Wednesday, July 30, 2008


For those of you wondering why The Update didn't publish the last two days, the explanation is simple. This is our 200th blog entry and we were not about to waste it on a White Sox loss. After two defeats to start the series, the Good Guys finally won one in the Metrodome -- their first of the year -- beating the Twinkies, 8-3.
Charter subscriber Bob "Carnac" Koza predicted that Gavin Floyd would "pitch a gem," and that's exactly what Floyd did. The Sox hurler earned his 11th win (eighth best in the American League) by allowing only one run on five hits in 7.2 innings. He struck out four, walked only one, and lowered his ERA to 3.43 (10th best in the A.L.). Matt Thornton finished up the eighth inning and retired the only man he faced. Bobby Jenks, who needed the work, pitched the ninth in a non-save situation and was less than sharp. Fortunately, Jenks had an 8-1 lead to work with, so the two runs he allowed were essentially meaningless.
The Sox collected their eight runs by banging out 15 hits, at least one by each starter. Carlos Quentin had three, including his league-leading 28th home run in the first inning to give the Sox a 1-0 lead, and a three-run double in the fourth that broke the game open. Alexei Ramirez added a three-run homer in the seventh to put the game out of reach at 8-1. We know that Evan Longoria is the odds-on favorite to win Rookie of the Year, but Ramirez continues to make a case that he deserves some recognition too.
One Sox player who got some press on Wednesday was Orlando Cabrera. ESPN's baseball guru, Buster Olney mentioned OC as possible trade bait to obtain closer Huston Street of the A's. (We cringe every time Kenny Williams starts dealing with Billy Beane, thinking back to how Beane seemingly kept getting the better of Kenny in the book Moneyball.) Olney said the Dodgers are looking for a shortstop, implying that there could be a three way deal with Oakland and L.A. Cabrera is probably gone after the season, but we'd like to see him finish out the year with the Sox. If OC departs, presumably Ramirez will go from being the shortstop of the future to being the shortstop of the present, with Juan Uribe taking over second. Or we suppose that Uribe could go back to short and Ramirez could remain at the keystone sack. Either way, that means Uribe would be taking Cabrera's spot in the order -- which doesn't make us feel all warm and fuzzy. We'll know on Thursday afternoon.
The win shaves the Magic Number to 55 and returns the lead to 1.5 games, ensuring that the Sox will leave Minnesota in first place. They've been there every day starting with May 17, a period of 74 days, and counting. The Sox came through with first place on the line and another win in the finale on Thursday restores the lead to 2.5 games -- where it was when the series began. Go Sox!

Sunday, July 27, 2008


If you had asked me before the series with Detroit if I'd be happy with the White Sox winning two out of three from the Tigers, I'd have said "sure." So it's not fair for me to be disappointed that we didn't pull off our seventh sweep of 2008 -- but I am, and I bet you are too.
After coming from behind to win the first two games, anything less than a win in the finale wasn't going to do. The win on Friday marked the first time all season that the Sox won a game after trailing going into the ninth inning -- they were 0-37 in those situations before then -- and they were down to their last strike when Carlos Quentin got a hit and Jermaine Dye smashed a two-run home run to provide the winning margin. Saturday's comeback win, the 29th time they've done that this season, raised expectations that the Sox would come back one more time on Sunday. But that didn't happen.
By meat-loafing Detroit, the Sox hung on to a 2.5 game lead over the Twins and reduced the Magic Number to 57 over Minnesota. (For those of you keeping score at home, the Good Guys have a 6.5 game lead on Detroit and a Magic Number of 53 vis-a-vis the Tigers.) And now it's on to the Twin Cities to do battle with the Piranhas for four games. At the end of the series, we'll be somewhere between 6.5 games ahead of (Sox sweep) and 1.5 games behind Minnesota (Twins do it to us). We've got our hottest pitcher -- Mark Buehrle -- ready to take the mound on Monday. It's hard to call a series in July crucial, but that's what this one is shaping up to be. Go Sox! Beat the Twins!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


