Even Steve Perry Has Stopped Believin' in the White Sox
by Scott Long
In another example of how fast a baseball team can fall-apart, the White Sox and Astros are facing each other in inner-league play this weekend. These 2 squads have went from playing each other in the 2005 World Series to appearing like Central division also-rans.
The past month for both teams has been brutal, with the Astros losing 16 of 21, while the White Sox have lost 11 of 13. If you thought the White Sox were going to be good or not in 2007, the way they are tanking has to be a surprise to you. The team's lack of offense is pretty remarkable, as only Jim Thome is a plus player this season at the plate. For almost the whole team to have career low type numbers at this point of the year is striking (out) for a veteran team.
The bullpen was a bit of mystery going into the year, but it has been a disaster since the beginning of May. The White Sox have had a major turnover in the pen, with only Bobby Jenks left from the World Championship team. With the downward direction the team has gone, you would think that GM Kenny Williams must have really whiffed in the past off-season. Amazingly, the moves he made look good.
Traded Brandon McCarthy for John Danks and Nick Masset. 21 year-old Danks has been solid so far, with a 4.35 ERA. Masset has had his moments, as well.
McCarthy has been knocked around with a 6.35 ERA. He needs to pitch in a park where the fences are deep. (He's a solid 3 at PETCO). So far, his Ballpark in Arlington ERA is 7.80.
Sent Freddy Garcia to the Phillies for Gio Gonzalez and Gavin Floyd. Gonzalez is the Sox top minor league pitcher. Garcia has a 5.90 ERA.
David Aardsma has self-destructed with the rest of Sox bullpen since May, but he seems to have a bigger upside than Neal Cotts, who the Cubs got in return for him.
Andrew Sisco for Ross Gload. Sisco is one of those hard-throwing players that despite averaging a strikeout per inning, can't keep from walking batters. Considering he is only 24, I would still take him over a solid bench player in Gload.
Darin Erstad was signed as a free-agent. Erstad lacks the OBP skills to be a lead-off hitter. Just to give you an idea of how bad the Sox hitting has been, before he went on the DL, only Thome and Konerko had a better OBP in the team's regular lineup than Erstad. For the discount price that Williams paid, Erstad has been as good as they could of expected.
So far it would appear that the White Sox gave up little, whlle managing to dump a big contract (Garcia's) and in return picked up 40% of their 2008 starting rotation (Danks and Gonzalez). Signed a solid veteran centerfielder for 1 million bucks (Erstad) who has been the only true stolen base threat on the team. Dealt players who didn't fit into the Sox future for high potential power arms.
As bad as the offense has been, the White Sox real trouble is trying to get from their quality starting pitching to their top-notch closer in Jenks. This is where Williams made his biggest mistake, as he doesn't have one consistent veteran arm in the bullpen. In 2005, the Sox bullpen featured 4 relievers 30 year-old or better in Dustin Hermanson, Cliff Politte, Damaso Marte, and Luis Vizcaino. Unlike these 4 relievers, the only 2 veteran pitchers the Sox had on their 2007 staff are Matt Thornton and Mike MacDougal, who have both spent most of their careers struggling to find the plate.
The 2007 White Sox have needed a couple of solid veteran relievers to stabilize their pen, but there was no Orosco/Stanton types on the roster. Sure it is great to have young, low-cost bullpen like the Twins or A's, but even these teams have a Nathan or Embree who provide a real veteran presence. This point might not be very sabermetrical, but to be successful in the long-term, some veteran presence is needed most in the bullpen.
Update on Danica Patrick. While she is in the news for getting in a verbal tiff with Dan Wheldon, the real attention should be on an actual successful female athlete. I'm not talking about Justine Henin, who is set to win her 3rd straight French Open. I'm shallow. Who I am talking about honoring is her opponent, Ana Ivanovic. The Serbian Ivanovic dispatched of Maria Sharapova in the semis. If you haven't seen her, I recommend it, as she is the hottest quality female athlete I've seen since Katarina Witt. Yummy.