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Entries in Chicago White Sox (34)

Tuesday
Sep112012

Pierzynski Punishing Lower-Half Pitches

A.J. Pierzynski has been a surly metronome behind the plate for the White Sox since 2005, averaging around 10-15 homers per season with a slugging percentage in the low .400s. But A.J.'s power, pretty good given his punishing defensive position, appeared to be on the wane as he entered his mid-30s. Pierzynski popped just eight home runs in 2011, his lowest total since he was a Minnesota Twin back in 2002.

Instead of falling further into the offensive abyss like so many others who spend a decade-plus squatting in the majors, Pierzynski has turned in a career year at age 35. He leads all backstops in home runs (26) and trails just Buster Posey in slugging (.528). Pierzynski is enjoying a late-career power surge by blasting lower-half pitches.

Last season, Pierzynski was pretty ordinary against pitches thrown to the lower half of the strike zone. He killed pitches tossed low-and-in and those that caught the middle of the plate, but his overall slugging percentage on lower-half offerings (.394) was well south of the MLB average (.420).

Pierzynski's slugging percentage vs. lower-half pitches, 2011

This year, he's making Hawk Harrelson swoon when pitchers give him something at or below the belt:

Pierzynski's slugging percentage vs. lower-half pitches, 2012

Pierzynski's .560 slugging percentage vs. lower-half pitches places fifth among MLB hitters, trailing just Mike Trout (.608), Adrian Beltre (.586), Edwin Encarnacion (.578) and Melky Cabrera (.567). Seventeen of his 26 bombs have come on pitches thrown to the middle or low portion of the plate, just one shy of matching his homer total in that area from 2009-11 combined. It's almost enough to make A.J. crack a smile. Almost.

Monday
Aug062012

Youk Slugging On the South Side

With no farm system to speak of, White Sox GM Kenny Williams has repeatedly gambled by acquiring high-priced veterans with question marks in trades. While some of those moves blew up like Wile E. Coyote ACME bombs last season, the likes of Alex Rios, Jake Peavy, Francisco Liriano and Kevin Youkilis have propelled the White Sox to the top of the AL Central standings in 2012. Youkilis, whose bat was on life support in Boston, has rediscovered his power stroke on the South Side.

The 33-year-old, who slugged just .377 and had an 84 OPS+ in 165 PA with the Red Sox, was shipped to the White Sox in late June for Zach Stewart, since-DFA'd Brent Lillibridge and cash. In Chicago, Youk has slugged .512 and has a 138 OPS+ in 150 PA. With the Red Sox, he only hurt pitchers occasionally on high-and-away offerings:

Youkilis' slugging percentage by pitch location with Boston, 2012

 

But since the swap, Youkilis has drilled just about everything thrown high in the strike zone:

Youkilis' slugging percentage by pitch location with White Sox, 2012

 

Youkilis has tapped into his power by hitting more fly balls (28.3% in Boston, 44.4% in Chicago). Those flies are traveling farther, too: an average of 275 feet with the White Sox, up from 262 feet with the Red Sox (the MLB average is about 269 feet).

While Youkilis is currently pushing the White Sox toward a playoff spot, Williams can also retain him next year by picking up a $13 million club option ($1 million buyout). Youkilis will have to keep raking and avoid the back ailments that felled him in Boston for that to happen. But Chicago doesn't have an in-house option after Brent Morel's own offense collapse and back issues, the club's still fallow-farm system makes a trade for an impact player unlikely, and it's slim pickings on the free agent market.

Give Williams credit. Sure, his moves occasionally blow up in his face. But, unlike that aimless Coyote, Williams looks poised to catch his Road Runner.

Monday
Jun252012

My All Star Starters: AL 2B

Here we will discuss the American league second base all-star hopefuls. Updated voting totals are here.

Second base is a tough position to find pure hitters, especially those that can hit for power. This is what makes those few guys who can do it all extremely valuable to their teams. Second basemen don't need to have the best arms, but they need to have quick hands and feet, as that could mean the difference between one out and two when trying to turn a double play in the infield. Now we can discuss the top vote getters.

#1. Robinson Cano, New York Yankees 3,559,290

Has there been anyone better than this guy at hitting from second base in the past few years? Robinson Cano can hit for average and power, and he has speed, a great glove, and quick hands in the infield. Cano epitomizes what an all-star second basemen looks like, and he proved his power by taking home the Home Run Derby Title last season. I'm sure having that short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium certainly helps out the left hander as well. If Cano has any fault this season, it is that he has had trouble hitting left handed pitching. As you can see below, the average heat map versus left handed pitching leaves a little to be desired (he is only hitting at a .228 clip versus southpaws).

