TCS Roundtable: Carlos Rodon is awesome, let's talk about Carlos Rodon

In light of Carlos Rodon melting faces Wednesday night against the Royals and striking out nine batters in four shutout innings, the only responsible thing was to check on how all of us were doing emotionally.

 

James: Rodon! Rodon!

 

Rodon!

 

Carlos Rodon was cartoonishly overpowering. He was a real word manifestation of the type of overpowering performance I envision whenever people hyperbolically use terms like “unhittable slider” or “80 pitch.” He was so good and so dominant, it completely obscured things he did noticeably not well, such as throw a passable changeup consistently, or all the times he missed the glove with his fastball by a foot. His slider is untouchable. It’s got two-plane break and can be tweaked between 82-90 mph, with both a stutter action and a huge sweeper. It’s just this singularly overwhelming tool that drapes over his flaws like a luxurious, velvet blanket.

 

Rodon!

 

Nick: My cousin was at this game with his family and texted me something like, “RODON!”

 

I didn’t get to watch the game, but for all that he was missing with his fastball as you say, he didn’t walk anybody and only allowed 4 hits while striking out 9. Process is more important to me than results, especially at this stage, but I’m just going to go ahead and really enjoy this outing.

 

I think cognitively when we have a given and then some weaknesses, you spend so long focusing on the weaknesses / uncertainties you start to underrate the strengths. I frequently use the example of a 25-man roster fantasy baseball draft. Say you start by drafting Stanton and Cano - great! And then two hours later, it’s round 23 and your last couple of picks have been David Peralta and Devon Travis and you’re thinking, “Man, I only have terrible players on my team.”

 

Everybody has just been saying, “Yeah, Rodon’s slider is super amazing, but he needs to work on X and Y.” They’re absolutely right, but let’s not forget what an elite breaking pitch can do.

 

James: An elite breaking pitch with about three different forms, at least. I may have overstated the fastball issues, since everyone else the day after called it better than usual. As much as he had a half-dozen Daniel Webb-style misses, he spotted when he needed to, and kept hitters honest on his homewrecker slider.

 

While we’re at it. Is there a name for Rodon’s slider? I nominate “The Homewrecker” for the sweeper form.

 

Nick: It is cool that he can do so many different things with it. When R.A. Dickey was at his best he was able to have pitches do like 8 or 9 different things all out of the same arm slot / arm speed, which obviously yielded excellent results.

 

So after the 9K game, we have seen people start comparing him to Bryant and saying he absolutely has to be in the rotation to start the year. Rodon could probably survive at the majors, but I’m not really surprised that he dominated a Spring Training Royals lineup with his slider. I feel like he could do that 2 years ago. Bryant is a full year ahead of him in terms of pro ball experience, and it sounds like they won’t need a 5th starter until Sale gets back.

 

And, as much as I have fretted and wrung my hands about Danks and Noesi this offseason, I still think it’s worth seeing what they can do a little more before you pull the plug on them. People get hurt, they’re going to need Rodon eventually this year.

 

If Rodon forces his way into the rotation and Danks and Noesi are serviceable MLB pitchers, how do you solve the logjam? Do you try to use Noesi as a swing man and spot starter to manage the workload of Rodon (or maybe even give Sale a day off here or there)?

 

James: I think it's just as likely you give Rodon a break as they manage him cautiously. But a hole in the rotation and need for a sixth starter is so inevitable I don't know why we even bother stressing it.

 

Remember when we resigned ourselves to the fact last year that Andre Rienzo was just going to be a regular rotation member for the foreseeable future? That was like May.

 

Nick: I am still rooting for Rienzo, even though he is no longer with the team, but I just don’t see how he gets major league hitters out from the rotation. Certainly not lefties.

 

But you’re right, even the 2005 White Sox - who had one of the most durable 5-man rotations for that season, like, ever - still needed a number of starts from McCarthy as the 6th starter. Incredibly I think only six pitchers started games for them last year. At the other end of the spectrum, the 2014 Texas Rangers had 15 (!!) pitchers start games for them. I don’t like thinking about any of the Front Three missing any time, so hopefully he’d be covering for Danks or Noesi.

 

What sort of innings load would you give to Rodon this year? I think between college and the ~12 innings he threw in pro ball he was up around 130-140 in 2014. Although I think the Verducci Rule is non-scientific and largely functions on cherry picking scenarios that confirm it and disregarding scenarios that defy it, would you hold Rodon below 200?

