Baseball

BOX SCORES

Game 1: Red Sox 3 – White Sox 4

Game 2: Red Sox 9 – White Sox 8 (10 Innings)

Game 3: Red Sox 1 – White Sox 2

 

In a series where the Sox very easily could’ve taken all 3 games despite some glaring deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball, 2 wins should be considered a  healthy victory, especially since it takes the season series against Boston (which is always nice, because fuck Boston).

In addition, the 2 wins this weekend drops the White Sox’ magic number down to 9 with Cleveland getting No-Hit on Saturday and 4 Hit on Sunday. More importantly than that, everyone stayed healthy over the weekend with Lance Lynn and Carlos Rodon making their returns. Mostly good stuff all around.

 

TO THE BULLETS

 

 

GAME 1

-Jose Abreu didn’t do much in this series except for his second plate appearance on Friday night, where Tanner Houck hung a slider low and away to him and yet he still managed to pull it just to the right of the Sox bullpen for a 3 run shot. It wasn’t a tape measure dinger by any stretch of the imagination, but it was enough to give the Sox a lead they would refuse to relinquish. It also put Jose back on top of the AL lead in RBIs with 107, with Sal Perez and Vladdy Jr right behind him.

-Carlos Rodon returned and fired 5 strong innings, surrendering only a solo shot to Bobby Dalbec in the 5th inning. He struck out 7 and only allowed 5 hits. More importantly his velocity was back up, topping out at just under 98 MPH, where it was only around 95 in his previous start before his 2nd trip to the IL. He also threw 82 pitches in the 5 innings, and said he could’ve gone another but LaRussa smartly called it an early night.

-The bullpen had a solid night except for Ryan Tepera, who struggled with the command of his fastball for the first time in quite awhile. Thankfully Garret Crochet was up to the task, bailing out Tepera by getting Schwarber to fly out, ending the inning. Tepera has been one of the best releivers for the Sox since the trade deadline, so I’m willing to chalk this one up as a fluke.

-The 1-2 punch of Craig Kimbrel and Liam Hendriks shut the door on the Red Sox in the 8th and 9th, though it wasn’t a clean sweep. Kimbrel gave up a leadoff walk in the 8th, and Hendriks a single in the 9th, which was originally an out but overturned by the nerds in NY after a brief review.

-The Sox could’ve made this less of a game, but the trend of stranding a conga line of runners on base continued with 21 left out there to die on the vine. Jose Abreu was the primary culprit, stranding 7 by himself, yet he also accounted for 75% of the Sox offense with his 3rd inning dinger so I guess that evens out. The lack of timely hitting IS a concern however, and needs to be addressed before the calendar flips to October.

GAME 2

-Dylan Cease just very flatly did not have his stuff Saturday night. The issues were different than the ones we’ve seen in the past, where he’s able to get ahead of hitters 0-2 or 1-2 and is unable to put them away. This time he was just missing the zone on the first two pitches of the at-bats and then battled back to a full count, only to lose the hitter on the 7th or 8th pitches of the at bats. I have nothing to back this up other than what I’ve seen, but it appears that Cease has difficulty pitching consistently out of the stretch. Whether this is a release point issue or something else remains to be seen, but I’m sure him and Katz are working on the issue. Either way, he just plain sucked tonight.

-The flip side of that coin is that Michael Kopech looked every bit the world destroyer that he was billed as when the Sox sent Chris Sale to Boston for him and Moncada (also awesome). He faced 7 batters on Saturday night, and struck out 5 of them. His command of his fastball AND his slider was downright filthy, and he was able to mix them to the point of utter confusion for the BoSox hitters. In the 5th inning he got Dalbec to swing at a filthy wipeout slider down and away, then blew away Travis Shaw with a fastball that broke 100 on the gun, then went back to the slider and made Kike Hernandez soil himself. Here’s the 3 pitch strikeout of Shaw, just look at the movement on that 4-seamer:

-Oh look, Grandal and Robert combine for 7 hits on the night while Moncada was on base 4 times. Once Eloy gets his timing back and TA returns to the lineup there should be no excuses for them not to put up at least 5 per game.

-Craig Kimbrel was unable to hold the lead in the 8th, and the White Sox were unable to get Luis Robert in from 2nd after his ground rule double in the 9th. The writing was on the wall for a tough loss, but TLR sealed the deal when he threw Mike Wright to pitch in the 10th where he promptly gave up an RBI single to put Boston ahead.

