Baseball

The Cubs, a team that is not exactly outstanding while healthy, suck even more when they aren’t healthy. This series they played almost entirely without their two best hitters in Jake Marisnick (on 10-day IL thanks to yet another in a long line of hamstring injuries) and Kris Bryant (who was sick both games). Without them, the Cubs went on to get outhit by the 2nd-worst hitting team in the league, losing both games by just a single run and very impressively going 2-for-24 this series with runners in scoring position. But what else is new?

May 11, 2021
Cubs 2, Cleveland 3
WP: Bieber (4-2) LP: Alzolay (1-3)
Box Score

The Cubs’ injury woes only continued through this game, as Kris Bryant left mid-game and got replaced by Nick Martini after he was feeling “under the weather.” The lineup afterward (and the ensuing batting average of each player) was nothing short of horrific. I’m sure at the beginning of this season you were hoping to only watch Eric Sogard and Matt Duffy in intervals, in small doses, and only rarely on the field together. But for the last few weeks, they’ve been slotting in pretty much every day, at all sorts of positions, as Cubs players keep going down with injury.

And remember when it was DAVID BOTE’S TURN to be the full-time third baseman? It’s actually Matt Duffy’s turn now, everyone. Bote slotted in today as the DH, despite having a .184 batting average and gaining no hits. I guess that’s about the batting average a starting pitcher would have if the DH wasn’t a thing, so in that sense nothing was gained or lost with Bote as DH.

The Cubs of note who did good things this game included Willson Contreras, who singled in the 2nd inning to score Anthony Rizzo. After Cleveland homered in the 4th inning, Sogard made himself useful and hit a solo homer of his own in the 5th to put the Cubs back up. Unfortunately, at the bottom of the inning Cleveland hit a 2-run homer of their own to put the game away for good.

Adbert Alzolay continues to tread water in the pitching department; the team would like Alzolay to survive more than 6 innings during his starts, but he’s had yet to really do that this year. Granted, none of the Cubs starters have been able to do that this year, so we can cut him some slack in that regard.

Alzolay allowed no walks, but he also allowed five hits and the two home runs that won Cleveland the game. The Cubs then pulled him after the 6th inning to introduce Brad Wieck to his 13th inning over three seasons with the Cubs. (The team brought him up to help bolster the bullpen after Marisnick’s injury, opting to go for a short bench for a couple games while hoping Happ and Hoerner will be back this weekend.) Wieck pitched only one inning last season, but that earned him a solid 13.00 ERA on the year. Luckily, Wieck allowed no runs or walks, striking out one batter before handing the mound over to Rex Brothers for what ended up being the final inning for the Cubs, as Matt Duffy grounded into a double play to end the game.

May 12, 2021
Cubs 1, Cleveland 2 (F/10)
WP: Karinchak (1-0) LP: Thompson (1-1)
Box Score

Despite Kris Bryant being out of the starting lineup today, Cubs fans should have no fear; Javier Baez is here! Finally back after being out a few games, Baez characteristically struck out in the 1st inning as his “I’m back” gift to the fans. (Baez had only one hit today, but that was one hit more than six other players on the team.) Additionally, Eric Sogard started the day off strong with a fielding error in which he dropped the ball and allowed two runners to stay on base in a no-out situation. Will it ever end?

Willson Contreras and Joc Pederson could be found dragging the rest of the team’s dead weight offensively all game. Contreras had four hits, while Pederson had three hits and an RBI. The only offense for either team both came in the 6th inning, where Pederson was able to drive in Ildemaro Vargas for the Cubs’ only run. The lead didn’t stay around for long, however, as Zach Davies allowed two doubles to start off the bottom of the inning that scored Cesar Hernandez for Cleveland.

Zach Davies continues to try his best to impress Cubs fans with his pitching, but the fact of the matter is he’s just not Yu Darvish. He allowed five hits, a run and two walks in only 5.1 innings pitched. He also had four strikeouts, which I guess is better than none. After allowing Cleveland to tie the game, however, Justin Steele was brought in to close out the inning, as we got to experience some more of that Homegrown Talent the front office keeps trying to claim we have.

Steele wasn’t an eyesore, getting a strikeout, allowing a walk and getting another strikeout against the top of Cleveland’s batting order. (Once again, with a batting average ranked 29th in the league, that’s not exactly hard to do.) But Rossy didn’t push his luck, going with Ryan Tepera for the 7th inning, who also struck out two.

Andrew Chafin then pitched two innings of good baseball, striking out two batters and letting the defense behind him get the rest. His ERA is now down to 3.00 after this game. Rolling out the Homegrown Pitchers continued as Keegan Thompson was asked to do some extra innings pitching, and unfortunately things didn’t go well for him. After walking the first batter, Rene Rivera was able to sac bunt, putting two players in scoring position. Thompson intentionally walked Andres Giminez, loading up the bases, and in a two-out situation, Amed Rosario singled to walk off the game.