 

James: Man, I don’t like preimposed innings limits issued at the start of the season! I feel like there are more mild solutions, like only having Rodon start once per week, or a long rest for the All-Star break, kind like what Morosi suggested without the crackpot scheme to game his service time. Just a general understanding to stay light on the gas with him.

 

Ethan: IP is a question certainly that will come up down the road, especially if this team is in contention and Rodon throws in the upper 100s between AAA and MLB. It’s certainly a “we’ll cross this bridge when we get there” kind of thing, but I think how they did not shut down Sale in 2012 demonstrates how they’ll handle Rodon in such a scenario.

 

As far as a Rodon call up is concerned, I have little doubt that current Rodon, without a developed changeup, is a significantly better pitcher than Danks or Noesi. I think it’s worth working on, but if mid-May comes around and the change isn’t there, but Danks is trash and Noesi is scuffling, I don’t see how you keep Rodon down.

 

I also question who they choose to ditch for Rodon. I think Noesi is a legitimately better starter than Danks, but I also think Noesi’s stuff could play up in the pen, whereas Danks will eat innings as a No. 5 but will have virtually no use in the pen. I also don’t know how you handle a $14 million swingman in Danks. God damn shoulders, man.

The Catbird Speaks 3.26.15 - It'd be cool if Chase Utley played for the White Sox

Still buzzing after chatting with Jonah Keri, the trio of James Fegan, Ethan Spalding and Nick Schaefer stuck around and chatted a bit about:

--Courtney Hawkins' success for real?

--Avisail improved?

--Micah Johnson's ascent to the Opening Day roster

-How about just trading for Chase Utley instead?

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Sox opt for Samardzija over Quintana, in several ways

Jose Quintana's English is undoubtedly better in private than it is when he's cornered alone by a pack of beats to give some quotes after throwing seven innings. It's still a marvel considering he gave no interviews in English when he first arrived in Chicago, but he's still cautious. You can see him waiting on the big, blinking cues of whether to agree or elaborate on how he disagrees that adorn most questions about his place on the team. After he struck out 13 Twins last Septemeber, and looked even more like a long-term asset than usual, someone offered the softball of whether he wanted to be part of a 1-2 combo with Sale for the foreseeable future, Quintana simply affirmed, "Yeah, that's what I want."

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Interview With Rick Hahn & Buddy Bell - Recap & Analysis - Part 1

I was privileged enough to be included on a conference call interview of Rick Hahn and Buddy Bell with a number of White Sox blogs on Tuesday. While I didn't record the conversation verbatim, I took notes as best I could and I believe there was a lot to be learned from what each White Sox executive had to say. Here's the first part of what Rick Hahn said and what I took away from it - the conclusion and Buddy Bell's interview to follow in another article*. 

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The Catbird Speaks 3.24.15 - This episode has a lot more Jonah Keri than the others

On a rare day where The Catbird Seat staff got work done during sunlight hours, Grantland Contributor and best-selling author Jonah Keri joined the group for a chat on the heels on his full-length feature on the Sox' recent transformation. Even though we had James Fegan, Ethan Spaulding, Collin Whitchurch and Nick Schaefer on the call (Matt Adams was on a scouting mission), this was mostly about letting Jonah talk.

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Let's play another round of 'Who gets kicked off the 40-man?'

Reporter/mensch Dan Hayes broke the tiny rumor this weekend that the Sox are shopping Eric Surkamp as a means to clear space on the 40-man roster. The Sox originally acquired Surkamp off waivers, then lowered his stock--not that they should have done anything else--by using him as a LOOGY rather than a spot starter, and even in that role he was cannon fodder for four-fifths of the season. He probably is going to have to wind up leaving the way he came.

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What does it mean that Courtney Hawkins is balling out at Spring Training?

Courtney Hawkins, the White Sox strikeout-prone 2012 first-round pick, was both a raw power prospect coming out of high school and such a multi-layered disaster in 2013 that a disciplined approach was to just forget about him. Even though he's young--still just 21--and his struggles came after a hyper-aggressive over-promotion to High-A, the hurdles Hawkins had to clear were too daunting and numerous to start contemplating his major league role anytime soon. It's probably not something we will ever have to do, so why get an early start?

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White Sox Extend Adam Eaton Through 2019

During today's White Sox broadcast on CSN, General Manager Rick Hahn announced that the White Sox have agreed to terms on a five-year contract extension. According to CSN's Dan Hayes, is for $23.5 million dollars with club options for 2020 and 2021.

