Posts Tagged ‘Chris Sale’

overbutlow

Music by @lathandplaster
Parent Podcast found here: http://worldseriesdreaming.com/category/podcast/
Direct download: Here

  • Best division in baseball
  • SPOILERS, it’s the AL East
  • Blue Jays are comin’ on back
  • So is Jose Reyes
  • Dodgers, also surging
  • Yasiel Puig appreciation
  • Youth revolution in baseball
  • BREAK
  • Late night food habits
  • We love late night Mexican…food. Mexican food
  • WHITE HOT WHITE SOX TALK
  • They are selling
  • Everyone except for Paul Konerko and Chris Sale
  • They should try to trade those two guys tho
  • Expected returns
  • Chris Davis is on that deer antler shit
  • BAI GUIZE

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

And so there was Delmon Young, standing in the way of Chris Sale as the budding phenom was attempting to pull off another escape trick. This is the scenario that Robin and co. imagined when the reset the rotation this way. Get Sale a start against Verlander in case we have to stop the bleeding. It worked out poorly, but before we get into that, let’s take a look at why this game was so important/meaningful/fun.

Prologue:

Quote:
Andy: RE: Fantasy Baseball:
“Sorry for the anal rapeage on the last day.”

Chris Sale is having a tremendous year at the tender age of 23. The lefty is putting together a Cy Young caliber year in his first full exposure to the league as a starter. He is lightning in a bottle and the Sox are trying to convert it into a post-season berth. Sale has been off a bit lately. The breaking stuff is still sharp, but there is a noticeable dip in velocity that concerns White Sox fans. He is, however, the unquestioned ace of the staff, armed with the stuff (shit your pants slider with a good change) and good feel for pitching. The White Sox moved him back a few days and matched him up with perhaps the preeminent ace of the modern age.

Justin Verlander is having an off-year. And by off-year I mean that he’s only third in the AL in ERA and WHIP, only second in HA/9, and only second in total strikeouts. Verlander set the bar impossibly high last year when he put a filthy repertoire and a feel for pitching together and created a monster that the AL is having great difficulty dealing with. The man is a monster, and I believe he is the best pitcher in baseball. He toys with you in the early innings, hitting 90-95 on the gun as needed before unleashing the hellish 101 fastball that, grouped with an elite curve/slider/change combo, is just unfair to the rest of humanity. He also manages to pitch deep into ballgames, using superior pacing in his game.

Normally, this should be chalked up as an automatic loss. Losing this game would mean many things. Heading into the Tigers series the White Sox enjoyed a fairly cushy 3 game lead, only a sweep would produce a tie atop the division standings and the Sox had their two aces going in Peavy and Sale. Well Peavy did yeomen’s work, but he pitched sub par according to his 2012 standard, and Scherzer shoved it on Saturday, setting up the improbable sweep that the Sox feared.

I would feel better about the White Sox chances with a 2 game lead instead of a tie. Detroit is an enigmatic team that finds “it” in spurts. They are perfectly capable of rattling off an 8-2/9-1 stretch and that could be bad for the Sox. They needed this game and they had the right guy on the mound.

With the division hanging in the balance, there aren’t many pitchers I’d pick over Sale.

There are none that I would pick over Verlander.

1st Inning

Quote:
Keith Law:
MVGIDP ‘@Buster_ESPN: And Miguel Cabrera leads the majors in hitting into double plays. espn.go.com/mlb/stats/batt…’

Verlander:

There was a time when Verlander struggled against the White Sox. It wasn’t that long ago either. The Chicago White Sox are a historically good fastball hitting team. When Verlander was first called up in 2005 he was a thrower with good stuff. He cranked it to max velocity at all times, and that played right into the hands of the White Sox.

You had to think that maybe the White Sox would find a way to get back to those days when De Aza launched a “get me over” fastball into the right field bleachers. The book on Verlander is that you have to get him early, and when he fell behind Youk I thought this would be a big inning for the Sox. Verlander battled in that first inning, he managed to get 3 strikeouts, the first being on Youk, but he was working from behind consistently. The fastball was gettable, the Sox were sitting on it and laying off the two-seamers down and away, and the junk that he was throwing low. As the inning progressed I realized that they needed to score all the runs they could this inning because that slider/curve combo was sharp today, and he gains a feel for those pitches as the game goes along.

What makes Verlander so dangerous and tough is that he doesn’t get weaker as the game goes along.

He only gets stronger.

Line: 1ip/2h/3k/0bb/1er

Sale:

Chris Sale has struggled against the Tigers in his first season as a starter. He carried a 6+ ERA against Detroit heading into the game, so the first go around would be extremely important. In 2012 opponents hit .197 against Sale the first time they face him in a game. By the third PA the average jumps to a still respectable .241. If Sale is going to go deep, he needs to be solid the first time through the order.

It started dubiously, it wasn’t a lead-off HR, but he did walk Austin Jackson. He had a solid attack against Infante and met Miggy for the first time. Sale hints at a strategy forming in this at bat, which only lasted 2 pitches. He pitched backwards a little bit. Old axioms dictate that a pitcher establishes the fastball first and then moves on to the slow stuff. Sale threw Miggy a slider that was high and away before burying a moving fastball low and in to induce a double play. It was smart pitching and a professional attack on a great hitter, ensuring that Prince Fielder would lead off the next inning.

Line: 1ip/0h/0k/1bb/0er

2nd Inning

Quote:
Me:
“Needless to say, Verlander made it move a little.”

Verlander:

Have you ever had your definition of “Art” questioned? I remember once I was sitting in the waiting room of a mechanic, watching as he bent a metal frame and melded it back together with precision and grace. The craftsmanship bordered on art, and I wanted to call it art, but I knew that would be silly. I did it anyway, and I brought it up in art history class where I was shot down, and perhaps rightly so. “There’s no creativity!” the teacher barked.

I suppose not.

I was reacquainted with that feeling when Justin Verlander struck out Tyler Flowers in the 2nd. Verlander dialed up the velocity to 95 in the first as he had to overcome sloppy control. He brought it back down to the usually 90-92 in the second inning and then he found “it.”

“It” can be many things. “It” can be command/control, “It” can be touch on a fastball, the comfortable grip on a breaking ball, the right arm slot for a change. “It” in this case was a combo of breaking stuff and command.

What Justin Verlander did to Tyler Flowers should be illegal but it was wonderful to watch. It will go down as another strikeout, and you might see it on Sportscenter, but the pure attack of Flowers was sublime. Verlander got Flowers to swing at a fastball, wasted a pitch and then threw two breaking balls that made me wish I could do that just once. I would shit my pants against all MLB pitching, but that combo of breaking stuff is probably the closest we’ll get to the baseball equivalent of “The Brown Note.” All that was missing from that sequence were peace doves going off in the background.

It was Art, and it was masterfully done.

Line: 2ip/2h/4k/0bb/1er

Sale:

Chris Sale is hell on lefties. The delivery that he employs hides the ball extremely well. It’s a lot like Jared Weaver from the left side. The fastball isn’t overpowering, but it’s effective as it just looks like it’s coming from behind you to right over the plate. Prince Fielder is pretty effective against lefty pitchers. When I first saw it I thought that Sale was falling in love too much with his fastball. We’ll see in later innings why I was wrong, but for now, Sale was able to get Fielder to swing at a pitchers pitch and fly out harmlessly to center. Delmon Young followed up with an awful at bat, he was confused by a slider on the second pitch and struck out on a fastball.

