Posts tagged ‘Chicago White Sox’

Friday: 01.31.2014

2014 SP Guide Sample: Chris Sale

Doug and I will be sharing a handful of samples over the next couple of weeks to give you an idea of what you can expect in the 2014 SP Guide. We have selected a diverse group across both leagues for the samples ranging from established aces to promising on-the-rise arms. Next up is superstar Chris Sale. There is a case that he’s actually underrated among aces after two brilliant seasons (no, all the samples won’t be AL Central guys!). The mechanics report card denotes the split between mine and Doug’s writing. Everything above the card was written by me, the card and text are Doug’s. If you have questions, comments, or funny jokes you can either comment here or reach us on Twitter @sporer and @doug_thorburn. Details on how to order the guide are included at the end of the piece. 

Chris Sale (25 years old) – While a certain sect of the baseball world waits for what they believe is an inevitable breakdown for him, Sale just continues to produce at a superstar level. His sixth and fifth place finishes in the last two Cy Young races are almost criminal. After an amazing 2012, Sale went out and did better across the board and ended up as an unquestioned fantasy ace even with just 11 wins. He added strikeouts and innings while dropping walks, ERA, and WHIP.

Sale’s three-pitch mix is positively devastating. His swing-and-miss (misses out of all swings, not of all pitches) rate sixth in baseball among qualified pitchers at 26 percent, up from last year’s 24.4 percent. Additionally, his called strike rate was at an insane 39.5 percent, fourth in baseball. He was the only one in baseball to finish in top 10 of both categories. A.J. Burnett and Max Scherzer join him as the only three in the top 20.

Sale gets his misses pretty evenly with 36.6 percent from the slider, 32.7 percent from the fastball, and 30.7 percent from the changeup while looking strikes were widely split with 49.4 percent coming from the fastball, 35 percent coming from the slider, and 15.6 percent coming from the changeup. He got 127 looking strikes in pitcher counts, second-most in baseball to Cliff Lee’s 175 and up from just 79 in 2012. He also got 73 looking strikeouts (backwards Ks) which was also second to Lee, who logged 93. Sale got 42 (57.5%) of those called strikeouts on the slider, 26 (35.6%) on the heater, and five (6.8%) on the changeup. Look at the improvement of where the looking strikeouts came from in 2013:

sale-look-K12

sale-look-K13

This is improved command. He was doing a lot more of my site’s name in 2013. Tied to the injury concerns, some are worried about the strong workload he has shouldered the last two seasons including a career-high 214.3 innings in 2013, but too much is made of innings counts as opposed to pitch counts. The number of pitches matters much more and particularly the pitches made under duress. It’s hard to figure out the latter, but the former is well-tracked in the internet age.

Sale threw 3,248 pitches and his 15.2 pitches per innings was the 15th-best rate in the game among pitchers with 150+ innings. For context, Hisashi Iwakuma led baseball at 14.1. Among the pitchers with at least 200 innings, his rate was 8th-best (C.J. Wilson’s 17.2 P/IP rate was last). I’ve taken the long way to outline just how great Sale is at pitching. You probably already knew that, but I think it’s worthwhile to point out some of the drastic improvements he made and why some of the concerns regarding his workload and potential breakdown are overblown.

Doug gave him a strong grade of B- last year (I’m sure another report is forthcoming from him, I’m writing this ahead of receiving his work) with only the balance getting a subpar grade (30). He has some injury indicators with the inverted W, elbow drag, and high slider volume, but he’s not markedly more risky than other guys with similar indicators (Strasburg shares the former pair, for example). Invest confidently.

reportcard-sale

Sale brings the funk, the whole funk, and nothing but the funk. His imbalance is pronounced for the first 90% of his delivery, as the lefty hunches over and leans back until foot strike, at which point he miraculously rights the ship to finish with near-perfect posture. With sharp arm angles and a lanky wingspan, he looks like a vulture stalking its prey before unleashing deadly sliders upon unsuspecting hitters. His delivery carries precursors to potential elbow injury, in which the angled wings and pronounced scapular load lead to recurrent elbow drag, so some of his funk might be destructive in the long run.

