A Case for J.B. Shuck

Those of you out there who listen to our podcasts are probably used to hearing me complain about defensive metrics. In the end, my objections to defensive metrics are limited in their scope - I just think they should be approached as pieces of data, rather than definitive, precise measurements. However, that does not mean that I don't care about defense, or that I don't think it's important. For a long time, defense was so underrated that it was one of the market inefficiencies that Billy Beane tried to exploit. Picked up off the scrap heap, J.B. Shuck could provide a lot of value with his glove this year - especially given the White Sox' recent history.

Read More

Everyone's working on fastball command

I've titled a Spring Training post this way before, it was after Jake Peavy giddily recapped a March shelling by revealing that he had just been grooving 89 mph fastballs to different quadrants of the strike zone all afternoon, while a few thousands diehards who paid for tickets and airfare under the guise that they would be seeing baseball, eagerly watched. "Is Jake Peavy broken/dead/in permanent decline/masking a grievous injury" thinkpieces evidentally had a lot of merit at any given time, but Spring was always a weird place to start.

Read More

Samardzija's "debut" with the White Sox

Jeff Samardzija is scheduled to pitch for the White Sox Tuesday, against the White Sox, after Monday's White Sox vs. White Sox competition got rained out in the middle of the desert. Since the proper Cactus League Opener is on Wednesday with Jose Quintana, a preview of freaking out about actual, fake baseball could have waited a day, but I'm out of ideas now.

Read More

Minnie Minoso: dead at 90, unbeaten

More than three years ago now, in the weeks leading up to what wound up being Minnie Minoso's second-to-last shot at the Veteran's Committee vote for the Hall of Fame, the White Sox went through the exercise of a full-blown press event to stump for his candidacy. ESPN's Pedro Gomez hosted, fellow Cubans Luis Tiant and Tony Perez appeared and spoke alongside a collection of former teammates led by Billy Pierce. In the US Cellular Field conference room, Gomez acted as prosecutor, running through testimonies with the goal of proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that Minnie deserved to be in the Hall of Fame.

The defense rested.

So fervent was the Sox push, that there was even a cadre of bloggers present; myself included, and just to even further curry favor of the audience, the Sox presented us with an elaborate lunch before the testimonies started. Not knowing the protocol, a group of us hung back, until Minnie rolled by himself and extolled us to get started. It was kind of his party after all, and we weren't matching his intended vibe.

Placed aside token rattling off of Minoso's statistics, the testimonies strained a bit after lauding his five-tool skillset; they were attempting to articulate something abstract and hit upon the urgent necessity of his career. Minnie was older than everyone present, but it was striking how everyone, both fellow Cuban players he blazed the trail for, and white teammates, talked about him like a patriarch. That tone picked at the motivation for the ceremony: Minnie was old, no one was talking about his death, but it was time to start acknowledging that he couldn't wait forever. The Hall of Fame is a museum, but the ceremony is for the individuals involved. As much as Minnie wanted it--and he did, sincerely--his friends wanted to be with him for his culmination.

It's hard, not to be angry.

There's an injustice, an indignity, for a man at the end of a brilliant, unrepeatable career and life, to be transformed into a resume-stuffer, stacking up accomplishments to place alongside "First black Latino in MLB," "integrating Chicago baseball," so it can be accounted for its worth. Minoso's legacy faces the same obstacles of any conversation about racism today, a misunderstanding of integration to be like prohibition; something that was lifted at a specific date and done, rather than an agonizing process, with "hit-by-pitches" being the only vague statistical measure that can communicate staring down racial hatred so visceral it took the form on assault on Minoso's very body with no guarantee anyone would have his back when he dusted himself off.

But Minoso never wore these frustrations. He was not built to. Of the challenges and insults he faced, it was insignificant. He traveled from Cuban sugarcane fields, toiled in the Negro Leagues, sat behind lesser white players until he got his shot, kicked everyone's ass at a Hall of Fame level for a decade, lived out his retirement as a conquering hero counseling dozens of Cuban ballplayers he kicked in the door for, taking in Sox games whenever he felt the notion, and pushed his Cadillac around his city until his heart gave out.

Minoso said on record, many times, that his dream was to be in the Hall of Fame. It's a construct, an artificial and arbitrary honor, but Minoso believed as much as anyone in the code of ethics and tradition built around this game. But the failure to honor and completely recognize Minoso before his leaving us is our own, not his.

Scorpions ate the baseball team and other White Sox notes

Since the events of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, scorpions have been derided as a national menace. Now, they serve as the initial test for a White Sox team eager to prove themselves as contenders. If they survive the Spring with a casualty rate under 30%, they're playoff-bound. That's how it works, and we're already seeing how weaker organizations are being felled.

Read More

The Catbird Speaks - 2.24.15: It's Spring Training for us too

As for the actual discussion, well, there was Brad Penny, because we were obsessed with finding out who the ideal long reliever in the White Sox organization is. Other topics include Jeff Samardzija already using as much analytics as anyone would want, trouble with the ESPN rankings, the horror of an eight-man bullpen, and other excellent Sox nuggets.

