July 2011

No Brooms in Motown; Is Beckham Back?

It was a very winnable game. And after the three-run second, I thought the White Sox were on their way to a sweep of the Tigers. But Detroit starter Brad Penny recovered, his teammates scored three in the sixth to take the lead and the Detroit bullpen held on for the 4-3 Motown victory.

You expected the Tigers to mount a rally, having scored only two runs on Friday night and zero yesterday, so the most disappointing part of the Sox loss was the fact they couldn’t score more runs against a journeyman pitcher who was on the ropes in the early innings. The scenario of the Sox not being able to sustain their offense after an early outburst has been one of the central themes of the 2011 season. So, no surprise here.

The Sox, still four games behind the Tribe for the division lead, now take their series victory at Comerica to Kansas City, where the South Siders always seem to have trouble. Then, it’s on to Cleveland for a showdown.

No rest for the weary.

Silver LiningGordon Beckham, who collected two hits in each of the three games, has lifted his batting average to .255–a very welcome sight.

Read it and Weep

 

A fascinating piece from BaseballReference.com by John Autin:

Perhaps lost in the glow of Edwin Jackson‘s shutout Saturday was another oh-fer by ChiSox DH Adam Dunn (0-4, 3 Ks).

Dunn’s batting average is now .159, giving him a 20-point “lead” in the backwards race for the worst qualifying BA in the live-ball era. Rob Deer currently holds that distinction with his .179 average in 1991; only one other qualified batter has finished below .190 in a live-ball season (Eddie Joost, .185 in 1943).

But the 91 years of the live-ball era may not be big enough to contain Dunn’s futility. So let’s cast the net all the way back to 1893, when the 60′ 6″ pitching distance was established. The only player with a qualified BA under .160 was the notorious non-hitting catcher Bill Bergen, who did it twice (while compiling a lifetime .170 average): .159 in 1906, matching Dunn’s current mark; and the all-time record of .139 in 1909. And Bergen’s 372 PAs in both seasons would not have qualified by the modern standard; the qualifying threshold at the time was 100 games.

In his last 47 games, Dunn is 19 for 161, a .118 average, with 76 strikeouts – 4 times his hit total. He has just two 2-hit games in that span, and the 2nd hit in one of those games came in the 14th inning. He has 3 Ks or more in 11 of his last 44 starts.

Dunn is 4 for 43 in July. That’s one less hit this month than Derek Jeter had in his 3,000th-hit game, and just one more hit than Jose Reyes had in the 12 innings he played this month before going on the DL.

Break Up the White Sox

While rumors are swirling that he may once again be on the trading block, Edwin Jackson today pitched his finest game since joining the Sox nearly a year ago with a 5-0 complete game shutout of the Tigers. It was his first CG since pitching his no-hitter with the Diamondbacks last June.

Jackson’s usual bugaboo is his inconsistency and lack of control, resulting in high pitch counts. But that wasn’t the case this afternoon in Detroit as he sailed through nine innings on just 101 pitches. He’s now 6-7 and lowered his ERA to under 4.00 (3.97).

If Jackson remains with the Sox, the hope is that he can repeat what he did today on a more consistent basis. If the Sox plan to trade him, which would mean the righthander would be shipped to his sixth team (Dodgers, Rays, Tigers, D-backs, Sox), Edwin did Kenny Williams a favor by showcasing himself in the best possible light.

In addition to Jackson’s gem, two of the Sox first-half whipping boys were keys to the offense. Juan Pierre went 4 for 5 with a run scored and an RBI while Gordon Beckham had his second consecutive two-hit game and also scored a run and drove one in. Pierre has elevated his BA to .275 and Beckham is now at .252. Carlos Quentin had his second straight three-hit game, including his 18th homer.

Even though Adam Dunn delivered a clutch hit in last night’s victory he went 0 for 4 with four strikeouts today. His non-producing buddy, Alex Rios, was also 0 for 4 with two K’s. Dunn is now at a season low .159 and Rios, now at .207, keeps tumbling as well.

Sox Note of Note: If the uniform Jackson is wearing in the above photo threw you off a bit, it’s a throwback uniform the South Siders wore today in tribute to the Chicago American Giants of the Negro Leagues.

Is Sox Rebound Justin Time?

It’s only one game, but if the White Sox continue to play like they did in last night’s 8-2 win over ace Justin Verlander and Tigers, I’m “All In.”

