Baseball

BOX SCORES

Game 1: Cleveland 3 – White Sox 4

Game 2: Cleveland 2 – White Sox 0

Game 3: Cleveland 0 – White Sox 8

Game 4: Cleveland 4 – White Sox 2

 

While part of me REALLLLLY wants to get fired up and bitch about the fact that the Sox had YET ANOTHER chance to put away a team in the rubber match of a series and failed to do it, I’ve decided to take a calmer, more positive approach to this recap. Talk more about what went right than what went wrong. Then if I don’t feel better I’ll throw my laptop off the roof and drop an elbow on it’s remains.

Because in reality, there was a lot to like about the Sox performance this series. The pitching was absolutely fucking nails. Yermin hit another ball that broke orbit and knocked on of Elon’s satellites out of the sky. Moncada seems to be coming out of his slump, and Tim Anderson came back from the DL and promptly smoked 2 hits. Even Adam Eaton was less offensive to me during this series! All good things! We should talk about them, that way you don’t have to think about the Blackhawks getting fucking skulled by the Dead Wings last night.

ANNOUNCER: Aaaand here comes the laptop throw!

 

TO THE BULLETS!

 

NUMBERS DON’T LIE

 

-How cool is it that Carlos Rodon, after having what can only be described as consecutive miserable seasons, came out there and was a shoelace away from a perfect game? It’s not often anyone has to “settle” for a no hitter, but that was definitely the case here. Side note: while I really wanna get mad at Roberto Perez (not just because he looks like a bargain basement Yadi Molina) for not getting out of the way of the backfoot slider, there really wasn’t much chance of him doing that. Throughout the start Rodon was in control of the zone, changing speeds and moving up and down. Much like peak Justin Verlander, his velocity started around 92 and peaked at 98.9 MPH on the 108th pitch of his start. You can’t teach stuff like that, it has to be engrained in you. Through 2 starts, Rodon is 2-0 with 16 strikeouts and a 0.36 WHIP. If this is what a finally healthy Rodon looks like, then I’d like to rescind all the nasty comments I made about his signing back in January. Hard Carl indeed.

-The rest of the Sox pitching was no slouch either. Dallas Keuchel came in on short notice Monday night after Hard Carl’s #2s turned out to not be so hard. He went a solid 5 innings, using only 65 pitches until he hit the invisible force field that prevents him from reaching the 7th inning. The fact that this was on shorter rest than normal leads me to give him a pass on this one, and the bullpen was totally up to the task anyways. Evan Marshall came in with the bags loaded and no outs and managed to hold Cleveland to a single run. Then it was Codi Heuer’s turn to dominate, as he went 2.1 innings only giving up a single hit and striking out 4. He ended up with the win after the Sox managed some Benny Hill shit in the bottom of the 9th.

-The Aces matchup between Lucas Giolito and Shane Bieber did not disappoint. Between the two of them there were 16 innings of shutout ball and 19 strikeouts. Neither team was able to pick up the off-speed stuff, and Bieber’s curveball was the nastiest I’ve ever seen it. LaRussa certainly didn’t help the situation with his lineup, but that’s a discussion for another time. Cleveland was able to pick up the win in the Bozo Buckets Extra Inning Extravaganza after Garret Crochet was unable to field his position on an Eddie Rosario chopper. Regardless, it was an awesome display of pitching from the starters, and one that we hopefully get again this season.

-Lance Lynn pitched great again, and just made one mistake on the afternoon. Unfortunately for the Sox, that mistake was to Jose Ramierz and he absolutely did not miss. Lesson learned.

-Ladies and Gentlemen, I give to you….The Yerminator:

-While I’d love to get pissed off at Andres Gimenez for helping Adam Eaton off the bag at 2nd base yesterday, watching the play a lot of it was caused by the force of Eaton sliding into the bag. Did Gimenez “help” Eaton by giving his momentum a little nudge? Probably. Was it worth Eaton pushing him and causing the benches to clear? Probably not. I understand both sides, but ultimately I feel like it was the right call by Bill Miller.

