Nine innings and eight strikeouts
for Freddy Garcia today, and he required only 96 pitches. Garcia has been pretty good this month, going at least 8 IP in three of five June starts.
He's put my early season concerns about his strikeout rate
to rest: he had a 6.5 K/9IP in May and has a 7.1 K/9IP this month. With Freddy coming on strong in June, I'm feeling pretty good about the pitching staff despite the difficulties of Jose Contreras and the injured Orlando Hernandez.
And speaking of pitchers doin' some things in June, check out my man Joe Blanton
(he's on my fantasy baseball team, which is why I care):
April-May K/9IP: 3.0
June K/9IP: 5.8
After a rather unfortunate
month of May in which his ERA ballooned to 6.66 (indeed), he's bounced back and brought that number down to a more respectable 4.48. My fantasy team needs him desperately...which is also unfortunate.
The A's have won seven straight games, and the White Sox are venturing to Oakland this weekend. Poor timing, not to mention that the Athletics would take 2 of 3 from the Sox even if they were playing like the 2003 Tigers.
I would of course remiss if I didn't mention Chad Orvella
, who hasn't allowed a run in his last two appearances.
I hate it when they do this.
White Sox last four:
vs Cubs: L, 2-6
vs Cubs: L, 0-2
at Tigers: W, 2-1
at Tigers: W, 4-3 (13 innings)
It's tough to watch when they aren't scoring runs.
Both wins over the Tigers have been excruciating: in the first game of the series, Dustin Hermanson allowed a leadoff triple in the bottom of the ninth, then somehow managed to get three outs and strand the guy at third. Tonight, after Frank Thomas hit a solo homer to put the White Sox ahead in the 13th, the Tigers had the bases loaded with one out in the bottom half of the inning. Brandon Inge struck out on a 2-2 pitch for the second out, then Placido Polanco grounded out to second.Whew.
Talk about dodging bullets
A few more of these one-run games and you can pretty much stick a fork in me--and it's not even July. The college football and college hoops seasons are hard enough by themselves.
Certain Draft-Related Items
The NFL Draft is never capable of matching the comedic potential of the NBA Draft
, and it's not just because the NFL Draft telecast features Chris Berman. The inevitable head-scratching selections made by certain franchises ensure that the hoops draft will be entertaining. Unless you're a fan of one of those franchises, in which case you get that familiar "oh, great" feeling.
I have a secret. Despite this incident
, I like Chris Paul. In fact, as far as this draft goes, I think there's Chris Paul and there's everybody else. So I was extremely disappointed to see that Paul didn't make it to the Bobcats at #5--not because I'm a Bobcats fan, but because I wouldn't wish the Hornets on anyone.
Charlotte reached a bit by taking Raymond Felton, but they addressed a need and boosted ticket sales. You could definitely argue their selection of Sean May later in the first, though I think May will be a good professional. This past season, May led the ACC in points-per-minute and rebounds-per-minute. He gets knocked for his height, but he is an excellent rebounder.
Julius Hodge ended up in Denver, and that's a pretty good situation for him. The Nuggets don't need a point guard--they have Andre Miller
--so Julius can get acclimated to the league at 2-guard. People like to call Hodge "overrated" because of his jumper, forgetting that it's his production in a myriad of categories that makes him so good. He'll grab rebounds and dish out assists at good rates, and he'll also draw his fair share of fouls. Should he reclaim his excellent FT%, he'll be that much more valuable.
I found it interesting that Florida State's Von Wafer was drafted, especially in the first half of the second round. I guess the Lakers aren't concerned about acquiring guys who need a lot of work (this draft has certainly made it apparent that Jerry West isn't in LA anymore).
Someone should have taken a flyer on Jawad Williams.
BlogPoll Roundtable Part II
roundtable rolls on, this time hosted by Every Day Should Be Saturday
. Below are the questions of import this week and my responses.What's THE critical game of the season on the national scene?
