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

It sounds funny now when you say the Cubs along with the Astros are something of the “model” teams are using to justify total tear-downs and rebuilds of their teams. But that’s still the case, though for how much longer one wonders. And the Cubs might not be the model anymore. The other thing is that it’s not going to work out as well even as it did for the Cubs. Look at the Phillies, who tried it and seem stuck in the middle forever. Not everyone gets the parade. And of course, the whole process can be used to cover up what is actually a simple “Producers” like tank to just cash checks.

The Pirates might be the prime example. This is an embarrassing end to the season for a team that just was never good enough because its management never tried to make it anything else. The cover story for them is that they’re still rebuilding from the ’14-’17 run, such as it was.

But did that really have to be? The Pirates watched the Cubs zoom past them, pinpointed by the wildcard game that Jake Arrieta and Kyle Schwarber essentially took from them. But over 162 games, those teams were exactly the same. Did they have to just watch instead of run with? They let Charlie Morton and AJ Burnett go their way, but they still had Jameson Taillon waiting and Tyler Glasnow not too far behind. But they added nothing to the lineup, and were caught standing still when everyone else was ready to move forward. It wasn’t attendance’s fault, as they drew three million fans the previous season.

No, what happened was ownership saw that it would take more money to keep up with the Cubs (and eventually Brewers and now Cardinals), and decided that it wasn’t worth it to them. Thanks to BAMTECH and other factors, they still get their money. So the Pirates of the middle of the decade were allowed to yellow, and that became a justification for trading Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen for essentially role players but no future stars.

The Pirates will claim that they’re remaking for a run in the next year or two, but what they’re really doing is just treading water and raking in the cash every MLB team gets before they even have to worry about gates and local television and the like. It’s a cover of a rebuild, but it’s hardly that.

There isn’t a team in MLB now that can’t afford to build a winner. The only team that might have that claim is Tampa, and they seem to come up with a contender every year anyway. But thanks to some teams that have found success going to the bottom to rise again, any team can use that as a life preserver when all they’re really doing is cutting costs. You’ve seen it in free agency the past two winters.

Until there’s a reason not to, this is the cycle the Bucs will stay in. Sure, maybe their system can produce a couple more players and Taillon comes back healthy one day and Musgrove really pops. And maybe they spasm a 92-win season or two. But as soon as that needs to be built upon and the foundations need to be paid, they’ll sink back into this, claiming a rebuild was necessary. It won’t be, but it’ll be profitable. Every team now can reach for “Springtime for Hitler.” The Pirates are just the best example.

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: Pirates 5-3   Cubs 2-7

GAMETIMES: Monday 1:20, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:05

TV: ABC Monday, WGN Wednesday, NBCSN Chicago Thursday

THE CONFLUENCE: Bucs Dugout

PROBABLE PITCHERS

Jameson Taillon vs. Jon Lester

Jordan Lyles vs. Yu Darvish

Joe Musgrove vs. Jose Quintana

Probable Pirates Lineup

Adam Frazier – 2B

Starling Marter – CF

Francisco Cervelli – C

Josh Bell – 1B

Piece Of Shit – 3B

Melky Cabrera – RF

JB Shuck – LF

Erik Gonzalez – SS

(note: the Bucs haven’t faced a lefty this year so not sure how that will change. Frazier and Shuck likely come out for Kevin Newman and Pablo Reyes). 

Cubs Lineup

Ben Zobrist – RF

Kris Bryant – 3B

Anthony Rizzo – 1B

Javier Baez – SS

Kyle Schwarber – LF

Willson Contreras – C

Daniel Descalso – 2B

Jason Heyward – CF

Well, this should be quite the atmosphere, no? Not only is it the first time Cubs fans will congregate since Tom Ricketts sat on the front office’s hands for them, as well as bitched about the money they don’t have while opening up exclusive clubs left and right in Wrigley, but the Cubs decided to put extra hot sauce on this one by biffing their opening road trip to the tune of a 2-7 record. Usually Opening Day is one big hug. This one is going to have some grinding teeth.

Then again, there’s always grinding teeth when the Pirates are involved, as they can’t seem to shake their hold-me-back ways. They kicked it off this season when Chris Archer filled his diaper yesterday after Derek Dietrich stared at a home run, one that landed somewhere near Harrisburg, so Archer threw behind him. The Pirates got put in their place of course when Yasiel Puig wanted to fight them all and no one had the tires to take him up on the offer. Then again, would you?

It seems the Bucs are always a tightly-wound bunch placing chips on their own shoulders. It’s an organization that is always Sean Rodriguez beating up a cooler, making a big show of doing nothing. And that’s what the Pirates do, nothing. Their owner can’t be bothered to augment what should be a pretty good team, and he hasn’t in five seasons now. They collect their revenue sharing, put just enough of a product out there where you squint and see a contender with one or two moves that never come. And then we do it all over again the next season.

Because this team could be good. It throws a hell of a starting staff at you, with budding star Taillon, Archer, Trevor Williams, and Musgrove (part of the Gerrit Cole deal). It’s not the best rotation, but it isn’t far off, and it comes with a lot of angry fastballs. Some of them aren’t even at hitters!

The pen hasn’t started the year sending hearts aflutter. Felipe Vasquez is always a real problem, but no one else there has been able to find the plate (it can happen to others, people). If you’re bringing out Francisco Liriano from the bullpen, you’ve pretty much admitted you’re ready for an adventure every day. They strike a lot of people out (everyone does but the Cubs), but they don’t get there easily.

The lineup is very boom-or-bust right now, though getting six games in against whatever the Reds are tossing out there certainly is a help. Adam Frazier, Josh Bell, and old friend Melky Cabrera are crushin’ fools left and right so far on the nascent season. Marte, Cervelli, and Kang are wandering lost in the woods. Let’s just be relieved there’s no Christian Yelich here.

The Cubs will be lucky to get two of these in, as Wednesday night’s forecast looks especially gross. Probably should move that one up to the off-day tomorrow, but I also can’t remember when a game was actually moved up a day. After seeing two division winners last week, the Cubs get 12 games against teams that aren’t supposed to be anything more than middling. Maybe they can get healthy that way.

Albert Almora seems to have already lost his starting job in center, as Heyward has moved over the past couple days to accommodate Descalso at second. Is that where Ian Happ will go eventually? Who knows? Maybe Joe Maddon is just riding the Heyward wave. They don’t last long so you have to.

Enough of this happy horseshit. Time to get the season back on track.