Baseball

VS. Evil Empire (album) - Wikipedia

 

Records: White Sox 26-16 / Yankees 25-19

First Pitch: Friday 6:05, Sat/Sun 12:05

TV/Radio: NBCSN/ESPN1000

Pizza Wars: Pinstripe Alley

 

PROBABLE PITCHERS

Game 1: Carlos Rodon (5-1 1.47 ERA) vs. Jordan Montgomery (2-1 4.75 ERA)

Game 2: Dylan Cease (2-0 2.41 ERA) vs. Gerrit Cole (5-2 2.03 ERA)

Game 3: Dallas Keuchel (3-1 4.44 ERA) vs. Jameson Taillon (1-3 5.73 ERA)

 

3 weeks ago I don’t think anyone would’ve considered this series to be a potential 1st round playoff preview, as the Yankees were mired in their worst start to a season in over 20 years. Coming out of the gate with ice cold hitting and having everyone not named Gerrit Cole getting pummeled on the mound will do that to you. Much like the White Sox, however, as soon as the mercury began to climb the Yankees bats came alive. Just since the calendar flipped to May, the Bombers have gone from averaging 3.45 runs per game to 4.06. In April, they scored 2 or fewer runs in 8 of their 26 games and went 2-6 in them as compared to May where they’re 4-2 in games where they score 2 or less.

Leading the charge offensively are the usual suspects of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo “Mike” Stanton, DJ LeMahieu, and Gio Urshela. Combined, the 4 of them are worth approximately 4.4 WAR so far with Judge taking up a whopping 1.6 of that number. Missing from those stats is the recently returned Luke Voit, who missed the first 6 weeks of the season after having a procedure done on his knee to repair a partially torn meniscus. Given that he missed most of spring training and the season thus far, it’s pretty forgivable that he’s only slashing .207/.303/.610 with one lonely dinger to his name. Really, this lineup doesn’t have any holes in it right now with the exception of missing Stanton right now (who’s out with a strained hamstring, but is expected back after this series). The biggest disappointment would have to be Gary Sanchez, who has yet to break the Mendoza line, but even he’s run headfirst into 5 home runs so far.

On the starting pitching side of the ball, things are much less rosy for the Yanks. Outside of Gerrit Cole (and I suppose Corey Kluber and his no-no on Wednesday night) the starting rotation has been eminently hittable. After Cole and Kluber, the ERA of the 3rd through 5th starters sits at 4.51 with a 1.20 WHIP. The biggest offender is the game 3 starter, Jameson Tallion who’s return from double Tommy John surgery has not yet paid the dividends that Brain Cashman was hoping for when he sent 4 prospects to the Pirates in exchange for his services this past off-season. Tallion hasn’t had issues with striking people out, as his K/9 sits at a very pretty 10.99. His problem has been (much like Dylan Cease at the start of the year) pitch efficiency and walks. He’s started one less game than Gerrit Cole, but he’s pitched 20 less innings than him, with a walk rate just under 2.4. He’s only gotten past the 6th inning once (two weeks ago against the Nats), and he needed 100 pitches to do it. Having him going game 3 against the Sox in what is hopefully the rubber match of the series tips the scales towards the Sox in that instance.

As for the White Sox, after the series win against the Twins this past week (coaching shenanigans and all) without the services of Jose Abreu they look to increase their lead in the AL central. The Indians still sit 2.5 games behind the Sox with a series against the Twins on tap this weekend.

After the offensive outburst night one vs Minnesota, the bats predictably went quiet over the next two games. After pounding out 4 runs against the rookie Bailey Ober in game 2, they were only able to manage 2 runs over the next 14 innings while stranding 19 runners on base. A majority of this is to be expected, what with 3 of the top 4 hitters on the team on the shelf with injuries and all, but hopefully this turns around with the (supposed) return of Jose Abreu for this series. At publishing time there still has been no word as to Jose’s status but the previous update from the team expected him to be available for this weekend’s series.

