Friday, April 03, 2009

Batter up: Chicago White Sox

It's that mystical, wonderful time of year where you commit to a baseball team who you know fully well won't win. This season, in honour of an popular Internet meme, we'll present 25 things that are tangentially about each team. At bat: The Chicago White Sox.
  1. Don't try to figure them out; they can't be figured. Just shake your fist at them like this (shakes fist). The White Sox have trace elements of the ArenaBall era: Lots of home runs (AL-high 235 last season), passable enough pitching. That's been enough for them in two of the past four seasons.

  2. The real loss of left fielder Carlos Quentin's season-ending injury (he punched his bat with his fist and broke his wrist) was that he missed a chance to lead the league in being hit by pitches. Jason Giambi edged him 22-20. Oh, and it also cost Quentin a chance to win the home run title and the MVP in his rookie season.

  3. Alexei Ramírez has shifted to shortstop. He didn't have very good fielding numbers at second base and now he's playing short on a team whose two top starters are both left-handers who get a lot of ground balls.

  4. There will be no making fun of second baseman Craig Getz' name, Mr. Glasscock. Getz put up a promising statline in Triple-A, so he gives the Sox a polished player.

  5. It's not unheard of for a top pitcher to get hammered for a season or two. No. 1 starter Mark Buehrle would seem to be well on his way to another season with 200 innings pitched an 3-something ERA. Dave Stieb went in the tank for a couple seasons in the '80s (4.74 ERA in 1986, 4.09 in '87) and then straightened out. Tom Seaver, when he was 29, suddenly went 11-11 with a 3.20 ERA, bad for him, good for anyone else. It could happen with Buehrle one of these seasons.

  6. Jim Thome, Hall of Fame or not? The 38-year-old DH has 541 homers and has on-based .406 lifetime without getting his name mentioned in anything that rhymes with itchell eport.

  7. It's Year 1 of the Jermaine Dye Decline Watch. The rightfielder hit his age last season (34 homers at age 34), but his bat was ice-cold in spring training. When the bell toils, don't you know.

  8. Cole Armstrong of Surrey, B.C., is on the Opening Day roster as the backup catcher to Mr. Congeniality, A.J. Pierzynski. Armstrong's hometown paper recently referred to him having "an on-base percentage of 3.10," last season, which means someone's either not up on their baseball statistics or just put the decimal point in the wrong place. C'est la vie.

  9. DeWayne Wise, a quintessential quad-A player, is starting the season as a leadoff hitter. That should be fun, for a couple weeks.

  10. No. 3 starter Gavin Floyd's splits suggest he's due for an evenout. A .259 BABIP ain't sustainable.

  11. Octavio Dotel and Matt Thornton are a good righty-lefty tandem to handle the seventh and eighth innings. Chicago was 22-17 in one-run games season, compared to the Twins' 26-26, which helped them tie for the division title before winning the tie-breaker game.

  12. A franchise once synonymous with mediocrity has gone close to two complete decades without a last-place finish. It hasn't happened since 1989, when the Sox played in the seven-team AL West.

  13. There's snow in the forecast for Sunday in Chicago and the White Sox have their home opener on Monday. The vision of the Chisox throwing ball away on a rundown comes to mind, sorry.

  14. This is the first time in a couple seasons that Ozzie Guillen hasn't been near the top of the pre-season "first manager fired" polls. He has tenure in Chicago.

  15. Veteran first baseman Paul Konerko had a good second half in '08, which suggests he's not finished quite yet.

  16. The White Sox seem to love those college pitchers of limited upside. It's a Ken Williams thing.

  17. Top prospect Gordon Beckham is being played up as the next Chase Utley (Baseball Prospectus 2009, pg. 98), a middle infielder who can mash.

  18. You'll be hearing about 20-year-old Cuban power hitter Dayan Viciedo before long.

  19. They're President Obama's favourite team, but there has not been much about that in the news.

  20. John Van Benschoten, whose career is kind of a monument to bad management, is now in the White Sox system. He was once drafted eighth overall by Pittsburgh mostly because they could afford to sign him.

  21. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski is said to have an IQ of 150. What was that again about how you really don't need an IQ beyond 125 to be successful? No wonder Pierzynski manages to burn bridges wherever he goes. Hopefully The New York Times stays in business long enough so he can be a clue in the Sunday crossword ("11 down: Cantankerous catcher.")

  22. Baseball Digest Daily's preview had a good explanation for why it's not a concern that closer Bobby Jenks' strikeout rates is now half of what it was in 2006. He works lower in the strike zone, getting more ground balls.

  23. It's a good year for White Sox anniversaries. May 8 marks the 25th anniversary of the longest game ever played, a 25-inning marathon between the White Sox and the Brewers in 1984 that lasted a total of eight hours, six minutes over two nights. It was noteworthy for:

    • Carlton Fisk, who was 36 years old, catching the whole 25 innings.
    • Chisox second baseman Julio Cruz going 1-for-11 and losing 21 points off his batting average.
    • Being suspended due to curfew after the 17th inning, when the score was tied 6-6.
    • Resuming on May 9. The White Sox ran out of pitchers, so Tom Seaver, the starter for the regularly scheduled game, got the win by pitching a scoreless top of the 25th before Harold Baines hit a walk-off homer.
    • Seaver ended up winning the regular game, getting two wins in one day. Fisk also caught the last three innings after coming in as a pinch-runner. It's small wonder he lasted 25 years in the bigs.

  24. July 12 is the 30th anniversary of Disco Demolition Night. It's worth watching the clip just to see Greg Gumbel's 1979 sunglasses, straight off the cover of a Harold Robbins novel.

  25. Buehrle has more claims to fame beyond the fact he once lost a game without allowing a baserunner. During a game vs. the Jays in 2007, he gave up two solo homers, retired the other 27 batters and lost 2-0 to some journeyman flinger, guy by the name of Harry Leroy Halladay.

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