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AL Central: Left Out
South Side Sox presents these numbers without comment:
I, of course, do feel compelled to make a few comments. And chief among them is, "The White Sox can't hit left-handed pitching."
Those numbers reflect the last 14 starts by Minnesota's Johan Santana and the last seven starts by Cleveland's C.C. Sabathia against Chicago -– including a 3-0 record in 2007. And, just to clarify, that is indeed a 16-2 record with 20 quality starts. Admittedly, Santana is the best pitcher in baseball, and Sabathia is one of the league's few other bona fide aces, but Chicago's poor hitting numbers aren't confined just to these two premier lefty hurlers.
Thanks to the batter vs. pitcher stats made available by mlb.com, we can see that the ChiSox have had inordinate struggles against all lefties. In 2006 their left-handed hitters hit a woeful .149 against all of Detroit's southpaws (13-of-87) with one home run and two RBIs. That includes a .074 clip in five Kenny Rogers starts and a .194 average in four Nate Robertson starts. Again, those are above-average pitchers, but that's the daily reality when you play in the AL Central, a division I think has the best concentration of lefty starters in baseball. But, rejoice White Sox fans, at least the South Siders teed off on poor ol' Cliff Lee in their 49 at-bats his six starts for Cleveland -– a .224 average! Break out the Silver Sluggers!
Actually, never mind -- the rest of the league's lefties hit .276 against Lee.
It should be noted that Chicago's righties fared so sufficiently well against Robertson and Lee that the two managed just a combined 2-5 against the White Sox last year. (Rogers, however, was 3-1 with a 0.82 ERA.) But the White Sox, who last year featured three regular lefty bats in A.J. Pierzynski, Scott Podsednik and Jim Thome, added another lefty-swinging starter in Darin Erstad and retain supersub -– and lefty stick -– Rob Mackowiak.
In other words, right-handed outfielder Brian Anderson has now managed to hurt the Sox offense whether he's in the lineup -– he batted .225 in 365 at-bats last year -– or on the bench; his demotion to the bench this year means more lefty vs. lefty ABs.
"What happened to B.A., that's his fault," the ever-quotable Ozzie Guillen told Chicago reporters this week. "We gave him the opportunity last year."
It may be Anderson's fault, but it's Chicago's problem. On paper, having four left-handed hitters sounds like good balance, but it's not a lineup made for the AL Central. The Indians and Tigers both have three lefty starters; the Royals have two and the Twins, in the absence of injured Francisco Liriano, have only Santana.
Eight of the White Sox' first 11 games have been against division rivals, and they've sputtered out to a 5-6 record with an AL-low 38 runs despite the resurgence of Podsednik, who is batting .303. Four games have been against lefties -– the three wins by Sabathia and Santana -– and one start by Jeremy Sowers. The White Sox beat the Indians 4-3 in that game but needed a walk-off hit batsman to do so after scratching Sowers for just one hit and two runs in six innings.
Obviously the season is in its infancy and heavy hitters Jermaine Dye and Paul Konerko will awake from extended hibernation to provide some potent pop and hide some of Chicago's deficiencies in the lineup. But the question for the White Sox isn't when their proven sluggers will come around, it's who's going to help hit lefty pitching? Right now Anderson and Pablo Ozuna are their best big-league options.
How soon can Josh Fields get to the South Side? And can he play the outfield?
Labels: AL Central
posted by SI.com | View comments |
The Cleveland "opener" was played in extremely difficult conditions, so that over 16,000 showed up is amazing not to mention that the tickets were cheaper in Milwaukee!
For the record....it's been cold in Cleveland. Very cold.
Expect those attendance numbers at Jacob's to rise with the temperature. It's easy to go see a ballgame in a 60 degree in-door stadium. Not so much if it's snowing and 30 degrees in the open air. So watch it with the 'pathetic' comments, huh?
First of all, on the fans in Cleveland, it was freezing cold and windy during the Chicago series. Not much wind blowing the the covered stadium in Milwaukee.
Secondly, my two favorite types of articles you will write this year are ones where you praise the Indians, and ones where you bash the White Sox. Good work
The onus for this should not fall on Brian Anderson's shoulders. I think more blame should be given to Ozzie Guillen.
Yes, Brian Anderson struggled horribly during the beginning of last season. he was just abysmal, but he DID turn it around. June 11th is sort of a magical date where BA finally started to turn things around. In his first 125 AB's he put up a line of .152/.250/.264. Starting with June 11 for his next 132 AB's he had a line of .273/.326/.424 which are more than acceptable considering how good his D is and how powerful the Sox' offense was last year.
The problem though is Ozzie and bungled this whole situation, he's done things backwards. He should have platooned Adnerson early on when he struggled and then let him play consistently after he found his stroke. Unfortunately Ozzie did the exact opposite, letting him try and hit his way out of the hole (which he did) but then he decided to start platooning him as soon as he was hitting consistently. I secretly think that Ozzie caught Anderson hitting on his wife, because there's no other plausible reason for him to be planted so firmly on the bench.
Erstad is good in the outield, but right now he is giving less offensively than Anderson did at the start of last season. This isn't surprising considering that since 2000 (when he was flukishly dominant)he has been stunning mediocre to bad with an average OPS+ in the 80's. I don't mind him being in left playing over Podsednik (yes, I realize he's been the Sox' only consistent hitter this year), but I'd prefer he come off the bench.
With Pods injury, I'm assuming Erstad will shift over to left and Anderson will more time in center; hopefully this will alleviate (slightly) some of the Sox' problems against lefties.
I think a big blow to the Sox has been the injury to Toby Hall. He was brought in with the purpose to platoon with AJ for lefty pitchers or spell Thome against lefties. Unfortunately he was hurt which left the Sox in a tight spot.
The Sox struggles haven't been limited only to lefties, but they've also shockingly struggled against pitchers that they haven't faced before or all that often. I don't have any stats handy, but they are dreadful.
The Cleveland fans should tough it out and get to the ballpark. Do Browns' fans stay at home cause its cold? Stop making excuses and go to the game.
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