-The Sox didn’t help their case in the bottom half of the inning, however. With runners on 1st and 3rd and nobody out, Leury Garcia struck out on 3 straight pitches. Tony then brought in Danny Mendick to pinch hit for Gavin Sheets (which was fine, though I would’ve preferred Vaughn but whatever) who promptly struck out. Then Goodwin had his shot but was unable to get Eloy in from 3rd, grounding out softly to end the game. Fart Noise.

GAME 3

-This game had each team with 4 hits apiece, and was about as exciting as that implies. It wasn’t even like either team was stranding a bunch on the bases, they just kinda sucked offensively.

-Lance Lynn looked good in his return, however. Another 5 inning stint, only needing 70 pitches to get through them. I realize TLR wants to protect these guys in their first starts back, but it definitely put a strain on the bullpen this weekend.

-Speaking of the pen, Garrett Crochet and Jose Ruiz looked good for their parts. They managed 3 innings between the two of them whilst striking out 2. Crochet looked a bit off, but gutted out his innings and got the ball to Ruiz. Well done, both of them.

-Pitching in his 3rd consecutive game, Craig Kimbrel looked bad. He couldn’t spot his knuckle curve to save his life, walking Rafael Devers on 4 of them to load the bases. Zavala finally called for a fastball against Verdugo, but he got enough of it to get the sac fly in from 3rd to bring the BoSox even. Since coming over from the Cubs at the deadline, Kimbrel has been a pretty mixed bag. Some games he looks unhittable, and others he looks like he couldn’t find the strike zone with a GPS. He’s spoken openly about having difficulties with his mechanics right now, and realistically it’s the perfect time (if there ever was one) for that, since he’s got just under a month to get right. Nobody doubts his stuff, but results matter and as of now they haven’t been there nearly enough.

-Anyways, all Kimbrel’s blown save did was create an opportunity for Leury Legend to make up for his 3 pitch K in the 10th the night before. Ballgame.

 

Next up is a team the Sox haven’t seen since Opening Day, the Los Angeles Angels Of Anaheim And Also Portions Of Disneyland But Not Star Wars Land Because That’s Extra. Their roster looks a bit different since Mike Trout exploded his calf back in June and hasn’t been seen since. The most exciting man in baseball, Shohei Ohtani is still here, as is Jared Walsh. Also the corpse of Justin Upton, and Blonde Nick Madrigal (David Fletcher). Besides those 4, offense is pretty hard to come by for the L-AAA, though they have some interesting pieces in Jo Addell and Brandon Marsh.

The Angels have very little starting pitching outside of Ohtani, since Dylan Bundy turned back into a more-orange pumpkin and Griffin Canning turned out to be Dylan Cease with shittier stuff and somehow worse control. Jose Suarez is probably the best of the bunch right now, having gone 2-0 with one complete game shutout over the last month.

Tim Anderson is likely to return tomorrow, which makes it the first time all season the White Sox will be fully armed and operational on the offensive side of the ball. The opportunities to pour on the runs against this Angels team will be there, as well as the chance to close the gap for home field in the AL as the Sox try and run down the Astros for it. The brass ring is right there, time to reach up and grab it.

Let’s Go Sox

Baseball

Someone always says it better than you. So let me allow The Ringer’s Michael Baumann do it for me…

This trade is a disgrace for the Red Sox and for the league. I don’t understand why the owner of such a prestigious ball club—a de facto public institution—would charge his baseball operations department with ridding the team of a once-in-a-generation player when he could keep that player and continue to rake in unspendable profits. It’s such a mind-bogglingly greedy and self-defeating move that I resent being made to try to understand it.

It’s been 100 seasons since the Red Sox sold their best player in such a transparent cash grab. If there’s any justice, they’ll have another 86 years to regret it.

You can copy and paste this when and if Tom Ricketts gets his way on Kris Bryant. Although with the Dodgers out of the market on Bryant now (you’d hope but the fact that they probably still have the pieces to do that if they wanted is frightening and depressing), the Braves really are the only team with the juice to even contemplate it and they don’t even need to. You can fuck right off with the Mets, Nationals, and Phillies. Ain’t gonna happen. Also seeing what the return for Betts was–one of the few players clearly better than Bryant–should show everyone just how stupid the idea of trading Bryant is.

