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No more excuses. If the Jays want to get back in this, they have to make a statement on this seven-game homestand against two division leaders. First on the chopping block are Ozzie's boys, led by their surprisingly competent starting rotation - and a surprising choice of leadoff hitter.

The White Sox are 14-12, tops in the AL Central.

Tonight's matchup pits two mainstays of the all-advance scout team against one another: Shaun Marcum and Mark Buehrle. Watch this game. What is there to say about Buehrle that isn't common knowledge? He works very quickly. (In case you blinked during either of those games last year). There is very little white space in his pitch-fx plots, which indicates that he's really good at changing speeds and spins on all his pitches to keep hitters off balance. He's got a fastball, slider, change, curve, and I'm pretty sure there's a cutter in there too which the pitch-fx identifying robot seems to split among the sinkers and sliders. That, or Buehrle's sinker breaks in a ton of different directions. Either way, it's Buehrle - who really cares about identifying pitch types? He's also adept at locking down the running game: in 1657.2 career innings, only 78 baserunners have dared try to steal a base against Buehrle. They are 32-for-78. Buehrle is off to a decent start this year - his stats are all inflated by his first start of the year, in which he got pounded at the Jake to the tune of 7 earned runs in 1.2 innings. He has a 3.67 ERA since, with 7 walks and 15 strikeouts. He is owned by Vernon Wells (.500/.533/.692 in 29 PA), and Shannon Stewart too (.378/.452/.541 in 42 PA) but he owns Eckstein, Rios, Stairs, Barajas, Overbay (0/9 5 K 0 BB), and McDonald.

Tomorrow, it's the breakout star of the Sox rotation: John Danks. Danks is a 23-year-old Austinite sophomore lefty who just sounds like he should be a Texas Ranger. Naturally, the Rangers swapped him for "Tall" Brandon McCarthy, and even threw in sinker-specialist long man Nick Masset too. Say what you will about Kenny Williams, but he's got guts, he's unafraid to deal with bright GMs, and he's certainly hosed his fair share of teams. Where was I? Danks. Pretty hard-throwing lefty in the low 90s. He was a big flyball pitcher last year, but he's in the mid-40s this year. Someone should buzz him with a liner as retribution for what he did to Lyle Overbay's hand last year. Danks' money pitch is a change. In spring training, Ozzie and Danks agreed that Danks can rely too heavily on the change, and he's worked on throwing more cutters this year. The pitch-fx machine thinks he's got a pretty good cutter, just erratic: sometimes it cuts like a knife, and sometimes it cuts like safety scissors. Danks also has a hard curveball to keep hitters honest.

Sunday, it's a battle of efficient contact machines, as Roy Halladay looks to continue his complete game streak against Jose Contreras. Like Andy Sonnanstine (Contreras' #5 pitch-fx comp), though much more liberally, Contreras plays with arm angles, which creates all kinds of funky movement on his fastball and slider, which aren't particularly overpowering on their own. His out pitch - a slow mid-70s forkball - is overpowering. Contreras is good at resolving at-bats quickly. He's got a 3.6 P/PA this year, after posting a 3.5 in 2007. I'm not really sure if that's got more to do with Contreras being aggressive or hitters being aggressive, though. Over his career, when Contreras has had hitters 0-2, they've hit .167/.196/.232 and struck out 42.1% of the time. That's how nasty the splitter is. Yet Contreras only has a 17.1% career K rate. So, maybe Conteras' quick resolution isn't really a function of him pitching to contact so much as hitters hitting to contact when Contreras throws strikes. Who knows? Most Jays have weak career numbers against Contreras, who owns a 3.51 career ERA in 41 innings against Toronto.

