White Sox blind to what ails them

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ozzie_guillen_090817.jpgWhite Sox general manager Kenny Williams has had it up to here with his team’s lack of effort, focus and desire, apparently.

Frustrated by a 3-3 roadtrip to Seattle and Oakland, the GM told the media on Monday that “We’ve deserved what we’ve got. I’m not happy. I’m not happy with a lot of what I see, we’re underachievers, period.”

Perhaps Williams’ angst comes from a feeling of pressure after adding two huge contracts in Alex Rios and Jake Peavy. Maybe he just woke up cranky.

But even more interesting than Williams’ grousing were the comments of his manager, an equally perturbed Ozzie Guillen:

“The way Kenny built this ballclub, there’s no doubt we’re better than .500. Look at our lineup, look at our pitching staff. Don’t look at our defense, please. Don’t look at that one, we’re horrible. But if you look at the team and say this is a .500 team, you have to be wrong.”

So Ozzie’s take is essentially this: We’ve got good offense. We’ve got good pitching. So we should be good even though we can’t catch the ball, and we have no idea where we’re throwing it.

But if you disobey Ozzie and look at the defense, you’ll see the White Sox are probably right about where they’re supposed to be.

A little research shows that the White Sox have committed 90 errors this season, most in the AL. Even more interesting is a look at the UZR ratings over at Fangraphs where the stats agree with Ozzie’s eyes. The White Sox are not a good defensive team, ranking 18th out of 30 teams in UZR at -14.1 runs below average.

Looking at the roster reveals a bit of a dilemma when you consider that the team’s best fielders (Jayson Nix, DeWayne Wise) can’t hit, while among the better hitters, only Paul Konerko and Alexei Ramirez are slightly above average with the glove. At least the addition of Alex Rios allows the hatchet-man known as Jermaine Dye (-13.4) to “rest”, or see time at DH.

The teams that frustrated Williams and Guillen last week – the A’s and Mariners – are both allergic to offense:  Seattle is 25th in runs scored, the A’s 19th. But when you factor pitching and (yes, Ozzie) defense into the mix, the playing field evens out. The Mariners have the second-best defense in baseball, and the A’s come in at No. 11 overall.

The answer to the White Sox’s question (aside from having Jake Peavy strike everyone out once he joins the team) seems to be staring them in the face. Remember, this is a simple game: You throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball. You got it?

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Meanwhile, the White Sox say they won’t risk Peavy on the basepaths against the Cubs on Sept. 3, no matter how tempting it is to remind everyone in the Windy City which team landed the former Cy Young winner. An Aug. 28 start at Yankee Stadium, however, is a possibility.

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If you Twitter, and aren’t against playing a little defense once in awhile, you can follow me at @Bharks.

Rob Manfred on robot umps: “In general, I would be a keep-the-human-element-in-the-game guy.”

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 5:  Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred talks with media prior to a game between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:

Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.

The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?

Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.

The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.

I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.

Report: MLB approves new rule allowing a dugout signal for an intentional walk

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 29:  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred laughs during a ceremony naming the 2016 winners of the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award before Game Four of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 29, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.

MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.

Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.

Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: