Chi-Sox Deal For Padres’ Shields

According to SB Nations Chris Cotillo and CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes, the Chicago White Sox have acquired pitcher James Shields via a trade with the San Diego Padres.

Thus far, the Chi-Sox pitching staff has been anchored solely by Chris Sale (9-2/2.58 ERA/78 SO) and Jose Quintana (5-5/2.13ERA/67 SO).

Meanwhile, sophomore starter Carlos Rodon (2-5/4.41 ERA/59 SO), and veteran Mat Latos (6-1/4.02 ERA/31 SO) have struggled of late.

So, the trade for Shields (2-7/4.28 ERA/57 SO) is most likely to bring stability to the rotation.

If nothing else, he’ll eat a ton of innings.

Despite his own recent struggles, Shields has pitched 200-plus innings while earning double-digit wins for nine consecutive seasons (from 2007-2015, with an average ERA of 3.70).

Meaning Shields is durable, and capable of winning his share of games for Chicago.

Considering how close the race for first place in the American League Central has become, Chicago will take any win they can get.

Currently, the White Sox (29-27) are two games behind the Kansas City Royals (30-24), with the Cleveland Indians (29-24) wedged in-between.

(Photo Credit: San Diego Union Tribune/AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

 

It’s also important to note that Chicago will be getting Shields at cost.

Per USA Today’s Bob Nightengale and Bleacher Report’s Adam Wells, the Padres will pay $29 million of the $56 million left of Shields’ four year deal, which dates back to February of 2015.

As for what San Diego received from the deal, per the San Diego Union Tribune’s Dennis Lin, the Padres got minor leaguers Fernando Tatis Jr. and Erik Johnson.

Before this Saturday swap, the 33-year-old veteran was scheduled to start opposite Colorado Rockies pitcher Jon Gray this Sunday.

The White Sox have next Monday off, and Shields could potentially replace Sox pitcher Miguel Gonzalez (scheduled to start Wednesday June 8th), to make his first appearance with Chicago, during the teams interleague series against the Washington Nationals which begins the following Tuesday (June 7th).

Final Thoughts:

All in all, this deal should pan out for the White Sox.

Chicago isn’t investing too much contract wise with Shields, and merely gave up a pair of unproven prospects.

Best case scenario, Shields bounces back to his old form with a new team. Worst case scenario, he fails to reach nine wins this season, and only pitches 175-plus innings of work.

Either way, Shields could be the difference between the Chi-Sox winning their first division crown since 2008, or making the post-season via one of the two AL Wild Card spots.

Week Five In The MLB: Chicago Cubs

It is now week five of the MLB season and The Chicago Cubs are still garnering serious interest across the league. In addition to their recent success, a few developments have recently come out of The North Side.

Recent Results

The Chicago Cubs still lead the overall standings at 25-8 and a .781 winning percentage. The team is still the number one team on ESPN’s weekly power rankings.

At their current pace, the Cubs can win 126 games to go 126-36. According to newsday.com, that record would beat by the next best all-time record, set by the 1906 Chicago Cubs who went 116-36, by ten games.

Despite being the best team in the game, the Chicago Cubs have shown signs of weakness recently. On March 11th, the Cubs lost a doubleheader to the San Diego Padres, a team that most of the baseball world would consider inferior to the star studded Cubs.

The Cubs lost 7-4 in the first game and 1-0 in the second game. Usually the Cubs have no problem putting up runs, but only scored five on Wednesday.

This doubleheader comes on the heels of a four game sweep of the Washington Nationals, one of the best teams in the league.  The Cubs actively avoided Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, walking him repeatedly throughout the four game series, but managed to limit his effectiveness on the bases with solid defense.

The Cubs will play division rival Pittsburg on Friday. As of May 12th, the Cubs lead the Pirates, who are second in the NL Central, by seven games, the largest gap in the MLB.

Extension for Arrieta?

The contract for Cubs ace Jake Arrieta is set to expire after next year. He will be a free agent after the 2017 season if an agreement between Arrieta and the Cubs front office is met.

Arrieta’s 1.13 ERA is the best in the league and he has entered the discussion for best pitcher in the MLB. If he does manage to become a free agent somehow, it will be difficult to replace his production.

How much it will cost to keep Arrieta at Wrigley field is unknown, but according to several sources, he is not willing to take a discount to stay with the Cubs. For reference, Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg recently received a 7-year, 175-million-dollar contract.  Arrieta believes that he is worth more than Strasburg, but how much more?

No Extension For Theo, Yet

The architect behind the Chicago Cubs ascension, Theo Epstein is in the final year his contract. Epstein would be a great pickup for any team’s front office, but he is not expected to leave Chicago anytime soon.

According to CSN Chicago, Epstein believes his contract situation is a nonissue and Patrick Mooney that the players deserve to get paid first. Epstein specifically mentioned Arrieta as someone who should be a new deal before he does.

