Thursday, April 30, 2009


Thursday's a travel day for the White Sox, so no game scheduled. The Royals, however, played the Blue Jays and picked up a win to move into sole possession of first place in the A.L. Central. The Sox and Tigers are a half-game back. KC's win doesn't affect the Good Guys' Magic Number of 142 though. That's figured by subtracting the number of Sox wins and other team's losses from 163, that is, 163 - 11 (Sox wins) - 10 (Royals losses) = 142.
On Friday night, the Sox face former teammate Brandon McCarthy, who started 10 times in place of Jose Contreras during the 2005 season. B-Mac went to Texas in the trade that brought John Danks to the Sox. It'll be the first time McCarthy has started against the Sox since he departed.
One of the stars of the 2005 season will be back on the Sox on Friday, as Scott Podsednik rejoins the team after a brief stint in Charlotte. Two players who came to the Sox after B-Mac left -- Jim Thome and Chris Getz -- will also be available to play after sitting out with injuries. Thome's heel is healed enough for him to be able to "play" (or whatever you call what a DH does), and Getz's fractured middle finger is allegedly ready. Go Sox!

The White Sox are back in first place after a come-from-behind 6-3 win over Seattle yesterday in the final game of the homestand. The temperature warmed up a bit and so did the Sox bats, as the team collected 12 hits, including two doubles and three solo home runs -- by Carlos Quentin, Jermaine Dye, and A.J. Pierzynski. A.J. also threw out his first baserunner of the season; before that opponents had been 22 for 22 in stolen base attempts against the Sox.
Gavin Floyd pitched well enough to keep the Sox in the game, struggling though still posting a Quality Start. Floyd allowed 10 hits and two walks, but limited the Mariners to three runs in his six-inning stint. Matt Thornton, Scott Linebrink, and Bobby Jenks picked up the win, hold, and save, respectively, and held the M's without a run in their three innings of relief.
Brian Anderson left the game with a right oblique muscle injury, joining Jim Thome (bruised left heel) among the walking (in Thome's case, just barely) wounded. Jerry Owens took over for B.A. and managed to lower his already anemic batting average to .083. That could be the last we see of Owens in a Sox uniform. He was seen shaking hands with teammates as he exited the locker room with his stuff in an athletic bag. With Dewayne Wise getting closer but not yet ready to come off the DL (separated shoulder), the question is who takes over in center. (John Fogerty is almost 64 years old, so despite singing "Put me in, coach. I'm ready to play, today. Look at me. I can be centerfield," it won't be the old Credence Clearwater Revival frontman.) Brent Lillibridge, he of the .146 batting average, can play the outfield, but that means someone else has to play second. Alexei Ramirez could move back there temporarily or could even play center, but there are other options. Jayson Nix, who can play the infield is hitting .450 in a rehab assignment in Charlotte after hitting .300 in Birmingham. And Scottie Pods is batting 11 for 42 (.262) with one stolen base in Charlotte. Hopefully, Anderson is a quick healer.
The win and Detroit's loss to the Yankees mean that the Magic Number is down to 142. The Sox's hold on first place is rather loose, with the Tigers and Royals occupying the top spot along with the Good Guys. The Twins are only a half-game back in the tightest division in baseball. (No other division's fourth place team is closer than 3.5 games out of first.) It'll probably be this way all season long in the Central, as no team looks good enough yet to separate itself from the pack. It's sort of like racing at Talladega, with everyone bunched together for much of the race. (Historic note: This is The Update's first-ever NASCAR reference.) Go Sox!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


If someone had told you before the start of yesterday's doubleheader with the Mariners that the White Sox would win one game 2-1 and lose the other 9-1, you would have guessed that John Danks pitched another beauty and the aging, rehabbing Latin pitcher experiment, this time featuring Bartolo Colon, had failed once again. You'd have been wrong. It was Colon who sparkled on the mound, holding Seattle to four hits and a run in seven strong innings. Danks, who had been pitching brilliantly, was the one who crashed and burned, giving up five runs on eight hits and a walk in only four innings on the mound. Matt Thornton and Bobby Jenks helped Colon out with an inning each of hitless, scoreless relief, Thornton getting the hold and Jenks the save (his fourth) in Game 1. D.J. Carrasco, who also had been pitching well before yesterday, crumbled in relief of Danks -- 2.2 innings pitched, two runs, six hits, one walk -- and Lance "Boogaloo Down" Broadway fared no better -- 2.1 innings, two runs, five hits.
The Sox bats matched the weather -- extremely cold. The Good Guys managed only two hits in winning the first game. Their six hits in the second game were a little better, but worse in terms of run production. Paul Konerko drove in both runs in the win on a double down the line, and the only run in the nightcap on one of his two singles for the game. With Chris Getz out, the Sox continued to struggle at the leadoff spot in the order. Jerry Owens took the collar in the opener, lowering his batting average to .091. Think about that. Doubling his average would still leave him well below the Mendoza Line. Brian Anderson, in his first career leadoff appearance, also took the collar. That's too important a slot in the order to waste, although no one other than Konerko was hitting yesterday. Oh, and it couldn't have been the weather. Seattle managed 19 hits in Game 2 after doubling the Sox's total in Game 1.
All in all, a split doesn't seem so bad. It leaves the Sox tied with KC in second, one game behind the Tigers. The Magic Number is down to 144 and we play the Mariners again while the rest of the division faces the A.L. East. Go Sox!