The Cubs get yet another day off, hopefully to heal most of their starting lineup, and then they face the Detroit Tigers in a 3-game series in Detroit. The Tigers aren’t much better offensively than Cleveland, hitting at a .216 team batting average, good for 27th in the league. Their batting has allowed them to fall all the way to the very bottom of the AL Central, with an atrocious 11-24 record, despite being on a 2-game winning streak that saw them beat the Twins and the Royals.

Hopefully the Cubs come out well-rested, healthier, and ready to win a couple of games over the weekend because if you can’t beat the Detroit Tigers I’m not sure who you can beat. Go Cubs go.

Baseball

BOX SCORES

White Sox 4 – Indians 7

White Sox 3 – Indians 5

White Sox 2 – Indians 3

White Sox 4 – Indians 5

 

That…was not good. In a series that bare minimum needed to result in a split for the Sox to maintain their hold on top of the AL Central standings, instead saw Cleveland return the favor from the end of the season last year when the Sox swept them and crushed the Tribe’s playoff hopes. The Sox could very easily have won every game this series, and yet somehow managed to find ways to lose each one in increasingly frustrating ways. All of this culminating in Rick Renteria’s mystifying decision to throw Carlos Rodon to the wolves in the bottom of the 7th last night. Let’s put a bow on this box full of shit before we move on to the last series of the regular season, shall we?

 

To the bullets:

 

Numbers Don’t Lie

-Let’s get this out of the way to start: Renteria fucked up something pretty huge last night. Taking a returning Carlos Rodon (who hadn’t faced live hitting against legit major leaguers in over 2 months) and having him come it to try and get one out with the bases loaded in a game the Sox absolutely needed to have when he had Marshall, Bummer, Heuer and Foster available to him is inexcusable. The results were completely predictable, and I’m sincerely hoping this hasn’t broken Rodon’s brain. Ricky Renteria takes way too much shit normally from this fanbase and I think he actually does a pretty good job all things considered, but this dump truck full of criticism completely deserves to run him over. Even Frank Thomas in the post-game show was flabbergasted, and was more than happy to let his feelings be known. Not something you see every day.

-On the plus side, Rodon’s velocity was back, hitting the upper 90s with his fastball. Granted he was clearly overthrowing it, and 97 without movement isn’t gonna help anyone but the guy in the batter’s box but it’s the one small positive out of last night’s mess.

-Eloy came up lame after his double in the 7th, which was later revealed to be “foot soreness” (whatever that is). Fingers crossed it’s nothing that keeps him out too long as the Sox are about out of time.

-The Sox offense actually showed signs of life the last two games, which is a welcome sight after the previous 5. A lineup like this that doesn’t take or see many pitches is always going to be prone to slumps, so hopefully this is them coming out the other side of it.

-Luis Robert finally got a day off yesterday, and with 2 starts against left handed pitchers on tap this weekend I fully expect him to shake off his slump. Or not.

-Watching Yoan Moncada breathing heavily on the Sox bench for 10 minutes after his triple and needed to be fanned by Ricky Renteria is terrifying to see. COVID continues to be not something to fuck around with 8 months later and yet people are still fucking stupid about it.

-The Sox are now a game behind the Twins for the lead in the AL Central. 3 for us against the Cubs and 3 for them against the Reds. It’s not over yet, which brings us to:

 

Series Preview: Cubs at White Sox – Yes, It Actually Matters

VS

 

PROBABLE STARTERS

Game 1: Yu Darvish (7-3, 2.22 ERA) vs. Dylan Cease (5-3, 3.52 ERA)

Game 2: Jon Lester (3-2, 4.40 ERA) vs. Dane Dunning (2-0, 3.19 ERA)

Game 3: TBD vs. Reynaldo Lopez (1-2, 4.68 ERA)

Q&A With The Legendary Sam Fels

 

I really, really, REALLY was hoping this series wasn’t going to matter for either team and they could just play out the series with an eye on resting their players for the post season. The Baseball Gods have had other plans, however, so here we are. A series that actually matters for BOTH teams, despite them having clinched a postseason birth.

We all know the situation the Sox find themselves in, but the Cubs have somehow not managed to secure the NL Central title with the Cardinals 2.5 games behind them. The North Siders come into the series in similar straits as the Sox, losers of their last 3 and unable to find their offense without the aid of a GPS, having only scored 13 runs in their last 7 games.

The hottest hitter the Cubs have right now (and I say this with no measure of irony) is Jason Heyward, he of the .283 average and 6 home runs. The offense really just hasn’t gotten going on the North Side, and they currently rank 13th out of 15 teams in the NL for standard batting stats ahead of only the Reds and Pirates (who just took 3 of 4 from them).

On the pitching side, the Sox will face the rejuvenated Cy Young candidate Yu Darvish on Friday night. Darvish, despite having a few less than stellar (merely pretty good) outings in his last 3 still has to at least be in the conversation for the award that we all know is going to Trevor Bauer. The last time the Sox faced Darvish he held them in check, only allowing one dinger to Jose Abreu (he does that to people) and striking out 10.

