Reading Room: Greinke's gone

The Royals are clearing the deck as they wait for their prospects arrive, so the White Sox need to seize the year.

It could very well be the case that the AL Central is decided by the Kansas City Royals. Or, more specifically, how hard the White Sox, Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers beat them.
The Royals dealt ace Zack Greinke and Yuniesky Betancourt to the Milwaukee Brewers for a four-pack of prospects/young players — shortstop Alcides Escobar, center fielder Lorenzo Cain, and pitchers Jeremy Jeffress and Jake Odorizzi.
Nobody’s declaring a winner or loser, but the general feeling is that the return is underwhelming, because the Royals opted for fit instead of impact. Escobar and Cain fill holes, and maybe more importantly, neither of them block the three-headed ProspectMonster that is Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, and Wil Myers, but their offensive ceilings are lacking. Jeffress looks like a bullpen upgrade in time, but Odorizzi might be their only shot at an impact player.
But with Greinke out of the way, Luke Hochevar — he of the 19-32 career record and 5.60 ERA — will lead the rotation. The Royals may only be down for this year, but it looks like they’re going to be down down. Whether the Sox can take advantage of that could go a long way.
Here’s how the White Sox have feasted on the Central’s worst in recent years it might have mattered (Minnesota’s record):

  • 2010: 10-8 vs. KC (13-5)
  • 2009: 19-17 vs. KC/CLE (22-14)
  • 2008: 12-6 vs. DET (11-7)
  • 2006: 11-8 vs. KC (12-7)
  • 2005: 13-5 vs. KC (13-6*)
  • 2004: 13-6 vs. KC (12-7)
  • 2003: 11-8 vs. DET (15-4)
  • 2002: 12-7 vs. DET (14-4)

*denoted Cleveland’s record
While the division has never been decided by a difference in performance against the bottom-feeder, I don’t think it’d be absurd to say it has an emotional effect. At the very least, it changes the narrative. The Sox’s unimpressive play against the Royals results in stalled momentum with Hawk Harrelson saying, “They always play us tough.”
The Sox have no reason to let the Royals play tough this year. Besides Greinke, Kansas City got rid of David DeJesus and replaced him with no-OBPers Jeff Francouer and Melky Cabrera. Hell, the Sox might even benefit from a lack of Betancourt, because he dealt the Sox a couple of nut-punches last year. I don’t understand it either, but it happened.
MLB teams are MLB competition, so I’m not saying the Sox should go 17-1. But 13 doesn’t seem unreasonable, and it might even be necessary. On paper, it reminds me a little bit of 2003, when the 119-loss Tigers rolled over for everybody but the Sox. At the end of the year, the Sox lost the division by four games. Three of those games could and should have been made up against Detroit.
********************************
Christian Marrero Reading Room:
*Phil Rogers likes the trade for KC, for what it’s worth.
*Over at The Platoon Advantage, relatively impartial Twins fan Bill asks three questions about the Sox.
*Mark Buehrle’s flip won MLB.com’s Gibby Award for best defensive play.
*Beyond the Box Score has a neat interactive graphic displaying which teams have traded with each other over the last five years.
*What everybody wants for Christmas — Ozzie Guillen’s nipple.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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dalton

Was 2009 an aberration for Greinke? He was lights out that year, but his 2010 numbers were decidedly worse.
How’d he pitch against Chicago in 2009 – 2010? Anyone have those stats?
I’m sure his numbers will rebound some in the NL, but will we see 2008 Greinke (good but not great), 2009’s stud version, or the #4 starter #s of 2010?

pdxsoxgirl

I am feeling pretty blue and baseball deprived right now. Goodness is it only December and the season is still more than three months away?

brittburnsfan

At the very least teams will go into a series with KC not focusing (fearing) a matchup with Greinke. Not saying MLB hitters “fear” any pitcher but it seemed as though some teams would face Greinke and battle only to get beat the next day by a different Royal pitcher.
Although looking at KC’s records, this did not happen often enough for KC’s liking.

dalton

The Platoon Advantage writer is firmly in the Start-Sale-Now camp. Evidently, Sale’s spending more than one more day in the bullpen will forever consign him to the dustin of history.
Is it just me, or are pitchers pansies compared to what they were as recently as the ’80s? Wilbur Wood led the league in relief appearances from ’68 – ’70 (86, 76, and 77, respectively), then, beginning in ’71, started 42, 49, 48, 42, and 43. He averaged 336 IP during those five seasons, won 106 games (lost 89), completed 99, threw 22 shutouts, and accumulated a 36 WAR during that span. Somehow, working 239 games in relief (some 400 innings) in three years before becoming a starter didn’t doom him.
I know he is but one example, but pitchers of yore were just expected to pitch, whether it be in the rotation or out of the pen. Today’s pitchers seem more fragile and pampered. Maybe it’s the salaries. I don’t know. But I don’t think a full season of Sale in the bullpen is going to ruin him.

