Showing posts with label Seattle Mariners. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Seattle Mariners. Show all posts

Thursday, November 16, 2017

White Sox acquire hard-throwing right-hander Thyago Vieira

Worried about the White Sox bullpen? Of course you are. What Sox fan isn't?

It's anybody's guess which pitchers will make up the team's relief corps in 2018, but general manager Rick Hahn made a move Thursday that could pay dividends as soon as next season.

The Sox acquired right-hander Thyago Vieira from Seattle in exchange for $500,000 in international signing bonus pool money.

Vieira, 24, made one appearance with the Mariners last year and retired all three batters he faced with one strikeout Aug. 14 against the Baltimore Orioles.

He went 2-4 with a 4.00 ERA, four saves and 46 strikeouts in 41 appearances and 54 innings between Double-A Arkansas and Triple-A Tacoma in 2017. He limited right-handed hitters to a .194 average. Vieira also was selected to compete for the World Team at the All-Star Futures Game last summer.

While this pitcher's numbers might not be eye-popping, his stuff is. He has an 80-grade fastball that consistently sits between 97 and 100 mph, and tops out at 102. His second-best pitch is a 55-grade curve that showed improvement the second half of last season.

Vieira was ranked as the eighth-best prospect in the Seattle farm system. The Sox's farm system is deeper, so Vieira is now checking in as their 20th-rated prospect.

If Sox pitching coach Don Cooper can harness Vieira's control -- he's walked 4.6 men per nine innings in his minor league career -- this is a potential high-leverage reliever that the Sox acquired for nothing more than cash considerations.

Why, you ask, would Seattle be willing to give up one of its top-10 prospects and receive no players in return?

Well, the Mariners are going to make a run at signing Japanese free agent Shohei Ohtani. The additional international pool money aids them in that quest.

As for the Sox, count Vieira among the young pitchers who will contend for a roster spot when camp opens in the spring.

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, May 25, 2017

Jose Quintana, his trade value, and fans' and media perception of it

Jose Quintana
White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana has had his name mentioned in trade rumors for months. And he'll probably continue to have his name mentioned in trade rumors until the day he actually is dealt, whenever that may be.

In the meantime, one of the things that drives me insane about situations such as this is the constant speculation and near-daily fluctuations in what fans and media perceive Quintana's "trade value" to be.

Just last week, Quintana had his best outing of the season. He pitched eight innings of one-hit, one-run ball in an extra-inning victory over the Seattle Mariners. After that performance, Quintana had posted quality starts in five out of six appearances, going 2-2 with a 2.70 ERA over than span.

"Hey, Quintana is on a roll! His trade value is up! The Sox should be able to get a couple good prospects for him at the trade deadline!"

Then, a game such as Wednesday's happens. Quintana retired the first 10 Arizona Diamondbacks he faced. He appeared to be on his way to yet another strong outing. Unfortunately, things turned on a dime, and eight of the second 10 Arizona hitters Quintana faced got hits. He ended up allowing eight earned runs. He got knocked out in the fifth inning, and the Sox lost, 8-6.

"Oh, boy, there goes Quintana's trade value. Nobody's going to want him now that his ERA is up in the high 4s."

This morning, I saw some click bait on the Chicago Tribune's website that Quintana is "Spanish for John Danks" or some such nonsense. I didn't click on it, we're not going to link to it here, and it should be dismissed for the idiocy that it is. However, it's worth bringing up as an example to illustrate how folks -- even media members who should know better -- sway in the wind about a player's "trade value" based upon a very small sample size.

Teams that might interested in acquiring Quintana's services are not going to cross him off their list based upon this one horrible outing against the Diamondbacks, nor were they going to call Rick Hahn and offer all the crown jewels of their farm system for Quintana after his brilliant outing against the Mariners. One game just doesn't make that much of a difference.

Scouts are looking at longer-term trends, what the track record and makeup of the player is, and what kind of stuff he's been featuring as of late. Quintana's fastball command was poor against Arizona, to say the least, but there has been no downturn in velocity or movement. His assortment of offspeed pitches looks the same as it always has.

If Quintana improves his fastball command, and he has a track record of being able to do so, he'll still be a pitcher who is in demand when July rolls around. His ERA might be 4.82 right now, but his career ERA is 3.49. As long as his stuff hasn't fallen off -- and it hasn't -- he's due to trend in a positive direction toward his career norms. An acquiring team may be positioned to take advantage of that trend.

The quality of prospects the Sox would be able to acquire in a Quintana deal remains an open question. Fans and media are not privy to those trade discussions, and you can't believe much of anything you read in the rumor mill.

But it's worth noting that one good game here or one bad game there is not going to have a significant effect on Quintana's worth in the marketplace. As long as he's healthy, he's a pitcher that has value. How much value? Perhaps we'll see in July.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

White Sox recover to take three out of four from Seattle Mariners

Avisail Garcia
Now is the perfect time to have the Seattle Mariners come up on your schedule.

There isn't a team in the American League that has dealt with more key injuries than the Mariners. Seattle's best player, second baseman Robinson Cano (quadriceps), is on the disabled list. Eighty percent of the Mariners' starting rotation  -- Felix Hernandez (shoulder), Hisashi Iwakuma (shoulder), James Paxton (forearm) and Drew Smyly (elbow) -- also is on the disabled list.