Anyway, Baumann is right. The Red Sox have the most expensive ticket in baseball. Which they sell every single one of. Unlike the Cubs, they have a functional network of their own and have for years, with none of the silliness in distribution that the Dodgers have gone through. They are an institution not just in a city, but an entire region of the country. They practically own everything from central Connecticut north. Oh, and FSG just happen to own one of the richest soccer clubs in the world.

(Full disclosure, I profit personally, emotionally, if FSG is indeed sacrificing their baseball success for soccer success, and also when my Red Sox fans friends finally suffer for once. Now that’s out of the way…)

They do not suffer for cash. This is not a “can’t afford” Mookie Betts. This is a “won’t afford.”

Most of the offseason, you’ve seen me rant and rave here about the behavior of the Cubs and the Red Sox. Make no mistake, trading Mookie Betts is a baseball crime, especially when all you get back are a moody and possibly tool-ish young outfielder, and someone who probably projects as a Josh Hader-type reliever at best, and of course FINANCIAL FLEXIBILITY, which is going  on every jersey of every child from Quincy to Maine I’m sure (along with the #69, because that’s the sense of humor in New England).

Betts is just about the only player on the planet who can claim to inhabit the same atmosphere as Mike Trout. Mookie-types come around once a generation. You don’t peddle them simply because you can’t be bothered to pay their expense. You should dream of having the opportunity to pay that expense.

You’ve heard all this before. The system is clearly broken…though….everywhere?

It’s easy to point to Boston or the Cubs as proof that something is off when the richest teams are like, “Nah, I’m good.” And something is wrong when teams like Pittsburgh or Colorado or Florida or one or two others aren’t even trying, given what the industry’s profits are.

But would fans in Cincinnati think the system is broken right now? Or Philly (even though they’re going to win 82 games again because it’s law)? The Mets are just incompetent, not so much evil. Well, evil too but you get my meaning. Anaheim? The Rangers were after everyone too. Maybe those in Milwaukee would? On the Southside?

Certainly no one in LA would, but we’re years from their due date. The reason you hire a GM out of Tampa like Andrew Friedman or Chaim Bloom is not only are they exquisitely talented at spotting and producing talent, but they do it for cheap. They had to, and now the Dodgers and Red Sox are hoping they can do it with bigger budgets but without using all of the bigger budgets. Do we know what the Dodgers will do when the bills come due? Cory Seager is two years from free agency, and that’s what Gavin Lux is for. Mookie might walk, but who else do they have to pay? Bellinger is still four years from free agency. Buehler isn’t even into arbitation yet. Muncy is three years from free agency. And in the meantime, Justin Turner and Kenley Jansen come off the books to the tune of over $40M. The Dodgers may never have to spend serious money on payroll.

The problem, obviously, is that MLB has a luxury tax but no luxury floor. As Joe Sheehan pointed out, on some level it’s probably fucking tiresome to FSG, or the Steinbrenners, or the Ricketts family to pay the tax and watch so many teams just pocket the cash. What’s the point? Would they feel differently if that cash had to be used on players for those teams? Or if those teams had to pay some penalty for not spending up to some level? Somehow I tend to doubt it.

Still, I’m a Cubs fan and I live here and that’s what matters to me most. And the Red Sox are in the similar situation. This isn’t about staying solvent. It’s just about the degree of profit they want to make. And until they open their books, there’s no reason to believe a word any of them say. There’s no reason to believe that a $250M or $300M payroll would cause John Henry or Tom Ricketts to make less money for themselves than you or I would see in 11 lifetimes.

But Henry can point to four parades over 15 years. In a city as championship drunk as Boston is, they probably will only sell a handful less tickets. They’ll get away with it. And that’s probably what’s more infuriating about it all.

Baseball

I’m hardly the first or only to point this out about Cheating Scandal ’20, but it’s hard to get past the fact that no players were suspended as a result. Which makes you wonder just how much the actual players care about this sort of thing.

Yes, there are complication with the MLBPA that suspending players would come with that punting a manager and a GM don’t have. It would also have made things very awkward for at least half the Astros to be missing for a month, as well as suspending players now on other teams. It probably should have happened anyway, but I can at least see where Rob Manfred didn’t want to step into that muck.