bigfun

I don’t think Wood is a good comparison, though. Knuckleballers are special cases.
Beyond that, pitchers of yore had shorter careers and fewer expectations that their health would be protected. They also didn’t throw the ball as hard.

billtpa

Thanks, Jim, for “relatively impartial.” All any of us can ask for, really. 🙂
I don’t think it’s the case that “Sale’s spending more than one more day in the bullpen will forever consign him to the dustin of history.” I do, however, think that pitchers who do exceptionally well in the bullpen tend to be kept there. See Jonathan Papelbon, and what’s currently happening to Feliz. There’s a good chance Sale will be a lights-out closer and set-up man, and will be worth less to the Sox than he would be if he were even just an average starting pitcher. So I don’t believe young pitchers should be used as relievers until they’ve proven that they can’t handle starting.

dalton

Platoon Advantage also threw out Adrian Beltre as a potential 3B option for Chicago. Is this just completely unrealistic?
Also, looks like the Yankees are hot after Freddy:

dalton

Jim, is Chicago just not interested in re-signing Freddy? Do you think they believe Peavy will be ready to start in May? I don’t expect him back in April, and like you wrote in a previous post, due to the April schedule, Chicago can get by with four starters and maybe the occasional spot start from Pena, but if he’s not going to be ready by May, then what?

dalton

What about prying Joakim Soria away from the Royals to close for us?

bigfun

He’s under team control through 2014, so the Royals probably wouldn’t want to trade him within the division, since they should be competitive again by then.

brittburnsfan

Wonder what it would take for us to do that? I know that Sale can’t be traded yet due to being in the draft less than a year ago, but he would have to be the type of player the Royals would expect to get back. Who else do we have that the Royals would be interested in? Viciedo?

bigfun

Doubt they would want Viciedo since they have Hosmer and Moustakas. I assume they would be interested in Sale, although they already have a ton of lefties on the way up. Flowers might be relevant depending on if Wil Meyers sticks at catcher.
Trading for a guy like Soria would be a bad move for the Sox, though.

dalton

Why? Paying too much for a closer argument?

blah

Saves are overrated argument. That and any relievers impact on a game is minimal given that they only see 1-3 batters on average.

dalton

So by that argument, you’d be OK with Pena closing, since his impact is minimal?

bigfun

I think minimal is the wrong word – bullpens put up a pretty good amount of WAR and are even more relevant in context stats.
But yeah, it would cost too much in prospects and money to get Soria. Look at how the Royals got him in the first place – he was a Rule 5 pick. That’s how smart teams build good bullpens, not by paying a premium to buy high on an established player.

dalton

Then those smart teams trade their only worthwhile starter for talent others deem “underwhelming.”
So, by not going after a Soria, we are left with what many think is a lack of depth in the bullpen. One of Chicago’s two lights-out arms (Thornton and Sale) is being considered by posters here as a potential starter, and most here agree with BigFun that bullpens contribute WAR and are especially “relevant in context stats,” yet we’d rather the team buy low on middling talent or go back in time to draft a closer (that we’d want to have pushed into starting).

bigfun

The Greinke trade doesn’t retroactively make the Soria acquisition a bad move.
And no one wants to go out and get “middling talent.” Most relievers are a gamble, and the few who aren’t are priced exorbitantly. I’d prefer some more acquisitions in the vein of Thornton, Santos, and Putz.

blah

The Sox bought low on DJ Carrasco, Putz & Thornton, all of those worked out. I’d have no problem with the Sox getting a player on the rebound.

knoxfire30

The brewers have seen the light, instead of paying top dollar for over the hill mediocre NL pitchers coming off years they wont repeat, they go out this offseason do the opposite trading for in their prime AL starters who are going to dominate the NL Central and the only needed to move prospects and basically one guy off their 25 man roster to accomplish it. Thats good work, and it can have benefits for the whitesox which is a nice bonus.