Monday, April 27, 2009


Tough weekend for the White Sox. On Friday, Gavin Floyd disintegrated on the mound, giving up six runs (five of them earned) on nine hits and five walks in only 4.1 innings pitched. Recent call-up Jack Egbert was worse, also allowing six runs (on seven hits and a walk) but in only 1.2 innings. Clayton Richard looked like an All-Star by comparison, permitting only two runs on five hits and one free pass in 3.0 innings. But even being perfect might not have helped, as the Sox bats never got started. The team managed only six hits while being shut out by Toronto, 14-0. As Ozzie said in his post-game presser, "We stunk today."
Saturday was the high point of the series. Mark Buehrle had another Quality-Plus start, the bullpen was perfect, and the bats came alive in a 10-2 win. The Blue Jays were able to score only two off of Buehrle in 6.0 innings on six hits and three walks. Octavio Dotel and Scott Linebrink kept their ERAs at 0.00 and Matt Thornton returned to form, each blanking Toronto for an inning. The big blow for the offense came courtesy of the Cuban Missile, who hit his first home run of the year and the fifth Grand Salami of his young career to snap out of season-long slump (9 for 54 going into the game) at least for a game. The only downside to the day was Chris Getz fracturing the tip of his right middle finger. That not only makes it hard to communicate, but has sidelined the .340 average leadoff man, who is listed as day-to-day. Brent Lillibridge, who is batting .161 took over the top spot in the order, which is a recipe for disaster.
Sunday was a 4-3 loss, but a moral victory -- if there is such a thing -- for Jose Contreras. Jose dueled Roy Halladay to a standstill for seven innings, being touched for only three runs, eight hits, and a walk. He had much better control, throwing 63 of his 96 pitches for strikes, a big improvement over past outings. Unfortunately, Linebrink picked a really bad time to finally give up a run, which proved to be the game-winner.
So that marks the second series loss in a row to a team with a bird nickname -- Blue Jays and Orioles. Good thing the Sox aren't playing the Cardinals next. After the weekend, the 9-9 Sox are tied for second place with the Royals, a game back of the Tigers. The Magic Number is 146. We need one of those hot streaks the Sox are known for. Go Sox!

Friday, April 24, 2009


The Update is back after missing a day due to a business trip, but don't worry, you didn't miss much while we were gone. When we left, the White Sox were tied for first in the Central Division with Detroit and KC. After all three teams won on Wednesday and lost on Thursday, they're still tied. The Sox's Magic Number shrunk to 148, but that's also the Tigers' and Royals' Magic Number, so it's really no significant change.
John Danks was the lead story in Wednesday's 8-2 win over the O's. (That's how Baltimore spells it. We guess it's a contraction rather than a misuse of the possessive form. Grammar lesson over, back to the Sox game.) He dazzled the Birds, giving up only one run on four hits and no walks in seven innings pitched. His ERA now stands at 0.95. The Update loves Mark Buehrle and Gavin Floyd (Jose Contreras and Bartolo Colon, not so much), but thinks that Danks is the best pitcher on the team. Lest you think we're crazy, we won't tell you we think he's the best pitcher in baseball, but we're not saying whether we don't think that or whether we're just not telling you we do. Anyway, we're glad he's pitching between Contreras and Colon because we think the bullpen is going to need the rest between the long workouts those two are going to give the relievers.
Last night, Colon proved our point. He lasted only three innings (63 pitches, five runs, eight hits, two walks) before being pulled. No predictions on when he and Contreras fall out of the rotation, but don't be surprised if Ozzie decides to go with someone younger (there aren't any pitchers on the team who are older, are there?) to save the relievers. But the work didn't seem to affect D.J. Carrasco (3.0 IP), Octavio "Mr. 0.00 ERA" Dotel (1.0 IP), and Bobby "I needed the work" Jenks (1.0 IP), each of whom shut out the Orioles. The Sox offense was anemic, though, pushing across only two runs on seven hits. One scary note from last night: Carlos Quentin left the game after being plunked on the left hand by a pitch. Q says he'll be ready to go, but we really can't afford to lose him.
The road trip (5-4) was a coming out party for Chris Getz, the Sox second sacker and latest leadoff man. He went 11 for 25 and raised his average for the season to .333. Brian Anderson did well enough on the trip -- 7 for 26 -- to hang on to the center field job, and it appears that Jerry Owens (0 for the season) is no threat to take it away from him.
Now it's back home to face the American League leading Toronto Blue Jays. The Good Guys always have trouble with them, and this season the Jays are 12-5 overall and 5-2 on the road. Not exactly what the doctor ordered, but the weather looks good, so our bats should come alive.
One last thing. There's a new feature on the blog site. Please sign up there for the automatic email notification of new posts on The Update. It's easy to do and we don't want you to miss a thing. And if everyone does that, we won't have to send an email letting you know when there's something new. Go Sox!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Give Jose Contreras credit for coming back from a ruptured Achilles in record time, but there's a credit crisis when it comes to his pitching this season. Last night, he was No Way Jose again, giving up six runs on seven hits and six walks in only 5.1 innings in a 10-3 loss to the Orioles. And it could have been worse. A.J. Pierzynski (who extended his hitting streak to seven games) blocked several splitters that bounced miles in front of the plate and could have resulted in wild pitches with men on base. (That may be redundant. Is it a wild pitch if there's no one on to advance? Maybe. What if it's ball four or strike three and the batter winds up on second?)
Speaking of A.J., the Orioles announcers said the Sox have not thrown out a single runner attempting to steal all season. Pitching Coach, Don Cooper, said they haven't been significant stolen bases. What does that mean? (The fact that I'm talking about the announcers should tip you off that I didn't make it up to Baltimore last night. There was a monsoon around the time I would have left and figured it would either be called off or start -- and therefore end -- late. I'll take late for $600, Alex.)
Anyway, one of the hits Contreras gave up was a mammoth home run to Aubrey Huff. The ball landed on Eutaw Street beyond the right field seats. (For those of you who aren't familiar with Orioles Park at Camden Yards, that's the closed-off street between the ballpark and the warehouse, where Boog's Barbeque is located. The aroma of meat being grilled wafts throughout the park and tantalizes fans all game long.) That was only the 49th ball to reach the street since Camden Yards opened in 1992, which means it happens about three times a season. This one looked like it was going to hit the warehouse, it was hit so hard.
One of the problems with Contreras pitching poorly is that the guys who were going to take his spot in the rotation aren't doing a whole lot better. Clayton Richard relieved Contreras last night and promptly gave up a hit that resulted in a run being charged to Jose. Richard's line was two runs, four hits in 1.2 innings pitched. Not great. And Jack Egbert, another would-be replacement in the rotation who was called up after Mike MacDougal was cut, gave up two runs on a walk and a home run (Aubrey Huff again) in one inning. Aaron Poreda, where are you?
Despite the loss, the Sox managed to hang on to first place, as KC and Detroit both lost as well. Their losses dropped the Sox Magic Number to 150. Tonight, John Danks, who's been the best starter on the team, tries to get the Good Guys back on track. Go Sox!

