Showing posts with label Travis Wood. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Travis Wood. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Matt Davidson makes case for more playing time

Matt Davidson
The White Sox leader in home runs and RBIs through 18 games is ... Matt Davidson?

Yes, that's correct.

Davidson went 3 for 4 with four RBIs and his team-best fourth home run of the season Monday, leading the Sox (9-9) to a 12-1 win over the Kansas City Royals (7-12).

The 26-year-old has 14 RBIs, which is tied for the team lead with Avisail Garcia, but Davidson has posted that total in only 40 plate appearances, while Garcia has 72 plate appearances.

Davidson has been the source of much consternation among Sox fans because he hasn't been playing every day. Before Monday's rout, Davidson had not started any of the previous four games.

I can at least understand manager Rick Renteria's logic. In those four games, the Sox faced a strong contingent of right-handed pitchers -- Masahiro Tanaka of the New York Yankees, and then Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar of the Cleveland Indians.

None of those pitchers is a good matchup for Davidson, who has struck out 12 times in his 24 plate appearances against right-handers this season. The flip side to that argument? Davidson also has three home runs against righties, so perhaps he's hot enough right now that "handedness" doesn't matter so much.

Davidson was in there Monday against Kansas City left-hander Jason Vargas (3-1), and he laced an opposite field homer in his first at-bat. But perhaps his best swing came in the bottom of the sixth inning, when he delivered an RBI double on the ninth pitch of an at-bat against Royals reliever Peter Moylan, who is a side-winding right-hander. Davidson fought off a couple tough 3-2 pitches, then found one that he could shoot into the right-center gap for a hit.

Later in the sixth inning, during which the Sox scored eight runs, Davidson hit a two-run single off the left-field wall that had an exit velocity of 110 mph. He hit the ball so hard that he couldn't make a double out of it. That one was off a left-handed pitcher, reliever Travis Wood.

The question for Renteria is this: Does he continue to spot Davidson in matchups that are favorable for him? Or does he take the training wheels off, throw Davidson in there against everybody -- even tough right-handers -- and find out whether this hot start is for real?

When I look at Davidson's slash line of .368/.375/.789, I can't help but think "small sample size." But the longer this goes on, the more calls we are going to hear for more playing time for Davidson. That especially will be the case if the left-handed side of the DH platoon, Cody Asche, continues to struggle. Asche is 2 for 35 and has yet to record an extra-base hit in 38 plate appearances.

We won't know Tuesday whether Renteria is going to change course. The Royals are starting their best pitcher, left-hander Danny Duffy, so that means Davidson is going to play. We'll see what the Sox manager does the next time the team faces a less-than-elite right-hander.

Speaking of right-handers, Miguel Gonzalez (3-0) continues to roll for the Sox. He went eight innings Monday, allowing only one unearned run on two hits. He struck out five and walked one, and lowered his ERA to 2.00 over four starts and 27 innings. He's been the Sox's best pitcher this month. Who would have thought that? 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Paul Konerko gets a parting gift, then gives a parting shot

We don't often say nice things about North Siders on this blog, but give the Cubs credit for a classy gesture before Tuesday night's crosstown game at Wrigley Field.

White Sox captain Paul Konerko, playing his last game on the North Side, was presented with a green No. 14 placard from the Wrigley Field scoreboard by Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija. Fans from both teams applauded, and it was nice moment recognizing Konerko's long and successful career with the Sox.

I'll bet the Cubs are glad Konerko is finally retiring at the end of the season. The veteran first baseman has tormented the Cubs with big hit after big hit for years. In 75 career games against the Cubs, Konerko has posted a .300/.361/.592 slash line with 20 home runs and 59 RBIs. That's a pretty good track record.

On Wednesday night, the crosstown series shifted to U.S. Cellular Field, and Konerko received what will probably be his last starting nod in a game against the Cubs. He responded with two doubles, including perhaps the biggest hit of the night in the White Sox's 8-3 victory.

With the Sox leading 4-3 in the fifth inning, Konerko stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and ripped a three-run double into the left-field corner off Cubs starter Travis Wood. Later in the inning, Konerko scored on an RBI single by Marcus Semien to cap a four-run rally, and the Sox coasted from there to their fourth straight win overall and third consecutive win over the Cubs.