Teams don't like to make excuses, and they often say injuries are not an excuse. The reality is a little different: If your best dudes get hurt, chances are you're gonna lose. And the Mariners lost three of four to the White Sox this weekend.

The Sox (20-22) took the final three games of the series, the last two in blowout fashion. Here's our recap of the weekend that was:

Friday, May 19
White Sox 2, Mariners 1 (10 inn.): It's well-known that Sox ace Jose Quintana has suffered from a lack of run support for years, and the same has held true this season. But, Quintana hasn't been pitching up to his capabilities as of late, as his 4.38 ERA coming into this game would attest. So, he's hasn't been quite as sympathetic of a figure as he has been in the past.

That changed in this game. It was back to business as usual for Quintana. He was brilliant over eight innings, allowing one run on only one hit. He struck out seven and walked one -- and got a no-decision. Typical.

Fortunately, while Quintana did not get the win, the Sox did. Melky Cabrera's two-out, RBI double on an 0-2 slider from Seattle's Tony Zych (2-1) plated the winning run in the top of the 10th inning.

Sox closer David Robertson (3-1) retired all six men he faced over two innings to pick up the win, which snapped a four-game losing streak for the Sox.

Saturday, May 20
White Sox 16, Mariners 1: I doubt the Sox will have a more lopsided win than this one all year. They jumped on Seattle starter Yovani Gallardo (2-4) for four runs in the first inning, highlighted by Avisail Garcia's three-run homer on a first-pitch curve ball, and never let up from there.

The South Siders pounded out 19 hits, and while we've still got three-quarters of a season left to play, it's getting harder and harder to overlook Garcia's performance. He became the first Sox player to total 12 bases in a game since Dan Johnson hit three home runs in the same game on the final day of the 2012 season. Garcia homered in each of his first two plate appearances, then added two doubles for good measure, as he finished 4 for 5 with six RBIs.

Garcia leads the Sox with 34 RBIs, and he is tied for the team lead in homers with eight.

Not even Mike Pelfrey (1-4) could lose this game. The erstwhile veteran pitched six innings of one-run ball to earn his first victory in six starts this season. If you get 16 runs of support, hey, you better win. That's about a whole month's worth of runs for Quintana, you know?

Sunday, May 21
White Sox 8, Mariners 1: Seattle called up right-hander Chris Heston to make his first start of the season, and let's just say it didn't go well. He walked the bases loaded in the first inning, and that led to a five-run outburst for the Sox.

The BABIP gods were with the South Siders in this one, as they got a couple solid base hits in the inning -- a two-run single by Yolmer Sanchez and an RBI single by Matt Davidson -- and two really cheap RBI infield singles -- one by Tim Anderson and the other by Kevan Smith.

Heston didn't deserve any luck, of course, because walking the bases loaded in the first inning is not a recipe for success.

Left-hander Derek Holland (4-3) has been the Sox's most consistent starting pitcher this season, and  he capitalized on having a 5-0 lead before he threw a single pitch with another strong outing. He went eight innings, allowing only a solo home run to Nelson Cruz. The veteran pounded the strike zone, throwing 70 of his 105 pitches for strikes, which is precisely what a pitcher should be doing with a big lead. He fanned six, walked only two and lowered his season ERA to 2.47.

Sanchez extended his hitting streak to 12 games with the first-inning single. Anderson added a solo home run in the third, his fifth of the year, and a three-hit performance raised his batting average to .264.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Better to fight back and lose than to lay down and die, right?

Tim Anderson
The White Sox trailed the Seattle Mariners, 4-0, after six innings Thursday night.

Is it wrong that I didn't get excited when they fought back to tie it up? I just figured they'd get walked off in the bottom of the ninth inning anyway, and they did, as Guillermo Heredia singled home Jarrod Dyson with the winning run to give Seattle a 5-4 victory.

The Sox (17-22) are now 0-4 on their current 10-game road trip, but we can't say the failure is for lack of trying.

The South Siders' rally from the four-run deficit started with a two-run homer by Matt Davidson in the top of the seventh. Todd Frazier and Tim Anderson hit back-to-back solo homers in the top of the eighth to even the score at 4, and get starting pitcher Dylan Covey off the hook.

We'll give Covey some credit -- he allowed four runs, but he got through six innings. That's more than we can say for Mike Pelfrey in any of his starts. Covey still gets demolished in the fifth inning, however, and Thursday was no different. Jean Segura hit a three-run homer off him in the fifth inning of this game, and opponents are hitting .538 and slugging 1.038 against Covey in the fifth.

Yuck.

But he's not the loser in this one. That would be left-handed reliever Dan Jennings (2-1), who couldn't work around two singles in the ninth. Sox killer Dyson, of course, was involved. He reached first base after his sacrifice bunt attempt resulted in a forceout at second base.

After a long at-bat and numerous throws over to first base, Carlos Ruiz hit a grounder to Frazier, who tried to start a 5-4-3 double play, only to see Dyson beat his throw to second. The Sox made the turn to first base to retire Ruiz, but that left Dyson in scoring position with two outs.