Monday, it's Chicago's other ace: widely underappreciated strikeout artist Javier Vazquez. Vazquez is 31 and coming off a strong 2007 season, in which he posted a 3.74 ERA, 6.8 innings a start, and a 15-8 record in front of a pretty pathetic offense, as a flyball pitcher in one of the more claustropobic parks in the AL. Vazquez's fastball is usually around 92. He possesses two solid strikeout pitches in his curve and change, as pitch-fx attests. Vazquez's curve sits in the low 70s with nasty break in two directions. His change is about as close to a true Bugs Bunny change as anyone's. (Call me a traditionalist, Bugs' off-speed pitch had very little downward movement.) It's about 10 mph slower than the heater, and it moves exactly like the fastball. So there will be K's. Vazquez has only given up 1 homer despite his flyball tendencies. The odds of him giving up 6 or fewer this year if he stays healthy are... not good.

Chicago's bullpen has undergone a minor overhaul, as they brought in righties Scott Linebrink and Octavio Dotel to improve Bobby Jenks' setup brigade. They buried funky sidewinder Ehren Wassermann in AAA, where he's rattled off a 7.2-inning no-hit streak as Charlotte's closer, forcing the Sox to admit the error of their ways and call him back up. Meanwhile, everyone's idea of excitement, hard-throwing lefty Matt Thornton, has shot out of the gates. I don't see Linebrink as any kind of savior, but Kenny Williams seems to have assembled a pretty respectable bullpen here. Wassermann should probably be deployed in high-leverage situations, Neshek-style, but Ozzie Guillen is a pretty good handler of pitchers. He'll probably sort things out.

Nick Swisher is the leadoff man. He may not be your idea of Ozzie Guillen's idea of a prototypical leadoff hitter, but Ozzie (a very underrated manager in my view) appreciates the value of on-base percentage. "You have a leadoff hitter who can run, that's a plus," Guillen said. "But to be a leadoff hitter, you've got to get on base. You can't steal first. I'd rather be a guy who gets on base. [Swisher is] hitting [.261] and all of a sudden he gets on base six times in a row by walks, and we need people on base when you have [ Orlando] Cabrera and [ Jim] Thome behind you. You get on base, you're going to score a lot of runs." Swisher's power is MIA despite the Cell factor, which is a mild surprise.

The White Sox anticipated using Danny Richar as their everyday second baseman this year, but he's been out since March with a rib injury. In his place, competent fielder Juan Uribe and Cuban rookie Alexei Ramirez have made a lot of outs, earning the cherished title of Co-Whipping Boys. Ozzie is standing up for Uribe, though: "We are where we are because of Uribe's defense. Uribe deserves and earned to be playing right now. There are other guys struggling at the plate. Obviously it looks uglier when he's struggling up there, but give the kid a break..." In fact, Uribe doesn't have to hit at all to be a key contributor to the Sox: "Maybe a lot of people believe in offense - that's their problem." Uh, careful what you wish for maybe? Chicago is third in the AL in runs per game with 4.96. Only Detroit and Oakland are better.

Finally, from a bullpen-management perspective, it's worth noting that this lineup leans substantially to the right. There are two lefties on the 25-man roster, Jim Thome and A.J. Pierzynski, and they might start all four games. The bench is entirely righthanded: Ramirez, Toby Hall, Brian Anderson and Pablo Ozuna. I can't picture any of those guys batting for Thome or Pierzynski with the game on the line. What does all this mean? It means this series screams out for massive LOOGYage in any game that looks like it might be close at some point. With four lefties in the pen, and the knowledge that there are no pinch-hitters on the bench (unless one of the regulars sits), the Jays can afford to play matchups with impunity in the late innings. Also, because of the right-leaning nature of the lineup, if Marcum leaves with an 8-3 lead after seven innings tonight, Brian Tallet should be given the ball to close the game out. Gibby should conserve his righties if he can help it.

The Credit Section: All offensive stats, pitches per PA for pitchers and league average stats are from the Hardball Times. Pitchers' stats and leverage indices are from Fangraphs. Minor-league stats are from Minor League Splits and First Inning. K% and BB% are strikeouts and walks as a percentage of plate appearances; GB% + LD% + FB% = 100. These are 2008 stats, except where noted.