"Revenge is a dish best served cold." Carlos Quentin took that saying to heart, serving up some cold revenge Wednesday when Ranger closer, C.J. Wilson, who had shown him up just before the All-Star break, tried to throw one over the dish in the bottom of the eighth with Texas up 8-7. Quentin smashed his second home run of the game and his league-leading 26th of the year with two men on to give the White Sox a 10-8 lead, capping off a five-run rally. Earlier, Q and Jim Thome (whom Wilson also showed up down in Texas) exacted revenge on George Bush's former team, if not on Wilson, by going yard. Q's first homer was a solo shot in the fifth inning, and Thome poked his 19th dinger of the season (526th lifetime), a three-run bomb, in the first inning.
Clayton Richard lasted four innings in his first Major League start. Although he gave up five runs (four earned), Richard did strike out seven while walking only one. Ozzie liked what he saw well enough to pencil in Richard for another start next Tuesday against the Twins in the Metrodome. (At least Ozzie was around long enough to watch the rookie's performance before the Sox manager got tossed in the seventh inning for arguing a strike called on Nick Swisher.) Octavio Dotel, who pitched a scoreless eighth inning, was the beneficiary of the Sox late-game comeback, and Bobby Jenks picked up his first save in 25 days and 19th on the year.
There were also two defensive plays worth taking a look at: Alexei Ramirez charged a slow grounder and while still moving forward, used his glove to flip the ball to Konerko for the out, and Jermaine Dye made a full-out dive to his left to snare a ball slicing towards the line. We won't dwell on the four errors that counterbalanced the web gems.
While the Sox were beating Texas, the Twins were falling to the Yankees yet again. (We told you that they'd have trouble on the road.) That means the lead is back up to 2.5 games and the Magic Number is down to 60. After an off day on Thursday, it's on to Detroit to play the Tigers, who've won four in a row. The road Sox versus the home Tigers is not a good matchup for the Good Guys, but that's what the schedule calls for. So, Go Sox!

Well, the wedding was spectacular and went off without a hitch, but not without Allison and Chas getting hitched -- thanks to birthday celebrant Vicky Russell for the line -- so it's time to start writing about the White Sox again. Too many games to recount since the last Update, so rather than talk about them individually, let's just take stock of where things stand.
  • The Sox are still in first by 1.5 games over the Twins, despite losing three of five since the All-Star break. (Great All-Star game by the way. We watched all 15 innings. Home field advantage in the World Series made it compelling to watch, and thankfully, the A.L. pulled it out. I kept thinking that Carlos Quentin would be the hero, but it didn't happen that way.) They've been in first place every day since May 17.
  • The Magic Number is down to 62.
  • The Sox have one game left to play at home against Texas, with recent callup, Clayton Richard, scheduled to pitch this afternoon. Richard was 6-0 at Triple A Charlotte, with a 2.37 ERA. He's taking Jose Contreras's roster spot while Jose is on the DL.
  • The Sox have an off day tomorrow and then start a 10-game road trip with three in Detroit, followed by a crucial four-game series in Minnesota, and ending with three more in KC. Now's the time to gain some ground on the Twins and Tigers.
  • Jermaine Dye is back -- with a vengeance -- but, as noted, Contreras is on the DL, and Joe Crede is going to rest his stiff back today.

The Sox have turned it around a bit on the offensive side of the ledger and have more than their share of players in the A.L.'s top 15 in the big categories.

  • Dye ranks 7th in batting average (.315)
  • Quentin is 1st in homers (24), Dye is 4th (21), Jim Thome is 12th (18) and Crede is 15th (17).
  • Q ranks 3rd in RBI (72) and Dye 14th (59).
  • Q also holds down the 3rd spot in runs (67), with Dye 13th (61).
  • Dye is 3rd in slugging percentage (.565), Q is 8th (.534), and Thome is just outside the top 15 at 16th (.507).
  • Thome is 10th in on-base percentage (.383) and Q is 15th (.377).
  • In the all-important OPS (on base plus slugging percentage), Dye is 5th (.936), Q is 9th (.911), and Thome is 14th (.889).

The Sox are going to need that hitting, as well as some good pitching, in the upcoming series. Go Sox!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Nothing's happening with the White Sox, so this will be short and sweet. The Update just wanted to remind you that in the magical year of 2005 -- stop reading now if you don't know why it was magical -- the White Sox Magic Number at the All-Star break was 68. That means the Sox are one game closer to clinching the division than they were when they won it all. Let's hope the same result obtains. Go Sox!
WARNING: Publication from here on out may be spotty for a few days. Daughter Allison gets married to soon-to-be son-in-law Chas Andrews on Saturday, so Dad may be a little too busy to write for a while. Best wishes to our darling Al and her Chas. Judy and I love her to death and look forward to having Chas as part of our family. Go Allison and Chas!

