Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Offseason Mishmash (10.07.08).
  • Similar to our local media mantra of the "overachieving" Twins, the White Sox are implementing the same phrases when reflecting back on their 2008 season now that they are officially eliminated from the playoffs.  Owner Jerry Reinsdorf sounded off following the Sox's 6-2 loss to the Rays: ''I feel like we had four elimination games, five including this one, but [general manager Ken Williams] did a great job putting this team together. 'At the start of the season, none of the seers, none of you guys thought we would be here. I remember reading the newspapers in April, some of the most vicious things I've ever read were in the newspapers in April. 'How can they go to the well with [John] Danks and [Gavin] Floyd?' But Kenny knew how important they would be, he went after them and he got them.  The Cuban [Alexei Ramirez] was great. [Manager Ozzie Guillen] did a fabulous job, there's nothing to be ashamed of. On the contrary, we should be proud [of the season].''
    Still the finger-pointing continues on the Southside as pundits seek out answers...  Two obvious scapegoats appear to be Orlando Cabrera and Nick Swisher.  The Chicago Sun-Times columnist Chris De Luca believes that the pair will be reduced to just one.  Cabrera, acquired in a trade with the Angels for right-hander Jon Garland in November of last year, toiled as the number two then leadoff hitter - batted .281/.334/.371 in 730 plate appearances in the regular season - but like most of the White Sox didn't perform in the ALDS going 2-for-16.  In Game 1, Cabrera kicked dirt at home plate towards Rays pitcher Grant Balfour, a former Twin, in efforts to "challenge" Balfour.  Balfour had accused of yelling the "f-word" after a hitter would swing at his pitch, something that he said he always does, "I’m the same pitcher I’ve been all year. I talk to myself a lot out there, no one else. That’s not going to change."  The challenge backfired on Cabrera, and Balfour rang him up for the strikeout. "It was nothing, just a moment of heat on the battlefield," Cabrera said. "We were trying to challenge each other. Apparently, he likes to be challenged. So I was just trying to take his mind out of the game and challenge him a little bit, and he won the battle."  As an impending free agent, Cabrera's chances of remaining a White Sox in 2009 fall somewhere between "slim" and "none"... The White Sox made a steep investment on Swisher, trading three promising prospects in Gio Gonzalez, Fautino de los Santos and Ryan Sweeney, and are now committed to paying Swisher $21.05 through 2011 (with a $12m option on 2012).  In response, Swisher flat-out failed to perform to expectation.  When attempting to find the differences between his 2006 season, where he batted .254/.372/.493, statistics that the White Sox front office assumed Swisher would produce, the peripherals offer little insight.  The manner in which he put the ball in play was identical.  In both seasons, the switch-hitting Swisher put the ball on the ground 35% of the time.  In 2006, Swisher hit line drives 20% of the time compared to 19% of the time this past season.  Likewise on the plate appearances that he did not put the ball in play also correlated as his ability the draw a walk (15%) and strikeout (23%) mirrored each other in 2006 and 2008.  Swisher was unable to catch breaks as his batting line plummeted to a career-low of .219/.332/.410 in 588 plate appearances thanks to a depressed .249 batting average on balls in play - well below the AL average of .302.  Swisher's batting average on balls in play from the right-side of the plate took a nose dive to .204 in 168 plate appearances.  Meanwhile, in 2006, Swisher boasted a BABIP one hundred points higher (.306) in 176 plate appearances from the right-side.  This analysis would suggest that Swisher was most effective when batting left-handed and a detrimental to a lineup when hitting right-handed.  A seemingly obvious conclusion, right?  Apparently not to manager Ozzie Guillen who paired Swisher with the left-handed batting Dwayne Wise during the ALCS, exposing Swisher's soft right-handed bat in Game 2.
  • Sabernomics writer JC Bradbury says that his projected marginal revenue model indicates that CC Sabathia should command a $144 million dollar contract for six years - roughly $24 million per season.  This would certainly price Sabathia out of the Brewers' market but there is financial wiggle room for general manager Doug Melvin.  At $80 million in payroll heading into 2008, the Brewers will purge themselves of $10 million after Eric Gagne is gone, another $10 million by declining the option of Mike Cameron and another $11 million if Ben Sheets leaves via free agency leaving $31 million to extend a contracts to the arbitration-eligible Prince Fielder, second baseman Rickie Weeks, and shortstop JJ Hardy while earmarking $24 million of that $31 to ink Sabathia.  "The numbers you hear for a player like CC start to approach what we pay the team, so you have to be creative on how you structure things. But, they've got financial advisers and they can be creative, too, so we'll see," owner Mark Attanasio said...  The unfortunate contract that the Brewers would most like to unburden themselves with isn't going anywhere, that's the two-years and $25-million left on Jeff Suppan's contract, which would provide the front office with half of Sabathia's expected annual salary over the next two seasons.  JSOnline columnist Michael Hunt believes that the Brewers could shop both Fielder and Weeks for pitching if the bidding for Sabathia goes astronomical. 
  • Speaking of the Brewers -- they are overweight
  • Reports out of Texas say that during a hotel bar fight in Galveston, Texas, a police officer punched the Houston Astros' Brandon Backe in the face twice after a post-wedding altercation led to the police being called.   Backe had been a member of the wedding party and ignored the officer's request to back away from the fight.  Being hit repeatedly is nothing new to Backe has he surrendered 36 home runs and 202 hits in his 166.7 innings of work in 2008.  Backe finished the season 9-14 with a 6.05 ERA.
  • Since the Twins were ousted from postseason play, many have begun to deconstruct what could have happened differently, how one win here or there might have been the difference between watching in Tropicana and playing in Tropicana.  Detroit Free Press's John Lowe noted that the Twins had dropped four games to the Tigers after leading going into the 8th inning.  Two of those losses to the Tigers came during Detriot's putrid 2-10 start to the season in April.  Pat Neshek and Jesse Crain failed to secure the victory in back-to-back games on April 14 and April 15 at Comerica.  In Neshek's instance, he entered mid-inning with a 9-7 lead and runners on first and second with nobody out.  Neshek was able to get Renteria to induce into a potential doubleplay ball that only got the runner at second.  With runners on first and third and one down, Ivan Rodriguez blasted a triple to center to score both Miguel Cabrera and Renteria to tie the game.  Former Twins Jacque Jones hit a sacrifice fly to give the Tigers a 10-9 led.  The following day, the Twins took a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the eighth and manager Ron Gardenhire called on Jesse Crain to retire the top of the Tigers order.  Clete Thomas struck out swinging but Placido Polanco walked.  With just the one out and Gary Sheffield batting, Crain threw wildly on a pickoff attempt that allowed Polanco to reach third.  Able to induce a pop foul to Mauer from Sheffield, Crain was nearly off the hook when Maggilo Ordonez doubled to right followed by a Miguel Cabrera home run to put the Tigers outfront 6-4.  This is just another example of the need to address issues in the bullpen this offseason.