-You can see Luis Robert and Yoan Moncada seeing the ball better from the box each game that passes. They’re both about to go on a tear, and god help whoever is on the mound when they do.

-I was under the impression that Dylan Cease had the Rona and would be out this weekend but now according to NBC Chicago he’s been cleared from the COVID-19 protocols and will be available to pitch tonight. Yay, I guess?

-Next up is (maybe) a 4 game series against the Red Sox out in Bahhston. I say maybe because the forecast for the weekend is not very friendly, with a possibility of snow (!) tonight. The Red Sox bats have come alive in the past week, scoring 30 runs in that seven days. TLR has yet to say how he’s going to set his pitching lineup after Rodon got moved around, but if the game gets played I suppose we will see Cease vs Nick Pivetta tonight. Let’s go (white) Sox.

Baseball

VS

RECORDS: White Sox 1-2 / Indians 2-1

START TIMES: Mon/Tues 6:10, Wed 5:10

TV: NBCSCH

Too High? What Do You Mean Too High?:   Let’s Go Tribe

 

PROBABLE STARTERS:

Monday: Dylan Cease vs. Aaron Civale

Tuesday: Carlos Rodon vs. Zach Plesac

Wednesday: Lucas Giolito vs. Shane Bieber

 

So after the orbital strike from Nelson Cruz and company this weekend, the Sox pitching staff looks to right the ship versus another sold offensive team (though not to the extent of the Twins). The Tribe come into this series after taking two of three from the moribund Royals on opening weekend. While Cleveland dropped 9 on the heads of the Royals on Sunday, the other two days saw them fight to scratch across 2 runs against the legendary KC rotation. On the pitching side of things the Cleveland Triumvirate of Shane Bieber, Mike Clevinger, and Carlos Carrasco made short work of the Royals bats, only giving up 2 runs between the 3 of them, to go along with 30 (!) strikeouts. Fortunately for the Sox they miss 2/3rds of them, only having to deal with The Biebs on Wednesday.

The offense of the Tribe is still fired by Francisco Lindor (at least until they don’t pay him and he ends up in pinstripes), who along with Jose Ramirez and the rapidly aging Carlos Santana provide most of the pop from the middle of the order. Ramirez had a rough year in 2019, with a steep drop in both his batting average and Slugging percentages from the previous season. His .806 OPS was the lowest since 2015, before his first full season in the league. On the flip side, Santana had an excellent year in 2019 posting a .911 OPS to go along with 34 dingers and 92 RBI. While he continues to slow down on the basepaths and is no longer a viable option behind the dish, Santana is still a force at the plate and his ability to hit for pop from both sides should be something Sox pitching (and Rick Renteria) should keep in mind.

For the Sox, the main storyline is still the 9.00 team ERA heading into this series. While there were a few bright spots over the weekend (Keuchel, Lambert and Marshall to name a few), the bad hovered over the heads of the rotation like a Lucas Giolito fastball exiting the stratosphere. Dylan Cease and the freshly elbow-ed Carlos Rodon get their chance to erase the bad memories of the weekend as they take the bump Monday and Tuesday. The bullpen would appreciate them lasting at least 5 innings each, as the workload thrust upon them Friday and Sunday is not conductive to long term health.

On the offensive side of the field, the Sox are in pretty good shape unless Eloy is still dizzy from running into the LF fence yesterday. If he is unable to go, get ready for an outfield that features Luis Robert (that’s good!), Nicky Delmonico (that’s bad), and Potassium Benzoate (that’s Engel). Can I go now? Yoan Moncada should be in the lineup all 3 games, as all 3 starters are righties and we saw this weekend that he hasn’t missed a step in punishing them. I would also hope Grandal would be hitting in all three as well, giving the Sox 4 lefties to counter the Tribe’s starters.