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Despite having lost two out of three to Texas over the weekend, the White Sox are still in first place in the A.L. Central, 1.5 games up on the Twins at the All-Star break with a Magic Number of 67. Sunday marked the 58th consecutive day (since May 17) that the Sox have held down the top spot in the division. The good news is that the Bill James pythagorean theorem, which is based on runs scored and allowed, predicts winning percentages for the Sox and Twins that project to 95 and 84 wins respectively. The other good news is, as we've mentioned before, the Sox have five more home games to play than the Twins. If the Good Guys' and the Pirhanas' home/road winning percentages remain the same, the Sox will win 94 games, while the Twins will win only 90. Post-season, baby!
Whether that actually happens may depend on how Paul Konerko does after the break. So far, with the notable exception of Saturday's game (when Paulie went 4 for4), he's been killing the team. Sunday's game is a good example. On a day when the rest of the team hit .550, collecting 22 hits in 40 at bats, Captain Konerko took an 0 for 6 collar and left nine men on base. He's hitting an embarrassing .217 on the season, with nine home runs and 34 RBI. His batting average with runners in scoring position is .203, even worse than his overall average. All of these numbers are pitiful and force Ozzie to consider playing Nick Swisher at first and a platoon of DeWayne Wise and Brian Anderson in center-field.
The rest of the positions look set, with particularly pleasant surprises in Alexei Ramirez and Carlos Quentin. The starting pitching has hit a rough patch recently, but still put up excellent numbers in the first half. The bullpen has been even better, and Bobby Jenks is ready to come off the DL once games start up again at home next Friday against Kansas City. The Royals with their .420 road winning percentage in the Cell versus the White Sox with their .711 percentage at home are just what the doctor ordered to start the second half.
Given the magnitude of home field advantage this season -- .570 going into Sunday's games -- the outcome of the All-Star Game could play a big role in determining the World Series winner. An A.L. victory in Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night means that the American League pennant winner gets the extra game at home in the Series. Go A.L.! Go Sox!

Friday, July 11, 2008


Mark Buehrle was sailing along against the Kansas City Royals last night when Paul Konerko dropped a ball that would have completed a double play in the eighth inning. The Royals proceeded to score four runs after Buehrle gave up a double down the left-field line to the next batter, Mark Aviles. Octavio Dotel could not put out the fire, allowing Aviles to score on another double, this one by Jose Guillen. Boone Logan then gave up the Royals' only earned run of the game on an inside-the-park home run to Mark Teahan that was aided by relay man Alexei Ramirez's hesitation in throwing to the plate. Just like that, KC turned what had looked like the first win of the season for the Sox when scoring exactly one run into the team's 11th loss in that situation. See "One Is The Loneliest Number," July 9, 2008.
And speaking of past blogs, remember the discussion that Update reader Mike Sehr inspired about run differential (see "Fun With Numbers," July 1, 2008)? Well, our favorite baseball writer, Thomas Boswell of The Washington Post, wrote a column today about that very topic. Bos says that "by midseason, [it's] one of baseball's most dependable barometers" for determining which teams will reach the postseason. He includes the White Sox among "baseball's six best teams," which "all have the kind of decisive run differentials typical of teams that win 93 to 103 games." Boswell refers to the Sox as "especially underappreciated" and calls them "a semi-secret team that seldom gets its due." He declares "Ozzie Guillen's White Sox are back," but "[u]nfortunately, the White Sox, with their deep bullpen, are better suited to a long season than a short playoff, where dominant aces can swing the outcome." While reading the numbers to predict a Red Sox-Cubs World Series (how precious would that be?), Bos says the "White Sox ... are much closer than most fans think." He's obviously not referring to readers of The Update. Here's a link to the entire column, which is worth a read.
One last reference to a prior post: Yesterday, we talked about the 13 ways to score from third base without a hit. Well, we thought of a 14th that may not even have existed back when Tony Kubek and Joe Garagiola were broadcasting -- defensive indifference. When the team in the field doesn't make a play on a runner attempting to steal because advancing one base doesn't really matter (for example, the runner's team is way behind late in the game), the runner doesn't get credit for a stolen base. Rather, it's scored as "defensive indifference." Well, it seems highly unlikely, but a runner attempting to steal home could be allowed to do it without drawing a throw and the official scorer could rule it defensive indifference. It's pretty unlikely to happen, but we're talking theory here.
Finally, two bits of news about charter member of The Update readership, Les Reiter. First, Les is the proud grandfather of a new Sox fan and future Update reader, Eric Thomas Graf. Congrats to Les and Eric's parents, both Sox fans who live up in Brewer country now. Second, Les took it upon himself to email Ozzie Guillen about The Update and suggest that Ozzie start reading this humble publication. That would be great, but we'll settle for Oz spending his time figuring out how to win another World Series. He's got a good start on it. Go Ozzie! Go Sox!