Sunday, April 19, 2009


It was a good weekend for the White Sox. Had Matt Thornton, pitching in relief of Bartolo Colon on Friday, not given up what proved to be the winning run on a pinch hit grand slam home run by Ben Zobrist, it would have been a great weekend. The Sox rebounded from that 6-5 defeat by taking the last two games of the four-game set with the Rays, 8-3 on Saturday behind Mark Buehrle, and 12-2 on Sunday behind Gavin Floyd. Instead of any recaps of the games, let's play with some numbers instead.
  • Jermaine Dye drove in the 1000th run of his career on a sac fly on Saturday. Surprisingly, it was on a ball caught by the Rays' second baseman.
  • Jim Thome hit his 544th home run on Sunday, which means he needs only four more to tie Mike Schmidt for 13th place on the all-time list. He's got a decent chance of catching A-Rod, who is nine taters ahead of Thome, but is still on the DL.
  • The Sox have seven Quality Starts this season, picking up one from Buehrle on Saturday, and one from Floyd on Sunday. By the way, the team leads the majors in that category since 2003.
  • The Sox collected 37 hits over the weekend and 51 overall during the series with the Rays. The Good Guys had 17 on Sunday (every starter had at least one), 11 on Saturday, nine on Friday, and 14 in Thursday's opener.
  • The team scored 25 runs over the weekend and 28 total during the series: 12 on Sunday; eight on Saturday; five in a losing effort on Friday; and three in the opener.
  • Sox hitters slugged seven home runs since the last Update and a total of eight while in St. Petersburg. Thome hit his 3rd (Sunday), A.J. Pierzynski his 1st (Sunday), Carlos Quentin his 5th, 6th, and chart-topping 7th (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) -- think that wrist might be healed? Q has as many so far as he did all last April when he finished second in the A.L. Home Run Derby -- Paul Konerko his 3rd (Saturday), and Dye his 3rd and 4th (Thursday and Friday).
  • The heart of the order finished the weekend batting over .300. Q is at .302, Dye at .370, and Paulie at .341.
  • Speaking of the order, after this weekend, the Sox are 3-3 on the season when Chris Getz bats leadoff like he did Thursday, Friday, and Sunday. They're 3-1 when Brent Lillibridge hits first, like he did on Saturday. And they're 1-1 when Dewayne Wise tops the order, which the current DL listee did for a couple of games.
  • Finally, the Sox have already won three games on turf so far this season, after winning only four (out of 20) all last regular season. They're also 3-1 against the Rays, after going 4-6 during the 2008 regular season and 1-3 in the A.L.D.S.