Saturday is a different story, with Jon Lester making what is most likely to be his final regular season start in a Cubs uniform. Last time out the Sox torched him for 8 runs, 4 of which came from the long ball. More of this would be welcome this weekend.

The Cubs don’t have a starter listed for the finale this weekend, but if they lose the first two to the Sox and the Cards win both of theirs I would expect to see Kyle Hendricks on short rest. If that’s not the case I would think it would be Adbert Alzolay and Jose Quintana eating innings for game 3.

We know what this means for the Sox. A good weekend could be the difference between facing the Yankees in the first round and the Indians. Despite the fact that the Tribe just managed to steal 4 games in a row against them, I know I’d rather see them than Garrett Cole and that Death Star of an offense the Yankees field every game. Just get it done.

 

Let’s Go Sox

 

Baseball

BOX SCORES

Game 1: White Sox 3 – Indians 4

Game 2: White Sox 3 – Indians 5

Game 3: White Sox 4 –  Indians 0

 

With the second series for the Sox in the books, some familiar trends are starting to take shape. One good pitching start and two not so great ones, combined with a few…interesting lineup decisions resulted in the Sox dropping 2 of 3 to the Tribe. While the end result is the same, this series at least feels far more positive than the previous thwacking at the hands of the Twins. If you squint really hard, I believe there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. We can discuss further IN THE BULLETS

 

Numbers Don’t Lie

-Let’s get this out of the way right at the top: Nicky Delmonico sucks, and Rick Renteria’s love affair with him is puzzling to the extreme. While I get the desire to mix up the handedness of Sox at bats, in no possible reality is putting him in the cleanup spot an acceptable setup. I don’t care if it’s the 3rd game of a triple header, batting him in front of Luis Robert qualifies as coaching High Crimes and Misdemeanors. If you’re worried about his knees, Yasmani Grandal can still DH in that spot instead of Zack Collins and either put Delmonico at 9 or play Adam Engel. Matchups don’t matter when the guy you’re matching with can’t hit the ball out of the infield. Shit, bat Leury Garcia 4th, at least he’s hit a few dingers.

-Phew. Anyways, Dylan Cease and Carlos Rodon continued the new Sox rotation tradition of not being able to command their fastballs and getting the piss hit out of them in the first 3 innings. Walks were an issue particularly for Rodon, who loaded the bases with them in the 4th during game 2. While my initial reaction to their two starts was a calm and predictable “FUCKING COOP IS TRASH FIRE HIM AND MAKE ONEY GUILLEN PITCHING COACH,” after watching Lucas Giolito pull himself together in his start last night I retract my previous outburst. This season is weird, and a 3 week wind up for pitchers is clearly not enough to get younger starters ready. If Cease and Rodon struggle again with their command in the next starts they have we can revisit. For now I’m willing to chalk it up to rust.

-The Sox bullpen, on the other hand, was nails in this series. Evan Marshall in particular has been pretty much unhittable thus far, and his breaking pitches have “shit yourself” quality. Aaron Bummer even had a good night on Wednesday, vulturing the win after pitching a scoreless 8th. Colome made it interesting in the 9th, but eventually locked down his first save of the new season. More of this, please.

-In true Sox fashion however, we can’t continue to just have nice things in the bullpen. Jimmy Lambert went on the 10 day IL with a “forearm strain,” which for someone returning from Tommy John surgery is never a good thing to hear. Hopefully it really IS just a strain and not a herald of something much much worse.

-While looking at the box scores it would seem that the Sox bats failed against some less than quality pitching, the Indians D had something to do with it as well. Oscar Mercado absolutely robbed Zack Collins of what should have been an RBI triple in the 8th inning of game 2. The Sox also threatened in the 9th in both games of the double header, falling just short. I’m not super concerned about the offense…yet.

-Being 2-4 after the first two series is less than optimal, but looking around the league you can see that shit is super weird right now. The Giants took 2 of 4 with the Dodgers, the Tigers are 4-2 and the fucking Orioles (the team actively trying to get worse) is .500. Yes, 60 games is very short and you can’t fall too far behind but I’m not convinced what we’re seeing around the league at this moment is genuinely how it’s gonna go the entire season. If we even get to finish a whole season, which is questionable at best.

-Next up is the exactly what the doctor ordered, the Royals. With the potential debut of Nomar Mazara sending Delmonico back to the utility role where he belongs combined with Dallas Keuchel taking the bump, Friday SHOULD go a long way in putting some perspective on the first 6 games. If we’re in the same spot Sunday as we are today…the panic button may have to be smushed.

 

Baseball

VS

RECORDS: White Sox 1-2 / Indians 2-1

START TIMES: Mon/Tues 6:10, Wed 5:10

TV: NBCSCH

Too High? What Do You Mean Too High?:   Let’s Go Tribe

 

PROBABLE STARTERS:

Monday: Dylan Cease vs. Aaron Civale

Tuesday: Carlos Rodon vs. Zach Plesac

Wednesday: Lucas Giolito vs. Shane Bieber

 

So after the orbital strike from Nelson Cruz and company this weekend, the Sox pitching staff looks to right the ship versus another sold offensive team (though not to the extent of the Twins). The Tribe come into this series after taking two of three from the moribund Royals on opening weekend. While Cleveland dropped 9 on the heads of the Royals on Sunday, the other two days saw them fight to scratch across 2 runs against the legendary KC rotation. On the pitching side of things the Cleveland Triumvirate of Shane Bieber, Mike Clevinger, and Carlos Carrasco made short work of the Royals bats, only giving up 2 runs between the 3 of them, to go along with 30 (!) strikeouts. Fortunately for the Sox they miss 2/3rds of them, only having to deal with The Biebs on Wednesday.

The offense of the Tribe is still fired by Francisco Lindor (at least until they don’t pay him and he ends up in pinstripes), who along with Jose Ramirez and the rapidly aging Carlos Santana provide most of the pop from the middle of the order. Ramirez had a rough year in 2019, with a steep drop in both his batting average and Slugging percentages from the previous season. His .806 OPS was the lowest since 2015, before his first full season in the league. On the flip side, Santana had an excellent year in 2019 posting a .911 OPS to go along with 34 dingers and 92 RBI. While he continues to slow down on the basepaths and is no longer a viable option behind the dish, Santana is still a force at the plate and his ability to hit for pop from both sides should be something Sox pitching (and Rick Renteria) should keep in mind.

For the Sox, the main storyline is still the 9.00 team ERA heading into this series. While there were a few bright spots over the weekend (Keuchel, Lambert and Marshall to name a few), the bad hovered over the heads of the rotation like a Lucas Giolito fastball exiting the stratosphere. Dylan Cease and the freshly elbow-ed Carlos Rodon get their chance to erase the bad memories of the weekend as they take the bump Monday and Tuesday. The bullpen would appreciate them lasting at least 5 innings each, as the workload thrust upon them Friday and Sunday is not conductive to long term health.

On the offensive side of the field, the Sox are in pretty good shape unless Eloy is still dizzy from running into the LF fence yesterday. If he is unable to go, get ready for an outfield that features Luis Robert (that’s good!), Nicky Delmonico (that’s bad), and Potassium Benzoate (that’s Engel). Can I go now? Yoan Moncada should be in the lineup all 3 games, as all 3 starters are righties and we saw this weekend that he hasn’t missed a step in punishing them. I would also hope Grandal would be hitting in all three as well, giving the Sox 4 lefties to counter the Tribe’s starters.

Realistically there’s no reason the Sox shouldn’t be able to take 2 of 3 here, as the Tribe struggled to find hits against the likes of Brady Singer and Danny Duffey (both of whom are less than Cease and Rodon, though Singer may have a future). If they’re able to neutralize 2 of the 3 hitters mentioned above the Sox bats should be able to provide sufficent offense to propel them to the series win and a good palate cleanse after Sunday’s debacle. The pitching matchup Wednesday could be fun, but only if Giolito finds the command of his fastball. If he’s back to what he was in 2019, the game could be over before the sun goes down.

Of course, none of this will matter if MLB shuts down because of the fucking Miami Marlins and the Rona Party they probably had with a bunch of Philly strippers over the weekend. Why is it ALWAYS Florida?

 

Let’s Go Sox

 

Baseball

Seeing as this is my last spotlight of the season, and it happens to be a meaningless series for both teams (with the notable exception of Tim Anderson) and most likely for both fan bases I thought I’d eschew the normal spotlight (and honestly, who am I gonna spotlight for the Tigers? The bullpen catcher?) and instead peer into the murky future of the American League central division for the year 2020.

Granted this is only a quick glance, as this season is not complete yet and there’s still free agency to go, but we can get a blurry picture of what will stand in between the last year (hopefully) of the White Sox rebuild and the promised land of MLB post season play. I’ll also leave the Sox out of this as I still want to have something to write about later on other than how amazing Jimmy Garoppolo and the undefeated 49ers are playing (I kid) (sort of).

 

DETROIT TIGERS:

How’d They Do This Season?

Not wanting to keep anyone in suspense, the Tigers decided it would be best if they locked up the first overall pick in next June’s entry draft a full week before the season ended. In addition, they’re almost a lock to win less than 50 games for the second time in team history since the league expanded the schedule to 162 games back in 1961. The team run differential is currently a hilarious -320, with the next closest team being Baltimore at a sparkling -259. Essentially if tanking a baseball season were an art the Tigers would be Picasso, Monet, Da Vinci and Van Gough rolled into one.

What’s Their Shopping List?

