Bears

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.

Chicago Bears 53-man roster projection

ryan_pace.jpg
USA Today

Chicago Bears 53-man roster projection

Chicago Bears training camp practices officially get underway Friday, kicking off a time of year when players fight for starting jobs and roster spots. 

The Bears are entering an exciting time. New coach Matt Nagy has brought hope and optimism with him to Chicago while quarterback Mitch Trubisky has embraced his leadership role like a seasoned veteran.

But all the positive press is now in the past; it's time to get back to the action on the field. GM Ryan Pace will have some tough decisions to make later next month and every rep of every practice will factor into who makes the cut for the final 53-man roster.

Here's my first swing at who should make the squad. I'll be updating this projection before Week 3's preseason game against the Chiefs and again before the Week 4 finale against the Bills (note: Hall of Fame game is excluded from preseason weekly schedule).

START CHICAGO BEARS 53-MAN ROSTER PROJECTION

Bears could develop 'twin towers' personnel package at WR with Robinson, White

Bears could develop 'twin towers' personnel package at WR with Robinson, White

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – Coaches are loath to give away competitive information, which can cover just about anything from play design to flavor of Gatorade dispensed by the training staff. But Matt Nagy offered an intriguing what-if personnel grouping that his offense could confront defenses with in 2018. It’s one that has been overlooked so far, for a variety of reasons.

The what-if personnel pairing is Allen Robinson and Kevin White as the outside receivers, a tandem that would put two 6-foot-3 wide receivers at the disposal of quarterback Mitch Trubisky. The Bears have not had a tandem of effective big receivers since Alshon Jeffery (6-3) and Brandon Marshall (6-4) averaged a combined 159 catches per year from 2012-14.

White’s injury history has relegated him to found-money status in many evaluations, and he has typically been running at Robinson’s spot while the latter was rehabbing this offseason from season-ending knee injury.

But Nagy on Wednesday cited Robinson’s ability to play multiple positions and clearly raised the prospect of his two of his biggest receivers being on the field at the same time.

“The one thing you’ll see here in this offense is that we have guys all over the place in different spots,” said Nagy, who credited GM Ryan Pace with stocking the roster with options at wide receiver. “Ryan did a great job of looking at these certain free agents that we went after, some of these draft picks that we went after and getting guys that are football smart, they have a high football IQ and they’re able to play multiple positions.

“When you can do that, that helps you out as an offensive playcaller to be able to move guys around. Is it going to happen to every single receiver that comes into this offense? No. But we do a pretty job I feel like at balancing of where they’re at position wise, what they can and can’t handle, and then we try to fit them into the process.”

The organization and locker room can be excused for a collective breath-holding on White, who has gone through his third straight positive offseason but whose last two seasons ended abruptly with injuries in the fourth and first games of the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

White was leading the Bears in with 19 receptions through less than four full games in 2016, then was lost with a fractured fibula suffered against Detroit. The injury was all the crueler coming in a game in which White already had been targeted nine times in 41 snaps and had caught six of those Brian Hoyer passes.

White’s roster status has been open to some question with the signings of Robinson and Taylor Gabriel together with the drafting of Anthony Miller. All represent bigger deep threats in terms of average yards per catch than White (9.2 ypc.) at this point: Robinson, 14.1.; Gabriel, 15.1; and Miller, 13.8 (college stats).

But Trubisky’s budding chemistry with White was evident throughout the offseason. And the second-year quarterback has studied what Robinson has been and seen some of what he can be.

“We know he has great hands, he’ll go up and get it,” Trubisky said. “Explosive route-runner. The more reps we get, it’s all about repetitions for us, continue to build that chemistry. Just going against our great defense in practice is going to allow us to compete and get better.”

Folding in the expectations for an expanded presence at tight end (Trey Burton), “targets” will be spread around the offense. How often the Bears go with a Robinson-White “twin towers” look clearly depends in large measure on White’s improvement as well as his availability.

Opportunities will be there. The Kansas City Chiefs ran 51 percent of their 2018 snaps, with Nagy as offensive coordinator, in “11” personnel (one back, one tight end, three receivers, according to Pro Football Focus. Whether White earns his way into that core nickel-wideout package opposite Robinson is part of what training camp and preseason will determine.

“[White] has had a good offseason and just like our team, he needs to carry that momentum into camp,” Pace said. “He’s playing with a lot of confidence right now, he’s very focused. The real expectation, just be the best he can be. Focus on himself, which is what he’s been doing.”