This Week in Chicago Sports

White Sox

So things for the White Sox haven’t been great. In the five games the Sox played this week they scored just 11 runs and won only once. The one win came courtesy of a 2-run Matt Davidson homer in the bottom of the 8th to take the finale of their series with the Rays. The Sox are now 1-5 at home, which isn’t great.

The biggest problem has been the offense. Last week I talked about how most the majority of the offense was hitting well and several players were hitting over .300. At the time of writing, the highest average on the team belongs to Yolmer Sanchez at .289. The only player still with an OPS over 1.0 is Matt Davidson at 1.007. He may only being hitting .211 but it seems like every hit produces runs (he has 8 hits this season and 10 RBIs).

The real problem has been the pitching. Remember when I picked Lucas Giolito to be my breakout player of the season because I thought he would be a stud? Well, he’s off to a slow start. Through three starts, he has a ERA of 5.50 and has only struck out 8 while walking 12 in 18 innings pitched.

Miguel Gonzalez has been even worse in his two starts, with an ERA over 8. The bullpen has been a bit better this week, but it doesn’t matter when you can’t score any runs.

The brightest spot for the team so far this season without a doubt has been Reynaldo Lopez. He’s got a 0.69 over 13 innings pitched in two starts, and is averaging less than one baserunner allowed per inning as well as less than three hits per nine innings pitched. He’s got some absolutely filthy off-speed stuff, as evidenced by these highlights from his last start against the Tigers:

The one thing Lopez hasn’t done this season? Win a game; he’s received just two runs of support.

The Sox have had the second and third games of their series against Minnesota canceled due to snow and are supposed to play the Twins tomorrow, but we’ll see if that happens. If we don’t play we can’t lose.

Standings: 3rd in AL Central (4-8), 3.5 games back of Minnesota

Next Week: At Minnesota (Sunday), At Oakland (Monday-Wednesday), Vs Houston (Friday-Saturday)

Cubs

By Logan Springgate

There might not be a player in Major League Baseball with more mercurial performances than Javier Baez. He lit it up this week, hitting four home runs in two days against the NL Central-leading Pirates. At his best, he’s electric on the field with some of the fastest hands among all middle infielders, in the batter’s box where he crushes home runs, and on the basepaths. He’s confident to the point of being brash. Case in point, Javy did this after his 3rd homer earlier this week:

eE8PRhf - Imgur

Look familiar? It should because it’s the most iconic home run celebration in Cubs history:

BG2BJDT - Imgur

That’s a pretty cocky move for a player with less career home runs than Slammin’ Sammy hit in each of the 1998, 1999, and 2001 seasons. According to Statcast data from Baseball Savant, Javy’s four home runs so far this year have travelled an average of 415 feet (2018 leaguewide MLB average: 399 feet). I don’t have any one stat to back up his fielding, but take a look at this which doesn’t even show any of the magic he can do tagging runners out at second. He was the 20th best baserunner in the majors last season according to FanGraphs’s BsR, a stat that takes into account steals, double plays, and other plays that a runner can influence with their performance on the basepaths. All this is to say, there’s no doubt that Baez has the potential to be a star for the Cubs if he ever put it all together at once.

       At his worst, on the other hand, Baez becomes one of the most frustrating players to watch. He has a frustrating tendency to swing out of his shoes at breaking pitches way out of the strike zone. Compared to last year, Javy is walking more (5.9% to 12.8%) and striking out less (28.4% to 21.3%). “Great!” you say, “He’s finally putting together some plate discipline. It’s about time.” And maybe you’re right, but I’m not so sure because he is somehow striking out less and walking more while still swinging at nearly as many pitches outside of the strikezone (45.1% to 44.7%). Something has to give here. Oh by the way, the great fielding that you saw in the video above was actually worth negative runs last season as Baez committed 15 errors, three times as many as the Gold Glove winners. Will Baez ever settle down and live up to his potential? I can’t tell you that, but it sure would be fun to watch.

       Now let’s talk a little about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Cubs. After taking 3 of 4 in Milwaukee, outscoring the Brewers 20-7, getting good performances in the second starts for Q and Darvish, and finally headed to Wrigley for the first home stand of the season, it looked like the Cubs were right back on track as the division favorites. Then, they dropped 2 of 3 at home to the Pirates and no one knows what’s going on with this team (still). Chatwood had better control in this start striking out seven and walking just one, but he spoiled it by giving up nine hits and five earned runs. Lester was bailed out by the Cubs’ 13-run offensive explosion on Wednesday, but he gave up more runs (4) than he got strikeouts (3). In the rubber match of the series, Justin Wilson got absolutely destroyed in relief (0.2 IP, 3 H, 3 BB, 4 ER), giving up home runs to Gregory Polanco and Francisco Cervelli. Preview of next week: I’m going to look into what exactly has happened to Wilson since he came to the Cubs from Detroit. The Cubs need to get right against the still-Acuna-less Braves this weekend before they face off against the Cardinals for the first time this season.

Standing: 6-6, 3rd in NL Central, 3 GB of Pittsburgh

This Week: vs. Atlanta (3 gms), vs. St. Louis (3 gms)

P.S. After writing, the Cubs lost to the Braves 4-0 on Friday afternoon. Carrie Muskat (MLB.com Cubs beat writer) has some fun Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Cubs stats for you:

Fire

THE FIRE ACTUALLY WON A GAME!. Last weekend they beat the Columbus Crew 1-0 behind a goal from Nemanja Nikolic, the only man on this team who seems to know how to score. The Crew had 64% of the possession and outshot the Fire 21-5, but hey the only important stat is the score.

Interestingly, head coach Velko Paunovic deployed Bastian Schweinsteiger as part of a back three. While that’s certainly a different role for the Fire’s most high-profile player but hey whatever works right?

Unfortunately, it didn’t work quite as well this weekend as the Fire lose 1-0 to the LA Galaxy on a goal from a certain 6-foot-5 Swede….

zlatan

Anyway, it was good to see young guys like Grant Lillard and Elliot Collier (out of Indiana and Loyola respectively) get a chance to start a big game like this, but while the defense seems to have steadied a bit there are legitimate concerns about the Fire’s ability to score. Or, as Dax McCarty put it post-game:

If opponents know Nikolic is the only viable options offensively it’s a lot easier to defend the Fire as a team. Hopefully the trio of attacking newcomers Alan Gordon, Aleksander Katai and Jon Bakero can find some goals.

If not, it may be a looooong season.

Bulls

The most important moment of the Bulls’ season has finally come: we know their odds for the NBA Draft Lottery. The Bulls finished the season strongly (poorly) to get themselves up (down) to 7th position for lottery odds. This means they have a 13.8% chance of a top 3 pick and a 4% chance at the number 1 overall pick. Now we wait.

I continue to recommend @NBCSBulls for all of your Bulls tanking/drafting information needs:

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