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Saturday: 05.4.2013

Jeremy Guthrie’s New “Success”

Jeremy Guthrie has a 3.06 ERA through five starts which looks like a continuation of his post-trade work with the Royals from last season when he had a 3.16 ERA in 91 innings over 14 starts. All told, he had a 3.14 ERA in 123 2/3 innings with 1.10 WHIP. He is blasting the zone resulting in a minuscule 5.8 percent walk rate – a marked improvement over his 6.9 percent career rate. His strikeout rate is at 16 percent as a Royal, up from a 14.3 career mark. Everything seems to suggest he has found a new level of production in his early-30s with his new club.

That strikes me as odd, though.

You don’t usually see a guy with 1111 innings of a certain level of production become something significantly better in their 30s. At least not without a major change in their pitch mix either by adding a pitch or using what he has differently. There hasn’t been any of that with Guthrie which made his improvement even more suspicious. This split of his innings as a Royal definitely stood out:

Guthrie

IP

ERA

WHIP

K%

BB%

vs. CWS

35.7

0.50

0.81

21%

2%

vs. Rest

87.7

4.21

1.31

14%

7%

Guthrie has owned his Saturday night opponent since becoming a Royal and it is driving his new found success. Against the rest of the league, he’s simply been the solid, if unspectacular Jeremy Guthrie we’ve known for nearly a decade, but he’s a Cy Young frontrunner against the Pale Hose. Let’s see if he continues the dominance tonight in Kauffman Stadium.

For those wondering, two of these five starts have come in Kauffman Stadium and he’s allowed five runs, but only one earned in 13 2/3 innings with nine strikeouts and two walks.

Saturday: 02.9.2013

Countdown to Spring Training: 14 Days – Jeff Keppinger

Only 14 days until live game action…

Just two weeks to game time! Well, 13 days. This is Friday’s entry.

Sorry for the delays, I’m stretched a little thinner than anticipated, but it’s a good thing because it’s extra writing work and of course the SP Guide which is coming along nicely.

JEFF KEPPINGER

There are more impactful players on the White Sox I could’ve written about, but I’m intrigued by Jeff Keppinger in 2013. He is going to be the everyday third baseman batting second for them. Third base has been an issue for quite some time in Chicago. The position has been a hole for the Sox for quite some time. It was temporarily filled last year with at least adequate production when Kevin Youkilis came over via trade, but he was far from the Youk of old. Gordon Beckham was above average there for 103 games in 2009, but the last time they had a full season of above average production at the hot corner was Joe Crede in 2006. Keppinger is far from a star, but he should bring some much-needed stability to the position.

On the fantasy landscape Keppinger’s appeal comes from the fact that he has an everyday job and he qualifies at three infield positions: first, second, and third base. That of course adds corner and middle infield for fantasy purposes, too. He even had 20 games as a DH with Tampa Bay last year so those leagues that require you to use an actual DH will like Keppinger even more. His offensive profile isn’t particularly special, but the flexibility he brings your lineup helps the modest production play up. It’s like a pitcher with a modest fastball, but pinpoint command. Yeah, that’s it… best comp ever.

Honestly, Kepp should be a platoon player and not the good side, but the Sox are giving him the role in full perhaps heartened by his work against righties last year (.302/.352/.403) which was well above his career level against righties (.269/.321/.358). The White Sox got nothing out of their #2 hole last year so even falling back to his career level versus righties combined with his sparkling .333/.376/.487 mark against lefties is going to yield a massive improvement over the .221/.296/.354 performance that the White Sox saw batting second last year. The 650 OPS was tied for third-worst in all of baseball with Minnesota and Seattle, just barely topping Oakland’s 649.

With Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko, and Alex Rios making up the heart of the order behind Keppinger (career .337 OBP), he should be in line to score plenty of runs. He had a bit of a power surge last year popping nine home runs which could jump up past double digits in his new ballpark. That said he is a groundball/line drive hitter which drives his batting average. His flyball rate is actually on the way down dropping to 27.4 percent last year after a 29.6 percent mark in 2010. His 9.2 percent HR/FB rate – his highest since 2006 when he played just 22 games – was responsible for his power surge last year.

I’m not recommending Keppinger as a shallow mixed league play, there is no need to go that deep, but super deep mixed leagues and of course AL-Only leagues can get some sneaky value with a guy like Keppinger. His batting average will be the meal ticket, but if he maintains everyday play all year we could see 80 runs scored, 10-12 home runs, 60 runs driven in. Think of him as 2012 Marco Scutaro-lite without the speed.

