Baseball

VS.

 

Records: Rangers 8-9 / White Sox 9-9

First Pitch: Fri 7:10 / Sat 6:10 / Sun 1:10

TV & Radio: NBCSN & ESPN 1000

We Need Another New Stadium: Lone Star Ball

 

Probable Starters

Friday: Dane Dunning (1-0 0.60 ERA) vs. Dylan Cease (0-0 3.86 ERA)

Saturday: Kyle Gibson (2-0 2.53 ERA) vs. Lucas Giolito (1-1 5.79 ERA)

Sunday: Kohei Arihara (2-1 2.21 ERA) vs. Dallas Keuchel (1-0 5.68 ERA)

 

OLD FREIND ALERT

Take the above probable starters above with a grain of salt, because as of me writing this Tony LaRussa has not yet tipped his hand as to how he’s planning on setting his rotation this weekend. Having the rainout on Wednesday giving his guys an extra day of much needed rest, he’s pretty much able to start whoever he’d like short of Carlos Rodon tonight. If he sticks to the order that he’s had thus far in the season, tonight’s matchup may cause Sox Twitter to implode like no other.

The return to the Down Arrow of our Bespectacled Buddy Dane Dunning facing off against Dylan Cease in a battle of Who Should Hahn Really Have Traded For Lance Lynn (who’s fucking hurt now anyways) will be polarizing to say the least. Dunning has gotten off to an outstanding start, giving up a measly 1 earned run in 15 innings pitched, to go along with 15 strikeouts and a crisp 1.06 WHIP. His counterpart has pretty much picked up where he left off last season, giving up 6 runs in the same amount of innings thrown but with a much uglier 1.71 WHIP. Cease has continued his inability to go deep into games, throwing far too many pitches and not putting hitters away when he has count leverage.

Dunning on the other hand has been pretty masterful thus far for a surprisingly competent Rangers squad. His huge arsenal of pitches he throws helps him keep hitters off kilter, never knowing what the next pitch is going to be. He’s able to keep the ball on the ground (which in his new home park is an absolute must) and work quickly in the vein of Mark Buehrle. The Rangers have come out and said that Dunning is on an innings limit this season, so the deepest he’s gone into a game so far is the 6th (which is still further than Cease, who is NOT on any such restriction).

The rest of the Rangers rotation has been above average thus far, which is somewhat of a surprise because on paper it’s probably one of the worst in the AL. Twins castoff Kyle Gibson has rebounded from the rough stretch in 2019-20 where he gave up dingers like they were going out of style. His 5.21 ERA in 2020 was one of the worst in the AL, and it’s obviously not what the Rangers were hoping for when they signed him to a 3 year deal worth roughly 10 million per. This season he’s gotten back to what made him successful in 2018 by throwing his 4 seamer much more (roughly 56% of the time, up from around 48%) and he’s added a cutter that he uses to run in on the hands of lefties.

Kohei Arihara takes the bump on Sunday, and so far he’s been a pleasant surprise for the Rangers. Signed from the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters (god I love Japanese team names) just after Christmas this past December, Arihara is a Swiss Army Knife of a pitcher. According to Statcast, he threw SEVEN different types of pitches against the Angels in his last start. He tossed a 4 seamer, a slider, a curve, a cutter, a change, a splitter, and for the first time all year he threw a knuckleball. There’s also a pitch that he’s thrown more than once that Statcast has been unable to identify. So tack on some kind of UFO pitch to his arsenal. Arihara was the NPB equivalent of the Cy Young winner in 2019, going 15-6 with a 2.48 ERA. He signed a 2 year deal with the Rangers this off-season and so far has made it seem like a solid investment.