Cross Town Classic World Series?

The Cubs have the best record in the MLB, but closely behind them is their cross town rival The White Sox. The Sox are currently sitting atop the AL Central at 23-12, the 2nd best overall record in the MLB. The Sox are somewhat of a surprise are finishing 76-86 in 2015.

Just like the Cubs, the Sox have relied on the solid top three pitchers in their rotation. Chris Sale is the team’s ace. He and Jose Quintana have and ERA under 2.00. Signed in the offseason, Mat Latos has been a solid addition to the team posting a 3.40.

While both teams are very good, it is highly improbable that both will make the World Series next fall. If they do both make it, however, it would be the first time that the two teams have played against each other in the World Series since 1906, the year the Cubs posted their 116-36 record. The Sox won the series that year.

Going Forward From Here

The Cubs have only played 32 games. They still have another 130 to go. They must keep winning consistently to have a shot at the postseason. It is far too early to guarantee anyone a playoff spot.

The Cubs biggest free agent addition, Jason Heyward, has .216 average this season. Heyward has started out slow and has done so they past few years. Each time he has been able to get out of the slump. He hasn’t needed to produce superstar numbers yet, but it probably hurt the Cubs if he did.

The Cubs don’t need improvement in any one area on the diamond. They’re the best team in baseball right now and just need to keep winning. More importantly, they need to win come October when the playoffs start.

Pitch Hitting and Hitters Pitching

I guess I should mention the New York Yankees lost 3-1 on Sunday, but still took two-out-of-three over the weekend in Toronto against the Blue Jays. It was a better effort than when they were swept by Toronto in New York the prior weekend and eventually yielded first place to Toronto by a half game last Wednesday. New York enters the week with a half game lead over Toronto in the AL East, but who cares about all that pennant race stuff when we’ve got NL pitchers going deep and AL hitters digging deep to pitch.

PITCH HITTING

Sunday afternoon both the Dodgers Zack Greinke and the Giants Madison Bumgarner hit home runs and pitched their teams to victory.

Greinke hit his second homer of the season after Joc Pederson had just taken the Reds Anthony DeSclafani deep in the bottom of the fifth. Those were the only two runs the Dodgers needed in their 2-1 win. Greinke struck out eight over seven innings, allowing just one run and in the process improving to 13-2 while lowering his ERA to a bacteria sized 1.58.

Following an RBI double in the fifth, Bumgarner hit his fourth homer of the season with a seventh inning jolt against the Nationals Casey Janssen. MadBum (14-6) then finished what he started in a 14 strikeout shutout. He scattered three hits and a walk in the 5-0 win for his second consecutive complete game win. The only other Giants pitcher to throw a shutout, strikeout at least 10 and homer in a game was Juan Marichal.

Oh by the way, the Dodgers lead the Giants by 2.5 games in the NL West while the Nationals have lost six straight and trail the Mets by 4.5 games in the NL East. The Lucas Dudaless Mets actually got swept by the Pirates this weekend. Pittsburgh is still chasing St. Louis in the NL Central, five games back.

HITTERS PITCHING

Saturday night Mariners’ catcher Jesus Sucre proved he’s better at catching no-hitters than pitching them. Hisashi Iwakuma’s battery mate in last week’s no-hitter became a pitcher because the Mariners wore out their bullpen on Friday and Saturday. Mike Montgomery allowed nine Red Sox to score over 2.1 IP on Friday when Seattle lost 15-1. King Felix was pillaged for 10 runs over 2.1 IP on Saturday. Sucre pitched the eighth inning allowing five hits and three runs. Two of the runs coming on Jackie Bradley’s second homer of the game in a 22-10 win. The Red Sox season is still in the tank at 52-65, but thoughts and prayers are with their manager John Farrell who had to step away from the rest of the season to after announcing on Friday he has Stage 1 lymphoma. Niner weeks of chemotherapy treatment will start this week. Bench coach Torey Lovullo is the Red Sox’s interim manager.

Then there is first baseman turned reliever Ike Davis. Sunday afternoon the Athletics liked Ike to pitch for the second time this season during a Gerardo Parra 5-hit, Adam Jones two homer, 18-2 thrashing in Baltimore.

Davis had previously pitched a clean inning against the Angels on April 21st. Ike added another scoreless inning on Sunday and picked up his first career strikeout when whiffing Jonathan Schoop. Ike did allow a hit and walked the opposing pitcher Jason Garcia. A pitcher did indeed bat in an AL park because the Orioles forfeited the DH when moving Steve Clevenger, who had four hits, to first base. According to Elias, the last time an American League position player faced an AL pitcher batting was on July 19, 1987, when the Yankees’ Rick Cerone pitched to Bobby Witt of the Rangers.

