Ballantini: Ozzie and that wacky outfield D

Ballantini: Ozzie and that wacky outfield D
April 13, 2011, 8:28 pm
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Wednesday, April 13, 2011Posted: 3:19 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

As much as White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen has defended his defenseparticularly an outfield defense that has dropped five fly balls (four for errors) in Chicagos first 11 games, he knows that trend has to reverse course.

Its making an excuse when you are making a mistake and making errors, thats a no-no for me, Guillen said. You screw up, you screw upwell get them next time. It has been very windy here the last couple of days. We see a lot of guys were play against make mistakes, too. Just keep playing Hopefully we get better about it; I know we will. We know we need defense. Every time we make a mistake, we pay. And hopefully, we start making less mistakes.

Last year, the White Sox were an average defensive team overall, with a .983 fielding percentage that tied for 14th in the leaguethis year the White Sox are last in the AL with a .969 fielding percentage. This year, theyve sported a range factor per nine innings of 3.60 RF9 and 2.63 RFG, much poorer than last years 4.15 and 3.03, respectively. The clubs revised zone rating (RZR, the percentage of balls in each fielding zone a team coverts to outs) was .797 through the first 11 games (24th in the league) and .801 last year (29th), and the out-of-zone (OOZ) outs totaled 427 in 2010 (18th in baseball) and project to 368 this season (tied for 22nd).

So really, while five drops in the first 11 games of the season is a bit extreme, the White Sox defense is generally what it should be. Guillen is willing to put a positive spin on that.

We have played pretty good defense, he said. We dropped two balls that cost us runs. Overall, we play great defense. Rios just dropped one ball, and how many nice plays does he make? So does Juan. I not going to criticize the play because they make errors. I wish it would be better? We all do. They want to play good. They take a lot of pride playing defense. They take fly balls and ground balls, they take infield. Everything thats out there to get better, we do it. Execute during the game, we do it. We will make more mistakes because thats part of the game.

One thing that really gets Guillens goat, however, are the Bronx cheers that greeted half a dozen caught fly balls last night, something he said made him feel sad for his team.

The thing is that bugs me a little bit, if youre booing because we drop the ball, yes, please do. You boo because we make a bad pitch thats a double, yes. But dont think this is a little game where every time we catch fly balls you can be making fun of the team or embarrassing it, Guillen said. Everyone should be proud if youre a White Sox fan and you see Juan Pierre play every dayyou got your moneys worth. This kid plays very, very hard for us. He doesnt deserve Bronx cheers. I will be behind him and I dont care if people get mad at me Its just not fair, and Ill keep saying that. When the play happened, boo, but if every time teams hit a fly ball to us theyre going to do that, I dont think thats nice at all.

In the third inning of Wednesdays game vs. Oakland, Pierre made his third error of the young seasonthe fifth outfield error in 11-plus games for the White Soxon a single by Cliff Pennington in the third. Pierre had two singles early in the game, but was picked off of first base both times.

Having their backs

Guillen very quickly jumped to support his players during their defensive doldrums on the homestand, and thats just one reason why he is such a popular leader in the White Sox clubhouse.

He played the game. Hes got it in his blood, catcher Ramon Castro said. He knows what we go through and never hesitates to support us.

He doesnt throw us under the bus, centerfielder Alex Rios said. He runs a tight ship, but he absorbs a lot of the criticism for us, so we are protected.

Guillen constantly threatens to throw his players under the bus, but only a small percentage of the time does he follow through on those threatsand thats actually a big part of the circle of trust Guillen has with his team.

He establishes his rules and expects us to live up to them, shortstop Alexei Ramirez said. People think theres no method to how he works, but thats not true. We respond to his support and respect by respecting him right back, and working hard.

Rios, who says that a key to making the trust Ozzie has with his team work is the support that the players have for one another on the field and in the clubhouse, broke it down similarly.

Ozzies cool with us, he said. When you know someone is behind you, its good.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.