White Sox

Floyd, Sox try to avoid series sweep on CSN

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Floyd, Sox try to avoid series sweep on CSN

Thursday, April 21, 2011Posted: 11:20 AM

Associated Press

A loss to the Chicago White Sox earlier this month dropped the defending AL East champion Tampa Bay Rays to 0-6 for the first time in franchise history.

Another victory over the White Sox can put the Rays over .500 for the first time this season.

Tampa Bay goes for its first four-game sweep of Chicago on Thursday night when the visiting White Sox try to avoid their eighth straight defeat.

Since a 5-1 loss at Chicago (7-11) on April 7, the Rays (9-9) have won nine of 12 to join the 1991 Seattle Mariners as the only teams since 1900 to reach .500 in April after opening the season with six losses.

"The fact that we're back to that level is great, but our goal is well above .500," manager Joe Maddon said following Wednesday's 4-1 victory.

While Tampa Bay is batting .297 and scoring 5.0 runs per game during its 8-1 stretch - up from .163 and 2.2 during its first nine games - the team's starters are 6-1 with a 2.22 ERA during this recent run, a vast improvement from their 5.26 ERA through nine games.

Jeff Niemann (0-2, 6.32 ERA), who starts the series finale, also pitched better in his last start. After allowing 10 runs in his first two outings, the right-hander struck out a season-high six in Saturday's 4-3 win over Minnesota, giving up three runs and eight hits in seven innings.

"I was more comfortable in what I was seeing," Maddon told the Rays' official website.

That wasn't the case in a 6-1 loss in Chicago on April 10 when Niemann lasted just 2 2-3 innings, yielding five runs and five hits.

He had been 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA in his previous two starts against the White Sox.

Niemann faces a Chicago team that has scored 13 runs during its seven-game skid, including just two in the first three games of this series. Paul Konerko, Alex Rios, Gordon Beckham and Adam Dunn are hitting a combined .129 (13 for 101) during the slide.

"We had better at-bats (Wednesday)," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "That's all you can do. Go and fight for your at-bats, and see what happens."

While the White Sox's bullpen has received plenty of blame with a major league-high six blown saves, the starting rotation is also struggling, posting a 5.57 ERA in the last five games after Phil Humber surrendered four runs in 5 1-3 innings Wednesday.

Gavin Floyd (1-1, 4.29) will try to help Chicago avoid its first eight-game skid since Sept. 14-21 and split the eight-game season series with Tampa Bay. The right-hander improved to 3-1 with a 2.48 ERA against the Rays after striking out eight and allowing one unearned run in eight innings April 10.

Floyd, though, gave up season highs with six runs and eight hits in Saturday's 7-2 loss against the Los Angeles Angels. He also threw three wild pitches in six innings.

Floyd probably wouldn't mind if Rays left fielder Johnny Damon misses a fourth straight game with an injured left ring finger. Damon is 11 for 19 with a homer off Floyd.

White Sox right fielder Carlos Quentin, 1 for 9 off Niemann, is batting .438 (14 for 32) on the road after homering Wednesday.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

James McCann leads charge for White Sox in running for starting spots in MLB All-Star Game

James McCann leads charge for White Sox in running for starting spots in MLB All-Star Game

Major League Baseball released a second voting update for All-Star Game starters and three White Sox players are still in the mix.

The top three spots at each position (and top nine in the outfield) are all that matter for now, with those players advancing to MLB’s new Starters Election. James McCann is the only member of the White Sox to sit in one of those spots for now.

McCann is second at catcher behind Gary Sanchez of the Yankees. He is nearly 800,000 votes behind the Yankees backstop.

Jose Abreu was in third in the last update at first base, but has fallen behind Carlos Santana of the Indians. Luke Volt, another Yankee, leads with C.J. Cron of the Twins in second. Santana is just under 43,000 votes ahead of Abreu.

Tim Anderson is still in fourth at shortstop. Jorge Polanco of the Twins and Carlos Correa of the Astros are comfortably in the top two spots. Gleyber Torres, yet another Yankee, is just over 45,000 votes ahead of Anderson for third.

There aren’t any other White Sox within striking distance of the top three. Yoan Moncada remains in eighth among third basemen.

Polls close Friday at 3 p.m. CT.

 

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Breaking down Eloy Jimenez's improvement

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USA TODAY

Breaking down Eloy Jimenez's improvement

When Eloy Jiménez returned from the Injured List in late May and rejoined the White Sox lineup, he went on the road to Houston and Minnesota and he struggled to the tune of a .148 batting average and .148 on-base percentage, with four hits (three went over the fence), 11 strikeouts and no walks.

For the season, his slashline was .217/.259/.406 with five walks and 36 strikeouts. He was swinging at 49.8 percent of all the pitches he saw (a bit above the 46.7 percent league average); he was swinging at 38.8 percent of pitches outside the zone (quite a bit above the 30.9 percent league average).

He returned to the comfort of Guaranteed Rate Field on May 27 and took a pair of walks. From that point forward, things started to look a lot better… and the results were in line with that observation.

Eloy Jiménez this season:

  PA AVG OBP SLG BB K Swing % Outside zone swing %
Through May 26 112 ,217 .259 .406 5 36 49.8 38.8
Since May 27 71 .297 .366 .594 7 18 45.9 30.8

Not only has he improved quite a bit, but that 30.8 outside the zone swing percentage is second only to Yonder Alonso’s 29.9 percent mark among White Sox with at least 40 plate appearances since May 27. Jiménez hasn’t been chasing nearly as many bad pitches lately.

Those pitches he has been laying off of have for the most part been the low and away stuff, as indicated by his swing charts below. First, his swing rates before getting hurt and then since he came back from injury.

These charts are from the catcher’s perspective, and from what you can see, he has done a much better job of laying off the low and away pitches. Look at the three zones furthest low and away. There’s a big difference.

Start of the year through May 26:

Since May 27:

Through May 26 he swung at 33.8 percent of pitches (51 of 151)  low and away and out of the zone. Since May 27 he has swung at 14.5 percent of those pitches (10 of 69).

It’s only an 18-game sample, so there will certainly be more adjustments made to combat Jiménez, but I believe we’re watching Eloy begin to mature into the middle of the order force as he was advertised.

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