This is a fabulously difficult question. I'll go with Florida State @ Virginia. I think the Seminoles will be quite beatable again in 2005, meaning there is a very good chance that they open the door for another team in their division to reach the ACC Championship, win that game, and throw a wrench into the BCS. The 'Noles could be 1-2 in conference heading into their trip to Charlottesville, and a loss to the Wahoos in that situation would pretty much bust the Atlantic Division (FSU, Maryland, NCSU, Clemson, BC, Wake) wide open.What's the most critical matchup for your team?
It's the least surprising pick, but for NC State, it has to be week one against Virginia Tech. In this game, we'll get a feel for several keys to the Wolfpack's season: Is quarterback Jay Davis a year wiser? How well does the defense adjust to replacing its secondary? Has placekicker John Deraney added some accuracy to accompany his impressive range?
If NC State can beat Virginia Tech, it should be a contender in the ACC's Atlantic Division. If the Pack loses, the big games at the end of the schedule lose importance--and that's why this first game is huge.What's your wingnut upset prediction of year?
I'll stick with my ACC theme and take Wake Forest over Nebraska. In Lincoln.
Because Wake Forest ain't that bad, and because I like watching Bill Callahan get angry.
The White Sox--on a delicious 7-game win streak and 14-5 in June--will welcome the Cubs to the south side starting Friday. Here are the probables, four of whom started in the previous series:Sergio Mitre
(2-2, 4.19) vs. Freddy Garcia
(6-3, 3.75)Greg Maddux
(6-4, 4.67) vs. Jose Contreras
(3-3, 3.83)Mark Prior
(4-1, 2.93) vs. Jon Garland
The Cubs will dodge Mark Buehrle again, which is definitely a bummer, but they will likely see Garland on Sunday. It won't technically be Garland's turn in the rotation, but he'll have had a full four days of rest. And he's much better than the alternatives.
Greg Maddux has been pretty hittable this month: 22.3 IP, 30 H, 16 R.
Serio Mitre, who sports a killer 'stache-goatee combo, has been a mixed bag. In half of his six starts, he has given up 5 runs or more; in the other half, he's given up 2 runs or fewer, including two shutouts. Not a guy who'll strike a lot of hitters out, either.
Several guys in this series are enjoying hitting in June:
Paul Konerko: .353/.450/.632
Jermaine Dye: .381/.435/.635
Carl Everett: .366/.357/.634
Big Frank: .278/.372/.806
Derrek Lee: .450/.506/.738
Aramis Ramirez: .378/.418/.716
Jeromy Burnitz: .359/.412/.603
Here's hoping for win number 50 (!) tomorrow.
The Sox play Smartball...I prefer Luckball.
ESPN's Rob Neyer recently wrote about Chicago's impressive fortune in games in which they score three runs or fewer (what Neyer called games you're supposed to lose). I only caught the first paragraph or two of his article, since that's all they let the unwashed masses read for free (Neyer's only available through a premium subscription).
Anyway, that made me curious about the rest of the AL Central, so I tallied their records in games they're "supposed to lose." The table below includes each team's record in those games, their winning percentage in those games, and their record against their AL Central foes.
|Team||Record When Scoring 3 or Fewer||Winning Pct.||Overall Record vs. Division|
That's a pretty impressive advantage for the White Sox, especially over the second place Fighting LeCroys. The White Sox have a +7.5 game edge over the Twinkies in the "should lose" games, and a +2 game edge in head-to-head (after subtracting the "should lose" games that have already been counted).
The Sox have been brilliant against the rest of the Central, but in fairness, a lot of those wins have come against the Royals and Bob Wickman. They've only played the Twins five times and won't see them again until after the All-Star break.
This Man Is Going Pro
|Player||O Rtg||% Poss||Min/G||PPG||FG%||3FG%||Floor %||Pts Prod/G||PPFGA|
Has he gotten some positive vibes from NBA scouts? Or is he concerned about those incoming freshmen?
Per 40 minutes: 3.4 FGM, 8.5 FGA, 9.3 points, 9.1 rebounds, 2.0 AST, 2.2 TO, 3.2 BLK
I [heart] Lima Time
The good news for Jose is, when they finally stick a fork in him, he can sing the national anthem before Royals games full time.
