TBL Special: White Sox September Viewing Guide

Posted: September 10, 2012 by Mauricio Rubio Jr. in Columns, Sports, Through Both Lenses
Tags: , , , , , ,

by: Mauricio Rubio Jr.
email: mr@99sportsproblems.com
twitter: @MRubio52

So You’re In A Pennant Chase

Congratulations, here take this bottle of Mylanta and a packet of Tums. This one is going to be a grind all the way to the end, so prepare your assholes, this is going to get really bumpy.

You see, apparently neither team wants to run away with the division. There have been ample opportunities, especially for the enigmatic Tigers who seem to like sweeping the Sox and then getting swept by the fucking Royals of all teams.

Oh the Royals.

Apparently nobody that is competing for the AL Central is allowed to beat them this year. They aren’t a good baseball team but for some reason they play the top dogs tough. I can’t explain it, it’s just baseball. Shit like that happens.

And that’s really what this article is about. We’ve got well over 130 games played now and it’s “a sprint to the finish” to borrow a tired term, but really at this point it’s less about the accumulated statistics of the past and the general randomness of the future. I mean, Dan Johnson pretty much saved the Tampa Rays season last year when he hit a home run when he and his team were down to their last strike of 2011.

Dan Fucking Johnson.

So how do you watch baseball in September with the finish line in sight? Let me guide you.

Rule #1, No cross sport references.

Your memory should recall 2008 and 2006 and 2005, so I know you, this is just a gentle reminder.

There is nothing like this. There is no sport like this, there is no month like this, there is no comparison for these moments that you the Sox fan will endure. This isn’t like any other sport, this my friends is a day-in, day-out grind that will leave you sick to your stomach most of the time.

The pay-off potential though? That’s big time. You remember it, when Konerko raises his hands and that fat-ass Jenks tries to jump and then Uribe comes running in and then the dog-pile ensues.

Yeah. That’s worth the 2-month supply of heartburn. Trust me.

Rule #2, Any one moment does not make a player better at baseball, it simply defines him.

Baseball in September is a unique creature. Teams live and die in September moments as they are scratching and clawing their way to a playoff berth. Legends are made in these next two months. Shit people in Chicago still love Crede, Dye and Rowand and they haven’t been relevant for years now.

Basically, you win now and you live forever.

Seriously, Bucky Fucking Dent has a career OPS of .618 and he’s a baseball immortal because he just killed the Red Sox. Cue Mazeroski, Boone, Gonzo, and the rest of the not-great-but-immortal gang.

So let’s say the White Sox win the world series on the backs of Dan Johnson, who hits a game winning HR to beat the Tigers in game-163, Gordon Beckham, who goes crazy in the AL-DS and CS, and Phil Humber who steps in the rotation and wins 2 WS games.

Their ability has not improved, they aren’t any better than they were entering the playoffs. As crazy (and extremely unlikely) all of that is, it doesn’t make them any better at baseball. Maz was 23 when he hit that crazy HR for the Pirates. You know what he did after that? He continued to not hit. He put up an OPS+ of 83. He was an awful hitter for the rest of his career. Baseball is littered with these types of stories. Don’t let this cloud your judgement of a player’s past performance. Don’t let “clutch” enter your lexicon quite yet. There are very few players who I would call clutch, and that is not a term anyone should use lightly.

Just, you know, be careful when you throw that shit around.

Rule #3, Honor the Pitcher’s Duel, and a brief guide to observing a pitcher’s duel.

There are a few types of “Pitcher’s Duels.” There is the legitimate kind where two aces run into each other and decimate opposing lineups for 2 1/2 hours, there’s the lesser kind where two lesser pitchers run into each other and decimate opposing lineups for 3 hours, and there’s even a version where two journeymen pitchers get together and go lights out crazy for 8 innings.

Here are the typical signs of a true duel:

  • Strikeouts – A true pitcher’s duel will have the SP’s throw up close to a K per IP. The strikeout is the calling card of an ace, a true ace. Great pitchers know how to miss bats and induce weak contact. Close to a K per IP is 6-7 K’s in 8 IP. Stuff like that. Weak grounders to the left side are important in context, but that can sometimes been chalked up to a poor showing by the offense.
  • Hitter Reax are important – Given the two offenses you’ll be watching, Tigers and White Sox, it is safe to go off the hitter reactions to gauge what kind of stuff the pitcher has. Both lineups have enough good hitters that if you see those guys taking awkward half swings and just looking like little leaguers playing wiffle ball that you know the pitcher has great stuff. Hitter reaction is key, if he’s early on an off-speed offering you know he was looking fastball, etc. etc.
  • Mind the sequencing – Chris Sale got into trouble last time because he threw too many sliders. Delmon Young saw too many of them and hit a really good slider into the seats. Sequencing is pitching. Pitchers need to have a proper attack to keep batters off-balance. It can be any mix of pitches (relative to the situation) so long as there is a mix. Pitching is like real estate (location, location, location), yes, but that only tells half the story. Changing the eye level is important. Mixing speeds is important. Throwing waste pitches is important. Maintaining top velo is important. Knowing what pitches are sharp and what you can get away with early in the count/inning/game and what are your put away pitches is important. Pitching is a composite of knowledge, talent, and pacing. And it’s more than that too. Pitching is hard to define, really. But when you watch a start, look at the sequence. Is he pitching backwards (throwing soft stuff first then whipping the fastball), is he following the old rules and establishing the fastball first, is he changing eye levels, is there a good mix going on or is he too reliant on one pitch? Watch. Learn.
  • Staying power – Endurance is key in a duel. 7 IP minimum. No 6 inning duelers, that’s mere quality. We want excellence in a true duel. 6 innings is fine for one of the lesser duels, but it won’t do in the true tests of Aces. Sale vs. Verlander on Thursday will give you the first real test of that theory.

Rule #4, Overreaction in the moment is fine, but keep perspective.

OMFG SALE SUX BRO

DUDE FUCKING PAULIE HAS NO IDEA AT THE PLATE, BUM

D-WISE HITTING MACHINE!

All of these are examples of people caught up in the moment, and that’s fine. September baseball is all about the moments that define seasons and legacies. The moment is primary this month.

HOWEVA

Sale does not suck, brah. Paulie has the best attack of any hitter I’ve seen this year, and Wise is not a hitting machine. Keep perspective when the moment passes. Understand what you’re watching, this is just the final act of a long season. All the plays before today count too. All the Royals losses in previous months, all those times that both teams got stuck in the mud at varying points, all of that is still a big part of the reason why the White Sox will win or lose the division.

Look at it this way, this month is right in front of you, and it’s paramount. Right now. The Cubs were white-hot in September in 2010 and it didn’t matter because they blew ass the other 5 months of the season. That shit matters too. That time you didn’t beat Luis Mendoza, that time when Cy Chen shoved it to you, that time Hector Santiago gave up a really, really long HR to lose the game? All of that matters, all of that counts, and all those lost opportunities are part of why the Sox are only 2 games up.

So if they lose the division by a game or two, don’t just blame the September losses. There were ample chances before this month to make the Tigers irrelevant (see the Baltimore series).

Similarly, don’t forget the contributions of guys like Rios, AJ and Konerko from the early months if another person rises up and carries the team to October glory. Peavy was spectacular early, and is still good late. Those contributions matter too.

Rule #5, don’t let anyone, even some asshole on the internet, tell you how to have fun while watching your team.

We’re all adults here, so everything is more or less a suggestion. I think these are helpful tips to keep in mind, but basically, it’s your team. Have fun man, enjoy this shit. It is an exciting time to be a baseball fan.

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