Peralta made solid contact and I thought it would lead to trouble, but Sale ate Garcia up on a fastball in and worked out of it once again. Sale’s secondary stuff looked excellent thus far, but the fastball was worrisome at this point. He was trying to establish it, but the Detroit hitters looked like they were getting closer to squaring it up. Sale would need to make an adjustment.

Line: 2ip/1h/1k/1bb/0er

3rd Inning

Quote:
Elizabeth Hathaway, with priorities clearly in order:
“I need Sale to do well tonight. My fantasy playoff is in the balance!!”

Verlander:

This was the point of no return for the White Sox. Verlander wasn’t lights out in this frame, but the stuff was filthy and the way he finished was pretty much a sign that it was lock down time. Verlander started the frame by allowing Hudson to single on a bad fastball.

Then he went to work.

De Aza was bunting at this point. Miggy Cabrera has two bad ankles which severely limits his range over at third. Hawk and Stoney were practically begging for the White Sox to bunt/slap shit his way all series and I can’t fault that logic. Pride and honor probably kept Robin from employing that strategy, but when the chips are down and you’re fighting for your playoff life, pride and honor should go out the window. The White Sox should have taken advantage of that situation and did not. De Aza failed on the bunt attempt and then was fooled by an off speed pitch and hit into a fielder’s choice.

Youk is a pain in the ass in the batter’s box. Even though Verlander hit him, Youk was guessing up there. Verlander had him as he set him up with the classic fastball/breaking stuff combo. Youk was fooled so badly that he half swung and ran into the pitch.

Wise notes:
Change, Nasty. Curve, Nasty. FB up the ladder – great attack, doubled up on fb’s, sequence was filthy.

Paul Konerko is fun to watch at bat to at bat. He has a plan when he goes up there and he adjusts on the fly so well. Paulie has an oval that he will absolutely not go outside of unless the stuff is filthy. Konerko is the guy that I would show to my kids if I was teaching them how to approach an at-bat.

Verlander made him swing like a little leaguer.

Line: 3ip/3h/5k/obb/1er

Sale:

Sale flashes a deeper understanding of craft in the Boesch at-bat. One day, if given the opportunity to grow and mature as a big leaguer with minimal injury, Sale will be the perfect blend of dominant and smart, and the league will bend to his will. As good as he is right now, he can be the dominant ace Verlander is if he stays healthy. I have no doubt. He was hinting at nibbling away with Boesch, putting him in his safe zone. Boesch can relax now, he’s going away with soft stuff, and then he blew a fastball by him with no warning.

Laird didn’t want to take the bat off his shoulder and I don’t blame him. It was a bad walk because Sale missed the zone, not because Laird coaxed it. Laird was passive, Sale did not attack here. He did attack on Austin Jackson and induced a double play.

This was an example of good, smart pitching. Sale is flashing that more consistently now that his fastball velo is trending downwards as the season goes on. This is important in the development of a young pitching mind, you have to be able to be on even when your stuff isn’t great. Sale’s slider is the only pitch that is wowing at this point, yet he is pitching smart and working all corners of the plate at this point.

We have a legit pitcher’s duel on our hands.

Line: 3ip/1h/2k/2bb/0er

4th Inning

Quote:
Matt Spiegel:
“So, haven’t watched a ton of Terry francona this year. Disappointed to hear him being MLB Gruden. Everyone is awesome.

Verlander:

At this point, Verlander has settled into his happy zone and there isn’t much you can do about it when he’s there. The curve/slider isn’t so much a breaking ball as it is a snap dragon from hell. Verlander left a fastball up to Rios and he hit a harmless flyball out to center. After that Verlander punished AJ Pierzynski and Alexei Ramirez with breaking pitches. He got Pierzynski looking on a curve and AJ knew it, he calmly left the batter’s box with his head down and a look of confusion on his face that told the whole story. He ramped up the velo on Alexei and made him take a silly swing at an unhittable pitch.

With Verlander settled in it’s up to Chris Sale to not blink.

Line: 4ip/3h/5k/0bb/1er

Sale:

The middle of the Tigers lineup is scary good and the back half of it is absolute shit on a stick. Sale has a test here, and it’s one that young pitchers need to ace in their development. At a certain point, top prospects can get out any AA lineup, even most AAA lineups, but the MLB is a different beast with a steep learning curve. You’re going up against men who have seen everything you have to show them, and it’s up to you to fool them.

Sale had to go through Infante, Miggy, Prince, Delmon, and Peralta. He shoved it to Infante, but then Miggy showed the type of approach that separates the men from the boys. Sale had a good attack, he was working both sides of the plate, but Miggy was waiting for a mistake, and Miggy didn’t swing at pitcher’s pitches. He coaxed a walk and set up a dangerous situation.

Prince Fielder is made fun of quite a bit. I get it, he’s fat and he has dreads, it’s funny in a way. What people overlook is how he’s grown from a slugger to a hitter. He has more walks than strikeouts this year, and while the slugging % is down, he’s become a better hitter this year. Sale worked him carefully, he had him set up for a slider when he hit him inside with it. He had him and then he lost him.

Pitchers fall in love with certain pitches sometimes. When the fastball isn’t working pitchers find ways to work around it. Sale fell in love with his slider in the Delmon Young at-bat. He showed him 3 sliders down in the zone and got him to strike out swinging. This is important to remember, that Delmon saw three sliders in this at bat. It becomes very important in a few innings.

He did much the same with Peralta, didn’t pop a fastball in that at-bat and just threw offspeed stuff. He got Peralta to ground out on a sick slider.

Line: 4ip/1h/3k/3bb/1er

5th Inning

Quote:
Elizabeth Hathaway:
Well I’m indifferent to Sox or Tigers winning, I just want Sale to do well.
Sale gives up a HR to Boesch on a mistake pitch
Elizabeth Hathaway:
Damnit!”

Verlander:

Verlander fell behind on Flowers and let up to issue his first walk of the game. This was the K-CS sequence that had me scratching my head. I’m all for being aggressive in a baseball game against a premier pitcher, but to put on the hit and run with a catcher while the batter has 2 strikes and Verlander is pitching is odd. He’s a good bet to strike the guy out and Flowers is not going to be safe at second. The changeup was sick, and the throw to second wasn’t even that good, but Flowers is slow, so it arrived in plenty of time.

Just like that the dreaded lead-off walk doesn’t matter and Verlander can go back and attack De Aza. Which he did and it was sick.

Line: 5ip/3h/7k/1bb/1er

Sale:

Major League hitting is a bitch.

One moment you’re thrashing around Garcia, making him look like the untested rookie that he is, the next you make a mistake to Boesch and he makes you pay dearly for it. 430 ft. worth of home run later and it’s all tied up. Many things can happen at this point, but this was the junction that I knew Sale wouldn’t get the win. Verlander looked locked in and he can go longer than Sale. All Sale could do at this point was keep it tied.

I think the Laird out was what finally convinced Sale to abandon heavy use of his fastball. Laird hit a big fly ball out to left that he just got under. It was a loud out and it looked like the Tigers were about to break out.

So Sale adjusted and went to the slurve.

Elizabeth: “And for the love of god what was that last play?”
Me: “Twas a Hammertime play, both of them.”