As for the pitching, they’ll have their work cut out for them this weekend playing in a park built for the long ball. The porches in left and right field are some of the shortest in the league and the Yanks (much like the Sox) are build to pummel left handed pitching so Rodon and Keuchel are going to need to keep the ball down to survive. Saturday’s matchup of Dylan Cease and Gerrit Cole should be a K-Fest, as the two of them combined average 9+ strikeouts per 9 innings with a sub 2.40 ERA. It should be fun, as well as the stiffest test of Cease’s newfound control thus far.

All told, this series is going to be a good measuring stick for the White Sox going forward. The Yankees are probably the best offense they’ve seen this far, and that’s without Giancarlo Stanton in the lineup. Keep the walks to a minimum, keep the ball down, and hopefully keep the bullpen use to a minimum. The starters for the Yankees in games 1 and 3 can be gotten to, especially with Jordan Montgomery being a lefty and Jameson Tallion unable to find the plate. Take 2 of 3 here and then come home to face the Cardinals on Monday.

 

Let’s Go Sox.

Baseball

Everyone knew that when the Pirates were flirting with the top of the division at the beginning portion of the season it was something of an illusion. Even with a healthy Jameson Taillon, and health elsewhere, this was based on Josh Bell’s freak-onomics at the plate and some other blind, dumb, idiot luck. What no one could have expected is that the market correction would be so harsh, so violent, and so complete.

The Pirates have gone 11-27 since July 1. They’ve lost 18 of 22 at one point. They have losing streaks of eight and nine games just in the past three weeks. They have the second-worst record in the National League, with only the we-don’t-even-try Marlins propping them up.

And what’s it’s done is expose rifts, stupidity, and simply indifference at the playing, managerial, front office, and ownership levels. This is a fine mess, and maybe something a real commissioner might feel tempted to do something about. But we’ll get back to that in a minute.

Just today, The Athletic in Pittsburgh broke a story about how the Bucs have had to suspend two pitchers and one coach for insubordination. This follows their actual brawl with the Reds, caused by the Pirates either encouragement of pitchers throwing at hitters’s heads or their inability to get them to stop, or an unwillingness or lack of motivation to even try. Pitchers and players have openly balked at the Pirates still cutter-heavy teachings and shift-heavy ways, even though they’re one of the worst ground-ball producing pitching staffs in the majors.

Secondly, you can’t lose that many games in that big of a bunch without some players quitting. And yet there’s been little mention of Clint Hurdle being fired, even though he’s got open insubordination and a team that doesn’t seem to care. This runs through the Pirates organization as a whole, as when owner Bob Nutting is reminded he actually owns a baseball team he’s shown loyalty over anything else, though that could just be indifference or laziness to not even wanting to bother.

The Pirates have been unlucky with injuries, as Taillon is headed for a second Tommy John surgery, and the pen can’t seem to keep anyone upright for very long either. But that doesn’t explain it all.

The dysfunction flows upward. Neal Huntington, the GM, doesn’t seem to have worry about his job status much either, and in the interest of fairness he does have his hands tied by strict payroll limits from his owner. Still, this was a team that tried to force Gerrit Cole into their very limited view of how pitchers should work, and then sold low on him to Houston and watched him become perhaps the most dominant starter in the American League. And all that was a result of the Astros just letting him be what he wants. Michael Feliz, Colin Moran, and Joe Musgrove either are or could be nice pieces, but none are defining a team.

But Huntington has always struggled to know what he has. Only Bell has come through the system to be a star under his watch, and that was only this year. Gregory Polanco has flattered to deceive, Taillon is hurt, and he gave up on Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows way early to bring in the husk of Chris Archer. Sure, Glasnow has the same injury problems as Taillon, but Meadows has been a borderline star, and in the outfield where the Pirates are currently sporting Melky Cabrera. And if you’re sporting Melky Cabrera in 2019, you suck. This list could go on.

