White Sox

Nine innings in the mind of a stathead


Nine innings in the mind of a stathead

I'm obsessed with baseball -- the numbers, the history, the people who play.

Each game features a unique sequence of events. I like to think there's something to be found in each game that has never happened before.

I love the rare events, the oddities, freak pitches, position player pitchers, odd shifts, bizarre errors, milestone moments. I love old box scores to see which combination of individuals existed as a team on that given day.

I watch games differently than the average fan. I look for patterns. It's my job to provide unique information, so I'm always looking. Oftentimes, my observations are a stretch...but I don't care. I don't take myself too seriously. I like to present what I see with the understanding that we're all fans, and baseball is supposed to be fun.

So here's my narrative of Tuesday night's Pirates vs. Cubs game, which I attended at Wrigley (I went to work on the Baseball-reference.com play index after the fact, but I was jotting down notes as the game went on).

1st inning

Neil Walker pumps his fist just before passing first base on his grand slam trot. First inning slam? Wow...wonder when the last time that happened against the Cubs.

It was last year. Ryan Dempster, nonetheless, whose trade made this start by Casey Coleman possible in the first place. Stephen Drew gave the Diamondbacks a 4-0 lead at Chase Field back on April 28th, 2011.

Last one at Wrigley Field? Adam Kennedy of the Cardinals touched Carlos Zambrano for a four-run four-bagger on September 19, 2008.

Last Pirate with a first inning slam against the Cubs? Hall of Famer Willie Stargell April 22, 1969 (Game 2 of doubleheader) off Joe Niekro.

Ironically, while doing grand slam research, I find that since Ryan Dempster first set foot on a Major League mound in 1998, no pitcher has surrendered more grand slams -- Dempster 9; Brad Penny, Kyle Lohse, Cliff Lee, and Kevin Milllwood tied for second with 8 each.

2nd inning

It was an innocuous comment to my girlfriend between innings..."You know...this guy pitching for the Pirates tonight...he HAS thrown a no-hitter..."

The Cubs have the longest active streak of not being no-hit. Nobody has thrown a no-hitter against the Cubs since Sandy Koufax tossed his perfect game September 9, 1965 in an epic pitcher's duel with Bob Hendley...

...come to think of it, there hasn't been a no-hitter pitched against OR FOR the Cubs at Wrigley Field since Milt Pappas' near miss of a perfect game (Bruce Froemming's infamous Ball Four call) September 2, 1972.

Besides, I'd never seen a perfect game live. The closest I have ever come was when Jim Thome broke up Anthony Reyes' no-hit bid with a 7th inning blast in a 1-0 White Sox win over the Cardinals back in 2006.

3rd inning

Andrew McCutchen leads off the third with a single. He has been truly incredible, boasting a .371 batting average.

When's the last time a Pirate finished a season with a batting average that high? Seventy-six years ago, that's when. It was Hall of Famer Paul "Big Poison" Waner with a .373 clip.

Waner note: "Big Poison" was actually Brooklyn-ese for Big PERSON. Waner was 5'8" 153 lbs. In contrast, Paul's Hall of Fame brother Lloyd, nicknamed "Little Poison" stood 5'9" and weighed 150. Hmmm...

4th inning

Burnett keeps rolling...The Pirates would be his second different team with which he'd throw a no-hitter. Must be a short list for multiple-team no-hitters:

Cy Young - Cleveland Spiders & Boston Red Sox
Jim Bunning - Philadelphia Phillies & Detroit Tigers
Nolan Ryan - California Angels, Houston Astros & Texas Rangers
Hideo Nomo - Los Angeles Dodgers & Boston Red Sox
Randy Johnson - Seattle Mariners & Arizona Diamondbacks

5th inning

Coleman's finished for the day; 4 ER in 4.2 IP; season ERA now 7.40.

I remembered him last season on the verge of setting a franchise record of highest season ERA of anyone with 50 innings (Ruben Quevedo - 7.47 in 88.0 IP), before battling back and lowering his mark to 6.40 by season's end.

But with another rocky start, where does he rank as far as career ERA with Cubs?

Answer: For all Cubs with at least a season's worth of ERA (162 IP), dead last.

His 5.76 ERA in 165.2 IP is highest of the 251 Cubs pitchers to qualify. It's 10 points higher than Jim Brewer; 36 points north of Ernie "traded for Lou Brock" Broglio.

Am I picking on Coleman? No, just presenting information. You've got to be incredibly good just to pitch one inning in the Major Leagues. If you were to take the 17,871 players (according to Baseball-reference.com) who have ever played a game in the Majors over its nearly 150 years of existence, you wouldn't be able to fill Wrigley Field halfway. If you took the 3661 men ever to pitch 162 innings in the majors, you couldn't even fill the Wrigley bleachers (you'd fill it to about 74 percent of capacity).

6th inning

Could the first-inning Grand Slam be all the scoring in this game? That would be amazing.

Consider the feeling as Coleman allowed the homer to Walker. I figured this could be a really long night, but the recently promoted righty had managed to slip out of trouble despite being on the ropes.

