KC mastery needs to start now

The White Sox won 15 out of 16 at one point before the calendar turned to July.  One week later, they’re riding a five-game winning streak, giving them 22 wins in their last 27 games.
And yet they still find themselves a half-game out of first place in a weak division.
Yes, the AL Central standings serve as an enduring record of the hole the Sox dug for themselves over the first two months of the season, and there’s no better tangible reminder than the team coming to town to close out the first half of the season.
Halfway through their season series with the Kansas City Royals, the White Sox are 4-5 against the division’s long-running laughingstock, which only looks good next to their 4-8 record against the Cleveland Indians.
Righting previous wrongs won’t be easy. First off, they had missed Zack Greinke in the first two series.  Lately, the Royals have played respectable baseball since making their managerial change, with 10 wins in their last 13 games and a 27-23 record under Ned Yost.

They’re a different animal, and starting pitching is a big reason.  Oddly enough, despite the incredible run Sox starters are on, they may be at a disadvantage in that department this weekend.
The Royals own the best batting average of any AL team, and are the second-hardest to strike out to your hometown nine.  Mark Buehrle, tonight’s starter, gives up a lot of base hits and is trying to cope with a career-low K-rate.  Not surprisingly, the Royals have beaten Buehrle in two of three starts this season, hitting him at a .367 clip.
And on Sunday, Daniel Hudson has his hands full with Greinke in his 2010 White Sox debut.
The fact that the Sox will need (as much as you can need a half-game out of first in July, anyway) two good pitching performances illustrates how poorly they played early on.  White Sox starters are 18-9 with a 3.10 ERA since the start of June, and they’ve thrown quality starts in 29 of their last 32 outings — and yet that’s not quite good enough.
On the other hand, winning this series will go a long way when it comes to the big-picture ledger. Two out of three would put the Sox at .500 with Kansas City on the season, which would place them squarely in between their two chief rivals (the Twins are 6-3 against the Royals; Detroit 4-5).
I should say that losing the series wouldn’t be the end of the world, lest I overhype three games in the middle of the season. But thanks to the way they played against the division’s weakest early in the season, they really can’t win enough from here on out.
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Minor league roundup:

  • Charlotte 6, Gwinnett 3
    • Brent Morel went 2-for-3 with two doubles and a walk.
    • Tyler Flowers earned a silver sombrero, but at least was hit by a pitch.
    • Clevelan Santeliz pitched two 1-2-3 innings, ending a rough patch.
    • Alejandro De Aza hit a bases-clearing double, his only hit in five at-bats.
    • Jordan Danks was 0-for-2 with two walks and a strikeout.
  • Mississippi 7, Birmingham 1
    • Christian Marrero was 2-for-4.
    • Justin Greene struck out twice in three hitless AB.
  • Winston-Salem 4, Myrtle Beach 3
    • Chris Sale struck out two batters in a 1-2-3 inning.
    • Jose Martinez ended a 4-for-29 slump with a three-hit day.
    • Brandon Short and Jon Gilmore were both 1-for-4 with a strikeout.
    • Eduardo Escobar went 0-for-4 with a K.
    • Terry Doyle allowed three runs on five hits (two homers) over seven innings. He fanned six with no walks.
    • Kyle Bellamy closed it out with a perfect ninth, recording one K.
  • Augusta 5, Kannapolis 4
    • Kyle Colligan tripled, homered and drove in two. He also struck out once.
    • Nick Ciolli went 2-for-3 with a double, walk and an RBI, striking out once.
    • Miguel Gonzalez singled, walked and struck out over four PAs.
  • Kingsport 8, Bristol 3
    • Matthew Heidenreich had a nice night: 6 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K.
    • Daniel Black went 2-for-3 with a double and a walk.
    • Rangel Ravelo was 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI.
  • Great Falls 15, Helena 2
    • Thomas Royse allowed a run (solo homer) on three hits and a walk over five innings, striking out two.
    • Ross Wilson singled twice, walked twice and struck out once.
    • Juan Silverio went 2-for-4 with a double, homer and two RBI.
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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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bigfun

“The Royals own the best batting average of any AL team, and are the second-hardest to strike out to your hometown nine.”
FTR they also are tied for the league-worst walk rate and are sixth-to-last in ISO. I get what you’re saying – they are a better offensive team than they’ve been in the past, mainly because of Butler and Dejesus. Batting average just overstates how improved they’ve been.

knoxfire30

Good catch, I think Jim did some cherry picking here by using batting average, the royals are 19th in runs scored, thats not good. I understand they may dink and dunk Mark for one game but if MB just gives us 6 they shouldnt be able to hit our bullpen and they shouldnt be able to score on our other starters with any consistency.

bigfun

I don’t think it’s cherry picking for you to identify it, but I it is questionable whether it’s a strength of their team. They Royals hitters seem to be trading walks and power for a lot of slap singles. That pumps up their batting average, but it’s really not winning a lot of ball games for them.
I agree that a power pitcher might be more suited to beating the Royals than a finesse pitcher. Hopefully Mark will realize what they’re doing and throw a lot of breaking stuff.

soxfan1

Did anyone see Alexi blow the double play throw at 2b in the 7th inning yesterday? That won’t show up in any of your stats. He IS very average in the field.