For what it's worth, the Sox have clinched the 2014 Crosstown Cup with this victory. The fourth and final game of the series will be Thursday night at the Cell. The Cubs will be starting a right-handed pitcher, Jake Arrieta, so that means Konerko probably will not be in the starting lineup.

No matter. He delivered his parting shot to the Sox's crosstown rival with that laser-beam double on Wednesday night. It was a fitting end to a career spent beating up on Cubs pitching.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Should the Cubs part with Samardzija?

Maybe the most interesting choice the Cubs face this offseason is what to do with right-hander Jeff Samardzija.

It will be interesting not just because of what Samardzija is -- not really a No. 1 starter, though maybe the best pitcher the Cubs have -- but the choice will signify the team's intent over the course of the next couple years.

Last year the Cubs reached for Edwin Jackson to plug a hole in the rotation, figuring someone had to pitch, so why not Jackson? The free agent had some upside, and teamed with Matt Garza, Samardzija, Travis Wood and a hopefully healthy Scott Feldman, if enough things broke right among the position players on the roster, you could squint at this team and see a contender. Or at least a team that could look competitive in a possibly weak NL Central.

Obviously, not much of that happened as the division was strong, high hopes for guys like shortstop Starlin Castro and first baseman Anthony Rizzo sank, and Jackson revealed himself to be the innings eater he is. Nothing more and nothing less.

Samardzija himself took a step back, at least as far as results go with his ERA climbing from 3.81 to 4.34, though advanced stats like fielding-independent pitching indicate his results weren't that much of a drop-off from 2012.

The Cubs should probably expect Samardzija to be what he's been over the last two seasons, which is a right-hander with a big fastball and a lot of strikeouts who is still pretty hittable, maybe walks a few too many guys, but isn't exceptionally homer-happy.

Maybe most people look at that and think Samardzija is a decent No. 3 starter, a pretty good No. 4 or a great No. 5. Maybe some teams look at the increasing ground ball-to-fly ball ratio (0.71 in 2011, 0.81 in 2012 and 0.97 last year) and think he just needs a better defense behind him to close the gap between his actually ERA and his FIP (3.45 last year). Some of those teams probably also look at the big strikeout rate (9.0 per 9 IP), consider the slow start to his baseball career while he played football at Notre Dame, and think he's still got the tools to blossom into a real No. 1 starter as he approaches his 30th birthday.

I don't buy that most optimistic version of Samardzija's future, because you really have to be sold on arguments that can't be made with numbers alone. However, I can see how those arguments might become more convincing to a team that finds itself unable to trade for David Price this winter.

Obviously, the offers the Cubs gets should determine their willingness to pull the trigger on any Samardzija trade. Though the haul for Garza and Feldman was underwhelming when those pitchers were dealt last summer, Samardzija is still under team control for two more years.

If I were the Cubs GM, though, it would have to be a pretty nice package, because just like a piece of the rationale for the Jackson signing, somebody's got to pitch.

The Cubs are not so deep in pitching that they can easily fill Samardzija's spot. They can't count on mining free agent gold like Feldman again. Jackson will be another year older, and any diminishing results from him might lead frustration from those expecting more to boil over into his ouster from the team. For as tough a time as Samardzija has had with his ERA not matching his FIP, Wood has exceeded expectations there by more than half a run each of the last two seasons, and that might not happen again. Other options like Chris Rusin and Jake Arrieta look underwhellming.

In other words, trading Samardzija would mean the Cubs aren't pretending they might start getting things together next year. Not without risking big bucks on a replacement pitcher, or getting an MLB-ready pitching prospect back.

Current Cubs president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer have been pretty candid from the beginning that this was going to be a long rebuilding process. While a lot of Cubs fans have accepted that, it's a different matter being asked to suffer though a third straight season of embarrassing baseball. Not when the second straight year led to the manager being fired

So unless the Cubs are offered a package that looks to surely exceed the value of two more seasons from Samardzija, plus a draft pick when he's offered a qualifying offer before free agency, Hoyer and Epstein should elect to keep their hurler for at least one more season.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Chris Sale gives MVP-worthy performance in All-Star Game

With teams on both sides of town languishing near the bottom of the standings, Chicago sent just three players to the 2013 MLB All-Star Game, which was played Tuesday night in New York.

Pitchers Chris Sale and Jesse Crain represented the White Sox. Pitcher Travis Wood earned the lone All-Star nod for the Cubs.

