Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

I don’t mean to be too defeatist, nor to absolutist, but if the Hawks are to have any shot at winning this series, they need to win games like tonight. We’ll dig into the details shortly, but the TL;DR of it to lead with here is that if you’re going to let a team like Vegas control the play for most the play over three periods and still be opportunistic enough to take them OT, you have to cash in and win the game. That is easier said than done, obviously, but I think if things are to go the same way from a possession/shot-share standpoint in more games moving forward, the Hawks won’t be in them like they were in this one. Let’s dig in:


– So yeah, it’s probably not a good idea to let your opponent control 71.43% of the shot attempts in the third period of a tie game. Unfortunately that is what CCYP’s team did. The especially discouraging aspect of that number is that it came right after a second period that the Hawks controlled for the most part, with a 57.58% CF themselves, and three goals in that frame to show for it. So to come out of a period like that and turn in the effort they did in the third period and then the OT (more in a moment) is not exactly inspiring. Then again, when your coach is about as intelligent and inspiring as a dead tree, it is probably hard to find inspiration.

– More of the same in the OT – Vegas had an impressive 64.71% CF in the extra frame, thought a good chunk of that might be buoyed by the flurry they had at the end just before scoring the winning goal. The Hawks did have some decent chances in the frame, so I am not going to act like that Corsi number is especially damning, but it is further evidence of my original point that Colliton is not getting this team ready to A) show up when they need to, nor B) build off any positive momentum they may create in spite of him.

– I am in love with Kirby Dach. Never been so happy to eat my words on a draft pick in my life. His goal today was nothing special, but it was the direct result of making the smart play and being in the right spot, which is a strong foundation for a young player with his skill to build on. On top of that, the kid is so good in transition to the point that he could be lethal there, and soon. Unfortunately, Dach’s learning curve in these playoffs and flashy moments didn’t do enough to save him from getting absolutely shelled in shot attempts (33.33 CF%). It be that way sometime.

– Scratching Adam Boqvist against a team that moves the puck and skates so much faster than you is a move so smooth brained and stupid that I am simply too intelligent to even consider how Coach Bowling Ball Brain came up with it. I am not going to act like Boqvist has been some type of world beater in this postseason, but he hasn’t been downright awful either, in my opinion. And the main silver lining to the Hawks being in this series, which everyone and their mother knows is not going to last more than 5 games, is to get players like Boqvist meaningful experience playing meaningful games. Colliton scratched him but kept Olli Maatta in the lineup. I just…. I actually cannot think of a worthy justification for such a thing.

– I know it’s an easy and defensible card to pull, but it’s still incredible that the only ace up Colliton’s sleeve now two years into the job is to just throw Kane onto the ice as much as physically possible. So the summation of these last two points comes to this – Hey Jeremy, maybe try switching up some tactics. Or maybe just do the honorable thing by hopping on the next plane out of Edmonton and resigning.

– Next game is Saturday. Until then.

– One more time: Fire Jeremy Colliton.


Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

Look folks, I won’t lie to you: tonight was much more in line with how I expected this series to go than what we saw on Saturday. I had a lot of fun watching the Hawks completely manhandle Connor McDavid on Saturday, and it’s not really a secret that if you can do that you have a better chance of beating this Edmonton outfit. But that was never going to be sustainable, because, well, he’s Connor fucking McDavid. Let’s dig in:


– So yeah, Connor fucking McDavid, huh? I mean, there is not much more to be said when the best player in the world scores a goal on you 19 seconds into the game, and another for good measure just four minutes later while making Olli Maatta look like nothing more than a gnat. The Oilers aren’t exactly a one-man show, but fuck if McDavid couldn’t be one himself. I tweeted during the game that I think he is the most dominant athlete in any team sport right now, and I think tonight was a great example of why. He was always going to be the X-factor in this series; you either stop him and win or don’t and lose. Saturday was the former, but like I said above, that isn’t easily replicated. Don’t be surprised if we see more of this from him on Wednesday.

– Adam Boqvist had a really rough night tonight, especially on the defensive end. He will never be a shutdown guy on that side of the ice, so those mistakes are liveable, but we’re gonna need to see more on the offensive side to make up for it. Part of the issue in that regard is the system the coach deploys and the situations in which the coach deploys him, but at the same time he is gonna have to overcome some of that. Granted, he’s still just 19 years old and already playing in the NHL earlier than he anticipated, and probably earlier than the team did as well. There is plenty of room for growth there, but tonight was ugly.

– Sort of building off that last point, I don’t know why Boqvist isn’t running the point on PP1. The lone righty shot on that unit right now is Kirby Dach, and he’s the goalie screen. Otherwise we see Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Domink Kubalik, and Duncan Keith. None of those guys are unqualified for the unit, but when you have four lefties on the ice and you post Kane up on the right boards, it’s not exactly a secret what the plan is for that PP. I think swapping Boqvist onto the point for Keith may sound like small blasphemy, but I think it would open that PP up to many more possibilities. But the coach’s brain is smoother than a lake at midnight, so I am not holding my breath in hopes of seeing this change.

– Not Crawford’s finest night either, lowlighted by his best Mike Smith impression on the Oilers fifth goal that was really the dagger in the game. I still have faith in Crow, but he is going to really need to step his shit up if the Hawks are going to win this series, because he really is their only hope.

