Results tagged ‘ Chicago White Sox ’

Now Playing: Crosstown Cup, A House Divided

Ernie Banks or Luis Aparicio? Sammy Sosa or Frank Thomas? Anthony Rizzo or Paul Konerko? When it comes to Chicago baseball, loyalties run deep. Every year, Chicagoans are divided by their ties to the Cubs or the White Sox, as they fight for bragging rights and a claim to the Crosstown Cup. And allegiance isn’t always a matter of geography. Vine Line was out at Wrigley Field Wednesday for Game 3 of the Cubs-Sox home-and-home series to talk to friends and families who are divided by their split baseball loyalties.

Cubs venture to the South Side — Part III

The Cubs continued their run of success on Tuesday, claiming a 2-1 victory over the White Sox in a combined nine-hit pitchers’ duel. On Monday, we broke down the Cubs’ pitching matchups against the Sox, and yesterday we examined the infielders. In our final installment, we dissect the designated hitters and the three outfield positions.

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Designated Hitter

Alfonso Soriano (.266/.315/.485, 13 HR, 43 RBI, 13 2B) vs. Adam Dunn (.225/.369/.559, 23 HR, 52 RBI, 54 BB)

Alfonso Soriano didn’t hit his first home run until May 15, but since then he has been providing the kind of pop the Cubs lineup has been looking for all season. His 13 home runs are tied for the team high, and he leads the squad in RBI. Even at age 36, the everyday left fielder is still proving his worth at the plate. As a likely trade candidate, Soriano could be a key piece for a team eying a full-time DH.

Even if Adam Dunn ended his 2012 season right now, he would still be a candidate for comeback player of the year, considering his miserable 2011 campaign. Dunn leads the major leagues in home runs and leads the AL in walks. Of his 293 plate appearances, 65.4 percent have ended in one of the “three true outcomes”—a strikeout, a walk or a home run.

Left Field

Reed Johnson (.292/.355/.425, 33 R) vs. Dayan Viciedo (.261/.294/.450, 12 HR, 30 RBI)

Reed Johnson’s already limited playing time will likely take an even bigger hit when first baseman Bryan LaHair moves to the outfield to accommodate the call-up of elite prospect Anthony Rizzo. In limited plate appearances (124), Johnson’s .292 average and timely hitting have been a big boost to the Cubs offense. His ability to play all three outfield spots is also a plus.

Dayan Viciedo is finally becoming the power hitter everyone thought he would be when the Sox signed him in 2008. Though his large frame costs him a bit of range defensively, he has not yet committed an error. This season, he’s put up respectable numbers and played smart defense. Plus, at only 23, he’s likely to become a more complete player as time goes on.

Center Field

Tony Campana (.281/.320/.317, 24 SB) vs. Alejandro De Aza (.295/.366/.406, 14 SB, 11 2B)

Tony Campana has the ability to be a difference maker for the Cubs. While he might soon be relegated to the bench with the Rizzo shuffle, he’s stolen a league-best 24 bases in just 49 games. On multiple occasions, Campana has turned walks into runs, but his 22.7% strikeout rate is a little alarming for a speedster. Despite an average arm, Campana covers a lot of ground in left or center, making him a very valuable defensive player.

Alejandro De Aza has been one of the better surprises for the Sox this season. After spending parts of the last three years playing sporadically at the big league level, De Aza stepped into the leadoff role on Opening Day and has been an excellent table-setter. He’s hit near .300 and gotten on base at a rate of almost .370, making him a good complement to the mashers in the middle of the Sox’s order.

Right Field

David DeJesus (.261/.362/.389, 13 2B) vs. Alex Rios (.288/.311/.472, 35 RBI, 5 3B)

David DeJesus has been the Cubs’ right fielder all season, but he’s played center in this series—and he’ll likely stay there with the previously mentioned lineup changes. But the transition to center shouldn’t be that difficult for the 10-year veteran, who has spent time at all three outfield spots during his career with Kansas City and Oakland. Offensively, DeJesus has been one of the most consistent players in the Cubs’ lineup. His on-base percentage is 100 points higher than his batting average, and he has been a regular at the top half of Manager Dale Sveum’s lineup card.

If it weren’t for teammates Jake Peavy and Adam Dunn, the league would be talking about Alex Rios as one of the better bounce-back stories of the year. After hitting .227 in 2011, the nine-year vet is having his finest season since coming over from Toronto in 2009. His five triples leads the AL, and he has a respectable 3.0 defensive UZR.

Cubs venture to the South Side

The Cubs take a trip down the Dan Ryan Expressway this week en route to U.S. Cellular Field for the second leg of the BP Crosstown Cup. To add some fuel to Chicago rivalry, we’re breaking down the position-by-position matchups for both teams, starting today with starters and bullpens.

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Starting Pitching

Monday
Matt Garza (2-5, 4.04 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 8.3 K/9) vs. Zach Stewart (1-1, 5.18 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 5.55 K/9)

The Cubs will have an opportunity to jump out to an early lead in the series with the Sox’s Zach Stewart making his first start of the season. Last year, Stewart completed seven innings just once in eight starts after being acquired from the Blue Jays in a July trade.

But this may not be a sure thing. For a starter many believed was the Cubs’ ace going into Opening Day, Matt Garza has struggled a bit, especially of late. In his first six outings, Garza had a 2.59 ERA, a 0.99 WHIP and was striking out 9.19 batters per nine innings. In his last six outings, those numbers have worsened dramatically (5.87 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 7.55 K/9). With Adam Dunn and Alex Rios bouncing back, Paul Konerko likely having the best season of his career and many others hitting better than expected, Garza will have to pitch well to outlast the tough White Sox lineup.