But the rot starts at the head, and that’s Nutting. There’s no better example of a MLB owner just pocketing his BAMTECH and revenue sharing money and leaving the team he owns to flounder and turn weird colors, but still produce a profit. The Pirates drew over two million fans for five years running, covering both ends of their three wildcard berths stretch. But do you remember the Bucs ever adding to those teams in an ambitious way with a free agent pitcher or hitter they desperately needed to stick with the Cubs and now Brewers? Hey, the Brewers have swung trades for Christian Yelich and signed Lorenzo Cain and Yasmani Grandal, and they’re the same sized market as Pittsburgh or thereabouts (at least in baseball terms, Milwaukee has nearly twice the population).

Nutting rarely talks to the press, and is heavily guarded when he does. So we have no idea what he thinks. Yet being in Pittsburgh doesn’t seem to hold the Penguins or Steelers back much, even if they exist in leagues with salary caps.

The Pirates have been caught and passed on the field with their once-forward-looking methods, and don’t do much about it. Their front office seems helpless to add anything with the budget they have or to rightly evaluate what’s around. Their owner doesn’t seem to care. It’s rotten in The Iron City.

 

Baseball

  VS       

RECORDS: Sox 52-64  Astros 77-41

GAMETIMES: Mon/Tues 7:10, Wednesday 1:10

TV: Mon/Tues NBCSN, Wednesday WGN

Houston, We Are A Problem: The Crawfish Boxes

 

PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS

Game 1:  Dylan Cease vs. Zack Greinke

Game 2:  Chevy Nova vs. Gerrit Cole

Game 3:  Ross Detwiler vs. Wade Miley

 

PROBABLE SOX LINEUP

Jon Jay – RF

Tim Anderson – SS

Jose Abreu – 1B

James McCann – C

Eloy Jimenez – LF

Wellington Castillo – DH

Yolmer Sanchez – 2B

Ryan Goins – 3B

Adam Engel – CF

 

PROBABLE ASTROS LINEUP

George Springer – CF

Jose Altuve – 2B

Michael Brantley – LF

Alex Bregman – 3B

Yordan Alvarez – DH

Carlos Correa – SS

Yuli Gurriel – 1B

Ronny Chirinos – C

Josh Reddick – RF

 

This one could be ugly. The Astros come to town having just dropped 33 runs on the hapless Orioles this past weekend. Granted, 23 of those runs came in the Saturday matinee where they pounded out 25 hits against the O’s but still. That’s like 43,000% more runs than the Sox scored against the A’s this past weekend (Math is not my strong suit). Yet despite those gaudy offensive numbers, the Orioles still managed to escape with a win on Sunday 8-7 after closer (and noted shitbag) Roberto Osuna threw up all over himself in the 9th inning. You hate to see it.

The Astros are currently the best hitting team in the majors, topping a majority of the offensive categories created by man. Just behind them are (unsurprisingly) the Dodgers and then (BARF) the Twins. Just looking at the lineup the Astros are throwing out against the Sox this week should be enough to give Ross Detwiler night terrors. Honestly, the worst person in that lineup is hitting 9th, and he would be the 3rd best hitter were he on the Sox roster right now. They don’t strike out very much, they have the best walk rate in the majors, and they hit the living shit out of the ball. If they had been healthy through June instead of missing monsters like George Springer, Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve their numbers would be even more bonkers. Alas, for the rest of the league they ARE healthy now and have been pummeling opposing pitchers into the fetal position.

Making things even worse is they managed to get better at the trade deadline, adding Zack Grienke to an already pretty impressive starting rotation. Grienke brings his 12th best pitching stats to a rotation that already included the 5th best (Gerrit Cole) and the 8th (Verlander). Greinke doesn’t have the pure K stuff he had in his days with the Royals and Dodgers, but has learned to rely on his fastball less and refined his change, which he’s almost doubled in usage since he moved to the bandbox that was Chase Field in AZ. The Sox get both him AND Cole, then get the respite of Wade Miley, except Miley has reinvented himself this year using Astros Pitching Voodoo Magic. He’s posted career best numbers in K’s and cut his walk rate considerably, making him if not as difficult as the other two, still overkill for what the Sox have been bringing to the plate.