Advance Scout: White Sox, May 2-5 | 38 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Rob - Friday, May 02 2008 @ 06:52 PM EDT (#184243) #
Good stuff.

Konerko sits tonight, for just the third time all year--he apparently has had a sore wrist since Tuesday--but if he's good to go late in the game, extreme LOOGYing should proceed with caution.

It seems pretty safe to say that Swishahouse is the only guy to lead off games at four different defensive positions (1B, outfield) so far this year. In other news, The End of Shannon Stewart's Career is in the 5-hole DHing, leaving only 3, 4, and 9 as un-Stew'd lineup appearances. And we're only 30 games in.
Alex Obal - Friday, May 02 2008 @ 06:53 PM EDT (#184244) #
And BREAKING NEWS!: Alexei Ramirez is likely to miss the series due to visa issues. Righty relief pitcher "Big" Adam Russell will take his place, creating a 13-man pitching staff. He's never pitched in the majors before; look him up on Fangraphs and the search returns this guy.

That is all.

Alex Obal - Friday, May 02 2008 @ 06:54 PM EDT (#184245) #
The End of Shannon Stewart's Career.


CeeBee - Friday, May 02 2008 @ 07:30 PM EDT (#184246) #

"The End of Shannon Stewart's Career."

Prolonged for one more day by a "clutch" 2 RBI single in the first. Anyone else ending a career and likely to feed off the career ending mojo? :)

scottt - Friday, May 02 2008 @ 07:44 PM EDT (#184248) #
Gibbons is relying heavily on pitcher-hitter match ups to build his lineups. It's a huge gamble based on tiny samples. I like it.

I don't know if Wells has ever had a bad game against Bhuerle.  Nobody else has  had much success, so it's a good night to start JohnnyMac. Lind, Overbay, Stairs and Zaun were all good candidates for a night off.  Personally, I would have used Scutaro and saved another left bat for pinch hitting later.

ahitisahit - Friday, May 02 2008 @ 08:32 PM EDT (#184252) #
Could Stairs start at 1B instead of Overbay against Buerhle? Overbay looked like the village idiot in his first 2 at bats.
Mike Green - Friday, May 02 2008 @ 09:15 PM EDT (#184255) #
Nice, Alex. 

The 2008 version of the White Sox offence looks like it was produced by Billy Beane.  Last in the league in batting average and stolen bases, fourth in the league in walks, and leading the league in home runs.  Is Ozzie a karma chameleon?

Matthew E - Friday, May 02 2008 @ 10:05 PM EDT (#184257) #
Marcum had 9 strikeouts tonight! Holy beans.
Mylegacy - Saturday, May 03 2008 @ 12:40 AM EDT (#184260) #

Lefties - we beat one! Sort of... we beat him without scoring one earned run. Oh well, that's better than kissing your sister I guess.

Tomorrow we face Danks, his ERA is 3.00, Buehrle had an ERA of 5.65 - could be we get three unearned runs and win!

I'd rather watch Marcum pitch than any other of our starters. The guy throws nasty sh*t than goes 90 degrees to the left or the right - depending on what he wants to do. I love this guy. He really only had one weakness - the long ball... but he seems to have that under control big time. Quietly - Shaun is becoming an ACE!

tstaddon - Saturday, May 03 2008 @ 01:41 AM EDT (#184262) #
Caught up as we've become with the struggles of the offense, it seems we should all take a moment to commend the work of Brad Arnsberg. Whether it's the development of young pitchers who've had mental or physical obstacles to overcome (McGowan-control/composure; Marcum-stuff/conditioning/long ball tendency; Litsch-stuff/focus) or the resurrection/development of cast-away minor league free agents from other organizations (Downs, Tallet, Carlson, Camp; as well as guys acquired through trades like Accardo and the unheralded Wolfe), it's difficult to find anyone on the staff who hasn't shown improvement under his tutelage. Frasor (cerebral nature/long memory) and League (mechanics/command) being perhaps the only exceptions.