Still, I can’t help but wonder if given the chance to do so off the record, wouldn’t players point out the following: every game, they get thorough and massive reports about what pitchers like to throw and when. About how much those pitches move both with runners on base and not. What they do various trips through a lineup. What he might do with his glove before throwing a break pitch. And that if you pick up the signs from the catcher from second base and relay that to the hitter, that’s considered the fault of the pitcher and catcher. There are 20 pairs of eyes at least in every dugout looking for tips to pitches from either the catcher or pitcher. Basically, hitters are prepped to suspect what might be coming every pitch in just about every way.

So how much farther is it to what the Astros, Red Sox, and I’m sure we’ll find out other teams, did? If everything else is right up to the line, is this so far out over the horizon? Or is it a mere few steps onto the other side?

Because if the players themselves thought this was such a huge violation of things, you’d have to believe at least one clubhouse leader–say an Altuve or Correa or Verlander or the like–would have put a stop to it. We know Hinch made some half-assed efforts to do so, and they were pretty much rebuffed. Clearly the Astros players either never thought they’d get caught, or they didn’t think it was such a big deal if they did. At least Tom Brady had the awareness to bust up a phone, and that was just over footballs.

And I’m sure what the players would tell you, at least the hitters, is that there are just as many reports and scouts on them, nailing down what they can and can’t hit and where they can and can’t get to and the defense is allowed to line up seven guys in accordance with all of that while they’re trying to hit a small rock hurled at them at 97 MPH. Perhaps it’s not such a great imbalance of knowledge?

The argument is of course that the Astros and Red Sox must’ve gleaned a huge advantage from it because they won two of the last three World Series. Except that’s going to go away when we find out just how many other teams had their own scheme in place. And also, what the hell happened to the Red Sox last year, then? I would still bet their success was more predicated on having more good players.

Not that this should have been swept under the rug or not even addressed, because clearly it’s a violation of rules. And perhaps you could solve a good portion of this by getting rid of the still idiotic challenge system of replay so that dugouts wouldn’t even have monitors anywhere near them. You’ll always have video rooms because hitters check that mid-game, but you could easily run those on delay for that purpose. It wouldn’t solve all, but it would solve some. Sure, VAR in England has shown us the problems with a non-challenge system, but baseball is different than everything and I will always be convinced that a fifth ump in the pressbox with radio communication to the other four umps could solve close calls in less than 30 seconds.

At the end of the day, I don’t see Correa or Altuve or Springer or Bregman hitting .228 next year.

In his letter, Manfred made comment how the Astros had made everything about winning at all costs, and results were all that mattered. Yeah, and? That’s the idea of every sports organization, or so I thought. There is something even more soulless about how the Astros went about things, going through their Taubman/Osuna grossness and their streamlining of their scouting department, and we could keep doing. I suppose there’s a part of all of us that’s the “Can’t we do better?” question when it comes to how much winning means and what we’re willing to put up with to see our team do so.

Again, haven’t the Patriots answered all of this?

It really feels like the Astros and Red Sox tried something, they got caught, and they’ll get punishments that might or might not affect them on the field. And maybe other teams will either be found out or stop doing whatever they were doing for fear of getting thwacked themselves. And then some other team will come up with something new. Others will follow. Cycle probably repeats itself.

It’s a violation. It doesn’t feel like a major crime. And it doesn’t feel like one that MLB has solved now, or will anytime soon. And that’s fine. There’s always shit like this.

Baseball

Started at the bottom:

And now we’re here:

Clearly, this is something that’s buzzing inside the industry, though of those names only Rosenthal is someone I’d attach any weight to. Because Alex Rodriguez can’t spell anything without looking in a mirror and Steve Phillips puts white-out in his coffee. Still, this is something that’s clearly going to pop up more as the offseason hits.

Now most Sox fans I know or watch would tell you this is just a great way to be disappointed again, as the Pale Hose either lowball Martinez, hoping to get a deal on one of the league’s best hitters, or are just used as leverage to squeeze more money and years out of the Carmines. And Martinez opting out could simply be the latter, though in this free agency environment, that can be a very risky play. How Dave Dombrowski’s firing plays into this is a question, as well as perhaps Fenway Sports Group’s desire to get away from the luxury tax (and as a Liverpool supporter, even this frightens me).

Still, it’s obvious the Sox are going to need a consistent, heavy bat in the lineup. While Eloy and Robert promise a lot, you don’t really know what you’ll get through a full season yet. Tim Anderson might win a batting title, but he doesn’t help the OBP problem the Sox have. Zack Collins could help, but what his status and position on this team is remains up in the air.