Speaking of which, after scoring a whopping 3 runs against the A’s this past weekend the Sox have seemingly shaken the roster up by doing…absolutely nothing. As of writing this it looks like the same lineup Renteria trotted out yesterday. While the Sox 1-5 hitters on paper look pretty solid, their production (Outside of Tim Anderson) has been sorely lacking the last 10 games. If they’re going to have a prayer of winning anything against the ‘Stros, Jose Abreu and James McCann need to stop looking like they’re double parked in Wrigleyville and work the counts a little more in their favor. Moncada is still a few days away from returning, so we get more of Ryan Goins and his Interpretive Dance Defense at the hot corner. Sox pitching has it’s work cut out for it, and I’m interested to see how Dylan Cease handles this unholy terror of a lineup. His control needs to be precise, and the walks need to be nil, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he ups his game. The bullpen has been pitching well, which is good because they’re gonna be needed on Wednesday with Detwiler scheduled to start.

Let’s Go Sox

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baseball

You would think a lot of Pirates would benefit from escaping Pittsburgh. It’s only worked out so-so for Andrew McCutchen, the offensive centerpiece for those playoff Pirate teams. Gerrit Cole, on the other hand, has found salvation in Houston after being punted from The Confluence.

Upon arriving in Houston, Cole saw his strikeout jump up a third, to the point that he’s now striking out over 13 hitters per nine innings, after gather 12 per nine last year, or over a third the past two years. That leads the league both years and combined. Basically, nothing happens when Cole is on the mound, except the occasional home run when he finds someone’s bat. That’s been the only bugaboo this year so far.

So how was Cole able to boost his strikeouts so fantastically in Houston after flashing this stuff in Pittsburgh? Cole was the one pitcher who chafed under the Pirates cutter-heavy, and shift-heavy ways. He was pushed to give up grounders that their infield could gobble up instead of just sending hitters back to the dugout having never made contact in the first place. It wasn’t that Cole wasn’t effective in black and yellow, as his ERA was below 4.00 every year except his last.

Well, the Astros saw his 95-MPH fastball and figured he should just throw that as often as possible. They also got him to ditch his sinker/two-seamer, and haven’t worried about what ground balls he is or isn’t getting. Cole upped his fastball usage 10 percent as an Astro, and has completely cut his use of the sinker to nothing. He’s also bumped up his use of a curve and slider, which are just the same side of the coin depending on velocity, and dumped the change-up he was trying in 2017 that led to nowhere.

As you get with the Astros, there are always whispers about how exactly they improve the spin-rate of their pitchers. Cole has added a mile or two an hour to his fastball in Houston, and his curve has added three inches of drop each of the past two years. Which makes it quite the weapon, and also something you wouldn’t have seen coming. But with that smoke and then a curve that drops off the table, you can see why hitters are just waving at anything he’s serving up there.

All of it must have Cole looking at the upcoming winter and getting awfully big eyes, because it’ll be his first dip into free agency. Or he would have been if the free agent market hadn’t completely disappeared thanks to not collusion for sure. Still, top end starters have been able to get theirs. If Patrick Corbin was able to get six years at $140M, then Cole must be thinking about a $30M per year deal somewhere. deGrom just signed for a little south of that, that’s where teammate Verlander is, same for Scherzer, and those are the names Cole’s numbers have him hanging around with.

The Astros have some of the same concerns as the Cubs, locking in the players they’ve produced to make this unholy monster of a team. Jose Altuve’s salary jumps $20M next year. Bregman’s $13M. George Springer enters arbitration. So does Carlos Correa. Houston had $121M committed to next year before those two get what they have coming to them. They might have enough room for $27-30M for Cole, but it’ll be a squeeze.