The weekend wins put the Sox back in first place, tied with KC and Detroit. The Sox Magic Number now stands at 151. That's a 12 game drop from the 163 that every team starts the season with. At that pace, it's going to take 163 games to clinch the Central Division crown, so don't be surprised if there's another playoff to see who gets into the post-season. Go Sox!

Thursday, April 16, 2009


The White Sox gained a small measure of revenge on Tampa Bay for eliminating them from the playoffs last year. The Sox squeezed past the Rays, 3-2 behind John Danks's Quality Plus start, mostly solid relief, and a 14-hit attack. Danks, who won the only playoff game against the Rays last year, had their number again Thursday. He picked up his first win of the season by tossing six innings of two-hit, one-run ball. Danks struck out eight, but walked four, while lowering his ERA to 0.75. Speaking of ERAs, Octavio Dotel and Matt Thornton continued their perfect seasons, each posting an inning of scoreless relief and keeping their ERAs at 0.00. Big Bobby Jenks was Bad Bobby tonight, giving up one run on a hit and a walk, but still notched his third save of the young season.
At the plate, Jermaine Dye was the star, poking a two-run home run (his third) to go along with two other hits in his five at bats. A.J. Pierzynski (3 for 4), Josh Fields (3 for 5), and leadoff man (at least for this game) Chris Getz (2 for 5) all had multihit games. Paul Konerko, Alexei Ramirez, and Brian Anderson each kicked in a hit, with B.A. scoring what proved to be the winning run. By the way, Scott Podsednik was 0 for 4 with an error in centerfield for Charlotte, so B.A. needn't start to worry about Pods replacing him just yet.
Rays manager, Joe Maddon -- we like him because he too uses "meat loaf" to mean winning two out of three -- was ejected in the sixth inning. But his presence or absence had little to do with the game. It was a case of the Sox pitchers being in control and the Sox batters not squandering all of their chances -- it could have been a blowout if they hadn't left 11 men on base.
With the win, the Sox (5-4) crept into a tie for first with Detroit and KC. The Magic Number fell to 154. And the Sox proved that revenge is a dish best served cold. Well, actually, it was 72 degrees in the dome. That must be the ideal temperature inside, as I remember that the thermostat in the Astrodome was also set at 72 degrees. Go Sox!

I don't want to write about it, and you don't want to read about it, so let's keep this short. The White Sox stunk up Comerica Park yesterday, losing to the Tigers 9-0. Josh Fields, Jermaine Dye, Paul Konerko, and A.J. Pierzynski each managed a hit, but that was it for the offense. No Way Jose Contreras lasted only 5.1 innings, giving up five runs (four of them earned) on five hits and two walks and picked up the loss. "Reliever" (exactly what is it he was relieving yesterday?)Mike MacDougal saw his ERA skyrocket to 12.46 as he allowed four earned runs on three hits and and three walks in just two innings. In short, there was nothing to like.
The loss dropped the Sox back behind Detroit (and Kansas City) in the standings. But the Royals' loss means the Magic Number is down to 155. Now it's on to Tampa to face the defending A.L. champion Rays. There's a dangerous confrontation coming. The Rays can steal bases, and the Sox can't stop anyone from doing so -- the Tigers were 2 for 2 yesterday. The good news is that Tampa Bay is 1-2 at home and has lost two in a row. Go Sox!

