Baseball

BOX SCORES

Game 1: White Sox 16 – Twins 4

Game 2: White Sox 4 – Twins 5

Game 3: White Sox 2 – Twins 1

 

It is the most White Sox thing ever that the biggest headline in a series where the Sox took 2 of 3 against their ancient rival the Twins is Tony LaRussa throwing his own player under the bus for smoking a shitty 48 mph ephus pitch thrown by a catcher into dead center for a massive dong.

I could spend hours talking about how fucking stupid the “unwritten rules” of baseball are, or how terribly out of touch LaRussa is, or how close he could be to losing the entire locker room, or how the “unwritten rules” shouldn’t fucking apply when the other team puts a second string catcher in to pitch. I could talk about all those things at length, but those have been gone over ad nauseum the past 2 days and I’m honestly just fucking exhausted with the whole thing. So instead I’m going to focus on the fact that the Sox have now taken 5 of 6 against the Twins, and just how wonderfully hilarious it is just how bad they are.

Also: fuck Rocco Baldelli

 

Numbers Don’t Lie

 

-Like most of you probably were, I was concerned when I heard Jose Abreu wasn’t going to be available for the series after his heroic dash home to win the game against the Royals last weekend. I assumed that the Sox were going to struggle to score runs in the series because of this. Well, I was 2/3rds right. Game 1 was an insane aberration where everyone who picked up a bat was smoking the ball to all fields. Game 2, the Sox were able to pounce on rookie pitcher Bradley Ober for 4 runs in the first 3 innings. For the remaining 15 the Sox were only able to scratch together 2 runs on small ball by Adam Eaton on Leury Garcia. Going into the series this weekend against the Yankees, they’re gonna need much more than that. Unfortunately they draw Gerrit Cole on Sunday, and he had his one stinker of the year this last week against the Rangers.

-Yoan Moncada went 4-8 with 4 walks in the series. He currently has one of the hardest hit line drive rates in the league and is seeing the ball better than he has in probably 2 years. The dingers aren’t there yet, but when you get on base at the clip that he does and hit the ball as hard as he does you’re more than willing to take the production while you wait for the ball to clear the fence.

-Lance Lynn needed 109 pitches to get through 6 innings on Tuesday night, though he had to throw about 20 extra pitches thanks to an Andrew Vaughn error and a no-challenge by Tony LaRussa in the 2nd inning. More of note was the fact that he only had 2 strikeouts on the evening, which is something that bears watching against a better hitting team.

-Lucas Giolito, welcome back! While his first inning was causing flashbacks to the Boston start, he settled down nicely thereafter en route to 8 innings of work with 11 Ks. Really the only mistake was the 4 seam fastball that caught too much of the zone for Nelson Cruz (and lets be fair, that happens to a LOT of pitchers against Cruz), otherwise a return to form for our ace.

-At this point we can agree that Dallas Keuchel is now the 5th starter on this team, as even Dylan Cease has gone past him performance-wise. Which is absolutely a good thing, as having a guy who can pretty much guarantee you 6+ innings in most starts pitching out of the 5-spot is the kind of depth that postseason teams have. Plus when you consider you’ve got Michael Kopech waiting in the wings to pick up the slack…wow.

-I think it’s safe to say that when people look back and wonder when JA Happ’s career ended you could point to the moment Nick Madrigal’s line drive cleared the wall in left at Target Field. He may pitch for another year or two, but just look at him. That’s the face of a man who watched his career get torpedoed by a ball that never got higher than 9 feet off the ground.

-I hope Yermin hits 60 more home runs this season, all off 3-0 pitches.

-Next up is a weekend series against the Evil Empire, which will be without Mike “Giancarlo” Stanton for the duration. Though they still have Aaron Judge, Luke Voit, DJ LeMahieu and the corpse of Brett Gardner to make up the difference. As mentioned above, the Sox hitters will also see Gerrit Cole, most likely on Saturday or Sunday depending on how Aaron Boone wants to set his rotation. The return of Jose Abreu would be quite the boon for the Sox offense, which has been getting by with the trio of Eaton/Hamilton/Garcia in the OF. It’s been OK thus far, but we’re all expecting the bottom to drop out at some point. Hoping Rick Hahn has been working the phones, as reinforcements will be needed before too long (AKA a month ago).

Let’s Go Sox

Baseball

Twins VS.

 

Records: Twins 12-20 (LOL) White Sox 19-13

First Pitch: Tues/Wed 7:10 Thursday 1:10

TV/Radio: NBCSN and ESPN1000

Ted Talk: Twinkie Town

 

Probable Starters

Game 1: Kenta Maeda (2-2 5.02 ERA) vs. Dylan Cease (2-0 2.37 ERA)

Game 2: J.A. Happ (2-0 1.91 ERA) vs. Dallas Keuchel (1-1 3.79 ERA)

Game 3: Michael Pineda (2-1 2.43 ERA) vs. Carlos Rodon (5-0 0.58 ERA (!!))

