Baseball

Some players are born to just do one thing. It’s like they’re cut directly out of the molds that used to make the little plastic army men some of us played with as kids. Daniel Palka and Dan Vogelbach are two guys who look like they were made from the EXACT same mold. Literally. Like they had the same form and everything, then at the last second they put a different head on Palka just to make sure people could tell the difference.

Positionally they’re almost identical as well, as they are both generously listed as first basemen/outfielders but are both horrible in the field and better suited to being designated hitters. They’re both pretty identical there as well, being that they’re both plus-sized left handed uppercut swingers. Both guys are the prototypical “Three True Outcomes” hitters in this launch angle era of baseball that they both hit in.

They were both considered career AAA hitters as well, until last season when Palka had a fairly decent run at the big league level with the White Sox. He turned in a .240/.294/.778 slash line in 417 at bats. He also socked 27 dingers and added 67 RBI to the equation.  Vogelbach meanwhile had a brutal run at the major league level last season with the Mariners. He was called up twice and played in a total of 37 games with just under 90 at bats. In that time he slashed a miserable .207/.324/.691 with 4 home runs and 13 RBI. Vogelbach’s splits were exactly what you would expect from a left handed power hitter, having a .050 average and one extra base hit against same handed pitching in 2018, while he hit .250 against right handers and hit all of his home runs.

Flip to this year, and the two have practically swapped spots. Palka had a brutal start to the season, hitting .059 in 50+ at bats, with no extra base hits and an almost 50% strikeout rate. He was sent down to Charlotte in May. Vogelbach won the 1B/DH job out of spring training and came out of the gate smoking hot, hitting 8 home runs and ringing in 14 RBIs in the month of April. His job security increased even more at the beginning of June when the Mariners sent Edwin Encarnacion to the Yankees in the trade that netted them pitching prospect Juan Then. Vogelbach currently has a .212/.344/.800 line with 24 home runs. Palka was called back up this month as part of the September roster expansion and picked right back up where he left off, with a .135/.141/.176 line. Yeah, you read that right. Daniel Palka is currently slugging at a .035 clip in the 2019 season.

So what’s the difference? What changed? Why has Palka gone from a 0.7 WAR player to a -1.5 one in a single offseason? For once, there isn’t much in the advanced stats that can give us a clue as to why Palka’s swing has fallen off a cliff. Last season his BABIP was a little high (.308) but certainly not a number that screamed drastic regression. His 38% K rate is way above the league average, but that doesn’t speak much to his lack of hits. His hard hit rate is the only number that’s followed his performance off the cliff, going from 36.4% last year to 8.8% this season, but Palka himself admits he hasn’t really tinkered with his swing at all.

What is the cause of the turnaround in Vogelbach’s game that has him now a valuable major league contributor (granted for a rebuilding team) instead of a career AAAA player? This is pretty much the guy the Cubs envisioned when they took him in the 2nd round of the 2011 draft. Kind of  like a pre-Schwarber Schwarber. A look at Vogelbach’s advanced stats show that most of them are pretty much in line with what he’s produced his entire career. His hard hit rate is 52.5%, up 4.8% from the previous year, which is what you’d expect with an uptick in power. His BABIP this season is at .230, which is actually lower than what he produced last season and indicates he’s not getting very good batted ball luck. His wOBA is only .010 higher than last season. What gives?

Ultimately we come to the point in baseball where there are some things that just can’t be explained away by advanced stats. Sometimes good (or bad) luck just takes over and produces career best and worst years. For the Mariners, they’re currently reaping those rewards being produced by the good stuff coming off Vogelbach’s bat. For the Sox, what was shiny last year has been polished right into a turd. Palka should be given the rest of the month to try and hit his way out of this epic slump that he’s in the middle of. The Sox should know if what he did last year was a mirage, or if this season is just some ungodly bad luck vortex that Palka is swirling amidst. Both guys have value to their teams, but only if the cards are cut juuuuuust right.

