Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Three plate appearances, one walk, one injury.

I didn't even have enough time to get excited about Big Frank's return before he injured himself again. He's officially day-to-day with this hip flexor thing, and while it's good that it isn't serious, the injury is mighty frustrating.

On Sunday, I saw Jermaine Dye take a walk, and it was awesome.

On Monday, I saw Timo Perez hit a game-winning single, and it was disturbing.

Timo's current Value Over Replacement (or value under replacement, as the case may be) stands at -4.1. And all for the low low price of three times the major league minimum.

In other news, Tampa Bay has called up Chad Orvella, a former NC State shortstop who has been lights out as a relief pitcher since becoming a professional (Orvella has consistently averaged better than 1 strikeout per inning pitched). I must admit that my interest in Chad goes beyond his affiliation with NC State--thanks to a head's up from B-Pro, I went ahead and drafted Chad in my fantasy baseball keeper league. Now he's in the show, and hopefully not merely for a cup of coffee.

If you can't do it for the D-Rays, Chad, do it for me. I need the relief pitching.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

He back.

Thankfully, mercifully, finally--Frank Thomas is ready to go.

Thomas will probably be eased into the lineup over the next week or so, but after the grace period he should absolutely be getting a full complement of at bats as the DH. The Sox need Big Frank in there, whether that is immediately apparent or not. Hopefully Ozzie Guillen won't have a quick hook if Thomas struggles out of the gate. It's probably going to take him some time to feel comfortable (the numbers from his rehab stint were poor) considering he hasn't played since last June or July.

The Twinkies are back to within 3.5 games, and I'm getting nervous. I liked it a lot better when they were 5 back.

The White Sox had a rough trip to Arlington; returning to the Cell should help.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Split it.

The Sox ruined a good start by Jose Contreras last night (Angels won 3-2), so they didn't get their first series win out west since 2000.

I can handle 2-2 on the West Coast, especially considering the White Sox scored 8 total runs in four games.

Rookie Brandon McCarthy will get his second career start tonight against the Rangers, and hopefully he can pick up where he left off against the Cubs. It wouldn't hurt if the offense would give him more than 3-4 runs in support.

Meanwhile, Big Frank is slugging .212 down in Charlotte. As you can see, Frank has fully embraced the small ball team concept.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Not bad, kid.

Brandon McCarthy pitched 5 and 1/3 innings, striking out six while walking just one, allowing two earned runs (one of which scored after McCarthy had left the game).

McCarthy was pretty good--good enough to leave the game in line to get the win. He'd barely out-dueled Prior, and the Sox were clinging to a 2-1 lead when he left in the 6th. Unfortunately, reliever Luis Vizcaino (who has been horrible this year...) promptly allowed a three-run jimmy jack. That long bomb courtesy of Jason DuBois (the announcers always call him "Du-boys," but I wonder, is it "Du-bwah"?) proved the difference, though Jermaine Dye barely missed a three-run shot of his own later in the game.

Mark Prior racked up some pitcher abuse points on his way to the complete game: it took him 126 pitches. But I guess Dusty Baker didn't want anything to do with a bullpen that had blown a gem by Carlos Zambrano the day before. Prior somehow managed to survive despite getting just four ground ball outs. All of the Sox's homers were solo shots.

A disappointing loss, but the series win is the big thing. Even with the loss, it looked like the Sox weren't going to lose any ground to Minnesota. In the Metrodome, the Brew Crew had a three run lead going into the bottom of the ninth, but they decided, meh, we don't really want to win this game. And so they didn't.

The White Sox are off to the (queue blood-curling scream) West Coast. Please, anything but that.

Tonight, Jon Garland (ERA 2.41) takes on Some Dude Named Santana Who Isn't That Santana (ERA 13.50 after making ML debut earlier this month). The Angels won't have Vlad Guerrero in the lineup. I smell disaster already.

[edit: I called Luis Vizcaino "Jose Vizcaino." My apologies to Jose.]

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Mil gracias, Senor Contreras.

Carlos Zambrano shut the White Sox out for seven innings, but you kept the team in the game by only allowing the Cubs to score one run over that same span.

I think Ozzie Guillen acted prudently in taking Contreras out of the game after the 7th despite the fact that Contreras had thrown only 78 pitches. Contreras usually scares me on multiple occasions while he's pitching, and he can be a time bomb. Of course, the Cubs scored a couple of runs in the 8th anyway...

