The All-Chicago Team: 2000-2011

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The All-Chicago Team: 2000-2011

By Tony Andracki and JJ Stankevitz
CSNChicago.com

This spring, we at Cubs Talk and White Sox Talk have decided to unify Chicago's two baseball teams into one in an effort to pick out the best players to grace each side of the city over the last 50 years. Each Wednesday during spring training, we'll roll out a different All-Chicago team, beginning today with the best Cubs and White Sox players from 2000-2011.

Tony: Catcher was the biggest debate. Geovany Soto has put up some solid offensive numbers for the Cubs over the second half of this time period, but A.J. Pierzynski brought intangibles and led a World Series-winning pitching staff. Ultimately, we went with Soto for the pure numbers, but it was awfully close.

JJ: As you'll see below, not everyone agrees with this. Soto's tangibles broke the tie, although as Tony said, this one was probably the toughest of them all.

Tony: Ray Durham at second base shows just how poor that position was in Chicago over that time. Durham is a heck of a player, but he only spent a a few years with the Sox in this time period. Both Chicago teams have failed to find consistent options at second for quite some time now.

JJ: It came down to Durham vs. Tadahito Iguchi, which was a lot closer than I thought. Iguchi was a solid player, but Durham was just a bit better.

Tony: Jim Thome and Derrek Lee were fantastic players for their respective teams in the 2000s, but Frank Thomas at DH and Paul Konerko were just a little bit better.

JJ: No shame to either guy for being left off our starting lineup of sorts. Both had terrific careers with the Sox and Cubs, respectively.

Tony: The rotation was tough, as beyond Carlos Zambrano and Mark Buehrle, there were no clear-cut options. The battle for the fifth starter was especially challenging. Ted Lilly ultimately won out because for the three-and-a-half years he spent on the North Side, he was the Cubs' best pitcher.

JJ: Freddy Garcia deserves a shout-out here, as does Jon Garland, but in the end, Lilly was the guy.

Tony: At left-handed reliever, Sean Marshall has been the best relief pitcher from 2010-11, but Thornton was arguably the best reliever from 2008-2010 and has been better for longer.

JJ: No non-closer was better than Matt Thornton from 2008-2010 in baseball. While Marshall has been impressive in the last two seasons, there's no touching Thornton's string of dominance. And without further ado, here's our roster:

C: Geovany Soto
1B: Paul Konerko
2B: Ray Durham
SS: Alexei Ramirez
3B: Aramis Ramirez
LF: Carlos Lee
CF: Aaron Rowand
RF: Sammy Sosa
DH: Frank Thomas

Bench: Derrek Lee
Bench: Jim Thome

SP: Mark Buehrle
SP: Carlos Zambrano
SP: Kerry Wood
SP: John Danks
SP: Ted Lilly

Closer: Bobby Jenks
Righty Reliever: Carlos Marmol
Lefty Reliever: Matt Thornton
The Final Word

David Kaplan: I have a few problems with the list because I don't think that some of the selections take into account winning. Three Cubs starting pitchers in the rotation? Please. Kerry Wood wasn't a starter for a large percentage of the decade. Ted Lilly? He didn't even finish the four-year deal he signed before the 2007 season. I would go with Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland, Jose Contreras, Carlos Zambrano, and Freddy Garcia.

At catcher A.J. Pierzynski is a no-brainer. Soto didn't even come up until 2007 and he had two bad years since then. No chance he belongs on the All-Decade team. Pierzynski is a winner and is still effective. This one is not even close! Carlos Lee? He didn't play in Chicago after 2004 so I would go with Jermaine Dye, who was a World Series MVP, and although he was a right fielder with the Sox he could play left field. Some of the selections are not great, but it speaks more to how subpar Chicago baseball has been for the past 11 years with 2005 our only true shining moment.

Chuck Garfien: Taking a first glance at the list, A.J. Pierzynski is the best catcher in Chicago of the decade. He didn't win the Rookie of the Year like Geovanny Soto, but he helped win the White Sox countless games behind the plate. Statistics don't always tell the whole story about a player. The intangibles A.J. brings into every game were immeasurable, especially in 2005.

And I agree with Kap. Jermaine Dye has to be on this list. Carlos Lee put up good numbers but was terrible in the clubhouse. That's why Ozzie Guillen asked Kenny Williams to trade him. The Sox went out and signed Jermaine Dye. He won the World Series MVP, was a great teammate. He belongs on the team.

And I would replace Ted Lilly with Greg Maddux. I know his best days with the Cubs were way before that, but it was great to see him back with the club for a final swan song. Plus, any all-time list looks better with Greg Maddux on it.

Share your thoughts on this list with us! Drop us a line in the comments or on twitter @CubsTalkCSN or @WhiteSoxTalkCSN.

White Sox: Jose Abreu's five-week tear filled with hard contact, fewer strikeouts

White Sox: Jose Abreu's five-week tear filled with hard contact, fewer strikeouts

Jose Abreu has made quite a turnaround from being a guy who was admittedly lost to bashing the ball like Abreu of old.

