Sunday, May 29, 2005

33-17: Casey Jones you'd better watch your speed

They are going to break our hearts, we know. They've done this before.

The 1982 team broke out to a 28-14 start and then faded, weighed down by pitching problems and poor expectations. The key offseason acquisition, the new left fielder, was acquired in a controversial trade for an established star with a bad reputation, and he was a disappointment, as the core of the offense didn't hit for power. The pitching was good -- but not good enough. The bullpen was OK -- but not good enough. Ultimately the team had to replace multiple regulars who were crushingly disappointing: Bill Almon, who had experienced a fluke year but resumed his normal career; Ron LeFlore, who let a fly ball bounce off his head; and Jim Morrison at third base, who resumed his interrupted career with the Doors -- I mean, was traded to Pittsburgh.

Like that 1982 team, the 2005 team needs a jumpstart again after a flying start.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

33-16: Like China[, Frankly]

May 28th was a wet day in North Texas for weather. Those of us who live here were certainly glad to see all the rain (or, more accurately, our lawns were). Today looks a little better, I think we can assume the game will get in.

The difficulty of the opposition over the last two and a half weeks will distort your opinion of the team, but the little cracks in the porcelean are starting to show and starting to cost the White Sox games. They weren't going to win Friday night's home run derby with Chris Young pitching the was he was (and Brandon McCarthy learning a difficult lesson), but they might easily have snatched a couple of games over the last couple of weeks if there were any real offensive options on the bench for the struggling starters. Changes are in order, and changes are obviously coming, and soon.

Frank Thomas returns Monday, after missing 150 or so games with a serious broken bone in his foot. He's unlikely to just step in and start hitting .310 again, but Carl Everett has been basically awful much of the year (.232/.291/.394, 3.60 RC/G) and the team can't stand much more of Dino's Decline on a daily basis. Thomas takes McCarthy's place on the roster, meaning the White Sox are back to 11 pitchers.

For some reason, Ross Gload has been rotting on rehab despite reports that he's fine. I think the White Sox are dithering, deferring a difficult decision on their roster with Timo Perez (.185/.241/.296, 2.12 RC/G); perhaps Kenny's looking for a place to dump him, or maybe the White Sox are being too sentimental.

El Duque will return in a few days; the Texas rainout may mean they can delay that a couple of days if they wish and skip his turn, but at that point one of the relievers has to go, probably Walker.

This probably isn't enough. The front office will need to make more changes, and soon, or the lead could be squandered. You can't forget that the team as currently constructed has won 2/3 or its games, but you also have to be mindful of the heavy footsteps of Dracula coming from Minneapolis.

31-13: You can't always get what you want

Brandon McCarthy's major league debut was solid but ultimately the White Sox couldn't quite whip Mark Prior and Luis Vizcaino gave up an opposite-field 3-run shot to Jason Dubois in a 4-3 loss.
  • The loss drops the White Sox to 31-13, 5 games ahead of the Twins, who just won "ugly" when Junior Spivey blows a DP grounder with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 11th. Losing 5-2 in the ninth, the Twins rallied under the SwastikaDome to tie the game on another blasted Shannon Stewart home run -- has that guy hit too many already or what? The Brewers should have whipped Johan but they let the Twins back in. Why again do the Twins get six games again them and the White Sox have six games against the Cub pitching staff? Who the hell thought that was fair?
  • McCarthy's debut was pretty solid. He gave up a solo shot to Henry Blanco and hit a batter who scored on Vizcaino's mistake, but other than that he looked pretty good.
  • Now the Sox start a West Coast trip, which in the past has always been a death march.
Oh, well, the Cubs started Prior and the Twins Santana, and it came out as the oddsmakers would have expected. Shoot.

Friday, May 20, 2005

30-12: Let the good times roll...