Timo Perez could not possibly have looked worse during his pinch-hit at bat. He saw three pitches, swung at all of them (the last of which was a breaking ball well inside and in the dirt), and sauntered back to his seat on the bench, which was still warm. Thanks so much, Timo.

Since a certain post about Jermaine Dye, Dye has gone 7-13 with two homers, hitting safely in four consecutive games. Dye's May numbers are beginning to look quite good. Not including his 1-1 performance today, Dye is now hitting .293/.349/.621 this month. He hasn't taken a walk in eleven days, though.

Brandon McCarthy will start his first career game as a major leaguer on Sunday against...Mark Prior. D'oh. The Sox could start Jon Garland, who has had four days of rest, but have chosen to go with the rookie instead. Why, I couldn't tell you. I guess they're ready to see what McCarthy can do. It's a difficult situation for McCarthy and I wish the Sox would bring him along a bit more slowly. I would like to see more young pitchers start in the bullpen for the big club, but that seems to be a rarity these days (unless the pitcher was a reliever in the minors, of course).

Anyway, good luck to B-Mac. He'll need it.

Seventy-four pitches?

Carlos Silva throws complete game using 74 pitches.

About 8 pitches per inning, 2.5 per batter. Wow.

Why were the Brewers in such a hurry?

Friday, May 20, 2005

You can put that on the board.

Das what I'm talkin' 'bout. You know. Freddy Garcia continues to show his inexplicable preference for the day game. Not that I have a problem with that. Today.

Freddy's been about what I expected this season, though I am troubled by his low strikeout rate. For his career, Garcia averages about 6.9K/9IP; this year he's averaging about 5.7K/9IP. He only had three strikeouts against the Cubbies in seven innings (am I complaining again? I swear I do it without noticing.).

It's nice to take the opener in Wrigley, especially since Jose Contreras is up against Carlos Zambrano tomorrow. I don't have a good feeling about that one. Then again, Zambrano has been pretty average this season.

No matter what the Twins do tonight, they'll still be comfortably behind in the standings, and that's always nice. Now if the Twins could just go on a, say, ten game losing streak, it'd really make my fortnight.

But they won't. They aren't very nice, those Twins.

I blame Brad Radke.

Because no one ever blames Brad Radke.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Dear Cubbies,

Kindly get bent.



Wednesday, May 18, 2005

May 18th, 1980

When Ian Curtis took his life on this day in 1980, a life and a band were cut tragically short.

Existence well what does it matter?
I exist on the best terms I can
The past is now part of my future
The present is well out of hand
The present is well out of hand
Heart and soul, one will burn

-- "Heart and Soul"

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

I beseech you, Jermaine Dye.

Please find your mojo. Unlike Paul Konerko, when you don't hit for a reasonable average, you don't seem to get on base at all.

The following table displays JD's 2005 numbers-to-date, his career averages (note: I used Dye's average plate appearances per season to determine his career average walks and strikeouts per season), and Baseball Prospectus's PECOTA projection for the 2005 season.

Dye 2005.198.246.38921527.0370.193.87
Dye Career.269.331.46023.63989.0800.453.90
Dye Pecota.256.332.44922.64188n/a0.47n/a

[P = pitches; PA = plate appearance]

About the only thing that looks good this season is the rate at which Dye is hitting dingers...but is that increase suprising (or significant enough to merit discussion?) considering his move to The Cell? His walk rate has gone completely out the window, and while his pitches seen per plate appearance aren't far off from his career average, Dye hasn't averaged fewer than 4.0 P/PA since 2001.

It's funny--signing Dye is one of the few offseason moves made by the White Sox that I agreed with. I thought playing in a hitter's park would make Dye's numbers look good (better than 2004's), and I thought he came at a fairly good price. And I thought he'd be way better than the chaff that the Sox trotted out to right field last season after Magglio Ordonez went down.

There's still plenty of time for Jermaine to turn it around (he has hit .239/.314/.522 this month, which still blows, but blows somewhat less), but I'm beginning to lose hope.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Recapping '05 and Lookin' Ahead -- Maryland

The Terps had a disappointing season, at least when you compare their results to the preseason expectations that were laid on them.