From April 19th on, Abreu has hit at another level, reminiscent of the performances he put on throughout an eye-opening 2014 campaign in which he was the unanimous American League rookie of the year winner. Over that stretch, Abreu has slashed at an absurd .347/.404/.677 clip with nine doubles, one triple, 10 home runs and 22 RBIs in 136 plate appearances.

Earlier this week, Abreu said the run is the product of trusting his tireless preparation.

"I struggled in the first few weeks of the season but I kept working," Abreu said through an interpreter. "Now I'm at this point where I feel very good and confident with my offense and things are going well for me. That's part of what you work for and if you work hard, you know the results will be there at the end of the day."

Two numbers that have improved significantly during Abreu's five-week tear are his average exit velocity and strikeout rate.

Abreu entered Wednesday 39th in the the majors with an average exit velocity of 90.5 mph this season, according to Baseball Savant.

But Abreu wasn't hitting the ball nearly as hard early this season, which was littered with weak contact. Abreu stumbled out of the gate with a .157 average, one extra-base hit and only five RBIs in his first 54 plate appearances. Through the first two weeks, Abreu's average exit velocity was 89.0 mph on 31 batted-ball events, which was slightly down from last season's 89.6 mph average and significantly down from 2015, when he averaged 90.9 mph.

Since then, however, Abreu has seen a significant increase in hard contact. Over his last 92 batted-ball events, Abreu is averaging 92.6 mph, a total that would qualify for 15th in the majors this season. Included in that span is 35 balls hit 100 mph or more.

But Abreu's success isn't just related to how hard he has hit the ball. He's also made much better contact this season and is striking out less than ever. Abreu struck out 14 times in his first 54 plate appearances (25.9 percent). But since then, he has whiffed only 17 times in 136 plate appearances, good for a 12.5 percent strikeout rate.

His season K-rate of 16.3 percent, according to Fangraphs.com, is down from a career mark of 19.6 percent.

"You have started to see him heat up a little," manager Rick Renteria said earlier this week. "He's given us solid at-bats. He's in a good place right now."

Actually, it's a great place and one Abreu hasn't done with consistency since 2015. He once again looks like the hitting machine he was for most of his first two seasons and the final two months of 2016.

Abreu is on pace to hit 36 home runs this season, which would match his 2014 total. His current wRC+ of 138 is his highest since he finished 2014 at 167.

Last season, Abreu didn't hit his 10th home run until June 18. He hit his 11th homer on June 23 and then didn't hit another until August 4. That stretch raised myriad questions both inside the organization and externally about whether or not Abreu would return to prominence as a hitter. Perhaps inspired by the August arrival of his son, Dariel, Abreu finished 2016 with a flurry, hitting .340/.402/.572 with 14 home runs in his final 241 plate appearances.

General manager Rick Hahn said last September that the stretch was important for White Sox evaluators to see.

"It certainly makes you more confident as you see him over the last six weeks, projecting out that he's going to be that same player that he was for the first two years of his career," Hahn said. "Earlier, when he was scuffling, you looked at some of the things he was doing from his approach or some of the mechanical issues he might have been having and you felt confident he was going to be able to get back. But in all candor, you like seeing the performance match what you're projecting and we've certainly seen that over the last six weeks."

The White Sox offense has benefitted from Abreu's leap back into prominence. The team has averaged 4.53 runs per game this season and is 9th in the American League with 204 runs scored and 17th overall in the majors. But the increase in offense still hasn't helped the White Sox improve in the standings. While Abreu is glad to be on the roll he is, he'd prefer if his team is along for the ride.

"We're are passing through a tough moment, a rough stretch," Abreu said. "For me as I've always said the team is first. I want to thank God for how I've performed through this rough stretch. But it's not something makes me feel happy because we didn't win as many games as we wanted to win. It's tough."

Has Jose Quintana's slow start to the season affected his potential trade value?

Has Jose Quintana's slow start to the season affected his potential trade value?

 

Jose Quintana has not started his 2017 campaign as many White Sox fans had hoped or expected.
 
Through nine games the 2016 All Star has posted just two wins and watched his ERA climb to 3.92 after Wednesday’s loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. 
 
This past offseason, Quintana was frequently mentioned as a possible trade piece for the White Sox who if moved might have brought in other key pieces for the retooling South Siders, much like Chris Sale and Adam Eaton did. 

[WHITE SOX TICKETS: Get your seats right here]
 
Have Quintana’s early season struggles impacted his trade value?
 
White Sox play-by-play announcer Jason Benetti weighed in while appearing on Wednesday’s edition of SportsTalk Live.
 
“Somebody's trade value isn’t contingent necessarily on what he’s doing right now,” Benetti said. “I mean general managers are smart enough to know Jose Quintana is worth X over the course of time and a lot of what trade value has to do with, is what other teams need. So as injuries continue to pile up to other pitchers, if we’re talking about the value of a starting pitcher, the market has as much to do with that as his performance in one specific game.” 
 
Listen to what else Benetti had to say in the video above.