Monday, April 13, 2009


Dr. Longball paid a house call on the White Sox in Comerica Park on Monday. The Sox used four home runs to power a 10-6 win over the Tigers. Jermaine Dye, who has hit more homers than any other outfielder since 2005, smacked his second of the season and 300th of his career in the second inning. Then it was deja vu all over again as next batter, Paul Konerko, did the exact same thing: poked his second of the season and 300th of his career. The only way for Carlos Quentin to top that was to smash two taters -- his third and fourth of the season and fourth in four games. Konerko copied Dye again in the sixth inning, following J.D.'s double with one of his own. All told, the Sox collected 16 hits, eight for extra bases, in their most impressive offensive display of the young season. After today's fireworks, the Sox have four starters hitting over .300: Fields (who also made a nifty play at third) at .318; Q, who is making up for his long dryspell to open the season, at .333; Dye at .370; and Paulie at .346.
All this hitting was enough to make up for some shaky starting pitching by Gavin Floyd. After losing a well-pitched game last week, Floyd won a poorly pitched one today. His stats demonstrate just how lucky he was to get a win: five hits, seven walks, six runs, all in only five innings. Fortunately, the bullpen put out the fire that Floyd had started. D.J. Carrasco, two innings, and Matt Thornton and Scott Linebrink, one inning each, didn't give up a run. Neither of the latter two has given up an earned run this year.
The big loss for the Sox came when Dewayne Wise made a tumbling, over-the-shoulder catch in right center that probably saved a couple of runs, but wound up with Wise suffering a separated shoulder. He'll be out for six weeks, causing Kenny Williams to call up Jerry Lee (not Lewis, but) Owens from Charlotte, where he's off to a rousing 1 for 7 start. Brian Anderson, who replaced Wise in the field and walked twice and stole two bases, will get the first chance to prove he deserves to be the centerfielder. Given Wise's washout as a leadoff hitter -- he started the season 0 for 8 -- it doesn't seem like a big loss. But Wise had been coming on after moving down in the order, racking up five hits in his last 11 at bats. We like how B.A. plays center (remember the diving catch to end the tiebreaker game last year?) and how he hits lefties and are hoping that this will turn into a Lou Gehrig-Wally Pipp situation.
Anyway, the win over the Tigers catapults the Sox back into first place over Detroit and Kansas City, who are a half game back. It also chips away at the Magic Number, which now stands at 156, and counting. Go Sox!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Since it's a new season, let's brush up on some of the terminology The Update likes to use, such as "meat loaf." Of course, that means to win two out of three games, as in Meat Loaf's song by the same name: "Now don't be sad, cause two out of three ain't bad." Well, the White Sox meat loafed the Twins over the weekend, losing the opener when No Way Jose Contreras got bombed in a 12-5 loss. Bartolo Colon and Mark Buehrle came back to shut down the Twinkies, with 8-0 and 6-1 wins on Saturday and Sunday.
Pitching has been the name of the game for the Sox so far this season. The team ERA is a measly 2.29 over the first six games -- and that includes the 12-run debacle on Friday. The other run totals have been 2, 2, 2, 0, and 1. Not too shabby. The most fascinating story so far has been Octavio Dotel. The Update will admit to not being a big Dotel fan, but what he's done to start the year is nothing short of amazing. He's appeared in four games. In the first, he struck out 3 batters while pitching one inning. In the second, he did the same thing. In his third game, he pitched 2/3 of an inning and struck out one. In the fourth, he again tossed 2/3 of an inning and this time whiffed two batters. That's a total of nine Ks in only 3.1 innings pitched, or an average of 24.3 Ks per 9 innings. Nobody's that good, but Dotel is off to a very nice start.
Speaking of pitching, here's a little nugget courtesy of Les Reiter's crack research. Last Thursday, we asked Les (who retired last Fall) to see if the stats supported our belief that Bobby Jenks pitches better in a save situation than in a non-save situation. What Les found clearly backs us up. In the save situation, Jenks is better in a variety of categories: strikeout to walk ratio, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, batting average on balls in play, tOPS+ (whatever that is), and WHIP (walks + hits allowed/innings itched). The only categories where Jenks is more effective in a non-save situation are ERA and Ks per nine innings. Ozzie, mull this over the next time you're thinking about bringing Jenks in without a save on the line.
The weekend activity leaves the Sox a half game behind the Tigers and cut the Magic Number to 157. Now it's off to Detroit to play three with the Sabertooths (should that be Saberteeth?), followed by a trip to Tampa for four with the Rays, and then three with the Orioles at Camden Yards. Yours truly is going to try to catch at least one of the O's games, but it's kind of tough to make mid-week games up in Baltimore. Go Sox!

Friday, April 10, 2009


Not to sound like a broken record, but we warned you in our Preseason Preview that John Danks was likely to get less run support than he did last year, since he'd be up against the third man in the rotation instead of Number 5 in the pecking order. Even we didn't foresee the anemic offense that the White Sox have demonstrated the last two games. Thursday, the Sox managed only one run (courtesy of Jermaine Dye) on only four hits.
Danks pitched well (three hits and no runs in six innings), as did the Matt Thornton (no hits, no runs in .2 innings), and Octavio Dotel (struck out the side again!). Bobby Jenks, however, did not. Ozzie brought Jenks into the game in a non-save situation, and Bobby gave up a two-run dinger to Coco Crisp that provided the winning runs in a 2-1 game. The Update has been ranting about using Bad Bobby in non-save situations for years, so don't expect us to stop now. It's not that we don't want to see our best reliever out there preserving a tie (and the Sox did score in the bottom of the ninth so maybe it would have been a win but for the homer). It's just that Jenks doesn't seem to pitch well when he can't get the save. It'll take some digging to get the stats, but we're betting that there's a statistically significant difference between "save Bobby" and "non-save Bobby." How about one you readers checking that out and posting a comment on the subject? Les Reiter, you're retired. Check this out and report back to us.
With the loss, the Magic Number remains at 161 and the Sox drop into third, a game behind the Royals and a half-game behind the Twins. The Twinkies invade the Cell for a weekend series, minus Joe Mauer, but plus Joe Crede. The former Sox third baseman is off to a slow start with Minnesota. He's 2 for 12 with no homers or RBIs. Of course, those stats look pretty good compared to erstwhile leadoff man Dewayne Wise (now batting eighth and replaced at the top of the order by Chris Getz, who himself went 0 for 4) and last year's phenom, Alexei Ramirez. Both of those Chisox are 0 for the season. Carlos Quentin barely avoided joining them by getting his first hit of the season. Time to turn it around and start hitting. Fortunately, the Sox face the Number 4 and 5 starters for Minnesota; let's hope our theory of run support holds. Go Sox!