 

Baseball

BOX SCORES:

Game 1: Rain Out

Game 2: White Sox 7 – Tigers 5

Game 3: White Sox 9 – Tigers 6 (12 Innings)

Game 4: White Sox 5 – Tigers 11

 

Wow.  Lots to talk about here, from Dylan Cease’s first ever MLB start and win, to Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada refusing to let the Sox lose in game 2 of the doubleheader, to Reynaldo Lopez’ continued struggles in game 3 today.  There’s a lot to be excited about, and the double comeback win in game 2 is the kind of rally that fans of the team will remember for a long time.  It was FifthFeather in fact who tweeted that the game forcibly reminded him of the Christmas Blackhawks game in 2007 against the Oilers which was the birth of the Hawks tremendous run throughout the 2010s.  Let’s hope this is in that vein, as the core group of guys seems to have a little something special going on.  The quest for .500 continues, and the Sox edge ever closer.  To the bullets!

 

NUMBERS DON’T LIE

 

-I used the title above in reference to my favorite WWF moment ever, when Mick Foley won his first World Title on Monday Night Raw, January of 1999.  Foley (then in his Mankind persona) was facing off against The Rock (then the Corporate Champion of Vince McMahon) in a no DQ match.  Just when it looks like Foley is going to lose, the glass shattering beginning of Stone Cold Steve Austin’s music hits and the place goes apeshit.  Austin tees off on the Rock’s head with a chair and rolls Foley over for the 1-2-3.  It’s the loudest I’ve ever heard a crowd before, and Moncada and Abreu’s home runs in extra innings reminded me of this moment.  You could almost hear the glass break as Abreu somehow turned a low and away changeup from Nick Ramierez and pulled it into the Sox bullpen.  Just like on Raw, the Comiskey crowd goes ballistic and it gives me chills.  It’s probably the most exciting moment this team has had since Thome’s bomb in the blackout game against the Twins.  In a way, those 2 home runs may end up serving as bookends for the rebuild.  Let’s hope.

-Yoan Moncada also homered from both sides of the plate that night, the one from the left side being the most impressive (not just because it tied the game), as he absolutely murdered a cutter off Tigers closer Shane Green and put it 462 feet away from home plate.  I know the ball is juiced, but goddam that was a sight to behold.

-Lest we forget, Dylan Cease had his first ever major league start AND win.  He worked 5 innings, 4 of which were more than acceptable.  He came in the first, clearly bothered by nerves walking 2 and plunking one.  This resulted in the only two runs he gave up until he hung a curveball to Jeimer Candelario in the 5th.  He didn’t let that faze him, however, as he then mowed down Harold Castro with a nasty curveball after that.  He was still overthrowing his fastball, but I feel now with the first start out of the way that should abate.  His curveball is plus stuff, and his change has some sick movement on it.  I’m eager to see what he can do from here on out.

-It wasn’t all roses and dingers however.  Reynaldo Lopez had another shit outing, giving up 6 and only going 5.1 innings.  His off speed stuff just wasn’t where it needed to be, so the Tigers just zeroed in on his fastball and crushed it.  The bullpen didn’t fare any better, as noted arsonist Juan Minaya came in and promptly gave up 2 more runs.  Renteria didn’t have a whole lot of options however, what with the double header and extra innings games the previous day.

-Daniel Palka should never start in front of Zack Collins again.  If someone plays shitty defense at 1st base and bats below the Mendoza line, I’d rather have it be a prospect then the journeyman.  Seriously, Palka is hitting .022 right now.  What about him says “play him over our first round draft pick?”

-Yolmer Sanchez was heating up at the plate, so naturally someone stepped on his hand today and he had to leave the game.  Hopefully he doesn’t miss much time.

-Next up is the Cubbies and another chance to blow past .500 so I’m sure it’ll be a split.  Onwards!

