Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Playoffs Preview: Chicago White Sox

Eight notes and observations on each of the eight playoff teams ... it took 163 games, but here are the White Sox.

1. Not shooting Danks

If you watched last night's playoff between the Twins and White Sox, you might have noticed how this John Danks character shut down Minnesota's lineup, including the dangerous Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. Unlike most years, the Twins actually had a good lineup, so how did he do that? Because the Twins aren't a powerful team and Danks has a powerful cut fastball. Don't ask me why he had an ERA near 8 against this team during the season, because there wasn't any indication of it last night.

Danks was originally a Texas Rangers prospect, traded two years ago because no pitchers will ever amount to anything in Arlington.

2. Suehrle you're joking...

Mark Buehrle is the lefthanded Roy Halladay except with a World Series ring. And a no-hitter. And eight straight years with 200+ innings pitched. What more do you want from an ace? Even that no-hitter was essentially a perfect game, except for the three pitches between the Sammy Sosa walk and Sammy Sosa pickoff.

3. Ask us about our Vazquez

Javier Vazquez was the youngest of the Killer V's in his Montreal days along with Jose Vidro (now over the hill) and Vlad Guerrero (still going). He will likely strike out 3000 batters in his career and has a spotless health record. And he's not even the second-best starter on this team.

You see, the White Sox won the 2005 World Series mainly because of four excellent starting pitchers (and 200 home runs from their lineup). Buerhle was one of them and he's still here. Freddy Garcia was another and he's been traded for Gavin Floyd, who has outpitched him by 95 innings since then. (And outpitched him in the makeup game on Monday, a nice added storyline to the Detroit-Chicago game.) Jose Contreras was the third, but he's been shifted down in favour of Danks. Bottom line, when you're not sure if Vazquez is your #2 or #4, you have a good team.

4. Where's that list of dumb athlete injuries?

Carlos Quentin, who hit just five homers last year in the other league, could have led the good league in homers this year if not for athlete stupidity--yes, even Stanford guys fall victim to that. Quentin broke his right wrist on Labour Day when he slammed his fist into his bat in frustration. So the White Sox lost their MVP candidate for the month of September and maybe October. And they have to use DeWayne Wise and Ken Griffey, Jr. in the outfield*. Lesson here kids: if you strike out, just yell really loud.

* Okay, fine, that was a hell of a throw by Junior last night. But there's no way he would have made the diving catch to end it.

5. Cuban Missile

Alexei Ramirez came to the attention of North American fans when he played centre field for the Cuban team in the 2006 World Baseball Classic. Ramirez is a lot of fun to watch, and despite his low walk rate (lower than anyone else in the league except teammmate A.J. Pierzynski), he has enough power and strikeout-avoiding-ability to deserve a higher spot than seventh in the Chicago lineup.

6. Second City

Both Chicago and Los Angeles/Anaheim have two teams in the playoffs this year. This has never happened before, mainly because it's the first time since 1906 that both Chicago teams are in. (It's also the first time that four of the eight playoff teams are from two cities, for whatever that's worth.) I think we can all agree that the "no New York teams" part of the postseason is pretty nice, too.

7. Any reason not to like Ozzie?

It's been, what, four years now, and Ozzie Guillen keeps annoying the right people, using all kinds of words us polite Canadians wouldn't use, and generally increasing the hilarity of White Sox games. Check out some highlights. It's never boring.

8. Not bitter, not at all

The Blue Jays' RPI on the season was .520, seventh-best in the majors. Four AL East teams are in the top seven. The White Sox were not in the top seven (though just barely below, at .518) and don't get me started on the Dodgers, who were eighth in their own league and still made the postseason.

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