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

As we continue around the diamond we come to one of the more exciting (and divisive) players the Sox employ to patrol their infield, Tim Anderson.

In a season where Rick Hahn really needed some pieces of The Future™ to break out and give the rebuild a nice new glossy shine, Tim Anderson stepped up and not only gave Hahn a success story (along with Yoan and a few others), but the White Sox organization a face and an attitude they can market the living shit out of if they do it right.

While this might not need saying, I’m a complete mark for Tim Anderson. He’s exciting, speaks his mind, and plays with the kind of flash and fire that hasn’t been on the team since Ozzie Guillen left for South Beach. There is something very Pro Wrestling about Tim, and that’s probably a big reason I find myself drawn to his play. I mean, this quote is basically cutting a promo on the entire “Old School” belief system in MLB. It’s badass:

If you can’t get behind this type of swagger in professional sports, then you haven’t been paying attention the past decade. Baseball is supposed to be fun, and this is the definition of that.

2019 Stats

.335/.357/.508

2.9 BB% 21.0 K%

18 HR 56 RBI 86 R

.363 wOBA 130 wRC+ 3.5 WAR

Outs Above Average: -1

 

Last Week On Nitro: 2019 saw a career year at the plate for Timmy, with a .335 batting average and a .508 slugging percentage at the end of the year. Oh, and he also won the AL batting title, making him the first White Sox player to hold that crown since Big Frank did it the year I graduated high school (1997. Yeah, I’m old). Despite all of the above, questions still remain about Timmy. While the .335 batting average was amazing, the .357 OBP was somewhat less than stellar. With his BABIP at a pretty unsustainable .399, the question isn’t “IF” the regression is coming for his average, it’s “how much will it be”?

Defensively, Tim committed quite a few errors last year. His 26 total lead all shortstops last season, which is bad. What’s even worse is he missed almost a month and a half with an ankle injury suffered at the shitbox Fenway Park on a soggy infield, so those 26 errors could’ve ended up being a much higher number. The advanced metrics don’t like him either, ranking him 21st in defensive production in 2019 with an UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) of -9.1.

All is not lost defensively, however. The new defensive stat created by Baseball Savant in conjunction with MLB and Statcast takes into account the difficulty of plays and the distance needed to travel to make said plays (For a good primer on the stat, click here). The league average for fielders is set at zero, and the more positive the number the better, and the more negative number is worse. For comparison, last season Javy Baez was best in the league at short with a +19, while Jorge Polanco was dead last with a -18. Tim Anderson fell just below league average at a -1. What this tells me is that Tim is an extremely athletic shortstop with great range and occasionally poor throw making decisions, which is exactly what the eye test shows.

TOO SWEET! (WHOOP WHOOP): Best case scenario for Timmy is that his BABIP only drops about .030 points, and all of the work he talked about putting in on his defense in the off-season bears fruit and he ends up a league average or better shortstop in the AL. For someone who is clearly as gifted as Tim is athletically this is not something that’s pie in the sky wishful thinking.

A Tim Anderson that hits .290/.310/.480 is going to be a monster in this lineup, which will be even stronger with him hitting in the 7 hole and not leading off like Ricky Renteria seems to think is the best course of action right now. Once Nick Madrigal is fully armed and operational at the big league level, this is gonna be where Timmy ends up. He’s never going to be a big OBP guy, and that’s absolutely fine. Being picky about pitch selection has never been his forte, and I wouldn’t risk changing it just to up his walk total at the expense of his power numbers.

I’d also like to think that him and Moncada will have more of a green light this year, so a 20/20 year is within reach if everything breaks his way. His base stealing acumen has always been more based on his athleticism than any particular feel for the art of it, but much like his OBP…who gives a shit if it works? Having a 20/20 guy hitting in the bottom third of your lineup in a best case scenario is the kind of shit that should give Jake Odorizzi and his pool noodle arm night sweats.

YOU FUCKED UP! YOU FUCKED UP!: This one is pretty self explanatory: Tim’s BABIP falls off a cliff and his numbers completely tank, resulting in the type of season that is much more Alex Cintron than Francisco Lindor. His OBP stays the same, or even drops some and you’re left with a slash line that looks something like this: .225/.252/.388. On top of that big pile of smoldering shit, his D continues to slide and he goes from slightly below league average to total liability.

Then you’re left with the younger more expensive version of Orlando Arcia except with a longer contract term. Meanwhile just to rub salt into the wound, Fernando Tatis Jr. wins the triple crown while leading the Padres to a wild card berth where they upset the Brewers in the 1st round and shock the baseball world by sending the Dodgers out on their collective asses before winning the world series. In addition, the world is dealt a glancing blow by a meteor, which knocks the planet off it’s axis sending us into a 2nd ice age. Also Brooklyn 99 is canceled and Big Bang Theory comes back.

