Baseball

BOX SCORES

Game 1: Twins 3 – White Sox 2 (8 Innings)

Game 2: Twins 3 – White Sox 5 (7 Innings)

Game 3: Twins 5 – White Sox 9

Game 4: Twins 7 – White Sox 2

 

Quite the weird and wonky series here, as the Sox and Twins split in every way possible, from the double header to the full 9 inning games. The Sox pitching staff (other than Lance Lynn) was pretty suspect here, with Dallas Keuchel and Dylan Cease not exactly having their best stuff. On the other end of the battery, you have two catchers who if you combined them might equal one Yasmani Grandal (but probably not), highlighting the need to perhaps add another catcher at the deadline for Rick Hahn, especially since catchers and knee injuries aren’t really compatible.

On the offensive side of things, this was a split as well with long periods of inactivity puncuated with a barrage of hits and runs. Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada are both scorchingly hot right now, with both of them smashing the ball to all fields. After the 1st game, things cooled considerably for Tim Anderson, with his 16-game hit streak coming to an end Tuesday night.

All told, the Sox gained a half game on the Tribe and kept the stupid Twins right at the bottom of the division where they belong. One would assume this would make Minnesota sellers at the deadline, because they have some quality pieces they can move.

TO THE BULLETS!

 

 

NUMBERS DON’T LIE

Game 1

-What a waste of an outing for Lance Lynn here. Other than one mistake in the 6th to Nelson Cruz (which has happened to a LOT of pitchers over the last 15 years), he was pretty dominant, only allowing 6 baserunners in the 7 innings he pitched. Fresh off his new paper from the Sox, Lynn did nothing to imply that Rick Hahn didn’t make an excellent move with the extension. He deserved a better fate, but if you can only manage 1 run in 7 innings it’s gonna be tough for any starter to get the W.

-Tim Anderson extended his hitting streak in the 3rd inning with another oppo dong off the guy from Mortal Kombat with the metal arms. Timmy is hitting to all fields with power right now, and honestly looks like one of the best hitters in baseball, except when he swings 3-0 with a chance to tie the game and popped out in foul territory. Stuff like this is going to happen when you have a free swinger, but overall I wouldn’t change anything about his approach.

-Garrett Crochet didn’t get any help from his defense or the reliever that came after him, ultimately taking the loss after Jake Burger had trouble making a decision on a Josh Donaldson chopper that loaded the bases. LaRussa went to Ryan Burr who got Cruz on a sac fly but then gave up a single to Polanco that scored what ended up being the winning run.

-Jose Abreu tried to drag the Sox back for the tie in the bottom of the 8th with a double that scored Tim Anderson, but was stranded there with a K and a pop out. Fart Noise.

Game 2

-The Reynaldo Lopez Revenge Game never really materialized, but he pitched decent in his return to the big club. He gave up a single to lead off the game, then promptly advanced the runner to 3rd on a pickoff throw that was never within 10 feet of Jose Abreu. One Donaldson sac fly later and he was down 1-0. He later gave up a dinger to Mitch Garver, but other than those 2 mistakes looked serviceable.

-Poor Matt Foster got smoked by a line drive off the bat of Min Kepler, but at least managed to deflect it towards Danny Mendick for the out. He stayed in the game and had another ball hit at him. Not a great night.

-Codi Heuer came in and pitched a solid 6th inning, and Aaron Bummer continued his Jeckyll and Hyde routine by looking infinitely better than his previous outing.

-Jose Berrios only made 3 mistakes on the evening, and those 3 turned out to be all 5 Sox runs. Other than Moncada, Abreu and finally Gavin Sheets, Berrios kept the Sox hitters off balance all night with his sinker while striking out 8. It didn’t matter in the end, as Gavin Sheets did this with a 4-seamer Berrios tried to jam him with:

Game 3

-It was pretty apparent at the start of this one that Dallas Keuchel didn’t have his A game. He labored through 5 innings, only giving up 2 but he had to battle the whole way. Min Kepler took him WAY deep in the 2nd inning after an 8 pitch at bat where Dallas was up on him 0-2, which was the theme of the night. Keuchel had no issue getting ahead of hitters, but was unable to put any of them away. I have no evidence of this, but it feels like him and Seby Zavala weren’t on the same page for most of the night.

-Brian Goodwin saved Keuchel’s bacon in the 5th with a diving catch on a sinking liner hit by Nelson Cruz that would’ve scored at least one run and quite possibly two. I once again am forced to applaud Rick Hahn for one hell of a pickup in B-Good. He also singled in Jose to give the Sox a 2-0 lead in the 1st inning that wouldn’t last.