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: White Sox 7-10   Tigers 8-9

GAMETIMES: Thursday 12:10, Friday 6:10, Saturday and Sunday 12:10

TV: WGN Thursday and Sunday, NBCSN Friday and Saturday

SPARKY’S SPAWN: Bless You Boys

PROBABLE PITCHERS

Ivan Nova vs. Tyson Ross

Carlos Rodon vs. Jordan Zimmerman

Ervin Santana vs. Daniel Norris

Reynaldo Lopez vs. TBD

PROBABLE SOX LINEUP

Leury Garcia – CF

Yoan Moncada – 3B

Jose Abreu – 1B

Yonder Alonso – DH

Eloy Jimenez – LF

Tim Anderson – SS

Welington Castillo – C

Yolmer Sanchez – 2B

Ryan Cordell – RF

PROBABLE TIGERS LINEUP

Josh Harrison – 2B

Nick Castellanos – RF

Miguel Cabrera – DH

Niko Goodrum – 1B

Jeimer Candelario – 3B

Dustin Peterson – LF

Gordon Beckham – SS

Grayson Greiner – C

Jacoby Jones – CF

 

The Sox are seeing the two other sides to the rebuilding troika of the AL Central this week. After taking two of three from the Royals at home, the Sox will head to Detroit for the first time on the season. The Tigers are supposed to be a year or two or three behind the Sox in their recycle, yet are a game ahead of them in the current standings. But nothing other than the Marlins being an affront to nature is working out as it was supposed to yet.

The Tigers though are at least speeding to where they’re supposed to be. They’ve lost four in a row and five of the last six, after getting off to a hotter start than anyone would have guessed. And the offense would seem to be the big culprit. They’re last in all of MLB with their 45 runs scored, or just over two per game. There are only three semi-regulars producing at even above average at the moment, and one of them is Gordon Beckham and his hair that can never die. Niko Goodrum is taking advantage of his first everyday role, and a pretty high walk-rate of 15%. But other than that, there’s nothing here. Even Ervin Santana might find safe-haven here working through this lineup. Miggy Cabrera just might make you cry…well, Sox fans will probably really enjoy the decrepit version of one of their greatest tormentors. Josh Harrison literally has a wRC+ of 0. He technically doesn’t exist. The Tigers would be just as good sending no one to the plate as they are sending Harrison right now. It would be equal. He’s already been worth -0.5 WAR. In 17 games. That’s….that’s just amazing.

The rotation has held it together for now, but is taking some serious hits. Matt Moore was lost for the season a few days ago with knee-knack, and Michael Fulmer never made the bell. Jordan Zimmerman takes up space as he kind of always has the past five years, and Tyson Ross is also here in his role of “Official Seat-Filler For Subpar Teams’ Rotations.” The Sox will miss either or both of Matthew Boyd and Spencer Turnbull, who have done most of the good work so far, though one could go Sunday. Daniel Norris, who is somehow only 25, will slide back into the rotation after coming out of the pen for the start of the year. If you can’t tell Norris, Ross, and Zimmerman apart, no one will blame you. If you can…well, you may want to think about some changes in your life.

The Tigers are carrying the third best bullpen ERA in the AL, even though they have the 10-lowest strikeout-rate and middling walk numbers. You can go up to get a beer when Daniel Stumpf comes in, as not much will happen. He’s striking out nearly 15 hitters per nine innings, but he’s also walking nearly five. The fielders can all work on their arm-balances when he comes jogging in.

As for the Sox, they’ll begin their post-Daniel Palka era in right field, which we know you’re excited for. Palka was punted back to Charlotte after his only good game, which seemed a tad cruel but entirely justified. Ryan Cordell will be the first to start out there, and 27-year-0lds coming up from the minors are definitely always worth paying attention to. Carson Fulmer is also up to replace Lucas Giolito on the roster.

Grey weekend in Detroit. Just seems right.