Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011
By Brett Ballantini
All right, its been long enough, time to dig through the mail for the inaugural CSNChicago.com White Sox mailbag. Feel free to e-mail me questions for future inclusion here at bballantini@ComcastSportsNet.com or on Twitter @CSNChi_Beatnik.
The lineup is set, with just third base to be decided in spring training. Has Ozzie given any thought to how his batting order will look? Michelle, Orland Park
Guillen was asked that question many times at SoxFest, and shared a humorous story about working on six or seven different lineup cards during a recent dinner with his wife, Ibiswho thought he was ignoring herand being advised on his best batting order by a nearby diner eavesdropping on his labor.
Guillens rough lineup, as outlined in January, went something like Juan PierreGordon BeckhamAdam Dunn at the top of the order, Paul KonerkoAlex RiosCarlos Quentin in the middle and A.J. PierzynskiAlexei RamirezBrent Morel or Mark Teahen at the bottom.
Its a tricky proposition, mixing three lefties (operating on the assumption that Morel will start at third base) well into what is expected to be a loaded offense. The assumption that Beckham will flourish in the No. 2 hole is almost entirely dependent on him picking up where he left off during an incendiary second half (pre-hand injury) in 2010, by no means a given. There simply isnt an ideal No. 2 hitter on the White Sox, other than reserve infielder Omar Vizquel.
Unless Bacon asserts himself right from the start of spring training, Id bump speed and on-base percentage up in the order, rolling out something like PierreRiosQuentin up top, DunnKonerkoPierzynski in the middle and RamirezBeckhamMorel at the bottom. Yes, Rios had a grand total of zero sacrifice hits last season, but tell me you didnt want to tear your hair out every time Guillen ordered a sacrifice with Pierre on firstisnt the point of having Pierre on base that you dont have to give away an out to get him to second? Rioss run-producing potential, heralded by Guillen, is hardly different than Ramirezsand the Missile isnt in the mix to hit third or fifth. Rios in the No. 2 spot gives you a second leadoff hitter and makes the best of an awkward situation.
Want a stealth candidate for the No. 2 hole? Its Morelprobably not anytime soon, but his production in the minors indicates a player who has the tools to sport a solid stroke in the second spot.
The White Sox are filled with closer options but no one is proven, like Bobby Jenks. Whos going to close this season? Ethan, Park Ridge
Jenks was a proven closer who manned the role for five entire seasons for the White Sox, making any of the potential closer controversy looming for the team during that time moot. And for all the peripheral stats that pointed to a career-worst season for Bad Bobby in 2010, his 87 save percentage was on par with his career average, and only in 2006 was his rate better than 90. Most significantly, that 87 rate was better than any other White Sox pitchersapparent closer favorite Matt Thornton was at 80, new Arizona Diamondbacks fireman J.J. Putz was at 43 and possible closer Sergio Santos converted just one of three saves. Newcomer Jesse Crain was a closer throughout his minor-league career and has fireman tools, but has produced a poor save percentage in his major-league career to date as well. Yes, Chris Sale was four-of-four in late-season save chances, but his role (starter vs. bullpen) is sketchy at the momentyou cant expect a 21-year-old to start for a month, then take over the closer role, at least without being forced to by anything short of an utter implosion at the back end of the bullpen.
It takes a certain mentality to flourish as the anchor man of a bullpen. Thornton by all appearances has the makeup to closewhile he did blow two of 10 save chances last season, none came after June 8, and he was a perfect three-of-three in September, as the default closer while Jenks was sidelined.
While Id prefer to have Thornton continue in the setupoccasional closing role where he has flourished for years in favor of inserting Sale as the closer for 2011, such a move will still create instability as the bullpen adjusts to losing Sale to the rotation in 2012 (if not sooner). So the best bet as of Groundhog Day pegs Thornton as the 2011 closer.
Why dont the White Sox and Cubs ever play on the same day? Id love to see a Chicago baseball doubleheader. Rich, Northbrook
It doesnt happen often, but there is always at least one game a year where the White Sox and Cubs cross paths within the city limits. This season, the teams overlap for an entire weekend series in August, as the White Sox host the AL pennant-winning Texas Rangers and the Cubs host the St. Louis Cardinals for another routine bloodbath. On Friday, the Cubs lead off at 1:30 p.m. and the White Sox follow at 7:10. On Saturday, the Cubs play at 3:10 and the White Sox have a postgame fireworks start of 6:10. And on Sunday, the White Sox finish their series at 1:10 while the Cubs are listed as TBD, indicating a probable Sunday night baseball game.
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute White Sox information.