Thursday, April 9, 2009


So much for wire to wire. The White Sox fell out of first place yesterday, losing to Kansas City, 2-0. We warned you in our season preview that Gavin Floyd would not receive the same kind of run support he got last season because his move up in the rotation means his teammates would be facing the other club's second-best starting pitcher instead of its fourth-best. Floyd did his part, throwing seven innings of six-hit, two-run ball -- what Thomas Boswell calls a Quality Plus start. (A Quality Start is six innings with only three runs given up.) Floyd struck out nine, walked only two, and induced eight ground balls and only four fly balls. This kind of performance from the starting pitcher will usually mean a victory, but not on Wednesday.
Other bright spots: Matt Thornton needed only 10 pitches to dispose of the three batters he faced in the eighth inning, and Scott Linebrink struck out the side in the ninth. Jermaine Dye picked up two hits in his four at bats, and A.J. Pierzynski got the only other Sox safety. But that's pretty much it.
On the other hand, there was a lot not to like: Leadoff man, Dewayne Wise, still doesn't have a hit on the season (0 for 8) and botched another bunt attempt. He's not alone in taking the collar -- neither Alexei Ramirez nor Carlos Quentin has gotten off the Schnide either. But let's not dwell on this. We're only two games in and too early to panic. Wait until after the next game before pushing the button.
The loss leaves the Magic Number at 161 and drops the Sox a half-game back of the Twinkies, who are 2-1 on the season. John Danks is up next, and he says he's added a curveball to his repertoire, which if true, will make him even harder to hit. Now if only the offense supports him .... Go Sox!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Wire to wire, baby! Just like in 2005. The White Sox have been in first place every day of the 2009 season. Ok, there've only been two days so far, but you can't go wire to wire without holding down the top spot after days one and two. Monday, they were in first by virtue of the Tigers, Indians, and Twins losing. Tuesday, they stayed in first by winning the home opener over the Royals, 4-2.
Jim Thome was the hero, slugging the 542nd home run of his career and his first of the season in the eighth inning -- a three-run shot that cleared the fence in left-center between the Billy Pierce and Pudge Fisk retired number portraits. Thome drove in Josh Fields, who had bunted his way on, and Chris Getz, who had executed a perfect hit-and-run to move Fields to third. (By the Way, Part I: This marked the third time in Thome's four seasons with the Sox that he homered on Opening Day. For the mathematically challenged of you, Thome is on pace to hit 162 home runs this season; 163 if we have to play another tiebreaker game this year. By the Way, Part II, Steve Stone, Ken Harrelson's new TV partner, did not join Hawk when he said "You can put it on the board ... yes!" The Update did not expect Stone to play along like D.J. had, and Stony didn't disappoint.) Thome also banged out two singles and scored the first run when Josh Fields singled him home in the second.
In addition to Thome, Fields (who nabbed a ball hit down the line, crossed over into foul territory, and threw Mark Teahan out at home in the fifth), and Chris Getz (a hustle double on a ball that deflected off the first basemen's mitt), the Sox heroes were all pitchers. Clayton Richard stepped in to throw two innings of no-hit, scoreless relief after Mark Buehrle struggled (six hits, three walks, two hit by pitch, and two earned runs in five innings and 97 pitches of work). Octavio Dotel did the same thing in the eighth inning, earning the win on the strength of Thome's home run. Dotel struck out three batters, but one wound up on first after the ball went through A.J.'s legs. And Big Bobby Jenks notched his first save of the season, throwing fastball after fastball in the 95-96 MPH range.
On the other side of the ledger, Buehrle's stats were nothing to write home about. Dewayne Wise struck out three times and botched a bunt attempt in the eighth inning -- twice. Jermaine Dye got thrown out at the plate, attempting to score on the Fields's single that drove in Thome, and A.J. Pierzynski was tossed out trying to stretch a single into a double.
But "A win's a win." And each one reduces the Magic Number, which is now down to 161. (That big 161 at the top of the post was the tipoff.) The lead is one game over the rest of the Central Division. Gavin Floyd takes the mound for the next game against KC. Go Sox!
And to all of you heading to a Seder tonight instead of the Sox game, here's a link to the Passover songs we published in the past: We've also decided that a Seder needs a theme song, so we ripped off the melody from The Flintstones and came up with one:

Pesach … we love Pesach.
It’s the holiday we love the best.
Telling … tales of Moses,
It’s no wonder that we are impressed.
Let’s go … ev’rybody take your seat –
Time to … mix some bitter with the sweet.
When we’re … at the Seder,
We know that:
Our hosts will feed us,
And they will lead us.
Our Seder is the best.
Bum buh bum bum,
Bum bum buh bum bum.
Bum bum,
Bum bum.
Our-Se-der-is-the- best!