buford

Greinke’s record vs. the Sox and Twins last year:
SOX: 1-0 (with 1 no decision; KC won the game)
TWINS: 0-4 (not a typo)
Also, the trade of Greinke (and Marcum) to Milwaukee could also help the Sox since Minnesota plays Milwaukee 6 times in interleague play.
Last year the Twins lost 4 of 6 to the Brewers. Maybe the additional pitching help can at least maintain that record.
The interleague matchups for the Sox/Twins/Tigers:
SOX: Cubs (6) WASH (3) LA (3) AZ (3) COL (3)
TWINS: MILW (6) LA (3) AZ (3) SF (3) SD (3)
TIGERS: NY (3) PITT (3) COL (3) LA (3) SF (3) AZ (3)

bigfun

Hm. Kinda cool that the Sox will dodge that SF rotation.

buford

Dodging an opponent’s best pitcher(s) is probably the best example why baseball is the unfairest of all sports.
This is best typified using Seattle when it had Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee:
Minnesota plays a 3-game series at Seattle and faces their #3 and #4 and #5 starters. Then the Sox follow them to Seattle and face Seattle’s #1 (Hernandez) and #2 (Lee) and #3. Not quite fair.
Granted most teams didn’t have the Seattle mix of starting pitchers – 2 ace starters and the remaining 3 starters #5 types – but the basic premise remains :
You have a much better chance of winning if you can avoid facing a team’s best starting pitcher(s).
And that is just luck.
And also unfair if a rival dodges more aces than you.
Of course, there are instances like Greinke’s 0-4 record vs. the Twins last year. But I would think that was the exception and not the rule.
It would be interesting to see which teams faced more than their share of aces and which teams faced fewer during a season.
Going into a baseball season you know beforehand that a team is going to put its best team on the field only 20% of the time. And if you can face the 80% more than your rivals, you have a better chance of post-season play.
Baseball may be unfair, but it’s still the best sport.
And that is not an unfair statement.

dalton

That’s baseball!

bigfun

Yeah but all that scheduling stuff basically evens out over the course of 162 games. Hernandez started twice against both teams in 2010. The one time when the Twins and White Sox faced the Mariners back-to-back in 2010, it resulted in seven straight loses for the Ms.

buford

You can’t make a blanket statement “all that scheduling stuff basically evens out over the course of 162 games” and then “validate” it by using only one example.
Maybe it does even out every season year after year, but you have to look at all teams over decades to give substance to such a statement.
That’s too much for me to tackle, but maybe Phil Rogers and his “+1 / -1” analysis can get to the heart of the matter.

blah

Didn’t you just make the “baseball is the most unfair sport” argument by doing the same thing?

buford

An ace SP pitches every 5 games – 20% of his team’s games. And opposing teams have no control whether they face the ace SP or an inferior SP. These are facts…not cherry-picking points.
My opinions are that a team has a better chance of winning when not facing an ace SP. And the fewer ace SP you face over a season vs. your rival gives you an advantage over your rival in winning a title.
To what degree, if any, is the question.

bigfun

Alright, let’s say I strongly suspect that stuff evens out over the season. I don’t have time to comb through decades of data and find out if facing disproportionate numbers of aces makes baseball less fair than a sport like football with a fraction of the sample size and far greater variance year-to-year in terms of what opponents are played.

dalton

And what about when said ace is not on his A game. Out of how many starts, how many of them are clunkers? And what if a team runs into the #3 or #4 starter on a night where he throws like an ace. This is why the games are played on the field, and not on paper, as we all know. Is it fair that you ended a series having to face Lincecum, and then you head into a series with, say, LA, and their #4 guy hurls eight innings of shutout ball?
And do these teams have to face your favorite team’s ace?

billtpa

“baseball is the unfairest of all sports”
In football, you play only about nine of the 15 other teams in your conference in a given season. You play three of them twice each and six not at all, and yet you’re competing against all of them for wild card spots. This is considerably more unfair than maybe not seeing a team’s best pitcher in one game out of a three-game series.
In basketball, you run around the court for 46 minutes and then in the final two minutes, some referee (either arbitrarily or because he’s been paid off) decides what the final score is going to be.
There’s a lot of unfairness in baseball, but to me it’s clearly the least unfair of the three major sports.