– We’re two more losses from my master plan of tanking to get the 12.5% chance at the #1 pick coming to fruition. But we are also just two wins away from getting to watch *real* playoff hockey, which I also welcome. This is officially a win-win situation folks. Until Wednesday.

– Sorry I am not as long-winded with these wraps as Pulega. I just didn’t enjoy this game as much as he did Saturday, for obvious reasons. And also, he is a monster that Fels created in a lab. Fuck that guy. But also, he is cool. Ya know?


We close our position-group previews for the upcoming Hawks-Oilers play-in series by visiting the most important position in the game. In spite of all the star power up front for both teams in the likes Patrick Kane or Connor McDavid, it’s quite possible that this series comes down entirely to the two men standing in the crease. It’s well-established now that goalies are capable of stealing or throwing a series entirely on their own, and considering the goalies playing in this series and the circumstances around them of late, it certainly seems like either of those options are equally on the table. Let’s dig in.

Oilers Goalies

Probable Starter: Mike Smith

On Roster: Mikko Koskinen, Stuart Skinner

The Oilers are still playing the typical hockey unknown game in terms of who will be their starting goalie for the series with the Hawks, but given his history with coach Dave Tippet and overall experience, I think it’s safe to say Mike Smith is the favorite to get the job overall. Smith’s numbers in the regular season were somewhat strange, as he had a fairly respectable 2.95 GAA but a sub-optimal .902 save percentage in 39 appearances. He was even worse at 5v5 with an even .900 SV%, and when you check the venue- and score-adjusted 5v5 stats he finally dips below the Goalie Mendoza Line to a .899 SV%. His goalie play is no longer what it was in his prime (which was not that great anyway) but worry not, as he is still a giant shitbaby.

On the flip side, Mikko Koskinen had a much more impressive regular season, posting a 2.75 GAA and .917 SV% in 38 appearances. And continuing his trend of being opposite-of and better than Smith, Koskinen’s stats improved at 5v5; he posted a .924 SV% at evens, and it drops only slightly to a .922 when adjusted for score and venue.

If this “playoff” series were happening in the immediate aftermath of a season, Edmonton would be incredibly dumb to start Smith over Koskinen. However, it’s been more than four months since anyone played a hockey game that meant anything, and four months since either of these goalies took the crease, so the Oilers’ decision is going likely going to be based more on their restart camp and exhibitions, making it a toss-up. Regardless, I don’t think either goalie is especially impressive or intimidating, but neither should be discounted either.

Blackhawks Goalies

Probable Starter: Corey Crawford

On Roster: Malcolm Subban, Collin Delia, Kevin Lankinen

In a vacuum, there would be no question that Corey Crawford would be in the net for the Hawks when the puck drops on Saturday. Unfortunately, this is not a vacuum, and thus we have many questions that need to be answered before this season starts. Crawford continued his reign as one of the best goalies in the NHL – still without the proper recognition or appreciation, of course – with a 2.77 GAA and .917 SV% in 40 appearances this year. That save percentage jumped to an eye-popping .926 at 5v5, both in raw numbers and when adjusted for score and venue. Without being too disrespectful to the other goalies on the roster, Crawford is probably better than the rest of them combined and in normal circumstances if he were to be benched in favor of any of them it would be a travesty.

But again, this is not a vacuum and these are not normal circumstances. Unfortunately, Crawford recently recovered from testing positive for COVID-19, which kept him in Chicago longer than the rest of the Hawks; he just returned to the team and practice last Saturday, giving him just a week to get back into game shape after four months off *and* dealing with the virus. This does create something of a question in terms of if Crawford will be fully ready to play come Saturday. Should the answer be no, my guess is the crease would go to Malcolm Subban, who was once a top goalie prospect in the game but has never really reached his potential. He barely played after being acquired in the Robin Lehner trade – he got into one game for exactly 1:10 – and he posted a .890 SV% in 20 appearances for Vegas. That is not great, so if Crawford cannot play, this could get even uglier for the Hawks than even the ugliest scenario you’ve envisioned.

Advantage: Hawks…. maybe?

If Crawford plays, there is no question that the Hawks have the advantage here, even if the Oilers start Koskinen. Crawford being able to play, and doing so in top form, is the Hawks’ best chance of winning this series, let alone anything beyond that. Quite frankly, I have my doubts that they can really do win even with Crawford playing, but that’s a different conversation. If Crawford cannot go, though, the scale tips in Edmonton’s favor. If Crawford cannot play, this could really become a 3-game sweep for the Oilers.


We come now to the savvy veteran of the Cubs rotation, as we visit with the surprisingly-gracefully-aging Jon Lester. While Lester is certainly far from the pitcher he was during his first two years with the Cubs, he has done a good job avoiding completely falling off a cliff over the past few years, and in many ways improved over his 2018 campaign. Let’s dig in.

Jon Lester 2019

31 starts, 171.2 innings

4.46 ERA   1.50 WHIP   4.26 FIP

8.65 K/9   2.73 BB/9

43.3 GB%   14.6 HR/FB

102 ERA-   2.8 fWAR

So, Lester saw his ERA climb by more than a full point from ’18 to ’19, but in reality that was actually the result of incredible luck in 2018 keeping the ERA down. In 2018, his ERA of 3.32 was a full point below his FIP of 4.39, which is a major red flag. In 2019, though, he actually brought the FIP down to 4.26, and his ERA being above that is indicative of the actual results matching the expected results. He also saw a bit of bad luck, as evidenced by the ERA being just over the FIP, but also the fact that opposing batters had a .347 BABIP against him, which was far and away the highest mark against him in his career. Overall, 2019 should serve as an encouragement for Cubs fans for what Lester still might have in the tank.