Tuesday
Travis Wood (0-3, 4.58 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 6.1 K/9) vs. Jake Peavy (6-2, 2.91 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 7.83 K/9)

Travis Wood has been a consistent and solid addition to the Cubs’ rotation since joining the major league club in early May. The southpaw has completed five innings in all six of his starts and has gotten through the sixth in three of them. He’s only had one bad outing (5 IP, 6 ER, 7 H vs. the Padres, a game the Cubs still won) and has surrendered no more than three earned runs in five of six starts.

The Sox have been successful this season in part due to Jake Peavy’s return to dominance. After starting just 35 games over the last two seasons for the South Siders, Peavy entered camp healthy this year, and his numbers show he is back to his old, dominant form. One number that might be helping his cause is a .239 batting average on balls in play. Given the league average hovers somewhere around .300 and the Sox have a good-but-not-great defense, there might be some luck involved to his fast start.

Wednesday
Ryan Dempster (3-3, 2.11 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 7.3 K/9) vs. Gavin Floyd (4-7, 5.63 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 8.5 K/9)

Gavin Floyd has struggled of late to say the least. In his last six starts, he is 1-4 with a 10.71 ERA and a 2.01 WHIP. However, Floyd is still managing to strike out just better than one batter per inning.

Ryan Dempster, meanwhile, has been one of the National League’s most consistently dominant starters all season. Because of poor run support, the 35-year-old won his first start just three outings ago. Prior to his first win on June 5, the Cubs were averaging 2.89 runs per game in Dempster’s starts. But he has won each of his last three because the bats have finally livened up behind him.

Bullpen
While neither bullpen has been automatic this year, the Sox’s ‘pen has fared significantly better than that of the Cubs. Closer Addison Reed has converted eight of nine chances this season, while Matt Thornton (3.38 ERA) and Jesse Crain (2.18 ERA, 10.9 K/9) have been solid setup men.

The Cubs have a 4.51 bullpen ERA, second-worst in baseball, and have saved just nine games total, the lowest total in baseball. James Russell (2.56 ERA) and Shawn Camp (3.74 ERA) have both been good middle/late-innings relievers, but the closer spot is still a revolving door. It appears Carlos Marmol has regained that job after returning from a recent demotion.

Tomorrow on the blog, we’ll feature the infielders.

Viva Las Vegas

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Though we’re working busily on the April issue of Vine Line and the first edition of CUBS2009, the game-day program, that doesn’t mean we won’t tune into WGN and watch our team in Las Vegas.

In what has become an annual ritual, the Cubs made the trip to Sin City last night to take on our South Side rivals, the White Sox. It looked windy and cold last night; even during Lou Piniella’s interview with Len and Bob, Lou had to shield his eyes from the blowing dust.

Well, it is a desert, after all.

In any case, Las Vegas happens to hold a special place in my heart, being that my wife and I got married at the Monte Carlo.This is also the first time in nearly five seasons I haven’t followed the team up to Las Vegas from Mesa. Obviously, the trip is much earlier in spring training, so it wasn’t possible.

Cashman Field is an older ballpark by minor-league standards, and it is, like Len said, a bandbox. Home runs fly out easily with the wind and dry air doing nothing to keep fly balls in the park (more on that later). But it is quite roomy for spectators.

And every year Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman (below with White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen and Cubs skipper Lou Piniella) prances out to the mound with his two showgirls to throw out the first pitch. No wonder he’s the “Happiest Mayor in America.”

Ozzie Lou and Goodman2.jpgLast year I had a chance to talk to Goodman while I was there to cover the Cubs as they took on the Seattle Mariners. A very close friend of mine who was heavily involved with the Nevada Easter Seals introduced me to Goodman, whose effervescent personality was infectious. I asked him if he thought Las Vegas would see a Major League Baseball team.

“Absolutely. Someday we’ll see it here,” Goodman said. “But right now our job is to convince the powers that be that Las Vegas can be a viable city from a fan standpoint.”

My friend Scott reminded me that there are a lot of transplants in Las Vegas, from all over the country. Provincial team alliances will travel with these people–would they back a team in a city in which they did not grow up or value?

My feeling was yes. However, former Cubs president John McDonough once told me when it came to a city’s viability for a major-league team, it wasn’t so much the fan base, it was the corporate sponsorship base. If a city doesn’t have the corporate base to purchase all of those sky boxes, all of those sponsorships, all of that concourse and outfield signage, the team will have problems. But I think Las Vegas could do it.

D-Lee and D-Ganz

Danny Gans5.jpgOne of the most popular acts on the Las Vegas Strip is the 1000 voices of Danny Gans, at the Mirage. A talented singer and impersonator, Ganz also is a former minor-league and 
 college baseball player. In 1997, when Derrek Lee was a top prospect of the San Diego Padres and Las Vegas was the Padres’ Triple-A affiliate, as a stadium promotion, both Gans and Lee agreed to participate in a home run contest, mano a mano.

That year, Lee was the Padres’ Minor-League Player of the Year. The derby consisted of two rounds, 10 swings each. Lee hit four homers in his first 10 swings. Gans, who most did not know had previous baseball experience, surprises everyone with three bombs of his own. After the first round, Lee walked over to Gans and joked: “Don’t make me look bad.”

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Lee goes on to hit two more in the second round for a total of six. Gans, down by one, hits two more homers. On his last swing, Gans sends it deep to left center where it just bounces off the top of the wall and drops back into the outfield.

Final score: Lee 6, Gans 5.

“It was really the talk of the town for a while,” Gans said. “The [then-] Stars actually signed me to a contract. The way it was structured, I could come in and DH. You know, if they were ahead, they’d put me in. I was thrilled. However, the Mirage didn’t want me to do that because if I got out there, they were afraid some cocky pitcher would throw at my head.”

Ah, show business. Only in Las Vegas.

–Mike Huang

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