The White Sox are who they are, and today you can't complain

The White Sox are who they are, and today you can't complain
This happened // Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune

Amid all the hubbub about it being a new year, and Robin Ventura emphasizing extra practice, and not giving off overt signs of not caring, one might expect an effective White Sox team to be the product of a complete transformation.  If they beat Detroit, perhaps they'd beat them 15-14, with Beckham and Dunn hitting 4 HR each, because things are different this time.

Instead Dunn and Beckham combined to strike out 7 times while neither reached base, and the team as a whole struck out 15 times, continuing an early-season trend of the Sox striking out constantly.  Given how much the team bumbled into weak contact during the Guillen-era for the sake of avoiding whiffs, the strikeout influx is almost refreshing, and should stay that way for, oh, another 6 hours or so.

A 5-2 game sounds a lot closer to something the White Sox of recent memory could come out on top of.  That sounds like a game they could win with pitching, defense, hitting from Konerko, and hitting from...hopefully someone besides Konerko.

Pitching

Jake Peavy seemed to start running out of gas and hanging his breakers when his pitch count reached the high-80's, and his fastball velocity sat around 91 mph all game.  Those would be the negatives.

The positives would be that Peavy managed to strikeout 8 hitters in 6.2 IP despite this, and seems to have found the approach he'll go with from here on out.  Mix everything.

Pitch Statistics
Pitch Type Avg Speed Max Speed Avg H-Break Avg V-Break Count Strikes / % Swinging Strikes / % Linear Weights Time to Plate
FF (FourSeam Fastball) 91.21 93.5 -5.80 7.27 26 13 / 50.00% 4 / 15.38% -0.8222 0.414
CH (Changeup) 83.48 84.5 -6.70 1.90 5 2 / 40.00% 1 / 20.00% -0.1930 0.451
SL (Slider) 82.83 84.4 4.14 0.57 8 7 / 87.50% 1 / 12.50% -0.7237 0.448
CU (Curveball) 79.75 84.3 3.16 -5.17 13 9 / 69.23% 3 / 23.08% 0.8539 0.470
FC (Cutter) 85.99 88.3 0.68 0.88 21 13 / 61.90% 2 / 9.52% -0.6071 0.434
FT (TwoSeam Fastball) 91.11 92.4 -9.02 5.97 21 15 / 71.43% 1 / 4.76% -1.2985 0.416

Courtesy of BrooksBaseball.com, that's a display of Peavy's pitch selection Friday afternoon.  That's six different offerings, and he recorded a swinging strike with all of them.  It's been said about Yu Darvish that he has too many toys to play with, and once he drills down and focuses on his premium offerings, he'll be elite.  Peavy might be the opposite.  He's lost the overpowering fastball, so he serves himself well to get some sink on it and throw a two-seamer half the time.  His slider isn't dominating anymore, so it's wise to provide some different looks to his off-speed stuff.

"He needs to mix his pitches" generally isn't a phrase used in reference to the all-time greats, but the results, and most importantly the whiffs, have been there for Peavy against two outstanding offenses, so there can be optimism about what lies ahead of him against, for example, the Orioles next week.

Defense

It's often hard to strike a balance between critiquing and assessing the performance of current players, and appreciating them on a historical scale.  I just know that I'm going to miss watching Alexei Ramirez play shortstop when he's gone, and I imagine it will start the moment he leaves.

Today's Ramirez heroism came with a one-run lead in the 8th, runners at the corners.  Alexei scampered to his left in time to dive, field, and flip the ball with his glove to Gordon Beckham in order to turn an inning-ending double play.  It saved the lead, and will enter the highlight rotation, which Ramirez will need to do another 15-20 times in order to create some Gold Glove buzz.

Eager to pitch in, Dayan Viciedo contributed some heroism of his own the previous inning.  With runners in scoring position and only a one-run lead, Andy Dirks hit a sinking liner to left field that Viciedo made a quick and precise read on before laying full out for a backhand catch.

Perhaps Brent Lillibridge makes this play look a bit easier, and it wasn't the smoothest move ever executed on a baseball field.  But given the limitations Dayan faces as a fielder, it's delightful to see maximum effort plays.

Konerko, others?

Again, Konerko provided the bulk of the offensive fireworks.  He fisted a two-out single into right field for an RBI, then improbably scored all the way from 1st when an A.J. Pierzynski liner rolled into a corner and never came out, and RF Brennan Boesch put all his eggs into the "It'll just bounce back and I'll stand here and wait for it" basket.

The replay would want you to believe that Konerko was in actuality out at the plate, but it was another show of welcome aggression from 3rd base coach Joe McEwing in sending runners home.  Soon enough, he'll make a mistake and it will be on all of us to see through it for the larger wisdom of the approach, but the benefits were clear in this situation.  There were 2 outs, Boesch opened the door with his misplay, and it required a perfect relay just to challenge.

Viciedo had already justified his presence in the field before his great play by homering to left.  It was a hanging breaking ball that wasn't missed, and the blast showed off his incredible strength by traveling 404 feet.  It could only have been better if Viciedo had turned on a fastball, and indicated that his timing was back.

Alejandro De Aza tripled and scored in the top of the 8th as the Sox tacked on two insurance runs.  It was ruled a triple, it was actually this.  He also walked and struck out.  So he broke even?

Bullpen

The pen was spared the nail-biting task of nailing down a 1-run lead by the offensive outburst in the 8th, and the final product of the 2.1 shutout innings they recorded was greater than the sum of its parts.

  • WIll Ohman came in to the game to retire lefty Alex Avila, had his first pitch lined for a single, and was pulled.  It was simultaneously pathetic, and also a pretty great move by Ventura not to ask anything more of his LOOGY.
  • Addison Reed got through 0.2 shutout innings, but lacked all feel for his slider, and couldn't do much beyond challenge hitters with heat.  He was saved by Viciedo's defense.
  • Hector Santiago struck out two batters and recorded the save, pretty much with all fastballs.  He tried a single change and a slider, neither fell in the zone, and the screwball remained AWOL.  It was certainly nice to see that Santiago's fastball was enough to get through an inning, as he'll need to be more than a gimmick to make this closer role a lasting one, but the disappearance of a pitch that essentially revitalized his career is curious.

 

Even with the groundskeepers painting the batter's box wrong, it was as perfect of an Opening Day as anyone is going to get, with the first test results of whether the White Sox pitching can stand up to Detroit's offense being a resounding "Looks that way so far!".  There's plenty of room for 12 hours of positive feelings about a 4-2 baseball team.  Even better, if things go wrong, now I've got this photo in my back pocket to use as I please.

 

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  • Great win. But the jury is still out. I usually infer nothing until at least the 20th game.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    60 games is probably the cutoff to say things with confidence

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