White Sox

Random News of the Day: Don't call it a comeback

Random News of the Day: Don't call it a comeback

Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010
11:05 AM

By Joe Collins
CSNChicago.com

When it comes to NFL knockout pools, almost all of us are tomato cans. We are has-beens. We are no-names. Heck, maybe you were even called a "never-was" or a "never-will-be" at some point. We are there just to fill out the lot so that somebody else can run off with the money, title and glory. We get suckered into participating because of the illusion of money. Then, when our team doesn't win, we smash our Ikea coffee tables and punt the remote off the back porch. We're just not fully equipped to go 12 rounds in NFL's boxing ring.

Well, either that or we're just not lucky. Right?

How many of you are in an NFL knockout pool? Better yet: how many of you are still standing after Week (Round) 3? If you are not familiar with what a knockout pool is: it's a survival game, of sorts, where each participantplayer selects one team per week to win an NFL game. If your team wins? Great! You survive until the following week. If your team loses, you go Clark Griswold and punch the nearest stuffed animal and then wait to make your donation to next year's pot. Some pools have rules stating that you can't pick the same team in back to back weeks. Some pools go as far as saying once you pick a certain team you can't pick them again the rest of the year. There are even others where you can't pick a favorite with a point spread of seven or greater. Talk about the risk of hitting the canvas early on, you know?

It seems like everyone has a little system for picking a team in a knockout or survivor pool. What about you? Is there a set of rules or hunches that most of us can agree on? Here is my list of knockout rules that I abide by on a (semi) regular basis:

Never pick a team that's playing in front of a national audience: I always flash back to what a conference room full of executives would look like at, say, NBC when they pick their Sunday Night game lineup: "We simply cannot have a matchup like (contending team in small market) going up against (chump in a top 10 market) ever again! We lost so many eyeballs in the third quarter. Look at these numbers! And who got this catering order all screwed up? Where are those interns?" Anyway, TV executives want the absolute best matchups for prime time, nationally televised games. Trust me, these guys do their homework in finding the best possible matchups that don't result in blowouts. Plus, I would think that these games impact players a lot more than the noon Sunday games: "We better bring it! We're playing in the spotlight tonight!" The atmosphere is just too intense to put all of your faith into one game. Plus, a national spotlight gives the would-be "lesser" team a chance to shine. How many of you picked San Diego over Kansas City in Week 1? Look at all the warning signals in that game: Kinda-sorta-good-yet-untested team (SD) playing (1) on the road, (2) on national TV, (3) against a team with a crappy record in 2009 that's (4) looking to break out and has (5) a crazy fan base (6) who doesn't mind watching a game in a monsoon. You know what happened next.

Never pick a team that's playing against a "new" quarterback: I went against the grain on my own theory and nearly had an ulcer in the third quarter Sunday afternoon. Seriously, did any of you have a funny feeling that Ryan Fitzpatrick would help hang 30 on a New England team in Foxborough? Or that dinosaur Seneca Wallace would hang with a Ravens team with a venus fly trap-like defense in their home opener? I went with the Ravens and nearly fainted. To me, any team that look for a "spark" with their second-string quarterback (by choice or by circumstance with injuries to Plan A) have nothing to lose. Too many wacky things can happen.

Never pick the team that you cheer for on a regular basis: Having a random team let you down in a knockout pool is one thing. But having the team you love break your heart in a money-based knockout pool is tantamount to football's version of the show Cheaters. It's not going to end well. I can just see Joey Greco coming up to you after your team lost: "We know where your team is right now. If you want to confront that team, it is up to you."

Seek out the angry teams and make them your friend: I wish I had the huevos to pick the Cowboys in knockout this past weekend but I just couldn't pull the trigger. Let's face it, a team is better when its back is up against the wall. Think about it, if you're at work and you get called out in your supervisor's office for being a lazy mail-it-inner who is constantly updating your Facebook status with things like, "What am I going to eat at Arby's today?" or "UGH, I am having the worst day ev-errrr! LOL ROFL OMG BRB K", you should come out of that meeting a little more focused. The Dallas Cowboys were in that office after losing to the Bears. If they were to fall to 0-3, they cease to exist. Jerry Jones would have turned them all into hummus. They HAD to win in Week 3. And the Texans were ripe for a letdown anyway. Sure enough: Dallas 27, Houston 13.