Offensively the Rangers are pretty short handed, 3rd from the bottom in total production league-wide. After the imposing figure of Joey Gallo, there’s pretty much just Nate Lowe (who was blocked at every position in Tampa, so they flipped him for some other prospects they’ll turn into gold) and Nick Solak who leads the team with a .279 average. The group as a whole doesn’t do anything special, and is pretty much waiting for the sample size to catch up to them. That doesn’t mean they can’t jump on an unprepared pitching staff, as the Angels just found out this past week. This is a boom or bust offense, as in their 8 wins, they’ve averaged a total of 6.2 runs per. In the 9 losses they average a mere 2.7 runs per game, and that includes one to the Royals where they scored 10. If an opposing team can keep them off the board they’re gonna have some success.

As for the Sox, after grinding out a win against Cleveland on Tuesday and enjoying another snow-out on Wednesday they finally managed to sweep a team and end a series on a positive note. The offense definitely showed signs of life after banging out 11 hits and 8 runs against the Spawn Of Dan Plesac. That’s twice now this season the Sox bats have run his ass off the mound, hoping its the start of a trend.

Jose Abreu had 3 hits in that game, two of which left the yard and one of which has yet to land. He absolutely murdered an inside fastball from Plesac in his 2nd at bat of the game that had an exit velocity of 116 MPH and sounded like it cracked the sound barrier. Jose has historically been a slow starter in his career, so his signs of life recently may be the beginning of better things.

Along those same lines is Yasmani Grandal, who also cranked out his second dinger so far. After having a down year at the dish last season, the ability for Grandal to use video this year was supposed to turn things around for him. Based on how well he turned around on the high fastball from Cal Quantril on Tuesday, it may just be working.

As mentioned above, if the Rangers don’t score more than 5 they don’t win the game. It’s going to be up to the starters to keep them off the board, and for the bullpen to live up to the moniker of “best in the Central.” It’ll be interesting to see how Lucas Giolito fares after the wet fart of a start against Boston this past Monday where he gave up 6 runs in the first inning and 7 total. Historically, Lucas has responded to a shitty start by going out the next one and throwing smoke. In starts after he’s given up 5+ runs the outing before he’s averaged 3 or less runs every single time. That’s damn impressive. If he’s able to repeat that stat here, given the Rangers tendencies thus far this season that should be a win for the Sox.

With a 9 game homestand starting tonight and the weather expected to breach the upper 70s next week this is a good setup for the Sox to go on an extended run. Throw in the fact that after the Rangers the Tigers wander into town followed by a Cleveland team the Sox have been much more competitive with this season and you have all the ingredients for a successful stretch of baseball. Tim Anderson and Luis Robert are both hitting above .300 now, and with Grandal and Abreu looking more dialed in now is the time to blow up the standings in the AL Central. Get it done

Let’s Go Sox

 

Baseball

Sadly, the title of the post isn’t about my long-unfinished script featuring teenagers trying to get laid one summer while getting into some zany antics at the car wash they all work at. No, it’s about the return of one Adam Cory Eaton to the South side of Chicago, who Rick Hahn signed to a 1 year deal today worth $7 million dollars.

The signing caps a wild 12 hours which saw the Sox send Dane Dunning and Avery Weems (who’s name can be rearranged to spell Weever Yams) to the Rangers for their Ace and professional Bluto cosplayer Lance Lynn. One of these moves I’m all for, the other one not so much.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

ADAM EATON

2020 Stat Line: .226/.285/.669 4 HR, 17 RBI, 22 R, 3 SB, 18.2% K Rate, 75 wRC+

2019 Stat Line: .279/.365/.792 15 HR, 49 RBI, 103 R, 15 SB, 16.2% K Rate, 107 wRC+

Well those are two very different looking lines there, aren’t they? To say that Eaton had anything but a miserable 2020 would be a colossal understatement. He looked completely out of sorts, and had trouble putting the ball in play with any type of power. His contact numbers tanked, and his K rate spiked. The Nats (unsurprisingly) declined his $10.5 million option for 2021 and he became a free agent.