We've won 13 games and it's no reach to say that we won 11 of them because of the guys Arnsberg shepherds. With breathing bats, we could have won 5 more. So well done, sir. Please keep up the good work. We'll need it.
scottt - Saturday, May 03 2008 @ 06:35 AM EDT (#184263) #
Nice pitching. Excellent use of the bullpen. (LOOGY)

A.J. was successful pitching around Manny (2 K, 2BB). Marcum went after everbody.
Mike Green - Saturday, May 03 2008 @ 10:49 AM EDT (#184264) #
Marcum had his great outing despite the after-effects of the flu. He apparently threw up after the first and second innings. I guess that a barf bag won't qualify a pitcher for Legend status the way a bloody sock can. Wrong movie.
SheldonL - Saturday, May 03 2008 @ 11:47 AM EDT (#184266) #
I have no where else to put this ....

Derrick Turnbow just got DFA'ed ... Personally, I think that since we're carrying Camp and Carlson, we can afford to sign this guy to league minimum.
I love our bullpen but you can always stash a guy with great stuff like Turnbow as the 7th guy. I think relievers are more fragile because their current ERA defines them(incorrectly, I believe) and since they throw so few innings, it isn't always a good indicator of how good they are.

We should pick him up ASAP, and while we're at it, let's look for a replacement for Shannon Stewart!
CaramonLS - Saturday, May 03 2008 @ 12:07 PM EDT (#184267) #
Marcum had his great outing despite the after-effects of the flu. He apparently threw up after the first and second innings. I guess that a barf bag won't qualify a pitcher for Legend status the way a bloody sock can. Wrong movie.

Wrong month too ;)

And Marcum wasn't even 100%?  Probably explains why he had to be pulled just after 100 pitches, the stamina was probably way down.

The thing about Marcum is that this was the first game in his career where he worked the curve into his regular rotation of pitches.  He was tossing the 90 MPH heat, the 82-80 MPH change up in every start, but now, even though his hook isn't great or anything, it just comes at the hitters with plenty of movement and a great change of speed.  That thing rolled in there at 75 MPH and completely threw off the hitters.  It was the perfect change of speed/location.  He never threw it more than once in a single AB, but, if you haven't seen it, you aren't going to hit it, even if it isn't that great or ends up in a bad spot.  I think he got 3Ks via the curve, and I doubt that before today he had a single one that I can remember during his MLB career.  Would be amazing if he can keep working it into his regular rotation of pitches.

We might have just seen the evolution of Shaun Marcum tonight as a pitcher.
IceCreamJonsey - Saturday, May 03 2008 @ 02:08 PM EDT (#184270) #
Did anyone catch why Rolen isn't playing today?
Anders - Saturday, May 03 2008 @ 03:19 PM EDT (#184272) #
Rolen had a scheduled day off.

As for Turbow, -  relievers are more fragile because their current ERA defines them(incorrectly, I believe) and since they throw so few innings, it isn't always a good indicator of how good they are.

While this may be true, Turnbow has walked 13 against 5 k's in 6.1 innings this year. The year before he walked 46 in 68 innings, including 28 in 29.1 innings after the ASB. Clearly there is some underlying problem here.
scottt - Saturday, May 03 2008 @ 03:28 PM EDT (#184273) #
That might seem like a funny time to rest Rolen, but Rolen hits right handed pitching better than Scutaro and Scutaro was 2 for 3 against Danks before the game.

I hope that has nothing to do with that bean ball yesterday or any other injury. So far, Rolen is the man.

Gibbons is starting to look good.

greenfrog - Saturday, May 03 2008 @ 03:47 PM EDT (#184274) #
I know several people have commented on this, but I think Gibbons is insane for not using McDonald as a defensive sub. Konerko just grounded one past Eckstein in the 9th (in a save situation)--a play that McDonald may well have made. I'm completely baffled. The Jays have already lost one game because McDonald was left on the bench. One of these days it's going to happen again.

ramone - Saturday, May 03 2008 @ 04:13 PM EDT (#184275) #

I don't know if it's Gibbons doing this, on Wednesdays with JP on the fan Wilner asked JP that exact question, to which JP responded something like we're not paying Eckstein to sit on the bench. 