Sunday, April 5, 2009


From last Saturday through next Sunday is the best "week" in sports. The Final Four and the crowning of a new national champion -- Michigan State, my alma mater, has surprised everyone who doesn't follow the Big Ten. The NBA and NHL are finally playing meaningful games, at least ones that determine who gets into the playoffs and seedings for the postseason. The Masters starts on Thursday -- Go Tiger. And, of course, the baseball season begins.
Our Chicago White Sox will get a delayed start, with Monday's home opener being postponed already until Tuesday because of weather. Why don't they just schedule the early season games to minimize the weather problems? In the American League, Los Angeles, Oakland Seattle, and Texas are either warm weather cities or at least "warmer weather" cities, and Tampa Bay, Toronto, and Minnesota play in domes. In the National League, Atlanta, Florida, Arizona, L.A., San Diego, and San Francisco are better weather cities and Houston and Milwaukee can close the roof to play "indoors." Sure, those clubs would always have the advantage of opening at home, but so what? All the teams will be scheduled for 81 home games and 81 on the road. Is it better to have to sit through baseball in football weather? The Update doesn't think so, but that's just our own view. (We're not quite in midseason rant form yet, but we've had no spring training, so what did you expect?)
But open we will this week (Yoda has taken over as editor). So let's take a look at the club, player by player. Starting with the starters seems appropriate, so here goes:
  • Mark Buehrle will take the mound on opening day for a record-tying seventh time. (Billy Pierce, who set the record, will throw out the first ball. I guess the First Fan was busy, so Pierce had to bail him out.) Buehrle will pitch on six days rest, which may help the stiff left arm he has been experiencing. After all we want to be able to count on Buehrle for another 200-inning season; his current streak of eight in a row leads the majors. Buehrle had his highest-ever ground ball rate last season -- always a plus in the homer friendly Cell -- and his best strikeout rate since 2004. If he can pick up where he left off -- 4-1, with a 2.29 ERA in his last six starts in 2008 -- Sox fans will be very happy with our No. 1 starter.
  • Gavin Floyd won 17 games last year, and may have a hard time doing it again. For one thing, it's a little easier to win when your opposing pitcher is the other team's number four or five starter, rather than the second. Look for his run support to go down from the heady 5.9 runs/game he received last year. Also, Floyd needs to learn how to hold a runner on first. He permitted a major league-high 37 steals allowed -- it wasn't all A.J.' s fault. We like Floyd and hope that he comes close to what he did in2008, but won't be surprised if he takes a step back this season.
  • John Danks, on the other hand, showed Sox fans a lot down the stretch. Who can forget his performance in the tiebreaker game with the Twins -- eight innings of two-hit ball -- or his win over the Rays in the playoffs (the only game yours truly was able to catch in person last season)? Why are we higher on Danks than Floyd? Aside from the fact that he'll have to face off against only the third best opposing hurler, we're not sure. Maybe it's the natural pessimism that comes from being a Sox fan combined with the fact that the team has signed Floyd to a four-year contract extension, but couldn't get Danks to agree to the same deal. Those things always seem to work out badly for the Good Guys, and we're just afraid that it will again. But, hey if we can't be optimistic before Opening Day, maybe we should start blogging about something else. (We know a lot of readers have already made that request, but too bad, we're going to keep on bloggin', so there.)
  • Jose Contreras has recovered from his Achilles tendon injury faster than anyone expected and is slated to be number four in the rotation. There were encouraging reports, if not results during spring training, but this one is too tough to call. He's 37 years old (at least, that's what's reported) and his win totals, innings pitched, strikeouts, walks and home runs allowed, and ERA were all heading in the wrong direction even before last year. But Don Cooper seems pretty happy with what he saw in Arizona, so we're happy. And Contreras should benefit from dropping back in the rotation and facing the other teams' fourth best starters, just as Floyd and Danks will suffer.
  • Bartolo Colon comes out of Arizona as the fifth starter for the Sox. This could be one of Kenny Williams's all-time steals or all-time screw-ups. Colon is recovering from elbow surgery and did not post impressive numbers in spring training. Again Cooper says he's satisfied with what he saw, but the stats were not encouraging. Clayton Richard may yet wind up in the rotation if Colon can't cut it, but let's hope that Bartolo has one more good season in him. Baseball Prospectus 2009, by the way, makes an interesting point about the Sox schedule and the number five pitcher slot. If you try to start Buehrle every fifth day, you end up with him getting 36 starts; Floyd and Danks get 35 each; Contreras picks up 32; but the team will need a fifth starter only 24 times. We bet Ozzie doesn't work it that way, but it's an intriguing idea. What's not intriguing is the notion of Contreras and Colon getting battered on consecutive days and overtaxing the bullpen. Maybe they should put Floyd or Danks between the two of them.

We like the relievers:

  • In fact, we love Bobby Jenks and were distraught when there was talk of trading him. He proved at the end of the year that he could still bring it and we remember how the bullpen struggled when he was out last July. Bad Bobby has given up only five homers over the last two years. During that same period, his WHIP (walks + hits/inning pitched) was below 1.0.
  • Matt Thornton had a great season last year -- he kept his WHIP at 1.0 and his ERA was 2.67 -- and we expect more of the same from him in 2009.
  • We don't like Octavio Dotel or D.J. Carrasco nearly as much as Kenny does. Nor did we like Mike McDougal much last year, but acknowledge that he had a great spring. Scott Linebring was terrific when healthy last season, so let's hope he can stay that way in 2009, but he didn't show much in spring training. Finally, Clayton Richard is slated for long relief now, but may plug into the rotation if the need arises. The former University of Michigan quarterback (another alma mater of yours truly) earned his roster spot out in Arizona and we're rooting for him.