And Martinez rakes. He hasn’t quite matched the heights of last season, though that can almost all be attributed to a lowering BABIP from a simply bonkers .375 of last year. He’s still hitting the ball as hard, and he’s striking out even less. He would immediately be the best hitter on the White Sox, and by some distance, no matter what you think Robert becomes or Eloy develops.

Still, it’s not perfectly smooth of a fit. Martinez has to DH, because playing him in right any more than once a month is a public hazard. And if you have him in right and Eloy in left, you’re going to put Robert in a Rascal by July.

That seems simple enough. The Sox haven’t really had a DH all season, or this decade, so bang boom there you go. Except that shoves Jose Abreu out to first every day, and though he might like that, it’s not necessarily beneficial. Abreu has really turned it up of late, and if there’s one spot to have a defensive blind spot it’s first base. Still, he feels like a DH, and if the James McCann love is real for another season, Collins’s greater OBP skills would be welcomed at first. Letting Abreu walk wouldn’t be a very popular move among fans and players, but an upgrade of Martinez helps with that. Also, Martinez and Abreu are the same age. Supposedly.

Second, Martinez has four years left on his deal with Boston, and he would probably want to improve upon that by opting out. But are you really going to hand Martinez more than the $21M he’s due per year past his 36th birthday? That seems a risk. And if you’re not going to give him more years than he’s already got, you’re going to have to give him significantly more dollars than he’s already got. That sound like a Reinsdorf move? Please put up a camera of him signing off on a $30M a year salary. I want to see that face.

As for Martinez, as Rosenthal points out, he might be better off waiting when there are 15 more DH spots available in the NL in the coming years. Right now, where would be landing spots for him? You can throw out a handful of teams due to rebuilding phases/cheapness, like Seattle, Baltimore, Kansas City, Detroit. Cleveland isn’t spending that cash, though they have the need. Would Toronto expedite their rebuild with this? Unlikely. The Twins have Nelson Cruz. The Angels have Shohei Ohtani, pitching or no. He’d be a perfect Athletic, but that’s not happening. The Yankees are out…maybe. Houston doesn’t have a need.

The Sox would be bidding against a very limited field, though that could be yet another reason he decides to just stay put.

Still, the mind reels at a lineup with an established Moncada and Anderson, a Jimenez after taking a step, Abreu, a rookie Robert, and Martinez. He would even out the volatility of depending on merely young hitters. Lessens the pressure on everyone. It makes total sense.

Which is probably why it won’t happen.

Baseball

Game 1: White Sox 5 – Red Sox 6

Game 2: White Sox 3 – Red Sox 6

Game 3: White Sox 8 – Red Sox 7

 

I had a good portion of this recap typed up and ready to go after Alex Colome blew the save in the 8th inning today, little did I know that Jose Abreu still had one in the chamber to save the day with a blast over the green monster.  That dinger salvaged what was shaping up to be a disastrous 3 game stint against the BoSox.  Up until that point, the bullpen was burning through goodwill like it was an open methane pipeline on the side of a landfill.  In addition to that, it looks like Tim Anderson is going to be on the shelf for a good amount of time after a high ankle sprain Tuesday night.  Hopefully you weren’t on Twitter, because a phalanx of trolls came oozing out of the sewers to proclaim that Timmy is getting what he deserves for daring to have fun playing baseball.  Oh, and Moncada got drilled on the knee by Sale and left the game too.  Things don’t get any easier this weekend with a series against the Twonkies looming.

 

To the bullets:

Numbers Don’t Lie

-So the bullpen seems to have reverted to being shitty again.  The White Sox had leads in every one of these games, and in every instance the pen coughed it up.  Ruiz, Marshall and Minaya were particularly heinous this series, giving up 7 earned runs in 5.1 innings between the 3 of them.  Fry and Colome were unable to keep the BoSox at bay in the 8th inning today, getting beat by themselves and a boneheaded play by Jose Rondon, who was filling in for Moncada at 3rd.  On the plus side, Carson Fulmer looked more than serviceable Tuesday night working solidly through the first two innings of the bullpen game, striking out 3.  Hopefully this is just a blip on the radar before the pen settles back down to the more efficient version that had been showing up before.