When is the last time a game ended 4-0 on a single grand slam? June 20, 2010: Mark Teixeira's 3rd inning slam off Johan Santana was all the Yankees needed in a 4-0 win against the Mets.

How about the last time a first inning grand slam ended in a 4-0 score? May 23, 1994, when Luis Lopez took Mark Portugal deep in the first in a 4-0 Padres win over the Giants.

7th inning

Pirates strike again. Neil Walker sac fly. He's knocked in all five Pirates runs. It's his 33rd career game against the Cubs. And he now has 27 RBI in those 33 games, a 162-game average of 132.5.

Who's the last player to have 5 RBI and knock in ALL of his team's runs against the Cubs? Russell Branyan of the Brewers on Aug. 18, 2004 in a 7-5 Cubs win...

...and the previous time a player did this, the Cubs won that game too -- Will Clark Sept. 24, 2000 in a 10-5 Cubs win.

You have to go back to Sept. 15, 1996 for the last time a player knocked in all of his team's runs (with at least 5 RBI) in a winning cause against the Cubs. Benito Santiago of the Phillies had 3 HR and 6 RBI in 6-1 Phillies win.

The last Pirate to knock in all his team's runs (minimum 5 RBI) had been Daryle Ward -- Aug. 30, 2004 in a 5-1 win vs Brewers.

8th inning

There it goes...Adrian Cardenas singles to right and Burnett's no-hit bid is over. I'm thinking of one-hitters thrown against the Cubs and a list of the players who collected the sole hits.

Ryan Theriot -- 8212009
Jerry Hairston, Jr. -- 8312005
Michael Barrett -- 5182004
Corey Patterson -- 4262002
Ron Coomer -- 5182001
Dave Hansen -- 4101997

And you have to go back to Hansen to find the last Cub who came off the bench to record the only hit in a game. Hansen entered the game in a double switch as a defensive replacement at third for Kevin Orie. He ended the Marlins' Alex Fernandez' no-hit bid with one out in the ninth.

9th inning

Game over. Burnett gets his one-hitter the first complete game one-hitter thrown against the Cubs since Derek Lowe on Aug. 31, 2005...first by a Pirate against the Cubs since Don Cardwell on Oct. 2, 1965.

Also amusing: The last seven complete game one-hitters tossed against the Cubs have all come at Wrigley Field, with Tom Browning's June 4, 1986 performance for the Reds at Riverfront Stadium being the last time a pitcher tossed a complete game one-hitter against the Cuibs on the road.

I don't get my first no-hitter, but it was well worth it. This is every game for me. And I love it.

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey


White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

The White Sox freed up a spot on their 40-man roster Sunday, outrighting pitcher Dylan Covey to Triple-A Charlotte.

Covey pitched in 18 games last season, making 12 starts for the South Siders. Things did not go well, with Covey turning in an 0-7 record and a 7.71 ERA in 70 innings.

While there was an outside chance that Covey could have provided at least some starting-pitching depth heading into the 2018 season, the team's recent additions of Miguel Gonzalez and Hector Santiago — not to mention Covey's results from last season — wiped out that idea.

At the moment, the White Sox starting rotation figures to look like this by Opening Day: James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer, with Santiago seeming like a good option to provide depth as the long man in the bullpen.

Public League champion Simeon remains clear No. 1 in latest Preps Power Rankings

Public League champion Simeon remains clear No. 1 in latest Preps Power Rankings

The Class 1A and 2A regionals begin this week and the regular season is finishing up for every other team in the state. We're getting that much closer to state titles being decided in Peoria. Simeon remains the clear No. 1 in the latest Power Rankings after beating No. 4 Whitney Young and No. 2 Orr by double digits on the way to earning a third straight Public League Playoff title, while a couple of familiar faces are back in the tail end of the rankings.

1. Simeon (25-3, 9-0) (1) -- Simeon stays at No. 1 after winning the Public League Playoffs for the third consecutive year. The Wolverines have now defeated teams No. 2 through No. 6 in the Preps Power Rankings for a 6-0 record on the season in which the average margin of victory has been 14.5 points per game. The clear No. 1 in the state of Illinois, Simeon has the week off before the Class 4A playoffs.

2. Orr (22-4, 9-0) (2) -- Orr put up a good fight but they ultimately fell short to No. 1 Simeon in the Public League Playoff title game. The Spartans did gain revenge on No. 3 Curie, however, with a big semifinal win on Friday. Orr has to forget the title loss ahead of the Class 2A Playoffs that begin this week as the Spartans try to repeat as champions.

3. Curie (23-4, 8-1) (3) -- The Condors have only lost to No. 1 and No. 2 when it comes to in-state losses as they remain one of the most complete and balanced teams in the state. Curie has the week off before the IHSA Playoffs.

4. Whitney Young (22-7, 7-2) (4) -- Whitney Young earned a huge quarterfinal win over Morgan Park before falling to Simeon in the Public League Playoff semifinals. The Dolphins also have the week off before they attempt to repeat as Class 4A champions. 