Much as the night is darkest just before the dawn (thanks, Harvey Dent), the Tigers just need to push through this rebuild to the other side. Seeing as though GM Al Avila has already traded away anything that wasn’t nailed down, their shopping list should just read as “parts.” They should be looking to sign the type of players the Sox have the past few seasons. Reclamation projects on 1 year deals that can be flipped at the deadline for anything of value. Aging veterans on the downside of their career looking for bounce back deals. If the Tigers could find 3 or 4 guys like Nick Markakis or Charlie Morton they’d be good to go.

What’s Their Prognosis?

DOA.

Unless the Tigers completely abandon their current rebuild and throw all the money at free agents in the off-season this team is destined to lose another 100 games next year. Some help may be on the way from AAA as the Tigers are pretty loaded with pitching prospects, but offensively they are going to continue to be offensive.

KANSAS CITY ROYALS:

How’d They Do This Season?

The Royals are about a year ahead of the Tigers in their rebuild, as they’re gonna end up in almost the exact same place they were this time last year. 2018 saw them winning 58 games total, and that’s where they sit right now as of this article being penned. So what do they get for losing 100+ games back to back years? Odds are it’s the #4 overall pick in the draft, as they just aren’t as shitty as the Tigers, Orioles or the Marlins. They just don’t have the tank game down pat like Detroit does, as they’ve actually managed to win double digit games in September. In happier news, manager Ned Yost decided he was going to hang up his clown shoes and head off into the sunset as he announced his retirement a few days ago. Good riddance, asshat. You won’t be missed.

What’s Their Shopping List?

The Royals are an interesting case here, and kind of a wild card. With the team about to be sold by penny-pinching skinflint David Glass it’s not totally clear what path the new ownership wants to chart through the muddy waters of their rebuild. The Royals have some good pieces on this team offensively, with Jorge Soler, Whit Merrifield, Adalberto Mondesi and Hunter Dozier all above 2 WAR in production. The pitching staff is a wasteland of guys like Danny Duffy, and the team overall is 24th in the league in pitching. So unless the new ownership wants to go and sign both Gerrit Cole and Zack Wheeler odds are the Royals should probably do what Rick Hahn did this season and look to guys like Ivan Nova to fill out the holes.

What’s Their Prognosis?

On life support.

If the new ownership goes bananas and buys up all the shiny new pitchers in sight and nobody regresses on the offense and you squint really hard then potentially this team could compete in 2020 for maybe a wild card? Odds are they take a step forward and only lose about 95 games next year. Their window is 2021 more likely.

CLEVELAND INDIANS

How’d They Do This Season?

Good, but just maybe (hopefully) not good enough. As of writing this, the Indians are a game and a half back of the Tampa Bay Rays for the 2nd wild card spot in the American League. As usual, the Tribe sit in the top 5 of the league in pitching thanks to lusciously locked Mike Clevinger, Shane Bieber and a solid bullpen. Offensively the team is a solid +135 in run differential despite the year long struggles of Jose Ramirez.  They swung an interesting deal at the deadline, sending Twitter Edgelord Trevor Bauer to the Reds and recieving Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes in return to shore up a barren outfield. Was it enough? Doesn’t look like it.

What’s Their Shopping List?

A lot of what Cleveland does this off-season depends on what they think of Francisco Lindor and his contract. If they want to extend him this, this is the off-season where it will happen. If he’s not amenable to a new deal, then I wouldn’t be surprised to hear the Tribe shopping him and Cory Kluber at the winter meetings in December. Those two could bring the type of MLB ready pieces that could keep this team at or near the top of the AL Central division for a few years to come. If they don’t shop either of those two, they’re still one bat short in the outfield, but as they’re a fairly thrifty team don’t expect them to be in on anything above the Adam Eaton level.

What’s Their Prognosis?

Stable

The Indians have been a model franchise along with the Oakland A’s for keeping payroll down and competitiveness up. They aren’t afraid to move players who are going to price themselves out of the Indian’s budget and GM Mike Chernoff has done a pretty solid job of getting a good return on those pieces. I would expect the Tribe to compete for the AL Central crown next season, especially if the horseshoe that currently resides in the ass of the Twins offense falls back to earth. Can they compete with the likes of the Astros and Yankees? No, but for a team like Cleveland that’s not the goal.

MINNESOTA TWINS

How’d They Do This Season?

God I hate this fucking team. Somehow they managed to lead the league in slugging for about 95% of the season before a late tear by the juggernaut offense of the Astros went by them. They still ended up 4th in the league for hitting, 3rd in the AL. They also won the AL central by a fair margin, and will most likely be facing the Yankees in the first round of the playoffs before being dusted like half the planet when Thanos snapped his fingers.

What’s Their Shopping List?

The same thing it is for the Twins every off-season, pitching. Not since the days of Johan Santana and Joe Nathan have the Twins been able to produce pitchers worth 4+ WAR. This season looks to be the one when Jose Berrios finally took that step forward and became the ace they were hoping him to be, even though he’s been beaten like a drum since the calendar flipped to August. Jake Odorizzi will probably end up a 4 WAR pitcher, but as he’s a free agent he’s likely gone. Brusdar Graterol might be the next one to grab the reigns but he’s only started 3 games so far and is largely untested. Michael Pineda was solid most of the year until he got busted for a banned substance. So while the Twins should probably be throwing bags of money at Garret Cole, they’ll most likely end up with someone like Brett Anderson or Tanner Roark.