SALE-ING AWAY

The White Sox Chris Sale struck out every 15 Cubs over seven scoreless innings on Sunday. That’s a heavy dose of “He Gone”. The Cubs lost 3-1, but won two-of-three from the Good Guys and still lead the Giants by 3.5 game for the 2nd NL wild card spot.

The Rockies Chris Rusin pitched a 5-0 complete game shut out against the Padres at Coors Field.

WALK OFFS

The Royals have a 12 game lead over the Twins after Kendrys Morales beat his former team with a walk off RBI single in the tenth inning against the Angels. Trevor Gott the loss. The Halos are 3.5 game behind Houston in the AL West. The Astros walked off with a win against the Tigers Alex Wilson compliments of a Jose Altuve RBI single.

The Braves Shelby Miller carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning before the Diamondbacks Nick Ahmed led off the inning with a single. Cameron Maybin later hit a tenth inning walk-off homer for Atlanta against Arizona’s David Hernandez.

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MLB Mid-Season Awards

(Photo from Zimbio)

As a famous commercial ad once stated-chicks dig the long ball!! So as baseballs most ferocious free-swingers flock to Cincinnati to show off their long-ball power in the 2015 Home-Run Derby, you may finally have a better excuse to head to Cincinnati than the fact that you’re going to visit “Kings Island”. With all the festivities coming during All-Star week next week, it seems as good as time as any to show off MY PICKS for mid-season MVP’s, CY-Youngs, and Manager of the year. So lets get to it!

 AL MVP -JOSH DONALDSON

This was a very close race for me when I looked at the candidates. Mike Trout is having his annual MVP-type campaign and Manny Machado has become the most well-rounded lead-off hitter in all of baseball, getting on-base at a clip of .360 while exhibiting power to the tune of an .895 OPS. However Josh Donaldson has simply been ridiculous this season. Donaldson has hit in either the 2 or 3 spot in the order in every game that he has played thus far and has produced accordingly, posting elite-type numbers with 21 Home-Runs, 60 RBI’s, while hitting at a clip of .299/.358/.543/.901. On the team with the best offense in baseball, Donaldson is the best offensive player.

Though we are only at the mid-season point, Donaldson has already posted 4.9 Wins Above Replacement Player, putting him on track to record an almost ridiculous 10 WARP on the year! Adding to his case for MVP, Donaldson has posted a UZR(ultimate-zone rating) of 7.4 on defense which trails only Nolan Arenado for 2nd place in all of baseball while placing a significant 1.3 point difference between himself and 3rd place Manny Machado at the 3rd base position. On a team in the Blue-Jays that has little help on the mound, ranking 12th in the AL in with a forgettable 4.16 team ERA, for the Blue-Jays to be only 3.5 games out of the lead in the AL East and only 3 games back of a wild-card has everything to do with the move they made in the offseason to acquire the mid-season MVP of the AL-Josh Donaldson.

 

 AL CY Young- Chris Archer

Quick note: It kills me that both the AL midseason MVP and AL midseason  Cy-young are products of my Chicago Cubs system before being traded for Rich Harden and Matt Garza!(ugh!)  I guess I can be happy that at least they’re not in the NL. In my estimation this is a 2-pony race, and the pony’s share the same name. Chris Sale and Chris Archer have been the best 2 pitchers by a long shot in the AL.

Chris Sale has actually posted slightly better numbers on the year but call me old-school in a sense that I provide a slight bump for being the ace on a team that is in contention.(Statisticians bring your punches, I’m ready!) While Chris Sale has been absolutely dominant posting a 2.80 ERA to go along with an FIP and xFIP of 2.31 and 2.35, good for a 3.7 WARP this season, he has also played in a less offensively dominant division, in my opinion.

In an AL-East division which sports the top 2 teams in ALL of baseball in terms of run-scored by means of Josh Donaldson’s Toronto Blue Jays and (gulp) Alex Rodriguez’s New York Yankees, Chris Archer has put up tremendous numbers on the year. Posting a 2.74 ERA and a FIP and xFIP of 2.64 and 2.57, Archer has gone 9-6 thus far while striking out 10.87/9 innings and posting a left-on-base percentage of 76.2, all of which is good for 3.2 WARP in the heavy-hitting division.

Furthermore, on a team that was all but left for dead with the departure of their GM Adam Friedman to the Dodgers, shortly followed by their eccentric manager Joe Maddon to the Cubs, Chris Archer has anchored a rotation for a Rays group that finds themselves just 4.5 games back in the division and 4 games back of a wild-card heading towards the break. Throw in the fact that their offense ranks an abysmal 25th in all of baseball in terms of run scored, and you’ve got an AL Cy-young winner in Chris Archer.