YES! YES! YES!: Given that Lester is now 36 and has been worth less than 3.0 WAR three years in a row, it’s hard to dream too much on a best case scenario for 2020. In reality, the best case scenario is really just avoiding any wide variety of worst-case scenarios, which we will touch on more in a moment. If Lester can be worth more than 2.0 WAR this season, which he should be capable of, then it should be considered a good season from him given his age and lack of overpowering stuff.

The one big thing that the Cubs and their fans may hope to avoid is any chance of Lester somehow vesting his 2021 option. It’s unclear how exactly that would work out at this point, given the option vests if he throws 200 innings this year, and without a 162-game schedule there is zero chance of him getting there, but if that option did happen to vest, it would be bad news for the Cubs. They’d have to pay a 37-year old Lester $25-million in 2021, and while certainly none of us are going to cry tears for the Ricketts having to pay anyone, having that much payroll space taken up by an old pitcher who is just barely performing over league average would not be nice.

YOU’RE A B+ PLAYER: As I briefly mentioned, there are a number of potential worst case scenarios for Lester in 2020, and probably too many to try and get specific with them all. Suffice it to say they can all be summed up with this – it’d be really bad if his age really caught up with him really fast. Again, this could manifest itself in a multitude of ways. Maybe he walks a shit ton of guys. Maybe he is tossing home run derby velocity up there and Wrigley field looks more like a driving range than a baseball field when he pitched. Maybe neither of those things happen, but he still just can’t get anyone out and people just tee off on him. Again, there are many outcomes, but you just hope not to see any of them.

And while the aforementioned option vesting would probably only vest because Lester stays in games for a long time because he’s pitching well, it’s still best to avoid that.

DRAGON OR FICKLE?: I am not one to bet against aging curves, but I am also not one to ignore years of great performance. And while Lester is definitely not an elite pitcher anymore, he still has the pitch control, repertoire, and mindset to pitch well in the bigs. I think we see a virtual repeat of 2019 from Big Jon, though maybe with some ever so slight decline in overall value and production. Mark me down for an official prediction of 2.5 WAR, and I won’t go too far into the rest of the numbers, but if pitches well enough to produce that WAR, the rest of his stats should be satisfactory as well.

Everything Else

Continuing our trip trough the outfield, we now come to the most exciting White Sox prospect since, well, last year in the form of Luis Robert. Although, with all due respect to Eloy Jimenez who is universally loved by myself and all Sox fans with a right mind, Robert represents much more hope and potential than Eloy did at this time last year. Similar to Yoan Moncada, the growth and play of Robert is going to be the true key to the White Sox reaching their goal of winning a championship, be that in 2020 (however unlikely that may be) or in the future.

2019 MiLB Stats

.328/.376/.624, 30 HR, 92 RBI, 32 SB

5.1 BB%, 23.4 K%

.396 wOBA, 136 wRC+ in AAA (29 games)

4 Total Errors across all levels

Last Week on Nitro: Robert basically became a real life video game character in 2019 posting just stupidly good numbers at every single stop he made in the minors. As a 21-year-old repeating High-A, he was a pitcher’s worse nightmare put up an obscene .453/.512/.920 slash line with a 305 wRC+ (!!!!!!!!!) in 19 games there to start the year. None of that was a typo. Go back and re-read it. Okay, now catch your breath, because it doesn’t exactly get less impressive. In AA at Regents Park (the one that suppresses offense) he slashed .314/.362/.518 with a 155 wRC+, and then he moved to AAA where all he did was go .297/.341/.634 with a 136 wRC+. Ho hum.

The more Robert tore up the minors last year, the more I wrote about calling him up immediately. In the end, the Sox did not do that obviously, which we can argue about until we are blue in the face but they ultimately *sorta* made it okay by signing him to an 8-year contract extension that virtually guarantees he will be on the Opening Day roster. These contracts are basically the Sox bread-and-butter, as they’ve now done these with Robert, Eloy, Moncada, and Tim Anderson after having done it with Chris Sale and Jose Quintana which then allowed them acquire a great deal of those players. But in Robert’s case, it’s especially good because A) the Sox have their guy with “best player in the world” potential locked up for 8 years and B) we as Sox fans get to enjoy the shit out Robert’s torrid start to Spring Training (.370/.433/.603 line in 30 PA’s) without the grain of salt that he’d be starting 2020 in the minors. Robert is far from the only source of hope Sox fans have for the future of this team moving forward, but he is perhaps the greatest personification of the hope that this will finally come to fruition.

TOO SWEET (WHOOP WHOOP): Let’s just go full-torqued for this one, because it’s best-case scenario after all. How incredible would it be if Luis Robert just… didn’t stop hitting? Imagine this guy comes up and just posts his 2019 AAA slash line with his 2019 MiLB home run, RBI, and stolen base total? He’d be damn near a 7-win player! Fuck a Rookie of the Year, he’d be in consideration for the fuckin’ MVP. The thing about this is that it is kinda… not all that unrealistic. Okay, the 7-win player is a bit aggressive, but even for a rookie with a lot of swing and miss in his game and walk numbers that are not huge, a lot of projection systems just keep pumping out huge projections for Robert. PECOTA projected him as a 4.0 WAR player. Steamer projects him at 3.0. ZiPS has him at 2.5, but that’s with a 100 wRC+ projection as well. If he hits above league average, these projetion systems are saying his *floor* is a 3.0 win player. His ceiling is astronomical.