-Jose Abreu is a goddam beast. He finished a single short of the cycle, which in and of itself is kind of mind blowing. He also lifted this absolute moonshot in the bottom of the 8th to put the game out of reach permanently for the Twins:

https://twitter.com/whitesox/status/1417688497037643777?s=20

-Michael Kopech pitched a decent 2 innings, really only giving up one mistake to (who else) Josh Donaldson, who smoked a 3-1 fastball about 15 rows deep. While Kopech didn’t have his A+ stuff, it was still good enough to get the job done. He probably could’ve gone one more, but TLR decided he wanted some Ryan Burr. The Twins did too, apparently because Donaldson singled on the first pitch he saw, then Polanco got to him again with a 2-run dong to (temporarily) put the Twins on top. The Sox’ options for reliable relievers in the 7th and 8th innings are practically non-existent, so Rick Hahn has quite the job ahead of him in the next few weeks.

-Andrew Vaughn came up big in his pinch hit situation in the bottom of the 8th, scorching a single to left center field that was hit so hard that Adam Engel nearly got drilled at home after he held up for half a breath before dashing from 2nd to home in a thrilling play to tie the game.

-Yoan Moncada is locked in. Beware.

-Billy Hamilton, ladies and gentlemen. After pinch running for Gavin Sheets in the 7th, he came up in the 8th with the go-ahead run on 2nd and 1 out. He didn’t waste any time, lining a single down the 3rd base line past a diving Donaldson to score Zack Collins from 2nd. You just gotta love how this guy plays the game.

Game 4

-While his stat line doesn’t look too awful, Dylan Cease didn’t exactly set the world on fire in this start. He threw way too many pitches again, and when he missed his spots it was right in the middle of the zone (see: Kepler, Min).

-Codi Heuer has once again highlighted the need for Rick Hahn to acquire bullpen help at the deadline. The inconsistencies of a very young crew has been exposed over the last few weeks. The high level at which the starters have been pitching covers up a lot of those warts, but when Keuchel and Cease have less than stellar efforts, the pen has been overexposed.

-The Sox hitters didn’t help much either, stranding 14 people on base and generally making Michael Pineda look like a world beater (he’s not). Leury Garcia hasn’t been great in the last 7 games, posting a .174/.321/.304 slash line with 9 strikeouts. The catching crew of Seby Zavala and Zack Collins have sucked out loud as well. Here’s hoping Yasmani has Eloy-like healing abilities.

-Billy Hamilton was a lone bright spot in this game, going 2 for 4 and directly being responsible for the Sox first run. He fired a double down the line, then promptly stole 3rd and was brought in with an Adam Engel grounder that Assbag McGee couldn’t handle by 3rd. Love it.

 

Next up is a weekend series up in the remains of Giannis-Town with some of the most marquee pitching matchups you could possibly hope for:

If that doesn’t get you excited for baseball, you’re clinically dead and I can’t help you. Granted, whenever you get exciting pitching matchups like this, instead of duels, you end up with an offensive explosion so I fully expect 56 total runs this weekend. Either way, should be fun. Take 2 of 3 and get the hell outta there.

Lets Go Sox

Everything Else

Oh right, the Islanders.

It’s not easy to wipe away the buzz and impact of sweeping a long-time tormentor with just the flick of a wrist, but then nothing has been normal about the Islanders since…well, ever. You’re supposed to carry the momentum of a franchise-turning win like the first-round sweep of the Penguins into something that will define this era and be remembered for a while. Scoring five goals in the next four games, including getting two and a half games against the perpetually bewildered Curtis McElhinney reduces that first round to odd trivia shared in various Long Island and New York bars where Tammy from Queens will offer to blow you in the bathroom but won’t remove her bubblegum to do so.

The Islanders sold their soul already, assuming they had one. You can’t blame them, really. This is a franchise that has managed consecutive playoff appearances just once in the past 15 years. So you see why they turned to Barry Trotz, the Jose Mourinho of hockey (though about 1/130th of the asshole). You’ll get results, your defense will improve, but good god it will be about as entertaining as checking your dog for fleas. And if you give him a historic collection of offensive talent, he just might get your team to grunt and belch to a Cup (though it’s important to note no other Trotz team has ever made a conference final, which seems his destiny in wherever the Isles call home). There’s definitely a floor you acquire with Trotz, you’re just going to end up on it if you watch them for more then two weeks straight.