Quick break: There isn’t much in baseball that’s funnier than a pickle. Perhaps a slap hit that the 1b allows to roll, hoping it goes fair, only to bounce off the bag and into fair territory allowing the runner to reach 1st safely. That play was glorious. The pick-off/pickle was equally fun. AJax gave us some grade A entertainment there.

Line: 5ip/2h/4k/3bb/1er

6th Inning

Quote:
Andy: 
“Well this one is done. Gonna need Detroit to continue to suck against the rest of the league.”

Verlander:

Contrary to old SABR dogma, there is such a thing as a pitcher inducing weak contact, and it is documented here. In this inning Verlander got Youkilis to line out softly to third with a good mix of pitches and differing eye levels.

Wise Notes:

LOL Slider
LOL Curve
Weak Contact. Again.

Remember when I said that Paul Konerko has a great approach? This was the at bat that showed it. Remember, the last time he saw Verlander he took an ugly looking cut. Now Konerko was waiting for a pitch, he saw something in the last at bat and adjusted to it. He hit a single, which doesn’t seem like much, but the approach was golden. He didn’t go outside of himself, he remained in his zone and hit a pitch he could do something with. It was a fine piece of hitting.

Verlander dialed it up against Rios and got him to fly out to center. Verlander was in pure attack mode.

Line: 6ip/4h/7k/1bb/1er

Sale:

Infante started the frame with a seeing eye single to left. Sale was then very careful to Miggy and walked him on sliders. Which put Prince on the spot. 2 on with none out and the game/division hanging in the balance.

  1. Slider: strike/sick
  2. Slider: ball (Sale falling into bad habit, needs to get away from sldr)
  3. Change: swing+miss, 1-2
  4. Slider: ball 2-2
  5. Slider: foul 2-2 (CHANGE!)
  6. Slider: K! GREAT attack!

And so there was Delmon Young, standing in the way of Chris Sale as the budding phenom was attempting to pull off another escape trick.

I thought he was going to wiggle out of this at that point, and the game would still be tied. Instead Sale dipped into the well again, throwing more sliders to a guy who’s already seen a bunch of sliders. Delmon Young hit what would be a good pitch in a vacuum. However, Sale’s sequencing deteriorated after the second Young AB and he became to reliant on the breaking stuff to bail him out. Young waited on a slider he could handle and got one, sending the Tigers to first place with one swing.

After that Sale punched out Peralta, gave up a single to Garcia, and then k’d Boesch, but the damage had been done. Pending the BLOLpen, the White Sox had once again been swept by Detroit.

Final Line: 6ip/5h/7k/4bb/4er

7th Inning

Quote:
Me: “Yeah there’s still the Detroit BLOLpen though”
Andy: “Yeah but Verlander may throw 130 tonight”

This was more or less closing time for Verlander. He had a lead, he had a manageable pitch count, he was into the 7th and his stuff was still sick.

AJ Notes: Changeup, still nasty.
2 seamer, still nasty.
Killed with FB’s, nasty.

He walked Flowers and dropped a hammer on Hudson. After 100+ pitches Verlander is just now pumping the velo up to 99 mph.

Line: 7ip/4h/9k/2bb/1er

8th Inning

Quote:
Andy
: “Verlander is a bitch. He’s been talking shit to AJ for years, not sure why.”
Buster Onley: “For those asking: It looks like A.J. thought Verlander was staring him down, and asked what the problem was; Laird waved him to the dugout.”

Verlander:

There isn’t much to say about this inning besides that Verlander finished with dominance. The sequence to Wise was particularly nasty, as was the sequence to De Aza to start the frame. Yes, this was a Sunday lineup, but even so the stuff was biting, and as the game went along, he got stronger and pitched smarter.

Final Line: 8ip/4h/11k/2bb/1er

9th Inning

Quote:
Andy: 
“I know you’re gonna see the new baseball movie, but man I have to download that shit off the net cuz no way in hell am I giving that old bastard my money.”

I hate Jose Valverde, that is all.

Epilogue

Quote:
After watching Valverde suck his own cock on the mound:
Andy: 
“Makes me sick to my stomach watching that cocksucker. I’d say that if he was on a AAA team, he’s just scum! Lol!”

When Chris Sale grows up he will be in the Justin Verlander tier of great. There are probably only 5-8 true aces in the game of baseball, guys that you want starting games 1-4-7 of a World Series. Verlander is at the top of my list. This game if anything showed how smart he pitches. The sequencing by Verlander was absolutely supreme and after the initial trouble he settled in and put the White Sox down.

Sale will learn, it’s all a part of the process. Major League hitting is hard, and this lineup is particularly brutal to learn against. Sale dipped into the well one too many times and he got burned. It happens. He showed enough flashes of smart pitching to believe that pending health, he will be special. Pitching is a craft, one that takes years to hone. Right now his stuff is allowing him to get by. Soon he will hit a rough patch and then he’ll really learn how to pitch.

And then the league is fucked.

September

It’s hitting that familiar fever pitch now. The kettle’s getting hot and it’s screaming for a release. The baseball wave is hitting that crescendo, that peak where every minute detail matters. The pitches are magnified, the losses feel awful, the wins feel euphoric. September is that crazy month where the ragged post season hopefuls beat the ever loving shit out of each other for 30 days. It can be elegant, it can be ugly, but mainly it just is a fight to survive. The White Sox are entering that month tied atop the division, and now it’s like the season started over.

Now the fun shit begins.

Go Go White Sox

Heading into the All-Star break, July is a perfect time for a battle of division deaders, albeit two very different divisions with two very different sets of circumstances. 

Two-time defending American League Champions, Texas came to town sporting the league’s best record and plenty of confidence in their ability to power through the Sox and the rest of the AL again this year. The story coming in was supposed to be about Texas’ lineup, but with the recent addition of Kevin Youkilis at 3rd base, it’s the White Sox who are suddenly the offensive juggernaut. Taking nothing away from the Rangers, because they still have the league’s best lineup (and a first place team as Manager Ron Washington pointed out after the sweep was complete), but Robin Ventura has surprisingly assembled the right kind of lineup in a short amount of time in the South Side dugout. DeAza’s coming into his own leading off the order. Youkilis now overflows the 2 spot with veteran savvy and timely hitting. Adam Dunn/Paul Konerko has the potential to be the most productive 3-4 in the league. Batting 5th, Alex Rios has regained the form for which he was signed. The newly anointed most snubbed All-Star catcher, A.J Pierzynski has come into his own, and he wants to make a name for himself among White Sox greats when it’s all said and done. He’s got it in him batting 6th. Dayan Viciedo, Alexei Ramirez, and Gordon Beckham have been inconsistent at best, but if the three of them can regularly get it together at the bottom of the order, we’re looking at a force to be reckoned with all year. That being said…

…Game 1 was evidence of that force. 19-2?!?! After a highly touted pitching bill of Sale vs. Oswalt, it was Sale who shut down the MLB’s #1 offense while Oswalt simply got rocked…maybe right into retirement. The Sox jumped all over Ole Roy early, plating 7 runs in the first 2 innings-including a 2-run shot by Youkilis in his first plate appearance at home as a member of the White Sox. They never looked back after an explosive 9 run 5th inning put them up 16-0. They finished with a season high 19 runs, and they tied their season high in hits with 21. The crowd at The Cell was extra energized by the 4th of July looming overnight, and the buzz was felt throughout the deceptively not sold out crowd. Plenty of Rangers’ fans made their way to Chicago for this series, but they were promptly quieted and sent home to the Lone Star State lonely and baffled at the beat down administered on the South Side.

