White Sox

Heat's road woes could play to Bulls' advantage in playoffs

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Heat's road woes could play to Bulls' advantage in playoffs

CHICAGO - Chris Bosh admitted prior to Thursday's Bulls-Heat matchup that if it came down to a Game 7 between the two powerhouses in the Eastern Conference Finals, he would rather have home-court advantage.

That possibility crept further away after the Bulls' 96-86 overtime victory over Miami at the United Center.

The Heat now sit at 40-17, four games behind the 45-14 Bulls in the bid for the No. 1 seed in the East. Miami has nine games remaining, Chicago has seven.

"Mathematically, we have a chance, but it looked better this morning," Bosh said after the game. "We just have to really put that behind our minds and just focus on tomorrow. Game 7 is a long ways away. We just have to stick with what we're doing."

The Bulls earned home-court advantage throughout the playoffs last season, but it didn't wind up mattering against the Heat. After claiming Game 1 in Chicago, the Bulls then lost four straight, including two in the United Center.

However, it may have more of an impact this year. The Heat have won just three of their last 11 road games and it's starting to get to them.

"Today would have been a great turnaround, but we're just going to have to wait longer," Bosh said. "We can't do anything about it. It is what it is. We just have to move forward and figure this thing out together.

"We're going to get this thing done. We're going to figure it out. We can't change anything right now. We're stuck in this position and we've been here for a while. We're just going to have to keep our heads up and get the job done."

Dwyane Wade echoed his teammates' thoughts.

"We'll keep pushing through it," he said. "It's not all good. It's not perfect, but that's sports. That's this game. I've been here nine years, and no team has ever been perfect. We've all gone through lows and we just have to correct it."

Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra isn't too concerned, however.

"It's OK," he said after Thursday's game. "We understand what we're playing for. Things change very quickly in this league. Just like this game, if we could have pulled it out in regulation. It changes in matter of 24 hours."

Miami is 0-2 in Chicago this season and most are expecting these two teams to match up in the Eastern Conference Finals once again.

If that happens, a Game 7 is not a stretch at all.

The Bulls and Heat have been evenly matched all season. Before Thursday's overtime period, each team had scored exactly 283 points in 12 quarters of head-to-head play. However, the reigning MVP, Derrick Rose, has contributed just two points in the last two games combined.

If the Heat can't correct their road woes by that late in the playoffs, the Bulls could have the edge.

"There is no easy win," Spoelstra said. "What we're trying to do will be the hardest thing that we have to do collectively as professionals. There are several legitimate teams that are contending for this one title. There will not be an easy road. And right now, we're dealing with that tough road."

White Sox prospect Nick Madrigal leads the minors in strikeout rate, but it’s not translating to hits

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USA TODAY

White Sox prospect Nick Madrigal leads the minors in strikeout rate, but it’s not translating to hits

When the White Sox drafted Nick Madrigal with the fourth overall pick in last June’s draft he was known as an elite contact hitter who could play good defense on the infield.

In nearly a year in the minors, that has mostly held true, but not exactly according to plan. Madrigal raced through three levels of the minors in 2018 and hit .303 in 43 games between those three stops. He only had five strikeouts.

This season has not gone as smoothly. Madrigal is hitting .261 for Single-A Winston-Salem, but he still isn’t striking out much at all. In fact, according to a write-up on Milb.com, Madrigal leads of all minor league baseball with a 3.3 percent strikeout rate.

“Madrigal has plus speed, and that should lead to more hits as his sample increases, but he'll have to hit a lot more to provide value from his specific profile,” Sam Dykstra wrote.

So what’s with Madrigal not hitting for higher average? How can a batter strikeout so rarely and not find more hits?

White Sox director of amateur scouting Nick Hostetler, one of the key decision makers in drafting Madrigal, talked about Madrigal’s progress on an episode of the White Sox Talk podcast earlier this week.

“The one thing he’s still doing is making contact,” Hostetler said. “So that is what we expected. We expected that out of him. I’m not sure he was probably expecting the streaks. I think he’s dealt with a lot of streaks in his offensive game this year. I think he had one stretch that was 0-for-16 or 17 and he came back with a couple hits. So he’s been a little streaky this year. But I think he’s starting to learn. He’s starting to develop. He’s had one home run. He’s starting to hit some doubles, but he’s starting to learn to get the ball in the air a little bit. He’s learning how teams are shifting him, how they’re playing him.”

The shifts Hostetler referred to are another interesting part of Madrigal’s unusual profile. He is actually going to opposite field more than pulling the ball down left field and opposing defenses are playing him accordingly. That could be one reason to explain why Madrigal isn’t getting more hits out of all the balls he is putting in play.

He is showing a bit more power this year as opposed to last year (11 extra base hits vs. 7 in only 10 more plate appearances). His spray charts for 2018 and 2019 show he is pulling the ball more than he used to, a sign that he is adjusting.

2018 spray chart:

2019 spray chart:

Note that Madrigal has more balls resulting in hits getting pulled down the left field side than he had last year. As defenses are shifting him to hit the ball to opposite field, as Hostetler noted, this will be a key part of his development.

He is showing progress in other areas. He is drawing more walks (14 this season vs. 7 last year) and is showing off his speed with 12 stolen bases.

Hostetler isn’t pushing the panic button on Madrigal.

“This is part of development,” Hostetler said. “Unfortunately the new wave we’re in everybody thinks ‘well, they’re a college guy and he’s drafted so high he needs to hit like this and go right away and be there in a year.’ Some guys just take a little bit.

“The one thing I’ll say is the defense has been exactly what we thought it would be. It’s Gold Glove caliber defense and he’s making contact. As long as he keeps making contact, keep fielding those balls like he is, he’ll figure out the rest.”

 

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Cubs Talk Podcast: Redemption Stories & Schwarber Leading Off

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Redemption Stories & Schwarber Leading Off

Luke Stuckmeyer is joined by the Cubs Postgame Live team of David Kaplan and David DeJesus to break down all the various redemption stories on the 2019 Cubs, ranging from Kris Bryant returning from an injury-plagued campaign to Tyler Chatwood becoming a legitimate weapon out of the bullpen (1:00). Then, the guys discuss how well Kyle Schwarber is performing out of the leadoff spot over the last week (11:45).

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Cubs Talk Podcast

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