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.

Sean Manaea pitches the first no-hitter of 2018

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Athletics southpaw Sean Manaea delivered his first career no-hitter against the Red Sox in a decisive 3-0 victory on Saturday night. Any thought of a perfect game was banished in the first at-bat, when Mookie Betts drew a leadoff six-pitch walk to open the first inning. From there, Manaea was nearly flawless, holding the Sox to four total baserunners and striking out 10 of 30 batters faced — a career record.

Manaea was gifted a three-run lead thanks to RBI doubles from Jed Lowrie and Stephen Piscotty and Marcus Semien‘s solo shot off of Chris Sale in the fifth inning. While the Red Sox managed to draw two walks off of Manaea, they didn’t come anywhere close to plating a run. Andrew Benintendi tried to break up the no-no in the sixth inning with an infield hit down the first base line, but strayed out of bounds and later saw his hit reversed on a call of batter interference.

Entering the ninth inning, the 26-year-old lefty was sitting at just 95 pitches through eight frames of no-hit ball. He quickly deposed Blake Swihart and Mookie Betts with a groundout and fly out, then walked Benintendi on seven pitches. Any threat the Red Sox might have posed was soon eliminated, however, as Hanley Ramirez ground into a force out to complete the no-hitter.

Manaea is the first A’s pitcher to toss a no-no since Dallas Braden’s perfect game against the Rays eight years ago. The last time the Red Sox were on the losing end of a no-hitter was also against an AL West rival, when the Mariners’ Chris Bosio clinched a 2-0 no-no on April 22, 1993. Manaea’s feat is even more outstanding given how dominant the Red Sox have looked this season: prior to Saturday’s defeat, they boasted a 17-2 record and had yet to be shut out during the regular season.