You’ll hear a lot over the coming weeks about how the Isles future is so bright after this. Yes, clearly a GM who has acquired Matt Martin twice and Leo Komarov  for a second team, who has openly admitted he hates playing players anything, and is managing a team with literally no home is sure to steer this club into the sunshine. Nothing hockey players love quite like shaving every day and having to throw a dart to remember where the home game is today! Certainly worked out well for the last big free agent the Islanders had, all the way back to last summer. Can’t help but notice Brock Nelson and Anders Lee haven’t re-upped yet. Perhaps they and their agents are going over the Lamiorello, “Every player is overpaid,” comment and wondering just how much they enjoy life between the highways of Long Island and commuting an hour to an arena where the structure and the fans are constantly off-center.

And the Islanders need them, and then probably another two top six forwards. See how they do that when they’ve never been a free agent destination before. Thomas Vanek once went here to die, I think. Andrew Ladd did die, and he’s only got four years left on his deal. If you sign in Brooklyn in the summer you’re going to end up smelling like Brooklyn in the summer…sweat and mistakes. No, the Isles acquire players when they essentially become Australia and other teams send their unwanted contracts there just to get them off the books. And then they stay, because much like a prison a lot of Islanders realize they don’t belong anywhere else.

Still, this is the Metro Division and you can stay around the top merely by floating for a while. The Penguins are exhausted, the Flyers, Rangers, and Devils are too busy trying to give themselves enemas orally. So maybe your future can remain bright by doing literally nothing and watching everyone else fuck up. That must be what Isles fans are getting at. Assuming both their goalies don’t quit the team to go build the wall on the Texas border themselves, or bring guns into the dressing room (which is hilarious, because would the NHL actually punish anyone for doing that?).

But hey, the Islanders have now won a round in consecutive playoff appearances, which they haven’t done since 1985. And yes, those playoff appearances are three years apart, but when you’re an Isles fan or player you have to grab onto whatever you can. That, and perhaps the most boisterous atmosphere in the league, for the 10 games the Isles play on Long Island that is. Just another lesson in how Brooklyn pretty much ruins everything. Tell us about your parking lot tailgates again though, which you have to have because there’s literally nothing else in Nassau. Is Nassau even a place? I don’t know and I don’t care and no one else does either. It only is inhabited because Robert Moses built a kingdom on getting white people to flee black people. And the only team that belongs in Brooklyn plays in Chavez Ravine.

So farewell to the Islanders, who will spend the next few years wondering if an arena can be built next to Belmont Race Track, which will hinge basically on how to get at train to go backwards efficiently. No really, it will. You have to take a moment to realize the wonder of a sports organization longing to get to a nowhere place like Elmont, NY. Every other team wants to get downtown, the Islanders want to get to a freeway exit. That pretty much tells you everything you need to know.

 

 

Everything Else

Leave it to a crusty old bastard like Lou Lamoriello to make us look even stupider than we normally do. Earlier in the month, when the Hawks were on the Island, we wrote the Lou didn’t really have a place in the game today. That he would hold the Isles back at a time when they needed forward thinkers. And basically the Islanders haven’t lost since, and have shot up to the top of the Metro Division. Sure, Lou is benefitting from the bonkers goaltending the Isles have been getting as much as anyone else, but here we are.

Still, we’re curious what lies ahead for the Islanders when everything shakes down to where it’s supposed to be. And that’s most important in the case of Anders Lee and Brock Nelson, who are both free agents when this season is over.

You would think that Lee would be the type of player that if Lamoriello were going to pay anyone, it would be him. He’s a true power forward, who put up 74 goals the past two seasons and is on pace for another 30 this year. Sure, he’s gotten to play with John Tavares for most of last year. But this year it’s been him and Nelson together, under the top line of Barzal. He scores where he goes.

The problem is that Lee is still a premier goal-scorer, and those guys get paid. And at the moment, Lee is making $3.7M against the cap, or just $700K more than Lou gave Leo Komarov. So yeah, he’s going to get a raise. And a big one. And the Isles have the cap space, with about $35 million for next year unclaimed. Lee’s 92 goals the past three seasons are ninth most in the league, more than Marchand, Skinner, and Kane. Marchand signed recently for a very team-friendly $6.1 million, and his linemate Pastrnak at $6.6M. That’s probably the number Lee has circled.

