The White Sox went 2-5 this past week, riding absurdly good pitching from Phil Humber and Gavin Floyd to overcome weak hitting and win two straight games over the Yankees....then they went and dropped five straight.
Compared to previous weeks' efforts of 1-6, and 1-5, this is an upgrade. A stupendous upgrade.
Like upgrading to honey mustard from regular mustard.
Like upgrading to comfy socks from a bear trap
Like upgrading to delicious ice cream from something that appears to be some sort of hastily painted foam.
Still, as delicious as this honey-mustard sock cream might be, the 4-16 stretch is enough to make the White Sox the 2nd worst team in baseball, and naturally, only the 2nd worst team in the AL Central.
At the close of the first month, and recording the most April losses in
team history (note: we had to play a lot of games to lose that many),
they're not just unlucky anymore.
Oh, they've faced good pitchers, their BABIP is bad, and probably racked
up three seasons' worth of losses due to inexplicable nonsense, but
while the 2011 Chicago White Sox are probably better than a 10-19
record, they sure have played like a 10-19 baseball team, and that's all
that is really going to matter.
A team that hits like a dead octopus, but with a higher K-rate: Through
Saturday's compiled numbers, the White Sox position players are the
only group in baseball that's accumulated a negative fWAR for the
season. To summarize, if Brent Lillibridge can be considered a
replacement-level player (he's actually -1.3 for his career, but let's
fudge it), then a lineup composed of Brent Lillibridges would be better
than the Sox current setup. Given the way the season has gone, this
sounds a lot more plausible than it probably is.
This week was little more than a continuation of three-week long descent
into the abyss offensively (2.7 runs a game has become par for the
course, but hey! no shutouts), but is notable for killing the last
notion that the White Sox were just getting shutdown by aces. Sure, CC
Sabathia is great, but A.J. Burnett, Ivan Nova, and Bartolo Colon
ain't. A third of the way through his start, Colon realized that the
Sox couldn't hit his fastball, and stopped throwing anything else.
Like, literally, nothing else.
To close the weekend, the Sox were held down by Baltimore's fairly
anonymous compliment of Jake Arrieta, Chris Tillman, and Zach Britton to
the tune of 5 ER in 16 IP. Baltimore's rotation is young and talented,
but now that Anthony Lerew is out of the league, everyone is talented. They still need to get hit.
A team that defends like the ball is a sea-urchin: At this point,
there are three ways to evaluate defense. There are advanced metrics
(samples too small to be relevant, but rate the Sox as terrible), there
are error totals (limited in what they evaluate, rank Sox as slightly
below average), and there's the eye test (flawed in obvious ways, but
From the eye test, this would be the week where the flood gates opened
and established screwups as a pattern of behavior. Alex Rios added to
his disappointing season by misreading a deep fly ball from Felix Pie
into a triple on Sunday to key a rally. Two games after saving the day,
Sergio Santos' job, and dozens of lives, Brent Lillibridge charged a
line-drive and let it fly over his head for a double in Thursday's 12-3
blowout loss to the Yankees. In that same blowout, all the confusion,
awkward movement and misreads that Carlos Quentin has been suppressing
all year long was let loose in one furious burst of spinning, closed-eye
glove extensions, and lots of doubles. Frankly, if he's going to keep
it bottled to single innings during blowout losses then....you know,
whatever, go nuts.
Finally, there's A.J. Pierzynski, who with Saturday night's effort has
slipped down to 1 of 17 throwing out baserunners, has equaled his passed
ball total from last season already, and has had 12 'wild pitches' get
away from him. With all due respect to the Sacred Cow of Grinder Ball
and all the intangibles he brings, poor hitting and poor fielding ain't
no kinda way to hold a job. Can't he call great games from the dugout?
Looking ahead with optimism: The three primary broken hitters
showed at least signs of life the past two days (Donkey and Rios both
homered, and Beckham was 2 for 3 Sunday), and the pitching staff just
happens to be ranked 5th in baseball in Wins Above Replacement (For an
explanation of how this is possible given their 4.48 ERA, refer to the
But on top of that, the schedule could not be begging for the Sox to
recover any harder. The only team in the whole league with a worse
winning percentage comes to town in the form of the Twins, who will
throw out their two worst-performing starters. After that, it's the
first off-day in 19 years (or so), and a trip to visit the plucky but
A moment occurred in the 8th inning of Sunday's loss to the Orioles that
represented the state of the Sox in a nutshell. Facing a right-hander,
in consecutive at-bats Ozzie Guillen pinch-hit A.J. Pierzynski for
Ramon Castro, then Mark Teahen for Brent Lillibridge. Context-neutral,
Ozzie's playing the percentages AND putting regular starters over
back-ups. Instead, with the world upside-down, Ozzie was subbing out
his hottest hitter in Lillibridge (homered earlier in the game), and
using a man with a .616 OPS as a pinch-hitter in Pierzynski.
Sometimes it feels like the White Sox are shooting themselves in the foot just by sticking to the plan.
Confused by the stat lingo? Read my primer. It's entertaining, at least as far as stat primers go.
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