SaleGreinke earns its hashtag

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SaleGreinke earns its hashtag

Yes, it's true that Chris Sale and Zack Greinke combined for merely eleven whiffs, a total each pitcher had surpassed on his own at least once this season. But there's more to a mound masterpiece than a long trail of strikeout victims. Sale kicked it up a notch when runners threatened to score. Greinke simply chose to deny scoring position as an option. When the game ended with the South Siders' 10th consecutive goose egg (apparently the goose remains the only animal capable of producing eggs of this shape), the box score showed tremendous numbers for the two starters.

In fact, both Sale and Greinke posted game scores of at least 80. The game score (explained below) developed by Bill James is a quick and easy way to measure the quality of a starting pitcher's performance. While not perfect, I think it gets the job done while assigning a quick one-number value for the sake of comparison. Digging through the box scores, it becomes apparent that the White Sox haven't participated in a pitchers' duel of this magnitude in some time.

The last time a Sox starter took part in a battle of 80 game scores was game one of an Aug. 18, 1990 doubleheader, when the "Little Bulldog" Greg Hibbard locked horns with Nolan Ryan in a strange "David vs. Goliath" matchup in Texas.

The crafty White Sox left-hander was on his way to a career-high 92 punchouts (in 211 innings). Of course the "Ryan Express" grunted and groaned (Goose Gossage, in his autobiography The Goose is Loose, commented that "when he let go of his fastball, he sounded like a woman giving birth. Or a beast in the jungle." Bill Melton told me virtually the same thing) his way to at least twice as many as Hibbard's career high in 18 different seasons, tripled it six times and, with his Major League record 383 strikeouts in 1973, quadrupled it.

And on this August 1990 day, the 43-year old legend posted a game score of 101. What would amount to Hibbard's career high of 81 went for naught.

August 17, 1990 (game 1); Rangers 1, White Sox 0

PitcherGScIPHRBBKGreg Hibbard
8282036Nolan Ryan
1-11030015
The previous "80 vs. 80" came improbably in 1987, a year of epic offensive explosion. Floyd Bannister and Mark Langston combined to allow just three hits on a Sunday afternoon at the Kingdome. The White Sox managed two solo homers (by Donnie Hill and Pat Keedy, of course) and the lone Mariner safety came in the bottom of the third courtesy of Harold Reynolds, who was promptly called out trying to stretch it into a double. No White Sox pitcher would surpass Bannister's 95 game score until Philip Humber's perfect game (96) against these same (yet very different) Mariners 25 years later.

September 13, 1987; White Sox 2, Mariners 0

PitcherGScIPHRBBKFloyd Bannister
95910010Mark Langston
8192239
There were two others since 1980, both White Sox losses and both on May 25:

May 25, 1986: Joel Davis (82) vs. Dennis Leonard (Royals, 82)
May 25, 1983: Britt Burns (80) vs. Bruce Hurst (Red Sox, 85)

And the previous two came in consecutive games in 1979:

Aug. 15, 1979: Ken Kravec 83 vs. Mike Flanagan (Orioles, 99)
Aug. 14, 1979: Rich Wortham 83 vs. Steve Stone (Orioles, 80)

And just for fun, the Sox' Steve Trout tossed an 83 the day before on Aug. 13, 1979 (but the Orioles' Scott McGregor turned in a shabby 32) making it three in a row by White Sox starters with exactly 83.

While other recent matchups were certainly ones to remember (for example Gavin Floyd vs. Ted Lilly in 2010, Johan Santana vs. Freddy Garcia in 2005, etc.), Sale vs. Greinke fulfilled my latest obscure statistical requirements, and hopefully the White Sox offense will prevent another one of these pitchers' duels from happening for quite some time.

Game score explained and other notes

Game Score: Begin with 50 points. Add one point for each out recorded. Add two points for each inning completed after the 4th inning. Add one point for each strikeout. Subtract two points for each hit allowed. Subtract four points for each earned run; two points for each unearned run. And subtract one point for each walk.

Only six times has a pitcher reached 100 since; Ryan again in a May 1, 1991 no-hitter, Kerry Wood on May 6, 1998 in his 20-strikeout game, Curt Schilling on April 7, 2002, Randy Johnson's May 18, 2004 perfect game, Brandon Morrow Aug. 8, 2010, and Matt Cain in his June 13, 2012 perfect game.

Offense across MLB stuck out like a sore thumb in 1987: (Below are MLB totals)

YearRunsgameHome runs
19854.333,60219864.413,81319874.724,45819884.143,18019894.133,083

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.