Eaton, who broke out last year with a .301/.362/.401 triple slash line and defense that warrant him being a finalist for a Gold Glove award, had been set to go to arbitration after the 2015 season and eligible for free agency after 2018. Eaton will now make $850K in 2015, $2.75 million in 2016, $4 million in 2017, $6 million in 2018 and $8.4 million in 2019. The White Sox hold options for $9.5 million and $10.5 million in 2020 and 2021, respectively, with a $1.5 million buyout for each year. 

The deal, above all, provides security for both sides. Eaton gets a pretty hefty guarantee of over $20 million, trading in maximal potential for earning for certainty. The Sox, on the other hand, get a true top-of-the-order hitter and above-average centerfielder for his prime years. 

While the Sox no longer have the ability to cut bait and/or win arbitration hearings to reduce Eaton's salary if he underperforms, if he simply holds his performance from 2014 for the majority of the deal, the deal will be well worth it for the club. Beyond the five year extension, the Sox also now hold two club options on Eaton, part of the reward for guaranteeing Eaton such a deal.

Eaton now joins Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, and Jose Abreu as a core of four* White Sox with contractual guarantees into the next decade. With some improvements and breakouts elsewhere on the roster, it will hopefully be a prosperous era on the South Side.

*notably, not the Core Four

First round of prospects purged from MLB camp, nicks and scrapes accumulate

As far as PROSPECTS go, the White Sox sent shortstop Tim Anderson down to minor league camp Wednesday, along with right-hander Tyler Danish.

White Sox "prospects" got sent down from major league camp in the sense that many of the guys they sent down appear on organizational prospect lists, their status as employees of the White Sox is "prospects," because if it wasn't, management would have to consider why they're employing these guys.

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The latest Gordon Beckham spin

At this point, following the machinations of public discussion of Gordon Beckham is like finishing the final seasons of Dexter. It's long since stopped being a compelling pursuit for answers, or even a foolishly idealist search for a long-term solution of what's clearly a fatal flaw. To be honest, it's just a disjointed mess at this point and has contradicted its own constructs numerous times.

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Top Hitter/Pitcher Pairs in MLB, numbers 11-20

Numbers 21-30

Last week, I began of a three part series ranking the top pairs of position players and pitchers in all of baseball. Today’s installment features pairs 11-20, who are almost uniformly composed of awesome players. Unfortunately for these pairs, the top ten only has, well, ten slots, squeezing some fantastic players to the outside.

20. Philadelphia Phillies, Cole Hamels /Chase Utley:

There may not be any individual pair that has given more to the team they play for throughout their careers than these two. While Utley is certainly no longer the superstar he once was, he’s still a heckuva ballplayer, who is among the best second basemen in baseball when healthy. Hamels, on the other hand, is in the prime of his career, and probably one of the top ten pitchers in all of baseball. Your proposed package to pry him from the Phillies probably isn’t enough.

19. San Diego Padres, James Shields/Justin Upton:

The only pair on this list who are both newly minted acquisitions, Shields and Upton headline a massive haul of players acquired by the Padres this offseason. Whether or not it will be enough to turn a garbage team into legit contenders is still questionable, but this pair is certainly better than Andrew Cashner and (whoever the best Padres hitter last year was).

18. Texas Rangers, Derek Holland/Adrian Beltre

Just days ago, this pairing would’ve looked a lot better with a seemingly healthy Yu Darvish and the consistently amazing Beltre. Darvish, of course, has since succumbed to a torn UCL, and will miss the season, and while Adrian Beltre remains an absolute stud, Derek Holland isn’t good or consistent enough to be ranked as high. I hope Yu get well soon.

17. Oakland A’s Sonny Gray/Ben Zobrist: 

Another pair of fantastic players, one of whom is past his peak and the other possibly on the verge of a breakout. Zobrist has been an absolutely awesome player for the better part of a decade now, among the very best in the league since his massive 2009. He’s pushing 34 now, however, and his ability to put up elite numbers seems to be declining. Gray, on the other hand, may be on the cusp on stardom at the front of the A’s rotation. His 2014 was very good at the young age of 24, and more could be on the horizon.