Thursday, July 10, 2008


A long time ago when Tony Kubek and Joe Garagiola were the announcers on NBC's Game of the Week broadcasts, I remember them saying there were 13 ways for a runner to score from third base without a hit. Last night, the White Sox used one of the more unusual methods to tally what proved to be the winning run: a balk. With the game tied and Paul Konerko at the plate, KC pitcher Ramon Ramirez balked in Carlos Quentin. I know you're wondering what the other twelve ways are. Well, Tony and Joe didn't actually identify them, but I'll give you my list -- and feel free to share yours by posting a comment at this site:
  1. Bases loaded walk
  2. Bases loaded hit batsman
  3. Sacrifice fly
  4. Sacrifice bunt, which probably would be called either a safety or suicide squeeze
  5. Ground ball out (technically sac bunt also falls into this category but it's scored differently)
  6. Error
  7. Wild pitch
  8. Passed ball
  9. Dropped third strike with a play made to first base
  10. Steal of home
  11. Fielder interference with the runner on third for which the ump awards him home plate
  12. Catcher interference on the batter with the bases loaded

Quentin not only scored the winning run, he also smashed two two-run home runs to bring his total to 21. The first came in the fourth inning with the Sox trailing 5-0. The second came in the sixth inning with the Sox on the short end of a 6-2 score. By the way, Jim Thome also deserves kudos for guiding a single through the right side of the infield, despite the shift on him, to tie the game in the eighth and to put Q in position to be balked in.

Okay, the win, combined with another Twins loss to the Red Sox, means that the Magic Number is 69, Dudes -- think Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure -- and the Good Guys' division lead is up to 3.5 games. Speaking of Good Guys, Ozzie tore a page from the Leo Durocher quote book. After some heated conversation between Jermaine Dye and Orlando Cabrera over Cabrera's jumping back and forth at second base while J.D. was batting, Ozzie explained that he didn't mind a little edge to the team because "Good guys finish last." (I know, Leo said "Nice guys," but close enough.) You gotta love Mr. Guillen, especially if you're a sportswriter, or even a blog writer. He's a quote machine. Go Ozzie! Go Sox!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

One Is the Loneliest Number

When I tuned in to the game last night -- I love my XM Radio -- the White Sox were losing 4-1, and I thought, "Not another game where we lose because we can't score more than one run." That made me wonder what the team's record is this year when scoring only one run in a game. I knew it wouldn't be good because you'd have to shut out the other team to win, and that doesn't happen all that often, let alone when you've scored only once.
Today, I just happened to stumble on the answer in The Stat of the Day column says that the Sox are 0-10 in games when they score one run, the same record as the Royals and the Astros. Pretty bad, but it could be worse. The Mets are 0-14, the A's are 0-15, and the Dodgers, while they have a better winning percentage in those games, are 1-18. The Angels, by contrast, are in the process of doing something historic -- at 3-2, they have a winning record in such games. Only the 1906 Cubs and the 1969 Mets have finished an entire season with a winning records when playing Uno; only the 1910 Reds and the 1960 Braves have even finished .500 when pushing only one man across the plate. Keep an eye on the Halos to see if they can pull this off.
As for the Sox, the simple solution to their problem is score more runs.