 

Ahhh the Twins. The Nashville Predators of the AL Central. The team that has the talent to win the division year in and year out, yet is hilariously unable to win even a game in the postseason. It would be even more hilarious if it usually didn’t come at the expense of the White Sox playoff chances. This year things seem to be upside down, however. The Twins record currently sits at an ugly 12-20, good enough for 4th in the division while the Sox sit atop the pile at 19-13. The Twins, known these past few years for pounding the ball out of the yard (earning them the moniker of Bomba Squad) continue to be offensively gifted, sitting 4th in the AL in total offense right behind the Sox. The pitching is where it all starts going wrong for the Twins. They currently rank dead last in the AL for WAR earned by their pitching staff (the Sox sit 2nd behind NY), and are bottom 3 for all the major categories including K/9, ERA, and FIP.

The starters for Minnesota actually haven’t been as bad as the above indicates, as nobody expects Jose Berrios and Kenta Maeda to have 5+ ERAs for the rest of the season (though to be fair, nobody expects JA Happ to have a sub 2 ERA for the rest of the year either). It’s when the starters come out of the game that the pitching gets truly horrendous. The Twins bullpen is worth a collective -0.6 WAR, and has the most blown saves of any AL team thus far in the season, most of which came from Sox Sleeper Agent Alex Colome who’s 1-3 record with 3 blown saves has done more for the Chicago cause than anyone else on the Minnesota Squad. Anytime I see those stats, my complaints about the start for Liam Hendriks die a quiet death.

On the offensive side of the ball, the long awaited breakout for Byron Buxton seems to have finally happened. In the month of April he absolutely punished the ball, to the tune of a .370/.408/1.180 slash line and a hilarious 226 wRC+ rating. He also crushed 9 home runs and stole 5 bases, which seems kind of low for him but when all the balls you hit leave the yard stolen base opportunities tend to go down. Unfortunately for Buxton and the Twins, the injury bug that has plagued him his entire career reared it’s ugly head last week when he pulled up lame with a grade 2 hip flexor strain (sound familiar?) and will miss a few weeks at least while it heals up.

Nelson Cruz is still doing his thing, slashing .295/.340/.910 with 8 dingers. For a guy pushing 41 years old, that’s impressive as hell. He no longer plays in the field, so the Twins lose him when they head to NL parks (much like the Sox with the Yerminator) but when he’s at the dish there’s nobody on the Twins who can do more damage with Buxton out.

After Buxton, Cruz and Josh Donaldson (when healthy), the drop in production rate is pretty steep for the Twins. Miguel Sano, Mitch Garver, Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler are all under the .250 mark for average, with .480 the highest slugging percentage among them. Prized rookie Alex Kirrillof was called back up a few weeks ago (mysteriously after the service time deadline for another season passed. Weird) and went on a tear for about 10 days before he fucked up his wrist (and my fantasy team). They’re waiting on a second opinion, but season ending surgery is still on the table. Either way, both him and Buxton will be out from this series.

As for the Sox, they look to keep the momentum going on the pitching side of things after the triumphant sweep of the Royals this weekend where Rodon, Lynn and Giolito allowed a combined 4 runs the entire series. The offense did it’s part, banging out 29 hits and plating 21 runs in the series. The Sox jumped all over the Royals prized rookie starter Daniel Lynch by dropping 8 runs on his head and chasing him from the game before he could complete the first inning. The Yerminator had his first career triple on Sunday afternoon, hitting a ball in the gap that Michael Taylor tried to snag with a dive but ended up punting it into the corner. The Yerm ended up a home run short of his first career cycle, but seeing him chug past second for the triple was well worth my time.

Both Dallas Keuchel and Dylan Cease look to build off their excellent starts last time out against Cincinnati, going a combined 13 innings without yielding a run. Cease had his best outing possibly of his career, going 6 strong innings with 11 strikeouts. More importantly he was efficient with his pitches, only walking 3 (which for him is an improvement) and throwing 96 to finish the day. His fastball had more life on it than in previous starts, and he was accurate with it at the top of the zone. Keuchel was back to his old economical self, only striking out 1 but getting everyone else on the Reds to pound the ball in the dirt with his sinker, which looked the best it has since last season. Both guys are going to need to continue this trend, because despite the Twins being in a rut they still have the offensive weapons to make the Sox arms pay the price for mistakes.

Despite being up 7 games on the Twins, now is not the time to take the foot off the gas. I think we all know that the Twins misery is only temporary, and at some point the sleeping giant is going to awaken and climb back up the rankings. The 6 games the Sox have with them in the next 9 days is the perfect chance to put even more distance between them and Minnesota, and making that hole they have to climb out of even deeper. 4 of 6 would be an excellent start, 6 of 6 would be considered euphoric. Bury these fuckers while you have the chance…no mercy.