Maryland (19-13, 7-9) lost four sraight games to finish the regular season, two of which were to Clemson. Yes. Clemson. The second loss to the Tigers--in the ACC tourney--sealed Maryland's NIT fate. Not surprisingly, the Terps made a run to the NIT final four (they were one of the more talented teams in the field), but South Carolina ended their run in the semis.

Maryland had an erratic conference season, highlighted by a significant split in home/road performance. The contrast was staggering, and it was basically unmatched by any other ACC team. For conference games only:

UMD Offensive Efficiency at Home: 112
UMD Offensive Efficiency on Road: 96

That difference (+16) is rivaled only by Wake Forest (the Deacs' splits were 130/119, but when you score 119 pts/100 poss on the road, it's not so much a problem. The Deacs were simply amazing at home.).

On the road in conference play, Maryland posted an offensive efficiency of 100+ just twice, with a high of 103.7 (against UVA). At home, the Terps never had an OFF EFF below 100, with a high of 120.9 (versus Clemson, which was, ironically, a loss).

So what was the deal with that? Heckifiknow.

Conference ranks in the Four Factors:

Adj FG%: 10th
O-Reb Rate: 6th
TO Rate: 7th
FTA/FGA: 4th

The Terps' adjusted field goal percentage wasn't good, mostly because they played up-tempo and didn't take very many three pointers. So they took a lot of shots, and the majority of them were deuces. About 3-out-of-4 field goal attempts taken by Maryland players were two-pointers--the lowest proportion in the ACC. Fortunately, the Terps were serviceable offensive rebounders, so they were able to cash in a fair amount of second chance points. If they were as poor at rebounding as Virginia...yikes.

Here are the individual numbers (find definitions here):

Terrapins 2004-2005
PlayerO Rtg% PossMin/GPPGFG%3FG%Floor %Pts Prod/GPPFGA
Nik Caner-Medley11122.2%31.516.04634.10.5114.91.11
Chris McCray11620.1%30.814.145.731.70.5213.81.17
John Gilchrist11321.6%32.213.942.638.30.5215.11.09
Travis Garrison11118.9%24.310.144.437.50.539.81.08
Ekene Ibekwe8922.7%21.58.440.915.80.468.30.92
Mike Jones10722.5%
James Gist10117.6%
DJ Strawberry9518.1%
Will Bowers8813.9%12.52.84000.442.90.90
Sterling Ledbetter8614.7%17.13.442.423.10.414.21.06

[note: DJ Strawberry played in just 14 games.]

In an offseason in which a lot of ACC teams have lost a bunch of guys, the Terps have made out pretty well. Among major contributors, only John Gilchrist is abandoning ship. Travis Garrison, Nik Caner-Medoodily, and Chris McCray will represent one of the stronger senior classes in the conference next season. Whether or not that transfers into more wins, well, that's another story. One would think that Maryland will play better on the road next season (if only because they can't play much worse).

The question is: how do they replace Gilchrist at the point? Will DJ Strawberry be recovered to the point where he can make Maryland fans forget about JG? Or will one of the other guards assert themselves?

For a team running at Maryland's pace, its turnover rate (about 21%) was pretty solid. That was at least partially thanks to John Gilchrist, who sported a low individual turnover rate (under 20%). Will Gilchrist's replacement be as reliable handling the ball? Strawberry had a 27% turnover rate in his limited action; Sterling Ledbetter had a ghastly rate of nearly 40% (but, again, not in a huge sample).

Mike Jones was the team's most proficient scorer on a per-minute basis, so I'd expect an increase in his role next season. He'll have to contend with Chris McCray for minutes at the 2-spot.

The Terps will get balanced scoring again in '06, especially if DJ Strawberry plays a full season. Travis Garrison is a good post player with range, and one of the team's better rebounders to boot. Ekene Ibekwe is an excellent rebounder, but he's got to improve his field goal percentage. Forty percent ain't gonna cut it.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Recapping '05 and Lookin' Ahead -- Virginia Tech

I really thought the Hokies were in for a cold reception to the ACC this season. And when they looked terrible getting blown out by North Carolina in their first conference game, I thought, "wow, these guys are horrible."

Were they bad? Yeah. But they were also lucky.