The White Sox won a seesaw affair last night, beating the Royals 8-7 in 13 innings in the opener of a six-game road trip. The Sox took the lead in the second, lost it in the bottom half of the inning, tied it up in the eighth, went ahead again in the 11th, allowed KC to tie it, and then scored what proved to be the game winner in the 13th.
Orlando Cabrera drove in the winning run with a double to right center on a hit-and-run play that scored Alexei Ramirez from first base. Ramirez, who racked up four of the Sox's 16 hits on the night and raised his batting average to .310, made another play worthy of the old Go Go White Sox. In the 11th, with Joe Crede on third and the Cuban Missile perched on second, A.J. Pierzynski smashed a ball to deep right-center that Joey Gathright caught while falling down. Crede scored easily on the sac fly, and Ramirez, who never hesitated, beat the throw home with a nice slide to score as well.
Alexei wasn't the only Sox player to reach the four-hit mark, as Jim Thome went 4 for 5 and boosted his average up to .240. While that doesn't seem like much, it's way better than when he was flirting with the .200 mark. Speaking of low averages, Paul Konerko made his return from the DL last night and went 1 for 3. Unfortunately, the popular Pablo Ozuna was"designated for assignment" to make room for Paulie. Meanwhile, All-Star Crede poked his 16th home run into the bullpen in left and hit his own sac fly to tie it in the eighth inning. Nick Swisher also drove in a run, plating Brian Anderson with a single to left.
The pitching was less than spectacular. Jose Contreras didn't have it and was unable to last six innings. Boone Logan, Octavio Dotel, Matt Thornton, and Nick Masset did their jobs and gave up no runs in relief, but Scott Linebrink couldn't hold the lead in the 11th. Linebrink, who has been the closer the last two games in Bobby Jenks's absence -- Jenks is on the DL until July 15 -- blew his third save of the season by giving up two runs on three hits. Not having a reliable closer hasn't hurt the Sox yet, but it will eventually, so make sure to send Big Bobby a get-well-soon card.
Not only did the Sox win, but the Twins dropped their second straight to the Red Sox, so the Magic Number dives to 71 and the Good Guys' lead surges to 2.5 games. The Sox and KC go at it again today, as do Minnesota and Boston. Let's pick up two more on the Magic Number and increase the lead to 3.5 games. Go Sox!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


Alert the media! The Twins lost a game last night. It was only the fourth loss in their last 22 contests -- a blistering .818 winning percentage. Obviously, no team can keep that up over the long haul, but to illustrate how good that is, an .818 pace works out to 133 wins in a 162 game season.
The loss (to the Red Sox in Fenway) drops Minnesota 1.5 games behind the idle White Sox and slices the Magic Number to 73. Even though they've been invincible of late, they are "vincible" (why isn't that a word?) on the road, where they play the next six games (two more in Boston and four in Detroit). Away from the Metrodome, the Twinkies have posted a sub-.500 record of 18-21. They're also worse than break-even against left handers, whom they face in three of those games, winning only nine of 22.
The other encouraging stat is that the Sox, who are also much better at the Cell than on the road -- 32-13 vs. 19-24 -- have played five fewer home games than Minnesota. Unfortunately, the Good Guys aren't making up that deficit now. Instead, they're visiting the Royals for three games before traveling to Texas for three right before the All-Star break.
Who knows what all this means? Not The Update. We just want to do whatever it takes to stay in first. Go Sox!

Sunday, July 6, 2008


Considering the White Sox were 6-0-1 in their last seven series against Oakland, a split of the four games against the A's seemed a reasonable goal -- and a split is what the Sox got. After losing the first two, the Sox used brilliant pitching performances by Gavin Floyd and John Danks to salvage the final two games of the set at the Cell. It's too hard to recap four games at once, so let's focus on where the Sox stand at this point.
At 51-37, the Good Guys are 14 games over .500, which ties their high for the season. The Magic Number is now down to 74, no thanks to Minnesota, which refuses to lose. While the lead over the Twins has shrunk to one game, the Pirhanas have played five more home games than the Sox and five fewer road games. This is significant since both teams play so well in their own parks -- 32-13 for the Sox and 32-18 for Minnesota -- and so poorly on the road -- 19-24 and 18-20, respectively.
But the important thing is that the Sox are still in first place in the A.L. Central. They've been there a total of 78 days this year, and continuously since May 17, a stretch of 51 days atop the division (as of Sunday, July 6). And they'll be there Monday as well, since it's an off day -- before the Sox hit the road for three in K.C. and three in Texas before the All-Star break. (More on the All-Star Game, later.)
Actually, it's a good thing tomorrow is an off day, as the Sox have their worst record on Mondays, having broken even in the eight games played then. (They've also racked up a 7-7 record on Wednesdays.) Being idle also provides Bobby Jenks with an extra day to rest up. Jenks had an MRI and a CT scan done on his sore upper back and the tests came back negative. (That reminds me of Yogi Berra's comment that they had x-rayed his brain and found nothing.) Jenks missed the entire Oakland series, so Ozzie was forced to use Matt Thornton and Scott Linebrink as closers. Wonder if that's why Jenks is not on the All-Star team.
Speaking of All-Stars, Carlos Quentin, who deserved the berth, made the team. Joe Crede, who didn't deserve it, also made it. And that's it, unless Jermaine Dye wins the last spot in the online voting. Based on credentials, Dye should nail down that spot, over Jason Giambi (don't let him steal Dye's spot like he stole the MVP from Frank Thomas when Giambi was the poster boy for steroid use), Jose Guillen (is he still alive, let alone playing well enough to be an All-Star?), Evan Longoria (isn't that the star of Desperate Housewives who's married to Tony Parker?), and Brian Roberts (he's the leader among the others in stolen bases and nothing else). Dye is the only one of the five hitting over .300 (.308), is the leader among the five in home runs with 19, and rarely makes errors. The question is why he was left off the list of non-online candidates in the first place. I don't like the fans getting to decide who's on the team, but since those are the rules, vote early and vote often. Go J.D.! Go Sox!