That set the table for Heredia to deliver the game-winning hit, and send the Sox to their 10 loss in their past 12 games.

But, I guess we should give the Sox some credit. It would have been easy to give away at-bats and just lose 4-0. We've seen previous Sox teams do just that. There are no moral victories in pro sports, but at least this team tries to win, even though they aren't good.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Lucas Giolito reminds us why he needs more time in Triple-A

Many White Sox fans were excited about the first three starts pitching prospect Lucas Giolito made in the Cactus League, and who can blame them? Giolito allowed only two solo home runs in nine innings across those three outings, and each performance was better than the one preceding it.

Until Tuesday.

In his fourth spring start, Giolito didn't make it out of the first inning in a 7-6 loss to the Seattle Mariners. He recorded only two outs, while allowing four runs on four hits. He had two walks, one that loaded the bases and another on four pitches that forced in a run. His fastball command was terrible, and he did not produce a single swing-and-miss among the 30 pitches he threw. His velocity was down, and he couldn't throw his curve ball for a strike either.

"It’s hard to pinpoint one issue," Giolito told CSNChicago.com. "I didn’t really execute anything I was trying to do today. As a starting pitcher, you want to work efficiently, you want to throw low pitch count innings, work through a game and I threw, what, 30 pitches. Didn’t get out of the first inning. Just didn’t do my job."

The poor outing has caused some to wonder whether Giolito has hit the inevitable dead-arm period that all pitchers experience during spring ball. Possibly, but the more likely scenario is the fact that Giolito is a 22-year-old kid still struggling to find consistency. As much as we'd all like him to be ready for the big leagues, he is not. If you watched the outing Tuesday -- and I did -- it was a prime example of why this prospect needs more time pitching in the minor leagues.

Giolito will be in Triple-A Charlotte when the season begins, and rightfully so.

This is why I get a little confused when my fellow Sox fans tell me they are "excited to watch the kids" this season. Well, if all goes well, maybe a few of these guys will be called up for the second half of the season, or in September when the rosters expand.

But for the most part, if you want to "watch the kids" the Sox have acquired, I'd suggest spending your summer in Charlotte or Birmingham. The Sox would be doing these prospects a disservice if they didn't send them down to the minor leagues.

Patience is required, from the organization and fans alike.

Monday, August 29, 2016

White Sox take three out of four from Seattle Mariners

Jose Quintana
The Seattle Mariners this weekend became the latest American League contender to lose a season series to the White Sox.

The Sox took three out of four over the weekend at U.S. Cellular Field and finished 4-3 against Seattle this year. Chicago (63-66) also has prevailed in the season series against AL-West leading Texas (4-2), AL-East leading Toronto (5-1) and AL wild card-leader Boston (4-3).

Too bad the Sox can't win against their own division, where they are 20-29. Too bad 27 of the 33 remaining games are against AL Central opponents. It could be a rough road ahead, but today, let's reflect back on the weekend success against the Mariners:

Friday, Aug. 26
Mariners 3, White Sox 1: The day began with news that the Sox traded disappointing catcher Dioner Navarro to Toronto in exchange for pitcher Colton Turner.

Navarro somehow managed to be a downgrade from previous Sox catcher Tyler Flowers. We knew coming into the year that Navarro was a subpar pitch framer, and there would be defensive shortcomings. But Navarro couldn't even clear the low offensive bar set by Flowers in previous years. Good riddance to Navarro and his .210 batting average.

With Omar Narvaez behind the plate Friday, Chris Sale (15-7) pitched a complete game. He retired the last 16 batters he faced --10 by strikeout - and finished with a season-high 14 strikeouts.

Of course, he lost, because the Sox are not a good offensive team. At least this time they could say they got shut down by an elite pitcher. Seattle ace Felix Hernandez (9-4) fired 7.1 innings of one-run ball to earn the victory.

Hernandez did leave, however, with the bases loaded and only one out in the eighth. But Seattle reliever Edwin Diaz got a force at home and a popout to third to extricate the Mariners from that mess. Diaz went on to strike out the side in the ninth to earn his 11th save.

Saturday, Aug. 27
White Sox 9, Mariners 3: Avisail Garcia and Tyler Saladino both went 3 for 4 with a homer as the Sox pounded 15 hits to make a winner out of Jose Quintana (11-9).

The Sox scored two in the first and one more in the fourth against Seattle starter Ariel Miranda (1-1), who was removed after four innings in just his sixth career game and fourth career start.

The Mariners brought in middle reliever Vidal Nuno, and he fooled nobody. He gave up six runs on 10 hits, including three home runs, over three innings. The Sox scored four runs off him in the fifth, highlighted by back-to-back home runs by Garcia and Alex Avila. Saladino added his two-run homer in the seventh inning.

Quintana had to be overjoyed to pitch with a big lead. He went 7.2 innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on five hits. He struck out eight, walked one and lowered his ERA to a team-best 2.77.

Jacob Turner made the ninth inning somewhat annoying when he loaded the bases with nobody out. The Sox took a 9-2 lead into that inning, so the outcome was not really in doubt, and the Mariners scored only one run out of that situation anyway. Nate Jones came on to induce a game-ending double play off the bat of pinch-hitter Seth Smith.