The White Sox took the first of three from the Cubs as Freddy Garcia continued his mastery of the day and Joe Crede took Greg Maddux deep.
  • The shallow analysts love to dig at the offense but it's pretty consistently putting up five runs a game over the last 10 and 20 games. They haven't clobbered out the double-digit smashings but they've never been shut out.
  • Pale Hose pitching has held the opposition to 3 or fewer runs in 60% of the games so far. That is amazing.
  • The Undead from the Land of Yubetcha refuse to quietly lie in their graves, sitting like hungry jackals lying in wait five games back. I'm still worried about them.
30 of the first 42. I thought they'd be OK but this is nuts.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

27-11: Say It's Alright, Joe...

After taking the first two from Baltimore, the White Sox drop the last two to split the series when Garcia and then Contreras have disappointing starts. The sad thing is, in both games the White Sox were beaten not by Baltimore's headliners but by Sal Fasano and Jeffrey Fiorentino and the very bottom of their order.

Now in come the Rangers, they of potent bats, fresh off taking 2 of 3 from the Twins.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

No Cheap Thrill[s]

Random notes for a Saturday afternoon:

  • Through 1/5 of the home schedule the White Sox and their opponents are actually scoring about 22% fewer runs in USCF than on the road. The only columns up significantly in USCF are homers and triples. This would suggest that something about the venue -- weather? -- is at least partially responsible for the team's low-run-environment start. On the road, the Sox OBP is .337, which is decent. The opposition, which I collectively and objectively call "Evil", is sub-.310. (Evil is, of course, 9-27 so far.)
  • The Royals, after 36 games in 2003, were 23-13. A few more games will bury that tiring comparison.
  • The Twins draw Rogers tonight. Rogers has been excellent of late, easily the Rangers' best pitcher. This is good news for two reasons, first, he has a decent chance of whipping the Twins, and second, it means the Sox will miss him and Chris Young, and get Chan Ho Park, Pedro Astacio, and Ryan Drese instead. That's lucky... for the Sox.
  • The White Sox are now 10-2 in May after going 17-7 in April. They are 19-4 over the last 23 games.
  • Have the Twins ever been 6 back in the last 3 years? I don't remember and I'm too lazy to look. But let me tell you this: had the situations been reversed last night, with the Twins overcoming a 3-run deficit and the Sox blowing a 4-run lead, and the Sox 5 back, Sox fans would be on suicide watch today. The high profile blogosphere Twins fans who were so cocksure about their team catching the White Sox a week ago have fallen strangely silent for a while. Bat-Girl, where are you when we need you? Where's the LegoVision telling us how Morneau's going to start hitting .450 so your beloved Twins can stop sliding down the well?
  • Now I am getting worried about the bullpen not getting enough work. They are carrying way one too many pitchers with this rotation. The 12-man staff is a stupid idea unless your pitching is godawful and the starters can't be counted on to get past five regularly.
Cabrera tonight, pure wickedness. He's been unhittable in May at home, but both Tampa and Toronto whupped up on him in his two road starts. The only Sox hitter who has ever gotten a hit in his career off Cabrera is Gload, who is on the DL.

27-9: Oooo, What A Lucky Man He Was

Mark Buehrle and Dustin Hermanson shut down the Orioles except for one brief 3-run outburst, and the underappreciated offense scratched back to within two, then Paul Konerko flipped a cheapie into center field to plate two runs to take the lead on the way to a 5-3 win in front of a decent crowd at The Cell.
  • According to the Chicago Tribune, Sox Luck Conquers All. Right. The Orioles scored 3 runs on squat for production; because Gomez happened to hit his double just right with two on, they scored 3 runs in the game on offensive numbers than normally yield one run. The White Sox' component stats add up to 6 runs. If anything, Baltimore was lucky to stay in a game where they were out-hit 12-5, out-total-based 15-6, and out on-based 15-6. Baltimore has one man left on base and the White Sox, 9. (Average LOB in an AL game is between 7 and 8). When the White Sox fudge three runs from air by bunching some hits, they are lucky. When the White Sox finally get one to fall in with RISP, they are lucky. Give me a break.
  • White Sox pitching held the Orioles to five runs in two games: that's the story. Yeah, Sosa is hurt, but they still have Tejada, Lopez, Mora, Roberts, Palmeiro... those guys can mash.
  • When I finished mowing the lawn and spraying Weed-B-Gone on those pesky broadleaves in my lazy bermudagrass, the White Sox were losing 3-0 and the Twins beating the Rangers 6-2. The Sox fighting back and the Twins tanking, both on the same night, while the Indiana Pacers escaped Detroit... priceless.