Nelson has been a pretty consistent second-line center for the Isles this year. With Barry Trotz upping the amount of times Barzal starts in the offensive zone from last year, it’s Nelson who has had to take on harder responsibilities. It hasn’t clipped his scoring at all, as he’s on pace to break his career-high of 45 points and possibly tickle his high in goals too 0f 28. Teams still need to be built down the middle, and a second-center like Nelson aren’t something you can pick up at the bodega.

And Lou has to keep in mind that no matter what he does, Barzal is going to be looking for a contract out of his entry-deal starting on July 1st. And he’s going be more in the $8-9M category than the $6-7M one.

The thing is, we can’t remember Lou ever paying someone that premium. Zach Parise walked out of New Jersey after banking about $3M a year out of his entry deal. He got a one-year deal at $6M when he was still restricted, but then headed to Minnesota for the real money. In Toronto Lou signed Patrick Marleau, but that of course was the aging veteran he could trust. It’s probably not a coincidence that Lou was moved along before it came time to negotiate with Nylander and Matthews. Lou has openly mocked the money that players make already, but someone has go to attract the residents of Long Island to that new arena in Belmont, right?

It’s a strange landscape in the Metro. The Jackets are about to be stripped of their two biggest talents. The Penguins and Capitals are at least on the back nine. The Flyers and Rangers are in rebuilds, and remain the Flyers and Rangers. The Devils are rebuilding as well. Splash a little cash, a shrewd move here or there, and there’s no reason the Islanders can’t fill the vacuum quickly. But has that ever been Lou’s way?

 

Game #51 Preview Suite

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Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

The Lighthouse Project may be dead, but LighthouseHockey.com lives on. Dominik is their maven, and he joins us today to fill in on the blue and orange. 

The Islanders sit atop the Metro. In your wildest dreams did you think anyone would say that this year?

At no point did I expect the Islanders could say in 2018-19 they are in first place in the Metro. I don’t expect it to last, but I am now convinced they should be a playoff team, and one others won’t want to face.

Brock Nelson and Anders Lee are both free agents after the year. If things had gone as expected they might have been trade bait. Are they both getting extended now?

I think everyone has long expected Lee would be extended, at least from the point where they named him captain. He’s a risk because he’s a big body heading into his 30s, but he’s also someone who has continually improved his game rather than peaked and declined. And obviously, he’s not someone who needed Tavares to set the table for him. He’ll get a deal that is probably a little uncomfortably long, but not in an Andrew Ladd way.
Nelson is more uncertain. I expected him to be trade bait, but Trotz has taken a liking to him, cracking the code that long frustrated Islanders fans. (Nelson seemed like yet another drafted center who ended up at wing, yet Trotz has found a way to make him productive at center.) The Islanders are also fairly thin at center in their system, which gives Nelson leverage. And Nelson has taken them to the wire on the previous two RFA extensions, including accepting a one-year deal to bet on himself last summer. So he won’t be traded, but how the rest of this spring plays out will determine whether both sides can feel good about the other’s terms.
Jordan Eberle is UFA too, and while it’s hard to see all three being retained, it doesn’t sound like they’ll be selling any rentals.

Help us with something. It’s easy to attribute the Isles surprise run to Barry Trotz being a really good coach. They are best in the league in goals against. But every other metric against–attempts, shots, scoring chances–has them middle of the pack at best. While that’s a massive improvement from last year, isn’t this just having two goalies playing really well?

On their surprising standing: No, it’s because Barry Trotz is a really good coach. The goaltending has been great — and certainly they were key to banking wins early on when those other metrics looked pretty bad. But look at the metrics after the first month of the season and a different story emerges, certainly a legit top-10 team right now. So Trotz did what he always does, locking down on defense first and then building from there. That organization and predictability has helped Greiss and Lehner, who both always had real talent, rediscover their games.
You remember how frustrating Trtoz’s Nashville teams were even when they had no talent? Well the Islanders have become like that — organized, robotic, suffocating — except they do have some talent on top of it. It’s fun to watch in a gawk-at-this-experiment kind of way. Finally calling up Devon Toews and using him regularly has helped, but Toews is one of several examples of decent talent finally organized and channeled into the right place.
Hell, Trotz has even figured out how to make a functioning team out of a roster that added Matt Martin, Leo Komarov and Valtteri Filppula (and extending Ross Johnston for four years) over the summer — a gluttonous helping of bottom-six acquisitions even Trotz admitted he wasn’t sure about until Lou “made the case.” Basically those guys are all still what they are, but under Trotz they have a role and are playing to their ceilings. I’m sure it’s helped that collectively the team has a post-Tavares chip on their shoulders. As we see so often in this sport, it’s easy for everyone to stay on the same page and do all the necessary but less sexy grunt work game after game when the perceived common enemy is outside the room.

