Posts Tagged ‘AL Central’

There are 108 stitches on a baseball. A pitcher manipulates those stitches to make the ball do certain things, he will use 4 seams to make a ball go fast and straight (ish). He will use two seams to cut the ball a bit. He will use torque to make it curve. Pitching is the most unnatural athletic feat in all of sports. It’s hell on your arm, it destroys ligaments in your elbow, it shreds your rotator cuff, it gives you pain like no other the morning after, but when you are able to master the artistry of pitching, I argue that nothing is more rewarding.

Jake Peavy mastered the art, but his body has betrayed him. It has led to an identity crisis that derailed a once promising career. Peavy was a great pitcher at the height of his powers. He was overwhelming at one point. Plus movement on all his pitches, command of the strike zone and a mentality that screamed “Ace.”

It’s a funny word, “Ace.” It’s a heavy word that sounds ultimately silly. How often would you take a man named Ace seriously? Almost never. In the baseball lexicon, home of the silly moniker, Ace is the ultimate compliment a pitcher can be paid. It means so many things because it has no set parameters. An Ace can be like Greg Maddux or Roger Clemens. He can be Pedro Martinez or Tom Glavine. To be an Ace is to be both a competitor and a sublime talent.

Jake was either an Ace, or on his way to being an Ace. He was simply outstanding from 2005-2007. He was a 20-something year old phenom with the mentality of a pitbull. He increased his repertoire in 2005, mixing in a cutter to go along with his standard power pitcher’s array of fastball, slider, curve and changeup.

As you can see, he experimented with the pitch in 2004 and threw it with increased volume from there. Peavy’s health has always stood in his way to continuing to build on the success that he established in 2005. In this chart you’ll note that since joining the White Sox he is throwing his fastball less and less, bottoming out at 49% in 2011. This can be due to a couple of factors. Peavy has moved to a more difficult league that employs a DH. Pitchers usually get a steady diet of fastballs. Perhaps the more important reason is that he’s lost confidence in his fastball, which is an issue. Peavy’s fastball used to sit in the 94-96 range. However:

vFA and vFT are his fastball velocity values. That’s a fairly precipitous drop. He’s becoming more of a junkballer and less of a fireballer. Reputation is a hard thing to overcome, and Peavy’s was that of a gamer. It still is. He famously volunteered to throw a 4 inning relief stint when his team desperately needed it last year, but after that outing he was hardly effective. More alarming is the in-between area he occupies as a pitcher. Consider the following:

He gets hit the first time around, which kind of puts a damper on the whole theory that you could put him in the pen, and he gets pounded after pitch #75. If he could somehow exist as a 2-3 inning reliever every 2-3 games, I feel that his effectiveness would be high. It’s clear that arm fatigue take miles away from his fastball, and that he has lost confidence in the pitch. What isn’t clear is what the Sox plan to do to fix it, if anything. Peavy is penciled in as a starter on this squad entering the 2012 season. He’ll need to perform in order for the Sox to have a chance at competing this year. I don’t see him gaining a few MPH’s on his fastball, so that cutter/change combination he’s grown fond of will have to be his bread and butter when he navigates through the improved lineups of the AL Central. If’s are big with Peavy, and it’s no guarantee that if he stays healthy he’ll be effective. Detroit is no joke and the Royals will have a solid lineup this year. Peavy has a long road ahead of him if he wants to stay relevant in the Sox rotation this year.

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I’ve been there before, down that path, feeling that same sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. It’s the feeling you get deep within your being when you have so completely failed to live up to the expectations of people that support you. The sensation is truly nauseating. You begin to realize that people put their faith in your ability to perform a task, or to get a job, or to be special.

Yes, I’ve failed miserably before, odds are that I will again.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Adam Dunn. He is the type of slugger that I appreciate nowadays. Low average, walks a lot, hits monster home runs, strikes out quite a bit as well. I’ve drafted him to every fantasy team I’ve owned since 2006. There are three true outcomes when it comes to Adam Dunn, and I can appreciate that.

Last year was painful for me as well.