Ryan Day - Saturday, May 03 2008 @ 04:31 PM EDT (#184276) #
If they're not paying Eckstein to sit on the bench, I wonder why they're paying McDonald at all. 95% of his value is that he plays a really, really good shortstop. If you're not going to use him as a defensive sub, you may as well release him and bring up someone like Inglett, who at least can do a bunch of things, if none of them particularly great. Scutaro can play a functional shortstop and back up Eckstein when needed.
Chuck - Saturday, May 03 2008 @ 05:07 PM EDT (#184277) #

If they're not paying Eckstein to sit on the bench, I wonder why they're paying McDonald at all. 

I am definitely in the camp of playing the better defensive shortstop late in close games. That seems like a no-brainer. Eckstein may look like a 12-year old boy, but he's a grown man in his thirties who would surely understand being pulled for a better defender. Gadzooks, he can't be that sensitive.

I wonder if McDonald would have received the contract he did had Eckstein been signed first. I think he would have been offered much less money to stick around and I imagine Scutaro would never been signed at all (had Eckstein and McDonald already been on the roster).

greenfrog - Saturday, May 03 2008 @ 05:47 PM EDT (#184278) #
Actually I would like to see McDonald start more games at SS as well, but that's another issue. Used strategically, I think he can help the Jays win more games. I don't have the stats to back me up--I could be completely off base--but I'm guessing his defensive prowess outweighs Eckstein's offensive edge when a groundballer like Halladay is on the mound. Especially now that Rolen and Lind are in the lineup to help carry the offense.

I used to think that McDonald might be less stellar when he isn't playing regularly, but his defense has been great this season.
brent - Saturday, May 03 2008 @ 05:48 PM EDT (#184279) #

game 30- WPA heroes Marcum (4)*, Stewart (2), Carlson (4)      let downs Zaun (5), Overbay (6), Lind (3), Rios (7), Hill (9)

game 31- heroes Litsch (2)*, Wells (7)       let downs Stewart (6), Barajas (8)

* means over +-.300

The Jays have gotten three consecutive +.300 games from their starting pitching. Previously, they only had two before that (by Carlson in relief and Halladay).

Mylegacy - Saturday, May 03 2008 @ 08:02 PM EDT (#184281) #

No question - ABSOLUTELY no question - JMac should have replaced the Eckster in the ninth - the hit that got past Eck would have been vacumed up by the Prime Minister.

SECONDLY, we get the bases loaded, they bring in a pitching change - righty in - Lind and Zaun on the bench - both can hit from the left AND Stewart isn't pitch hit for by Lind!!!! What the fourth of July was Gibby thinking? Gibby, that's strike two!

scottt - Saturday, May 03 2008 @ 08:04 PM EDT (#184282) #
Most Jays have weak career numbers against Contreras, who owns a 3.51 career ERA in 41 innings against Toronto.

I'm not sure if that's accurate. Rios, Lind, Overbay, Eckstein and Zaun have BA over .300 and Barajas as a .250 .250 .625 line which I wouldn't call weak.
Small samples, of course, but since Rolen has never faced him, there should only be 3 batters with weak career numbers facing Contreras  in the starting lineup.
Jdog - Saturday, May 03 2008 @ 09:19 PM EDT (#184284) #

You can get mad at Gibby all you want but critizing him for not pulling Stewart for Lind in the early innings with the bases loaded is pretty weak. First of all Stewart had a key 2 out RBI hit yesterday and seems to be getting going somewhat. As promising as Lind looks he is still not giving Gibby a reason to have to throw him up there with his 1 hit so far.


gabrielthursday - Sunday, May 04 2008 @ 04:07 AM EDT (#184289) #
The notable thing about McDonald's defence is that it looks so great next to, not a poor defender, but a pretty good one in Eckstein (okay, league-average, but doing pretty well this year).  It's not like we're comparing him to Derek Jeter.
China fan - Sunday, May 04 2008 @ 07:14 AM EDT (#184290) #

   The Jays pitching staff have allowed just 9 runs in the past 7 games.  If they keep that up, it won't matter if the team's hitting is anemic.   They'll be back in contention very soon.