Sunday, April 28
White Sox 4, Mariners 1: The Sox managed only five hits in this game, but they bunched them and made them count.

They went nine-up, nine-down against Seattle starter Taijuan Walker the first three innings, but two HBPs and a double loaded the bases in the fourth inning. Justin Morneau's two-run single put the Sox on top, 2-0.

The Sox did not get another hit until the eighth inning, but they added to a 2-1 lead with two more runs on three hits. Tim Anderson singled and scored on triple by Melky Cabrera. Jose Abreu followed with a sacrifice fly to account for the final margin of victory.

Carlos Rodon (5-8) continued his red-hot August with six innings of one-run ball. He allowed only a solo home run to Robinson Cano, and improved to 3-0 with a 1.47 ERA over five starts this month.

Anderson and Saladino turned a slick double play to extricate the Sox from a first-and-third, one-out jam in the seventh inning. Nate Jones worked a 1-2-3 eighth with two strikeouts, and closer David Robertson secured his 33rd save by pitching over two soft singles in the top of the ninth inning.

The Sox are off to Detroit to start a three-game series Monday. Will they be able to sustain this momentum from a good series win and a 6-3 homestand?

Well, James Shields is starting the opener against the Tigers, so don't bank on it.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Todd Frazier comes through for White Sox against Seattle bullpen

Todd Frazier
Third baseman Todd Frazier leads the White Sox with 80 RBIs, although you'd never expect that if you looked at his statistics with runners in scoring position.

Frazier has been terrible in those situations this year, 19 for 110, which will pencil out to a .173/.302/.345 slash line.

Those numbers were even worse until Thursday night, when Frazier came through twice in the late innings to lift the Sox to a 7-6, come-from-behind win over the Seattle Mariners.

With the Sox trailing 6-4 in the seventh, Frazier tied the score with a two-out, two-run single off Seattle reliever Steve Cishek. The right-hander got too much of the plate with a 2-0 slider, and Frazier ripped it through the hole between shortstop and third base to plate both Adam Eaton and Tim Anderson.

The score remained tied until the bottom of the ninth. Eaton led off with a bloop single against Seattle reliever Nick Vincent (3-4). Anderson advanced the runner with a sacrifice bunt. The Mariners elected to walk Jose Abreu with first base open -- a wise decision, frankly, since Abreu has been tearing it up in August.

That strategy was foiled, however, when Frazier smacked a Vincent sinker down the left-field line that allowed Eaton to score easily from second base and end the ballgame.

The clutch hits had to be a relief for Frazier, who was 0 for 3 with three strikeouts against Seattle starter James Paxton. He looked terrible on each of those 3Ks, one of which came with runners at first and third and nobody out in the first inning.

But fortunes changed once the Mariner bullpen entered the game, and the rally got Sox starter Anthony Ranaudo off the hook. The right-hander was decent enough for five innings -- the score was tied at 3 headed to the sixth. However, Ranaudo gave up three runs in the sixth and only got one out before having to be removed. It didn't help than Dan Jennings allowed two of his inherited runners to score.

The Sox bullpen kept it close by keeping the Mariners off the board the last three innings, and closer David Robertson (4-2) ended up with the win after he pitched around a one-out walk to post a scoreless ninth inning.

The Sox are 4-2 on the homestand entering Friday's play, with three more to go against Seattle.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

White Sox should have swept Seattle; they lose two of three instead

Dan Jennings
As previously noted, the White Sox choked away a brilliant effort from ace Chris Sale in Monday night's series opener against Seattle, but surprisingly enough, they responded with a crisp 6-1 victory on Tuesday night.

Jose Quintana (8-8) got back to .500 by winning his third consecutive start, and he was backed by home runs from Brett Lawrie, Melky Cabrera and Todd Frazier. Cabrera's blast leading off the top of the seventh inning broke a 1-1 tie and sent the Sox on their way to the win.

The Sox should have won the series finale on Wednesday, too. They had a 5-2 lead in the seventh inning, but then the old choke reflex kicked in again.

Zach Duke gave up a two-run homer to Mike Zunino in the seventh inning. Adam Lind, who homered off David Robertson to win the game Monday, struck again with a solo home run to tie it off Nate Jones in the eighth. Then, Leonys Martin went deep in the bottom of the 11th inning off Dan Jennings to lift the Mariners to a 6-5 win.

Here's the real shame of it: Miguel Gonzalez outpitched Felix Hernandez.

Yes, you read that right. The Sox's No. 5 starter got the game into the seventh inning with a three-run lead against the Seattle ace. Gonzalez provided his team with a golden opportunity to steal a win in a game that featured an unfavorable pitching matchup.

Instead, the Sox kicked the opportunity away, like they have so many others over the past 60 games. Teams that contend take advantage of those chances. Teams that finish in fourth place blow them. I'll bet you can guess which kind of team the Sox are.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

David Robertson ruins gem from Chris Sale in Seattle

David Robertson
Chris Sale is the man you want on the mound when it's time to put a stop to a losing streak.

