Bulls

Kaplan: Inconsistent bats need to pick it up for Southsiders

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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.

Kris Dunn thinks Zach LaVine could be 'a good defender in this league'

Kris Dunn thinks Zach LaVine could be 'a good defender in this league'

We all know what Zach LaVine is capable of doing on the offensive side of things. But what about his defense?

It's no secret that LaVine has had his fair share of struggles on defense, but Kris Dunn thinks highly of his 23-year-old teammate and what his potential is at the other end.

"On the defensive end I just told him, 'You're as fast as me. You're more athletic than me. There's no way you shouldn't be a good defender in this league. You could be one of those guys who could be dynamic in the passing lanes because you're so athletic and fast.'" Dunn said of LaVine. "And personally, I like to score. If you get in a passing lane, that's a dunk for yourself and because you've got so much bounce that's when you get the crowd on their feet — maybe do a windmill, a 360, something.

"But I think he's been going a good job on the defensive end. It's not going to be easy. We all got to learn and I think we're all trying."

Improving his defense would obviously be a big step forward for LaVine (and the Bulls), and he knows it. 

“I think I had a lot better focus on the defensive end,” LaVine said when assessing his preseason. “I had some mistakes too, but I wanted to go out there and just really hone in on being more focused down there. I felt like I did OK with that. Still some areas I want to get better at, definitely off-the-ball I think I did a lot better than I had before.’’

LaVine and the Bulls travel to Philadelphia to face the 76ers on Thursday night in their season opener. You can watch Bulls Pre- and Postgame Live on NBC Sports Chicago before and after the game for highlights and analysis.

Beware of the Attack of the Lower Seeds

Beware of the Attack of the Lower Seeds

With the upcoming IHSA football playoff pairings announcement on Saturday night, here are some teams with modest win-loss records who opponents probably wouldn’t want to see in the early rounds of the postseason.

Loyola Academy (5-3): The Ramblers have struggled this season. But head coach John Holocek has, once again, led his team to the state playoff field. So what gives? Loyola has been inconsistent on offense and has turned the football over way too often. The team has also been dealing with various injuries. But the defense (minus a 35-3 loss to Brother Rice) has generally played well this season. If the Ramblers can clean up the turnovers and find a way to get their offense back in a rhythm, this team can undoubtedly surprise some teams along the way in Class 8A. 

Neuqua Valley (5-3): The Wildcats and head coach Bill Ellinghaus have dropped three tight games this season including a last possession, 21-14 decision to DuPage Valley Conference champion Naperville Central two weeks ago. If the Wildcats can continue to get steady production from a balanced offense, led by RB Will Cheviliar and QB John Gronowski, the defense is capable of keeping Neuqua Valley in every game this postseason.

Aurora Christian (5-3): Coach Dave Beebe’s Eagles have lost to three playoff-bound teams this season with a combined 21-3 record (IC Prep, St. Francis and Bishop McNamara). They have a potent spread-passing attack led by sophomore QB Ethan Hampton. Aurora Christian is also slated to wind up in the Class 1A bracket on pairings night. Their dynamic offense and passing game in general could be a tough matchup for opponents in, what usually is, Class 1A North bracket with teams that generally run the ball.

Barrington (5-3): The Broncos, under head coach Joe Sanchez, have also been dealing with a rash of mid-season injuries; that said, it looks like Barrington is getting healthy at the right time. Junior QB Tommy Fitzpatrick is back from injury and is a key catalyst for any Barrington postseason run. Fitzpatrick has weapons in junior WR EJ Darlington and senior RB Michael Curran. 

Lake Zurich (5-3): The Bears made a starting quarterback change last week as Jack Moses took the reins. He promptly led the Bears to a 42-0 win over Mundelein. If the Bears can limit turnovers and continue to get strong production from their offense, the L-Z defense is more than capable of making life very difficult for any higher seeds that they could draw in the 7A state playoff field. 

Edwardsville (5-3): The Tigers hit a rough patch starting the season with a 1-3 record. But they currently boast a four-game winnings streak heading into Friday night’s tilt at Collinsville. Edwardsville is led by senior QB Kendall Abdur Rahman (Notre Dame) and is a gamebreaker every time he touches the football. Sophomore RB Justin Johnson (and the team in general) possesses a ton of speed. There are athletes and playmakers on both sides of the football. 

Here are some more lower seeds who could wreak havoc:

Providence Catholic (5-3): If the Celtics can get their running game going, beware. 

Raby (5-3): The Raiders could be a handful in 4A.

St. Charles East (4-4): The Saints’ power-option game is always tough to defend. 

Joliet Catholic (4-4): IF the Hilltoppers can beat Notre Dame on Friday, they could be a very tough out in 5A.

Crystal Lake South (5-3): A huge offensive line leads the way for the Gators. 

Zion-Benton (4-4): The Zee-Bees can put as much talent on the field than most of their opponents. 

Lemont (4-4): Needs a win Friday over rival Oak Forest. If the offense can keep the chains moving, the Indians’ defense can do the rest. 

Crete-Monee (5-3): They are the Southland conference champs. Their first two losses in 2018? Lincoln-Way East (8-0) and Brother Rice (8-0).

Thornton (4-4): The Wildcats will need to upset Lincoln Way Central Friday. Thornton always has talent.