Read More

Every team in the AL sucks

Heading into the 2015 regular season, it seems that most every American League team fancies themselves as a contender. As I’ve talked about earlier, this center-heavy distribution of talent should have interesting implications on the playoff race. This post is not about that. This post is me being a mean person who sees the flaws in everything. This post is about how every team in the American League will finish below .500, mathematical impossibilities be damned*.

Read More

Your Ultimate 2015 White Sox Spring Training Primer

Spring Training is finally here. What this means is we can all get excited about the sight of actual major league baseball players on an actual baseball field, and then cry over the realization that we're still six weeks away from meaningful games being played.

Still, the season of optimism is upon us, so let's take a look at some of the important things to monitor during the White Sox's time in Arizona.

Read More

The White Sox reporting early en masse

White Sox position players are not contractually required to be in Glendale until next week, and the pitchers aren't required to be in until Friday. And yet, at least a third of the players invited to camp were reported to have already arrived by Monday. Dan Hayes even reported that Adam Eaton and Jeff Samardzija were ahead of the game and live in Arizona and have been in and out of team facilities for the last few months. Actually living in that state; now that's true sacrifice, something that layabouts like Jose Abreu--showing up less than three weeks early--can only dream about. 

Read More

Initial Vegas Over/Under Has White Sox At 82 Wins

Baseball fans have a lot of projections at their disposal - PECOTA, Zips, Steamer, Cairo, etc. etc. One projection system is sometimes overlooked in certain circles, and I suspect because people view it as having a different purpose than projection - Vegas Lines. People think Vegas Lines are just trying to exploit the perceptions of casual fans.  But, because of how Vegas makes a profit - trying to get equal action on both sides of the line and simply taking a cut off the top - the market can "correct" lines until you get a sort of Wisdom of the Crowds result with the input of some very knowledgable people.  Depending on the year, you can get different results - but in short, Over / Unders from Vegas are a worthwhile resource when trying to figure out what will happen in the coming year.

Read More

Gordon Beckham: Our Kirk Hinrich

This is the both a casual, lazy diss comp and stunningly accurate with numerous parallels. I could dredge up other instances of familiar utility infielders whose roles expanded beyond initial plans because their managers' love of their reliability trumped cold assessment of their skill level and statistical production. But probably the most relatable example for this audience is current situation on the West Side, where a seemingly innocuous bench player has their role expanded until it is a blinding hindrance.

Read More

The Catbird Seat rails against ESPN's preseason predictions

The wise and just ESPN Sweetspot Guru David Schoenfield is going through his pre-Spring rankings of every MLB team and the White Sox have come up...a bit earlier than I would have hoped. David ranks them 23rd in baseball, predicts a 77-85 mark and cites concerns about the back-half of the starting rotation, problems spots in the infield, and does not appear to be a Tyler Flowers’ Glasses Truther. The Sox are behind the Tigers--whom he acknowledges could be division favorites again--the Royals, the Rays, and his surprise team: the Houston Astros.

Read More

Playing Without A Safety Net - Life in the AL Central

As Rick Hahn pointed out, the most important thing to take away from the various AL Central projections is that it's probably going to be a tight race. Sure, if you take two teams with "true" 81-win talent, give one good luck and the other bad they may wind up very far apart. But right now we don't know where that luck is going to fall, and most projection systems seem to think that the Indians, Tigers, White Sox, and Royals are pretty close in terms of present talent. Over the course of 162 games, injuries will likely play a huge role in differentiating between these four teams. While there are certain things teams can do to mitigate against injury - Herm Schneider is considered one of the best in the business at doing just that - the best thing a front office can do is prepare as many Plan Bs as possible in the form of depth. So which organization is in the best shape in terms of backup plans should Plan A go awry? 

Read More

The importance of Carlos Rodon

Since the minute Carlos Rodon signed to a $6,582,000 bonus, the largest in the 2014 draft and White Sox draft history, it’s been clear he’s on the fast track to the big leagues. Though that promotion did not come to fruition in 2014, Rodon has already reached Triple-A, and has stuff that in short bursts was entirely overwhelming to hitters there despite lackluster command.

Read More

The Catbird Speaks: 2.9.15 - Just talking about baseball, really

It's February: the most exciting and thrilling time of the baseball news cycle. Between Gordon Beckham return, Dayan Viciedo leaving, and Spring Training....coming eventually, there's so much White Sox news to t--ah screw it.

James Fegan (@JRFegan), Nick Schaefer (@Nick_TCS) and Ethan Spalding (@spaldingethan) gathered together to dish on Victor Martinez's knee injury, Tigers' depth problems, the Royals' stupid, cheap offseason, how the Indians could be scary, Mookie Betts being overrated, defensive metrics being dumb, and then, then it went off the rails.

Read More