Thursday, July 3, 2008


"And I wonder, still I wonder, who'll stop the rain?" Last night, the answer to Credence Clearwater Revival's question was A.J. Pierzynski. A.J. hit a walkoff home run in the bottom of the 10th inning to give the White Sox a 6-5 win over the Indians and to get the team in out of a driving rain. The heavy precip didn't stop the Sox from celebrating their second consecutive extra-inning victory, their sweep of the Tribe, their seventh straight triumph overall, and the ninth consecutive time they've sent the fans home from the Cell happy.
A.J. not only finished things off, he got them started too with a homer in the first (his sixth). Two batters later, Jermaine Dye stroked his 19th dinger of the season to move into a tie for second place in the A.L. home run derby. The other runs came courtesy of Nick Swisher's broken-bat single to left in the second, which regained the lead for the Sox, and Brian Anderson's two-run double in the seventh, which also put the Sox ahead of the Tribe. If you're getting the idea that the game was a seesaw affair, you're right. It was tied six times, the highest number possible in a 6-5 game. (In case you're wondering, the fewest ties in a 6-5 game is one, at 0-0.) It was the 22nd time the Sox came from behind to win and the ninth time they won in their last at bat.
It was Jose Contreras's turn in the rotation, and No Way Jose delivered a Quality Start, allowing four runs (only three of them earned) on six hits and four walks in his six innings. He also struck out six before giving way to Nick Masset and Octavio Dotel, each of whom shut out Cleveland for an inning, Scott Linebrink, who gave up a home run to Grady Sizemore that sent the game into extra innings, and Adam "I've won 40% of the games I've appeared in" Russell, who picked up the win by pitching a scoreless 10th. So where's Bobby Jenks? Resting the sore upper left side of his back. Good thing the bullpen is deep enough to allow him to take the time to heal.
The Magic Number is 76, and the lead is 2.5 games over the Twins, who took another from the Tigers. That puts Detroit 7 games back of the Sox; Cleveland is now 12.5 out and almost certain to trade last night's starter, C.C. Sabathia. You can tell he's on the way out by the plethora of scouts who were at the Cell to see him pitch. Two of the scouts were from the Tigers and the Yankees, the rest from N.L. teams, which is where we'd rather see him wind up. Go to the National League. Go Sox!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


