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The last two times Mark Buehrle captured the imagination of a nation, the Sox have gone into a tailspin. Let’s hope incredible defensive plays don’t count the same as no-hitters and MLB records.
And by the way, you know it’s a special, special play when the opposing radio crew gets more excited about it than the home team. Let’s watch it again, until MLB.com takes it down because it doesn’t give people the option of sharing awesome moments:
If Monday afternoon is any indication, however, he has at least one new weapon in his arsenal to combat his slide, and he tipped his hand a couple of days ago:
“I’m throwing the fastballs in and locating to righties the best it has been, even during the season,” Buehrle said. “I’ve been working on getting lefties out, with Cooper talking about throwing in more to lefties — even using offspeed.“
He did just that. He only threw a handful of changes to left-handed hitters, but he looked great doing so.
Buehrle threw one to Grady Sizemore in each of his first two at-bats. The first resulted in a soft groundout to second; Sizemore was way ahead of the second, and it set up a high fastball that Sizemore lofted harmlessly to center.
In Shin-Soo Choo’s second at-bat (or as Hawk Harrelson calls him, Shin-Sin Choo), Buehrle doubled up with changeups. Choo took the first one, but he was way out in front when Buehrle doubled up, resulting in a K.
Choo entered the game 5-for-12 against Buehrle with a double, triple, homer and an HBP. He went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts.
So far, Buehrle’s experiment is working. Lefties generally shy away from throwing changes to lefties, because the pitch breaks toward the power spot — down and in. At this point, though, he needs to keep lefties off his fastball however he can, and Monday was a great start toward that end. The three hits Buehrle allowed were all soft.
His changeups will be worth charting the next time he faces the Indians. He has the benefit of novelty on his side right now, but as it becomes more and more a part of the scouting report, we’ll see how great that pitch really is.
Speaking of early returns, Alex Rios got off to a sorely needed hot start. His homer to center was one of two hard-hit balls on the day — the other was a hard-luck out courtesy of a diving Asdrubal Cabrera.
What jumped out to me immediately was the positioning of Rios’ hands. They looked awfully low, and my eyes weren’t lying. I took screen shots of Rios over three different periods of his brief Sox career:
I didn’t pay particularly close attention to Rios when he was in Toronto, but because he said he watched old film to figure out where he went wrong, I threw that last frame in for comparison.
I’m not sure how much we can gather from it, but I found it interesting to see that 1) Rios used to hold his hands high, 2) he crouched more, and 3) stood closer to the plate. Maybe Rios used the old footage for balance or weight transfer, because his new stance looks nothing like his old one.
Rios can stand however he wants as long as he doesn’t topple over himself like he did for his first six weeks in a White Sox uniform. Judging from the way he stayed on top of that outer-half pitch from Tony Sipp, maybe he’s found that balance after all.
And let’s not underestimate the impact of the diving catch he made to end the game, in terms of reputation and reception. Rios had been criticized in Toronto for coasting, and he drew comparisons to Javier Vazquez for a lack of outward intensity. Going all-out with a six-run lead in the ninth inning of the first game of the season should win him some friends.
Three items of business:
No. 1: There’s a new game recap blog, State of the Sox 2010. So adjust your RSS feeds and bookmarks accordingly, should you use that method.
No. 2: I disabled the mobile theme for the time being, because I upgraded to the new version of the plugin, and the mobile theme showed up in regular browsers, both PC and Mac. So it’s off for now, and I’ll revert to the old version when I’m back.
No. 3: Last but not least, you may have noticed those ESPN-branded navbars across the top of the site. That’s because I’ve joined the ESPN SweetSpot network run by Rob Neyer.
There are further plans for expansion, but what this means so far is:
- The site is featured on the sidebar of Neyer’s blog.
- There’s also a link on ESPN.com’s MLB index page, in the dropdown under the SweetSpot box.
- I’ll be contributing a line to the ESPN.com MLB Power Rankings on a (semi?) regular basis.
I’ll let you know when other features are rolled out as well, but it should be a pretty fun project to be involved in.