Moving on to the position players:

  • Well, DH isn't really a position, but let's start with Jim Thome anyway. Thome was remarkably durable last year, notching over 600 plate appearances. He showed he still had his power swing, parking 34 dingers in the seats and slugging over .500. His homer and RBI totals continued to decrease, as they had the year before, but The Update has a feeling that Thome's not done yet. That rocket he launched in the tiebreaker was a thing of beauty, and we're guessing there's more where that came from.
  • We hated A.J. Pierzynski when he was on the Twins, but we love his spunk now. (On The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which took place in Minneapolis, Lou Grant said to Mary Richards "Mary, you've got spunk.... I hate spunk.") We also love his ability to catch more than 130 games per year (at least until newcomer Tyler Flowers is ready to take over) and how he calls a game. What we don't like is his inability to throw out a base runner -- 18% last year. Maybe some of that has to be blamed on the pitching staff's inability to hold anyone on first, but a large chunk of it falls on A.J. Corky Miller won the backup job in spring training, but he's not the answer to any question we're asking.
  • Paul Konerko had a terrible 2008, until the last two months of the season. Hopefully, that's indicative of something being left in Paulie's tank. Let's hope he'll return to his form of the prior three seasons, but if all we get from him is what he did after he came back from the DL, that'll be decent.
  • Another Wolvernine, Chris Getz, won the second base job in a spirited competition in Arizona. His good spring followed up on his good year at Charlotte in 2008, where he batted .302 and had an on base percentage of .366. Not great, but decent. He'll need to get on if he's called on to replace either of the two players who will be splitting the leadoff position -- more on that in a minute -- but less so as the number two hitter where he's pencilled in for now. In essence, since the Missile is moving over from second to short, Getz must replace Orlando Cabrera, a hard task in the field and at the plate, but not so much in the clubhouse. At least, Oakland's signing of OC means the Sox will get extra draft picks for losing him as a free agent.
  • Speaking of the Missile, Alexei Ramirez is set to shine. Mr. Grand Slam was a bona fide rookie of the year candidate last season, and should be more comfortable at the plate with a little more experience, and more comfortable at short, his natural position. Given the spectacular plays he pulled off at second, we can't wait to see what he comes up with this year. The next Little Looie? Maybe, but with power.
  • Josh Fields hit 23 homers in about 100 games in 2007. Last year, he was injured and spent the season in AAA. With Joe Crede and Juan Uribe gone via free agency to the Twins and Giants, respectively, Fields will get the chance to shine. Joey Cora worked with Fields on his defense and he's supposed to have improved, but he's no Brooks Robinson. Worse, he's no Joe Crede, who was manning the position. As another former college QB, at least he can choose up touch football teams with Clayton Richard.
  • Wison Betemit and Brent Lillibridge are the utility infielders. Betemit isn't much of a fielder, but the boy can hit left-handed pitching pretty well. We don't know much about Lillibridge, but there was some talk during the spring about his batting leadoff. Surprise us, you two.
  • Carlos Quentin is recovered from his self-inflicted broken wrist. Nice way to wreck an MVP season. Well, maybe we're getting carried away. But The Update is looking for big things from Q after his 36 homer, 100 RBI, .394 on-base percentage, .571 slugging percentage in 2008. We're combing the dictionary now for new words that start with Q.
  • Center field and leadoff went by default to the platoon of Dewayne Wise and Brian Anderson. Wise will face the righties and Anderson will try to continue to crush the lefties he faces -- all eight of his homers were off southpaws. Neither one is a prototypical leadoff hitter, but that's a hole that Kenny Williams just couldn't (some say wouldn't) fill. Jerry Owens bombed out and was actually put on waivers in order to reassign him to Charlotte. No other team wanted him, which tells you something. The only good thing about that groin pull is that it gave Q the chance he needed to shine.
  • Jermaine Dye's 2008 was better than his respectable, but not as good as 2006 season, in 2007. Yes, he's 35, but he's been a late bloomer. The Update does not think the bloom is off the rose. We'd love a year close to what he put up in 2008, but acknowledge that Dye may not have that kind of season left in him. His 41 homers and 96 RBIs will be tough to match, but when it comes to Jermaine, we never say die, er Dye.

What does all that mean? Bottom line for us is the Sox will be in the hunt. We don't buy those projections that have the Good Guys finishing in fifth behind even the Royals. There's a lot to like here, especially if the young -- and old -- pitchers can produce. We agree with those that say there's not much to separate the top from the bottom in the Central and that 85 wins might take the division title. It's not hard to imagine the Sox winning 85 -- that's only four wins more than a .500 finish -- and despite the glass half empty analysis, we still look at the world through black, white, silver and gray glasses.