BAH GAWD THAT’S ANDERSON’S MUSIC!: My prediction for Tim this season is this: .272/.308/.461 with 19 dingers and 82 RBI. He’s going to be a +2 Outs Above Average, and steal 18 bases while scoring 90 runs for the Sox.

Renteria is going to stubbornly keep him in the leadoff spot even after Nick Madrigal makes it to the Show, and Luis Robert starts the year on a tear, batting .309. Eventually he’ll come to his senses (around June) and put Tim back in the #7 spot where he will thrive, knocking in 58 of his 82 RBIs.

There will also be plenty more of stuff like this

And This:

And This:

Because baseball is going to be fun again.

Baseball

It’s funny, because this is the name that the Sox fans in my life keep saying, “This is what we’re going to end up with instead of Cole or Strasburg.” Jake Odorizzi is seen very much as a consolation prize, or even worse by some. And he’s certainly not going to replace anyone at the top of anyone’s rotation. But he’s also not a bottom-rotation guy either, and wouldn’t you know it that the Cubs seem to have a hole right in between Darvish-Hendricks and then Lester-Q. So this might be a better idea for the Northsiders than the Southsiders. Let’s look.

Why A Spoon, Sire?: Well, there’s always risk in basing too much off a free agent year, which mysteriously seem to bring out career-highs for players in a lot of categories. Funny how that works. Still, Odorizzi is coming off of a season where he struck out more hitters than ever before, and the Cubs are not a high-K staff at the moment. He eclipsed 10 K per nine for the first time, or 27% of the hitters he saw. He had only been over 22% once before in seven seasons.

Odorizzi got there through a slight pop in his velocity, and also going to a power sinker far more than he had before. He started throwing it upon arrival in Minnesota in 2018, and then bumped up its usage to over 20% this year. The rise from an average of 91 MPH to over 93 on it this season led to a surge in his whiffs-per-swing on it, to 30% from 17%. Where earlier in his career he threw it less than 10% of the time with two strikes, this past season it was pretty much his kneecap pitch, throwing it a third of the time to put away lefties and 20% of the time to get righties.

Odorizzi also wasn’t afraid to go after hitters with his four-seam, and has really subscribed to keeping it high in the zone or above to get hitters out as well. And hitters have been less and less able to get to pitches in the top tier in the zone or above it, as their whiff-per-swing was higher this year by some margin than the career rate he’d managed in those spots over his career. So it could appear that Odorizzi has hit upon something to make ABs end more often without anyone moving (apart from the batter turning around that is).

Ein minuten bitte, vous einen kleinen problemo avec de religione (he was from everywhere): One is innings. Odorizzi rarely if ever sees the sixth inning. So he’s a tax on your pen, and these days Lester and Quintana don’t figure to give you a ton of length either. Then again, this might just be how the game is now and the front office is planning for it.

Odorizzi made 30 starts last year, but only threw 159 innings. He got past the fifth in just about a third of his starts, and only to the 7th twice. He basically gets two times through the lineup and maybe a couple more hitters if things are going well. Again, this might just be the way things are now, and I’ll keep stressing that if you have Chatwood and Alzolay as multi-inning pieces in the pen at the same time, this isn’t that big of a deal. Alzolay would have to prove he can do that still, and the front office to plan for it. But more and more teams are going to have short-inning starters and multi-inning relievers to cover for it, so you might as well get on board now.

Odorizzi will also be 30 when next season starts, so his bump in velocity might only be a short-term thing. He’s probably not going to throw this hard, which isn’t all that hard, when he’s 33 or 34. Good thing no one signs four or five-year deals anyway.

Odorizzi also ran a pretty hot BABIP and hard-contact rate against last year, with Baseball Savant suggesting he should have given up a .400 slugging against. The hard-contact rate against him was over 40%, so while his BABIP was nearly 30 points over his career-average, you get the impression the Twins’ exceptional defense, especially in the outfield, bailed him out a bit.

The Cubs will not have an exceptional outfield defense.

Little Silver? Little Gold?: MLBTR has him staying in Minny to the tune of a three-year, $51M deal. That’s $17M a year, which seems a bit much for a third starter as he would be for the Cubs. It’s not other worldly though, at a time when you’re paying Chatwood over $10M to be a swing guy. Of course, this is probably Tom Ricketts’s point when he doesn’t want to pay anyone else. Odorizzi did get a qualifying offer from the Twins, which means if he doesn’t take it he thinks he can do better than $17.8M a year. He also would cause you to lose a draft pick, and the Cubs seem pretty intent on restocking the farm system (to psychotic levels or as a cover story for being cheap asses), so losing high draft picks probably isn’t on their radar for a mid-rotation starter.

FanGraphs has him pegged at a more reasonable three-years, $45M tab, which sounds much more appetizing for where and what he’ll be. Odorizzi basically provided what Cole Hamels did in the first three months of the season before getting hurt last year. And the Cubs paid $20M for that. So you do the math.