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Sometimes things happen for a reason.
Take, for instance, Alexei Ramirez’s sacrifice bunt in the seventh inning of the White Sox’s 7-5 victory over the Texas Rangers. In the previous thread, marshlands said:
After all the complaining about Alexei’s ability to bunt, he lays one down today, for what? Juan Pierre to make some outs? COOL GUYS.
Sure enough, Ramirez moved runners to second and third only to see Pierre pop out to the right side.
Had Pierre delivered a broken-bat hit, reached on an error, or somehow brought in a run undeservedly, we may not have been treated to this long-overdue news:
“[Pierre] ain’t playing tomorrow,” said Guillen. “And then we’ll try and figure out the next day.
“We have a couple of righties [pitching Saturday and Sunday], move him down to the No. 9 spot to make him relax a little bit.”
The Sox still scored the two runs Pierre failed to bring home (on a single wild pitch, to boot), they won the game, and the Sox should benefit from this particular adjustment. What’s not to like?
The answer to that depends on how far down the road you look.
In the short term …
It’s a thrilling development, worthy of driving around the South Side and honking horns. The Sox were using their second-worst hitter to sop up the most at-bats, and now Guillen has a chance to give more deserving players a chance to be driven in by Paul Konerko.
Mark Teahen was one possible replacement, and he seems like the best possible candidate based on combination of talent and recent performance. Alex Rios is another option, although his low walk rate leaves a little to be desired.
Beggars can’t be choosers, though. If it comes down to Rios, that’s fine. The 2008 White Sox worked well enough with a so-so OBP guy at the top of the order in Orlando Cabrera. He wasn’t a reaching-base machine, but he didn’t disappear. Merely avoiding a crash would constitute an earth-shaking improvement.
In the long term …
What. The. Hell.
After the Sox traded for Pierre, I wrote:
By acquiring Juan Pierre and $10.5 million in exchange for Jon Link and John Ely, Williams merely continued this offseason’s theme of expending energy on the margins. Adding onto the running total from before, Williams has now sunk $11 million into nonessential players who stand a noticeable chance of making the team worse.
Early on, the results are mixed, but we do know no player is actively hurting the team more than Pierre. That he’s a zero with the bat completely nullifies his most valuable asset, and he’s somehow not a defensive upgrade over Scott Podsednik, either. Hell, he’s served as DH in five games while Carlos Quentin has plodded around in right. That’s not saying that Quentin might be better with the glove (God, no), but Pierre isn’t convincing Guillen that he’d be much better off with him in the outfield. It should be a no-brainer, and it’s Pierre’s fault that it isn’t.
And he’s making $5.5 million next year. (What is it with guys making $5.5 million, anyway?)
If you’re trying to be optimistic, it isn’t impossible. Pierre had a terrible first two months in his only season with the Cubs back in 2006, posting a .276 OBP through May out of the leadoff spot. He came back with a .777(!) OPS over the last four, which suckered the Dodgers into giving him $44 million. That’s probably out of his reach, but stranger rebounds have happened before. The guy whom Pierre replaced here, for instance.
Some kind of revival should be in order. He’s fast and he doesn’t strike out, so it seems incredibly unlikely that he’d hit .210 forever.
The best-case scenario (within reason) is that Teahen, Rios, or whoever it is that gets the lion’s share of the leadoff at-bats performs competently, which coincides with the offense’s improvement to average-ish production. Guillen, like he did in 2008 with Pierzynski in the second slot, sticks with what works for the rest of the season, even though Pierre is progressing toward the mean. In fact, Guillen considers Pierre as a catalyst, a second-leadoff man, and bats him ninth out of strategy, and not as a last resort. Egos are soothed, and everybody’s happy enough.
The worst-case scenario doesn’t take much imagination. It’s happening right now, just more expensively next year.
Even then, there’s at least a sliver of satisfaction in seeing common sense prevail. Kenny Williams quixotically pursued ideas like “the game is changing” and “leadoff men are born, not made,” when, in fact, productive ballplayers are still valuable and leadoff men get on base.