His 2019 was a completely different story, as his ability to get on base consistently led him to 3rd on the Nats in runs scored behind Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto. He was also 3rd on the team in stolen bases, and was average in the OF, manning both corner position spots. More importantly, he was also healthy for the first time in ages, playing more than 100 games (151) for the first time in 4 seasons.

If the White Sox had no history with Eaton, I would be cautiously optimistic about this signing. He’s a very good outfielder when he’s able to stay healthy, and has the ability to get on base and score runs when the bigger bats knock him in.

Yet the Sox and Eaton have a very storied history together, and most of it eye-rollingly annoying. Not that anyone has forgotten the Saga of Child MLB Locker Room Leader Drake LaRoche, of which Eaton was a prime player. Looking back, this was the beginning of the Sox rebuild, whether Kenny Williams wanted to admit it or not. Now, at the end of it all right when the Sox are ready to take the AL Central by storm he’s back, like the Ghost of Lockerooms Past.

As it stands now, I personally feel the Sox locker room is as strong as it’s been since quite possibly 2005. Tim Anderson and Jose Abreu are the leaders from the offensive side, and Lucas Giolito has turned into the Mentor Extraordinaire on the pitching side. The addition of Adam Eaton should hopefully be nothing more than what it is at the face: a slightly better platoon player in RF with Adam Engel.

Lance Lynn

2020 Stats: 6-3/3.32 ERA/89 K/1.06 WHIP/4.19 FIP/1.5 WAR

2019 Stats: 16-11/3.67 ERA/246 K/3.13 FIP/6.8 WAR

On the other side of all of this was the story that broke late last night: that Rick Hahn had sent promising young arm Dane Dunning and Avery Weems (the Sox 6th round selection in 2019) to the Rangers for their ace Lance Lynn.

Looking at Lynn’s stats over the past few years, one thing comes flying out at you. His strikeout numbers jumped huge in 2019, almost 100 Ks more than the 160 he had in 2018. He accomplished this by having TJ surgery in 2016, then moving to the 3rd base side of the rubber in 2017. Oh, and he also started throwing his 4 seam fastball more than any other pitcher in the league. He also managed to add 1.2 mph to his average velocity to the pitch, which is not something that normally happens in 30+ year old pitchers in MLB.

He also increased his control with his cutter, consistently able to throw it away from righties and get swinging strikes, or jam it in on the hands of left handed hitters, blowing up bats and generating weaker contact. The chart below shows clearly his ability to keep the pitch close enough to the zone to force swings (courtesy of Thomas Harrigan @ MLB.COM)

On top of the increased Ks, Lynn eats innings like dots for PacMan. He threw 208 in 2019, the 4th time in his career breaking the 200 inning mark. All this combined makes him a hell of a number 2 starter behind Lucas Giolito, slotting Dallas Keuchel in the 3 spot where he really should’ve been the whole time.

While I really am going to miss Dane Dunning, at best he caps out at a league average 4th starter. The fact that Rick Hahn was able to score someone who was able to put forth stats like that on an abysmal Rangers team is the kind of moves a team who wants to sit at the big boys table makes.

I understand some folks reticence at trading one of the prized prospects collected by Hahn, but ask yourself this question: If the Fernando Tatis Jr trade had never happened, would you still feel the same way about this deal?

The shell shock that some people (rightfully) have about the Tatis trade has lead them to clutch the Sox prospects tighter than Vince McMahon holding onto the idea his wrestlers are independent contractors. It’s an understandable feeling, but one we’re going to have to get past as Dunning will not be the last precious prospect to move on.

Still left for Rick Hahn: solving the closer position, and adding a DH in case Andrew Vaughn isn’t ready for the full time role in 2021. I’m sure I’ll be back here sooner rather than later, so stay tuned.

 

 

Baseball

Twins VS.