Winning games 3-2 or 2-1 is nice, but there's something to be said for the good old 11-8er
I can't help but feel bad for the Dodgers.
There is simply no defense for the amount of luck the White Sox generated last night (or the night before).
In the eighth inning, the first base umpire made a poor call on Scott Podsednik's sac bunt attempt that gave the Sox two baserunners (rather than one). Both would score.
In the Dodger ninth, when outfielder Jason Repko
ate a Dustin Hermanson pitch for lunch (killed that pitch daid
, sucka!), he was, of course, just a hair out in front, and the ball flew foul.
Repko--the leadoff man--would walk, but Jason Phillips would subsequently hit into a crippling double play. Right on queue.
In other news, the Twins have taken it upon themselves to go 3-7 over their last ten, and for that I am very appreciative. They're 7.5 back in the central and just a single game up on third place Cleveland. The Indians, finally free of the terrible cancer that is Eddie Murray (that's sarcasm), are hitting like they're supposed to. Or maybe they're just picturing Ervin Santana on the mound
Even the Tigers and Royals are playing relatively well these days, and if you just look at the records, the AL Central is all of the sudden looking like one of the best divisions in baseball. This concept, entirely foreign to me, refuses to take hold in my brain.
[Some high comedy right here
I have edited and cleaned up the links at the top of the column on the right side of the page:About Adjusted FG%, Offensive Rebound Rate, Turnover Rate and PossessionsAbout Offensive and Defensive Efficiency
The latter contains an example calculation of possessions and efficiency ratings. Do have a look-see, why don't you?
There are also some new links on the page:MGoBlog
-- Creator and host of the BlogPoll, a newly-established college football poll comprised entirely of college sports bloggers (including me). We'll be sending in our votes weekly once the season starts, and the ballots will be open for everyone to dissect. Even if you don't care about the poll, if you're a college football fan, this blog is worth your time.FanopticonThe Hardball TimesBaseball Toaster Baseball AnalystsSabernomics: A Study of the Protection Externality in Baseball LineupsFootball Outsiders
I'll probably attempt some organization as I keep adding links. But I am somewhat, ahem
, HTML-challenged, and it's easier to lump all of my links into one list rather than try to divide them into separate categories.
Not Gone, But Certainly Forgotten
My participation in mgoblog's BlogPoll
has me thinking about football. So here's a break from baseball mode.
From 2000-2003, NC State won 34 football games. Four bowl games (3-1). Plenty of rankings, hype, and exposure.
In 2004, State went 5-6, thanks to generally anemic quarterback play (and a whole bloody heap o' turnovers). It's awfully quiet these days. Not that I necessarily blame anyone for falling asleep on NC State.
Last year, watching these guys play was constantly nerve-racking, frustrating, and utterly painful. And I kept going back to the stadium every Saturday. Man, I'm a sucker.
While the usual suspects get their standard allotment of attention this off-season, some other ACC schools--Georgia Tech, Boston College--are also getting cuddly with sportswriters. That doesn't leave a lot of room for the Pack, but here are a few reasons why you can expect them to be bowl bound in 2005:
1) Led by one of the best defenses in the country, NC State out-gained 10 of 11 opponents in 2004. They lost two last-minute heart-breakers, and blew leads in a pair of other games. The defense will have to replace its entire secondary, but all four defensive line starters--including preseason All-American DE Mario Williams--return. The unit may not be brilliant in '05, but it will be very, very good.
2) Quarterback Jay Davis was awful in 2004, but it wasn't for a lack of skill position players. The Wolfpack returns a talented stable of running backs, a good pass-catching tight end in TJ Williams, and receivers who--on the rare occasions where the ball is delivered to them accurately--can break a game open. I said it before last season and I'll say it again now: for this team to be successful, Jay Davis needs merely to be adequate.
3) Fumble-itis going into remission.
Thirty-two turnovers, 15 takeaways last year. Such a negative turnover margin is absurd, and you won't see it again.
4) Virginia Tech went 7-1 in the ACC en route to the conference title last year. That loss? To the Wolfpack in Blacksburg. There is talent in Raleigh, and I like to at least entertain the idea that, this year, Jay Davis won't hold them back.