Game 2
Game 2 saw a return to small ball for Sox, Hamilton being Hamilton for Rangers, A.J. plowing over his counterpart (but not Ron Washington, unfortunately), and some back and forth scoring. Oh, and Kevin Youkilis continuing to welcome himself to town-this time with a game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the 10th to go along with some sparkling defensive plays at the hot corner. We’re going to like this guy. We’re really, really going to like him. Thanks for providing us with the 4th of July fireworks, Youk.

Game 3
Smelling blood and sensing sweep, the Sox sent newly promoted Jose Quintana to the mound to face off against Matt Harrison. Fans waiting for some semblance of a pitching duel got one in game 3, and Kevin Youkilis delivered another game winner, this time a 6th inning blast to put the Sox up 2-1 for good. Quintana has pitched extraordinarily well since joining the Sox’ staff. Subtract the start against the Yankees, who spurned him, and he’s done nothing but dominate. Yesterday’s performance was just what the doctor ordered: a quickly worked game by Quintana in the sweltering heat, and another Sox W. Winner, winner, chicken dinner.
I know it’s just one series sweep, but I can’t help but notice that the way this team is put together right now reeks of a contender. They’ve got a perfect blend of youth and veteran leadership, accentuated by the acquisition of Youk. The change of scenery does wonders for certain veterans, and the scenery at The Cell seems to agree with The Greek God of Walk. To say the man accomplished is a vast understatement, and his experience in big games, ability to produce and play defense, and overall attitude toward the game will do wonders for the predominantly young club. 
No one expected much from the White Sox this year. Sometimes, going under the radar brings out the best in teams. Don’t forget that all this first place ball has been played minus John Danks from the rotation. I have a feeling the best is yet to come this year, folks…
 

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

The purpose of this article is to inform you, the Chicago baseball fan, about the draft as much as I can. If you want some hardcore draft analysis, check out Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus. I’ll reference that and other sites a lot, so it’s probably a good idea to get yourself acquainted with their work.

The MLB draft is gaining a lot of attention locally with Theo Epstein coming to town to run the baseball ops of the Chicago Cubs. I think this is the most attention the draft has ever received locally. What the draft means to White Sox fans should also be important for a few reasons. The Chicago White Sox have been in a weird “Win Now” mode since 2000. I can’t think of many developmental years since Kenny Williams became the GM. He’s earned a reputation as a gambler, someone who views prospects as suspects, and most importantly, a GM that isn’t afraid to empty the system to go after talent.

That’s why the White Sox farm system is panned so often. We can look it over and talk about the contributions that former farm hands are giving to the Sox, most impressively Chris Sale. However, it’s no big secret that Kenny’s impact guys usually come via trade or Latin American/Free Agent signing. Gordon Beckham, Brent Morel, and Tyler Flowers are the only position players that were drafted by the Sox and up with the big club. All three are failing to produce and all three are likely candidates to be replaced next year. The pitching side has done much better, pumping out Chris Sale, Addison Reed, and Nate Jones in an extremely small sample size.

It’s not fair to say that the White Sox don’t draft well, they clearly do as they are able to flip prospects for good talent with some regularity. They landed Peavy for Dexter Carter, Aaron Poreda, Clayton Richard and Adam Russell. All talent from their farm system, all turned into a solid contributor so far this year. They flipped Gio Gonzalez for twice. He was traded to the Phillies for Thome, sent back to the Sox for Freddy Garcia (the White Sox also landed Gavin Floyd in this trade), sent to Oakland for Nick Swisher and then he finally ended up in Washington where he is currently enjoying some success.

What does that say about the White Sox and the draft in general? It says to me that the White Sox don’t trust the draft much. You can’t really blame them for that either, the MLB draft is one of the biggest enigmas in all of sports. The talent is so raw yet so far away from the Major League level. The chasm between AAA ball and MLB ball is wide, and it’s illustrated by the MLB failures that proceed to tear up AAA ball for years. Bobby Scales currently has a .945 OPS at AAA Buffalo and he isn’t close to being a Major League player.

With all that in mind, here are some things to keep in mind when watching the draft:

  • Nobody drafts for need. Best Available player is always selected in the first 12-15 rounds. Sometimes teams will end up drafting 4-5 shortstops in the first 10 rounds because those are the best players on the board. You don’t know who will actually end up sticking at their positions either, especially shortstop.
  • High school players are still a bad bet. If you find the right guy, he could turn into Rickey Henderson, but more often than not they just end up being Billy Beane.
  • Speaking of Beane…It’s no coincidence that the best player that Beane took in the Moneyball draft was a guy that both the numbers guys and scouting guys loved, Nick Swisher. Keep that in mind. Both of these things must work in harmony. Numbers tell only one side of the story, ditto with a pretty swing.
  • This draft blows. Consensus is that there is no franchise changer in this draft. It’s also really thin and some are calling it the worst draft in 20+ years.
  • Don’t expect the kids to come up anytime soon. Or at all. The most important thing to watch during a draft, I think, is to look for a plan. What are they drafting? Are they going all athletes? Are they going after pitchers with raw arms? Are they targeting more groomed College pitchers? Are they taking risks on broken wings? What’s their plan is more important than who they draft in a lot of ways.

Let’s get to the names that are being projected for the White Sox. Like I said, check Prospectus for their big board, it should be coming out pretty soon and it’s a really great board.

There isn’t a consensus #1 in this draft, which makes the unenviable task of projecting picks even more difficult and impossible. A few different outlets have the Sox taking either an SP or a 3B, but let’s look at 5 guys I think they should take with the pick if they’re there.

Joey Gallo – 1B/3B Bishop Gorman HS

[youtube http://youtu.be/oXVr2gKr1Po]

He pitches too, but he projects much better as a corner infield prospect. Here are some of his scout videos. From what I gather about his defense, it’ll be a shocker if he sticks at third. He’s committed to LSU, but if he gets drafted and offered the money, I can’t see how he would turn it down.

What I like

The swing is nice and easy, it’s fluid, repeatable and generates power. It’s not a batting practice swing either, he shows it in the game. He hit .506 last year with 20 HR’s in high school. He’s got a big frame that projects to fill out nicely. Strong arm.

What I don’t like

He’s not quick on his feet, I can’t see him sticking at third at all. He’s a high school kid, so the risk factor is high with him there. Also, his speed is meh already and he won’t get any quicker. His bat would play better at third.

Synopsis

Good bat, has a lot of potential. If I was Kenny I would draft him if he were available.

Richie Shaffer – 3B/1B Clemson

[youtube http://youtu.be/899EWcexyGU]

Another 3b/1b guy, this isn’t to replace either Konerko or Morel, but I think these guys project to be the types of guys that can rake at the Cell.

What I like

Good swing, consistent approach from the cages to the game. Improved his OBP and SLG every year at Clemson. Athletic body, closer to being a finished product.

What I don’t like

Looks like he didn’t handle the transition to third too well, sporting a .935 FLDG%. Swing plane is a little flat. He strikes out too much. 48K’s in 218 AB’s at the collegiate level.