-The defense was pretty abysmal as well.  The aforementioned blunder by Rondon, who decided to try and come home to peg Eduardo Nunez (who was halfway to the dugout by the time the ball got to McCann) on a ground ball instead of taking the easy out at first.  Tim Anderson in game 1 trying for the cross body throw instead of going to 3rd to try and save the game except Moncada really wasn’t covering the bag so whatever.  Speaking of not covering, Reynaldo Lopez threw one in the dirt that McCann had trouble with so instead of covering home like a big boy he got mad at himself and hung his head while Devers motored home uncontested.  Not a good look all around.

-The hitting, however, looked very good all series.  Realistically if you score 16 runs in a 3 game series you should probably end up with more than one win, but see the section above about the bullpen.

-Losing Tim Anderson hurts.  Just when it seemed like we had finally gotten rid of Cordell in the starting lineup with the arrival of Jon Jay, this forces Leury to SS for the foreseeable future, bringing Cordell back into the CF picture.  Things get even ickier if Yoan is forced to miss any time from his kneecap getting zapped by Sale today.  Maybe this means the return of Palkamania, but with Collins already up and not playing because of Alonso reasons I can’t see that being much help.

-Speaking of that scenario, why in the frozen fuck do you bring up Collins and then sit him for the gigantic waste of space Yonder Alonso?  Just DFA him already, his OPS is less than Nick Madrigal’s batting average in AA.

-Favorite Son Lucas Giolito looked better this time around than he did against the Cubs.  He was definitely getting squeezed by home plate ump Bill Welke, who’s zone was only slightly better than the one in Giolito’s previous start.  He seemed to be overthrowing his fastball, resulting in a definite loss of the zone at times and netting him 4 walks on the evening to go with 7 Ks.  He mentioned his body flying open during this start, which was a concern for him all last season.  Hopefully McCann and him can come up with a solution quickly, as the Twins aren’t going to give him much of a break.

-Speaking of the Twins series, the Sox have a “TBA” starter listed for Friday night’s game.  While I’d love to see Dylan Cease show up and mow down some Twins, I can’t see the Sox making this his first MLB start after his last few subpar outings in Charlotte.  More likely than not we are looking at another bullpen game, which is not even a coinflip the way some of them are throwing right now.  If they DO have a pen game on Friday night, I’d like to see Fulmer get more than 2 innings this time around.  It’s not like he’s close to being the worst starter they’ve thrown out there the past few weeks.

Onward…

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: White Sox 36-38   Red Sox 42-37

GAMETIMES: Monday and Tuesday 6:10, Wednesday 12:05

TV: WGN Monday, NBCSN Tuesday and Wednesday

YOUR SITUATION WOULD BE CONCURRENTLY IMPROVED: Over The Monster

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Lucas Giolito vs. Eduardo Rodriguez

TBA vs. David Price

Reynaldo Lopez vs. Chris Sale

PROBABLE WHITE SOX LINEUP

Leury Garcia – CF

Tim Anderson – SS

Jose Abreu – 1B

James McCann – C

Eloy Jimenez – LF

Jon Jay – RF

Yoan Moncada – 3B

Yonder Alonso – DH

Jose Rondon – 2B

PROBABLE RED SOX LINEUP

Mookie Betts – RF

Andrew Benintendi – LF

J.D. Martinez – DH

Rafael Devers – 3B

Xander Bogaerts – SS

Brock Holt – 2B

Michael Chavis – 1B

Jackie Bradley Jr. – CF

Christian Vazquez – C

 

The White Sox continue their road sojourn, which makes total sense by going from Wrigley to Dallas to Boston, where they’ll serve as the pre-London offering to the Red Sox, who can’t quite seem to get going yet this year. And they may be running out of time.

The Sox are eight games behind the Yankees, and considering all the injuries the Yanks have had that are starting to clear up, it’s hard to envision them playing at a pace at any point that would make them an easier catch. Which means the Red Sox are going to have to get atmospheric, which they were last year but can’t seem to find this year. And while it’s easy to say they’ll just get the coin-flip game, they’re not really clear of Cleveland, Texas, or Oakland to say that’s a sure thing either.

So what’s up here? It’s nothing major so much as everything not being quite as tuned as it was last year. Well, there’s one major problem but we’ll get to that. The offense is good, and in terms of on-base and weighted on-base still one of the AL’s best. It hasn’t resulted in as many runs as you might think, as they’re only fifth in that. We went over how Mookie isn’t getting everything to fall this year, but that’s not the only culprit. J.D. Martinez has struggled to hit the heights of last year as well, Mitch Moreland has been hurt turning first base into something of an abyss, and Benintendi has slipped a touch as well. It’s a good lineup still, it’s just not all the weapons piled on each other in Punisher-like fashion as it was. Of late, Brock Holt, Bradley, and Bogaerts have turned it on to at least get the Carmines over .500.