Shinons

Yeah, and Vizquel had errors on two straight days! Also a very average defensive player! Small sample sizes are great! Both useful and an alliteration!

sars

+1

bigfun

“That won’t show up in any of your stats.”
I think it might show up in DPR (double play runs above average), a component of UZR.
I don’t know. Maybe it will.

marshlands

Yeah, Alexei’s DPR only ranks THIRD in all of MLB for shortstops. What a stinker!

soxfan1

Some of you guys should get your noses out of the stat sheets and start watching some of the games!! I’ll stand by my 10-15 balls in the dirt to Paulie and bad footwork @ 2B for Alexi (possibly caused by the fact he is a chicken). Alexi is a VERY AVERAGE shortstop. I’ll take Andrus, Aybar, Bartlett, Betancourt, Gonzalez, Hardy & Scutaro in the AL over him any day. Stop over-rating our Chisox, other than our pitchers, they are good playing together under Ozzie, but far from above average!!

sars

do you honestly think that we’re posting on this blog and we *don’t* watch the games? you yourself know that’s not true. and why would you take ANY of those shortstops over alexei? how often do you see them play? enough to say that they are better than alexei?
no-one is overrating the sox. you’re simply letting poor defensive play stick out in your mind because alexei’s a poor hitter. give it up, man. he’s one of the better defensive shortstops in the league. ozzie guillen, a former major league shortstop, praised him for his defense. sorry if i trust a) the advanced statistics and b) a former major league shortstop over soxfan1’s biased opinion.

sars

and did you seriously say betancourt? he is hands down one of the worst shortstops in the majors. ask zack greinke.
“Year in Review: What is there to say about Yuniesky Betancourt? He hit .245, got on base to the tune of just a .274 OBP and slugged a paltry .351. His .625 OPS was bad enough, but when combined with some of the worst defense, by UZR, ever played at shortstop, it propelled Betancourt into the realm of being one of the worst players in all of baseball last season.”
you want that player over alexei? wow.

sars

i think my biggest problem with almost everyone’s opinion on ___x___ is that it’s almost impossible to gauge range from watching a game on television. it’s also difficult to do in real life unless your eyes are glued on one player and you note things like where he sets up, if he uses his back hand, how quick his release was, and on and on. all of those traits are really difficult to judge unless you’ve got great seats or played the game at a high level.
i’ll be the first to admit that defensive statistics are the most raw, contain lots of noise, and can’t be used without at least a two to three year sample size. but to do no work, like you said, and fall back on telling people to watch the games is just silly to me.

fustercluck

Sweet Jeebus, Jim throws down the gauntlet. Just thought I’d link to m’yeah: http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=ss&stats=bat&lg=all&qual=200&type=6&season=2010&month=0
You got Gonzalez & Andrus right; left out Jeter. Otherwise, Alexei’s been more valuable than the rest of AL SSs. You should get your nose in some stat sheets (or HTML tables) and check your credibility. When statistics fly in the face of anecdotal evidence, it does NOT make the AE stronger.

tdogg

WOW. I think I now know to never reply to a post of yours again.

marshlands

TOTAL PWNAGE!
And what a start for Marquez! Hooooooboy!
And for the record, I’ve never watched a White Sox game. Not even when I had season tickets.

sars

you gave them all to me and all i did was race scotty pods in the fundamentals deck.

soxfan1

Glad to hear that you guys are watching the games!! I’ve always respected Jim’s opinion. He does his homework every day. Good conversation!! Alexi’s BID (balls in the dirt) are his only stat that leads the league.

soxfan1

PS – Correction to Jim’s stats. Alexi has played only 246 gms at short with 31 errors and a fp of .970. In 2008 he played 2b and he could make an accurate throw from there. His ss stats are very average.

sars

you’re insane, man. he was godawful at second. jim just gave you the most easily understood statistic on rating alexei and you still fall back on your eyes to judge it. how in the hell do you remember every “BID” he’s ever thrown? please just tell me what you don’t understand…

soxfan1

Sars – I just gave you Alexi’s fielding stats @ SS (.970 for 246 gms) from Fangraphs. He was .981 @ 2b. Your comments just prove that you don’t know how to interpret statistics. Have fun watching!! Maybe you’ll learn something someday!!

sars

you or i could play shortstop in the major leagues and field every ball perfectly and have a fielding percentage of 1.000. but, do you think you or i would be able to get to even 1/10th of the balls alexei or any other major league shortstop can get to? no. do you also not understand that due to there being more right handed hitters than left handed, and that a shortstop plays where a majority of those ground balls from RHs are hit, they will inherently have more errors?
do you still not see why fielding percentage is a retarded evaluation tool?

marshlands

Dude, stop, please.

blacksox56

he come a long ways defensively. he may not be the best right now, but with vizquel on him daily and ozzie managing him, there’s no reason the alexei won’t just keep getting better. i’d dare say he’s definately top 5 in the A.L. overall. he still makes bone head mistakes but there’s plenty more times where he makes plays that simply fun to watch.

sars

i agree that he is probably not the best in the american league. andrus is incredibly good. aybar, as well. he’s definitely one of the best in the majors, though, not just the AL. especially if the numbers he’s put up so far hold steady.

soxfan1

No need to explain fielding % to me But some of the other guys on the site might need a refresher or two.