Thursday, September 16, 2010

What Killed The 2010 White Sox

While there are many culprits in this case, one truly stands out above the rest. Before we get into that, let's take some time to review.

The Sox started off with a horrific April and May, where nothing seemed to go their way. They followed that with a June and July for the ages. August and September have been slightly above average.

I'm not going to pour through statistics. I'll leave that to other sites that do that type of analysis extremely well. How does that line go? You can use statistical science to prove that an elephant can hang off a cliff tied to a daisy. But use your eyes, your common sense. Well, something like that anyway.

Myth #1: The "DH by committee" idea fizzled from the start.

Answer: Not really. A strong finish by Jim Thome has really made the decision not to retain his services stand out. Was it a season killer? Only in the sense that Jim Thome is doing these things right now for the team in first place. Compounding this myth is the fact that Thome will be getting his own sitcom in the offseason, "Everybody Loves Thome". You simply cannot dislike this guy. And that's what hurts the most. The players that have filled out the DH role have been inconsistent at best. Ozzie Guillen seemed to pine for the days where anyone could be the DH. Fred Manrique filled in at DH in the eighties. That's not the type of production you want out of the DH spot. The DH by committee idea had legs, but the wrong people constantly filled its shoes. Next year should see an end to the widespread use of this philosophy, but that's not what killed the Sox.

Myth #2: The bullpen blew the season.

Answer: Not likely. It's maddening to watch your bullpen give up hit after hit and lose games. The truth is that every team goes through streaks like that. These things get amplified during a playoff run. Does is hurt that Sergio Santos, who had been very effective all year, gave up a four run lead in Kansas City? It most certainly does! But Freddy Garcia loaded the bases before Santos came in. After that grand slam pitch, Santos pitched effectively. The negatives always stick out more in your mind. The bullpen has actually been largely effective this year. The stretches where every member of the bullpen seems to go into a funk at the same time isn't pretty, but that's not what killed the Sox.

Myth #3: If it's not the bullpen, certainly it must be Scott Linebrink's fault!

Answer: Nope. Blame Scott Linebrink for many things, including a bloated contract and a tendency to give up the long ball, but he did not kill the Sox. He has had less outings where he has blown a save or jeopardized the lead. Ozzie has been using him sparingly, but he has shown a resilience this year that has never been seen by Scott in a White Sox uniform. I can count more times this season where Scott has come out and pitched a 1-2-3 inning than in any other season on the Southside. Scott Linebrink did not kill the Sox.

Myth #4: Ozzie's circus has poisoned the Sox.

Answer: Hardly. What circus are you referring to? The Twitter controversy? Anything controversial involved his son, not Ozzie. Throwing players under the bus? The last time that happened was when he made Sean Tracey cry, which was four years ago. Ozzie has actually mellowed this year, as he has the past few seasons. Any focus on Ozzie actually benefits the team more in the long term. It takes the heat off of the players, creating a better team environment. Ozzie's circus has not killed the Sox.

Myth #5: The starters can't hold the leads.

Answer: Here's where fact and fiction merge. The starters have had trouble holding leads, but usually that's been happening when the Sox have had little or no runs on the board. It's simply not a good game plan to ask starters to constantly hold a one run lead or not give up any runs. That's a recipe for failure. Runs are going to be given up. If not, then every pitcher on the team would have an ERA of 0.00 and the Sox would have a record of 144-0 coming into game play tonight. That's not only unrealistic, that's impossible! The starters did not kill the Sox.

Myth #6: Injuries have plagued the White Sox this season.

Answer: There have been injuries this year, but show me a team that doesn't have injuries. Jake Peavy's season ending injury could have been a big blow to the Sox, but it hasn't. Other pitchers have stepped up their game to accommodate the loss of Peavy, until the arrival of Edwin Jackson. Other injuries to players are a normal part of any season. Other players step in and figure out how to win while their teammate is on the DL or sitting out a few games. The Twins have been without their closer and their regular first baseman for a good chunk of the year and they are doing fine. Injuries have not killed the Sox this year.

Myth #7: The White Sox can't hit.

Answer: Yes, they can hit just fine. Konerko has had a renaissance season. Averages that were low towards the beginning of the year are evening out and climbing. The hitting is just fine.

Myth #8: The horrific start sealed their doom.

Answer: Nope. If that sealed their doom, why were they in first place as recently as August?

Myth #9: Joe West killed the season.

Answer: No. While there is strong evidence to support that Joe West does not like the White Sox and will do things in and out of his jurisdiction to make it tougher for the White Sox to win, his crew does not umpire every game the Sox play. It only feeds into his gigantic ego to blame him when it's not the case.

It's easy to play the blame game, but the death of the 2010 White Sox season comes down to three things and all three involve the hitters. Like I mentioned in myth #7, the hitters get their hits. There is nothing wrong with getting the players on base. Whether they get a hit or a walk or are hit by a pitch, the batters get on base. The main problem comes when the bases have runners in scoring position, the Sox try to do to much and end up causing one or two outs with each ensuing batter. It is the inability to hit with runners in scoring position that has killed the White Sox this season.

Instead of taking the approach of hitting a fly ball to the right side to advance the runner with less than two outs, possibly scoring a run in the process, the Sox have usually either ground into a double play or popped the ball up in the infield. This has killed more rallies than any other reason this season.

Compound this with popping up or grounding out early in the count during the first time through the order and trying to hit everything out of the park the second time through. It just doesn't work the majority of the time. By the time the Sox get around to the business of hitting effectively, in most games, it's the sixth or seventh inning already. The opposing starter is out (or on his way) and the hitters have to adjust to multiple pitchers from the bullpen, thus throwing away eighteen at-bats.

Ozzie may want to take a cue from his playing days and have his lineup foul off pitch after pitch the first time through. This quickly eats up the pitch count and potentially gives the batters better pitches to hit, while sending the opposing pitcher to the showers early. That would be refreshing.


Cardboard Jones said...

I feel your pain, bro. It's the same thing that is the undoing of the Braves season. It just really sucks when you enter late August with such high hopes, only to see it all come crashing down!

Alarion said...

It has been one heck of a roller coaster season, that's for sure. Very good write up!

Anonymous said...

Well stated, Steve. It's easy to pick the "obvious" reasons, but you need to step back a bit to see the underlying cause(s).

Johngy said...

Excellent analysis.

Steve Gierman said...

Notice that I said nothing about the record against the AL Central, which is atrocious. Solve these three hitting problems and everything else falls in line. The pitching isn't as taxed, the hitting is more timely and the record against the AL Central improves.

TheBrooklynMet said...

Good points all.

cincykid said...

I like blaming things on Manny. Any team who picks up Manny for any reason should pay for it in the end. Oh well, at least he won't be there next season.

Jim from Downingtown said...

Maybe being TV stars (The Club) gave them big heads?

Jim from Downingtown said...

Time to sneak a Pete Ward card into your header!

Anonymous said...

I was gonna say Im pretty sure the Twins crushed the White Sox season :P

Steve Gierman said...

With nine of the games being decided by one run, I wouldn't exactly say that the Twins "crushed" the White Sox.

The White Sox winning only 5 of 18 games against the Twins mostly from lack of hitting with RISP is the more accurate answer, in my opinion.

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