Synopsis

Interesting guy, better feet than Gallo, can learn to be adequate at third, but he’ll never be a good 3B. Decent enough arm.

Deven Marrero – SS Arizona State

[youtube http://youtu.be/TLQyIC9iWsI]

The Pirates are high on him, but he could slip.

What I like

The glove and the arm are nice. Feet are quick too. Bat has some life to it.

What I don’t like

His stance is weird and will probably be corrected in the minors. His hitting collapsed this year, even though the tools are still evident. He didn’t put together a solid year with the glove even though the word on him is that his glove is close to MLB ready. Plus arm, reads the ball well off the bat, and he can pick it. The high error rate is perplexing.

Synopsis

The bat will be a project. He does flash power, but that stance/weight transfer is just ugly. He has the tools to stick at short, but he’ll have to cut the mental errors.

Lucas Giolito – SP Harvard-Westlake School

[youtube http://youtu.be/WeqhrGzMjjM]

Ahh, the prototypical problem HS arm.

What I like

God that arm.

What I don’t like

God that arm is hurt.

Synopsis

He’s got an incredibly high ceiling, and if he stayed healthy, he could have creeped into the top 10. He was a fireballer with intriguing breaking stuff before the injury, now teams will be interested to see how he bounces back into form. I would risk it.

Andrew Heaney – SP Oklahoma State

[youtube http://youtu.be/JytqYmEbt9w]

Could go in the single digits, but he might be there for the Sox

What I like

He misses a lot of bats. 120 K’s in 102 IP. Good command too, only 19 BB’s. Decent fastball, sits around 93, drops to 88 late in games. Off-speed stuff is interesting.

What I don’t like

He throws a bit like Walter Johnson, which worked for The Big Train, but not so much this guy. The delivery is easy and repeatable, but I’m not a fan of it. His body is slight, and won’t get bigger in a good way. Fastball is what it is.

Synopsis

Potential to be a 3/4 starter, flashes good stuff, can obviously miss bats at the college level which is key.

 

Yeah I know, there’s a lot of HS talent there. That’s what’s up there in terms of talent in this draft though. College players didn’t wow this year. Those are the five I would target as the Sox. There isn’t much in this draft. The good intriguing talent should be gone by then. Cubs tomorrow.

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

Growing up is hard. There are expectations that must be met as you grow older, society expects X from you, and you must provide X. Everyone goes through growing pains, some go through them more harshly than others. There are a select few, however, that go through the maturation process in front of millions of people. We call them athletes.

Watching a player struggle through his early years is all part of the game. We saw Griffey and A-Rod grow up before our eyes on the national stage, ditto with Michael, LeBron, and currently Toews, Kane, and Rose. They all went through/are going through growing pains. What I’ve noticed around Chicago is that while we don’t expect much from other cities young kids, we place impossible expectations on the rookies that come up through Chicago. This is specifically true in baseball.

Beckham and Castro

Gordon Beckham had an .808 OPS as a 22 year old rookie. He was brought up as a reactionary move to an offensive black hole that occurred when Josh Fields failed to produce. White Sox fans were anxious to see the Georgia kid at the major league level as they expected the Sox to repeat the surprising year they had in 2008. Ozzie famously said that if the White Sox had to call up Beckham it showed that they were in trouble. Well, they got into some trouble during the season and Kenny made the call to the farm.

Beckham’s start was good enough to earn him the Sporting News’ Rookie of the Year award.

‘‘I wish that kid was a two- or three-year veteran in the big leagues because he has that attitude,’’ Guillen said. ‘‘He has that right frame of mind. He was a leader his whole life from when he was in high school, college. I think he wants to be the face of the franchise, and we need something like that. When a player thinks like that, doesn’t hide in the weeds, you don’t see many players come up from the minor leagues and think that way. It’s a big challenge. But I don’t have a doubt in my mind that he has the right tools to be one. Obviously, it has to come from help from myself, Ken Williams and the staff to make him a great leader.’’

-Ozzie Guillen

Expectations were pretty high from there on out. When his offense cratered over the next two years, fans were puzzled. His rookie year was so outstanding, how could he not build on that and improve?

Starlin Castro has been a hit machine since he debuted with 6 RBI’s. With the bat in his hand he has been stellar. The major knock on him is his defense. He goes through lapses of concentration that are as baffling as they are infuriating. There isn’t a player in the majors that makes me go “that’s a great play,” to “that was a dipshit play,” in the same game quite like Starlin. As of writing time, he has twice as many errors (8), as walks (4). This makes a lot of Cubs fans irate.

And gives some ammo to Sox trolls

I’m pretty sure this guy is a White Sox troll

This invariably leads to a lot of talk of moving Castro to 3B, 2B, a corner OF spot, or 1B. The “Castro isn’t a SS” movement is gaining a lot of traction locally, and while it has quieted down some over the past month (He hasn’t committed an error in 16 games), you can bet that discussion will start cooking again when he commits another error.

I think it’s obvious that both Beckham and Castro are going through growing pains, albeit in opposite aspects of their respective games. Beckham plays sublime defense at 2B, he’s smooth, has range, and can make all the throws. He has an ugly hitch in his swing right now though, and he just can’t hit consistently. His minor hot streak has his average up to .204 with a paltry .627 OPS. Castro is still prone to lapses in the field, he’s flashing better leather lately, but he’s going to have to continue to play solid defense to shed the “butcher” tag. His defense is still a violent game, with flashes of smoothness. Both players are trying to make adjustments in the glare of the public eye. Both had the savior tag applied to them when they were brought up. Both need to be given time to properly show you what they are before you pass judgement. Beckham’s time is shorter than Castro’s because he’s older, but Cubs fans need to relax on the “Move Starlin off SS,” movement too.

Which, you know, brings me to Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson.

Superkids

Anthony Rizzo is still destroying AAA.

Geez, settle down

Brett Jackson…not so much

Cubs fans are eagerly anticipating the arrival of both players at the Major League level. Rizzo has a cute little twitter dedicated to him, @FreeRizzo. There are a few things that Cubs fans need to keep in mind when it comes to both players, and the Cubs in general.

  • Neither Rizzo nor Jackson are going to save the Cubs in the short-term. This is a full on dedicated rebuilding that will look a lot like the Royals rebuild had a baby with the Nats rebuild. It’s going to take time. I hope the Cubs will be much better in 3 years, but much better is 80-85 wins. That could potentially be 20-25 wins better than the hypothetical 2012 record.
  • The Cubs are ridiculously devoid of talent at the Major and high Minor League level. This past draft was the first one the Cubs have had in a while that impressed people around the league. There is zero pitching help at AAA.
  • Trading Soriano is going to be really hard. He’s gimpy and people already know what kind of hitter he is. Why do I bring this up? Well, how else are you going to make room for Rizzo? LaHair to left, Rizzo at first is the aim.
  • Speaking of Rizzo, I haven’t heard any respected talent scouts call him the second coming of Albert Pujols. I think that his ceiling is Paul Konerko level production, and he’s likely to simply be an above average 1B. That’s awesome, trust me, but it’s not a franchise changer. He shortened his swing, and I do think he’s ready for MLB, but he’s not likely to turn into a perennial MVP candidate.
  • Jackson will be lucky to be Curtis Granderson pre-Yankees. Again, that’s awesome and I’ll take it, but we Cub fans need to stop pretending that he’s more than what he is. He’ll be solid, but I doubt he is ever considered an “impact” player.