Sometimes it just ain't your year.
And for the Diamondbacks relievers who pitched against the White Sox last night, it would seem that these last few months haven't gone very well (but the Sox were magnanimous in victory last night, bothering to score just three runs on the bullpen in the 12-6 win). The horrendous Arizona bullpen features such stalwarts as Jose Valverde
, Claudio Vargas
, and the man, the legend--Greg Aquino
Oh, and that Russ Ortiz signing? Not looking any better now than it did in December
The Dodgers are coming to town next, and the Cubbies will be on the south side next weekend. Couldn't we have gotten Cincinnati or Houston on the schedule...or how about a return trip from the Rockies?
Oh, yeah, sure.
Just go right ahead and roll over for the Twins, then come up to Chi-town and play like a playoff team.
Really not helpful, D-Backs.
Eric Williams Returneth and Other Items
Good news for Wake Forest: Big E is back
. Considering that there could possibly be a work stoppage in the NBA, I'm a little surpised that we haven't seen more underclassmen withdrawing from the draft. But whether there is a season in '05-'06 or not, Eric Williams is right to return to college.Williams was a big part of Wake's success
last season (the link includes his numbers). Impressively, Williams improved his offensive rating from 107 to 120 (no small improvement) between his sophomore and junior seasons despite taking on a higher workload. He made shots at a higher percentage while also cutting down on his turnovers. With Justin Gray and Williams returning, the Deacs have two of the better players in the ACC at their respective positions.
And speaking of the NBA, I'm wondering what the ratings for the NBA Finals have looked like. I have tried to watch the first two games, but haven't been able to stomach more than one quarter of action in each game. I knew the series would be boring, what with both teams preferring a slow pace, but I thought it would at least be competitive. The Spurs haven't had much trouble in the fourth quarter in this series.
This last month or so, I've really been missing the NHL playoffs (the NBA Finals have added to this). I hope they get everything hammered out before next season.
What is Barry Melrose doing these days, anyway? Does he have enough money for hair gel? And what aboot Panger? Is he attempting to resurrect his career in Gordie Howe-esque fashion? Is he forced to subsist in Dave Strader's Camry? Someone really should start a Save the Hockey Analyst fund.
What of Canada in general? Is national image at an all-time low? Have Calgarians found an alternative way in which to quantify their self-worth? Have people found another reason to go to Ottawa?Chad Orvella
has struggled during his last few appearances, though he did get his first save last night. Chad has struck out five guys and walked four in seven innings. The walks are uncharacteristic--in his minor league career (86 IP), Orvella has 131 strikeouts and 11 walks. That's not a typo.
When I was looking for Chad's minor league stats just now, I mis-typed "google" and ended up across the pond
Jose Contreras is getting crushed like the guy who pitches during the homerun derby.
What an odd sensation this is--down seven runs after three innings. I have a newfound appreciation for how good the White Sox starters have been this season.
In other news, Shawn Estes looks better than he should. Which is typical.
I went to bed last night with the White Sox clinging to a 5-4 lead in the sixth inning, and I figured, what with Chicago's propensity for losing the third game of any given series, that that margin wouldn't hold up. It didn't.
But instead of a Rockies comeback, the White Sox dropped the hammer and scored a combined ten runs in the last two innings. You can imagine my surprise at seeing that score this morning. This team could be playing on a softball field and I wouldn't expect them to score 15 times.
I wish I had caught the end of the game since it ended up being one of the rare occasions on which the Sox cruised to an easy win (the second of such wins in this series; thanks, Rockies). Carl Everett, Jermaine Dye*, Pablo Ozuna and Aaron Rowand had three hits apiece. Even reliever Cliff Politte got in on the action. Big Frank hit a monster shot to dead center in his lone at-bat (he's now slugging .700+ in limited action).
The Sox leave Denver having scored 26 runs in the three game series, and I'm left lamenting what this offense used to be. You know, back when they "just hit homers" and just finished in the top five in the majors in runs scored.