 

NL MVP- Bryce Harper

I’m on the Harper-wagon! Heck, I’m driving the wagon. After an off-season that saw Bryce Harper not attend “NatsFest” (come on Nationals marketing, there has GOT to be a better than that) due to some front-office turmoil as Harper was heading towards arbitration. Harper has come out swinging, literally, to show WHY he’s worth much more than the 2 year, 7.5 million dollar deal that was eventually reached to avoid the arbitration judge. Harper has already quadrupled his Wins Above Replacement Player total from last year even though he has played 22 less games so far, posting a 5.7 WARP.

He has become the most-feared left-handed hitter in all of baseball in my opinion by posting an outstanding slash-line of .343/.471/.709 with a wOBA of .490 per fangraphs. He has hit 25 home-runs on the year and knoced in 60 rbi’s while scoring 58 runs himself. While his strike-out rate is at 19.9% he is walking at an all-time career ML high rate of 19.0%, forcing pitchers to pitch to him or walk him. As the Nationals sit ahead of the offensively-starving New York Mets in the NL East by 3 games heading into the break, Bryce Harper has been head-and-shoulders above any other candidate in the race for MVP in the NL to date.

 

NL Cy-Young- Zack Greinke

I REALLY wanted to give this to Max Scherzer. Mainly because a co-worker of mine is a Dodgers fan and has done nothing but harp on how Greinke would beat Scherzer in a head-to-head NLCS match-up, which I don’t buy. However he is right about one thing, Greinke is the mid-season Cy Young award winner. While Scherzer put up the best 3-game stretch of any pitcher I have seen in my lifetime in early June, posting a one-hitter, no-hitter, and taking a no-hitter into the 6th inning the following game, Greinke has been nothing short of amazing the entire season.

Posting a miniscule 1.39 ERA to go along with 2.65 FIP and an xFIP of 3.18, Greinke sits at 8-2 for the Dodgers as they hold a 5.5 game lead over the Giants and Diamondbacks in the NL West. While his xFIP isn’t as strong as Scherzers, Greinke is pitching incredibly well with men on base, posting an 89.5 left-on-base percentage. With the season at the mid-way point, the Dodgers sitting comfortably in first place in their division, and Greinke posting numbers like these, I have to give it to my co-worker and place Greinke as my mid-season Cy Young winner.

 

AL MANAGER- Kevin Cash(in a landslide)

As mentioned in the AL Cy-Young award-winner portion, the Tampa Bay Rays were left for dead. They lost 2-time AL Manager of the Year Joe Maddon to the Cubs, they lost super-executive Andrew Friedman to the Dodgers, and they traded away Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar. They rank 25th in all of baseball in runs scored in a division that has the top 2 overall teams in that category, and one of their trade acquisitions, John Jaso, has been on the DL for most of the year until being activated in the last 2 weeks. Somehow, someway, Kevin Cash has this team in contention in both the wild-card and the AL East.

Now, the AL-East hasn’t exactly had a team run away in the division to date, but for the Rays to have held 1st-place at multiple times throughout the first half of the season is nothing short of a miraculous management job by Cash. It was reported by multiple media sources that, if healthy, the Rays don’t intend to do their annual trade-deadline sell-off and allow Cash to stand pat with the roster he has. If that’s the case, I’m not betting against Cash to get the Rays into the AL Wild-Card game and potentially make some noise in the AL-playoffs this fall.

 

NL MANAGER- Joe Maddon

Respect 90! That was the moniker Joe Maddon implemented upon coming over from the aforementioned Tampa Bay Rays to the Chicago Cubs in the controversial management acquisition in the off-season. His players have listened. With a team full of 21-25 year old’s and minimal playoff experience outside of David Ross, Miguel Montero, and Jon Lester, the Cubs were not expected to contend this year, as many media pundits all but circled 2016 as the year that competitive baseball returned to Wrigley Field. Well to that Joe Maddon has done what he does best, shock the media!

With a team  that saw mega-acquisition Jon Lester get off to a slow start and has had less-than-stellar performances out of other veterans such as Dexter Fowler, Joe Maddon has found a way to have his team in the 2nd wild-card spot as of today. The Cubs are tied with the Nationals for the 4th-best record in the NL despite being in arguably baseball toughest division that includes the MLB-leading St. Louis Cardinals. While the Cubs do sport rookie of the year candidate Kris Bryant, MVP candidate Anthony Rizzo, and super-prospect 21-year old Addison Russell, this Cubs roster is one that would most likely be on the outside looking in of fall baseball  in Wrigley if not for the efforts of manager Joe Maddon.

 

Royals and Tigers and Bradley, Oh My!

The Royals’ Salvador Perez had 10 hits and 3 HRs last week, 1.273 OPS.

(All Photos are Courtesy: Rich Johnson)

Five teams entered this past weekend undefeated, but only the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals from the American League Central were able to manage the perfect week.