The White Sox ace did his part Monday night. He fired eight innings of scoreless baseball, allowing just one hit -- a single in the first inning. He struck out six, walked three and hit two batters. He needed 100 pitches to complete the eighth inning, and he left the mound with a 3-0 lead.

Too bad the Sox lost 4-3 to the Seattle Mariners because closer David Robertson did not do his job.

Adam Lind's three-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning cost Sale what should have been his 15th victory of the season.

Sox manager Robin Ventura is catching a lot of blame for taking Sale out. I won't disagree with anyone who thinks Ventura should have been relieved of his duties long ago, but I'm pinning this loss squarely on Robertson and his battery mate, Dioner Navarro.

Sale hit two batters in the seventh inning and worked his way out of trouble. He walked two batters in the eighth, including a four-pitch free pass to No. 9 hitter Shawn O'Malley. While Sale escaped those jams, it is fair to say his command was starting to slip, so it wasn't a poor decision to not have him face the heart of the Seattle order for the fourth time in the ninth inning.

Robertson is paid $12 million a year to protect three-run leads, and he didn't get it done. He hung a curve to Franklin Gutierrez, who singled to start the inning. After Robinson Cano grounded into a force out, Navarro cost Robertson an out against Seattle slugger Nelson Cruz.

On a 2-2 pitch, Robertson threw a fastball at the knees that had the whole plate, but Navarro caught it in such a way that he snatched the ball from over to the plate into the right-handed batter's box, making it appear as though it was six inches inside. PitchTrax indicated it was a strike, and maybe it would have been with a better umpire behind the plate. But Navarro's poor receiving skills fooled Joe West, who is not a good umpire, and ball three was called. Robertson walked Cruz on the next pitch to put a second man on bring the tying run to the plate.

Robertson recovered to fan Dae-ho Lee on a good curve for the second out, but he missed location badly on a 2-1 cutter to Kyle Seager, who singled to make it 3-1. That brought Lind to the plate representing the winning run. Robertson jumped ahead with a good curve that Lind swung over, but then he missed location by about a foot on a high cutter on the second pitch. Lind did what he should do with that pitch -- he hit it over the fence to win the game.

The Sox have lost five straight, falling to 45-47. They remain nine games out of first place in the AL Central and fall to six games out of the AL wild-card race with six teams to pass.

That is going to be a tall mountain to climb. The thing that's really upsetting about this loss is Sale being denied his 15th win. The team is going nowhere, but as fans, we all want to see Sale get 20 wins. We all want to see him win the Cy Young this year. His presence on the team is one of the few points of pride for this fan base.

This game in Seattle should have been his next step on the road to the Cy Young. Instead, it's just another punch in the gut in another lost season on the South Side.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Carlos Rodon makes fourth straight quality start

I've heard comments from a lot of White Sox fans who feel the team "rushed" rookie left-hander Carlos Rodon to the big leagues. Some believe the Sox screwed up by starting Rodon's "service clock" this year during a non-contending season.

Hogwash.

Rodon wouldn't be learning a thing if he were in Charlotte overmatching Triple-A hitters. The best thing for his development is to be challenged by facing major league hitters. And, frankly, Rodon has had a respectable -- if not good -- rookie campaign.

Consider this: Rodon has made 19 starts this year, and the Sox are 12-7 in those games. That's not too shabby when you consider the Sox are 60-66 overall. There have been times where Rodon has been awful, such as this outing on July 31 vs. the Yankees, but more often than not, he's held up well and given the Sox a chance to win on the day he pitches.

In addition, he's trending the right way. Rodon has pitched into the seventh inning in each of his last four starts. He's gone 2-1 with a 1.61 ERA during that stretch. His command has been spotty at times. He's walked 11 over his last 28 innings, but he's also struck out 29 during that same span.

But here's the thing that's most encouraging to me about Rodon's recent work: He performed well even when he was facing a team that was seeing him for a second time in quick succession.

On Aug. 11, Rodon turned in the best start of his young career against the Los Angeles Angels. He fired seven innings of shutout ball, allowing just four hits while striking out 11 in a 3-0 victory.

Six days later, he faced that same Angels lineup. A lot of times with rookies, you wonder if they'll trip up "the second time through the league." Whatever adjustments Los Angeles made, they didn't work that well. Rodon's second start against the Angels was the longest of his career, eight innings of two-run ball. Once again, he allowed just four hits. The Sox lost, 2-1, but it wasn't because Rodon didn't hold up his end of the deal.

Next, Rodon faced the Seattle Mariners on Aug. 22. He went seven innings, allowing just one earned run and six hits with eight strikeouts. He got a no-decision in a game the Sox eventually won in extra innings.

Five days later, on Thursday, Rodon found himself looking at the same Seattle lineup. Would the Mariners make adjustments and get to him the second time around?

Nope.

Rodon earned the victory in the Sox's 4-2 win, allowing just two runs on three hits over six-plus innings.

Even veteran pitchers will tell you it can be hard to face the same lineup twice in quick succession. Rodon has been in that situation twice this month and handled himself quite well. That goes to show he's far enough along in his development that the Sox's decision to bring him to the majors when they did was the right one, service clock be damned.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Cy Young Awards: One surprise, one obvious

The 2014 American League Cy Young Award winner is ... Corey Kluber?