Taking a look at his average in the lower third of the zone versus lefties (specifically his groundball rate), may show the struggles.

It is fairly clear that Cano's inability to keep the ball off the ground in the lower part of the zone versus left handed pitching has contributed to lowering his average. Besides this small knock, Cano has been the best second basemen in the American League. Here are his stats:

71 G, 274 AB, 82 H, 21 2b, 1 3b, 16 HR, 50 R, 36 RBI, 1 SB, 29 BB, 42 SO, .299 AVG, .367 OBP, .558 SLG 

Cano has been awesome, and he just recently jumped over Ian Kinsler to take over the starting nod in the most recent voting update. I believe that the battle between the two of them in fan voting is not equivalent to the battle between the two of them on the field. (as I'm writing this, Cano hit his 17th)

 

#2. Ian Kinsler, Texas Rangers 3,462,367

Kinsler and Cano have been neck and neck since the voting started, but Cano has been hot lately, which has hurt Kinsler's starting bid. Kinsler has been just average since the season started, but compared to other second basemen, he's been slightly above average. We'll take a look at his average heat map to see what he has brought to the table this season.

Kinsler hasn't had much of a hot zone this season, as he has been just average. Hopefully soon he will catch fire and turn into the Ian Kinsler of previous seasons. His BABIP is higher than his current average which means he may be over achieving a little bit even now. If we look at Kinsler's stat line, it is pretty evident that he is having a non-Kinsler type year. 

71 G, 306 AB, 82 H, 23 2b, 3 3b, 7 HR, 53 R, 35 RBI, 13 SB, 27 BB, 40 SO, .268 AVG, .333 OBP, .431 SLG

Kinsler has appeared in as many games as Cano, but has really only out played him in the stolen base department. Otherwise, their stats are equivalent or Cano has posted better numbers. Cano just recently passed Kinsler for first on the voting list, which I believe is absolutely the appropriate order. Kinsler could provide a back up role on the all-star team, but that would mostly come from past exploits than from this year's production.

 

#3. Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox 1,666,282

Pedey has been an anchor at the second base position for the Red Sox for many years now, having reeled in an AL Rookie of the Year Award and an AL MVP in consecutive seasons. In the past, Pedrioa's strength has been on the inside half of the zone, and this year has been no different. Pedrioa has quick hands and incredible hand eye coordination that allows him to put almost any ball in play. This year has been no different, as most of his power has come from inside pitches. 

Pedrioa has been underwhelming thus far, which much can be contributed to the torn muscle in his thumb. It seems lately though that the Muddy Chicken may have turned the corner, as he has been swatting the ball the last couple of games. Lets take a look at his year to this point.

65 G, 269 AB, 72 H, 18 2b, 1 3b, 5 HR, 37 R, 28 RBI, 3 SB, 23 BB, 35 SO, .268 AVG, .327 OBP, .398 SLG

To this point, the Laser Show hasn't quite been himself, but a solid second half could level out his numbers. With an average similar to Kinsler's, I believe he is in an appropriate position behind the other two second basemen in front of him, and behind by two million votes, I don't see him making a come back.

 

#4. Jason Kipnis, Clevland Indians 852,325

Fans are recognizing how good this kid actually it, as the rookie is nearing one million votes. Kipnis is well deserving of the votes, in fact I think he needs to get some more. He has been almost as productive as Kinsler and Pedroia combined in the HR column. He has had a better average than the two and has knocked in more runs than even Cano. This kid has a bright future in the MLB and his success has come from his ability to make contact with balls all over the strike zone. 

This has led to a good rookie batting average. He has also shown excellent power, driving the ball to all fields.

 

Let's take a look at Kipnis' stats in the first half of his first big league season.

70 G, 283 AB, 78 H, 6 2b, 3 3b, 11 HR, 46 R, 41 RBI, 17 SB, 22 BB, 50 SO, .276 BA, .330 OBP, .435 SLG

This kid has been excellten for Clevland, leading the charge of young talent and should absolutely be considered to make an appearance in Kansas City at the Midsummer Classic. 

 

Wild Card - NONE

I don't believe there is another American League second baseman that should be considered in this discussion, so there is not a wild card who has a chance to break into the discussion.

 

RESULTS:

1. Robinson Cano

2. Jason Kipnis

3. Ian Kinsler

4. Dustin Pedroia