It was good timing that MLB Network offered a sneak preview of their White Sox reality show, “The Club,” on Thursday afternoon. In the collection of clips, one has Williams saying to Guillen and Jerry Reinsdorf, “Ideally, I would’ve liked to have given you guys more guys who can get on base.”
Jim Thome is hitting .256/.385/.605. Mark Kotsay: .111/.200/.194. Maybe these flops will convince him to prioritize results instead of “fit” the next time.
Impressions from Jake Peavy’s Pitch f/x numbers, comparing his last start against April 23:
Velocity: Down by close to two ticks.
Pitch selection: A ton more sliders and far fewer changeups, which more closely resembles his good Padres self. He wasn’t much of a changeup pitcher until recently, and this last time around, he threw fewer changeups than any other offspeed pitch. He also threw more curves, which is something he started doing last year.
Pitch effectiveness: His slider had more life to it, but it only resulted in a couple more swinging strikes (eight). That’s still below his career average.
What’s it all mean: Peavy the Ace isn’t back yet, but that won’t happen until he starts hitting the mitt. He didn’t do that in the first inning against Texas on Wednesday, and that’s the only inning that hurt him.
Christian Marrero Reading Room:
*Carlos Quentin was a late scratch with a strained hamstring, and will miss today’s game, at least. It’s unfortunate, as he showed signs of breaking through his slump by using right-center and right field on Wednesday. His recovery would go a long way in making Rios a more palatable leadoff option.
*Guillen waxes statistic:
“I want to look in the book (to see) if that ever happen — being last in on-base percentage and first in ground ball double plays. That means every time we get people on base, we ground into double plays. Even if you try, it’s hard. It’s very, very, very hard.”
”I could,” Dye said. ”You have to play a certain type of baseball in [U.S. Cellular Field], and small ball is nice, but you need a balance.”
Here’s the balance for the Sox this season: They have grounded into the most double plays (29) in baseball. They’re 11th in runs (88), 12th in on-base percentage (.309) and last in average (.222) in the American League.
They’re second in the AL in homers. And Dye grounded into 15 double plays, tied for second-most on the Sox last year. And he couldn’t hit righties, and the Sox are 5-9 against right-handed starters. So, he helps… how, exactly?
*Back to Pierre, Carl also bursts his bubble.
*Erik breaks down the Yankee lineup.
*Yup, Phil Rogers still misses John Ely.
Minor league roundup:
- Columbus 9, Charlotte 7
- Tyler Flowers went 2-for-4 with a double, walk, RBI and two strikeouts.
- Dayan Viciedo hit his fourth homer, and added a single in five at-bats.
- Carlos Torres struggled, allowing five runs on six hits (two homers) and two walks over five innings. He struck out three.
- Greg Aquino allowed four runs on two hits and three walks over his two innings.
- Birmingham 3, Huntsville 1
- Brent Morel went 2-for-4 with two RBI.
- Christian Marrero went 0-for-2 with a walk, and was also hit by a pitch.
- John Shelby went 2-for-3 with a solo homer, his second. He was caught stealing.
- Winston-Salem 8, Frederick 3
- Best start of the season for Stephen Sauer: 7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K.
- Justin Greene went 2-for-3 with his third homer and four RBI, and added a walk.
- Jon Gilmore went 0-for-5, snapping his nine-game hitting streak.
- Brandon Short’s is up to 16 games after going 3-for-5.
- Kyle Bellamy had a rough inning, allowing two runs (one earned) on a hit and two walks. He struck out two, at least.
- Lakewood 4, Kannapolis 1
- Brady Shoemaker went 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI in his return to A-ball.
- Kyle Colligan doubled and was hit by a pitch in four PAs. He was also caught stealing.
- Miguel Gonzalez went 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts; Juan Silverio was also hitless, but no walk and one strikeout.
- Justin Collop allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits and two walks over five innings, striking out four.
- Jimmy Ballinger struck out three over two scoreless inning. One hit was the only damage.
Shoemaker was called up to replace Jordan Cheatham, who was promoted to Winston-Salem to take the place of Kenny Williams Jr., who’s on the DL.