I am going on  a limb andthe record here – if Robert is a 4-win player or better in 2020, the White Sox are winning 90+ games. That may be a bit optimistic, but I truly believe it. This will be dependent on Eloy turning his late 2019 production into full season 2020 production, Moncada hitting the numbers I droolingly predicted he will last week, the pitching holding up, as well. Again, optimistic. But I believe these things can happen – hell, it happened for the 2015 and 2016 Cubs for the most part, if you use the proper parallels – and if they do, the Sox are gonna be fucking dangerous this year.

YOU FUCKED UP! YOU FUCKED UP!: Firstly, I fucked up because I got vacation brain and thought that this post was supposed to go up today, but it was actually supposed to be yesterday. So, apologies, dear reader. For Robert, though, fucking up in 2020 is both unfortunately a realistic possibility and also somewhat easy to diagnose how it would go wrong. For all of his incredible traits as a hitter, Robert is just not patient. He’s aggressive almost to a fault, and that has subsequently led to some speculation on how he will translate to MLB as a rookie. The fact of the matter is that he really is just too good and too advanced as a hitter to have ever been challenged by minor league pitching.

The somewhat silver lining there is that we cannot be 100% sure if the low walk rate and hyper-aggressive approach were an all-out lack of patience or just the result of being better than any other hitter those MiLB pitchers would face. Essentially, was he just not willing to walk, or did he just decide that hitting a dinger was way more fun so he was just going to put the pitcher out of his misery? To that end, Robert has shown a good amount of discipline in spring training so far, but I also am not going to put a ton of stock in that beyond simply hoping that it will continue into the year. If he can’t show some discipline, I think we are looking at situation similar to what happened to Eloy early in 2019.

BAH GOD, THAT’S ROBERT’S MUSIC: Is it too much of a cop-out for me to say I think he splits the difference here? Normally I don’t buy into projection systems too much because, while I am a fan of using the advanced stats and analytics, I also am a “let them play the damn games” guy, but I do kinda like the Steamer projection for Robert in 2020 – .273/.318/.488 with a 111 wRC+. I am cautiously optimistic he can walk more than 5% to get that OBP up a bit, and think he will steal more than Steamer’s projection of 22 bases to bring the wRC+ up, but overall I think that is a solid prediction for Robert this year, so I will just go with that. More generally, I think he will be in the realm of .270/.330/.500, which really would be an amazing rookie season, in my opinion. Although don’t rule out the whole 7-win player thing either, cuz it could happen. Let’s hope!


Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

It got a little more itchy than it needed to, but the Hawks were ultimately able to hang onto what was a comfortable lead tonight against the Oilers, and grab their fourth win a row to keep their minuscule-but-still-existent playoff chances alive. Let’s discuss:


– The first period was an encouraging and entertaining frame, as the Hawks did a nice job trading possession and chances with the Oilers, and ultimately netting the first goal of the game. While I loathe agreeing with anything Pat Foley ever has to say at this point, he was correct in pointing out after that period that the shot total from the two teams was a lot lower than it felt it should have been. But with that said, the Hawks were able to escape with a lead after a beautiful play by Dylan Strome set up Patrick Kane for a great scoring chance that he converted after showing some nice patience.

– The second period was all Blackhawks, as they notched a 76.67 (!!!) CF% in the middle frame and out-chanced the Oilers 12-4. It all started right away when Drake Caggiula went into full on hustle-play mode to win a rush and gain possession before a little kerfuffle in front of the net led to a Jonathan Toews wraparound chance that went in off a skate. Later on, Alex DeBrincat was able to cash in on two excellent chances with a little help from Caggiula parking his husky ass in front of Mike Smith, who was promptly pulled from the game after DeBrincat’s second and the Hawks fourth, only to throw a huge pissbaby tantrum while his paraded down the tunnel. In other news, I will be uploading the video of that tantrum to every adult video site known to man for your pleasure. I am a man of the people, after all.

– Let’s talk a bit about DeBrincat’s two goals, as I don’t have much to say about it but do want to touch on it specifically. Mostly I just want to say, damn it felt good to see the man get a pair tonight. It’s been a rough season for Top Cat due to getting hockey BABIP’d to high hell all year, but having those two go in had to feel good for the kid. If the Hawks do have any chance of going on a miracle run and making the playoffs, he is gonna have to get off his shnide a bit, so hopefully this was just the start to that.

– Staying with Top Cat but for a different reason, I cannot figure out for the life of me why he is still standing in front of the net on the PP1 unit. There is no way that is effective in the way it is intended to be, if Coach Smooth Brain is hoping that a few pucks bouncing off his legs and into the net are going to unlock his scoring touch, well that just confirms that his brain is smooth like a half melted piece of ice.

However, I have done Colliton’s job for him (someone has to) and developed a solution to this that is quite simple – swap Top Cat and Kirby Dach‘s respective roles on the PP1 and PP2 units. Put Dach on PP1 with Kane, Toews, Kubbly, and Keith, and let him park his big ass in front of the net where his size is actually useful but he still has the skill to actually make something of it. Then put DeBrincat on PP2 with Saad, Strome, Boqvist and whoever else, and let him work a half wall where is actually a legitimate threat with his quick release. Yes, I know this is too logical for Coach Gemstone, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t brilliant. You know it is.