Yes, the relatively unknown Cleveland right-hander earned 17 of the 30 first-place votes and totaled 169 points, edging out Seattle's Felix Hernandez, who had 13 first-place votes and 159 points. White Sox lefty Chris Sale was third on 19 of the 30 ballots, so he placed third with 78 points.

Kluber expressed surprise to win the honor. I'm right there with him. I'm stunned. I figured Hernandez would prevail.

Let's do a side-by-side comparison of the two pitchers:

Hernandez: 15-6 W-L, 236 IP, 248 Ks, 2.14 ERA, 0.915 WHIP, 2.56 FIP, 6.5 H/9
Kluber: 18-9 W-L, 235.2 IP, 269 Ks, 2.44 ERA, 1.095 WHIP, 2.35 FIP, 7.9 H/9

When I first heard the results of the vote, I thought it was flatly ridiculous, but you can see how Kluber has a case. He went 5-1 with a 2.09 ERA in September, and that strong finish put his final numbers in the same ballpark with Hernandez.

Speaking of ballparks, I think we can all agree that Cleveland is a tougher place to pitch than Seattle. I think we can also agree that Seattle has a better defensive team than Cleveland. The numbers geeks really like that FIP (fielder independent pitching) stat, and Kluber was the best in the American League in that department. He also led thel eague in strikeouts. Those were the arguments in his favor.

However, I still would have voted for Hernandez. He had 16 consecutive starts from May to August where he allowed two runs or less. He led the league in WHIP, and he allowed almost a hit and a half less per nine innings than Kluber did. Hernandez also led the league in ERA. For the final month, Kluber was the better pitcher, but for the totality of the season, I thought Hernandez was the best and most dominant pitcher in the league. As an opponent, he was the guy you least wanted to see on the mound.

Thirteen voters agreed with me. Seventeen did not. That's how Kluber won.

Clayton Kershaw wins NL Cy Young

Clayton Kershaw won the NL Cy Young Award for the second consecutive year in a far less controversial vote. His name appeared first on all 30 ballots (150 points) after he went 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA for the NL West Division champion Los Angeles Dodgers.

There's really no argument with this one.

Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto placed second with 112 points. Adam Wainwright of St. Louis was third with 97 points.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Will Chris Sale's hiccup against the Royals cost him the Cy Young?

White Sox ace Chris Sale had his worst performance of the season Wednesday night, as he allowed a season-high five earned runs on nine hits over five innings in Chicago's 6-2 loss to the Kansas City Royals.

Just how big of an outlier was this outing for Sale? Consider this: He's thrown 668.2 innings in his major league career, and he had never given up a home run on an 0-2 pitch until Lorenzo Cain took a hanging slider out the park for a 3-run shot in the third inning Wednesday night.

Sale gave up a second home run on a similarly lousy pitch to light-hitting Kansas City shortstop Alcides Escobar in the fourth inning.

It's extremely rare for Sale to give up home runs to any Kansas City hitter. No Royals player had taken Sale deep since Aug. 17, 2012, a span of eight starts.

Indeed, this was an out-of-character start for Sale, and it might have cost him whatever chance he had of beating out Seattle ace Felix Hernandez for the AL Cy Young Award. The two pitchers are statistically similar in a lot of categories:
  • Sale is 12-4 in 25 starts; Hernandez is 14-5 in 31 starts.
  • Hernandez leads the league in ERA at 2.14; Sale is right behind at 2.20.
  • Hernandez has 225 strikeouts; Sale has 198.
  • Sale leads the league with 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings; Hernandez is at 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings.
  • Hernandez leads the league with a 0.918 WHIP; Sale is right behind at 0.958.
  • Sale's strikeout-to-walk ratio is 5.50; Hernandez is at 5.49.
Sale was ahead of Hernandez in both ERA and WHIP until his struggling outing against the Royals, which lessens his case. If Sale were to finish ahead of Hernandez in ERA, WHIP, strikeouts per nine innings and strikeout-to-walk ratio, I think you could make a strong argument he deserves the Cy Young. But, with one poor performance by Sale, Hernandez has nosed back in front in two of those four important categories -- pending his outing Thursday night against the Los Angeles Angels.

I'm pretty certain Hernandez is going to win the Cy Young at this point. If all things are fairly equal, he's going to get the nod because he's made six more starts and pitched 51 more innings than Sale this year. That stint on the disabled list Sale had in late April and early May probably costs him more than one crummy outing in September against Kansas City, but last night's showing did not help his argument. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Oakland, Detroit, St. Louis biggest winners at trade deadline

If there's one thing we learned at the MLB trading deadline, it's that GMs believe front-line starting pitching wins in the playoffs. On Thursday, we saw three contenders make bold moves to solidify their respective starting rotations for the stretch drive.

Oakland, Detroit and St. Louis were each willing to include established major-leaguers in trades in order to acquire the front-line starters they coveted. All three of those teams now have a better chance to get to the World Series and win it than they did just 24 hours ago.

Thursday's frenzy started with a blockbuster deal between Oakland and Boston. The Red Sox sent ace pitcher Jon Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes to the A's in exchange for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.