They finished the year 16-14 (8-8), falling in the NIT to Memphis. Despite being outscored 1168-1075 in conference play, VPI managed a .500 record, and they had members of the media talking NCAA at-large berth. The Hokies were a losing team in disguise. An eighth-place also-ran masquerading as a fourth-place conference-contender.

Conference ranks in the Four Factors:

AdjFG%: 11th
TO Rate: 3rd
O-Reb Rate: 8th
FTA/FGA: 10th

Hokies 2004-2005
PlayerO Rtg% PossMin/GPPGFG%3FG%Floor %Pts Prod/GPPFGA
Zabian Dowdell11021.9%32.614.444.942.30.4713.31.14
Carlos Dixon10821.9%31.313.844.641.20.4712.51.12
Coleman Collins11020.5%29.811.445.233.30.5511.41.02
Jamon Gordon9621.6%33.910.941.626.40.4611.90.94
Deron Washington10119.3%24.17.947.6600.507.91.04
Marquie Cooke7918.2%16.73.631.319.10.374.00.76
Shawn Harris10919.4%7.42.95038.50.512.61.21
Wynton Witherspoon8616.4%10.12.432.725.80.392.40.84
Chris Tucker10712%7.41.545.814.30.531.61.05
Allen Calloway9012.8%9.31.436.100.451.80.80

There is cause for some optimism, as only Carlos Dixon and Marquie Cooke are gone. The team's core--Dowdell, Collins, Gordon--was made up entirely of sophomores in 2004-2005. If those guys get better next season, the Hokies should have a more efficient offense.

Losing Carlos Dixon is tough, but the team shouldn't miss Marquie Cooke at all. Cooke, who was dismissed from the team for an unspecified reason, had a difficult go of it as a freshman. He was simply awful from three-point range (9-47) and not much better from inside the arc; his numbers reflect that.

I like the balance displayed by the Hokies last season, but they didn't have much depth to speak of (Marquie Cooke was the freakin' sixth man). Without question, their biggest task is to find a player on the roster who can serviceably replace Dixon's production in the starting lineup...they also need some quality depth.

It'll be interesting to see where the "experts" pick the Hokies to finish in the ACC next season. I'm thinking Virginia Tech will find its conference slate a lot less forgiving in '06.

So THAT is where they've been keeping the real Jon Garland.

In Canada, eh.

'Course, Jonny's return to mediocrity didn't even matter, as the White Sox hitters busted out their whoopin' sticks and scored a season-high ten runs.

Yeah, it's going that well.

If Paul Konerko and Jermaine Dye start sniffin' their career averages, this team'll really be on to something.

The kind folks at Baseball Tonight have finally moved the daily White Sox highlights out of the last five minutes of the show, so now I only have to slog through 30-40 minutes of Yankees-BoSox babble and Larry Bowa turning mock double plays with John Buccigross. This development is as good a reason as any for the White Sox to keep winning.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Happiness is watching the Yankees play .400 baseball

Let me type that again.

The Yankees are playing ... no, don't need the six key ... nope, not the five key ... ah, here we are ... .400 baseball.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

To the Brackmobile!

Andrew Brackman came to NC State on a basketball scholarship, but he also came to play baseball, and thus far he hasn't failed to disappoint. Against UNC on Friday, he pitched seven innings and struck out 12 (!) batters.

His season totals: 20 IP, 13 H, 26 K, 8 BB, 1.80 ERA, 1.05 WHIP

It's a small sample, but it is very encouraging. Brackman made his first few appearances as a reliever, but has started two consecutive games. In those two starts (against ECU and UNC), he has given up a combined 3 runs. It is a credit to Brackman's talent that he has already worked his way into the weekend rotation.

His K-rate is particularly worth noting. Brackman is averaging 11.7 K/9IP, which is easily the best figure among NC State starters. The Wolfpack's other main SPs--Gib Hobson, Branden Knapp, Jeff Stallings, Phillip Davidson--each have srikeout rates between 5-6K/9IP. Brackman gives the staff a good power pitcher, something the team has missed since Michael Rogers and Vern Sterry graduated after last season.

While I'm on the topic of NC State baseball, I should also note the performance of first baseman Aaron Bates, who has put together the following line in 44 games: .399/.512/.633. Homie is rakin' it this season.