Showing posts with label Philadelphia Phillies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Philadelphia Phillies. Show all posts

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Chris Sale's loss to Philadelphia costly to his Cy Young chances

Chris Sale
In case you were wondering -- and I'm sure you are -- the White Sox are 49-70 in their last 119 games. That is not a small sample size: This team stinks, and it has stunk for a long time.

The Sox dropped their fifth consecutive game Wednesday, an 8-3 loss to the lousy Philadelphia Phillies, and they've been outscored 36-17 during this losing streak.

The South Siders (72-80) are just two losses away from clinching their fourth consecutive losing season, and they'll need to win at least four more times just to equal last year's 76-86 record. They have the schedule to do it -- Tampa Bay and Minnesota are coming to town for the last week of the season -- but it remains to be seen whether the Sox can muster enough energy to care about these final games.

This late-season misery continues to hammer home the point that the organization needs numerous changes -- in the front office, on the coaching staff and most of all on the field. We've highlighted all those things on this blog at different points during the year, and we're still waiting for some sign that team brass has noticed problems that seem so obvious to us as fans.

Maybe when the season ends ...

In any case, even ace Chris Sale caught the suck bug in Wednesday night's game. The All-Star lefty has had a good second half of the season, although his outstanding pitching has not often been rewarded in the win column.

Unfortunately, this outing against Philadelphia will not go down as one of his finer moments. He gave up six runs over four innings and hit three batters. It was ugly, and the poor performance ended his stretch of six straight outings where he pitched eight innings or more.

Sale had averaged 118 pitches per start over the stretch, so maybe the heavy workload has started to catch up with him. His velocity seemed to be down a touch last night, and he was all over the place with his slider to right-handed batters (causing the three HBPs). Fortunately, Sale only threw 72 pitches Wednesday, and there's an off day Thursday, so that lesser workload and extra day in between starts could allow him to recharge before he faces Tampa Bay on the next homestand.

This bad game lifted Sale's ERA to 3.23. He trails the other two major Cy Young award contenders in that category now. Boston's Rick Porcello is at 3.08, and Cleveland's Corey Kluber is at 3.11. While Sale's 16-9 record is fairly impressive pitching for a bad team, his odds of winning the award are not good considering he's going up against two pitchers on likely playoff teams. Kluber is 18-9 for the Indians, and Porcello is 21-4 for the Red Sox.

A lot of people like to talk about how wins are a poor measure of a starting pitcher, and I agree, but at lot of those old-school voters don't. They want to see a pitcher who wins for a good team get the Cy Young. And, hey, if Porcello gets it, who am I to say he doesn't deserve it? He's 10-2 with a 2.40 ERA the second half, and he just had an 89-pitch complete game in a critical win over Baltimore in his last outing.

I think Sale is going to settle for third in this year's Cy Young vote. There's still time, I suppose. If he is awesome in his last two starts, and Kluber and Porcello both falter like Sale did Wednesday night, things could still change. But I wouldn't bet on it.

It's hard to justify postseason awards for anyone on this White Sox team.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

James Shields gets a moral victory in loss to Philadelphia

James Shields
The Philadelphia Phillies entered Wednesday's game against the White Sox as the only team in baseball with a team on-base percentage (.299) below .300.

Sox right-hander James Shields entered Wednesday's game with a 7.62 ERA over his first 14 starts with Chicago.

Bad pitching vs. bad hitting. The movable object against the resistible force. Who would win this Battle of Titans?

As it turns out, bad hitting prevailed. The Phillies didn't exactly light up Shields the way the rest of the league has this season, but they did enough to beat the Sox, 5-3, and split the brief two-game series.

Shields (5-16) went six innings, allowing four runs on seven hits. He struck out six and walked none, so his peripherals were better, although he once again gave up two home runs. They were both solo shots, one to Cesar Hernandez in the third, the other on a fat, hanging breaking ball to Tommy Joseph on an 0-2 count with two outs in the sixth. Shields also gave up three doubles, for a total of five extra-base hits, so there was no shortage of hard contact.

Still, this was a moral victory for Shields, who had given up six or more earned runs in each of his past four starts. For the first time since Shields beat the Cubs on July 26, he was not a complete disgrace. He was merely kinda bad.

When he walked off the mound for the final time after the top of the sixth inning, the Sox were still in the game, trailing 4-0.

They made in interesting when Dioner Navarro cut the Philadelphia lead in half with a two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth. The Phillies added a run in the eighth to go up 5-2, and held off a Sox rally in the ninth.

Philadelphia closer Jeanmar Gomez gave up an RBI single to Avisail Garcia with two outs in the ninth to make it 5-3. Navarro came to the plate with two men on and a chance to potentially tie the game with an extra-base hit, but this time he grounded out weakly to second to end the proceedings.

Hey, at least the game was watchable, right? Most of the time it is not when Shields takes the mound.