Detroit Tigers (6-0)
The Tigers swept the Indians in Cleveland. Leadoff man Anthony Gose has been a spark plug in the early going for Detroit. He’s yielded a couple starts to Rajai Davis when a lefty is on the hill, but the former Blue Jay is 9 for 20 with 2 doubles, a triple, a home run and a stolen base.

The Tigers pounded out 18 hits in Friday’s 8-4 win. 13 of the hits were allowed by Indians’ starter Zach McAllister over just four innings. Miguel Cabrera had three of the hits and stole 3rd base when nobody was paying attention.

Saturday, Gose led off the game with a home run against Corey Kluber. It was one of two runs that Kluber would allow over 6.1 IP. He struck out ten Tigers, but the game was tied at five in the ninth. Usually reliable Indians’ closer Cody Allen was then taken out behind the woodshed and beaten in a 4 run inning that saw him give up three hits and three walks. The Tigers won 9-6. Ian Kinsler had four hits and scored thrice. To make matters worse for the Indians, they lost catcher Yan Gomes for the next 6-8 weeks after he suffered what’s being called a moderate right MCL sprain. The injury occurred on a home plate slide involving Rajai Davis. Gomes will be missed as he silver slugged his way to 21 home runs while hitting at a .278 clip.

Miguel Cabrera concluded the weekend on Sunday with his second consecutive four-hit game, which included his first two home runs of the season. J.D. Martinez added three more hits and his third home run. The Tigers jumped on T.J. House for three in the first and three in the second on their way to an 8-5 win.

The Tigers have outscored the opposition 47-16. That’s 7.8 to 2.7 per game. 8-3 games may not be the norm for the Tigers, but it’s fun to play with early season numbers. Jose Iglesias, Miguel Cabrera, Anthony Gose and Ian Kinsler are the top four hitters in the AL with averages ranging from .526 to .440.

Kansas City Royals (6-0)
Former Angels’ 1B/DH Kendrys Morales hit his first home run of the season on Friday night in the Royals 4-2 win against Hector Santiago and the Angels. Former Angel Jason Vargas allowed two runs over six innings to earn the win.

ReplayDelay

Angels chat with Mike Moustakas during a replay delay. Moose was safe on steal.

Saturday night I got out to the Big A with my wife for the first time to see those pesky Royals. Kole Calhoun started the party for the Angels with a leadoff home run to center field against Royals’ starter Jeremy Guthrie. Jered Weaver was on the bump for the Halos and everything was fine until a bumpy fourth inning. Mike Moustakas led off the fourth with a home run to center field. Lorenzo Cain singled, but was caught stealing. Eric Hosmer followed with a walk, Kendry Morales doubled and following an Alex Gordon strikeout the Royals got two large two out hits. Alex Rios singled home two runs and Salvador Perez capped the five run inning with a two-run homer to left.

LorenzoCain

Lorenzo Cain is one of five Royals with 9+ hits in the team’s first six games.

Morales drove in another run with a single in the fifth. In the bottom of the fifth, when it was time to go get helmet nachos, Kole Calhoun doubled home a couple runs followed by a Mike Trout single scoring Calhoun. The Royals held on to win 6-4 because Greg Holland and the rest of the Royals bullpen is pretty good. The Royals offense wasn’t highly publicized or highly productive in 2014, but these guys are hitting in the early going. Nobody needed to lay down a bunt to scratch across a run.

Sunday afternoon Albert Pujols got the Angels’ on the board with a first inning solo home run against Yordano Ventura. Pujols is now in sole possession of 18th place on the career home run list with 522. Jimmy Foxx is next at 534.

Photo Courtesy: Rich Johnson

Angels’ Owner Arte Moreno before the game on 4/11/15.

Angels’ player-rep and social media star C.J. Wilson, who spent some of his week responding to owner Arte Moreno’s comments about Josh Hamilton’s status, saw his 0.00 ERA from 8 scoreless innings on Tuesday evaporate in the second inning. The highlight of the four-run inning was a two-run double by Alcides Escobar. Alex Rios doubled home two more runs in the fifth. Wilson allowed six earned runs over 5.2 IP.

The Royals’ Paul Orlando tripled in the sixth and seventh to become the first player (dating back to 1900) to have the first three hits of his career be triples. Salvador Perez hit his third home run of the season in the seventh off Fernando Salas and just like the 2014 ALDS, the Royals notched a 3-game sweep of the Angels with a 9-2 win. Ventura had to leave the game due to a calf cramps for the second start in a row. He earned the win with seven strikeouts over 5.2 IP.

