Postseason Jitters

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Game Time

I’m excited to see today’s playoff action.  The extra day off has screwed up my internal clock.  As excited as I am, I wish we were playing.

Alyssawhitesox
Jealousy

I have to come clean … I am jealous of Alyssa Milano and have been for some time.  Here I was in mid 2005, quietly blogging away with my good friend, Mark Newman of MLBAM, serving as the blog angel on my shoulder.  Due to his diligence and oversight, my blog had photos and links and all kinds of pretty cool stuff.  Then along came Milano, aka The competition.  Suddenly, Mark had no time for my paltry blog … there was a Hollywood celebrity (and devout Dodgers fan) to service.

I kept my mouth shut (surprising for those who know me, eh) and went about my business, but today, TODAY, I gain a small amount of revenge.  A friend sent along a publicy shot of Milano to me, a shot that works perfectly for this blog, and Mr. Newman has consented to lower himself to work again on this site, just for today, by posting this photo …

So here it is …

(Photo to be inserted later by Mark)

Thanks, Mark.

Note from Newman: Scott is the first pro sports executive anywhere to start a regular blog that could reach out to fans and speak directly to them (and vice-versa) without media filter. He is a true blogging pioneer, is going strong after 2 1/2 years (wow, has it really been that long?), and as such definitely doesn’t need anyone’s help! We are immensely thankful for Scott’s diligence as a voluntary service to baseball fans and as a leader by example for other MLB/sports personnel.

Wading In

I may regret this and the conversation may be unwinnable, but here is my take on our bullpen woes this season (and by my take, I mean my take, not KW’s, not the organization, just my opinion … so feel free to ignore).

First, my bullpen philosophy.  The very best bullpens are ones where each pitcher is best suited for his specific role (which means that you don’t always want or need the six best (read: most talented) pitchers, you want the best pitcher given his specific role … call it the Rick Honeycutt rule).

We entered 2007 having tried to improve our bullpen from 2006 (which was a weakness of sorts considering we won 90 games) by adding "talented" arms with the feeling that teams succeeded most with hard throwers late in the game (not to mention that we felt they were best suited to succeed in our ballpark).

So when 2007 opened, our bullpen consisted of Aardsma and MacDougal from the right side, Sisco and Thorton from the left, Masset as the long guy and Jenks as the closer.

For the first five weeks of the season, we boasted one of the best bullpens in the American League (remember that?).  On 5/8, our bullpen ranked third in the AL in ERA (3.29) and fourth in OBA (.229).  Then the wheels came off.  From 5/8 through the end of July, our bullpen ERA was 7.46.  Ouch.

So back to my point about roles.  Aardsma was outstanding early as the second right-hander.  MacDougal was struggling as the set-up guy.  As MacDougal continued to struggle, we tried moving Aardsma into the set-up role.  It did not go well (remember when Aardsma tried to close that game in Detroit?).  As a result of MacDougal’s ineffectiveness, Aardsma’s role changed and, in my opinion, he was not able to perform to the same level when asked to pitch later in the game.  We essentially lost both guys, which threw all of the bullpen roles up into the air.

To solve this, moves impacting the bullpen came early and then often.  Logan joined us on 4/17 to give us three LHP and he took on Sisco’s role.  We tried Day, Buckvich and Prinz in June.  MacDougal came back in mid June (but then went on the DL for much of July after admitting his shoulder has bothered him most of the year even though he had tried to pitch through it).  Haeger came up to log innings at one point, but for most of the summer, we suffered as the bullpen tried to sort out roles and find where guys could best perform.  It was painful to eperience at times and painful to watch at times.  But you saw guys like Buckvich and then Wassermann come up and pitch well at certain times.

Near the end of the summer, I think we at least had a sense of who would perform in given situations, but I think everyone would admit the bullpen still fell far short of what is needed to win a championship.  No question.

In the end, our bullpen ranked 12th in the AL with a 5.27 ERA, went 19-25 and converted 42 out of 65 saves (64.6 percent, ninth in the AL).  Our 23 blown saves were fourth (25 led the AL).

So heading into 2008, the bullpen is again a key.  The problem with relievers, in my mind, is that there is no consistency.  Give me a list of last year’s top set-up guys and then see how that list performed in 2007.  Compared the best relievers of 2005 to the best of 2007.  Remember Cliff Politte and Neal Cotts?

A consistent, healthy (another big issue), talented reliever is extremely difficult to find, and therefore, is extremely valuable.  What teams try to do instead is find the right guy for the right role and try to put together a bullpen "team" to get the ball to the closer.  The weakness then, as we experienced in 2007, is that if one of those links breaks, you risk the entire bullpen blowing up in your face (and that is not pretty or fun or conducive to winning baseball games).

