White Sox

Seven things we've learned: Just win, baby

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Seven things we've learned: Just win, baby

Sunday, Sept. 18, 2011Posted: 3:30 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com White Sox InsiderFollow @CSNChi_Beatnik
Ten times this season, CSNChicago will submit a Chicago White Sox report card of sorts for your approval.Sadly, todays missive from Kansas City will be the final true 13 Things of the 2011 season and with no offense to Ozzie and his beloved No. 13 uniform, lets switch up the luck with things and just trim the traditional list down to a lucky seven this time around. Toward the very end of the year, Ill put together 13 highlights and lowlights of the season, just to wrap things up.

But still, weve learned many things about this ballclub, and with team on a season high-tying seven-game losing skid, they are increasingly not so good things. So, White Sox fans, cinch it up and scroll down

1. No one will truly take the blame

In Kansas City, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen has come out endorsing the job his bosses have done, advising fans not to blame GM Ken Williams or owner Jerry Reinsdorf for this lost, All-In season. But the manager also offers that as much as he and his coaching staff and players are to blame for what it hurtling toward a sub-.500 season, theres nothing hed do differently in 2011.

Williams has mostly disappeared from sight as the early swoon settled into season-long malaise. He largely acquitted himself back in July after advising Guillen to field a lineup according to performance, not salary, tacitly approving the benchings of underperforming, monied players like Adam Dunn and Alex Rios.

In the end, everyone in the organization bears responsibility for the disaster that became 2011. Whether any of the primary figures step forward to fully man up for the failure is another question.
2. September swoons have become an Ozzie trademark

This season, the White Sox are 5-12 to begin September, which has included two crushing sweeps at the hand of Central champion Detroit, losing 9 12 games in the standings since Aug. 31. But such swooning is not rare for Guillens White Sox. While the manager has averaged an 85-77 season in his eight years in charge of the White Sox, hes 105-106 overall in September. Ironically, the only season in which his club hasnt been swept at least once in September is the forgettable 2007 campaign, when Chicago finished with a 15-12 kick but entered the month 21 12 games out.

Even in 2005, when the White Sox started the month with a seven-game winning streak and appeared in commanding position to suffocate the rest of the Central, the team fell into a 4-10 tailspin that shrunk its division lead form 7 12 to 1 12 games.

Here are the dirty details:

2004 - White Sox go 17-12 in September, swept by Minnesota Twins.
2005 - White Sox go 17-12, swept by Los Angeles Angels and see lead shrink to 1 12 games before running off five wins to end the season and 16 of 17 to end the season as World Series champs.
2006 - White Sox go 12-16, including a sweep by the Oakland As.
2007 - White Sox go 15-12 and avoid a sweep but finish at 72-90 and in fourth place.
2008 - White Sox go 12-15 in September in what becomes a war of attrition with the fading Twins. The White Sox won three straight games to end the season as Central champs, but lost five straight, including being swept out of first place on September 25 by the Twins to create such dire straits.
2009 - White Sox go 13-14 and are swept by the Twins.
2010 - White Sox go 14-13 and are swept by the Twins and Tigers, essentially eliminating them from the division race.
2011 - White Sox are 5-12 and will have to go 10-1 in the home stretch to finish better than .500 for the month. Two sweeps by Detroit nailed the coffin shut on the 2011 season.
3. Guillen needs to bow his neck

Related to the September swooning or not, Guillen must take more ownership of his teams performance. His explanation that he pilots a veteran club has merit and is not an excuse but there has to be an accountability trickle-down through coaches or veteran players. Someone has to answer for all the September faltering, and in lieu of someone else doing offering it up, Ozzie must supply an answer.

4. Times running short for Danks

Its not to say that John Danks wont be due for yet another arbitration raise despite a down season (6-12, 4.36 ERA), because he will. My value analysis says that even including his 0-11, 6.28 ERA every day this season not between June 6 and Aug. 27, Danks has provided a surplus value of 2.5 million to the White Sox in 2011 and thus, technically, underpaid.

However, for the sake of those scoreboard stats like W-L record and ERA, it behooves Danks to have a strong start on Sunday vs. Kansas City and good finale in a projected Sept. 24 vs. the Royals. Theres still room for him to pull his ERA back to sub-4.00 and push his overall surplus value to the White Sox to the 4 million level. And a boost like that could mean extra millions in any extension offer from the White Sox, or long-term offers from every team after the 2012 season.

5. Buehrle, too

Mark Buehrle has had a typically strong season, as arguably the best Chicago starter (Id submit Phil Humber a shade better). But boy, his September is doing him no favors: a 12.00 ERA, 2.54 WHIP and 18.3 average game score compared with 3.101.2254.2 from April through August.

Buehrle has the credentials to earn another big contract after the season, as hes essentially been worth every penny of his most recent four-year, 56 million deal, and then some. But the concerns over the veterans declining stamina, as his struggles through September have fueled, could round down some of the offers out there. The only way to stave off teams legitimate worries about Buehrles stretch runs is for the lefty to spin a strong start at Cleveland on Wednesday and drive the point home in a projected finale on Sept. 27.

6. Of central concern is the Central

We heard a lot in the spring about the White Sox needing to beat the opponents closest to them in 2011, those four dastardly AL Central clubs. But after a 32-40 in 2010, the White Sox are wheezing along those same lines this season, currently at 28-36. Intradivisional foes are no more fearsome than they were a year ago Detroit tags in for Minnesota this season as the division champ and having started 7-13 in a September that is essentially a long intradivisional finale, its shaping up to be a second straight year of doleful drubbings from the Central.

It would be different if the White Sox played poorly against everyone else, but they are near .500 against the tough East (15-19) and 19-16 against the West. Toss in an 11-7 mark against the National League, and the troubles are pretty easy to diagnose: Beat the Central. How to do so is another question.

7. Morels month is no mirage

As tempting as it might be to write Brent Morel off as a September wonder (an AL second-best six homers in the month and 12 RBIs in his last 18 games, he is getting stronger at a time when it would be easy for a young player to falter. His OPS is still just .652, but for a player who wasnt going to be counted on for his offense this season to be outperforming Dunn, Rios, and even fellow young infielder Gordon Beckham, those numbers arent bad at all.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.

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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