Records: Twins 30-18/Sox 30-16

Start Times: Mon-Wed 7:10/Thurs 1:10

TV: NBCSN

Circle My Ass, Bert: Twinkie Town

PROBABLE STARTERS:

Monday: Jose Berrios (4-3, 4.40 ERA) vs. Dylan Cease (5-2, 3.33 ERA)

Tuesday: Randy Dobnak (6-3, 3.61 ERA) vs. Dane Dunning (1-0, 2.70 ERA)

Wednesday: Jake Odorizzi (0-1, 8.33 ERA) vs. Lucas Giolito (4-2, 3.43 ERA)

Thursday: Kenta Maeda (5-1, 2.43 ERA) vs. Dallas Keuchel (6-2, 2.19 ERA)

 

AND WE’RE BACK! After a brief hiatus to decide the future of the blog after Dale Tallon managed to Milkshake Duck his way into the Shitty Hockey GM Hall Of Fame, we’ve decided to just say “fuck it” and power ahead. Thank you all for patiently waiting for us to figure out the future of the blog, and I’m extraordinarily excited to keep being able to do this for the 38 of you that regularly read my shit.

What a perfect time to come back, as the Sox head into what might be the most important series of this entire screwed up year. With a 1 game lead on the Twins heading into this 4 game set, it’s imperative for the Sox to prove that they can do more than just pummel the Tigers and Royals 20 games a year. While it’s true that those are historically games the Sox would biff and ultimately cost them a trip to the postseason, with a playoff birth virtually in hand it’s time to show the rest of the league they can throw elbows with the top end talent as well.

The Sox come into this series on a roll again, having won 8 of their last 10 games and averaging just under 7 runs a game. While those are some gaudy offensive numbers, runs against the Twins pitching staff will not be as easily had. Kenta Maeda has been absolutely nails for the Twins this season, and is giving Dallas Keuchel a run for his money as “Best Free Agent Signing In The AL Central.” Jose Berrios has also rounded back into form recently, as he’s overcome his wildness in the beginning of the season and sports a 3.79 ERA with 48 K’s over his last 7 starts.

Tuesday night presents the Battle of The Bespectacled Batterymates, as Randy Dobnek takes on Dane Dunning. Dobnek has been another example of found money for the Twins this season, as he started out as a candidate for 6th starter but managed to deal his way up the rotation after Rich Hill turned out to be actually made of glass. He’s come back to earth in his last few starts, giving up 12 runs in his last 3 when he’d only allowed 6 in his previous 6 combined.

Wednesday’s starter is still TBA, but the assumption is Jake Odorizzle is going to be coming off the IL, much the same way the Sox starter for Thursday is TBA but everybody knows it’s gonna be Keuchel unless he has a setback. Odorizzi hadn’t been much to write home about even before he went on the IL, sporting an 8+ ERA, with his K rate falling to a career low 19.6% and batters hitting a cool .326 against him. While his FIP suggests he’s the victim of some bad luck, it’s still at 6.14 so there’s some fire to that smoke.

As for the Sox, Dylan Cease kicks things off tonight with his tightrope act of somehow having a 3.33 ERA despite the eye test (and his FIP at 5.95) saying otherwise. Ben Clemens at Fangraphs put out an excellent article today taking a dive under the hood and explaining why despite having such a great spin rate on his fastball, it’s not moving at all or resulting in any strikeouts.

The Sox are either going to need his luck to continue, or ambush Berrios right out of the gate. Both are possible, and a combination of the two would be wonderful. Getting 6 innings out of Cease is going to be necessary, as there’s no guarantee that Dunning will be able to eat any extra innings Tuesday, and the bullpen needs all the rest it can get, as Jimmy Cordero is about to collapse into a pile of ash.

It will be interesting to see how Lucas Giolito handles the Twins this time around. It’s his 3rd start against them, and the first two really weren’t anything to write home about. With the amount of preparation, and as cerebral as he is, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him have a different plan this week than the “fastball/changeup” pairing he’s been riding recently. If he can make it out of the 1st inning with 20 pitches or less, I like the odds of a quality start.