5. Morgan Park (18-9, 7-2) (5) Disappointing result for the Mustangs as they lost on a buzzer-beater in the Public League Playoffs to Whitney Young. Defending champions in Class 3A, the Mustangs will rest this week before the playoffs begin.

6. Fenwick (18-7, 8-0) (8) -- The Friars earned two wins during the week as they beat Marmion while also getting a huge conference road win at Loyola. Fenwick will battle Taft during the week.

7. New Trier (22-3, 8-1) (9) -- New Trier had one of the best weeks of any team in the area as they picked up wins over Maine South and Evanston. Now the leaders in the rugged CSL South, the Trevians have some more tough games against Niles North and Glenbrook North this week. 

8. Evanston (20-5, 8-2) (6) -- Evanston's red-hot recent play was finally slowed down as they fell to rival New Trier. The Wildkits will try to bounce back when they play Vernon Hills in a Central Suburban crossover this week.

9. Oak Park-River Forest (21-5, 12-0) (11) -- The Huskies finished the West Suburban Silver season unbeaten following wins over York and Proviso West. OPRF gets a great test right before the playoffs when they face Hinsdale South in the West Suburban championship game.

10. Benet (21-4) (6-1) (12) -- Two wins for the Redwings this week when they beat Joliet Catholic and Stevenson. Things aren't easy for Benet this week as they head to Marian Catholic before hosting Carmel in two tough ESCC games. 

11. West Aurora (19-4, 8-0) (13) -- The winning streak is now 11 for the Blackhawks after beating South Elgin. West Aurora will play Bartlett and crosstown rival East Aurora this week as they try to keep the momentum going into the playoffs. 

12. Marist (23-4, 6-2) (15) -- Marist picked up a double-digit win over St. Patrick during the week as they prepare for the Class 4A draw. The RedHawks will have an ESCC game against Marian Central this week. 

13. Niles North (22-4, 5-4) (8) -- The Vikings fell to CSL South rival Maine South and followed that up with an overtime win over a tough Wisconsin team in St. Catherine's. The Vikings get a crack at conference leader New Trier this week before playing Maine West in a tough Central Suburban crossover. 

14. Marian Catholic (20-4, 5-3) (16) -- Three wins for the Spartans during the week as they knocked off Nazareth, Rich Central and Marian Central. Marian Catholic gets a tough test this week when they host Benet in its final ESCC game.

15. Naperville North (23-2, 14-1) (17) -- The Huskies have won eight straight games as they clinched at least a share of the DuPage Valley Conference with a win over Waubonsie Valley this week. Naperville North hosts Wheaton-Warrenville South this week to decide the DVC title.

16. DePaul Prep (20-6, 5-3) (19) -- Picking up a convincing double-digit win over Mount Carmel, the Rams got back on track after the loss to Brother Rice. DePaul Prep will host Montini during the week as they prepare for Class 3A. 

17. Loyola (21-6, 5-3) (10) -- Tough recent stretch for the Ramblers as they fell to St. Joseph and Fenwick to fall out of the Catholic League Blue race. Loyola hosts Steinmetz for a tune-up this week. 

18. Hillcrest (21-5, 13-0) (21) -- Hillcrest survived a tight win over T.F. North before winning convincingly against Oak Forest. The Hawks have the week off as they prep for Class 3A. 

19. Leo (19-5, 8-0) (22) -- Finishing the regular season with a big win over Marmion, the Lions will be one of the area teams to watch in the Class 2A playoffs as they are in the Marshall Regional. 

20. Homewood-Flossmoor (16-6, 7-1) (23) -- Another huge win for Homewood-Flossmoor as the Vikings took down Bolingbrook to keep a lead in the SouthWest Suburban Blue. Homewood-Flossmoor goes on the road this week to battle Sandburg and Lockport. 

21. Hinsdale South (20-5, 10-2) (24) -- The Hornets stayed hot with wins over Addison Trail and Proviso East as they clinched the West Suburban Gold. Hinsdale South has a tough battle against Oak Park-River Forest in the West Suburban championship game this week. 

22. St. Viator (22-5, 8-0) (25) -- The Lions picked up some wins against Carmel and Bartlett. St. Viator will try to close out the ESCC with an undefeated record when they play Nazareth this week. 

23. Bolingbrook (17-6, 5-3) (18) -- Bolingbrook fell out of the SouthWest Suburban Blue conference race when they lost to Homewood-Flossmoor. The Raiders still have some tough games to close out the regular season when they play Lincoln-Way East and Stagg.

24. Maine South (20-7, 6-4) (NR) -- Huge win for Maine South as they knocked off Niles North after losing to New Trier in overtime earlier in the week. The Hawks close out the regular season with a Central Suburban Crossover against Highland Park.

25. Willowbrook (22-5, 9-3) (NR) -- Willowbrook is back in the rankings by earning three double-digit wins over Morton, Leyden and Downers South. The Warriors have only lost to ranked teams like West Aurora and Hinsdale South lately as they've been playing well.