kiki loves baseball

i love baseball in general, the White Sox in particular, and if i could just hibernate through the off-season, i would.

05 March 2006

spring training is hott -- kind of


So I’m back from a quick trip to Tucson, AZ, for the first of two spring training weekends. On Friday morning, BoyDeKiki and I got up at 6:30 a.m. and were on the road by 8:30, pulling into Tucson Electric Park just before 1 p.m. for a White Sox/Diamondbacks match-up. It was a blow-out; Mark Buehrle started and gave up three runs in two innings, not that any of the other pitchers were much better. The final score: 13-6 Diamondbacks.


At least I can report that the weather was sunny and in the mid-70s; our hotel was really nice; and our favorite Ethiopian restaurant was fabulous. This is especially cool because Saturday’s game was even worse than Friday’s: the Sox lost to the Diamondbacks again, 13-2. But hey, it was baseball (i.e., there’s nothing finer), and it’s only spring training. Remember, the Sox weren’t so hot in 2005 spring training, and look how that turned out.

And now, some quick observations from this trip.

* The Sox look like they’re gonna have to dance with who brung ‘em – none of the minor league or NRI guys looked very promising, and the defense was just plain Horrible McScrewUp. Brian Anderson, the young projected CF, is no Aaron Rowand. He has, thankfully, gotten rid of the mullet, though.

* Speedy LF Scott Podsednik is skinnier in person...way skinnier than his reported 6’, 190 lbs. He also looks as though he is big fan of Crest Whitestrips.


* Juan Uribe is bigger in person (reported 5’11”, 215 lbs; I’m thinking he’s guesstimating up on the height) and even more athletic than you’d expect, which is hard to believe, especially given his post-season defensive heroics.


* Early spring training games are wicked low-quality. I’ve been to White Sox spring games for four years in a row now, but until this year, it was always at least two weeks in. Seeing some of the first few games just reveals the player rust. On the other hand, with their excruciating regular season schedule, I do think they deserve the winter off, and it’s no surprise that they’re not in tip-top shape yet. We’ll see if I revise this opinion when I attend their games on the 17th and 18th


So now I’m off into two weeks of suspended animation (I wish) until my next baseball weekend. Oh, and a few last observations –


* BASEBALL IS HOT.


* So is Footballer$ Wives. Seriously. Watch it or I'll haunt your dreams, and that is a promise.

25 February 2006

absentee broad


Yes, I know, I know...I've been really bad with posting. So shoot me; it's been an exciting month. I'm working on a collaboration with a really cool guy who was my history professor back in the Nirvana-soaked days of the early 90s. It's a historical novel set in the late Roman Republic. Sad to say, they didn't have baseball back then.


But anyway -- I'm behind on my baseball posting. I still want to review the pitching performances of the V.2005 White Sox, and that'll come soon. In the meantime, spring training games commence very shortly, and my usual birthday present, from the very sweet BoyDeKiki, is tickets to four of those games in nearby Tucson. I'll be there this coming weekend, and again two weeks later. And it's really warm here too. Don't you wish you were me? Ha!

02 February 2006

2005 position player stats

It’s no secret that the White Sox became champions through pitching and defense, rather than offense. Their starting position players had decent-leaning-toward-mediocre overall batting lines, with a few notable exceptions (Paul Konerko’s 40 homers and AL ninth-ranked SLG and OPS; Scott Podsednik’s 59 steals in just 129 games; and – uh – that’s it, I guess). The team as a whole hit .262/.322/.425. The batting average and on-base percentage rank them 11th out of the 14 AL teams; in slugging, they were middle-of-the-pack in eighth place.

The combined batting statistics of the nine starting position players (LF Podsednik, 1B Konerko, 2B Tadahito Iguchi, RF Jermaine Dye, CF Aaron Rowand, C A.J. Pierzynski, 3B Joe Crede, SS Juan Uribe, and DH Carl Everett) were .268/.323/.441. Amazingly, that’s very close to the whole team stats, other than a handful of slugging points (nice to know that your bench is just as good – or bad – as the starters).