On the offensive side of the ball, fingers crossed Jose Abreu can continue his quest for the American League MVP, and Tim Anderson can stay ahead of DJ LeMahieu in the race for another batting title. It also seems as though Yoan Moncada is starting to shake off some of the COVID effects he’s been dealing with over the past months, as his doubles power returned this last series against the Tigers.

Luis Robert is dealing with his first slump of the season, as he’s gone 4-25 in his last 7 games. While this is to be expected for a rookie, it would be nice to see him perhaps take a few more pitches in his at bats. When Nick Madrigal has a higher slugging percentage than you do over the last 10 games, it might be time to make an adjustment to your plate approach.

All that being said, as long as the offense can continue to hit the stitches off the ball they stand a good chance of at least splitting this series with the Twins, which at this point should be the absolute bare minimum bar for success. Time is running out on this bastardized season, and taking 3 of 4 from Minnesota would go a long way towards quieting the haters who say the White Sox can only beat up on shitty teams (and the Cubs).

 

And for the love of fuck, please don’t throw Nelson Cruz anything in the strike zone.

LET’S GO SOX

Baseball

BOX SCORES

Game 1: Tigers 2 – White Sox 7

Game 2: Tigers 4 – White Sox 10

Game 3: Tigers 3 – White Sox 5

Game 4: Tigers 0 – White Sox 9

 

Well I’ll say this much about the current iteration of this White Sox team. Unlike ones from the past, this team seems hell bent on punching down and beating the teams they should be beating. Which is exactly what teams with playoff aspirations should do. The team is now 9-1 against the Tigers and Royals, and they sit at 15-11 on the season. Progress is great!

 

TO THE BULLETS!

 

NUMBERS DON’T LIE

Tim Anderson may not be your atypical leadoff-type hitter, but it’s pretty undeniable the effect he has on this team. In the 9 games since he’s returned from his stint on the IL, the Sox are 7-2 and averaging a little under 6.5 runs per game. Tim himself has gone 15 for 36 with 5 HR, 8 RBI and 15 runs scored. Oh, and he stole his first 3 bases of the season. He’s the engine that drives this rig, and when he’s running hot the Sox are gonna score in bunches.

-Welcome back, Lucas Giolito! After a disastrous 1st inning in his last start against the Cardinals, he was back to his old self today, punching out a career high 13 and keeping the Tigers hitters completely off balance. He even worked around a Yoan Moncada error that loaded the bases in the 4th and left them all there by striking out Niko Goodrum and Cristin Stewart with fastballs at the top of the zone. As much as I like the idea of Yasmani Grandal and his pitch framing abilities, but it’s time to anoint James McCann as Gio’s personal catcher. Thus far the results speak for themselves despite the small sample size.

Dane Dunning made his first career start, and it’s hard not to get a little excited about the results. Granted, it’s against the Tigers but if he can exhibit the kind of control he showed Wednesday night it wouldn’t make much difference who he’s facing. Ricky left him in there probably one hitter too long, and it cost him 2 runs but in the long run it didn’t make much difference. He was optioned back to the training facility today, but if Lopez or Rodon have trouble getting back to game shape he should be called right back up.

-All was not sunshine and roses, however. Yasmani Grandal came up lame on Monday after fielding a chopper in front of home plate. Renteria said he wouldn’t need a stay on the IL, so hopefully he’ll be back this weekend. Same goes for Luis Robert, who managed to ding himself up laying out for a sinking line drive on Tuesday night after the game had already been put away. Steve Stone mentioned on the broadcast that it’s hard to teach younger players the times to try and save your body, and it’ll probably be even more difficult for Robert. He should hopefully be good to go against the Cubs this weekend.

-Speaking of the Cubs, they’re the next opponent for this weekend. I’ll be back tomorrow with a special guest for the preview. Until then, I leave you with Victory Okada!