When you fail, when you fall down, it’s usually not in front of 20,000 people. To watch Adam Dunn last year was to watch the slow death of a confused animal. One who is not completely sure why it is dying, but one that is certain of it’s fate. Dunn knew he was going to fail towards the second half of last season. He looked lost in a mire of his own personal doubts and the pressures to perform a duty that used to come so easy to him before.

Perhaps that is the issue, it was easy before. There were little to no expectations for Dunn in his previous stops. Cincy was never in contention with him, Arizona had a brief stint as a contender when he was traded there, and the Nationals weren’t ready to contend when he landed there. His destiny as Sox DH was predestined, it’s a home run happy park, one where Dunn could exercise his prowess and become something more. He was traded to a team that was supposed to contend.

And then 2011 happened.

Historically, there has never been a full season collapse like this in baseball history. Think about that, baseball records have been reliably kept since 1885. Since then, no one has fallen on their face harder than Adam Dunn.

Dunn’s bat looked slower, and statistical evidence seems to back that claim up. From 2007 through 2010 Dun averaged 536 AB’s and struck out on a fastball 87 times pers season. In 2011, Dunn had 411 AB’s and struck out on a fastball 100 times. Pitchers threw fastballs to Dunn 62% of the time from 2007-2011, but in 2011 Dunn saw fastballs 69% of the time.

Pitchers aren’t afraid of Dunn, and that’s an issue. Adam Dunn needs to figure out if he truly loves baseball, because he didn’t just fail to live up to expectations, he set a record for failing.

There is one silver lining in his numbers.

Despite being historically bad, Dunn saw an uptick in his BB ratio. You can take this as a sign that his patience could help in 2012, or that he is too afraid to swing at anything and he lucked into a few walks. Either way, it’s something positive that he did.

Dunn wasn’t alone in failure on the south side. Rios and Beckham were supposed to be two very good hitters for the Sox. Rios was claimed off waivers by Kenny Williams in 2009 and had a respectable 2010 year. Beckham was a first round pick with a hitting pedigree from Georgia. He was a College World Series hero and many argued that he should have been the rookie of the year in 2009.

Both players were expected to have good years for a contending team in 2011, and both failed to meet expectations. Here is a graph of the trio’s wOBA

Or if you want more traditional stats:

Those three players had 1623 combined PA’s and severely under performed last year.

Rios looks like a gifted athlete. He patrols centerfield with grace and speed, he makes it all look so easy. His tools are apparent and that’s what makes his struggles so infuriating. He can be a good baseball player, but there is this odd mental block with him that is impossible to describe. He should be a 30 home run guy, but he isn’t. He should hit .300, but he doesn’t. He should be a gold glove centerfielder, but he never will be. Perhaps it is lapses in concentration that leads to his poor play, but he needs to play better.

Beckham looks like a lost cause. He was a stellar fielder at second base in the first half, but his fielding dipped as his bat never really got on track. He has regressed every year he’s been in the league, and that’s a terrible sign for a rookie phenom. Beckham collapsed in the second half last year, but the dip wasn’t as visible because he wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire in the first half. He struggled to hit .213 after the All-Star break as his K-rate shot through the roof.

Beckham will never be an OBP machine, he doesn’t walk enough and his swing looks lost, but he can be somewhat valuable since his glove could theoretically justify his bat. He needs to be around .270-.280 for that to happen.

The White Sox have an outside chance at competing in 2012. The Tigers IF defense will be awful and there is a slight chance the the Sox will pitch enough to stay in the race. The mitigating factor will be the bats. 3 of the 4 times the Sox have made the playoffs in New Comiskey the team has belted 200+ home runs. That’s the magic number, if the Sox can hit, the pitching might hold up enough to stay relevant into September. For that to happen, these three players will have to play well.

Dunn is the wild card, if he can return to form, the Sox will do well. The question with him will always be about his love for the game. Picking up a bat this offseason was a healthy start, but he’s going to have to mash for the Sox to compete.

Episode 008 – ALEXEEEEIII! YES, YES, HISTORY!

Posted: February 6, 2012 by Mauricio Rubio Jr. in Podcast
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In this episode, we forget football ever happened, we review Soxfest, interview Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo, review a great Chicago brew (not Ronnie Brewer), discuss a lot of baseball, and reveal our favorite sports books of all time.