What’s Their Prognosis?

Good (sadly)

Despite half their rotation most likely gone via free agency next season (Odorizzi, Gibson) or suspended (Pineda), the Twins are set to be annoyingly good for years to come. Their offense is young and powerful, and most importantly for them, under team control for the foreseeable future. Perhaps this is the off-season where the Twins spend the money to buy themselves another ace, or the perhaps swing a deal for one involving their 2 prized offensive prospects Alex Kirillof or Royce Lewis. If that were to happen this team could become a monster with legitimate world series aspirations. Either way they have enough offense to keep them involved in the playoff picture for the time being, making the Twins the most likely challenger for the White Sox if they want to own the AL Central from 2020 on out.

 

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: Indians 92-64   White Sox 68-87

GAMETIMES: Tuesday-Thursday 7:10

TV: WGN Tuesday, NBCSN Wednesday/Thursday

THEY’RE STILL SHITTY: Let’s Go Tribe

PREVIEW POSTS

Depth Charts & Pitching Staffs

Indians Spotlight: Could Frankie Lindor go?

The White Sox begin the last homestand of the season, and half of it will be against a team that still has a lot on the table. So while it’s not games that matter for them, they can play a “spoiler” role, if that indeed matters to players. This seems like a bunch it might to. Sadly, their rotation is on the spoiled side already.

With Lucas Giolito being shut down for the year, the Sox will have a bullpen game or two in here, sending out Hector Santiago and Ross Detweiler and then diving behind the couch. Dylan Cease will get a chance on Thursday to make it look like an actual baseball game. Meanwhile, the Indians have their two big guns of Mike Clevinger and Shane Bieber lined up for this, with Clevinger available for Sunday and Bieber ready to go for any wildcard game.

As that’s what’s on offer for Cleveland. They sit a half-game behind the Rays for the right to go to Oakland next Wednesday, and they have the extra game to play, which comes Thursday. They’ll finish in DC, which could be an issue as the Nationals are playing for the same thing in the other league. But they might have it wrapped up by then, and the Indians could get three games against an opponent twiddling its thumbs and keeping powder dry for the coin-flip.

Right now the schedule is in Cleveland’s favor, as the Rays have two home dates with the Yankees, and the Yanks still chasing the AL’s best record to not have to deal with the noise in Houston a fourth time (which got them just two years ago). But that could flip at the weekend with the Rays getting the long-dead Jays and as mentioned the Tribe heading to the capital.

It’s kind of a miracle the Indians are still here. They lost Jose Ramirez a month ago, though he’s starting to make noise like he could come up for air in the season’s last week even though it was thought a broken hand would end his season. The same malady definitely has ended Jason Kipnis‘s season, who was having something of a revival season but now is on the shelf. They’ve parsed out the responsibility, but the big hand should probably go to Franmil Reyes over the past month. After his trade to The Land he was simply lost, but over the past 30 days has lit up with a 130 wRC+.  The rest of the lineup has been average or better, so it’s mostly been a death by 1000 cuts sort of thing.

Civale and Adam Plutko have saved them in the rotation with Kluber nowhere and Carrasco only just coming back in the pen. But he got whatever the rest of the pen has got the past month, as it’s been gasoline out there in September.

You certainly wouldn’t fancy seeing the Indians in a five-game series, except if they have to blow Bieber and possibly more in the coin-flip and only have Clevinger for more than one start. And considering how gettable the pen has been, they might be the same rollover belly-tickle they’ve been in the first round since their WS appearance in ’16.

Still, for the Pale Hose it’s at least better to play a game with stakes in the last week than when the Tigers show up for the two of them to perform some elaborate funeral interpretive dance. Cleveland is still a team the Sox will have to get by next year, and throwing some bombs at them in their chase this one at least sets a precedent. This used to be a rivalry. It can be again.

Baseball

It’ a little disjointed, or even unfair, to connect the Cubs to this series and the Indians. But as we propel into Chicago baseball’s harsh winter, one has to ask this question. If it’s possible that the Cubs would listen, and even consider, trading Kris Bryant this winter, will the Indians do the same with Francisco Lindor? No, of course not, you dope. Because he’s kind of half the offense at the moment and probably will remain that way. Or would they?

Lindor is in the same contract situation as Bryant, and has shown the same inclination to sign an extension with the Tribe that Bryant has with the Cubs. He’s got two years of arbitration left, which should see him inch pretty close to if not over $20M in the second year. And unlike the Cubs, Cleveland may just decide they simply can’t afford him as a free agent, instead of simply won’t. Then again, any team can afford him.