This is feeling a lot like 2005. Every player on the roster is contributing to the White Sox's success. Last night, John Danks, Adam Russell, Alexei Ramirez, DeWayne Wise, and Orlando Cabrera each played an important part in the 3-2 win over the Indians in 10 innings.
Danks pitched superbly for eight innings. He allowed only one run (on a home run by Kelly Shoppach that tied the game in the sixth), four hits, and one walk. Danks also set a new personal best, with eight strikeouts. In lowering his ERA to 2.50 -- third best in the American League -- Danks pitched well enough to win, but the victory went to Adam Russell, the first of his career. Appearing in only his fourth game ever, Russell replaced Matt Thornton in the 10th inning with Cleveland up by one run, and two men on. The rookie displayed the calm of a seasoned veteran, striking out Franklin Gutierrez on a 94 mph fastball -- I guess "94 mph" makes "fastball" redundant -- to keep the Sox from having to climb out of an even bigger hole.
As for offense, there wasn't much, but that's not Alexei Ramirez's fault. In the second inning, he drove in Jim Thome with a sac fly for the first Sox run, and launched a moon shot that just cleared the fence and landed in the Sox bullpen to tie the game with two out in the 10th inning. Next, Wise, who has spent most of the season in the minors, pinch hit for Brian Anderson. Wise singled to right and stole second base. (Now, there's something you don't see every day for the Sox, a stolen base.) Up stepped Cabrera, who was 0 for 4 on the night. He lined a single to center, and Wise, who has some wheels, beat the throw home with a head-first slide. Sox Win! Sox Win!
Minnesota beat the Tigers, so the Sox's lead remains at 2.5 games, but the Magic Number drops to 77. It's the sixth win in a row for the Good Guys, and the eighth in a row at the Cell, where they're 29-11. One more with the Tribe and then the A's come to town for four games over the big holiday weekend. Speaking of big days, it's son Jeff's 30th birthday today. It seems like only yesterday that he was born, and now he and daughter-in-law Kate are expecting their own son in September. Go Jeff! Go Kate! Go KOJAK (Kid Of Jeff And Kate)! Oh yeah, Go Sox!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Fun With Numbers

Update reader Mike Sehr pointed out that the Sox have scored way more runs than they've given up. After last night's game, the figures are 405 runs scored and 318 allowed, which means that the Sox are +87 on the season. Only the team whose name shall not be mentioned (hint: they got swept by the Sox last weekend) has a larger positive margin -- 101 (based on 452 scored and 351 allowed). Only that unnamed team, Texas (458), Boston (428), and Philadelphia (420) have scored more runs than the Sox, and only Oakland (299) and Toronto (316) have allowed fewer.
Is there any significance to the runs scored and allowed numbers? Bill James thinks they're the most significant stat in terms of predicting wins. For example, the formula predicts records for the Red Sox of 50-35; the Yankees, 44-39; the Mets, 40-42; and the Padres, 33-51. In each of those cases, the formula got it exactly right.
The Sox have a predicted won-loss record of 50-32, which means that they're "underachieving" by about three games. The Braves (-6), Phils (-5), and Mariners and Blue Jays (both -4), are underachieving worse. The biggest overachievers are the Angels (+7), Rays (+5), and Marlins (+4). We're not statisticians, but another way to look at it may be that the regression to the mean phenomenon suggests that in the future, the underachievers will do better and the overachievers do worse vis-a-vis the predicted numbers. Either way, Go Sox!

Nick Swisher did it again last night. What's "it"? In this case, it's multiple things. Swish led the Sox to victory again (9-7 over Cleveland), homered again (10th and 11th of the season), hit a grand slam again (2nd in four games), and hit one home run from each side of the plate again (2nd time this year; first time a Sox player has ever done it twice in a season). Swisher's home runs -- the second was a solo shot -- along with Jim Thome's three-run blast (his 16th in 2008, 523rd overall), accounted for eight of the nine runs the Sox scored and added to their lead in percentage of runs scored via the four-bagger. So much for Ozzieball. This is much more like Earl Weaver's approach to the game -- play for the three-run homer.
Gavin Floyd delivered another Quality Start, limiting the Tribe to seven hits and three earned runs (plus one unearned run) in his six innings. Most impressive though were his 10 strikeouts. Octavio Dotel, Nick Masset (who was on the mound when Joe Crede's 16th error led to two unearned runs), and finally Matt Thornton (who picked up his first save) preserved the win for Floyd, his 10th, against only four losses. His 10 wins and the A.L.'s third best ERA going into last night's game give Floyd a good shot at being named to the All-Star team.
The win was the fifth in a row for the Sox, who, we've told you before, are streaky. This marked the fourth time this season they've won at least five games in a row. All told, 31 of their 47 wins (66%) and 21 of their 35 losses (60%) have come as part of streaks of three games or more. The wins come much easier at home, where the Good Guys are now a sizzling 28-11 (.718 winning percentage). The streak that's most important to keep alive, however, is days in first place. Today marks the 46th day in a row (since May 17) that the Sox have held down the top spot in the Central Division. While it matters only if they're there after the last day of the season, keeping the first-place streak alive guarantees that result. With a Magic Number of 78 and a 2.5 game lead on the Twinkies, things are looking up. We need to keep it that way. Go Sox!