– Overall, despite the itchiness of the third period, this was an encouraging performance from the Hawks against a team that is more than likely to be in the playoffs. Now all they have to do is string 10-12 more performances like this over their final 15 games. Easy enough, right?

– Hawks go next tomorrow night in Detroit, which should be a layup win. In some ways, that could be the real litmus test here – if they lose that one, you know they’re pretenders and should just pack it in for the draft pick. But winning, while it should be expected, would still mean they can be in because they are at least completing the bare minimum task of actually beating the teams they should. Until then.


As we continue our trip around the diamond for the Sox this year, we now come to the hot corner which is manned by the most important player on the 2020 White Sox. Sure, you can make the case that other players like Eloy Jimenez or Luis Robert need to have breakout seasons, but if the White Sox are going to be good in 2020, Yoan Moncada is going to need to be their best player – again. That may even be true of the years beyond. Let’s just get into this because I am ready to lose my gord over this man.

2019 Stats

.315/.367/.548, 25 HR, 79 RBI

5.7 fWAR, 4.6 bWAR, 5.1 WARP

7.2 BB%, 27.5 K%

.379 wOBA, 141 wRC+ .915 OPS

-4 DRS, 5 Outs Above Average

Last Week On Nitro: Yoan went on a full blown Fuck You Tour in 2019, telling every White Sox fan and baseball analyst that started to doubt him after his rough 2018 campaign exactly where they could put their concern. From the very beginning of the season, Moncada looked like a new player. He was hitting higher in the lineup every day, playing a new position, and was more aggressive at the plate, and all of that led to huge success from jump. He was mashing enormous dingers in big situations right away, which is great for us all because he has the best home run swing in all of baseball. If you don’t enjoy watching this man hit a baseball 450 feet and admire his work with incredible swagger and charisma, you are a joyless human being. Along with the huge homers, he also ripped 34 doubles and 5 triples, and while his walk rate dipped a bit from 2018, you take that trade off for the significantly lower K-rate and the more aggressive approach that led to a .915 OPS.

The only problem with Moncada’s 2019 outbreak is that it’s simply undeniable that his .406 BABIP is not repeatable and is destined to regress. With that being said, when you go across his Statcast profile and look at all of his numbers, the BABIP is the only thing that really sticks out as a red flag. His wOBA of .379 was barely above his xwOBA of .362, and given the fact that he hits the living shit out of the ball as well as anyone in the game – he was 7th in average exit velocity (97th percentile) and 19th in hard hit percentage (92nd percentile) – a high BABIP is going to be a natural occurrence. It certainly won’t be over .400 again, but it’s still reasonable to think he can keep it up around .360-.370, and that’s still going to result in a near-.900 OPS. Aaron Judge is routinely among the leaders in exit velo and hard hit percentage, and and he’s had BABIP’s around .360 every year of his career so far, so there is your comp and reassurance for Moncada’s future.

Along with the offensive outburst, Moncada took to playing third base extremely well, registering in the 87th percentile for outs above average. He also is still one of baseball’s faster runners, though he didn’t steal a lot of bases, totaling just 10. But if BABIP and SB’s are the biggest issues from a 2019 season that saw him register the 16th best fWAR in all of baseball – higher than the likes of Ronald Acuña Jr. and Juan Soto despite playing less games than either of them *sips a huge cup a tea* – then we are just being nitpicky.

TOO SWEET (WHOOP WHOOP): As I said in the open, Moncada is going to have to be the Sox’ best player again if 2020 is truly going to be a year that sees the Sox contend, and to that end the best case for the Sox is that Moncada gets even better this year than he was in 2019. And even with the natural BABIP regression, I think it’s possible. The .367 OBP (or similar, obviously, as I’d be a fool to predict it’ll be exact) could be repeatable if he is able to bring his walk rate back up a bit, and while it may be wishful thinking to think that the K-rate will fall at the same time, obviously that would help things. On top of that, continuing hit the piss out of everything in site while enable the power to stay up and he can easily slug in the mid .500’s again – again, the batted ball rates compare nicely to Judge, who has a career low SLG% of .528.

If all of the above happens, I think it’s easy to envision Moncada slashing something like .270/.360/.540, which would obviously be incredible. If he stays healthy – which has admittedly been an issue for him so far in his career – he could easily hit 30-35 homers and 40 doubles in the process. In terms of the peripherals, Moncada has already been outspoken about wanting to steal more bases, so if he can even raise from 10 steals to 15 in 2020, that is going to boost his wRC+ and WAR numbers. And I think he can get even better defensively as well, although as long as he doesn’t get significantly worse he will be fine over there. If all of this comes to fruition, I think we are talking about 6 win player, and if the Sox are able to reach their ceiling, that will be good enough to make Moncada a dark horse MVP Candidate.

YOU FUCKED UP! YOU FUCKED UP!: I have to be honest – selfishly, I don’t even want to entertain the thought of Moncada falling off a cliff. I am clearly biased, but an all out collapse that indicates 2019 was nothing but a blip on the radar does feel extremely unlikely, but baseball is a cruel game. I don’t think he’d fall so far as to be at 2018 levels again, but if the BABIP was truly the main driver behind his 2019 success, then it’s not all that unrealistic to think he could crash back down to being closer to a 3 win player. And while that would still qualify as a perfectly fine MLB regular, that would be a huge disappointment in terms of the expectations that the Sox and their fans have for Moncada. That’s all I want to say about this because trying to speculate numbers too much could just get depressing.

