Monday, April 11, 2011

Sizing Up the Competition: Indians & Royals

It’s a little strange for me to keep having to tell myself that it’s only 9 games into the season and that we’re not in first place because we’re trailing to the Indians. And the Royals are tied with us. Should I be worried? Well, the Indians swept the Red Sox, so I would think that’s saying something if they are beating the big-budgeted Yankee rivals. Because they also swept the Mariners, the Indians are on a 7-game winning streak. I’m sincerely impressed. And, yes, worried. If you look at the Indian’s roster, no huge names stand out, other than Carlos Santana, but I have a feeling I’m thinking of the wrong Santana.

To be honest, their starting rotation sounds like a mess, with 5 right-handed pitchers who were named “defective” by the teams’ own writers (Indians.com). Here’s what the same writer has to say about their ace, Carmona: “Back in 2007, Carmona looked like an ace-in-waiting. Now he looks more like a middle-of-the-rotation guy ... Of course, on this particular staff, he's an ace”. Other phrases to describe the Cleveland starting rotation? The “time was ripe to give up on the Masterson-as-a-starter experiment”, “a serviceable placeholder in the rotation”. And the White Sox have certainly beaten up on the Indians’ pitchers (particularly on Opening Day when they were pummeled by 15 runs). How, then, are these pitchers leading a team to victory?

I suppose the hitting could be a factor. 7 of their 13 active players at hitting above .300. Of course, so is Mark Teahen, so that can obviously be deceiving. Maybe we can be optimistic and say this is a fluke and the Indians are coasting as long as they can before they crash and burn. Or maybe they’ll keep on pace for 126 wins this year.

And then there are the Royals. From Ball Star (royalsblog.kansascity.com): “Most teams don’t trade away a former Cy Young winner in his prime, give the opening-day slot to a guy with a 5.60 career ERA, trade their most complete position player for an unproven 24-year-old right-hander — and expect their rotation to be improved.” And another optimistic description: “Which part of the Royals will be more improved* this season — the offense or the starting pitching? *We may want to phrase this, ‘Which part will be less worse?’, but anyway…” Who would have thought the Royals had anything worth living for after trading Zack Greinke? Especially since the AVG leaders on their team are (excluding Billy Butler): Wilson Betemit, Alex Gordon, and Chris Getz in that order. How do you feel about yourself, Josh Fields? All the White Sox leftovers (Aside from Alex Gordon who I desperately wished would play for the White Sox to no avail) are doing better than your cleft chin! But I digress.

It seems that the Royals are, much like the Indians, running on fumes and waiting for their luck to run out. So where does that leave the Sox? Their 6-3 record is not shameful by any means. The team (bullpen aside, but even that seems to be improving) is looking solid all-around, probably a few weeks from regaining Cy Young winner Jake Peavy, and the offense is everything we thought it would be on paper (minus a week off for Adam Dunn).

I have no answers to these questions, but 153 games to figure it out.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Gavin Lite

I can't be the only one that's noticed that of all the White Sox starting pitchers, Gavin Floyd had quite the badonk-a-donk on him. Seriously, this guy was the Kim Kardashian of the White Sox organization. (At least after Dotel and his bubble derriere vacated the state.) I joked about it, but mostly figured it was because he was so tall that it was just to scale with his extremely tall body. When Chuck Garfien asked for questions for the post-game show, my mind had probably started to wander, feeling an ominous coming on. I jokingly threw out to Chuck and my Twitter followers, "Did Gavin Floyd's butt get smaller? Cause that thing used to be HUGE!" I promise I have a point. Lo and behold, Chuck answered my tweet with the news that Gavin lost 25 lbs since last year.

Now I'm not saying that's what made Gavin's game different today, but it may be adding to the adjustment period he is going through at the beginning of the season. I didn't get to see all of the game today, but I liked what I saw from Gavin. I, of course, missed the 4 runs he gave up, but he looked really solid. He didn't seem jittery, he didn't seem concerned that his curve ball wasn't on top, according to the Twitter world, he just went out there and did 7 innings of pretty solid work.

There were definitely some good things about today, too. Like Paul Konerko's first homer of the year. Once again, I didn't see it. Also, there was A.J. being A.J., sliding into the short stop at second base, trying to make him bobble the throw to first. Forget Charlie Sheen, get Pierzynski his own comedy tour.