My initial reaction to this move was shock. How often do you see the cleanup hitter on the team with the best record in baseball (Cespedes) moved at the trading deadline? But the more I thought about this deal, the more I liked it for Oakland.

Cespedes is a big media name and a dangerous hitter, but he's not a great hitter, as his so-so .256/.303/.464 slash line will attest. From the seventh inning on, Cespedes has a slash line of .191/.236/.330 this year. This tells us there are plenty of ways to get him out with the game on the line. Opposing managers can bring in that power right-handed reliever to shut down Cespedes in the late innings. You don't have to fear him. You can pitch to him.

No doubt Oakland GM Billy Beane knows this, and that's why he was willing to part with Cespedes -- especially when the return is a legitimate ace with tons of postseason experience in Lester, who possesses a lifetime 2.11 ERA in the playoffs. During the Red Sox' run to the championship last year, Lester went 4-1 with 1.56 ERA in five starts. His only loss was a 1-0 defeat.

Lester is a money pitcher, and the A's are October ready with him, Jeff Samardzija, Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir in their rotation.

Beane's big move put the pressure on Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski to respond. Respond he did, acquiring Tampa Bay ace David Price just minutes before the trading deadline.

The Tigers paid a price, though, in the three-team swap. The deal cost them two players off their 25-man roster. Center fielder Austin Jackson is now a member of the Seattle Mariners. Left-handed starting pitcher Drew Smyly is now with Tampa Bay.

In a bizarre scene Thursday, the game between the Tigers and the White Sox had to be halted mid-inning so Jackson could be removed from center field at 3:56 p.m. EDT -- four minutes before the deadline.

Jackson is an inconsistent hitter, but make no mistake, the Tigers will not be able to replace his defense in center field. Who is going to play center field in Detroit now? Rajai Davis? Will they ask Torii Hunter to turn back the hands of time and move from right field to center? I don't know.

Maybe the Tigers are hoping fewer balls get hit into the outfield with the addition of Price.

There's no denying Detroit has a monster rotation now: Max Scherzer, Price, Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez. The first three on that list are former Cy Young award winners. Think they may be tough to beat in a short series?

Yeah, even with the hole in center field, I think so.

Meanwhile, the St. Louis Cardinals made the boldest move among National League teams. On Wednesday, they added Justin Masterson to their rotation. They followed that up Thursday by acquiring John Lackey from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for pitcher Joe Kelly and outfielder Allen Craig.

I like this trade for the Cardinals. Lackey has some age on him -- he's 35 -- but he's another guy who shines on the postseason stage (3.03 career ERA in 19 games). St. Louis knows that well, since Lackey shut the Cardinals down in the clinching game of the World Series last October.

Craig and his .237/.291/.346 slash line will not be missed in St. Louis, especially since his departure creates an opportunity for top prospect Oscar Taveras to play every day in the outfield.

Injuries have limited Kelly to seven starts this year. I suspect his 4.37 ERA and 1.457 WHIP also will not be missed in St. Louis.

Even if the Cardinals don't get Michael Wacha back, they have a front four of Adam Wainwright, Lackey, Masterson and Lance Lynn in their rotation. I don't think it makes them the favorite in the National League, but they would at least have a fighting chance in a short series against Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Their chances are certainly better now than they were before these deals.

There were several other deadline deals made on Thursday. We won't analyze all of them. This blog is already long enough. You can find a list of other trades here.

We'll wrap it up by saying Oakland, Detroit and St. Louis were the biggest winners at the deadline. Who will be the biggest winner on the field? We'll find out between now and late October.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Chris Sale dominates Mariners lefties on Fourth of July

Here's a fun fact about White Sox ace Chris Sale: He has four starts this season where he has recorded 10 or more strikeouts while allowing one earned run or less. He is the only White Sox pitcher to accomplish that in the past 100 years, and we've still got almost half a season to go.

Sale latest dominant outing came Friday night in the opener of a three-game series against the Seattle Mariners. The left-hander improved to 8-1 on the season in the Sox' 7-1 victory. It was Sale's second complete game of the year. He struck out a season-high 12, walked nobody and allowed just six hits. The Mariners did not score a run until the ninth inning, when the outcome was no longer in doubt.

I'll be honest: This was an extremely favorable matchup for Sale. It's not that the Mariners aren't a good team. They are, as their 47-39 record will attest. But when I saw the Seattle lineup, I noted the Mariners had six left-handed hitters in there -- James Jones, Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, Logan Morrison, Michael Saunders and Dustin Ackley.

Coming into Friday's action, left-handed hitters were posting an anemic .089/.196/.089 slash line against Sale. In fact, lefties had managed just four hits (all singles) off Sale all season.

Yeah, this wasn't going to end well for the Mariners. But give Seattle credit: its lefties went 4 for 21 in Friday's game, and Cano managed the first extra-base hit for a left-handed hitter off Sale all season. It was a bloop double in the ninth that should have been caught by Sox left fielder Dayan Viciedo, but it still counts.