BAH GOD, THAT’S MONCADA’S MUSIC: Well, I kinda lost my gord a little early here. I tried to stay measured and not just go “WELL THE BEST CASE SCENARIO HERE IS HE BECOMES BETTER THAN MIKE TROUT MY FRENDT” in the TOO SWEET section, but in the process I think I dipped a bit too much into what I am actually predicting will happen. Maybe my 6-win player idea is a bit much, largely because that could depend on him staying healthy, but overall I really think that what we saw in 2019 was a sign of things to come for Moncada. The guy is really fucking good at baseball, and he is going to be really fucking good for a long time. And that is wall I have to say about that.

Oh wait, one more thing – extend him now, Rick!


There is perhaps no more polarizing player amongst White Sox fans than second baseman Nick Madrigal. After a great college career at Oregon State that concluded in a College World Series Championship, the Sox took the diminutive infielder with the fourth overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, passing on a number of high upside high schoolers for the high floor but low ceiling 2B who finished his college careers as one of the best contact hitters ever. Heading into 2020, Madrigal figures to be the Sox’ starter at the keystone for most of the year, but may Sox fans are still divided on him. Let’s dig into why:

2019 MiLB Stats

.311/.377/.414, 5 HR, 55 RBI

8.3 BB%, 3.0 K%

.366 wOBA, 117 wRC+ in AAA (29 games)

4 Total Errors across all levels

Last Week on Nitro: Madrigal played across three levels of the minors last year, and he was quite good at each stop. His worst slash line at any level was the one in High-A, which means that he got better as the competition did. The real encouragement came from his performance in AA, where he hit .341/.400/.451 with a .391 wOBA and 150 wRC+ across 42 games in Birmingham, which is notoriously stifling to offense. Along with that, Madrigal improved his walk rate from 2018 from 4.7% to 7.8% in A+, continued that same rate at AA and then jumped to 9.7% at AAA, which was a welcome sight considering his contact heavy profile saw a lot of swinging and not as much patience in his college career and he first few months of his pro career. The real headliner, though, is the strikeout rate, which was so low it has garnered plenty of attention from national outlets. He kept it steady at 2.8% in both Winston-Salem and Birmingham before seeing a minimal bump to 3.7% in AAA. With plenty of strikeout-prone sluggers in the lineup, having a guy like Madrigal who makes consistent contact and damn near never strikes out will be a nice piece to have in the lineup to counteract some of that. That combined with his 65-grade speed and baserunning abilities makes him seem like your prototypical leadoff hitter moving forward, and his glove has drawn plenty of “Future Gold Glover” praise from scouts.

The main area of concern for Madrigal is his power, or more accurately his lack thereof. Madrigal totaled just 36 extra base hits last year, and 27 of those were doubles. He hit just 5 dingers, and even that is a bit misleading as one of them was in fact *not* a dinger because he had one inside-the-parker. To his credit, he had a few wall-scrapers, but that also could point to the problem – he has wall-scraping power at best. Most scouting reports hesitate to even credit him with gap power, while his biggest detractors go as far as to place a 20-grade on his power tool which essentially figures to a zero power rating if you were creating him in MLB The Show. Even the jump to AAA, where they were using the same golf ball imitation that MLB was, saw Madrial’s SLG% drop from .450 in Birmingham to .424 in Charlotte. We will talk more about this below, but this is certainly an area of concern when looking at his MiLB numbers considering that it’s only going to get harder for him to hit the ball with power in the bigs.

TOO SWEET (WHOOP WHOOP): Madrigal seems destined to start the year in AAA, and while normally sending a top prospect who had success at every level of MiLB the year prior to AAA to start the year would scream service time manipulation, I truly don’t believe that is the case here. As just discussed, there is a serious power element missing to his game, and it’s not hard to believe that a bit of time with the tennis ball in Charlotte could help that a bit. The Sox have plenty of power in the lineup, so they don’t need a ton of round trippers from Madrigal, but they’re gonna at least need him to start hitting with doubles power. Of course, the ideal outcome there is that his elite batter’s eye allows him to consistently avoid strikeouts enough to the point that pitchers have to choose to either walk him or throw him a pitch he can really hit a long ways, and he starts elevating the ball more to make use of the relatively batter-friendly Sox Park. I refuse to get ahead of myself here, but I think seeing him post an 8+ walk rate while keeping the K-rate below 10 and hit even just 10 home runs could allow him to be a hugely impactful player right away.

YOU FUCKED UP! YOU FUCKED UP!: Okay, let’s just rip the bandaid off here – there is a chance Nick Madrigal doesn’t even become a league average player, not just for 2020 but long term. If you want me to just tell you a worst case scenario for 2020, it largely starts with Madrigal getting hurt, because that would indeed be bad, but I think the Sox could survive it because, again, ther is a chance he may not be a league average player, largely because of that power issue. Let me tell you what I mean. Per last week’s Keith Law Podcast, Madrigal averaged just over 84 MPH exit velocity last year, and looking at the statcast leaderboard for exit velo, the player names that are living in that realm are not exactly comforting. Now, the most optimistic of fans will point to the fact that Jose Altuve averaged just 86.1 MPH last year, but I don’t need to explain to you why there is plenty of reason to think that may not have been legitimate. There are a few encouraging names in the 87 MPH range – Paul DeJong, Adam Eaton, Starling Marte, Kris Bryant (please do not fire me, Sam) – but I’m ignoring a LOT of “dear God I don’t want Madrigal to be THAT GUY” contestants to give you these names. Now, Sox Park is hardly a hitter’s nightmare, so he might be able to make due with his current power, but if he ends up being Dee Gordon, Neil Walker, or *gulp* Yolmer Sanchez, all of whom were in the 86 MPH range for average exit velo last year, that is going to be a huge disappointment.