Let’s Go Sox

Baseball

Perhaps we need the Yankees to pass the Twins in home runs, so that we’ll never remember that the Minnesota Twins–the TWINS! The harbingers of annoying, ticky-tack baseball, the slappy slappy Twins!–broke the MLB record for homers by a team with five weeks to go in the season. Because it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Let our colleague Fifth Feather sum it up best:

Now, Feather’s distaste for the Twins is a touch outsized, in the same style that the Pacific Ocean is a touch outsized. Still, the fact that this Twins team is putting up numbers never before seen is truly strange, if not as insulting as our dear boy takes it. The Yankees you get, even though their biggest mashers in Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton have spent most of the year injured. But they’re the big, bad Yankees playing in a shoebox with a jet stream right into Vinny from Astoria’s chest in right field. That’s what the Yankees do.

But the Twins don’t have any of that. Other than Nelson Cruz, who is three days older than water, before the year you never would have picked any of these guys to hit 30 homers. Four of them have and they might get a fifth.  Then Max Kepler might double his career-high in homers (he needs four more for 40). Jorge Polanco might do the same. Mitch Garver (he’s Old Man Garver’s boy), who had never hit more than seven homers in a season, has 30. Aren’t there laws against that? Eddie Rosario has over 30, and CJ Cron is close. Also, Target Field is not exactly a hitter’s paradise, being one of the worst homer parks in the league for years now.

The Twins will tell you that it’s a matter of Rosario, Kepler, Polanco all coming of age, that they were always destined for this. That might be true to a point, but you can’t help ignore what the baseball has done for the Twins. And hey, more power to them, if they’re figured out to just keep getting the ball in the air with this Titleist and reap the wins from it.

The Twins score over half their runs on homers, and while baseball will feign ignorance on changes in the ball, that’s about the weakest conspiracy they’ve ever concocted, including collusion. Fuck, they bought Rawlings last year. How stupid do they think we are?

What MLB is going to have to figure out is if this is the brand of baseball fans want. No fault to the Twins, they’re just playing the game as it is now, and mostly better than anyone. But if homers are no longer unique but merely holding serve, they lose any specialty. And judging by TV ratings and attendance, though there are other factors, fans haven’t exactly flocked back to see this avalanche of dingers.

It’s a different game for sure, but one where even less happens. A homer is technically action, but it’s supposed to be the apex of a baseball game. A definitive pivot point. The spike in the EKG. Now it almost feels like it’s no different than a three in basketball. A brief surge but pretty normal throughout the game. If this continues to be the norm, it’s hard to see how it brings fans back that have already left (or in baseball’s case, likely died) Is this what the younger generation wants? It’s most likely MLB has no idea what the younger generation wants.

One wonders what teams like the Twins will do if the baseball goes back, if it does. Maybe they’d just hit a ton of doubles and be fine. Maybe they’d keep flying out to the warning track and never score.

Baseball

BOX SCORES

Game 1: Sox 6, Twins 4

Game 2: Sox 4, Twins 14

Game 3: Sox 4, Twins 0

There are few things as frustrating as the White Sox getting their shit kicked in by the Minnesota Twins, but also few things more incredible than the White Sox kicking the Twins’ shit in. This week we got to witness both of these things happen, and it was a little strange but given that Lucas Gi0lito shoved in Wednesday’s game for the dominant win, it felt far more satisfying. Any time we can beat the shit out of those lousy idiots up north is a good time. Let’s do this:

Ivan Nova has slowly grown on me this year, but I feel like it’s more like a disgusting zit and less like a nice beard. Not to say that Nova hasn’t been good, because he has been nothing short of solid in most of his starts for a while now (did I hedge this sentence enough?).  In reality, though, he was just so bad early in the season that he is now pitching less bad and this really is what the Sox were expecting and hoping for when they traded for him to be their innings eater rather than adding someone who could, you know, actually be a difference making starter.

– Fresh among a week in which Rick Renteria adopted the company line and told any fans who might criticize his lineup construction and in game decisions to kiss his ass, he made yet another extremely questionable and crticizable (?) decision by putting on a suicide squeeze with a two run lead and an 0-2 count in the seventh inning. Now to be fair, I also would probably rather not watch Yolmer Sanchez swing  a bat in an important situation, and it’s not like Ricky has a lot of options at his disposal (which I think was at the heart of his comments about critics), but I am just hoping that all of the bunting will go away next year when there is hopefully some real talent here.

– I do not want to talk much about Game 2, because it was very very bad. But Nelson Cruz is still fucking awesome and I am not looking forward to the Sox having to face him next year as well.