Jose Abreu, Carlos Rodon resurgent in August for White Sox

Jose Abreu
There's no sugarcoating it: Jose Abreu has not had a good season for the White Sox.

His struggles are one of the main reasons the Sox are languishing in fourth place with a 60-64 record -- and rank 14th out of 15 American League teams in runs scored.

Nobody saw it coming. After all, Abreu made history in 2015, becoming only the second player in major league history to total at least 30 home runs and at least 100 RBIs in each of his first two seasons. (Albert Pujols is the other).

However, the drop-off has been noticeable this year. Take a look at Abreu's numbers:

2014: .317/.383/.581, 36 HRs, 107 RBIs, .964 OPS
2015: .290/.347/.502, 30 HRs, 101 RBIs, .850 OPS
2016: .285/.341/.455, 17 HRs, 70 RBIs, .796 OPS

With 38 games to play, it's unlikely Abreu will hit that 30-and-100 plateau again. So, what do we make of this? Is Abreu in decline at age 29? Or is it just a bad year? Even good players have bad years. (See Frank Thomas in 2002 and Paul Konerko in 2003.)

I've heard some Sox fans say the team should unload Abreu this offseason because "he's done." I think that's an overly negative view. Quietly, while most people have stopped paying attention, Abreu has had a monster month of August.

Here are his numbers this month: .373/.427/.680, 6 HRs, 14 RBIs, 1.107 OPS in 19 games.

Pretty good, huh?

Abreu went 2 for 3 with three RBIs in Tuesday's 9-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. He homered in his third straight game. For me, the most important thing about that home run was the pitch and pitch location. It was a middle-in fastball from Philadelphia starter Jake Thompson, and Abreu turned on it and ripped it into the left field seats.

For most of the season, Abreu has been helpless against middle-in fastballs. He's been jamming himself, popping up or swinging and missing against that pitch. The Abreu of the last two years hits that pitch hard to left field. That was the Abreu I saw last night, and it's been that way most of August. It's encouraging to see, and it's indicative that his skills are still there.

The Sox need Abreu to finish strong. They need him to show that he still can be the centerpiece of the lineup. If he follows up a good August with a good September, maybe we can dismiss the first four months of this season as a rare slump for a very good hitter.

Speaking of needing a strong finish, pitcher Carlos Rodon also is trying to erase a poor first half. Like Abreu, he also has had a resurgent August. The left-hander fired 6.2 innings of shutout ball in Tuesday's win over Philadelphia.

For the month, Rodon is 2-0 with a 1.46 ERA with 20 strikeouts and only six walks in 24.2 innings, covering his last four starts. Philadelphia is not a good offensive team, so I can't put too much stock in Rodon shutting them down. However, he's also posted strong starts against two clubs that would be in the playoffs if the season ended today (Baltimore, Cleveland), plus another one against a team that is in the postseason hunt (Miami).

For the season, Rodon is 4-8 with a 4.02 ERA in 21 starts. The overall numbers impress nobody, but again, a strong finish from him would make the Sox feel better about their starting rotation looking forward to 2017.

Monday, February 22, 2016

White Sox sign Jimmy Rollins to minor-league deal

Jimmy Rollins
We all thought the White Sox were content to go into the season with Tyler Saladino as their starting shortstop. That was last week.

The Sox moved Monday to create competition at shortstop, signing veteran Jimmy Rollins to a minor-league contract.

Rollins, 37, is coming off a poor season with the Los Angeles Dodgers that saw him post a .224/.285/.358 slash line with 13 home runs, 12 stolen bases and 41 RBIs in 144 games.

That said, Rollins was a 4.0 WAR player as recently as 2014, when he batted .243/.323/.394 with 17 home runs, 28 stolen bases and 55 RBIs for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Is Rollins a bounce-back candidate in 2016? Or are his poor 2015 statistics a sign that he is succumbing to old age? Nobody has a definitive answer to those questions, so the Sox have nothing to lose by giving Rollins a minor-league deal and taking a look at him this spring.

Rollins will reportedly earn $2 million if he makes the club. FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal is reporting Rollins rejected offers from two teams that offered him more guaranteed money and a super-utility job. The veteran switch-hitter apparently believes he's still an everyday shortstop, and he was willing to take a minor-league deal with the Sox for the chance to prove it.

"We envision Jimmy contributing both on and off the field," GM Rick Hahn said in a team statement. "He provides us with another quality infield option with the potential to play a variety of roles, as well as another significant positive presence inside our clubhouse."

In other words, get ready to read a deluge of stories about Rollins mentoring top shortstop prospect Tim Anderson.

Best-case scenario: Rollins makes the club and gives the Sox a decent year at a low cost while keeping the seat warm for Anderson. Worst-case scenario: He looks terrible in spring, gets cut and the team is none the worse for wear.

There's not a lot of upside here, but there's also not a lot of risk.