BAH GOD, THAT’S MADRIGAL’S MUSIC: This is a really tough one, because I truly do not know what to expect from Madrigal. If he was playing 20 years ago, he’d be a fucking star from jump street. He’d probably win multiple MVPs. But in today’s game, where strikeouts are not viewed as a huge negative and power is the real premium tool, Madrigal almost seems like a misfit. I don’t want to place everything on Madrigal’s power, because just about every other tool he has is average or plus. He’s one of the best hitters the minors have ever seen from a strikeout and contact profile standpoint, he fields well and runs well. All of those things could enable him to be a good player without hitting for power. But the lack of power could also hold him back from becoming a great player. All of this is more big picture, though. For 2020, I expect Madrigal to be productive at AAA before coming up to become the Sox everyday 2B, and fitting in well right away. I think he will still be hard to strikeout, and draw walks at a decent rate to make him an OBP threat, but overall I think he will finish 2020 with a wRC+ below 100 (meaning he will be a below average hitter). But if he can bring the upside with his glove and the basepaths that he has in the minors, that could still be enough to be a high-level player at the keystone.


There was a long and painful discussion about whether or not we would do a write up for Leury Legend in this preview series – mostly because the painful part was trying to figure out who would have to subject themselves to spending time writing specifically about freakin’ Leury Garcia. But, considering he was the starting CF last year and figures to be Nick Madrigal‘s caddy the starting 2B until Nick Madrigal is deemed ready for the bigs, it felt right to give the Legend his own post. So let’s do it.

2019 Stats

.279/.310/.378, 8 HR, 40 RBI

1.3 fWAR, 1.6 bWAR, 0.3 WARP

3.4 BB%, 22.5 K%

.294 wOBA, 83 wRC+ .688 OPS

-5 DRS, 1 Out Above Average

Last Week On Nitro: Leury’s 2019 season wasn’t a stat filler or game changer, but in this humble writer’s opinion, it was a bit more valuable than the stats designed to measure value make it out to be – not from a production standpoint, but because he provided a steady-enough presence as the everyday centerfielder and leadoff hitter for a team whose aspirations were not high anyway. Obviously a player with an 83 wRC+ is not the ideal everyday type, but to his credit Leury was asked to do more than he may be realistically capable of. The fact that he served as an above average CF (1 OAA is good enough for 62nd percentile in the stat, because there are far more bad fielders than good ones) despite being a natural SS shows just how versatile he is and how much he excelled in a less than ideal situation.

On top of that, while his 2019 OBP left something to be desired and I am certainly not one to espouse the virtues of batting average, a team designed to not be good could do a LOT worse for a leadoff hitter than a guy who hit .279 and got on base at a .310 clip. The production obviously was not there overall, as Leury will never threaten to be a power hitter, but that’s also not what was asked of him. I don’t want to be too bullish on what was truly an unimpressive season, but I do think it’d be hard to ask him for much more than what he gave.

TOO SWEET (WHOOP WHOOP): With Leury set to move from everyday CF to temporary 2B and then Swiss Army Knife bench piece in 2020, I think we’re already looking at the best case scenario for how he should be used. He can realistically play every position but catcher (and maybe 1B, as he’s tiny) for you in a pinch, and is likely to do a decent amount of spelling Eloy Jimenez and Nomar Mazara in the OF when they need off days, and might even fill in for Tim Anderson at short occasionally. Overall, the best case scenario for the Sox is that they don’t need Leury’s services in more than 60-70 games, and even that would be an inflated number from spending most of the first month or two waiting for Madrigal to come to take his job. I wouldn’t expect him to hit leadoff anymore, and actually think he will be inversed in the lineup card and hit 9th – that allows the Sox to limit his ABs but still use him as a decent table setter for the big bats when the lineup turns over. From a numbers standpoint, just give a similar enough copy of 2019 and I will be fine.

YOU FUCKED UP! YOU FUCKED UP!: Again, keeping the expectations low here, there really isn’t a worst possible outcome for Leury that comes from an utter lack of production or total falling off at the plate. He’s already unimpressive there, although I suppose if he has a Yolmer Sanchez 2019-esque season that could get bad quickly. Overall, though, you already don’t expect him to be an above average hitter, so even if he’s a bit closer to 70 wRC+ as a bench piece, it’s whatever.

What would represent the worst possible scenario for the Sox is if Leury is called into more than just a bench piece role due to injury at any position other than 2B. The reason I say other than 2B is that, as you may see tomorrow, I don’t have the hugest expectations of Nick Madrigal’s bat, and second is such a weak position all across baseball that Leury playing there frequently because Madrigal is hurt or needs more time in AAA wouldn’t hurt you all that much. But if Leury becomes an frequent flier in the outfield or at short because any of those players are hurt, the Sox are in for a bad ride, though it won’t exactly be Leury’s fault.