So, people say talent is the answer?  Hmmm … according to my unprofessional scouting eye, we opened the 2007 campaign with the most talented bunch of arms I’ve seen in our bullpen during my time here.

Tell you what, feel free to give me a list of possible bullpen additions from among all the pitchers out there who are available for 2008 (send them to me in email, don’t post …).  We’ll take an idea from anywhere we can get it … and then I’ll save the list during next season and we can see how those guys all perform in 2008.  My guess, based on past experience, is that injuries will take a toll and performances will be all over the board.  Constructing a bullpen is tough.

Funny Email

So a wise-guy friend (note the hyphen, he wasn’t a wise guy or a wiseguy like Paulie Walnuts) sent me an email from the Center for Media Research on measuring trust.

According to the latest by BIGresearch, only 2.6% of 3,978 respondents say members of Congress are trustworthy, while 2.2 % say the same thing about the Senate.  The President comes in at 14.2 %.  The media score a 4.4 %, which, while low, is still higher than our elected bodies.  The stunning number … drumroll, please … 5.8 % have more trust in bloggers.  (and 70.7 percent don’t trust anyone, a reassuring figure if there ever was one).

The blog "trust factor" for males was 5.4%, females 6.3%, age 18-34 was 8.5 %, 35-54 was 6.1% and anyone over 55 doesn’t trust a blog … 2.8% (which I guess is still more than they trust Congress).

Interesting Factoid

At a recent Ragan Conference on Social Media (blogs, wikis, tweets, IMs, etc), the point was made for me by industry guru Shel Holtz that for people born after 1980, 62 percent of their on-line content is generated by someone they know … a friend, family member, etc.  The internet is truly social for young generations.

So maybe that’s why they trust blogs "more."

Can you tell, unfortunately, I have a little more time on my hands now?

15 Comments

Scott,
I know he’s a gentlemen and it was probably the PC thing for him to say, but can you please tell Jim Thome that if he has any other supportive comments about the Cubs that he should just shut his mouth. Thank you.

Nice shot by Rowand.

Scott:

Thanks for your input.

One point regarding the ‘talent’ remark. Just my opinion but you had ‘unproven’ talent in 2007.

You had a bunch of guys who threw hard, but who also showed a HISTORY in both the minor leagues and the major leagues of wildness, ineffectiveness and an inability to consistently get the job done.

With respect (and your reason towards the ‘rareness’ of such pitchers is valid)what it came down to when you cut through all the BS if you will, was this:

THE WHITE SOX WERE HOPING TO GET LUCKY WITH THESE GUYS.

Pure and simple.

The organization took a risk…it didn’t work out to say the least for the second year in a row.

‘It’s Time’ to go off in a different direction. That’s going to cost money (lots of it), it’s going to cost prospects (lots of them) and it’s probably going to cost one of the Sox regulars (or two.)

But the bottom line is this, the bullpen (strickly the bullpen) has blown and LOST 27 GAMES in the past two seasons where they had the lead and the ball in their hands in the 7th inning or later.

Want to win in 08? You can’t bank on a bullpen of ‘maybe’s,”nobodies,’ and ‘hopeful’s’

Don Cooper is very, very good..but he’s not God.

That’s why Kenny makes the big bucks…to figure out and solve these issues.

Mark Liptak

And one other important piece that wasn’t touched upon by Scott.

I LOVE Ozzie but his handling of the bullpen has been horsedung.

You could have the Twins bullpen from 2006 for example or the White Sox fabulous bullpens from the time period of 63-67 (do names like Wilhelm, Fisher, Mossi, McMahon, Wood, Locker ring any bells?) but if Ozzie keeps insisting to go with this ‘match up’ garbage (a la my friend Tony LaRussa) you are going to have issues.

What’s worse is that Ozzie PUBLICLY said at least on two occasions leading up to spring training that he wasn’t going to do this **** anymore.

So what happens when the season opens? Same old, same old.

Look it’s plain goofy to take out a guy in the 8th inning who has retired the first two guys and replace him simply because the 3rd hitter is say right handed. (and the pitcher is a lefty…) If for no other reasons then:

1. You burn through the bullpen (How many games this season did the Sox use say three guys in an inning? or five pitchers in two innngs?)

2. Guys will NEVER be able to get guys out from a certain side if they never get the chance.

One final note. I’m not a big believer in stat geeks and their endless numbers on how they can ‘guarantee’ a title if only you’d listen to them but they do have some purpose.

If Ozzie is dead set on keeping this ludicrous ‘match up’ **** going then at least use the pitchers in what they do best.

