Cubs

Kaplan: Inconsistent bats need to pick it up for Southsiders

804222.png

Kaplan: Inconsistent bats need to pick it up for Southsiders

Up until this week the Sox had lost five straight series, four of which came against National League opponents. You have to go all the way back to the June 3 win versus the Mariners to find the South Siders last series victory prior to taking 2 of 3 from the Minnesota Twins.
The reason for the clubs recent slide is simple: inconsistent run production.
In April the White Sox scored 3.86 runs per game (21st in the MLB), in May they scored 5.38 runs per game (3rd), and in June 4.33 (17th). The constant ebb and flow of run production has caused Robin Venturas club to be labeled as streaky and streaky teams seldom capture long term success.
Surprisingly, the one thing that has remained relatively consistent for the Sox has been their pitching. Coming off of his second consecutive loss allowing two runs or less Jake Peavy appeared frustrated during post-game interviews.
We just have to find a way to swing these one-run games in our favor and we will, said Peavy after his five hit complete game loss against the Cubs last Tuesday. I dont think by any means this team has lost any confidence, we have shown we can play with anybody on any given day, the bottom line is weve just kind of been too streaky.

During the five series skid the Sox offense experienced a low point of their streakiness. They averaged four runs per game over the 18-game stretch, but this number was heavily weighted by a couple of seven plus run explosions by the Sox offense. It seems as if on some days everyone brings their bats to the park and on others no one does. In five of their last 18 the Sox tallied one run or less. This should be an alarming statistic for a team that is still in first place and in desperate need of consistent run support.
It is only June, but coming off five consecutive unsuccessful series the Sox found themselves at a crossroads. Kenny Williams had two options: blow the thing up and start from square one by dealing Peavy, Pierzynski and others, or fill a couple of gaping holes on the roster and make this team a serious contender.
The first watershed moment came Sunday when news broke of the acquisition of long time Red Sox infielder Kevin Youkilis. This move accomplishes a number of things. It fills an obvious void at third that Orlando Hudson could not. It adds another experienced veteran to the clubhouse. It adds a bat to the lineup that guarantees you an above average on base percentage. But most off all it sends a message to White Sox fans and the rest of the league that this team is all in, no questions asked.
In terms of wanting and needing a little bit more stability at the position, as well as providing a little bit of offense in the form that Kevin Youkilis can provide it. Another on base percentage guy, another guy that is not afraid to get a big hit, we just felt at this time it was necessary, said Williams at a press conference Sunday after the acquisition.
Dont get me wrong, the Sox did not just pick up Mickey Mantle reincarnate but this is a vital piece of the puzzle if this team plans on making a run deep into the playoffs this season. As Kenny said, Youkilis is an OBP guy (.388 career) who will grind out at bats and manufacture runs. Something a free-swinging inconsistent offense could find very valuable in leveling out their production.
The Youk has had an ok year thus far, (.225 avg, .311 OBP, 4 HR, 13 RBIs), but I think a change of Sox is all the three time all-star needs to jump start his production. Youkilis is used to playing on a Red Sox team that is always at the top of the division or at least in contention. The Red Sox sit 5.5 games back and have shown few signs of life this season. A change of scenery to a team leading their division could be exactly what Youkilis and the Sox both need.
When asked about his teams streaky tendencies Robin Ventura made it clear how he feels saying, Were gonna get hot again, that must be the way its gonna go.The White Sox skipper might be on to something as the south siders have won five of their last seven games. None in more impressive fashion, than the 12-5 shellacking of the Twins yesterday. The Sox pounded 21 hits off of Minnesota pitching and appear to be back to form, at least for the time being.
The Sox are catching their upswing at the perfect time as they head to New York for a four game set versus the league best Yankees. If things continue at this streaky pace buckle up Sox fans because the second half could be a roller coaster ride.

Joe Musso contributed to this article.

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

MESA, Ariz. — The first thing Kyle Schwarber told his new hitting coach?

"His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.'"

The Cubs hired Chili Davis as the team's new hitting coach for myriad reasons. He's got a great track record from years working with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics, and that .274/.360/.451 slash line during an illustrious 19-year big league career certainly helps.

But Davis' main immediate task in his new gig will be to help several of the Cubs' key hitters prove Schwarber's assessment correct.

Schwarber had a much-publicized tough go of things in 2017. After he set the world on fire with his rookie campaign in 2015 and returned from what was supposed to be a season-ending knee injury in time to be one of the Cubs' World Series heroes in 2016, he hit just .211 last season, getting sent down to Triple-A Iowa for a stint in the middle of the season. Schwarber still hit 30 home runs, but his 2017 campaign was seen as a failure by a lot of people.

Enter Davis, who now counts Schwarber as one of his most important pupils.

"He's a worker," Davis said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "Schwarbs, he knows he's a good player. His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.' He said last year was just a fluke year. He said, 'I've never failed in my life.' And he said, 'I'm going to get back to the player that I was.'

"I think he may have — and this is my thought, he didn't say this to me — I think it may have been, he had a big World Series, hit some homers, and I think he tried to focus on being more of a home run type guy as opposed to being a good hitter.

"His focus has changed. I had nothing to do with that, he came in here with that focus that he wants to be a good hitter first and let whatever happens happen. And he's worked on that. The main thing with Kyle is going to be is just maintaining focus."

The physically transformed Schwarber mentioned last week that he's established a good relationship with Davis, in no small part because Schwarber can relate to what Davis went through when he was a player. And to hear Davis tell it, it sounds like he's describing Schwarber's first three years as a big leaguer to a T.

"Telling him my story was important because it was similar," Davis said. "I was a catcher, got to big league camp, and I was thrown in the outfield. And I hated the outfield. ... But I took on the challenge. I made the adjustment, I had a nice first year, then my second year I started spiraling. I started spiraling down, and I remember one of my coaches saying, 'I'm going to have to throw you a parachute just so you can land softly.' I got sent down to Triple-A at the All-Star break for 15 days.

"When I got sent down, I was disappointed, but I was also really happy. I needed to get away from the big league pressure and kind of find myself again. I went home and refocused myself and thought to myself, 'I'm going to come back as Chili.' Because I tried to change, something changed about me the second year.

"And when I did that, I came back the next year and someone tried to change me and I said, 'Pump the breaks a little bit, let me fail my way, and then I'll come to you if I'm failing.' And they understood that, and I had a nice year, a big year and my career took off.

"I'm telling him, 'Hey, let last year go. It happened, it's in the past. Keep working hard, maintain your focus, and you'll be fine.'"

Getting Schwarber right isn't Davis' only task, of course. Despite the Cubs being one of the highest-scoring teams in baseball last season, they had plenty of guys go through subpar seasons. Jason Heyward still has yet to find his offensive game since coming to Chicago as a high-priced free agent. Ben Zobrist was bothered by a wrist injury last season and put up the worst numbers of his career. Addison Russell had trouble staying healthy, as well, and saw his numbers dip from what they were during the World Series season in 2016.

So Davis has plenty of charges to work with. But he likes what he's seen so far.

"They work," Davis said. "They come here to work. I had a group of guys in Boston that were the same last year, and it makes my job easier. They want to get better, they come out every day, they show up, they want to work. They're excited, and I'm excited to be around them.

And what have the Cubs found out about Davis? Just about everyone answers that question the same way: He likes to talk.

"I'm not going to stop talking," he said. "If I stop talking, something's wrong."

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

2-19_anisimov_kings_usat.jpg
USA TODAY

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here: