Baseball Notes: ChiSox Trial Season
Last night we had a bit of an impromptu date night at Target Field to watch the White Sox come to town.
I grew up in Connecticut, spent some time living in Pittsburgh, lived an extended time and studied in Phoenix and currently live in Minneapolis but I have happened to have seen a lot of the White Sox the last six year. Their spring training facility was a favorite of mine due to free parking, small crowds, and one of the more beautiful spring training fields in AZ. One of my fondest memories was watching fighter jets practicing for an air show in the distance just above the game.
Yesterday I came to the park early to try to get some closer pictures of the White Sox players. It's pretty fun to come about an hour and a half before game time to see the away team take batting practice. You can either get nice up close pictures of the players because you're free to move around the park or try to catch a baseball. I made an attempt to get some pictures of Todd Frazier who has had a good season for home runs (34, tied for 5th in the majors) but a horrendous season for batting average (.215, worst, 154th, of all eligible hitters in the majors). There was only one ball I came close to, one hit by Melky Cabrera (hitting .292 but only 9 HR) hitting lefty to right field, a ball that had an odd bounce off the flag pole to the upper level.
There was only one ball I came close to, one hit by Melky Cabrera (hitting .292 but only 9 HR) hitting lefty to right field, a ball that had an odd bounce off the flag pole to the upper level. I was able to get one BP ball at PNC Park hit by Rickie Weeks and another at Chase Field hit by Adam Dunn. Dunn was very consistent for a string of five seasons hitting 40 HR's a year but by the time he played for the White Sox he paved the way for Frazier's avg issues hitting .159, .204, .219 and .220 over three and a half seasons with the White Sox, but also hitting 11, 41, 34, and 20 homers (106 total) in 528 total games.
Around the start of the game, my wife called to say she unexpectedly was getting out of work earlier than she expected. She was able to come join me by the second inning and she took the opportunity to take some pictures of the game. She was very excited to see the big sign light up when the Twins' Byron Buxton hit a home run just below us. The game had a lot of power, Frazier started the scoring early on with a homer to left. The Twins ultimately won the game 8-5 and there were four homers in the game.
Our seats gave us a very nice view of right field. Buxton's home run was easy for us to see, and we could see we would be in frame in the highlight video of it. The video on mlb.com even pauses as the ball gets into the stands and we are technically in frame. We, however, decided to dress in dark clothing so we oddly blend into the background because apparently we look just like seats. Another angle shows us well, but it's less than a second long. I promise we were there. Really.
We took a few laps around the park during the game as Target Field is easy to walk continuously around, and have a view of the game from the concourse, on any level. We stopped by right field to get a look at Avisail Garcia, who has one of the more difficult first names for me to get out of my mouth. I should have it by now because they seem fond of the possibility of his athletic abilities although his power may not have blossomed as they would like (13 homers last year, 10 so far this year).
As we walked over to right field, Max Kepler of the Twins hit a ball that just missed curling around the right field pole for a long foul ball. It was just ahead of us, it was about the third ball hit in our general direction of the night. It was rather odd because Kepler (who I learned was born in Germany, and whose name reminded my wife of the scientist who happened to also be the namesake of the Austrian University I visited during a European clinic in law school) is a lefty hitter who nearly pulled a homer off of lefty starter Jose Quintana. The White Sox were very strange this year and nearly had a rotation of all lefties with Quintana, Sale, Carlos Rodon, and John Danks with righty Mat Latos (and later James Shields and Miguel Gonzalez). It looks like the lefty heavy experiment has failed this year, and Danks (and Latos for good measure to overhaul the rotation) were both cut loose and released by the ChiSox.
So far this season the White Sox are 23rd in the majors in homers, and 18th in avg and are 4th in the AL Central. They are only six games under .500 but this was a team with hopes of contending before the season started. They came in with Jose Abreu, Frazier and Adam Eaton as the highlights of their lineup and a rotation anchored by perennial Cy Young candidate Chris Sale. Frazier has been hitting home runs and nothing else, and Eaton has had an okay season hitting .276. This would be a season Eaton could have snuck his way into the SB leaderboards as the AL is far behind the NL in that category, but he only has 12 to his name through 132 games.
Abreu is showing that he can be a consistent rock on the team much like Chris Sale anchors the rotation (maybe not so much the clubhouse, though. No running with scissors). In his three seasons, Abreu has had 36, 30, and 20 HRs, 107, 101, 76 RBI, and avgs of .317, .290, and .291. With serviceable players around him it would not be a stretch to expect him to have well over 100 RBI and there may not be a limit for HR's if he has another slugger hitting next to him that pitchers are also scared of. I'm not sure Frazier fits that bill this year being the worst hitter for average in the majors.
The poor season for this Chicago team, the antics of their ace (Sale is at least pitching well, 51-7, 3.10 ERA and 185 K's in 185.2 IP), the struggles of their priced slugging pick up of Frazier, the dumping of Danks, Latos and Jimmy Rollins are luckily (for them) overshadowed by the other Chicago team who is in a long awaited championship hunt of their own. It's definitely not the Bears.