For those of us who endured the season’s first half, the victory was a bit of a shock to our systems. We saw several things we rarely or never saw before the All-Star break. Here’s a sampling:

–A win over the Tigers

–A triumph in the A.L. Central

–Soundly defeating Verlander, arguably the league’s hottest pitcher

–An eight-run outburst

–A solid performance by Gavin Floyd

–A clutch single by Adam Dunn that drove in a pair of runs

–A terrific outing by Will Ohman, who has significantly improved since the start of the season

–A pair of hits and sparkling defense by Mark Teahen

–Key production from Gordon Beckham, who is looking to recapture his rookie form

All this and the usual solid performances by our All-Stars, Paul Konerko (a hit, three walks and a run scored) and Carlos Quentin (3 for 5 with three RBIs), made it a fun return to Sox baseball.

It’s premature to pop the champagne and if the South Siders don’t win this series we’re back to where we were. But I’m cautiously optimistic that the second half will be different than the first.

Sox MVP-less in All-Star History

Prince Fielder became the first Milwaukee Brewer to win the All-Star Game Most Valuable Player last night in Phoenix by virtue of his three-run homer in the National League’s convincing 5-1 triumph over the Americans.

It got me to thinking that the White Sox have never boasted the Midsummer Classic’s MVP since the award’s inception in 1962. Then I wondered how many other existing teams have the dubious distinction.

For the record, in addition to the South Siders, the Blue Jays and Tigers in the A.L. and Astros, Cardinals, Diamondbacks and Rockies in the N.L. have never had an MVP. To clarify, a player wearing a Washington Nationals uniform has never attained the honor, but the club won it on multiple occasions when the franchise was known as the Montreal Expos.

The two 2011 Sox All-Stars did nothing to make a bid for the MVP. Carlos Quentin popped out in foul territory and reached on an error. Paul Konerko walked and grounded out to end the game.

Maybe next year.

Midseason Report Card

One man’s opinion on the White Sox’s first-half performance. It all adds up to a 44-48 record and one of baseball’s biggest disappointments of 2011:

 

PITCHERS

Brian Bruney: Has done a decent job since being called up from Charlotte. (B-)

Mark Buehrle: Should have a better record based on his performance. (B)

Jesse Crain: Not perfect, but very solid. (B)

John Danks: Has rebounded nicely after 0-8 start. Ready to come off DL. (C+)

Gavin Floyd: To me, a huge disappointment. He’s been described as soft. (D)

Philip Humber: The most pleasant surprise of the season. Hope it continues. (A)

Edwin Jackson: Hard to watch when he can’t find the plate. And that’s often. (C-)

Will Ohman: Has his uh-oh moments, but all in all has made a postive impact. (C)

Jake Peavy: Part good, part bad. Has lost the plate recently. Still recuperating. (C)

Tony Pena: Very unreliable. Out of sight, out of mind lately as he’s been on DL. (F)

Chris Sale: His body of work has been good. Will only get better. (B-)

Hector Santiago: Just a couple of appearances, but could be a find. (I)

Sergio Santos: Just think, he was a shortstop three years ago. (A-)

Matt Thornton: Awful start, has been good lately. (C+)

 

CATCHERS

Ramon Castro: Capable backup, suffered broken hand and will out for a while. (C+)

Tyler Flowers: Once a top prospect, he now has a chance to prove his worth. (I)

A.J. Pierzynski: Excellent season. Can’t ask more from the durable backstop. (A-)

 

INFIELDERS

Gordon Beckham: A whiz defensively, will his bat revert to his rookie form? (C+)

Paul Konerko: Do I have to tell you how good Paulie has been? (A)

Brent Morel: Can certainly pick-it and has shown good signs at the plate. (C)

Alexei Ramirez: Has been OK, but I was hoping for more. (C+)

Mark Teahen: Has had a moment or two, but doesn’t add much. (D)

Omar Vizquel: At 44, it’s great to have his experience and versatility. (B-)

 

OUTFIELDERS

Brent Lillibridge: Has proven he’s not a regular, but has had magic moments. (C+)

Juan Pierre: He’s coming on after slow start. No longer a stolen base threat. (C)

Carlos Quentin: Has cooled off, but the All-Star is a major contributor. (B)

Alex Rios: Just awful, looks like he’s going through the motions. (F)

 

DH

Adam Dunn: An absolute failure and, as we speak, a colossal waste of money. (F)

Give Me a Break

It’s a perfect time to get away from White Sox baseball.