buford

Scheduling is just as bad in baseball.
AL Central teams will play 90 of 162 games (55%) outside their division vs. teams they are competing for the wild card. And there is an imbalance in the number of games played against each team in the AL East and AL West.
For instance, in 2011, Detroit plays 20 games total vs. Boston, NYY and Tampa. The Sox play 22 such games and Minnesota plays 25. Detroit also plays Baltimore 10 games while the Sox and Minnesota each play 8 such game. Advantage – Detroit
Historically, the difference in AL games outside your division have ranged from as low as 5 games per team to as high as 10 games per team. Think the Sox would like playing the Red Sox 10 times while the Twins play them 5 games?
Interleague play is no different. How many NL teams would love to play 6 games vs. the minor league Royals this year like the Cardinals.
Scheduling inequities exist every year and in every sport. They are certainly not relegated to football.
Also, I didn’t know that bad calls by officials late in the game occurred only in basketball.
I never realized that baseball umpires never affected the outcome of games by obvious missed calls on the bases or less than obvious missed strikes/balls. Thanks for the knowledge.
And you glossed over my point. Baseball teams can put their best on the field only 20% of the time.
Football and basketball can put their best on the field 100% of the time.
Or have football teams begun a QB rotation with each QB playing only once every 5 games?

billtpa

I don’t disagree with any of this, except the first sentence. It’s the nature of the sport (well, that AND stupid scheduling), but in football, you play 40% of the division ZERO times. You’re also dealing with a sport where (a) it’s easier for a bad team to beat a good team, and (b) there are more chances to do it. So you can have things happen like a year or two ago where the Nationals just dominated the Yankees. If the NFL equivalents of the Nationals and Yankees play each other, the Yankees can expect to win a prohibitively huge percentage of the time. However unfair you think baseball’s scheduling is, football’s is worse.
And I’m as big a critic of umpires as anyone, and it’s ridiculous that we don’t have instant replay yet. But baseball has rules that, with the proper technology and everything, can be consistently and correctly enforced. Basketball’s rules, meanwhile, are MADE for selective enforcement. Calling them by the book would essentially result in free throws on every possession. So the ref gets to decide games on a whim according to when he wants to call the violations and when he doesn’t.
If your point is that teams only get to start their best 20% of the time, well…what’s unfair about that? Are there teams out there who don’t, who have pitchers who throw 162 games a year? Assuming not — assuming *everybody* can only throw their best guy out there 20% of the time — that actually sounds like the definition of “fair” to me.

buford

Your first sentence states that you only disagree with my scheduling thoughts upon which we’re going to have to agree to disagree.
But your last paragraph also disagrees with my other thought this time on “20%/80% unfairness.”
“If your point is that teams only get to start their best 20% of the time, well…what’s unfair about that?..”
That not my point. The point is how often (or not) do other teams have to face these “20% pitchers” as compared to their rivals. And what effect, if any, does this potential “unfairness” have on a team’s overall record.

billtpa

well, I didn’t disagree with any of the facts. My only point was that baseball is very far from the “unfairest” sport. And I don’t think the 20% thing really has anything to do with fairness on the league level, since it’s randomly distributed and doesn’t necessarily disproportionately affect certain teams the way, say, everything about football does.
Anyway, even if you’re just talking about which team gets the short end of the stick from random chance in a given season, I doubt it ever makes much of a difference. There are too many other factors in baseball, which lead to things happening like the Sox going 4-0 against Greinke or the Indians a few years ago going 5-0 against Santana, for stuff like that to make all that big a difference.

ricksch

Josh Fields signs a minor league deal with the Pirates. All I could think to say is that the pot has finally found the lid. Not to be cruel but this guy has been on the slippery slope since he flashed a bit of pop back in 2007. His glovework is positively Teahen-esque if not (somehow) worse and he strikes out too much. Maybe now that he’s had the back surgery he’ll improve?

ricksch

You’re probably right. Unfortunately, I know something about back pain and once someone resorts to back surgery, well, you never really “heal” and it’s likely you’re going to get worse sooner or later. In these sort of cases, I think these guys are largely buying time — and it can seem to be worth it when the stakes are this high. Too bad for the guy. Hope he saved some money.
Speaking of Sox’ busts, BA is now in the Yankee org.

dalton

Isn’t BA there as a pitcher?
And you’re right about back pain. Avoid surgery at all costs (try palliative measures like chiropractic care, deep tissue massage, or even rhizotomy, where they burn out the nerves in the vertebrae – I’ve had this done).
I feel for Crede. Literally. He tried to tough it out as long as he could. The back is so tricky, even a sneeze can wreck a balky back.

Shinons
bigfun

“But in the words he used, ‘I feel normal.'”
might be nice if we not take this guy at his word for a little while

bigfun

Pete Rose Jr. to manage Bristol White Sox affiliate
Sorry if this was already posted and I missed it.