16. Tampa Bay RaysAlex Cobb/Evan Longoria:

The Rays rotation is fascinating in that it has many not-quite-ace pitchers who are very good nonetheless, making choosing Cobb difficult. A healthy Matt Moore might take this spot, and Chris Archer has a case of his own. On the position side, however, there really isn’t much of a debate. Beyond Longoria, there’s really no standouts whatsoever in the Rays’ positional depths

15. Toronto Blue Jays Mark Buehrle/Jose Bautista:

Another pair hampered quite a bit with injuries in the last week when Marcus Stroman saw his 2015 end prematurely with a torn ACL. Though Buehrle is not the pitcher he once was, he’s still good enough to have this pair ranked in the top half of the league when paired with the monstrous Jose Bautista. Since his breakout in 2010, only Joey Votto and Miguel Cabrera have had higher wRC+ than Bautista. He’s a destructive presence in the Jays lineup, and could be terrifying this year with both Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson in the same lineup.

14. St. Louis Cardinals, Adam Wainwright and Jason Heyward:

If you are the type who takes advanced defensive metrics at face value, this pair might belong in the top five. Obviously, I don’t. I think Jason Heyward is an awesome player, but not quite what WAR totals including +30 run defensive components say. If he hits his offensive ceiling, this pairing is fearsome, instead of just very good as it is now.

13. Cincinnati Reds, Johnny Cueto/Joey Votto:

In most years, Jonny Cueto’s 2014 season would have been a no-brainer Cy Young award winner. Obviously, 2014 wasn’t any other season, and the guy who made it that way is still yet to come, but Cueto is still a devastating pitcher. If I were more confident a 31 year old Joey Votto coming off injury is the player he once was, this may be a top five pair itself.

12. Chicago Cubs, Jon Lester/Anthony Rizzo:

One of two Chicago teams with a left-handed starter, slugging first basemen combo on this list, and by a bit the lesser. That’s not to take away from this pair, both of whom are awesome players. Both these players are awesome to watch, and incredible stories having overcome cancer to flirt with superstardom. When the Cubs emerge as a playoff contender, these two will assuredly be major reasons why.

11.  Pittsburgh PiratesGerrit Cole/Andrew McCutchen:

By some coincidence, this is the fourth consecutive NL Central team in these rankings, and (in my opinion) the best of the bunch. I’m not quite yet sold on Cole as an ace, but he’s a really solid pitcher who is more than enough to complement Andrew McCutchen, who may be MLB’s crown jewel right now. Players with such a combination of skill, charisma, and production are quite the rarity.

The Butterfly Effect: Yu Darvish and Adrian Beltre

Yu Darvish is going to get Tommy John surgery on Tuesday. As Michael Baumann noted, this is a tragedy on multiple levels and the Rangers look like they may be just as snakebitten by injuries this year as they were last. Despite the fact that almost every team in the AL has reason to hope this year, with the loss of Darvish and Profar, the Rangers are probably looking at another year in last place. Meanwhile, Adrian Beltre is out there at 3B, in the midst of a mid-to-late 30s second peak that is nudging him closer and closer to legitimate Hall of Fame candidacy. And the White Sox need a third baseman...

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Why it's cool to be excited about Jesse Crain

Jesse Crain is no different from any other scrap heap reliever at this point in the Spring. There are some distant reasons to be interested in him, but his red flags are such that there's likely no performance that can put him on the Opening Day roster. He's around because everyone needs to call up a bunch of relievers during the season so you might as well collect as many interesting ones as you can, and really, with his injury history, his recovery is optimistic and hopeful until there's a setback and he's not anymore.

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Top Hitter/Pitcher Pairs in MLB- numbers 21-30

As I introduced on Tuesday, I will be ranking position player-pitcher in the coming few days. Today, I will be ranking the bottom 10. Of note is this list features some really good players, and sometimes even really good pairs. This is decent evidence of the distribution of talent in baseball- even some of the worst teams, like Arizona, Colorado, and Houston, have at least one really good player. But enough preface, now I present the bottom ten pairs in all of baseball:

30: Arizona Diamondbacks, Josh Collmenter/Paul Goldschmidt:

As I was saying, there are some really good players on bad teams. Paul Goldschmidt is really, really good, a borderline MVP candidate in each of the last two years. The problem with this pair is quite obvious-Josh Collmenter really nothing special. That said, he’s the team’s opening day starter, and until Patrick Corbin returns from Tommy John surgery, half of the worst pair in baseball.