Sadly, I got to be right today, as Alex Gordon owned our butt. If you type "Alex Gordon" into the blog's search box, you will find that in every post where he is mentioned, I write that I still like Alex Gordon. (Actually, I write "I still like Alex Gordon, even though..." well there's always something not to like, and I still liked him in spite of it. And times like today is why.) And in a post from 2008, I wrote this:
If Crede doesn’t come back next season (as painful as it is for me to admit that it is a possibility), we must move on to the farm, where Josh Fields has been seething with rage and jealousy, having first to relinquish his “hard-earned” spot to Crede and Uribe. I would rather have Jeff Cox play third base than Fields, but it’s an option. There are also third basemen out there or the taking. Maybe the Royals will be na├»ve enough to take Fields off our hands in exchange for Alex Gordon. I can’t explain it, I just really like the kid.
 Well, apparently Kenny Williams reads my blogs, but he thought "Gordon" was a fancy was of spelling "Teahen."

Overall, I'm not losing hope. I just hope the bullpen gets it together. It's been rocky out there for every reliever, and I'd really like to see that change. Drastically. And soon.

And on that bombshell, good night Sox fans!

--And one last thing. I mentioned Chuck Garfien today and in a previous post, I think, but I have to say, he just seems like the nicest guy. Sure, I made fun of his occasional misuse of homonyms, but what he lacks in grammar, he makes up for in good-natured charm. Glad he's on our side of town.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Carlos Quentin, Rollercoaster Tycoon

Watching Sunday’s game was a bit of a flashback to Friday. I had high hopes through the first few innings, thinking of what solid pitching the day had before the end of the starter’s turn and the bullpen gave up a touchdown. Of course, unlike Friday, the offense was silent. Just one run crossed the plate for the White Sox.

And of course, the story is Alexei Ramirez bunting into a triple play. A rare feat in baseball. Almost as rare as having two identical pop-out-foul-bunts, one of which ended up in someone’s glove. Now, Alexei needs to be scolded for his terrible bunting, but isn’t Ozzie really to blame for giving the sign for small ball when obviously it wasn’t going to work? It’s like asking Juan Uribe to bunt all over again: why bother when you saw with you own eyes that it wouldn’t work? I’m sure my question will go unanswered, and I’m not waiting for an answer. I’m waiting for a change. 2 on, not outs… and you choose to make Alexei Ramirez bunt. Sure… you’re the manager, not me.

There is a bright spot for the 2nd place Sox, though. They are playing the first place Royals (seriously) next, which should make for an easy couple of wins, and will hopefully result in the Sox taking over first place. First place, just like Carlos Quentin, who was voted the AL Player of the Week. In just 11 at-bats, CQ picked up 7 RBI and 3 doubles (leading the American League in both those categories). TCQ seems to be off to a good start, so long as he keeps from punching bats, twisting his ankles, or stays away from really dangerous areas such as baseball fields.

Quentin is really the only surprise this year. So far, Dunn and Konerko are blasting RBIs and looking every bit as solid as we could have hoped for the first 3 games. Quentin is really a surprise because the last 2 or 3 seasons have been a rollercoaster ride for him and his fans. Come to think of it, let’s add that to the list: no rollercoasters for Quentin. Or those spinning teacup things.

Friday, April 1, 2011

2011 Opening Day: An Opening Bid

I felt elated through the first 5 or so innings of today’s game. Buehrle was shutting down the Indians. Sure, they had a couple of hits, but they couldn’t score a run. The Sox, on the other hand, drove the Indians’ pitcher out of the game by the 4th inning, and were two touchdowns (14 runs) ahead. I couldn’t have been happier if Joe Crede himself was playing third base. Everyone (but Rios, of course) had a hit, Dunn and Carlos had homered… spirits were high, and the game was moving along.

And then the 6th inning game. Slow. Painful. Four runs later, Buehrle exited the game, with a 10-run lead. And then the floodgates opened. Ohman’s first thrown pitch was a solo home run. (Yes, his ERA after just 0.2 innings of play is 40.50] Crain earned some runs (as did Tony Pena), and even Chris Sale looked bad (despite not being credited with any runs). Fans on Twitter joked that “All In” meant have to put every single player in the game. I joked that it was Josh Fields’s fault. Overall, I can’t put my finger on it.

The offensive explosion seemed promising in the beginning, but faltered toward the end, indicating some of the problems of previous year. The bullpen looked so shaky, I could imagine Bobby Jenks stroking his bleached goatee and laughing an evil laugh.

 It’s not exactly the way I planned to spend my time after opening day. Usually a game won is pretty clear cut. But I haven’t felt so bad and so good about a game at the same time in very long.

I guess what I’m really trying to say is that it’s day one. It really doesn’t determine anything. What it does is give fans hope for the next 161 games, it brings the word “baseball” into conversation, and it makes conversations a little bit more interesting than “that was a good game.” In the end, that’s what baseball is all about. Averages, numbers, the “long-run”, not just a small sample. So the Sox are off with a win, and the fans are left with many questions whose answers are just beyond the 9th inning of every game from now until October. Cheers to Opening Day.

PS: Joe Crede walks into a bar. Everyone buys him a beer. No joke. Just what it’s like being AWESOME.