Even more amazingly, the Baseball Prospectus gang predicted a PECOTA line of .273/.328/.450 for the starting nine (man, they’re good), albeit in about a thousand fewer at-bats. BP also wins The Best Projection for a New Japanese Player Award with their prediction for Iguchi. They said: .272/.338/.401; Iguchi achieved: .278/.342/.438, not to mention 25 doubles, 6 triples, 15 homers, and 15 stolen bases. That was damned nice pop for a guy who was new to the bigs, and who had to hit second and move the runner over for probably the first time in his professional career. Expect improvement in 2006, with the White Sox looking to bat Iguchi somewhere toward the middle of the order.

So anyway, the hitters weren’t so superfantastic, projected or actual. How about pitching? Sexy McInnings – that’ll be the next entry.

30 January 2006

such the tease


I've been having fun (yes, really) crunching numbers this weekend. I absolutely adore the gang at Baseball Prospectus, and while I'm no statistician myself, I do think the numbers matter, and I play around with them in my own admittedly half-assed way. The BPers seek ways to quantify baseball; more importantly, they also strive to constantly and consistently update and improve their methods. So I looked back at my BP 2005
and read:

"[The White Sox's] opportunity has passed; the constant exodus of talent will relegate this team to second-tier status."

I am sure that BP wants to know why this wasn't the case, why the White Sox won their division, not to mention the World Series; and they want to know this even more than I do. Because it's their job.

So I got out a notebook and calculator (what a sad admission from a decently techie girl in the 21st century), and actually, it was easy to figure out what happened to make the White Sox so successful, if not exactly why.

The White Sox starting position players were fairly, if not quite eerily, close to what BP predicted.

The White Sox starting pitchers kicked some Godzilla-sized ass.

I know, I know -- this won't be news to most fans. But in the coming few days (here's the tease, such as it is -- I know, I know; I'm really perverted), I'm going to break down the numbers here. Because it's pretty interesting, and even if it doesn't leave you-the-reader with any high regard for my (alleged) analytical talent, it might send you over to check out BP. And they deserve it.

=====

And here's a shout-out to one of my readers, OutdoorGuy (you know who you are), who mentioned that it might help this blog if I acknowledged the existence of other baseball teams. He's right. And I'll get there eventually, around the start of spring training. Until then, it's all White Sox all the time.

25 January 2006

turnover


I'm not exactly surrounded by a lot of Sox fans out here in the desert southwest.


[Side note: Last night it rained in my city for the first time in 101 days. Yes, you read that right. I was so overjoyed that I ran outside and danced, while the desert-defining smell of wet creosote filled the air. Anyway --]

I do know a guy from Chicago who favors the Cubs slightly over the Sox, but likes watching both. But ChicagoGuy doesn't actually know that much about baseball, so I wasn't surprised when he commented recently that he was worried about the White Sox "dismantling" their championship team. Given, they made some changes, but my impression is that these were savvy moves that improved the team. So what do the stats say about the major changes?

DH Thome vs. Everett/Thomas

The White Sox picked up DH/1B Jim Thome from Philadelphia, and let Carl Everett (DH/LF/1B) and Frank Thomas (mostly DH anymore) walk. Assuming Paul Konerko stays at first and the older, more injury-prone Thome DHs, this is nothing but good news for the Sox. Thome only hit .207/.360/.352 with 7 home runs and 7 doubles in 29 games for the Phillies last year, but he is supposedly over his injury (and his 2004 line was .274/.396/.581, 28 doubles, 42 homers). Sure, he can't play left field, but I don't know anyone who would consider Everett (2005: .251/.311/.435, 42 XBHs) a truly viable option out there either. He lumbers around like...well, like those dinosaurs he doesn't believe in. As for Thomas, his career and recent numbers are similar to Thome's, but he's suffered more injuries and more problems with management. If Thome plays in two thirds or more of the games this season, the Sox will be sitting pretty.

SP Vazquez vs. Hernandez

The Sox shipped away SP Orlando Hernandez (5.12 ERA in 128.1 IP) and got SP Javier Vazquez (4.42 ERA, 215.2 IP) to take his place. Sure, Vazquez had a lousy 11-15 record last year, but come on, man -- he was on the Diamondbacks. He's lucky it wasn't worse than that. And he's a lot younger than Hernandez. Anyway this one is all roses for the Sox -- consider the 2005 ERAs of what projects to be their starting five:

-- Mark Buehrle: 3.12 ERA in 236.2 IP
-- Jon Garland: 3.50 ERA in 221.0 IP
-- Jose Contreras: 3.61 ERA in 204.2 IP
-- Freddy Garcia: 3.87 ERA in 228.0 IP
-- Javier Vazquez: 4.42 ERA in 215.2 IP

Scary McStarters, isn't it, when Vazquez is the weakest pitcher that opponents are likely to face? Hee! That said, I'm really happy that Hernandez got a ring with the Sox, not to mention saving our asses in the ALDS against Boston last year. I hope he does well going forward. !Muchas gracias, El Duque!