Cub fans need to check our collective reality meter. We need to understand what this team is now, and what it will be in the future. This is a deep and real rebuild.

Speaking of reality checks

If the White Sox make the playoffs, and that’s a huge if, it’ll be because the other teams in the Central failed. Don’t start pretending like this team is good because they won 5 of 6 against the two worst teams in MLB. I would get pissed as a White Sox fan if Kenny Williams sees this squad and starts trading prospects for vets because he sees fools gold. Let’s look at a few things.

  • The White Sox pitching staff is the best component of this team, but it’s schizophrenic at best and average on the whole at worst. The White Sox have a slightly above average staff ERA that is buoyed by Jake Peavy and Chris Sale.The other three starters all have ERA’s over 4. The enigmatic John Danks keeps alternating between good start and bad start. Phil Humber is similarly quizzical, as it looked like he had figured some things out with the perfect game, only to regress to “inconsistent” status over his next 5 starts. His walk rate is close to double what it was last year, and I think that’s a symptom of nibbling that could lead to future trouble. Gavin still lives in Gavin world, where sublime stuff is permanently married to a low pitching IQ.
  • That offense is putrid, and Orlando Hudson will only help it so much. You can’t survive in the Cell with 3-4 offensive black holes. Eventually other teams will come into town and hit the HR’s that you aren’t. This is reflected in their 8-13 record at home.
  • Jake Peavy is a ticking time bomb and you need to trade him for value. Seriously, he’s not going to sustain a .249 opponents BABIP. He’s stranding 79% of baserunners, which is similarly unsustainable, and his GB rate is at 31.1%.That flyball rate is asking for trouble in the Cell. The xFIP number is also pointing at a big ole regression to the mean. You can’t pitch on the margins like that and survive in a homer haven. It’s damn near impossible.
  • Addison Reed is likely the only reliable reliever the Sox have in the pen. I have no idea what happened to Matt Thornton, but he’s been inconsistent the past two years. Will Ohman is still Will Ohman, and Hector Santiago is still trying to figure it out.

What the White Sox look like to me is a mediocre team in a mediocre division, it would be foolish to sell off parts of an already thin farm system when they declared this year to be a transitional year. White Sox fans have already spoken with their wallets what they think about this team so far, the empty seats are telling me that you don’t think they’re for real, so don’t be mad if they sell at the deadline.

At the end of the day

Both fanbases need to settle down. The Cubs shouldn’t rush Rizzo, the White Sox aren’t poised for greatness as currently constructed. The Cubs have awhile before they are true title contenders. The White Sox might seem closer, but be wary. Depending on the moves they make this year, their championship clock could be moved back by years.

 

by: Tony Leva
email: tonytrucker1969@gmail.com

Ruining a Dynamic Young Arm, by the White Sox

In the 2010 draft, the White Sox selected Chris Sale with the 13th overall pick, even though he came from someplace called Florida Gulf Coast University, not exactly a noted baseball factory. He was thought of so highly that the Sox are thought to have stolen him there at 13. When you draft a pitcher that highly, it’s obvious you consider that pitcher to be HIGHLY valuable and a big part of your future. Accordingly, you take every precaution with an arm that prized. You do everything in your power to make sure he’s taken care of to the maximum of your organization’s abilities. So why the hell are the White Sox doing their best to piss away such a dynamic young asset?

After drafting him, the Sox rushed Sale to the majors 2 months later in August. Yeah, they were fighting for the divisional title, something they ultimately fell short of. They used him exclusively in relief 21 times, not too tough a workload even for a kid fresh to the bigs. He excelled in the bullpen. In 2011, he was also used exclusively as a reliever and excelled once again. The Sox had always pictured him as a starting pitcher like he was at FGCU. They were commended for taking their time with him and slowly breaking him in. They let fan favorite Mark Buerhle leave via free agency so a rotation spot could open up for Sale. Buerhle is a God to Sox fans for some reason. The fact the team viewed Sale as his immediate successor spoke volumes about their opinion of what Sale meant to their future.

Flash forward to a week ago. Chris Sale had made 5 starts for the Sox to start the season and again was excellent. All systems seemed to be a go. Then, his elbow started to ache. Not just any elbow, but the elbow of the guy who the Sox had hoped would become a legitimate Ace. Now, when such a young and promising pitcher has any sort of distress or pain in his pitching wing, the generally accepted way of handling this is to shut the guy down for a period of time until the pain either stops or it doesn’t, which necessitates medical attention. I coached both baseball and softball for about 14 years and ANY time a kid who pitched complained of any type of soreness, we stopped them from pitching. Immediately. Even if the parents bitched about it (which none of ours ever did, but I’ve seen it happen) the decision was made as it was our responsibility to that child to keep his best interests in mind. Since a kid of 10 or 11 is obviously not as baseball valuable as Chris Sale is, it stands to reason that he also would be shut down, right?

Wrong. The Sox, for some reason, decided that instead of being shut down, a move to the bullpen was the right course of action. No immediate MRI, no ceasing of any and all pitching, no restriction on self-pleasuring himself. Nope, they decided not only to keep pitching him, they decided to take him off a regular, set schedule of pitching every five days to a far more erratic schedule of pitching. He might have been called upon to pitch two or three days in a row. Is that any way to take care of such a valuable and precious young asset? Of course it wasn’t. To make matters worse, they denied anything was wrong with him….he was just “a little sore”. Yeah, my ballsack was just “a little sore” after my vasectomy. They told me to stay off it while I healed, too. I did.

So on Thursday, it was revealed that the team was sending Sale for an MRI after one relief appearance where he was ineffective and obviously not right. What changed? His elbow didn’t suddenly take on a new degree of soreness after the shift to the bullpen, did it? If it didn’t the team is negligent in caring for Sale’s arm. If it did, the team is just as negligent in caring for Sale’s arm. Either way, the second they decided NOT to shut him down and IMMEDIATELY send him to the doctor for the MRI, they committed a grossly negligent act towards Sale, his future and the team’s fan base. I hope Sale is okay, but the Sox really dropped the ball on this one.

Kerry Wood, Official Cubs Mascot

This past off-season, the Cubs gloriously hired Theo Epstein as President of Baseball Operations and gave him the keys to the franchise in hopes of reaching baseball glory. Tom Ricketts told Theo to do things his way and promised to stay out of the operations side of the team, which he has done so far with one glaring exception….the re-signing of team mascot Kerry Wood. While Theo has promised to run the team like a big league franchise free from drippy sentiment, he catered to Rickett’s wish and brought back the guy who has been dead to me since game 7, 2003 NLCS. Not only did the team bring back a rapidly declining relief pitcher, they did it at the Cubs Convention. You know, they place that’s so filled with cloying sheep that the “BAAAAAHHHHH BAAAAAAAHHHHH” sound can be heard from a mile away. Don’t get me wrong, the place has some serious and critically thinking Cubs fans in attendance, but they’re the minority. I’ve been there and have seen it for myself.

