the Sox to a 3-1 victory over the Indians.

We'll take it.

Cabrera dealt to Kansas City for two prospects

When I got to the ballpark Sunday, I looked at the Sox lineup on the scoreboard and noticed Leury Garcia was leading off and playing left field. Garcia was just coming off the disabled list, so I knew immediately another roster move had taken place.

I also noticed that Melky Cabrera was not in the lineup, so I checked my phone and learned the veteran outfielder had been traded to the Kansas City Royals for pitching prospects A.J. Puckett and Andre Davis.

Cabrera is a defensive liability, so I doubt the Royals are too excited about him patrolling the spacious outfield at Kauffman Stadium. But, the soon-to-be-33-year-old does have a little something left with the bat. He's hitting .295/.336/.436 with 13 home runs and 56 RBIs this year, and his high-contact, gap-to-gap approach should fit in that Kansas City lineup.

The Royals enter Monday's play as the second wild card team in the American League, and they sit two games back of Cleveland in the AL Central. In his final game with the Sox on Saturday, Cabrera got four hits off Cleveland ace Corey Kluber. Perhaps that was what the Royals needed to see to finalize the deal. Cabrera can get hits off good pitchers.

As for the prospects coming back, Puckett, 22, is a right-hander who was the Royals' second-round pick in the 2016 draft. He was 9-7 with a 3.90 ERA with 98 strikeouts in 108.1 innings and 20 starts with Class-A Wilmington. His fastball sits at 92-93, and his best pitch is reportedly a changeup.

Davis, a 23-year-old left-hander, was 5-4 with a 4.83 ERA with 87 strikeouts in 85.2 innings and 18 starts with Class-A Lexington.

Puckett is likely the better of the two prospects, and we'll see how he does in the Winston-Salem rotation that already features Dane Dunning and Alec Hansen.

Cabrera is owed $5.1 million for the rest of this season, and given the money involved, it's not a big surprise the return in this trade did not involve elite prospects. But these two guys are at least somewhat interesting, so it's OK. The Sox will be paying half of the remaining dollars owed to Cabrera.

Friday, May 5, 2017

No complaints about a White Sox split in Kansas City

Anthony Swarzak is on a career hot streak.
As a White Sox fan, I'm often in bad spirits while the team is playing against the Royals in Kansas City. Horrible things tend to happen to the Sox when they go to Kauffman Stadium, and I carry all the scars from past years with me.

Even if the Sox were up 900-0 going into the bottom of the ninth inning at Kansas City, I'd be somewhat concerned that the Royals would roar back with 901 runs and pull out a win. Hey, I've got my reasons to be paranoid.

So, when the Sox were leading 7-0 going to the bottom of the seventh inning Thursday, I wasn't counting my chickens. It's never over in Kansas City until the 27th out is recorded, and fortunately, the Sox finished off an 8-3 victory to gain a split in the four-game series.

Perhaps most importantly, at least for me as a fan, they avoided the archetypal, gut-wrenching, devastating, lingers-with-you-for-a-week loss that tends to occur against the Royals. In this series, the Sox (15-12) won the two games in which they had the lead, and they lost the two games in which they did not. That's fine. We'll take it and keep moving.

The Sox are 5-2 against the Royals in 2017, after going 5-14 against them last season. It's refreshing to see the Sox punch back against this Kansas City club for a change, even though the Royals (9-18) are admittedly struggling right now.

Some particulars from Thursday:
  • The Sox took the lead three batters into the game on Jose Abreu's fourth home run of the road trip. It was a two-run shot after a bloop single by Melky Cabrera.
  • Matt Davidson connected for a 452-foot homer in the second inning. It was his fifth of the season, and it came off a right-handed pitcher -- Kansas City's Ian Kennedy (0-3).
  • Derek Holland (3-2) continues to pitch well for the Sox. He allowed no runs and only two hits over the first six innings. He got nicked for a couple runs in the seventh, but again, the Sox had a big lead, so no harm. The second run he allowed was not his fault -- it was unearned after Davidson booted a routine grounder that should have had the Sox out of the inning. Holland's ERA is down to 2.02 after this latest strong outing.
  • Slumping shortstop Tim Anderson had the day off, and third baseman Todd Frazier was a late scratch with back spasms. The Sox had Leury Garcia batting fifth in this game, yet they still posted eight runs. Funny game, this baseball.
  • Sox reliever Anthony Swarzak faced two batters and got both of them out. He has now retired 30 of the last 31 batters he has faced. Swarzak has been on four clubs in the past four years, and his career ERA is in the mid-4s. Yet right now, he's pitching as if he's one of the best relievers in the league.
Have I mentioned that baseball is a funny game?