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.

The Yankees are paying $86 million for a one-inning reliever

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OXON HILL, MD — The Yankees signing of Aroldis Chapman late Wednesday night came as something of a surprise. And the money — $86 million — was something of a shock. Yes, we knew that Chapman was going to break the bank and likely set a record as the highest paid relief pitcher in history, but seeing it in black and white like that is still rather jarring.

In the coming days, many people who attempt to analyze and contextualize this signing will do so by pointing to the 2016 playoffs and the unconventional use of relievers by Terry Francona and the Indians and Joe Maddon of the Cubs. They’ll talk about how the paradigm of bullpen use has shifted and how relief pitchers have taken on a new importance in today’s game. Chapman’s astronomical salary, therefore, will be described as somehow more reasonable and somewhat less shocking than it first seems.

Don’t buy that jive for a second.

Yes, Andrew Miller and, to some extent, Chapman himself were used unconventionally in the 2016 playoffs, but not long into the 2017 season we will see that as an exception, not the rule. And not just because Chapman showed himself unable to hold up to that level of use in the playoffs. It will be the exception because the Yankees have shown no inclination whatsoever to deviate from traditional bullpen usage in the past and there is no reason to expect that they will do so with Chapman in the future.

As you no doubt remember, the Yankees had Chapman, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller for the first half of 2016. Such an imposing back end of a bullpen has rarely been seen in recent history. All of them, however, were used, more or less, as one-inning-a-piece guys and no real effort was ever made to break any bullpen usage paradigms or to shorten games the way many applauded Terry Francona for doing in the playoffs.

Miller pitched 44 games for the Yankees, totaling 45.1 innings. He pitched more than a single inning on only three occasions. Chapman pitched 31 games for the Yankees, amassing 31.1 innings. He was used for more than one inning only twice. Betances worked in 73 games, totaling 73 innings. On 11 occasions he pitched more than one inning.  It was unconventional for a team to have three relievers that good, but they were not, in any way, used unconventionally. Nor is there any reason to expect Chapman to be used unconventionally in 2017, especially given that Miller is not around and Chapman has shown no real ability to be stretched for multiple innings for a sustained period.

None of which is to say that having Chapman around is a bad thing or that he is any less of a closer than his reputation suggests. It’s merely to say that the Yankees paying Chapman unprecedented money for a closer should not be justified by the alleged new importance of relief pitchers or that changing role for them we heard so much about in the playoffs. Indeed, I suspect that that changing role applies only to pitcher use in the playoffs. And I do not suspect that this transaction alone pushes the Yankees into serious playoff contention, making that temporary unconventionality something of a moot point in New York for the foreseeable future.

It is almost certain that the Yankees are paying $86 million for the same one-inning closer Aroldis Chapman has been for his entire seven-year career. His contract may or may not prove to be a good one for New York based on how he performs, but don’t let anyone tell you now, in Decemeber 2016, that it’s better than you think because Chapman will somehow transform into a 1970s-style relief ace or something.

Report: Yankees sign Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million deal

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Update (12:02 AM EST): Rosenthal adds that Chapman’s contract includes an opt-out clause after three seasons, a full no-trade clause for the first three years of the contract, and a limited no-trade clause for the final two years.

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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Yankees have signed closer Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million contract. Mark Melancon recently set the record for a contract earned by a reliever at $62 million over four years. Chapman blew that out of the water and many are surprised he didn’t fetch more.

Chapman, 28, began the 2016 season with the Yankees but he was traded to the Cubs near the end of July in exchange for four prospects. The Cubs, of course, would go on to win the World Series in large part due to Chapman. The lefty finished the regular season with a 1.55 ERA, 36 saves, and a 90/18 K/BB ratio in 58 innings between the two teams.

Chapman was the best reliever on the free agent market and, because he was traded midseason, he didn’t have draft pick compensation attached to him.

The Yankees don’t seem to be deterred by Chapman’s domestic violence issue from last offseason, resulting in a 30-game suspension to begin the 2016 regular season.