Until then, they’ll just take the avalanche of strikeouts.

Baseball

vs.

RECORDS: White Sox 21-24   Astros 31-16

GAMETIMES: Monday-Thursday at 7:10

TV: NBCSN Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, WGN Wednesday

SONS OF MIKE SCOTT: Crawfish Boxes

PROBABLE PITCHERS

TBD vs. Brad Peacock

Dylan Covey vs. Justin Verlander

Ivan Nova vs. Gerrit Cole

Lucas Giolito vs. Corbin Martin

PROBABLE WHITE SOX LINEUP

Leury Garcia – CF

Yoan Moncada – 3B

Jose Abreu – 1B

Yonder Alonso – DH

James McCann – C

Eloy Jimenez – LF

Tim Anderson – SS

Yolmer Sanchez – 2B

Charlie Tilson – RF

PROBABLE ASTROS LINEUP

George Springer – CF

Alex Bregman – 3B

Michael Brantley – DH

Carlos Correa – SS

Josh Reddick – RF

Yuri Gurriel – 2B

Tyler White – 1B

Robinson Chirinos – C

Jake Marisnick – LF

 

Well I’m sure it was nice for the White Sox to play at their own level for a while with the Blue Jays for seven games over the past 10 days, but it’s straight into the deep end now. The Sox travel to Houston to face that throng of frost giants who like to smash things but good, and then cross the country length-wise to face the division-leading Twins who are something of a diet version of the Astros. Good time to have a bunch of injuries on your pitching staff, huh?

To be fair to the Sox, there just might not be a pitching staff that can deal with the artillery the Astros throw at you every night. They’re second in runs in the majors, behind those previously mentioned Twins. They have the best OBP in the majors by eight points. They have the best slugging percentage. They have the best wOBA as well. Of their eight regulars, only Yuri Gurriel isn’t carrying a wRC+ well over 100, and he’s at 99. Even part-timers Aledmys Diaz and Jake Marisnick are turning baseballs into paste when they’re in the lineup. There’s no break here. Michael Brantley, who I still can’t believe the Indians just let walk out the door considering their outfield options, has an OPS of .933. That’s fourth-best on the team. There is no non-monster in this lineup right now, with the Crawford Boxes beckoning the whole night. It’s a goddamn nightmare for anyone.

But that’s ok, because they have a really strong rotation, too. You’ll know all about Verlander, who will carry a sub-3.00 ERA until he’s 52 for no reason. Gerrit Cole carries the highest K/9 in all of baseball. Wade Miley has been able to parlay the Astros’ superb defense into success (oh right, the Astros catch everything too). Brad Peacock has been just above “meh,” and Collin McHugh actually bad. But hey, no biggie, because two of their top four prospects just happen to be starters, and Corbin Martin has already arrived (though Forrest Whitley has had a rough go so far in AAA so he might not be the sure bet for this year he was before it started). So there’s no break here.

Well, maybe you can get to them in the late innings, right? Fuck you, buddy. Ryan Pressly and Roberto Osuna (aka ASSHOLE), are both carrying ERAs under 1.00. Will Harris is at 1.15. Hector Rondon at 2.30. McHugh and Peacock have both rotated out there in the past and this year with success. Joshua James and Chris Devenski have had their issues, but they’re on the margins, especially when they get the innings they do out of the starters and the creative use of A.J. Hinch. They might not strike out the world as some pens do, but their top four in Pressly, Osuna, Harris, and Rondon barely walk anyone and other than Osuna the other three get a ton of grounders on the contact they do give up. There’s nowhere to go here.

So the Sox having to have a bullpen day to kick this off tonight is less than ideal. Especially when it’s not a fully healthy pen. Giolito will get his biggest test of his new approach and stuff, as will everyone else. Eloy Jimenez looks poised to return as Nicky Delmonico was shipped out yesterday along with his hair care products. Good thing too, because the Sox are going to need a lot of runs to hang in there in Texas this week.