Crain did not pitch because he is on the disabled list with a shoulder injury. Wood also did not participate, having just pitched 48 hours earlier in a game against the St. Louis Cardinals.

That left Sale to represent the city, and you can make a good case his performance was the most impressive in a pitching-dominated game.

Sale tossed two scoreless innings and retired all six batters he faced, earning the win in the American League's 3-0 victory.

The Sox ace entered in the second inning and retired David Wright on a grounder to third on his first pitch. He struck out Carlos Gonzalez on a slider and got Yadier Molina on a fly out to center field. Sale came back out for the third inning and fanned Troy Tulowitzki on another slider. He retired Michael Cuddyer on a tapper back to the mound and concluded his night when Bryce Harper lined out to third baseman Miguel Cabrera.

Sale's fastball touched 96 mph, and he needed only 24 pitches (17 strikes) to retire six of the best players in the National League.

There certainly weren't any hitters in this game worthy of the MVP. Not a single player had more than one hit. There wasn't anybody with more than one RBI or one run scored, either. No home runs were hit.

It was inevitable the MVP award would go to a pitcher. Sale registered six outs, more than any other American League pitcher, and he got them in quick and dominant fashion.

But alas, this year's All-Star MVP wasn't going to go to anyone other than Mariano Rivera, the future Hall of Fame closer of the New York Yankees. Rivera is retiring at the end of the season, and the night was all about recognizing his career accomplishments.

Make no mistake, Rivera did his job as usual when he entered the game in the eighth inning. He quickly retired all three National League hitters he faced. But let's be honest, he was given the MVP as a lifetime achievement award, moreso than for his performance in this particular game.

I can understand that. It's just too bad, because Sale was pretty damn good and he would have deserved it. Sale does go down as the seventh White Sox pitcher to earn a victory in the All-Star Game. Here are the six others:

1941: Edgar Smith
1958: Early Wynn
1962: Ray Herbert
1993: Jack McDowell
2000: James Baldwin
2005: Mark Buehrle

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Thursday This and That

All the statheads say wins and losses aren't a good measure of a pitcher's effectiveness. I don't necessarily agree with that sentiment 100 percent of the time, but here's a case where it's true:

Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija (right) is tied for the National League lead in losses with four, even though he has posted a quality start in three of his first five outings and has a respectable ERA of 3.03. Samardzija has just one victory.

Teammate Travis Wood also has just one win. It isn't his fault. He's gone at least six innings and given up two runs or less in each of his first four starts of the season. He has a 2.08 ERA. Unfortunately for him, the Cubs stink, so his record is just 1-1.

Carlos Villaneuva is in the same boat. His ERA is 1.53. He's gone seven innings or more in each of his first four starts, giving up two runs or less in each outing. His record? 1-0.

So, Samardzija, Wood and Villaneuva have a combined 2.25 ERA in 13 starts, 11 of which have been quality. Alas, their combined record is 3-5. None of them has more than one win.

You know who does lead the Cubs' pitching staff in wins? Well, that would be Carlos Marmol, the guy who is blowing all the games for these starting pitchers. Marmol has a bloated 4.82 ERA and 1.82 WHIP. But hey,  he's 2-1!

Where's the justice in that?

Detroit goes back to Valverde

After his legendary playoff meltdown last year, Jose Valverde is back with the Tigers. He made his 2013 debut Wednesday and earned the save in Detroit's 7-5 win over Kansas City. Believe it or not, he retired the side 1-2-3 in the ninth. Of course, two of the three outs were warning track fly balls, but an out is an out, right?

I still think the bullpen is the Achilles heel for the Tigers. They only resigned Valverde because they weren't happy with Phil Coke or any of their other options in the closer's role. Only time will tell, but I wouldn't be surprised if Valverde is washed up. He's fortunate Detroit is a pretty big ballpark. Some of those long flies he gives up will die on the warning track there.

Mr. Solo Home Run

White Sox fans love to complain about their team hitting nothing but solo home runs, but the South Siders have nothing on Atlanta outfielder Justin Upton.

Upton has been red-hot out of the gate this year, connecting for 11 home runs in his first 21 games. Thing is, he has only 16 RBIs.

Upton is just the second player since 1921 to hit 11 home runs and have fewer than 17 RBIs to show for it. The other is Gary Sheffield from the 1996 Florida Marlins.

Isn't anyone getting on base for Upton?