Never pick a team in any bitter rivalry: Like the wobbly punt that is coming your way, you just have to think "GET AWAY! GET AWAY!" to picking knockout teams that play in games like: Bears-Packers, Jets-Patriots, Steelers-Browns, Redskins-Cowboys, Eagles-Giants, Eagles-Redskins (or heck, any NFC East matchup for that matter). Just say no! Again, too many wacky things can happen.

If you dare pick a road team, you better know something we don't: Home-field advantage doesn't really carry the same weight it used to. NFL stadiums all look the same now. The crowd noise is the same, the insults are the same (except maybe in Philly), the layout is similar ... etc. There just isn't that intimidation factor. So how does this theory come into play: if you dare pick, say, Arizona to go across the country to beat, say, Jacksonville, kudos for having big brass ones. This all is kind of an offshoot to another rule I have: never pick a road team to win that has to travel through more than two time zones to get to the game.

There are other crazy rules in pools like this that make us think we're knockout savants, like: Never take a team that's going up against a top-10 defense (no matter what the records are), never take a team that flunks the turnover ratio, never take the Detroit Lions in any scenario, look for home teams against non-divisional foes in the same conference ... etc. It just gets delirious after a while. Bottom line, we know nothing. If we did, we would all have won we would have built our own "knockout pool" in the Caribbean, only we'd be swimming in it with margarita in hand. It's an inexact science. And maybe that's what make NFL knockout pools so much fun. We think we have everything figured out and then something comes along (Miami beating Minnesota in the dome for instance) that makes us want to go Mike Tyson on the entertainment center.

The closest I have ever come to winning a knockout pool was 16th (out of a pool of over 300). So, you're not exactly getting 1-800 number advice here. But the minutiae of every mental rule and detail when it comes to pools like this is nothing short of fascinating. Our wallets are gluttons for punishment. We get knocked out every year and come back hungrier.

Because this might be the year that we end up getting the dough to buy a new coffee table.

Right?

Or something like that.

Joe Collins is an assignment desk editor for Comcast SportsNet and contributor to CSNChicago.com.

A deeper look at why Yoan Moncada is off to a hot start this season

moncada-419.jpg
USA TODAY

A deeper look at why Yoan Moncada is off to a hot start this season

Yoan Moncada continued his hot start to the season with a leadoff home run in Detroit on Friday.

He finished with two hits and a bases-loaded walk in a 7-3 White Sox win.

Moncada’s base numbers are all up this season. He is hitting .325 with a 1.002 OPS and a team-leading six home runs. Beyond that, a deeper look at the numbers show why Moncada’s production is up.

Moncada didn’t show much, if any, improvement in 2018 from 2017. Most of his numbers across the board were similar or slightly worse.

Moncada was patient at the plate, but maybe too patient in his first two seasons with the White Sox. He led the majors with 217 strikeouts last season and 85 of those were strikeouts looking. So far this season, Moncada is yet to strikeout looking.

This season, Moncada is swinging at more pitches both in the strike zone and overall, which is leading to a lower strikeout rate. A look at the advanced stats from FanGraphs shows Moncada swung at 63.9 percent of pitches in the zone in both 2017 and 2018 (these numbers are before Friday's game). That number is up to 69.1 percent this season. On top of that, Moncada is making more contact on those swings on pitches in the zone (up to 86.5 percent this season after 77.5 percent in 2017 and 79.8 percent in 2018).

His strikeout rate (32 percent in 2017, 33.4 percent in 2018) is way down at 24.1 percent. Strikeouts were the biggest red flag for Moncada last year. By being more aggressive this season, Moncada has been able to cut way down on that number.

