Initially, because of his mediocre secondary stuff and how he represents a thoroughly unexciting return for Edwin Jackson, I was down on Zach Stewart.
Maybe it's his perfectly benign performance record (2.65 ERA in 17 IP with shaky peripherals), maybe it's because he's been helpful in a pinch, and maybe it's because his curls remind me of the cocker spaniel my family had when I was three, but I just can't dislike him anymore.
He didn't mean to be part of all this chaos, he was just minding his business with Toronto's Double-A affiliate when he got snatched up and taken to Chicago. Now he's alone in a new place and just trying to please his new owners.
He didn't complain when he was thrown into a spot start in Minnesota, he just threw strikes and let incompetent Twins hitters turn them into outs. And when Phil Humber got hit in the face with a line drive, there Zach was! Bounding out of the bullpen to help! How did he get there? It was only the 2nd inning! Did he sleep there the night before? Poor guy!
Now, because getting hit in the face with a line drive is quite the cross to bear, Phil Humber is going to the DL.
2-3 more starts of Zach Stewart!
15-19 more innings of curls!
He has a 4.31 FIP, and profiles as below-average, but hey, it's not his fault! His best pitch is a 91 mph fastball for goodness sake! I'm sure when Matt Laporta hit his first HR in August off of him, Stewart too was struck with the realization of "Well, that kinda stuff is inevitable". And surely every time he's chilling in the dugout during a start and sees Chris Sale and his otherwordly stuff walking to the bullpen to spend the next two hours talking to Will Ohman, Zach thinks to himself "Wow, life is crazy, isn't it?" And I'm sure, Zach thinks it's bananas that he's starting in the middle of a playoff race...well, up until he rationalizes "Hmm...we haven't really meandered much past .500 or gained significant ground recently and have a harder closing schedule than both Cleveland and Detroit..."
He doesn't have the tools to dominate, but as long as Stewart continues throw strikes, get ground balls, and all those other things that become charming once you realize the guy is existing on the margins, he could still be the affable, helpful rookie trying his best when Humber's DL start is over. So long as he doesn't do too well and usurp Chris Sale's spot in the rotation next season, he should avoid being a massive lightning rod for resentment.
I know that's my goal every day when I go to work.
Aussie Aussie Aussie
Humber's DL visit prompted the call-up of Josh Kinney, the most recent piece selected off of the massive pile of discarded veteran relievers the Sox acquired during the Spring of 2011. Kinney is the Australian one--no wait, that's Shane Lindsay. I got confused, there are a lot of these guys, after all.
No, Kinney is the one who snagged a World Series ring with the '06 Cardinals ( I guess all the guys on that team snagged a World Series ring) before his control fell apart, and he had to resign himself to being part of a massive right-handed reliever scrap pile.
Friday night he debuted for the White Sox after prized ace acquisition Jake Peavy was obliterated with dingers, and struck out 6 batters in 3 IP. If he were young, I'd say "Yowza!". He's 32, so I'll say "interesting".
Previously, FanGraphs pitch-recognition software viewed Kinney's compliment of pitches as Fastball, Slider, Cutter, Curveball. For his outing Friday night it read his pitch use as: 100% Unknown Pitch. No matter what happens in his presumably short stint on the team, Kinsey will always have the accomplishment of breaking FanGraphs.
Tyler Flowers has broken my heart
It was flat-out exciting when Flowers was injected into the lineup this past week. Even though A.J. Pierzynski is having one of his better years at the plate, he's kind of maximizing his potential. He can't take walks, and he won't hit for tons of power, but he can hit .300
A.J.'s currently hitting .296. The room for growth is limited.
Flowers can take walks, he can hit the ball a mile, with a crippling inability to make contact being his only hurdle. There was a good chance Flowers would be worse than Pierzynski, but if he control the whiffs, he had the chance to be a lot better.
The initial returns through the Cleveland series were great. Flowers was taking tons of walks, hit a home run to dead center to show his power, and was hitting .321! It's hard to hit .321 when you're K'ing constantly. Sure enough, his strikeout rate was a bad, but reasonable 23.1%
But...he was still whiffing a lot, just not for strike three. A quick investigation revealed that his swinging strike rate was 16%, which if he had enough plate appearances, would make him the worst in the league save for Miguel Olivo. Yes, worse than Dunn too. It's hard to avoid strikeouts when you miss that much.
On cue, Flowers went 0-4 Friday night with 4 K's. Sigh. Give me a reason to take you back, Tyler, and I'll do it.