BAH GOD THAT’S GARCIA’S MUSIC: I may have done a bit too much of this in the TOO SWEET section, just because it’s hard to dream on a player like this. He’s 29 and has been in the bigs a few years already, so you know what you’re getting from him. In a starting CF role, that didn’t go far enough, but it was for a bad team so it was fine. As a starting 2B it will leave something to be desired but certainly not enough to cripple the Sox, and he will only be there until June at the absolute latest unless something goes wrong for Madrigal. And as a utility player on the bench and an occasional pinch runner, Leury’s skillset could arguably be a coveted one around baseball. Again, plus-defenders and plus-baserunners are rare on their own, and even rarer in one package.

Basically, if you feel strongly about Leury’s 2019 or 2020 presence in either direction, you may care too much about it. He’s just a guy, but that’s all the Sox need him to be.


Box Score

Natural Stat Trick

I have to admit that my expectations for this one were not high. Given the Hawks recent string of play, the fact that the Lightning are a far superior squad, and that they badly needed to get a win at home, I felt that this one could get ugly. In the second period, I thought I was being proven right, and then the final frame happened. I am happily surprised to be wrong. Let’s dig in:


– Let’s start with our header, as Dominik Kubalik really spearheaded the offensive attack for the Hawks, outscoring the Bolts all on his own in the third period (okay, one was an empty netter but it counts all the same). Given the scouting reports about him and the Hawks’ success in finding some hidden gems in Europe over the years, there was little doubt that Kubalik was going to be a good NHL player, but I don’t think even the most optimistic Hawks fan expected this kind of season from him. He’s been riding a hot steak for damn near two months now with 18 goals in his last 22 games, and with his first career hat trick tonight he now sits just one goal shy of 30 for the year. With 18 games still to go and the hot hand he’s riding, he has a real nice chance at 35 goals and an outside chance at 40. Especially given how snake bitten Top Cat has been this year, that is very welcome.

– The real MVP of this one was probably Corey Crawford, though. Really, that shouldn’t surprise you anymore, but it’s true nonetheless. Crawford was great in the first period, as the game saw a lot of back and forth action and Crow went blow for blow on impressive saves with Curtis McElhinney. The second period was all Tampa, though, and Crow really stood on his head to keep the Hawks in it. Eventually the Hawks allowed a goal, but it took a nice play on a cycle by Brayden Point and a hell of a shot to beat Crow and give the Lightning the lead. On the second Bolts goal there was literally nothing Crawford could do to stop it, and we will get to that shortly. Overall, another great performance from Crow in a career and season full of them.

– As much as I admittedly dislike Jeremy Colliton and have fun making fun of the smoothness of his brain, I have to give credit where it is due – he made some nice adjustments on the power play tonight when it came to the strategy of the first unit. Early in the game it was evident that Tampa was going to pressure the absolute shit out of Patrick Kane every time he touched the puck on the PP, which Olzcyk called out on the broadcast. As the game went on, you could see the Hawks adjusting to try and use that aggressiveness to their advantage, and eventually they were able to do so – on Kubalik’s second goal, go back and watch the way Tampa defended it. The Hawks put Keith right in the middle of the ice on the umbrella with Kane on his left and Kubalik to the right. Tampa was so unwilling to leave Kane along, even on his weak side, that they left the forward on that side down low so he could pressure Kane if the puck went to him, forcing the other forward to skate way out of position to pressure Keith at the point. Duncs just went right back to Kubalik, who had a wide open shooting lane with that forward out of position, and with his shot that is a gift he made the most of.

– This next part is another comment on a PP adjustment by Colliton, but you can choose how you want to read it, and you’ll get what I mean in a moment. I don’t know the exact numbers here and am too lazy to go dig it up right now, but the Hawks second PP unit got a bit more ice time tonight, and that was the unit that actually ended up scoring the Hawks first goal to get them on the board tonight. Now, you can take that as an adjustment by Colliton to get another unit of good scorers like Boqvist, Saad, and Strome on the ice and being willing to give them more opportunity after seeing that it is working. Or you can wonder why it took him so damn long to actually start doing that more consistently, and the answer to that would be that his brain is smoother than a fresh paint job. I mean, even with the small amount of credit I’ll give him for utilizing PP2 more often, he also is putting Olli Maatta out there with that unit….

– Speaking of which, that guy fucking sucks. Remember that second Lightning goal I talked about that wasn’t Crawford’s fault? Yeah, that’s cuz it was Maatta’s. The only reason the Bolts even scored that goal is because Maatta received a pass from Crawford terribly and lost the puck, made no legitimate effort to find the puck and instead tried to body Nikita Kucherov away while standing flat footed which resulted in Kucherov winning the puck (shocker), and then Maatta just completely failed to follow him and lost track of him altogether, leaving him all alone deep in the zone for Point to find with a nice pass that Kucherov had all day to put into a wide open net, cuz Crawford never even had a chance to react to all of this because it happened so quickly. Get that guy the fuck out of here, and send Slater Koekkoek along with him.

– But I won’t do anymore negative. This was a good win, good enough to restore a small amount of faith in this group, even if I still don’t think they have any chance of making the playoffs and even if I think that losing more games than they win is the more favorable result for this team moving forward. You’re probably sick of me lobbying for tanking by now, huh?

– Hawks go next on Saturday, as they’ll head down to Miami to take on Coach Q and the Panthers. Until then.