Unfortunately, the Twins haven't bothered to lose any ground in the standings, and the White Sox are off to the west coast.
Still waitin' for that ten game losing streak, Twinkies. Thanks in advance.
[* -- JD hit .275/.340/.593 in May after his .175/.205/.313 April. He's hitting .448/.500/.586 this month.]
Cause for Concern: Team Batting Avg. with RISP
In his White Sox preview
, Studes said (scroll to question #3 in the article):
This is a graph of how often each team reached scoring position (the "X" axis), how well they batted with runners in scoring position (the "Y" axis) and how many home runs they hit (the circle). As you can see, the Sox hit lots of home runs and had a phenomenal batting average with runners in scoring position. But they had the least at bats in the league with runners into scoring position.
The issue is that the Sox almost certainly will not bat .292 with runners in scoring position again. So they need to find other ways to score runs, and they particularly need to get more runners in scoring position.
That graph is from 2004. The Sox didn't do a good job of getting guys to second and third (perhaps part of the reason why management decided "we can't wait around for the three-run homer"), but were opportunistic to the point where it didn't hurt them with regards to run production.
Studes warned that the Sox almost certainly wouldn't be that fortunate again, and indeed, they haven't been
(you'll have to scroll to "The Other League"). The Sox were dead last in the AL in total at-bats with runners in scoring position in 2004, and so far in 2005, they're dead last again. But this season, they aren't hitting .292 w/RISP. They're hitting .257. And not only are they hitting at a lower average, they're also hitting fewer homers (compare the size of the circles surrounding the White Sox data points in the 2004 and 2005 graphs).
The only AL squads hitting worse with RISP--KC, Oakland, Cleveland--are off to some pretty awful starts. It's no wonder that the Sox offense has been so poor. At least the Sox appear to be on pace to have a marginal increase from 2004 in total at-bats with RISP.
[Just as an aside: it's interesting that Oakland (see link above) has had among the most opportunities with RISP in the AL. They've been hampered by a terrible batting average in those situations, so assuming they improve somewhat over the course of the year, they could be in for marked a improvement in runs scored. They've played better of late (even scoring 10+ runs in single games, rather than over the course of single weeks), so perhaps the turnaround is underway. The fact that they're second in the AL in at bats with runners in scoring position indicates their offense may be a whole lot better than it has shown itself to be thus far.]
I note with some measure of relief that the Twinkies are hitting an absurd .300 with runners in scoring position. Surely that's coming down over the next 100+ games.
Freddy Nighttime + Coors Field = ?
Despite the likely case that perceived differences in day/night performances aren't "true" effects (read this!
), Freddy plays like the time of day matters. Over the last three seasons
, Garcia's day game ERA has been 1.81 points lower than his night game ERA. By now, his reputation as an excellent day game hurler is well-established.
, Freddy will take the hill against the Rockies in Denver
This concerns me.
[Edit 6-7-05: Dude. 8 IP, 10 K, 3 ER.]
A Third Through
The baseball season is a little over 1/3 complete, and the White Sox are still in first place. Few people expected the White Sox to be in this position, and I'm no exception. I thought there was a good chance this season would be mediocre or even a disaster.
I wasn't a fan of the direction in which Ozzie Guillen and the team's management took to the offense during the offseason, and I'm still not a fan. But hey, as long as the wins come, I can grin and bear it.
Here's a comparison of Baseball Prospectus's PECOTA projections for White Sox hitters this season to their actual numbers-to-date. I've kept this simple...I'm just trying to get a quick feel for who could improve/get worse over the next 100+ games.
White Sox Hitters
|Player||PECOTA Projection||2005 Numbers-to-Date|
** -- Iguchi projection taken from this Harball Times article
Sample size caveats apply, especially with the last four guys in the table.
A few guys--Rowand, Scotty Pods, Iguchi--have been pretty much what has been expected of them. At this point, that Hardball Times projection for Iguchi deserves a kudos, as it has been almost dead-on. Just about everyone is underperforming their PECOTA projections, which isn't surprising considering how mediocre the offense has been this year. Pitching was the story in April, and it's the story now.