Friday, May 13, 2005

26-9: Judy in Disguise

Jon Garland whipped the Orioles 3-2 on Thursday on WGN. Pierzynski and Uribe hit solo shots and Aaron Rowand doubled in Iguchi as the Sox built a 3-0 lead, then Garland hung on for eight innings, letting the Orioles have two back but slamming the door with a clutch strikeout of Miggy Tejada in the eighth. Hermandson worked a clean ninth for the save.

A couple of other notes:
  • Podsednik was "caught stealing" twice by Bruce Chen, courtesy of ump Sam Holbrook ignoring his not-close balk move. Balk Boy pitched a nice game, but you have to account for his escaping two innings cheaply as a result.
  • Crede is really hitting the ball well, last night he smacked one that B. J. Surhoff made a circus catch on.
  • Garland made one of the most interesting defensive plays I've ever seen. With runners at the corners, one out, a chopper he spears. Seeing the runner nearing second and he couldn't made a DP. Garland flips the ball to AJP to tag out a flabbergasted Fiorentino coming down the line from third. So much for Garland being stupid, that was just SmartBall.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

25-9: Don't be sad, 'cause 1 out of 3 ain't bad...

OK, so yes it is bad, when it's to the Devil Rays. From the three game set, there's some good news and some bad news.
  • The good news is the team continues to be competitive in every game. By this I mean they had chances to win both of the losses, with the tying run up with 2 out in the top of the ninth on Monday and the walk-off loss on Tuesday. Never getting blown out is a recipe for winning a lot of times.
  • The bad news is Shingo Takatsu and Luis Vizcaino are basically terrible right now and Marte is shaky enough to get worrisome. The bullpen stability depends on Dustin Hermanson continuing to be lights out and Cotts and Politte keeping stable. Shingo's got to straighten it out.
Yes, the Twins swept the Rays just before, but the Twins are used to playing in a bizarre "ballpark" like the 'Can.

The Sox are done with Tropicana for the year, and done with the SkyDome, which leaves only a few games in the Hump to play on that accursed "surface".

Sunday, May 08, 2005

24-7: If You Hang On Long Enough

The White Sox complete a sweep, 5-4, in Toronto as Mark Buehrle picks up his fifth win, Jermaine Dye hits his fifth homer, and Damaso Marte holds on for a terrifying save.
  • Toronto scored all their runs in one inning, in large part due to two fielding miscues by Juan Uribe. Buehrle scattered nine hits. Right now, he has been the least effective of the five Chicago starting pitchers. Think about that. He's 5-1 and he's been the worst. Amazing.
Other notes:
  • The way Ozzie handles the pitching staff is, I think, both revolutionary and reactionary. He doesn't seem to believe in thrashing the bullpen or LOOGYs or any of the other 1990s fads that plague baseball games. He doesn't pull his starters early, letting Buehrle pitch at least one inning further than I expected. And, finally, and most importantly, Ozzie doesn't worship at the Cult of the Closer, the baseball religion that you must have one pitcher who mystically can only be used when the specific Aristotlean criteria exist for The Save Opportunity. Virtually every other manager in baseball would have pulled Marte for Takatsu in the ninth today after the double. But by letting Marte wriggle off the hook, Ozzie showed Damaso he believes in him, a move that will almost certainly pay dividends down the road. He handles his pitchers the way they did in the 1970s and 1980s, which is, I think, more productive and more intelligent.
  • I don't think the SmartBall tagline is going to stick, and Winning Ugly doesn't really fit this team any more than it fits anybody else. Go-Go isn't really right for a team that bashes home runs. So what is the tagline?
  • Speaking of Smart, the 2005 White Sox seem to be full of reasonably intelligent ballplayers. Podsednik, Iguchi, and the two catchers are not stupid ballplayers. The two Cuban pitchers are shrewd. Takatsu makes up for lack of overpowering stuff with wicked finesse. Timo isn't a stupid player. They do make a few dunderheaded-looking baserunning mistakes from time to time, but all in all, I see calculated risks being taken.
  • The Twins are like the Terminator, they won't kill easy.
On to Tampa.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