As for the rotation, the fifth spot has been a wandering bag of suck since Eovaldi went on the shelf, but you can live with that. Sale has gotten past his early-season whathaveyas to be his normal self and is striking out nearly 14 hitters per nine innings. Price has been back to the form the Sox signed four years ago with an emphasis on grounders. I’m fairly sure Rick Porcello is nothing special but he seems to grind out wins for them, and Eduardo Rodriguez takes up space. Sadly for the Pale Hose, they’ll get both Price and Sale on this one.

The pen was a real problem early in the season for the BoSox, but has straightened out to the point they’re top five in ERA and FIP from the relievers in the AL. Barnes, Workman, and Walden have been strikeout weapons, though the first two have some serious walk issues. Same goes for Heath Hembree. There’s been more traffic than anyone is comfortable with for sure.

For the Chicago version of the Sox, they’ll welcome Jon Jay into the lineup for the first time since he got hurt trying to recruit Manny Machado and instead sold him on San Diego. You might think that’ll end the cavalcade of dunces in right, but Jay himself is sort of a dunce so don’t count on it. His reinstatement caused the Odrisamer Desgpaigne era to end, and we know you’re heartbroken. That leaves two gaps in the Sox rotation, and no starter for Tuesday, so we’ll find out with the rest of you we guess.

 

Baseball

Mookie Betts accomplished what seemingly was impossible last season. Deservedly winning the MVP over Mike Trout. Because honestly, when Trout’s healthy, there shouldn’t be a debate. But Betts collected 10.4 fWAR last year, highest of anyone. It’s actually the second time Betts has been in Trout-territory, as he was around there in 2016 but Trout took home the award. The past four seasons, Trout and Betts are in their own stratus, as each have collected over 25 fWAR (Trout a pretty unconscious 31), and only two other players even have 20 (Altuve and Lindor).

Unlike Trout though, Mookie hasn’t stayed there this season. Betts has seen a 79-point drop in his average, a 50-point drop in his on-base percentage, and a 157-point drop in his slugging. It’s one of the reasons the Carmines have hung around .500 and are looking up at the Rays and Yankees after dusting them in the AL East last year. So what’s the deal?

Well, honestly, it’s nothing that Betts is doing. He’s actually walking more this season and striking out a touch less. What he’s not getting is any luck. Which we pretty much know isn’t infinite, because Betts got all the luck last year.

In 2018, Betts’s BABIP (say that five times fast) was .368. That was third-highest of any qualified hitter, behind teammate J.D. Martinez and the NL MVP Christian Yelich. Those are dominant hitters, so to call them lucky is unfair, but BABIPs in the .360s or .370s clearly are an anomaly. Betts made a ton of loud contact to carry a higher-than-average BABIP, as his 44% hard-contact rate would tell you. Still, .368 is absurd.

This year, Betts is carrying a .285 BABIP, second-lowest of his career. Things are not falling in. Yes, his contact numbers are lower. It’s a 41% hard-contact rate now. And a 19% line-drive rate instead of a 22%. If you go by Statcast, last yea his average exit velocity was 92.2 MPH, and this year it’s 90.4. According to that, he’s below what he should be in terms of slugging and weighted on-base with the contact he’s making, but not by all that much.

As far as how he’s being attacked, there isn’t too much difference. He’s seeing a scosh (technical term) more fastballs, but not really worth remarking on. Again, it might be a luck thing. Last year, Betts slaughtered sinkers to the tune of a .449 average. This year, it’s .267 with a .257 BABIP instead of a .457 one. But he actually is hitting them for line-drives more often. He’s also been woeful on cutters this year, hitting .154 on them after .355 last year. It seems like pitchers have made one change, and that’s only staying to the outside on them with Betts.

Because of that and more Betts has made a concerted effort to go the other way, but he’s never had a lot of power the other way. He’s only slugging .354 when going the other way this year, and even last year when he was crushing everything it was only .429.