Mets vs Braves
The Atlanta Braves finally fell to defeat on Sunday against the Mets in a 4-3 loss. It was the most runs allowed by the Braves this season. They still lead the way in the National League with a surprising 5-1 mark. The Mets’ Jeurys Famila saved the Bartolo Colon win because Jenrry Mejia is hurt and complicated matters further on Saturday by getting suspended for 80 games following a positive test for the steroid Stanozolol. Colon, who served a 50 game suspension for a positive testosterone test in 2012, has two wins this season and helped his cause with an RBI single ending an 0-37 slump. It’s must see TV.

Dodgers vs Diamondbacks
Saturday night, Clayton Kershaw faced Diamondbacks top pitching prospect Archie Bradley, who was making his major league debut. The game didn’t exactly go according to Hoyle. 6-0 Diamondbacks? Kershaw got hit around for ten hits and five earned runs over 6. 1 IP, while the 22-year-old Bradley tossed six scoreless innings in his debut, striking out six, walking four, but only allowing a double to Howie Kendrick. Welcome to The Show.

Twins vs White Sox
Chris Sale returned to the mound Sunday after having an injured foot. The White Sox Hawk Harrelson got to amp up his “He Gone!” strikeout call. Six innings, one run, eight strikeouts for Sale who fired 72 of 98 pitches for strikes in a 6-2 win over the Twins. The Sox have won two straight after losing their first four. The Twins are now 1-5 as are the Milwaukee Brewers and Miami Marlins.

Notable 1st Home Runs
Saturday, the Rays’ Tim Beckham hit his first career home run against the Marlins’ Mike Dunn. He also stole his first base. Beckham was the Rays’ No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 draft. He’s now 25 and had only three career hits entering this season.

Sunday, the Dodgers’ Joc Pederson hit a solo home run in the 6th  and Alex Guerrero hit a 2-run homer in the 9th , It was the first career home run for both of them.

Red Sox vs Yankees
Oh yeah, the Yankees and Red Sox met over the weekend.

Friday – The Red Sox Edward Mujica complicated matters by allowing a game tying homer to Chase Headley in the bottom of the ninth. David Ortiz and birthday boy Mark Teixeira hit homers in the 16th and they played on. In the 18th, Pablo Sandoval drove home a run, but so did Carlos Beltran. Mookie Betts lifted a sacrifice fly to center scoring Xander Bogaerts. Steven Wright, in his fifth inning of work, held the Yankees down in the bottom of the 19th to seal the Red Sox 6-5 win.

Saturday – The Yankees made three errors and lost 8-4.

Sunday – It was blast off against the Red Sox Clay Buchholz. A touchdown and extra point in the first inning was the highlight to a 14-4 trashing of Boston. A-Rod delivered a 3-run double and a bases loaded walk. Mike Napoli finally got a hit for Boston snapping his 0-18 start to the season.

Hitless Wonders
The Astros’ Evan Gattis finishes the week 0-20 with 12 Ks and a walk.
The Cubs’ Arismendy Alcantara (0 for 12, 5 walks) is the only other qualified batter* to be hitless this season.

*3.1 plate appearances per team game.

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Grapefruit League’s First Exhibit And More

Happy Baseball everyone. Here are some notes from the weekend as we enter the first full week of spring games. We need to stop losing baseball legends.

Spring ball begins at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Florida

The Grapefruit League got underway Sunday afternoon in the form of an exhibition game between the top ranked team in NCAA Division II, the Tampa Spartans (13-1), faced the Philadelphia Phillies out of MLB. The Phillies got a couple scoreless innings from starter Paul Clemens, who is competing for a bullpen spot, but relievers Nefi Ogando (4 ER) and Hector Neris had issues against Tampa in the Spartans’ 5-run 7th. Spartans’ shortstop Giovanni Alfonzo hit a grand slam off Neris. The Phillies lost 6-2, but the most notable name in the Phillies’ lineup was Darrin Ruf so that’s not saying much.

No doubt it was a cool opportunity for the Spartans’ players to get the opportunity to face professionals. Tampa has won 6 national titles at the NCAA II level and 16 Sunshine State Conference championships since 1987. Now you know.

Monday, two more college teams will face MLB teams in Grapefruit League exhibitions.

Florida International Panthers vs Miami Marlins in Jupiter.

Florida Southern Mocs vs Detroit Tigers in Lakeland

The Cactus League will get underway on Tuesday with 4 games. The Grapefruit League will also feature 4 games on Tuesday as Spring Training contests begin to ramp up for Wednesday and beyond.

Chicago loses another baseball legend.

It’s sad that Mr. Cub and Mr. White Sox have both passed away in 2015 and within 5 weeks of each other. Cubs’ Hall of Famer Ernie Banks died at the age of 83 on January 23rd. Sunday, Minnie Minoso passed away at the age of 89. Minoso was an 7-time all star and the 1st Latin American black major leaguer.