Anyway, they rolled Wood out at the end of player intros on opening night to the delight of the meatheads who screamed shit like, “WE LOVE YOU KERRY!!! YAAAAAAAAAYYYYYY!!! WELCOME BACK!!!!”. I saw clowns post on message boards that they were moved to tears by this blatant publicity grab by a team that needed a feel-good story in the middle of January. Seriously? Moved to tears by a guy that choked away a chance to go to the World Series in glorious and spectacular fashion? A guy that has never reached his vast potential? True, it’s not totally his fault on that last point as he was abused in high school, memorably pitching both ends of a playoff doubleheader days after the Cubs drafted him. He never became more than a thrower…he never became a pitcher. But I’ll never forgive him for game 7. Anyway…..

Wood’s signing was the high point of his current contract as he’s really not a part of our future. His presence on this team was supposed to be about feel-goodery and not about being a competent major league pitcher. Apparently, the feel-goodery is lagging as well. Tuesday night, Wood came into a tie game against Atlanta at Wrigley Field and promptly sucked as hard as a Hoover set on “$100 Whore” and blew the game with a symphony of suck. He gave up 2 walks, 2 hits and whatever shred of dignity he had left when he launched his glove and hat into the stands after the inning was over. At least he hit his mark with his glove, which is a far cry from what he did with a fucking baseball that inning. With an ERA approaching 15 and a surly attitude (after the game, he copped a shitty attitude to a scribe, calling his question about the glove toss “irrelevant” and mixing in a nice cuss word to boot) what the hell is this guy still doing here and why the Christ does he still get cheers from the lemmings?

He gave the ownership what they wanted…a big reaction at the Cubs Convention. It would be nice if Wood could go out like something more than the petulant asswipe he played on TV Tuesday night and retire immediately. Hey Kerry, do the noble thing and give a young kid with a chance to help us win in the future a shot at refining his game at the major league level. Bow out of a failure of a last dance season. Tell the ones who still profess their love for you that the feeling will always be mutual and you’ll always be a Cub and blah blah blah. Take whatever gig the Ricketts family has promised you in your retirement and start building that 401k fund. Go on a world cruise. Impregnate your wife a few more times. Pretend you’re an NBA player and knock up a bunch of ho’s looking for a baby daddy. Do whatever you wish.

Bottom line….just go away. For all our sakes.

NFLer Jacob Bell Call it Quits

Eight year NFL veteran offensive lineman Jacob Bell retired this week in the wake of the Junior Seau suicide last week. Bell cited numerous reasons for this abrupt decision, his health and long-term future the chief concerns. To quote Bell himself…

“One of my biggest concerns when it comes to the game in general is my personal health. One thing that’s obviously on the minds of a lot of people lately is brain research and all the stuff that’s going on with that. One of the big things that I thought about when I was considering this is how much do I love the game? How much can they pay me to take away my health and my future and being able to be with my family and just have a healthy lifestyle?”

Bell signed a one-year deal with the Cincinnati Bengals last month that was worth nearly $1 million, which is what he walked away from. I applaud Mr. Bell for taking a step back from his life in the present and seeing his life in the future, weighing it against the money he was due this season along with likely future earnings, then making a decision that at least 95% of the rest of the NFL players out there wouldn’t dare make. He may not have been a star player, but his family thinks he is and will be blessed with a happy and healthy Jacob for years to come. Good for him.

Shit, I hate being all sensitive and semi-mushy. Since I can’t close like that, here’s a quick funny for you…

Q: Why can’t Jesus play hockey? A: He keeps getting nailed to the boards.

[youtube http://youtu.be/CuWQfMGjZF4]
How I feel about the Chicago Cubs

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

“In American Society our ways of teaching about baseball are better than our ways of teaching about anything else. No matter how your mind works, baseball reaches out to you.”

Bill James

I

At my heart I’m a historian. My mind is stimulated by the pastoral, by history, by personal stories, by real emotions, my mind is stimulated by what was and how it can affect what will be. I had a rare opportunity at the All Star game in 2006 to sit down with Buck O’Neil and listen to him tell old war stories for 15 minutes. It’s a vivid memory that really won’t ever fade into my memory, and I’m glad I got to talk to him before his passing 4 months later.

The reason I’m so excited about this baseball season has very little to do with the local talent. Sure, Chris Sale looks like an absolute lefty monster on the South Side. Starlin Castro is a tremendous young shortstop that oozes potential and could become whatever he wants to become at this point. There’s some talent on both farms that warrant watching, but that’s not why I was so eager to start the 2012 baseball year. It really has nothing to do with Chicago, really.

II

The Washington Nationals (15-9) have never finished higher than 4th in the NL East until last year. After a surprise 81-81 inaugural season in Washington (they were originally the Montreal Expos), the franchise found itself stuck in the mud. They wouldn’t top 75 wins until 2011, and their winning percentages were pretty abysmal. They lost a combined 205 games in 2008 and 2009.

The fortunes of a franchise can change for a multitude of reasons. Sometimes they sign a few big name free agents, get the right coach, and go riding off into the sunset with a ring. Other times they get career years from everybody at the right time en route to a championship. And then there are the Nats who managed to be so bad that they got two potentially generational players in back to back years.

Stephen Strausburg  and Bryce Harper are extremes. Stories of their feats are the stuff fables are made of. “He throws 100 with plus command and has 2 wicked off-speed pitches. The other guy hits 500 foot homeruns and he’s only 17.”

That’s not made up, that’s the reality of the situation that the Nationals are in. They have 2 great talents on a roster that might just be good enough to win the pennant this year. Strausburg will have an innings cap, and Harper, for all of his physical tools, might not be ready to hit major league pitching just quite yet, but this Nationals team is for real everywhere else.

That’s ridiculous. Edwin Jackson is has the highest SP ERA at 3.69. For context, the current NL ERA is 3.72. He’s better than average this year but he’s about 2 runs worse than any other starter on the Nationals.

III

The Dodgers (17-8) have experienced some recent success, most recently reaching the NLCS in 2008 and 2009 before falling into a curious funk that some blame on the tumultuous McCourt divorce. Their ascension is linked directly to the maturation of two budding superstars, Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw.

Matt Kemp missed out on being a 40/40 guy by a single homerun last year. This was following an awful 2010 where he OPS’d .760 and was 19-34 on stolen base attempts. He cratered production-wise and decided to tinker with his batting motion. Kemp eliminated the stride that he took before he swung his hips and went with a no-stride approach. It resulted in a .226 jump in OPS and a 2nd place finish in the MVP voting. To start the 2012 year he’s just destroying everything.

Kershaw is 24 years old and has a Cy Young under his belt. He’s a legit Ace and just might be the best pitcher in baseball. His WHIP sits at 0.92, he strikes out 9 per 9, and last year he slashed his walk rate by 1 BB/9. What we’re watching with Kershaw is the evolution from a thrower to a pitcher. Not everyone gets it. Wood was a great thrower, but he never learned how to pitch. He never learned how to dial back the RPM’s and save the hard and good stuff for need situations (see Verlander, Justin). Jake Peavy looks like he’s just now starting to learn how to pitch, but he’s also 31 and past his prime stuff wise. Carlos Marmol never learned how to pitch and tried to make a career out of one pitch. Clayton Kershaw can pitch now.

That’s a dip in walks and hits allowed, and an increase in IP and K-BB ratio. The question on Kershaw was always whether he’d mature from a thrower to a pitcher and it looks like he’s supplying the answer. An ace in the truest sense of the word has no flaws. He’s durable, he has a plus-plus pitch, an arsenal of plus pitches, great command, great makeup, and he proves it, year after year. It’s a show me tag and Kershaw is in the process of showing us.