Realistically there’s no reason the Sox shouldn’t be able to take 2 of 3 here, as the Tribe struggled to find hits against the likes of Brady Singer and Danny Duffey (both of whom are less than Cease and Rodon, though Singer may have a future). If they’re able to neutralize 2 of the 3 hitters mentioned above the Sox bats should be able to provide sufficent offense to propel them to the series win and a good palate cleanse after Sunday’s debacle. The pitching matchup Wednesday could be fun, but only if Giolito finds the command of his fastball. If he’s back to what he was in 2019, the game could be over before the sun goes down.

Of course, none of this will matter if MLB shuts down because of the fucking Miami Marlins and the Rona Party they probably had with a bunch of Philly strippers over the weekend. Why is it ALWAYS Florida?

 

Let’s Go Sox

 

Baseball

To give you some idea that the NL MVP debate last year was kind of silly, Jose Ramirez had a season that completely dusted both Christian Yelich and Javier Baez, but didn’t come close to getting the award in the American League thanks to Mookie Betts and Mike Trout being alive and playing there. And Ramirez did that even though he stopped being counted among the living somewhere in August ’18. Sadly for the Tribe, he hasn’t located the Village Of The Oxygen Breathing again this year either.

The fact that Ramirez put up an 8.0 fWAR season last year despite going into the tank for the last six-to-eight weeks clues one in  just how good he was before. Going by just the first half, JR went .302/.401/.628 for an OPS of 1.028. That’s alien type stuff, and at just 25 he and Lindor looked set to anchor the right side of the Cleveland infield from here until the Earth melts (like, literally. It’s not that long and they could easily play until then).

But something happened in August, and Ramirez has yet to recover. He hit .245 last August, and then .174 in September. He just stopped hitting line drives, or the ball hard at all. Where did it all go?

There doesn’t seem to be one answer. Did pitchers start treating him differently? Yes, that’s for sure. Ramirez definitely saw significantly less fastballs in the season’s last two months, and last year those were replaced by change-ups and splitters and various other offerings that are considered “off-speed.” Combined with sliders and curves, basically not-fastballs, pitchers found something to exploit. In the season’s last eight weeks last year, Ramirez hit .083 on sliders, .115 on curves, and a Blutarski-like .000 on splits.

Ramirez has seen just about the same diet starting this year, and looks to have come in prepared for that. His batting averages on splits, curves, and sliders are all above .280. He hasn’t really hit them for a ton of power, but it hasn’t been embarrassing. But now he’s hitting .141 on fastballs. He’s popping up more fastballs by far than he did last year, which lets you know he’s behind. So in a sense, it looks like Ramirez has been caught in between for four months spreading over two seasons. Which is really hard to do.

Injury has to be a part of it though, doesn’t it? Ramirez did hurt his knee at the end of spring training this year, and it was later claimed it wasn’t serious. But can this trainwreck be explained by a completely healthy body?

Because the contact Ramirez has been making has been declining as well. Last year in July, Ramirez’s average exit velocity on fastballs was 90.6. In August it was 88.1. In September it was 86.5, which honestly is Heyward-like. This year started out back at over 90 MPH on fastballs in April, but has sunk back down to 87.5 in May. Offspeed pitches are on the same downward trajectory, whereas his force on breaking pitches (sliders and curves) is actually trending up. It’s clear what he’s sitting on, but it’s leaving him vulnerable to fastballs and pitches that are supposed to look like fastballs until they aren’t.

It makes yet another question for the Tribe, who very well might be facing blowing it all up at the trade deadline. The offense is a puddle. the outfield is a mess, they’re already 9.5 games behind the Twins, and Corey Kluber and Mike Clevinger are already on the shelf. Ramirez is remarkably cheap, signing an extension $40M over the next four seasons and that’s if the two team options at the end are exercised. He’s only 26, and this can’t be forever, right? That contract certainly buys Cleveland a bunch of time to let him figure it out…or makes him awfully attractive for a team that thinks it can reclaim the soul he lost.

Clearly the Indians aren’t going anywhere (nor my fantasy team) if Ramirez doesn’t ever hit again. Can you rebuild around the guy who had a major hand in putting you in the rebuilding spot in the first place?