    It was Burnett and Litsch who worried me a couple weeks ago, but both are on a roll now.   All the team needs now is a bit of improvement from the hitters, especially Overbay and Wells.   And Wells might be already breaking out of his slump.  So there's plenty of reason for optimism. 

scottt - Sunday, May 04 2008 @ 07:22 AM EDT (#184291) #
Also, Accardo lost 3 games in April, something that shouldn't happen in May.

Chuck - Sunday, May 04 2008 @ 07:53 AM EDT (#184292) #
And Wells might be already breaking out of his slump.

All he needs is to face LHP every day.
Jdog - Sunday, May 04 2008 @ 11:47 AM EDT (#184293) #
It sure is nice to see Halladay's turn in the rotation come up after 3 consecutive wins, I don't think that has happened much in the last few years with the 5th starters he had been following.
Mike Green - Sunday, May 04 2008 @ 12:26 PM EDT (#184294) #
The Jays had Rios in scoring position with nobody out in the bottom of the eighth and ahead 5-2.  The Sox had a right-handed pitcher on the mound.  Eckstein was due up, and the Jays had Zaun, Lind and McDonald on the bench.  There is a natural pinch-hit/defensive substitution move there.  Earlier, Eckstein had come up in the sixth inning against Dotel with the bases loaded and one out and the Jays up 2-0, and a pinch-hit/defensive substitution would have made sense there too.

92-93 - Sunday, May 04 2008 @ 12:42 PM EDT (#184296) #
Mike, it would make sense if the Jays had a better hitter than Eckstein on the bench. They did not, at least yesterday. Sign Sosa and give me a 6 man pen!
Chuck - Sunday, May 04 2008 @ 12:44 PM EDT (#184297) #

Sacrilege, Mr. Green. Ol' Blood 'n Guts don't come out for nobody, hear? (Er, even when he probably should.)

Mike Green - Sunday, May 04 2008 @ 12:54 PM EDT (#184298) #
Sosa can still kill lefties, but he is not a viable pinch-hit option against a RHP. 

Zaun is a much better hitter than Eckstein against RHP, but perhaps Gibbons didn't want to use him.  In any event, there was no reason not to substitute McDonald for Eckstein defensively in the 9th (as others have pointed out).

scottt - Sunday, May 04 2008 @ 01:06 PM EDT (#184299) #
there was no reason not to substitute McDonald for Eckstein defensively in the 9th

It looks like there's some sort of psychological barrier to break before McDonald can be used as late inning defensive replacement. Not going to happen today either. Eckstein has horrible numbers against Vasquez, so we'll probably see JohnnyMac tomorrow.
92-93 - Sunday, May 04 2008 @ 01:43 PM EDT (#184302) #
"Zaun is a much better hitter than Eckstein against RHP"

Um, no he is not.

.287 .350 .354 Eckstein
.247 .339 .388 Zaun

With only one out and the bases loaded, I would definitely rather see Eck come up to the plate than Zaun. I am way more confident for a productive AB with Eck there than Zaun, and I believe the likelihood of a DP decreases too. You are also ignoring the fact that if you go to Zaun there you have no more backup C. Let's reserve the criticism of Gibbons for when it's deserved, like, as you said, not putting in JMac defensively late in games. There simply are no PH options on our bench.
scottt - Sunday, May 04 2008 @ 02:33 PM EDT (#184305) #
There was no PH options only because they started Stairs.
Advance Scout: White Sox, May 2-5 | 38 comments | Create New Account
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