Nevertheless, the Mariners had no prayer of mounting a consistent attack with that left-hand dominant lineup. As TV analyst Steve Stone noted in the ninth inning on Friday, Seattle could have played this game 20 times and it probably would have lost it all 20 times.

I was looking at the Mariners' roster, and I can't blame manager Lloyd McClendon for stacking his lineup with lefties. He's only got four right-handed hitters on his team. He played three of them -- Corey Hart, Mike Zunino and Willie Bloomquist. The fourth, John Buck, is the backup catcher to Zunino.

McClendon played the cards he had. Against Sale, it was a losing hand.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Free agent shocker: Robinson Cano snubs Yankees, agrees to terms with Mariners

Pat yourself on the back if you thought the Seattle Mariners would be the team to land the most sought-after free agent this offseason.

I didn't see this one coming: Robinson Cano has snubbed the New York Yankees and agreed to a 10-year, $240 million deal with the Mariners. The contract reportedly includes a full no-trade clause.

As expected, the Yankees have been on a spending spree after missing the playoffs in 2013. They signed catcher Brian McCann to a five-year, $85 million contract. They also gave center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury $153 million over seven years. I just assumed they would open up the pocketbook and retain Cano, too.

They were denied because the Mariners, of all teams, blew them out of the water by making Cano an offer he couldn't refuse. The Yankees reportedly did not want to invest more than $175 million on Cano. If that's the case, then Seattle beat New York's best offer by $65 million.

I don't know that this signing makes the Mariners immediate contenders in the AL West, but it surely weakens the Yankees' quest to get back in the mix in the AL East. Not matter how you spin it, they aren't as good without their cornerstone second baseman and No. 3 hitter.

I never thought Cano would play in a smaller city. When he hired Jay Z at his agent, I assumed it was because he wanted more opportunities to market himself, perhaps even in a realm outside of baseball. Typically, a player wants to be in New York or Los Angeles to pursue those kinds of possibilities.

Instead, Cano is going to Seattle. I'm stunned.

Curtis Granderson signs with Mets

Free agent outfielder Curtis Granderson and the New York Mets have agreed to a four-year deal worth $60 million, reports say.

Earlier this offseason, there were rumors that the White Sox were interested in Granderson. For those years and those dollars, I'm glad the South Siders took a pass -- if indeed they were interested.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Phil Humber .... one year later

The date was April 21, 2012 -- one year ago today. Phil Humber was at the bottom of this dog pile after tossing the 21st perfect game in MLB history, a 4-0 whitewashing of the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field.

It was a cool story at the time. Humber had pitched in parts of seven major league seasons with four different organizations, yet the perfect game was just the 12th win of his career.

He was a former first-round draft pick who had been a bust. He had been traded and released multiple times. He was about the last guy you'd ever expect to throw a perfect game. He was an underdog, and that was part of what made it so much fun to see him succeed.

Unfortunately for Humber, success has been hard to come by ever since that day in Seattle. He won only four more times for the White Sox after the perfect game. He pitched himself out of the rotation, and ultimately, out of Chicago. He finished 2012 with a 5-5 record and an inflated 6.44 ERA.

The Houston Astros, the worst team in baseball last year and quite possibly the worst again this year, picked Humber up and gave him another shot. The results have not been good. Humber has lost his first four starts of the season. Once again, the ERA is up there at 6.63 ERA.

Humber got the start for Houston against the Cleveland Indians on Saturday, almost one year to the day since his perfect game. He didn't even make it out of the first inning. He faced 10 batters and retired only one. He gave up eight runs on eight hits as the Indians rolled to a 19-6 victory.

What a difference a year makes, huh?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Tigers, Mariners challenge MLB single-game strikeout record

As I was driving home from work in a torrential rainstorm Wednesday night, I was able to catch the final innings of an epic game between the Detroit Tigers and the Seattle Mariners on the radio.

The Tigers prevailed 2-1 in 14 innings. Detroit scratched across a run in the top of the 14 and held on, literally, in the bottom half of the inning. The final out of the game was recorded at home plate, with Detroit catcher Brayan Pena holding on to a relay throw and making a tag as Seattle first baseman Justin Smoak knocked him over.

I was hoping the game would be tied again -- not just because it would have helped the White Sox if Detroit had lost. The two teams were getting close to setting a new record for most combined strikeouts in a single game. Had the game continued, it would have been a chance to see (or hear) a little bit of history.

The two starting pitchers, Seattle's Felix Hernandez (pictured) and Detroit's Max Scherzer, had remarkably similar pitching lines. Both men went eight innings, allowing one run. Both struck out 12. Scherzer threw 105 pitches, 75 for strikes. Hernandez totaled 106 pitches, 76 for strikes.

When all was said and done, the two teams combined for 40 strikeouts -- 21 by Detroit batters and 19 for Seattle. That 21 figure tied team records for both teams -- most strikeouts for Tiger hitters in a single game and most strikeouts for Mariner pitchers in a single game.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, forty combined strikeouts in one game ties for the second most in the Live Ball Era -- which began in 1920. For those wondering, the record is 43, set during a 20-inning game between the Oakland A's and California Angels on July 9, 1971.

Too bad this Detroit-Seattle contest didn't go to a 15th inning. There's a good chance that record would have fallen.