29. Minnesota Twins, Phil Hughes/Brian Dozier:

Whereas the Diamondbacks have great disparity between their two frontrunners, the each of the Twins pair are similar in their level of talent. While both Huges and Dozier are perfectly serviceable players, neither is really anything special, not as the star of a team. Like many things in Minnesota, there’s nothing special about this group, but a future pairing of Byron Buxton and Alex Meyer may have the mouths of Twins fans salivating.

28. Colorado Rockies, Jorge De La Rosa/Troy Tulowitzki:

This is another pair like the Diamondbacks in that it has one superstar and one meh pitcher. Tulowitzki is of course awesome; if he had stayed healthy he would possibly have won the MVP over Clayton Kershaw last year. De La Rosa is a totally serviceable pitcher, certainly, but nothing about him stands out, especially as he continues to age. Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler being on the horizon could have this pair looking up as well.

27. Atlanta Braves, Craig Kimbrel/Freddie Freeman:

The choice of best Braves pitcher was interesting. Julio Teheran is a really awesome young pitcher who, with another step forward could reach quite a lofty ceiling. That said, Craig Kimbrel is in the midst of a stretch of seasons as good as any reliever in baseball. He’s flat out unhittable out of the back of the bullpen. Now, that said, he’s still a reliever, which is why this pair ranks so low.

26. Milwaukee Brewers, Matt Garza/Carlos Gomez:

Carlos Gomez is a really cool player, one of the most fun to watch in baseball. Matt Garza is basically the opposite.

25. Baltimore Orioles, Chris Tillman/Adam Jones:

There really aren’t many players in baseball as fun as Adam Jones. He has, somewhat surprisingly, become a consistent 30 homerun threat while playing solid centerfield defense. Between him, Manny Machado, Matt Wieters, and JJ Hardy, the Orioles have a lot of fun players on offense. Their pitching could limit their chances of repeating as AL East chance, with Tillman leading an overall lackluster group. Kevin Gausman taking a next step could do wonders for the team and possible future iterations of this list.

24. Houston Astros, Dallas Keuchel/Jose Altuve:

Jose Altuve has quickly transformed from sort of a gimmick to one of the game’s elite players. Keuchel took a drastic leap forward himself, and with steady gains, could cause the Astros to rise a lot on this list.

23. Kansas City Royals, Yordano Venture/Alex Gordon:

Losing James Shields hurts the defending AL champs both in their 2015 playoff hopes and on this list. Yordano Ventura has the potential to be a really fun pitcher, but still is more flash than success. If he takes that next step, though, he could ascend to among the game’s best pitchers.

22. Boston Red Sox, Rick Porcello/Hanley Ramirez:

Rick Porcello is a really solid pitcher, and therefore doesn’t do justice how bad the Red Sox rotation is. That said, Ramirez and the offense could be awesome, and in many ways this team could be a more extreme version of the aforementioned Orioles.

21. New York Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka/Brett Gardner:

Masahiro Tanaka’s awesomeness is a testament to how high the Yankees are on this list. Brett Gardner is a really solid player, but hardly up to par for the title of Top Yankees Position Player. If the Yankees miss the playoffs for a third straight year, it’ll be in large part because of a lack of positional star power (if they make it, hopefully it’s on the back of a 50-dinger year from A-Rod Tha Gawd). 

The Catbird Speaks 3.11.15 - The worst podcast of all-time

Discussion topics for early March baseball podcasts can be rather open for interpretation. In this case, a conversation between Nick Schaefer, Ethan Spalding and James Fegan quickly became a rambling affair about all things baseball. Such as:

--Marcus Stroman's injury and the Sox chances at a Wild Card spot.

--Expectations for Micah Johnson and Tim Anderson

--Strikeout-heavy prospects being doomed

--James is not aware of any offseason transactions

--Ranting about projection systems

--So much more!

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Counting down the top hitter-pitcher duos in baseball: a primer

Don’t you love spring training? There’s baseball, live baseball, live baseball with real MLB players that I can see on my TV. It’s wonderful. It’s also a time where other than a few positional battles and cool storylines (there’s a ambidextrous pitcher!) there really isn’t much to talk about of much importance.

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Sale injury doesn't move the needle on Rodon

As we prepare for his Spring debut, Carlos Rodon's likelihood for beginning the season in Triple-A is one of the profoundly unfun elements of modern efficiency-obsessed and cost-conscious major sports. The White Sox have the temptation of an extra season of paying Rodon a suppressed salary, all they have to do is stumble for a few months pretending both Hector Noesi and John Danks are better, or good bets to outperform him during the first part of 2015; a year in which they're said to be competing for a championship.

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