Thursday: 03.3.2011

Daily Dose – March 3rd

I feel like days should extend to 26 or 27 hours in late February then into March as there is just so much going on.  I’ve got nearly 30 hours of podcasts to catch up on and the oldest one is about a week old so it’s not like I’ve let it accumulate.  My Read It Later app is bubbling over with content.  My “to do” writing list has plenty to take care of on it.  My book list is growing (and adding another next week when Jonah Keri’s Extra 2% comes out).  The release of MLB 2K11 is next week.  Plus I’ve got a 30 Clubs in 30 Days (Kansas City) on the DVR as well as some Spring Training baseball I’d like to check out.

And all that is before fantasy draft prep which will begin in earnest next week as keeper lists start to roll in.  Jeez.  So much to do and so little time.  Especially when you factor in my regular job and sleeping.  Oh well, no need to complain.  It’s better than being bored out of your mind.   February to Opening Day is one of my favorite times of the year despite the fact that I hate winter weather.  It’s not really that bad in Texas plus it’s usually done by the beginning of March.

Ian Casselberry has a very perceptive post on willful ignorance and how it is oftentimes downright annoying.  I deal with the dismissiveness of Twitter a lot when discussing sports with people.  They always say some derivation of “I don’t care who’s eating a sandwich on their couch” as if that’s all you can find on Twitter.  Yes, it started as essentially a place of Facebook statuses, but it’s become SO MUCH more.

Yet despite how often they dismiss it as useless, they come to me just as often for news on trade deadline action and various other breaking news because they know I’ll read about it on Twitter well before it’s up on ESPN.com.  For some of the dissenters, I’ve watched them morph from Twitter hater to Twitter user.  Instead of rubbing it in, I just nod to myself quietly.  As Ian says, it’s not for everybody, but anyone dismissing it as useless out of hand has no idea what they are talking about and comes across as pretty stupid.

Are you trying to curb your enthusiasm for your baseball team, but struggling to do so as you read countless glowing and optimistic reports about them from Spring Training?  Grey Papke does the dirty work for you with his “Why Your Baseball Team Sucks” piece.  It’s a perfect dose of reality to temper your expectations for the upcoming season.

After reading up more on the Zach Sanders piece I shared yesterday on Fantasy Value Above Replacement, I realized it is essentially an extension of something our friends at FB Junkie threw out earlier last month with “Why Not Fantasy VORP?”.  So if you read FB Junkie’s piece back on February 1st, use Sanders’ as a fleshing out of their notion behind fantasy value.

Justin Bopp of Beyond the Boxscore has put together an easy to use Baseball Stat Acronym Pronunciation Guide.  I disagree with the BABIP as I just say it like a work “Ba-bip”, but otherwise he’s pretty spot on.

Sticking at BtB for a moment, Chris Spurlock has offered a great article covering in detail the changes to the bats in college baseball and making it easily digestible whether you’re a math novice or hardcore mathlete.  As mentioned in the article, this should be good news for MLB, primarily from a scouting angle.  While it would suck if it really hurt the college game which is a niche sport already, I am glad it is an improvement for MLB.  Prospect scouting will still be an inexact science rife with failure even at the high end of the draft, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.  Plus I’ve always been someone who enjoys a 3-2 game, so a lowered offensive output in the college game won’t keep me away from following my Longhorns and watching them live a couple times a year.

Ray Guilfoyle of FakeTeams released his catcher rankings today and there were some surprises to be sure.  Regardless of whether or not you agree with his ranking of the top guys, one thing remains clear to me: catcher has some depth to it.  Sure there are still stars at the top, but if you miss out on the Mauers and Poseys, you’re not toast.

Mike Fast from Baseball Prospectus has a cool piece up (for free) looking at the accuracy of Baseball Info Solutions pitch locations.  If you like second, third and even fourth level baseball analysis, in other words really detailed stuff, then you’ll love Fast’s work.  This particular piece has a stunning revelation about the data and specifically it’s usage at FanGraphs.