IV

Pennant chases make baseball. I wasn’t around for any of the good ones really. I didn’t get to see the Giants win the pennant, I missed out on Bucky Fucking Dent, I lost the most famous Cubs homer in the Gloamin, and I completely whiffed with the Gas House Gang comebacks. The true pennant chases are gone, and what we have left are division races and wild card finishes. The most recent amazing comeback was excellent and it brought me to a very happy baseball place where I threw my hands up in celebration as Dan Johnson hit a homerun that meant absolutely nothing to me in terms of rooting interest, but was probably the source of my highest high as a baseball fan. My heart broke with Uggla and Linebrink as the Braves melted, and I kinda dislike the Braves. Pennant chases bring out the best in baseball, and the Dodgers-Nationals thing has great potential to be an amazing cross-country rivalry.

Young superstars, one of them is a heritage franchise, the other is building up a fan base revolving around youth, it should be thrilling to watch. They gave us great theater during their first series match up this past April, Harper debuted, Kershaw was dominant, and Kemp won it in the 10th. It was a well played baseball game, it had drama for all the right reasons, and the star power was there. In time people should remember those matchups, when Scully called Kershaw vs. Strausburg, when Harper reached the bigs, when the Nationals and Dodgers played against each other in meaningful games. I hope more moments like that happen for Octobers to come.

Well, at least until the Cubs are good, in which case, fuck both of them.

“Isn’t it strange? The same people who laugh at gypsy fortune tellers take economists seriously.”

I think it’s important for baseball fans on both sides of Chicago to understand that neither the Sox nor the Cubs will be seriously competing this year. The Sox have a better shot at catching lightning in a bottle this year if they get great years from their roster, but it’s a big if at this point and oddly enough it can all hinge on Jake Peavy’s health, which is a scary proposition. The Cubs have virtually no hope, the rosters of the teams in front of the Cubs are all better. The Reds, Brewers and Cardinals will fight for the Central lead leaving the Cubs in a slap fight with the Astros and the Pirates to avoid the cellar.

So a lot of people are going to tune out without properly understanding what you’re watching. For the Sox this is Kenny’s last stand. His acquisitions all have a strange propensity to blow up in his face. Manny Ramirez, Ken Griffey Jr., Jake Peavy, Alex Rios and Adam Dunn were all massive faceplants to this point. He let fan favorites Ozzie Guillen and Mark Buerhle take their talents to Miami. He hired a manager that no one knew was a serious candidate and took full control of this team moving forward. Any success the team enjoys will be his, but so will the failure. Not many GM’s get to fire 2 managers, so Kenny’s on the clock

Epstoyer is enjoying a honeymoon currently, but they’ll have to work efficiently to rebuild a decimated Cubs organization. The Cubs have almost no pitching help in the minors. There are a few Cub fans that will want the Cubs to win now . When Cubs start getting traded most of these will get restless and wonder what the aim of the organization is. There are even a few that believe Theo and company only won because they spent Yankee money. This is true to an extent, but the Red Sox also drafted wisely and had good talent come up from their farm system. The make over the Cubs are going to get will be impressive, but the clock will start once the Cubs trade a marquee name.

Which brings me to the purpose of these two pieces. AL/NL Central “Predictions.” I’m placing the teams in order of believed finish, but I’m not going to place a W-L value on it. We’ll start with the AL Central. NL Central will go live tomorrow.

1. Detroit Tigers – They are the favorite to win the division and they are a candidate tot make some noise in the playoffs. They added Prince to Miggy and have a potent offense. The lose of Victor Martinez will hurt as Ryan Raburn will get more burn in the lineup, but Prince more than makes up for that. We all know what Prince can do with the bat, ditto with Miggy. The real question is how awful that IF defense will be. Prince-Raburn-Peralta-Cabrera has a serious chance at being the worst IF defense of all time.

Especially considering that this dude played third 60 lbs ago.

It would be pretty astounding to see what Verlander would do with a good defense, but as it stands the defense shouldn’t affect him too much. He probably won’t be as great as his 2011 season, but he’ll still be a Cy Young candidate in 2012. The rotation guy that might suffer is Doug Fister. Verlander and Scherzer both strikeout batters at an above average clip, but Fister’s career SO/9 is 5.5. He upped it to 7.3 in 70 ip with the Tigers, but I would expect that rate to fall. The ‘pen is solid and a name to look for is Daniel Schlereth. If he can gain some semblance of control he can become a high leverage pitcher.

2. KC Royals – It’s hard to predict a 2nd place finish for a team that boasts Bruce Chen in it’s rotation, but here they are, on the back of what should be a rather impressive offense. The kids can play, Hosmer is legit and should emerge as KC’s best player overall this year. Alex Gordon is going to be a great leadoff hitter this year, and Moustakas should make some positive gains at the big league level this year. The question with this team is when will the pitching help get here? All of their starters are projected to be below average this year, the only pitcher that may be worth his salt will be Jonathan Sanchez. Daniel Duffy is a few years away and like I said, Bruce Chen is an important part of this rotation. A lot of what this team does moving forward will depend on what they can do to solidify the starters. The bullpen has some names to keep an eye on, but losing Joakim Soria hurts. I think the Royals take a major step forward but the rotation will hold them back from competing for a wild card spot.

3. Cleveland Indians – Carlos Santana is the damn truth. He will emerge as the best catcher in baseball this year. He’s great with the stick and he’s a good defender. The Indians should surprise people this year, but a bad offense will keep them from really making noise in the central. Shin-Soo Choo is key for the Tribe. If he can get back on his star track this year the Indians can scare the Tigers for a few months. If not, the Indians will be relegated to fending off the Sox and the Twins in third place. Ubaldo Jimenez won’t be competing for Cy Young’s anymore, but he is a solid top of the rotation pitcher. He should emerge as the ace over Justin Masterson this year. Josh Tomlin needs to increase his K rate to his minor league levels to have a breakout year, but he should still remain as a decent mid-rotation option. The Bullpen will keep this team from being a complete cellar dweller.

4. Chicago White Sox – It’s not an awful rotation. Danks should have a rebound year, Gavin is a candidate to have a great year, Chris Sale will make some noise in the rotation, but their success or failure all depends on the offense. Adam Dunn was historically bad and that saved Alex Rios from more criticism. Gordon Beckham lost his swing and will have a difficult time getting it back. AJ Pierzynski is hitting second in the lineup. Brent Morel will get significant playing time. It’s just a bad offense. Dunn should rebound somewhat, he’s currently crushing fastballs which is a good sign considering how slow his bat looked last year. Dayan Viciedo has light tower power but we have to wait and see how his game translates in the MLB. Rios is likely to hit 3rd for most of the season. The Sox have too many questions regarding the offense to be a serious contender, you have to hit HR’s in the Cell to compete, because everyone else will.

5. Minnesota Twins – This team is awful. Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham will carry the load on offense, and their pitching rotation will be flat out awful. Carl Pavano’s K-rate might dip below 4 this year. They have no frontline starter in their rotation. The bullpen will be using gasoline to put out the fires this year, there’s little help down on the farm, Justin Morneau is probably done playing baseball, they will be in the cellar this year. They have a long rebuild ahead of them and Gardy should probably get fired this year.