Just off the top of my head (I can’t ‘guarantee’ these are correct but I’m trying to make a larger point)for example:

Myers can’t get left handers out, yet Ozzie had him in there pitching to them even though the numbers clearly showed he got right handers out far more often. Thonton had major issues with left handers, as opposed to right handed hitting guys…yet Ozzie allowed him to pitch to left handers and get drilled.

If you’re going to do this at least be smart about it, O.K.?

Mark Liptak

I was happy to see Aaron hit a HR today. Too bad it wasn’t in a Sox uniform….I will be a big Arizona fan for the next few days.

With the recent talk about the Tribune’s playoff formulas and such, I thought I’d post a link to its “expert” predictions on the Cubbies series. However, the link is too long to fit here. Check it out on http://www.chicagosports.com if they haven’t already tried to bury it.

Highlights:

Only courageous Ed Sherman, golf, media writer, and admitted Sox fan, dares buck the internal memo to predict an Arizona win…in five games, natch.

Beat writer Paul Sullyvan, who’s been around this 85-win box of slop for 162 games and is well aware that the Cubbies might as well step up to the plate with Wiffleball bats vs. Brandon Webb? He picks the Cubbies in a sweep.

Also, note that the Tribune presumes that “only” because of a healthy number of Sox fans (right…) on its sports desk did Arizona get eight votes of 18 to win the series. Now, that’s confidence in the expertise of your personnel. Better just count the folks who voted Cubbies!

Also, prospective Hall-of-Famer Dave Van Dyck’s analysis: three-run homers usually win playoff series. He also actually says the Cubbies have an “excess of power.” [ Arizona season HRs, 171; Cubbies' power excess wrought 151]

Finally, hed for an unrelated article: “Soriano following Sammy’s path to stardom.” Uh-oh. I sure hope not.

Thanks for your take on things, Scott. I still don’t think we had talented or experienced people in the bullpen (except for Jenks) at any point in the season, but I appreciate you attempting to explain things.

Also, can you please explain what the thought process was behind continually putting Andy Gonzalez at third base when it was clear he couldn’t properly throw to first base? Seeing him at third base is the stuff of nightmares.

A large part of it was because basically there was no one else.

Crede was hurt and out, Cintron was coming off elbow surgery and they wanted to get Fields ready for left field next year. (Which could backfire in the sense that IF Joe shows anything during spring training, especially if he shows he is healthy and the Sox can’t work out a long term deal with his agent Scott Boras, he may be traded early.)

I do agree Andy Gonzales has no business being in the big leagues in the first place.

Mark Liptak

The bulllpen was bad , for me, I do not blame KW for the bad bullpen early in the season, because at least he had a plan get power arms that to him had potential. That did not work out but at least he executed a plan on the pen during the off season. But the whole thing about not being able to adjust early in an effective way, or take proactive moves was hard for me to take. Actually they did make moves but it struck me all season that the moves were like spring training, not regular season moves. Yes the pen is a top priority, but really if I see anymore non situational hitting into double plays with no effort to bunt or move runners up , I may puke.
Fields, Thome, Paulie, Dye and AF all in a row none can bunt or are very good at situational hitting , throw in uribe and you really have the potential for a massive slumping , go for bust , and bust all yr. lineup. How can KW say the core is there it is not there. The sox need a total revamp and it could be done because some teams, like the angels need a power guy. or a pitcher. I could go on but leave it for now.

sorry for typo’s I really need to proof read more, cannot bunt and are not situational hitters, should be in there in regard to the entire lineup.

Can anybody help me out here? Tom, Scott or Mark perhaps? How do you get an automatic ball in baseball? I am watching the Rockies, Phillies
game on gameday and the play by play states strike, ball, automatic ball…how does that happen?

Lisa M.

lmunoz, you get an automatic ball if the pitcher goes to his mouth while on the mound.

-Mark Z

Thank You mzimny11!! I learned something new today! I really appreciate it. Thanks again,
Lisa

I’ve got to admit, Alyssa Milano looks great in White Sox colors….

Yes, I understand the reasons of putting Gonzalez at third base, but enough was enough at some point! I realize that a fair amount of suffering comes with the territory of being a Sox fan, but continually playing him at third was pure torture for the viewers (and the rest of the team, I would guess).

I’d much rather see Fields at third than left field. Crede (and the Sox) have to make up their minds at some point about the situation. I don’t think Fields has all the instincts of a true outfielder…I was at a game where he ran into the wall trying to catch a ball that was clearly uncatchable. A true outfielder would have played it off the bounce rather than running into the wall and risking injury. The poor guy bounced off the wall and flew a few feet before hitting the ground while the runner easily advanced. I felt terrible for him.

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