23-7, Doctor [Longball], Doctor

The missing offense arrived today, smashed down the clubhouse door, and sacked Toronto's ballpark en route to a 10-7 win. Konerko hit two- and three-run shots, Iguchi and Uribe added two-run homers, and Aaron Rowand added a solo shot. Scott Podsednik stole four bases.
  • Jon Garland ran his record to 6-0 despite easily his least effective outing so far. The Jays hit him sort of hard, although I can't help think about three of the six runs he allowed were turf-aided. You have to pitch to the conditions, of course, but other than Russ Adams, nobody really hit him all that hard.
  • The Blue Jays can be one stupid baseball team. Losing by a half dozen, they were taking extra bases on fly balls and risking legging out doubles in situations where they were close plays and they were toying with the end of the inning. Losing by a ton, third base is not worth the risk, dudes.

22-7, the air of unreality, and the bodyguard of lies

Nobody wants to believe this is happening.

Twenty-nine games into the season, the White Sox have won more than three-fourths of their games. Of their seven losses, the White Sox could conceivably have won most of them. The pitching has been dominant beyond anybody's wildest dreams, and the offense, while slumping, has been effective enough to consistently generate enough runs to (as everybody now knows) seize a lead in every single game this year.

Everybody -- White Sox fans included -- is looking for the catch.

Of course there's a catch. No team is this good. No team plays .759 ball for an entire season. Sooner or later the White Sox will come down to Earth.

But where is Earth? Before the season started, it would have been assumed to be below .500. Joe Sheehan at Baseball Prospectus, basing his prediction on either a hunch or an irrational hatred of Ozzie Guillen (or both), projected a 90 loss season. Most "analysts", ignoring Bill James' Plexiglas Principle, treated the Indians' shocking improvement last year as only the beginning and picked the Indians to challenge the Twins, relegating the White Sox to third or fourth. Some even suggested the White Sox were as bad as the Royals.

They were all smoking baseball crack. Nobody in their right mind would have forecast the White Sox where they are now, but the team's structure really wasn't worse that the 2004 team that won 83 games and there was a clear upside to the starting pitching and the bullpen. There was no objective reason to believe the White Sox -- barring a string of horrible bad luck, of course -- would fall 20 games of more below .500. There was every reason to believe that 83 to 86 wins would be the reasonable expectation.

The principal reason, I believe, that these analysts made their predictions was they liked what Mark Shapiro said and disliked what Kenny Williams and Ozzie Guillen said. The possibility that what they were saying was PR and not an exposition of strategy didn't seem to occur to anybody. They didn't like the Carlos Lee trade, but then again, they didn't watch Carlos play every day, and they failed to understand the idea of "buy low, sell high". If Scott Podsednik flops (which could still happen), the Sox replace him with Brian Anderson and are out a few bucks. If Carlos flops (which is happening), the Brewers are out eight megabucks and can't realistically do anything at all.

I don't know where 'Earth' is. I don't know what record the White Sox will end up with. I do know that bad teams don't win 22 of 29 even against mediocre competition.

Friday, May 06, 2005


Why Johnny Mostil's Razor?

It's a pun, on Occam's Razor, the principle of logic that (essentially) the simplest explanation that fits is the best one; and on Johnny Mostil, the 1920's White Sox outfielder who, coincidentally, happened to cut himself up (non-fatally) with a straight razor. The title symbolizes the psychotic break that is White Sox fandom.