Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I'M BAAACCCCCCK

After about 4 months of off time from the blog due to tax season, and looking at this machine 6 days a week, I am officially back to writing about baseball.  Although, I have not had time to watch as many games I would like, MLB.tv has been good enough to keep me in the know with what is going on around the league.  Since Tommy likes to bore you with North Side information (does anyone really still care about the product on the field there?) I am going to bore you with my early thoughts on the South Side of town and how this could be a LONG summer for Chicago baseball fans.

The White Sox are going to be a team that drives you nuts on a day to day basis.  They are who they are and aren't going to change anytime soon.  They are a station to station team with aging players.  When they score runs they are going to have to put together 3 hits in a row or hit the ball out of the park.  The early returns on the team are disappointing, and I think it could be tough for this team to get out of the early hole with Kansas City a little improved and Detroit locked and loaded again this year.  In our preseason poll, I had the White Sox finishing in third place behind Kansas City and Detroit.  Here are  few of my thoughts on the first two weeks of the White Sox season.

  • The patience at the plate needs to improve.  It is almost comical that Joey Votto has more walks than the entire White Sox team (as of 4/14).  What exactly does this mean? Well one thing it could mean is that the White Sox are facing the best control pitchers who just aren't throwing many balls, or it could mean that the White Sox are going up hacking at anything close.  After watching just a few innings here or there my conclusion is that  White Sox are lacking patience at the plate.  They are swinging early in counts and this is a reflection on second year hitting coach, Jeff Manto.  I remember listening to an interview with Manto after he was hired on 670 The Score last year and they asked him about his thoughts on hitting and his response caught me off guard a little bit.  He said that he doesn;t preach patience and wants his hitters to be aggressive.  While I understand wanting hitters to get their pitches and be aggressive, it is a powerful concept to get to the opposing teams bullpen.  Not many bullpens are strong these days getting to the bullpen in the 6th or 7th innings can help change a series.  All in all, I would really like to see this team start being a little more selective at the dish.
  • I love Paul Konerko, but when he gets on base (when hitting in the 5 hole) it becomes a log jam.  Couple that with Adam Dunn in the 4 hole and that is a Chicago rush hour traffic jam.  I know they are supposed to hit home runs and drive in the fast guys, but when that isn't happening, I just don't see how this team can manufacture runs.  Going first to third and scoring from second base on base hits is something the White Sox lack.  It is hard to watch when there is a three hopper hit to the left fielder, and guys are getting held at third because they are just too slow to score.  
  • The young talent is lacking on this team.  When you look around the league, almost every team has a young impact position player and more in the system.  The White Sox farm system is not deep.  They have about 4 guys that Sox fans should be excited about, and the rest is just mediocre projected talent at this point.  Chris Sale is a stud, yes I know, I get this, and Addison Reed has looked solid early, but name one more person on that team under the age of 27 that is any good and can make an impact every day. (Please don't tell me Dayan Viciedo)  Viciedo is okay, but he has not showed any consistency that makes me believe that he is going to be anything more than an average left fielder. 
  • One thing that scares me a little with this team is that there just doesn't seem to be a plan for this team.  For years, it has been pay for the free agents and trade the farm system to try to win now.  That just isn't how the landscape of baseball is anymore.  Teams are building from within now and the draft is becoming more and more important.  I know that we, as Sox fans, make fun of the Cubs and Cubs fans, but I must say I am excited about the future of the Cubs and they are not lettting anything (even dumb roof top owners) get in there way.  I want the Sox to start to build by the draft and keep guys like Courtney Hawkins and Trace Thompson in the system for the long haul to make the big club and not trade them away for a "win now" mentality.  I want to see a team like the Braves who win consistently for decades.  I hope new GM Rick Hahn has a plan in place and is ready to build a winner.
  • There are some positives this team has shown, early, Addison Reed looks to be everything we thought he could be as a closer and looks to be the closer of the present and future for the White Sox.  He has been able to add a second pitch to his repertoire that has made him nearly unhittable early.
  • Jake Peavy seems to be 100% and his early returns have to make White Sox fans happy.  One thing I can;t stand is that he yells or grunts after every pitch he throws, but hey he's a "bull dog" and if he keeps throwing the way he has been he can grunt and yell and do whatever else he feels the need to do.
  •  Chris Sale is the future anchor of the staff.  After signing his deal this spring training, I must say I think both sides win.  The White Sox pay Sale and give him enough money to live on for the rest of his life.  In return the Sox get the ace of their staff for the next 5-7 years.  Sale is a great pitcher, and although his delivery isn't the most fluid, it gets the job done.  White Sox fans have something to look forward to with Sale for years to come.
  • Alex Rios has finally figured it out.  After years of changing batting stances and not listening to hitting coaches, something clicked in Rios' head and that has led to a red hot start for the right fielder.  If Rios can continue his torrid start the Sox might be able to mask the disappointing start by others and he can carry the offense until the rest of the line up can pick it up.
Now Sox fans, don't let me put a damper on the season, but the early returns on this team frighten me a little.  It is a long season and things can change so there is no need to panic as most of the early losses have been close games.  But, as the window closes on guys like Konerko, Dunn, and Rios to an extent, it just seems like this has to be the year the Sox win it.  With the current roster in place, I just don;t see them being any better than an 84 win team.   84 wins won't get this team in the playoffs, and with Konerko's contract up at the end of this season, it might be time to say goodbye to the only member still with the team from the 2005 World Series team.  

The White Sox could very easily put it all together and get hot at the right times this season and find themselves in the mix, but for now, lets all go out to the ball park and support the team on the field and hope for the best.