– Last comment about Game 2, but it’s tough to see Reynaldo Lopez get shelled after he had been having a strong second half of the season. Hopefully it was just one bad start and we move on.

– I am not sure what more I can say about Lucas Giolito at this point. The man is simply incredible, and it’s pretty cool to think that a huge part of his early struggles were mostly mental. It definitely seemed that way last year, and hearing about all of his neural pathway training (that inspired this recap title, thank you) was pretty fascinating. It was the kinda thing that makes you want to do the weird computer thing and figure out your own brain. But if you put me at full brain power I’d obviousbly be unstobbale and the whole world would be fucked.

– We should get Yoan Moncada back for this next series against the Rangers. So this team will become slightly more likeable and watchable. Thank you God.

Baseball

I’m gonna whip (like throw, not WHIP) some stats at your dome:

.258/.342/.431  17.0 WAR

.237/.320/.421  3.8 WAR

Those are the production stats the Twins and the White Sox have gotten out of their DH position since 2010 according to Fangraphs. Care to guess which is which? I chose 2010 when I ran these stats because 2009 was the last time the Sox got positive production from the DH position, and it was Jim Thome that was providing it. The next year the Sox let him walk, and he jumped right on I-94 and went north to Minnesota. Wanna get more depressed?  Here’s the list of primary DH players for the two teams in that time span:

SOX                                                                                    

2010: Mark Kotsay .239/.306/.376

2011: Adam Dunn .159/.292/.277

2012: Adam Dunn .204/.333/.468

2013: Adam Dunn .219/.320/.422

2014: Adam Dunn .219/.337/.414

2015: Adam LaRoche .207/.293/.340

2016: Avasail Garcia .245/.307/.385

2017: Matt Davidson .220/.260/.452

2018: Matt Davidson .228/.319/.419

TWINS

2010: Jim Thome .283/.412/.627 (!!!)

2011: Jim Thome .243/.351/.476

2012: Ryan Doumit .275/.320/.461

2013: Ryan Doumit .247/.319/.396

2014: Kennys Vargas .274/.316/.476

2015: Miguel Sano .269/.385/.530

2016: Miguel Sano .236/.319/.462

2017: Robbie Grossman .246/.361/.380

2018: Robbie Grossman .273/.367/.384

Those numbers could not be any more different (and provided by BaseballReference.Com). It’s pretty damning that the Twins worst year of production at DH was still better than five of the years for the Sox. It also shows that the White Sox tried just one time to address the DH position via free agency. It failed pretty spectacularly (though Dunn made the AS game one year), and since then they’ve just plugged in random dudes and any production gotten out of that spot was just a bonus. The Twins, meanwhile, have made a concerted effort to man the position with people who will make a difference in the lineup. This season was no different, when they went out and got Nelson Cruz off the free agent market at a pretty good one-year, $14 million salary with a club option for 2020.  Cruz has rewarded the Twins with a .269/.396/.549 worth 1.7 WAR thus far in the season.  The Sox attempted to address the position in a different way, namely signing Yonder Alonso (supposed left handed power bat and noted Good Friend of Manny Machado) to a one-year deal that netted them a solid .176/.265./.290 good for a -1.9 WAR. HOORAY!

I bring this up because I was at the game against the Marlins on Tuesday night where Caleb Smith took a perfect game into the 6th inning. Smith is by far and away the Marlins best pitcher, and he also happens to be left handed. The Sox big counter to the Fish’s best pitcher was to trot out Astros castoff and winner of the “If Sami Zayn Ate Too Many Moon Pies” lookalike contest AJ Reed. Reed also happens to be left-handed, and have absolutely terrible splits against lefties. With James McCann needing a night off, Reed was really the only option (in reality, McCann should’ve gotten Wednesday night off and started at DH against Smith, but Renteria’s lineup construction is an entirely different battle altogether). However, he’s just the latest in a long line of examples of how the Sox don’t care about the position while other teams take it deathly serious.

Perhaps this is the ultimate destination for Jose Abreu or Eloy Jimenez. Abreu definitely fits the profile, but his career numbers at the DH position are worse than when he’s playing in the field. He’s also made it clear that he’d rather play 1B as opposed to DH, so I’m sure that’s something that needs to be taken in account if/when the Sox resign him this offseason. Perhaps this is where Andrew Vaughn ends up long term, but it’s going to be at least a year (probably two) before he can provide any help at the position. Maybe Jake Burger, but both his Achilles tendons were last seen passing Jupiter after they snapped off his body. The other thing to consider is if the National League decides (as they absolutely should) to get rid of pitchers hitting and adopting the DH position full time is that availability of people like Nelson Cruz is going to thin out rapidly as the market for their services doubles. At some point the Sox front office is going to have to start taking this position seriously, as their current system of “random dudes” is not sustainable for any team that has any deigns on competing long term in the AL.

I just don’t have much hope that it will ever happen.