Which makes for an itchy debate for the Red Sox front office, as Betts only has one year left in arbitration. They gave him $20M this year, and you’d think that’ll be $25 or so next year. But is Betts a $25-30M player every year as he was in ’18 and ’16? Or is he 5-WAR player he was in ’15, ’17, and this year? He’s not worth a Trout contract, but then who is? The market is certainly sliding the Red Sox way on this, of course.

Basically, the lesson here is that you can rent in Trout-land, but it’s nearly impossible to own.

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Red Sox 14-17   White Sox 13-15

GAMETIMES: Thursday and Friday at 7:10, Saturday 6:10, Sunday 1:10

TV: WGN Thursday, NBCSN Friday-Sunday

FRUSTRATED WOMEN: Over The Monster

PROBABLE PITCHERS

David Price vs. Lucas Giolito

Chris Sale vs. Reynaldo Lopez

Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Manny Banuelos

Rick Porcello vs. TBD (most likely Dylan Covey, or Dylan Arrieta to Fifth Feather)

PROBABLE RED SOX LINEUP

Andrew Benintendi – LF

Mookie Betts – RF

J.D. Martinez – DH

Xander Bogaerts – SS

Rafael Devers – 3B

Michael Chavis – 2B

Mitch Moreland – 1B

Christian Vasquez – C

Jackie Bradley Jr. – CF

PROBABLE WHITE SOX LINEUP

Leury Garcia – LF

Tim Anderson – SS

Jose Abreu – DH

James McCann – C

Yoan Moncada – 3B

Jose Rodon – 2B

Yonder Alonso – 1B

Ryan Cordell – RF

Adam Engel – CF

 

After digging through the muck of the Tigers and Orioles for a couple weeks, the White Sox get to…dive back into the much that the Red Sox have been for the season’s first month.

The Beantown Nine have pulled this act before. They won the World Series in ’13, and then were so bad the following season they ended up punting Jon Lester among others midseason. Apparently the party never stops in Boston when they win…except for the Patriots who aren’t allowed to party by Bill Belichek. It actually took the Red Sox two years to round back into form after the last championship, making the playoffs the last three years, and BoSox fans can only hope they’ll come around a touch quicker this time.

Maybe they already are. They come to the Southside after sweeping the equally struggling A’s at home the past three days. They put up 21 runs over those three games, so the hope would be that the offense is finally clicking into gear. Because really, there’s no way this lineup should be struggling to put together innings. And yet here the Carmines sit at 10th in runs in the AL, 9th in OBP, and 10th in wOBA.

Where the blame goes is probably the supporting cast. Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts are hitting, and Betts being a perennial MVP candidate you’d figure that. So’s J.D. Martinez. But Devers has shown very little power this year, as it’s never a good sign when your on-base is higher than your slugging. Second base has been something of a sinkhole, though Michael Chavis is putting in a strong claim at the moment. Benintendi isn’t really hitting yet and Moreland has only been ok.

The problems just don’t end there. The rotation has been a quasi-zoo. Chris Sale can’t decide if he wants to throw not hard enough or too hard to compensate, and has been getting paddled either way to the tune of a 6.30 ERA and a 5.22 FIP. Natha Eovaldi is hurt, because guys throwing max effort 97 MPH fastballs pretty much every pitch aren’t all that stable. Who knew? Rick Porcello himself has been gasoline, and one day may end up the weirdest goddamn Cy winner in history. The dude won it and hasn’t managed a sub-4.00 ERA since. How did that happen? Only David Price and Eduardo Rodriguez are holding this rotation together.

The pen has been middling, though hasn’t really missed being shorn of Craig Kimbrel or Joe Kelly (who sucks anyway). The Red Sox are big proponents of finding just any dude lingering around to fill out the pen. So far, Matt Barnes, Marcus Walden, and Brandon Workman have been excellent out of there, and the only people who recognize them are their mothers and even they’re not totally sure. Ryan Braser is the closer here, and he’s got six saves, but he allows more contact than most closers, only striking out a touch over seven hitters per nine. Heath Hembree and Tyler Thornburg are where you’d like to break through.

For the pale version of footwear, Lucas Giolito comes off the DL to start the opener, and hoping to be a touch better than his last three starts had him. Reynaldo Lopez looks to keep his momentum going, and everyone else just exhales in not having to watch Ervin Santana again. Weather could play a role again as tonight’s forecast is iffy, but the rest of the weekend looks better than it’s been. The Red Sox probably think this is their chance to really springboard into the rest of the season. The White Sox are probably just happy to not be super depressed by looking into the other dugout.