“I think that everybody has to respect his legacy because he did so much for the Latin players, for the Cubans, for everybody because when he arrived here it was a tough time because of racism and discrimination,” said White Sox shortstop Alexei Ramirez, another Cuban star. “He wrote a huge legacy for all of us.”

He broke in with the Cleveland Indians in 1949 with whom he also played in 1958-1959. Minoso had 5 stints with the Chicago White Sox (1951-1956, 1960-1961, 1964, 1976, 1980). That’s right, he retired after his age 38 season in 1964, but played 3 games for the Sox as a 50-yr old in 1976 where he collected his final hit (1 for 8). White Sox owner Bill Veeck, who knew promotion, then brought the 54-yr old Minoso back to appear as a pinch hitter in a couple October 1980 games vs the California Angels. Minoso popped out and grounded out, but in the process became the first player to play in 5 different decades.

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Minnie Minoso and Bill Veeck / Getty Images

Minoso, who also spent time with the Cardinals (1962) and Senators (1963), slashed .298/.389/.459 during his career with 1,963 hits. Lending some statistical perspective, Minoso ranks 5th in career WAR (41.3) as a White Sox in between Nellie Fox and Robin Ventura. The Cuban Comet is 5th in White Sox history with 808 RBI and 6th in runs scored (893).

 

Key injuries already.

The White Sox announced on Saturday that staff ace Chris Sale suffered an avulsion fracture on his right foot in an accident at his home last Friday. The early diagnosis is that he will miss three weeks, but more will be known when the swelling subsides. His Opening Day start is clearly in jeopardy, but a foot injury in early March is much less of a concern than arm or shoulder problems.

The Braves’ Melvin Upton Jr. is trying a name change this season in hopes to reverse his fortunes after the hacktastic centerfielder had a dreadful 2012 and 2013 when he looked nothing like the Boss Man. Upton will be in a walking boot and sidelined until May after exams performed last Friday revealed inflammation in the bone behind the ball of his foot. Jeff Schafer at Tomahawk Take  notes the injury makes the Braves a better team as a position battle in CF is underway.

Juan Pierre retires.

Overshadowed by the death of Leonard Nemoy, 14-year veteran Juan Pierre announced his retirement from baseball last Friday. Pierre, a .295 career hitter, last played in 2013 for the Marlins – a team he won a World Championship with in 2003.

Pierre put pressure on the defense with his legs when he wasn’t popping out. He had 2,217 career hits and 614 stolen bases. He led the league in steals 3 times, twice swiping over 60 bases and finished 2nd in the NL in steals on 5 other occasions. On the flip side, he led the league 7 times in caught stealing, but was durable by playing in every game from 2003-2007.

Juan Pierre Steals

Pierre in 2008 / Rich Johnson

Pierre was on the run to the next base a little more often than he was on the run to the next team. He broke in with the Rockies (2000-2002) and moved on from the Marlins (2003-2005) to the Cubs for 2006 and then spent three seasons with the Dodgers (2006-2008) as seen here.

Pierre spent 2010-2011 with the White Sox and 2012 with the Phillies. @JPBeastMode had four 200 hits seasons and led the NL in hits during 2004 and 2006. It was during his 221 hit 2004 that he also led the league with 12 triples. Pierre finished with only 18 HRs, a figure he wishes he could have improved upon.

Live Long and Prosper!

http://SportsRants.com

Chicago White Sox Busy Offseason Builds A Contender

Photo credentials to The Associated Press

The White Sox are stuffed in the middle of a very competitive AL Central division, but they are normally left out of the conversation when baseball analysts argue over which team is the best team in the AL Central. With the efforts of White Sox GM Rick Hahn this winter, the team’s manager Robin Ventura is confident that the 2015 Chicago White Sox are not a team to take a lightly. He even goes on to say in ESPN Chicago’s Doug Padilla’s article that he “expects [the White Sox] to make the playoffs.” 

November 25: Signed 1B Adam LaRoche to a two year contract

In 2014 Adam LaRoche batted .259 with 26 HR’s and 92 RBI’s. (Photo credentials to DC Pro Sports Report)

On November 25, 2014 MLB Trade Rumors reported that Adam LaRoches signed a two year $25M deal with the Chicago White Sox.

At the age of 35, it’s impressive to see the amount of power LaRoche still has. Coming over from a National League team in the Washington Nationals where he patrolled first base and hit 26 homeruns, it can be expected that LaRoche and teammate Jose Abreu will split time at first base this season and alternate at designated hitter.

LaRoche, a 2012 Golden Glove winner, Silver Slugger and MVP candidate (finished 6th in 2012) according to Baseball-Reference.com , gives the White Sox some power to the lineup led by Jose Abreu and his powerful swing that belted out 36 homeruns last year.