It's gotten to the point where I can't watch Joe Crede or Juan Uribe hit. Watching those guys hack like they're paid by the swing is painful. Just call my man Juan Uribe the Bassmaster
, 'cause he's always going fishing. It's too bad Big Willie Style can't play shortstop, because I'd love to see him get some of Uribe's playing time.
Paul Konerko isn't hitting for average, but he's made that less important with an increase in his walk rate. His on-base percentage is acceptable despite his average, and compared to the other guys on the team, it's downright good.
The White Sox are 8th in the AL in runs scored, 10th in batting average, 9th in on-base percentage, and 8th in slugging. They lead the AL in stolen bases (that is, after all, the supposed key to the "multidimensional" offense this season), but have only been successful on 67% of their SB attempts. Scott Podsednik already has 28 bags, so he's well on pace to surpass the PECOTA projection of 41 steals.
What's funny is that the White Sox aren't even on pace to score as many runs as they were projected to score in this AL Central preview article
, an article in which Joe Sheehan predicted the less-potent Sox would finish 20 games under
.500. The difference of course is that Sheehan thought the Sox would allow 800+ runs while they're on pace to allow a little over 600 runs. That runs allowed prediction is looking downright laughable at this point.
Still, if any part of the roster is due for taking a step or two backwards, the pitching staff is it:
White Sox Pitchers
|Player||PECOTA Proj ERA||2005 ERA-to-Date|
All five starters are outperforming their projections, and so are several relievers. Luis Vizcaino and Shingo Takatsu have been terrible disappointments, but beyond that, everyone has been solid. The starters have gone deep almost every night. Jon Garland was brilliant in April, though he has had a more typical go of it in his last three starts (1-2).
Mark Buehrle continues to garner absolutely no respect from PECOTA, but that's okay. He outperformed his projection last year, and he'll do it again this year. The other guys...who knows.
Four starters boast low batting averages on balls-in-play (batting average against the pitcher, not including HRs or strikeouts). See what I mean here
. Jose Contreras has the lowest BIPA in the American League (.210), so he's been lucky. The average BIPA is usually (don't quote me on this) around .300, I think. Anything significantly below that probably means that the pitcher is getting opposing batters to hit it at his defense more often than usual. That sort of thing can change at any time.
I've mentioned previously that Freddy Garcia's K-rate is down this year, yet his ERA is better than typical Freddy standards. In other words--low BIPA (15th lowest among AL pitchers).
Including today's win, Chicago is 13-11 since May 9th. They've been mostly treading water since their hot start, playing more like everyone thought they would. During one six game stretch in the last few weeks, the team never scored more than three runs in a game.
But Frank Thomas is back, and he's going to make the offense better. Well, if Ozzie Guillen keeps him in the lineup. Hopefully the offense will improve to match the pitching staff's impending decline, though I know better than to expect that.
Really, I can't get enough Timo.
Maybe Ozzie Guillen can start him at every position.
The Sox could rest Joe Crede, Scott Podsednik, and Juan Uribe all at once, letting Perez have that side of the field to himself. I can imagine one of those graphics displaying the defensive lineup that they show on television during the first inning, with the left side of the field marked "TIMO" in huge block letters.
The White Sox managed seven runs last night, and actually started to threaten to steal another one from the Angels in the ninth (After Big Frank walked with the bases loaded to cut the deficit to three runs, I started to get my hopes up...then I saw Juan Uribe walk up to the batter's box.), but Francisco Rodriguez battled through a shaky return from the DL to finish off the game.
Chicago was winning when Jose Contreras left the game after six innings, but it got ugly pretty quickly. The Cheat outlines what happened
. Suffice it to say that I ain't sorry to see Kevin Walker on his way back to the minors. El Duque is off the DL and ready to go against Cleveland on Friday. Thank goodness.Chad Watch:
Chad Orvella debuted for the D-Rays in Oakland after the A's jumped out to a comfortable 10-1 lead (the A's better pace themselves; 10 runs is usually their weekly allotment), and he got the last five outs of the game with no problems: 1 2/3 IP, 1 K, 0 H, 0 BB. Dig it.