White Sox

Notre Dame by the numbers


Notre Dame by the numbers

A month into its season, Notre Dame couldn't have asked for a better start. A 4-0 record and No. 9 ranking in the AP poll represent the program's best beginning to a season in a decade, and that success is the product of two big-picture keys: Fewer turnovers by the offense, and suffocating play by the defense.

Breaking that down a little further, here are six numbers to know about Notre Dame through four games:

4: Number of big (30 yards) plays allowed

Only three FBS teams have allowed fewer explosive plays than Notre Dame, and only one of those defenses -- Florida -- has done it against an equally difficult schedule. The Irish defense has allowed three plays of 30-39 yards and only one play for over 40, so it's no surprise Notre Dame is allowing just 0.15 points per play, the sixth-best average among FBS programs.

2: Red zone touchdowns allowed

Keeping in mind Notre Dame's ability to limit big plays, the defense's ability to limit red zone touchdowns stands out even more. Irish opponents have reached the red zone 10 times, scoring just a pair of touchdowns and kicking four field goals. This is a defense that plays well between the 20s, but buckles down in the red zone. Only TCU has allowed fewer red zone touchdowns this year (1).

9: Average points allowed

Only Alabama (7) and TCU (7.3) have averaged fewer points allowed, and both those teams haven't faced the kind of schedule Notre Dame has. Regardless, though, Alabama has the best defense in the country, but Notre Dame's firmly in the next tier below the Tide.

13: Turnovers forced

Last year, Notre Dame's defense recovered six fumbles and intercepted eight passes in 12 games. Through four games in 2012, the Irish defense has recovered five fumbles and intercepted eight passes, with five of those interceptions coming against Michigan Sept. 22.

Statistically speaking, Notre Dame has been lucky in terms of generating interceptions. College football stat guru Bill Connelly's research shows about 21.9 percent of passes defended (passes broken up interceptions) are picked off; Notre Dame has defended 21 passes and picked off 8 for a rate of 38 percent.

But it's not all luck that's led to those interceptions -- the strong play of Notre Dame's front seven has led to plenty of hurried or forced throws from opposing quarterbacks, leading to that high interception rate. Instead, it's a combination of Notre Dame getting a little lucky, but also making a lot of their luck through its pass rush.

4: Turnovers committed

And here's the biggest reason why Notre Dame is 4-0: Notre Dame turned the ball over 15 times through four games in 2012 en route to a 2-2 record, but over the same span this year the Irish have a 9 turnover margin.

"My wife even talks to me when I'm plus 9," coach Brian Kelly joked after the Michigan game, "which didn't happen much last year."

28: S&P ranking for Notre Dame's offense

In a nutshell, S&P (via Football Outsiders) measures the success and explosiveness of every play an offense runs or a defense faces. It's a pretty good catch-all that's adjusted for strength of schedule, and Notre Dame's offense actually rates pretty well by it.

Nobody's mistaking Notre Dame's offense for Geno Smith's outrageous West Virginia attack. But thanks to a solid run game headlined by Theo Riddick, Cierre Wood and George Atkinson III, the Irish offense can hold its own, especially given how few turnovers it's committed.

The S&P metric gives a lot of credit to Notre Dame's tough schedule, as their unadjusted numbers rank 76th in the country. Consider, too, that Notre Dame's doing it with a freshman quarterback who hasn't been able to ease into anything.

In short: Notre Dame's offense may not be as bad as it seems. That's the good news. The bad news, though, is Notre Dame's schedule doesn't ease up until early November, so chances are they'll be locked in plenty of close defensive battles as the season progresses.

White Sox promoting Omar Vizquel to manager of Double-A affiliate


White Sox promoting Omar Vizquel to manager of Double-A affiliate

LAS VEGAS — Omar Vizquel’s first year as manager of the Class A Winston-Salem Dash was such a success he is receiving a promotion inside the White Sox organization.

NBC Sports Chicago has learned that Vizquel will manage the Double-A Birmingham Barons in 2019.

In 2018, his first season as a manager at any level, Vizquel was named the Carolina League’s manager of the year after leading the Dash to a first-half title and an 84-54 record.

Vizquel, 51, oversaw the development of many of the White Sox top prospects last season, including Dylan Cease, Luis Robert, Blake Rutherford, Micker Adolfo, Luis Gonzalez, Gavin Sheets and Nick Madrigal. Many if not all of those players have either already made it to Birmingham or will likely find their way there next season, and Vizquel will be there to lead them once again.

Having a manager who played winning baseball at the major league level and can share that experience with the White Sox farmhands is a huge bonus for the rebuild. Vizquel made the postseason six times with the Cleveland Indians, reaching the World Series in 1995 and 1997.

And thanks to his leadership, he helped create a winning culture with the Dash.

“It didn’t matter that it was the minor leagues. That team was something else,” White Sox pitching prospect Zach Thompson said on a recent edition of the White Sox Talk Podcast. “I think that team is a sign of what we’re doing with the White Sox organization. I think it’s a sign of what’s to come for us. That team clicked. Everyone was best friends. We all got along.”

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Ken Williams says White Sox have transitioned to a more aggressive role: 'We're looking at all possibilities now'

Ken Williams says White Sox have transitioned to a more aggressive role: 'We're looking at all possibilities now'

LAS VEGAS — When the White Sox embarked on their rebuild at the Winter Meetings two years ago with the trades of Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, this was an offseason that couldn’t come soon enough: The transition from sell mode to buy mode.

Last winter, they remained on the sidelines, patiently waiting for their time to arrive: “We expect things to be a lot more interesting a year from now,” Rick Hahn said last year in Orlando.

Here we are one year later, in Las Vegas of all places, and the White Sox are angling to hit the jackpot by signing a big-name free agent who could take the franchise to the next level.

“We transitioned from the sell mode of years past now to a more aggressive role, and we’re looking at all possibilities now,” White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams said Monday. “We’re trying to build it back up. We’re still probably a year away from bringing the bulk of our prospects into the fold, but the opportunities that present themselves now warrant us dipping our foot in the water, seeing if we can accelerate that.”

The two big-name free agents who fit that description are Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Even with one of the best farm systems in baseball and a few of their top young players already in the majors, signing either one of these two perennial All Stars would plant a giant flag at Guaranteed Rate Field, signaling to the rest of the baseball world that the White Sox mean business.

How important would it be for the White Sox to have a face-of-the-franchise type player who could not only bring victories to the win column but more fans to the ballpark?

“If it’s a guy who can play and the right guy and he fits economically into today and tomorrow, then I think it’s a great thing. The answer is obvious,” Williams said. “If you develop people or you acquire people who fans like and will come out and want to see, that even helps the cause to a greater degree because, what does it do? It gives you more revenue, it gives you more resources that you can then try to improve the team even more.”

How much will the White Sox be able to improve the team this winter? That’s a big question mark. Signing free agents is a two-way street. The White Sox can easily sell their future. Most White Sox fans have bought in from the very beginning, but Williams says the team has some heavy lifting ahead to fully cement their faith in the rebuild.

“It’s building, but ultimately, you’ve got to prove it to White Sox fans,” Williams said. “We know that, and that’s what we’re setting out to try to do. We’re trying to earn their patience. It takes a while sometimes.”

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