CF Anderson vs. Rowand

Now I'm feeling kind of sad. I loved CF Aaron "Crash" Rowand. He wasn't afraid of anything -- outfield walls be damned! And he hit .270/.329/.407. Totally blue collar; totally cool. But losing him was part of the price we paid to get Jim Thome. This means that Sox farmhand Brian Anderson is going to get a shot at center and the opportunity to prove himself in the bigs. Anderson turns 24 in March; this is his first real chance. I'm pulling for him, but this is the one spot where I think the Sox didn't upgrade. I'll miss you, Aaron! Good luck, Brian!

UT Mackowiak vs. Harris

This is a utility situation; Rob Mackowiak, formerly of the Pirates, is taking over from Willie Harris. Willie was a good guy but he wanted more playing time, and that wasn't going to happen with the Sox starting Tadahito Iguchi at second. Add to that the fact that Willie is a career .242/.309/.299 hitter with very little power. He might improve that line with regular playing time, but the Sox chose to go with Mackowiak instead. His career line is .258/.328/.414 (last year it was .272/.337/.389) and he can play pretty much any position other than catcher and pitcher, unlike Harris. The Sox upgraded on this one.

L-RP Cotts vs. Marte

A few people have been mourning the departure of lefty RP Damaso Marte, but his last excellent season was 2003, when his ERA was 1.58; it went up to 3.42 in 2004 and 3.77 in 2005. The Sox will instead be depending on 25-year-old lefty Neal Cotts, who really got it together last season, throwing 60.1 innings of 1.94 ERA baseball. Sweeeeet.


So...dismantled, no. Improved? Yeah, we're looking superfly at DH, amongst the starters, on the bench, and in the pen. CF is going to be a wait-and-see, but overall, the Sox look awfully sexy on paper. Of course, baseball isn't played on paper -- but I need something to do here in the dog days of January.

22 January 2006

hurtful goodbye


As much as I wish otherwise, this has to be done:

Goodbye, Frank.


In early November, the White Sox bought out 1B/DH Frank Thomas' contract, effectively ending his career with the Sox. He was drafted by them in '89; in sixteen Hall of Fame-caliber years, his line was .307/.427/.568, with a mind-boggling 447 doubles, 448 homers, and 1466 walks. He won MVPs and division races. He even got to share in last year's World Series championship, though he didn't play after July 20 due to injury.

And now he's gone. I guess I can see why some people thought he had to go, though I'm not sure I agree. He was a temperamental man, perhaps grouchy, certainly difficult for management. And he's been broken down in the last few years. The 2005 White Sox hit a lot of home runs, but their offense was mediocre (no regular hit even .300 -- so here are deserved shout-outs to great defense and pitching), and they couldn't really afford an injury-prone DH in 2006. Alleged disagreements with GM Kenny Williams didn't improve things. So the Sox snagged Jim Thome from Philadelphia and let Frank go.

Frank was the best player ever to wear a White Sox uniform. He has a ring now; he should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. I wish he were still with the Sox; I'll miss him awfully. I wish he didn't have to go. But I hope like hell that he can enjoy a few more productive years in the bigs.

Thanks for the memories, Frank, and good luck!

dog days


Forget the dog days of summer...for any real baseball fan, there aren't any. The real dog days come in winter, say January, when the glow of the World Series has faded (even for a White Sox fan like me), and the annual trip to spring training is still over two months away. And it's cold. Well, cold is relative here in the desert, but I have my own definition: if I can't go swimming in my unheated backyard pool, it's too fucking cold.

So I'm counting the dog days until early March, when my boyfriend and I will show up in Tucson, attend four preseason ChiSox games, say "hola" to Ozzie, eat some damn fine food, and get ready for a whirlwind year as defending champs. Or fans of defending champs, anyway, which is all the same to me.

Are you ready for the first pitch?