Overall, I think this was an excellent move on paper. The White Sox needed some protection for Jose Abreu in the lineup, and the team needed insurance in case Abreu catastrophically went down in his sophomore year in MLB. It’s also always great to add a golden glove first baseman to your roster.

Adam LaRoche should be a great fit in Chicago. In fact, he’s off to a great start as the team already regards him as a “new team leader” according to the Chicago Tribune .

December 9: White Sox acquire starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija from the Oakland Athletics

Jeff Samardzija will be the number two starter for the 2015 Chicago White Sox. (Photo credentials to USA Today)

On December 9, 2015 Yahoo Sports reported the Chicago White Sox acquired 2014 NL All-Star Jeff Samardzija along with pitching prospect Michael Ynoa from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for shortstop Marcus Semien, catcher Josh Phegley, and prospects first baseman Rangel Ravelo and pitcher Chris Bassitt.

This move gave the White Sox a solid number two man in their starting rotation as without question Chris Sale is the White Sox ace. However, Samardzija had some great numbers in 2014 with the Chicago Cubs and Oakland Athletics. In 2014, Samardzija posted a 2.99 ERA, and 202 K’s in 219.2 IP. He’s a strikeout pitcher and workhorse to say the least.

The White Sox should enjoy this addition to their pitching staff as this acquisition may have been their single most important move of the offseason. With the Royals losing James Shields to the San Diego Padres, and the Tigers losing Max Scherzer to the Washinton Nationals, the White Sox improved their staff while two of the top contending teams in the AL Central lost some big arms.

December 10: Signed closer David Robertson to a 4 year deal

David Robertson will no longer be closing the game for the Yankees, but instead for the White Sox in 2015. (Photo credentials to NY Post)

On December 9, the NY Daily News reported that Mariano Rivera’s successor David Robertson signed with the Chicago White Sox for a 4 year $46M contract.

Robertson was third in the AL in saves last year with 39 and posted a 3.08 ERA and 96 K’s in 64.1 IP according to Baseball-Reference.com

Robertson will give the White Sox an excellent closer, something every contending team needs. However, the trend over the past four years that the Yankees may have noticed was his numbers were starting to fall off slightly more and more each year. His FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching, explained by FanGraphs ) has slightly increased since his super 2011 season where he posted a FIP of 1.84. Over the past three seasons, Robertson posted a FIP of 2.49 in 2012, 2.61 in 2013 and then 2.69 in 2014. This simply shows that Robertson’s “nastyness” is slowly fading. That could be why the Yankees let him walk this winter.

Nonetheless, Robertson is still one of the best closers in the game and should be regarded as nothing, but an improvement to the pitching staff for the White Sox.

December 14: Sign OF Melky Cabrera to a 3 year deal

OF Melky Cabrera will be expected to be a table setter for his new team in 2015. (Photo credentials go to the Toronto Sun)

On December 14, 2015 USA Today reported that OF Melky Cabrera signed with the Chicago White Sox to a 3 year $42M contract.

Overall, Melky Cabrera is a very good ballplayer. In 2014 he batted .301 with a .351 OBP, 16 HR’s and 73 RBI’s with the Toronto Blue Jays according to Baseball-Refernce.com .

Cabrera should be batting second behind OF Adam Eaton giving the White Sox a legitimate top of the order with Eaton, Cabrera, Abreu and LaRoche each following each other in sequence. This looks good on paper according to their stats, but again, is this enough? The top of the lineup is gonna be important for the White Sox, and as a table setter, Cabrera needs to get on base and score if the White Sox are going to have any chance of making the playoffs in 2015.

Other transactions from the offseason can be found on ESPN .

Expectations

While it can be argued the White Sox improved their roster, making the playoffs is a lot easier said than done, especially when you’re in the AL Central. The White Sox will have to get past the contending Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals along with the re-building Minnesota Twins in the AL Central.

Besides the fact that the Royals are the defending AL Champions and the AL Central Division winning Detroit Tigers won 90 games last year, the Indians, Royals and Tigers each had over 85 wins last year, while the White Sox had only 73 wins. This means that not only do the White Sox need to improve tremendously in 2015, but they need at least two of the other three contending teams to tank in 2015 if they want a chance to make it to the playoffs. Is this unlikely to happen? Yes of course, but this is baseball and we’ve seen some wild things happen before, like 2005 White Sox outfielder Scott Podsednik hitting a walk-off homerun in Game 2 of the World Series after hitting 0 homeruns in 568 plate appearances during the regular season.

Relive the magic below.

The Windy City had a busy winter in the baseball world as the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago White Sox both improved their rosters to dare I say, make a playoff push in 2015. But the question to ask heading into 2015 for the White Sox is: was GM Rich Hahn’s efforts enough this winter? Will the White Sox be a contender in 2015?

The White Sox organization has the confidence that they can win 2015, but what will the Baseball Gods have to say?