It’s been something of a strange campaign for Frankie, as he looked set for stratospheric stardom last year and hasn’t matched that. He was a seven-WAR player last year, but won’t get to five this term. In fact, it shapes up to be his worst season since his rookie year, when he only played 99 games. And offensively, it’s his worst since his second.

Part of the problem is that Lindor’s power just hasn’t risen with the rest of baseball. He’s still got 31 homers, which for a shortstop you’d take every damn time. But he had 38 last year, and now they’re using the flubber-ball, and he’s got 31. His slugging has only risen eight points to .527, which again, no one is complaining about, and would be a career-high. And yet, with everything going on in the league, you wonder if it shouldn’t have ticked up more.

It doesn’t seem to be a question of luck. Lindor’s BABIP has actually gone up this year, and he has the same exact HR/FB rate as last year. He’s hitting the ball just as hard as well, it’s just more of it is on the ground by a good measure.

Part of the problem is that Lindor has been more consistently attacked with offspeed pitches this year, and has struggled mightily against change-ups. He’s hit only .240 against them this year as opposed to .308 in ’18. And he’s been just as bad on curveballs, though he had that problem last year as well. He’s also seen a 10-point jump in his whiffs/swing on sliders.

As a left-handed hitter, Lindor has seen his walk-rate plummet to 5%, sinking his overall one. He just isn’t getting on base quite as much as he did.

All that said, Lindor is still one of the game’s best, and just about anyone would give up the moon to have him (Javy Baez must dream of the double play combination, and we do as well). Cleveland has never had a reputation for keeping its stars since the 90s. And two years of control means Lindor is at his peak value this coming winter, especially as he’ll be just 26 next season.

But would they consider such a thing? Depends. The rotation actually seems set for a while with Clevinger and Bieber at the top of it and developed plugs like Zach Plesac and Aaron Civale. Corey Kluber‘s injury problems, age, and contract status have lowered his value a touch, though with $17M and $18M options still left he’s still good value if he can get back to anything close to what he was. We know the Tribe listened last offseason, but didn’t find anything to their liking.

The Tribe have a bats problem though, especially as they may never know what they’ll get out of Jose Ramirez from day-to-day, much less year-to-year. But he’s signed cheap through 2023. Will Jake Bauers help one day? Naquin? No one’s sure. Clearly Lindor would bring back two or three major pieces, and probably ones Major League-ready.

But still, it seems way too drastic. He’s the face of the team, and the Tribe don’t draw as it is. Or maybe that’s the reasoning. No one gives a fuck anyway, so how much worse can it get? Still, Lindors are never traded for equal value.

If Cleveland laughs at the idea of moving Lindor, and there’s nothing to suggest otherwise, it’s patently ridiculous the Cubs aren’t doing the same over Bryant.

Baseball

Game 1 Box Score: Indians 11, White Sox 3

Game 2 Box Score: White Sox 6, Indians 5

Game 3 Box Score: Indians 8, White Sox 6

Game 4 Box Score: White Sox 7, Indians 1

I’m not sure how many moments Sox fans have gotten this season that they can point to and say to themselves or anyone around (Sox fans rarely need an audience to perform), “That’s what it will look like very soon.” There were a few early in the season, but the year’s middle portion and toward the current end have mostly been filled with injuries or dips in performance or wonder if some players would ever put it together. It’s been a whole lot more rush-hour traffic than most were hoping, that’s for sure.

The last three games of this series will definitely be one that’s marked, as even in the loss the Sox offense was carried by those who will do so in the future and beyond, and only a circus catch kept them from taking all three of those games. There were enough glimpses around for a whole vision, and that has to feel good.

Let’s run it through.

-We can start with Eloy Jimenez, who had eight hits over the four games, laced some outs that could have been hits on another day, and had one of those games he wins by himself on Tuesday. The kinds of games there will be tons more of, is the hope. A big portion of Eloy’s hits, and even hard contact, were made on sliders this series. That can go one of two ways. One is that at least a couple were mistakes, but you can make a shit ton of money hammering mistakes and fastballs anyway. What it doesn’t portend is whether Eloy can lay off the sliders that do bite off the outside of the zone and into the dirt. Or you could argue that he has been laying off of those of late, forcing breaking pitches closer to the zone, where they don’t have to miss by much to stay in the zone, and this is what you get. It’s still a work, but you can see what will happen when he forces pitchers to the zone. It’s got a lot of volume to it.

Dylan Cease missed out on only his third quality start of the season with the aid of the pen, but it was still a big step forward from what we’ve seen. Cease way upped the use of this change at the expense of fastballs, throwing 18 of them which was the most in any start this season. That generated 12 ground-balls, which you can’t complain about. And the big thing is two walks.

-Of course, Cease struck out 11 but was overshadowed by Reynaldo Lopez, who also struck out 11 today while only giving up one hit. And the Tribe weren’t anywhere near him all day, as his slider was barking and yakking all over them. Lopez got 10 whiffs on the 24 sliders he threw, and no solid contact on any of the others. And only three walks for Reynaldo, who when he stays near the zone can be unhittable. And all of this came in a series against a team that needed these games, which might be most encouraging, even if Cleveland is a touch beat up.