After breaking the long losing streak to the Twins yesterday, the Sox went down today, 6-3. Not only couldn’t they touch a pitcher by the name of Anthony Swarzak, but they were beaten by an offense that boasted the likes of Jason Repko, Drew Butera, Rene Tosoni and Tsuyoshi Nishioka. That’s right, Justin Morneau, Jason Kubel, Delmon Young and Denard Span all were out of action and we still lost the series.

The good news is that our club is filled with good citizens. But right now, while we’re still at least mathematically in the division race, we need someone inside the clubhouse (other than Ozzie) to get tough with a team that has underachieved miserably all season. Frankly, when the Sox play teams like Detroit, Cleveland and Minnesota they look lifeless in comparison and are routinely outplayed in the fundamentals.

Somebody, please, step up with a wake up call. And how about we begin to turn things around vs. the Tigers on Friday? Because if our mindset doesn’t change soon, we’re sunk for sure.

A Day to Remember

White Sox 4, Twins 3.

That statement alone will turn some heads as the Sox defeated Minnesota this afternoon for the first time in 2011 after dropping nine in a row dating back to last year. It also broke a four-game Pale Hose losing streak on their current homestand.

In a game that was headed toward another Twinkie victory, a couple of clutch two-out hits (I’m not kidding) in the late innings turned the tide. In the eighth, Carlos Quentin delivered a single to tie the score at 3-3 and Alexei Ramirez, who homered in the first to give the Sox an early 1-0 lead, singled to center in the ninth. It scored A.J. Pierzynski from second for the game-winner.

Former Twin Jesse Crain got the win after pitching a perfect ninth. Starter Mark Buehrle authored another fine performance, but got the no-decision. All three Minny runs off of Buehrle were unearned.

Can the Sox make it two in a row and split the four-game series? Jake Peavy will try to do it tomorrow before the Sox head into the All-Star break.

Sox Note of Note: One negative on the day. Backup catcher Ramon Castro suffered a broken hand on a play in the eighth inning, setting the stage for Pierzynski to enter the game. No official announcement has been made, but it’s likely Tyler Flowers will be called up from AAA Charlotte to replace him.

A New Chapter, the Same Old Story

It doesn’t rival one of those extra inning walkoff losses, but last night’s defeat to the Twins was tough to take. Ozzie put it this way: “Hard to watch.”

The Sox finally sustained a rally by scoring five runs in the first after the Twins got on the board with a run in the top half of the inning. But Gavin Floyd, who hasn’t shown much lately, couldn’t hold the lead. He was gone after 3 2/3 innings and was responsible for two more runs–seven in all–when the immortal Luke Hughes took Will Ohman deep for a three-run homer.

After  the six-run Minnesota fourth, it was Twins 8, Sox 5–and that was the final score. The home team showed absolutely no life in their last six at bats.

That’s nine losses in a row against the Twins, 28 of the last 34, and four straight to K.C. and Minny on this homestand.

The All-Star break can’t come soon enough.

Ozzie: “We Just Can’t Get it Done…I Don’t Know the Reason”

The truth is that there are myriad reasons why the once-promising White Sox summer has turned into one of frustration, disappointment, annoyance and bewilderment.

With the Indians showing that they’re in it for the long run (they scored five runs in the ninth last night to overcome a 4-0 Blue Jays lead), the Tigers right behind and the Twins poised to pass us, it all seems very bleak.

I’d like to think that the All-Star break will force the South Siders to take a collective breath, get away from the slide (now at three with three more against the Twins, who won 6-2 last night) and come back a different team.  But it may be more difficult than we think.

The one thing that is becoming apparent to me is that the Sox have a lack of “it.” That “it” factor that winning teams have. Whether it’s true or not, the Sox look old and lethargic and don’t seem to have the same energy as the others in their division. I realize that teams look this way when they’re not getting on base and scoring runs, but the constant failures of Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and their pals have to have a negative effective on the overall mood of the clubhouse. And I’m sure it is reflected in the standings, where the Sox have dropped to 5 1/2 games behind the Tribe.

Baseball being baseball, things could turn around in a heartbeat starting tonight in Game 2 against the Twins, despite the fact the Sox have lost eight in a row and 27 of the last 33 to Minnesota.

And apart from the obvious need–some consistent offense–I’d like to see a little bit of that “it” factor.  Don’t worry, I’ll know “it” when I see “it.”

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