His power has gone way up as well. He already has 12 extra base hits (in 82 plate appearances) and his home run on Friday was an absolute bomb. Moncada took it deep for 458 feet. That’s the longest White Sox home run of the season and is tied for the eighth longest home run in the majors this season.


He later showed that despite being more aggressive, he still has that plate discipline that was such a big part of what made him a coveted prospect in the first place. He drew a five-pitch bases loaded walk in which he did not swing the bat.

No matter how it's happening, Moncada’s turnaround has been one of the most important things in the young White Sox season.

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It's safe to say Kyle Hendricks has figured 'it' out

It's safe to say Kyle Hendricks has figured 'it' out

It was only a matter of time before Kyle Hendricks figured it all out. 

It appears Friday was that day. 

The 29-year-old right-hander was off to a slow start to the season, surrendering 24 hits and 8 earned runs in 13.1 innings across his first three starts, good for a 5.40 ERA and 2.18 WHIP. 

Things looked a little better last time out — only 2 earned runs allowed on 6 hits in 5 innings last Saturday against the Angels — but even after that start, Hendricks admitted he still feels like he's fighting himself and searching for his fastball command.

"You can't rush it," he said after that outing. "You can't rush the process. But it definitely gets frustrating. I need to do a better job and give the team a better chance to win when I'm out there regardless. And set a better tone — be more aggressive with my fastball and set a better tone for the game. You want it to come quick, but at least I'm seeing something, so I just gotta stick with what I'm doing."

Whatever he was seeing with his mechanics came to pass in Friday afternoon's 5-1 Cubs win, as he completely baffled the Diamondbacks in a brilliant performance — 7 shutout innings, permitting only 3 singles while striking out 11. It was his first double-digit strikeout game since he whiffed 12 Cardinals on Aug. 13, 2016 en route to his ERA title that season.

"Yeah, like I said, you kinda always want it to come, but I didn't think it was gonna come this quick," Hendricks admitted after Friday's game. "So to go out and make that many good pitches, yeah it helps the confidence a lot. It solidifies the things we've been working on, so I just told the guys this was just one good day, so tomorrow, gotta get right back at it with another good work day and hopefully get on a roll here."

It was also the Cubs' third straight appearance from a starting pitcher of 7 shutout innings, after Cole Hamels and Jose Quintana turned the trick in the final two games in Miami earlier in the week.

The one pitch Hendricks felt good about last time out — his changeup — was his bread and butter Friday, too. He threw it 30 times out of his 100 pitches and induced 8 swings and misses.

"That was kinda classic Kyle," Joe Maddon said. "Great changeup, again. A lot of called strikes, pitching on the edges. ... That first inning or so, still seeking and then once he found it, he got into a nice groove."

Part of the success of the changeup was due to Hendricks' command with his fastball, which he apparently figured out — for one start, at least. He threw 66 percent of his pitches for strikes throughout the game and 35 of his 56 fastballs went for strikes. 

"From the get-go, I just felt more comfortable in my mechanics, so it just freed everything up," Hendricks said. "From there, I just used my fastball a lot better — kinda like what I was talking about. Fastball command and just establishing it early. Everything else worked off that and it just had good action today. Kept it down, made a lot of good pitches, so it worked out."

Hendricks even saw 17 pitches at the plate despite an 0-for-4 performance, as the Cubs offense put 19 runners on base throughout the course of the afternoon.

However, his day was not without negatives. He took a 110 mph liner off the left leg in the seventh inning, but stayed in the game and finished off the last two hitters he faced.

He also snapped his fascinating personal streak, as he threw his first wild pitch since Sept. 5, 2016 — a span of 6,662 pitches:

"I had no idea; I came in the clubhouse and someone brought that to my attention," Hendricks said, laughing. "Time to start a new streak."

In all, Hendricks picked up his first win of 2019 and lowered his season ERA to 3.54 and WHIP to 1.67 with his performance. He also helped pitch his team back to the .500 level (9-9) for the first time since the opening weekend of the season.

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