Zack Collins was on base six times in the last three games, and most ever AB was battling. The Sox might focus too much on the Ks, but he gets on base and the rest of this season should probably be spent giving him most of the starts at first or DH to see if he can take that on next season. The Sox still have an OBP problem, one they’ve had for a decade or more now, and there aren’t too many candidates to fix that. Collins is one.

Pretty good stuff from Erie-side.

Baseball

VS

 

RECORDS: White Sox 60-76 / Indians 79-58

START TIMES: Monday-Wednesday 6:10, Thursday 12:10

TV: Mon/Wed/Thurs NBCSN, Tuesday WGN

Too High? What Do You Mean Too High?:   Let’s Go Tribe

 

 

So this is kind of a big series for the Tribe. If they have any deigns on the postseason, they’re going to have to start now. Cleveland (much like in real life) is currently hanging onto the final wild card spot by the last millimeters of their fingernails, only .5 games ahead of Oakland. Unless something wacky happens in Boston, it’s a 3 horse race for the 2 wild card spots, and Cleveland has not fared well against the other two remaining teams. Last Friday they had a decent lead heading into their series against Tampa Bay, but that floated away on the wind after the Rays took 3 straight.  The Tribe muddled their way through August, going one game over .500 in the month (which is not what you’d want out of a team with playoff aspirations).

For a bit there, things were looking up for them as it seemed Cory Kluber was ready to come back and Jose Ramirez had finally broken out of his year long slump. Then Klubot strained his oblique during a rehab start and hasn’t pitched since, and Ramirez broke his hand while swinging a bat a week ago. Whoops. One cool thing, however, is the return yesterday of Carlos Carrasco who pitched in relief for the first time since being diagnosed a few months ago with leukemia. It’s an awesome story, and I’m glad he’s doing well.

With Kluber going down and Carrasco having to take time off, the starting rotation has had some big holes to fill. Luckily for the Tribe some rookies have stepped up to fill in the gap. Monday’s starter Zach Plesac (nephew of journeyman and most famous person to escape Gary, IN Dan Plesac) has acquitted himself nicely in the number 4 starter slot. He’s gone 7-5 since being called up with a 3.61 ERA, and 1.21 WHIP. He’s primarily a fastball/changeup kinda guy, with a decent slider and a solid curveball rounding out his arsenal. Plesac has had quite a bit of batted ball luck so far this season, with a .244 BABIP and an over 80% strand rate, so at some point the regression monster is going to come for the guy. It hasn’t yet, and the Sox are going to have to contend with his luck tonight. Shane Bieber continues his ascent towards the top of the Tribe’s rotation with another excellent year so far, posting a 3.27 ERA and a crazily low 1.01 WHIP thus far. His 30% K rate against his 5% walk rate is something to behold, and with a .285 BABIP there’s not much room for regression. Between those two and adding in Mike Clevinger and Carlos Carrasco the Tribe’s rotation is gonna be set for a long while.

Offensively this team still has it’s table set by superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor. He’s having another atypical season for himself, slashing .296/.347/.878 with 26 HR. The more impressive thing about that is he missed almost the entire month of April after messing up his ankle preparing for spring training. Carlos Santana has been able to dial back the clock to his early days in Cleveland by hitting a very solid .290/.411/.954 so far, well on his way to a 40 HR, 100 RBI campaign. He’s a switch hitter that absolutely murders right handed pitching, so the Sox rotation is going to need to tread lightly around him (and maybe Moncada can take some notes). Yasiel Puig is also here, the main piece of the deal that sent starting pitcher and Professional Twitter Edgelord Trevor Bauer to Cincinnati. The Tribe filled their need of OF help by dealing from a position of strength as they also got HR machine Franmil Reyes from the Padres as part of the deal.

For our White Sox, the story remains the same. The starters need to go 5-6 innings a piece to give a badly taxed bullpen some relief. The return of Carson Fulmer and Manny Banuelos should help, but it would be nice to see the rotation carry it’s weight after getting scorched by the Braves this past weekend. Eloy Jimenez seems to be getting the timing of his swing back after his 23rd stint on the IL this season, but needs to hit for power as it’s been 11 games now since he’s had an extra base hit. Whatever other September call ups are not here yet, as Charlotte is trying to get into the postseason down in AAA, so it’ll be a bit before Zack Collins heads North. With Jon Jay fucking back off to the IL with hip surgery you can plan on seeing more of Adam Engel and Ryan Cordell wandering around the outfield grass and flailing around the batters box like a used car inflatable air dancer.

It would be nice for the Sox to play spoiler this series and help Cleveland screw themselves out of a postseason appearance, since they can’t do the same to the Twins. That way the depression in Cleveland can roll right into the NFL season when the Browns inevitably crush everyone’s hopes when Baker Mayfield turns back into a pumpkin.

Lets Go Sox