Before the season it was thought the Isles would be something of a project. Is their current standing going to see them make a deal or two that might be considered short-sighted down the road?

As for the trade deadline, I have no idea what Lou will do, and it doesn’t seem like anyone ever does since he keeps a tight-sealed ship. But it’s even harder to figure now because this is Third Life Lou. In a lot of ways he’s the old ’90s GM with old-school ways and archaic priorities (e.g. no facial hair or high number because I said so), so I’d fear him adding some Grinding Veteran With Winning Experience. But in other ways he appears to have adapted at least a bit to the post-post-lockout-cubed NHL, and is realistically evaluating the team. Meanwhile, Trotz thinks they’re still a year away from being ready to contend and their lineup has been stable…so short-sighted moves seem unlikely.

 

 

Game #51 Preview Suite

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 vs. 

RECORDS: Hawks 15-21-6   Islanders 21-13-4

PUCK DROP: 6:30

TV: NBCSN Chicago locally, NBCSN elsewhere

FUTURE ISLANDS IS A TERRIBLE BAND: Lighthouse Hockey

The Hawks are back on Long Island for the first time in four seasons, as while waiting for their new arena the New York Islanders are trying to make it up to their fans who never took to Brooklyn because they didn’t want to stay in New York after work for one extra second, unless it was the three times a year they bother Rangers fans at MSG. Or Brooklyners never took to the team because Jay-Z’s playhouse sucks for hockey. Or because those stuck on the Island didn’t want to come into the city for fear of meeting a minority. Whatever the reason, the Isles are splitting their home schedule between Brooklyn and the revamped Nassau Coliseum (where they come to see ’em), and the Hawks get the latter trip tonight.

What they’ll find is one of the bigger surprises in the league. The Isles were supposed to be left for dead after they made up for John Tavares‘s departure by hiring Toronto’s decrepit GM and letting him pick up Toronto’s trash. While they did poach a Stanley Cup winning coach in something of a coup, this roster was supposed to be in the first step of a rebuild. It hasn’t quite worked out that way.

But don’t fool yourself. Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz haven’t found some magic formula in their metamucil and oatmeal to turn a roster full of whatsits into a fine oiled machine. What they have is two goalies playing bonkers and some luck. The Isles have the third-best SV% at evens in the league, and the third-best PDO at a kind of unsustainable 103.5 (hey, remember The Blaze?). The Isles are not a good possession or defensive team, they’re just getting two guys stopping just about everything

For Thomas Greiss, it’s not a huge surprise as he’s put up more than competent split-seasons before with the Islanders. He was simply woeful last year, ceded the job to Jaroslav Halak, but has rebounded this season. Robin Lehner, who is nominally the starter at the moment, has done this before as well, with some excellent cameos in Ottawa and Buffalo. Because neither is being asked to shoulder the load alone, and it has benefitted both of them. And they are the reason that the Islanders are one point out of a playoff spot no one saw coming.

Up front, Mathew Barzal and his missing ‘T” have taken the #1 center responsibility and ably so. He’s kept Josh Bailey scoring, which is a trick because pretty much everyone assumed Bailey was a Tavares-product. Anders Lee and Brock Nelson have anchored the second line, and new toy Josh Ho-Sang is running with them in an exciting vision of the future…assuming Nelson and Lee are both re-signed in the summer.

That’s about it though. Anthony Beauvillier has put up 11 goals, and Marcus Kruger East Casey Cizikas has spasmed 10, but this is not a team that scores a ton. They average just about the same amount of goals per game as the Hawks. Their margins are thin.

On the back end, their top-pairing of Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk has been woeful, and constantly bailed out by Lehner and Greiss. Leddy seems to have struggled all year with all the things Trotz has asked of him, and around here we know especially how fragile his confidence can be. The Isles are waiting for the young troika of Scott Pelech, Ryan Pulock, and Scott Mayfield (not as much) to grab the brass ring. And they have at various times and definitely not at others. It’s a work in progress back there, though the Isles are pretty middling in terms of shots and chances against in the league.

For the Hawks, one should expect Collin Delia to return to the net tonight after Cam Ward got his gold-watch ceremony in South Bend. Few other changes would be likely. No word on if Drake Caggiula will make his debut in red or not, but that might be the only one you see. There aren’t any other d-men right now. Unless you are about the usual Martinsen-Hayden flip, and you shouldn’t.

A little further on down the road, peeps…

 

Game #43 Preview Suite

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