The San Diego Padres are going to have a tough time replicating their 2010 success (success being relative here as they fell short of the NL West crown on the last day of the season despite leading for quite some time throughout the season) with the loss of their one great hitter Adrian Gonzalez, but there is reason for optimism in the future.  John Sickels breaks down their top two pitching prospects, Simon Castro and Casey Kelly (acquired in the Gonzalez trade), in his Prospect Smackdown series.

This one is nearly a month old, but it got put on the back-burner once I went into full SP guide mode there in early-to-mid February, so in case you missed Jon Weisman’s look at the upcoming “Moneyball” movie, I suggest you take a read.  I have been in the minority with him in that I have been very excited about the movie from the moment I heard it was being made.  It’s gone through a lot, but I think it can be good.  I hadn’t thought of the links to a very popular 2010 movie that Weisman mentions in the piece.  I’d love to see it emulate the success of that film, but even if it doesn’t I think it can be a success in its own right.

One of the best guys over at CBS as far as I’m concerned is Al Melchior.  He’s definitely a stats-heavy guy which is something I inherently lean toward (though he favors taking pitching relatively early so we disagree heavily there), but also the interactive graphics used in his pieces at CBS are fantastic.  The latest is one on positional scarcity and it has a really fun chart to play with at the bottom.  Al is part of the CBS podcasts, too and they just recently finished their positional previews.  They have moved onto Sleepers and Breakouts.  I’d presume that a Busts episode is next as each of the positional podcasts had a Sleepers, Breakouts and Busts portion within it.

One of my favorite things of the fantasy preseason is articles where industry members participate in a mock and then do a write up on their team with the thought process behind each pick.  I find them more helpful than just seeing a list of where everyone went.  In fact, I find the latter next to useless as the flow of a draft, while not as dynamic as that of an auction, is still dynamic nonetheless and it’s hard to get a feel for why things happened without some commentary.  Cory Schwartz participated in a mock picking from the 9-spot and breaks down his draft for us.

Come Chat Tonight: I am still planning on a hosting a chat here at paulsporer.com soon, but tonight I will be chatting at Rotojunkie at 7 PM Eastern.  It will have a pitcher tilt to it of course, but as with my first chat here at the site, I will answer anything fantasy baseball-related.

Baseball Apps: Need to get your iPhone and iPad baseball ready for the season?  Take a look at these baseball apps that should get you well equipped to enjoy the season on the go.

You’ve No Doubt Seen This: But just in case, the baseball fan flowchart is a funny image floating around the blogosphere and Twitterverse.

Remember When…Lance Johnson was a triples machine?  From 1991-1996, Johnson led the league in triples for five of six seasons and hit 12 in the off year (1995, when he had an absurd power surge with 10 HR after never topping 3 before).  I was upset when he left the AL before the 1996 season (10 team AL-Only league) because he had a career year including 50 stolen bases, 117 runs scored, .333 average and 69 RBIs, all career highs.  His nine homers were close to a career high.

It’s purely coincidental that the first two of these segments happen to be about Chicago White Sox, but “One Dog” was a key cog of my early fantasy teams (probably explains why I didn’t win any titles as a kid) and again because I watched a lot of WGN when the Tigers weren’t on, I was very familiar with Johnson and the Sox.

Despite playing three fewer seasons, Johnson has one more career triple than Kenny Lofton (117 to 116).  I found that pretty surprising, but Lofton only had two double-digit seasons in triples and they were 11 years apart (league-high 13 in ’95 and then 12 in ’06).  Of course Lofton has nearly twice as many stolen bases (622/327), nearly four times as many home runs (130/34) and had a significantly higher success rate on the base paths (80%/76%), though both were really good.

Knowledge Bomb: Here is an absurd statistic from Mike Axisa about Hall of Famer Greg Maddux.  Absurd might even be an understatement.  It’s just unfathomably great.  Are you ready for this?  You may have already seen it, but it resonates even on second and third viewing:

 

As Scott Van Pelt & Ryen Russillo say on their radio show, “let that soak in your mentals for a minute”.  That’s so amazing.  Only another 160 saw a 2-0 count.  Maddux was just not a fan of getting behind.  He only retired in 2008 so he is still a few years from getting on the Hall of Fame ballot and while it’s already a joke, the HoF voters would thoroughly embarrass themselves yet again if they made Maddux sit through another round of voting instead of putting him in on the first ballot.