This Week in Chicago Sports

White Sox

In the last week the Sox took 3 of 5 from a marathon series in Kansas City, dropped both games they played against the Cardinals, and walked-off Thursday night in a return home against the Twins thanks to a Trayce Thompson solo shot before dropping the next three games over the weekend. I was incredibly skeptical of the Sox resigning Thompson, as this is already his third team this season and had hit a dismal .143 for the A’s, who picked him up from the Dodgers during spring training. I may be a bit biased against Thompson, as I watched him make errors on back-to-back plays while playing in a spring training game for the Dodgers against the White Sox. That said, things haven’t gotten any better since he came back to Chicago (he played in 44 games for the Sox back in 2015 and hit .295), as he’s got an OBP of just .184 in 12 games. Best case scenario, he can rekindle what he had going in 2015; worst case, he’s back on the bench once Avi’s healthy.

Speaking of which, Avi’s been out about a week and a half with a strained hamstring, which put him on the 10-day DL.

This is the latest update I’ve seen on the situation, so looks like it’s gonna be a few more games at least before Avi is back:

Another player who’s been getting opportunity with Avi out is Daniel Palka, who also chipped in a home run in Thursday’s win. He’s hitting just under .300 and has an OPS of exactly 1.000 as of Saturday) in seven games since being called up from AAA Charlotte on April 24th. Given the current state of things, more Palka less not-Klay Thompson please.

While we’re talking about White Sox right fielders, Eloy Jimenez has been doing well since returning from the injury that had kept him out since spring training. Through 16 games, he’s got five homers and 17 RBIs (better than one a game isn’t too shabby).

In other prospects news, Michael Kopech has cooled off a little over his past couple of stats. Much like the White Sox current starters, Kopech can’t seem to get any run support whatsoever. His ERA through five starts is 2.67 but he’s yet to pick up a win. He’s averaging over 11 Ks/9 and just over one baserunner each inning.

I’d love to see him replace Miguel Gonzalez (who is on the DL), but clearly the Sox don’t think it’s quite Kopech time just yet. It isn’t clear if Kopech himself thinks he’s ready yet:

In any case, if I’m a betting man, I think Kopech’s debut comes before the All Star break, much earlier than I originally thought.

As for my normal points of contention, the starting rotation has continued to be really mediocre and the bullpen just plain bad. The best pitching-related news for the Sox these days is the spectacular progress Danny Farquhar is making in his recovery process #PrayFor43

Finally, I hope you surround yourself with people who love you as much as Matt Davidson loves hitting home runs in Kansas City. Davidson hasd 9 homers this season, 7 of which have been in Kauffman Stadium (the record for an opposing player there in a season; it’s May 5th).

Record: 9-20, 4th in AL Central (thanks Royals)

Upcoming:three games vs Pittsburgh before THREE GAMES AT WRIGLEY VS THE CUBS (Maybe we’ll do something special for this? We’ll see…)

 

Cubs

by Logan Springgate

We’ve definitely seen both sides of the Cubs in the last 2-3 weeks. On the one hand, they seem like they might have broken out of the win one, lose one pattern from the beginning of the season. They even briefly took the lead in the NL Central for the first time this season. On the other hand, Yu Darvish got crushed again on Wednesday and the Cubs are back to not scoring runs. Let’s get the bad news out of the way up front.
I’ve bemoaned the Cubs situational hitting since before the season even started. Last season, they hit .253 with runners in scoring position (RISP) good for just 20th in the league. I can’t find the splits for the playoff series against the Dodgers and Nationals, but I know if was even worse than the regular season. For comparison, the World Champion Astros hit .294 with RISP in 2017. For a minute there, it looked like Chili Davis & Co might have finally turned it around. From 4/13-4/27, the Cubs were hitting .280 (12th in MLB) with RISP. Still only 12th in the MLB, but they were at .189 (28th in MLB) from the start of the season until 4/13. During that time period, the Cubs went 7-4, including a 5-game stretch where they went 4-1 and outscored a combination of St. Louis, Colorado, and Cleveland 45-25. The starting pitching still hadn’t been very good (more on that in a minute), but at least the bats seemed like they were heating up. Baez and Almora were an unlikely, free-swinging tandem at the top of the lineup, but it was working. Suddenly, the Cubs played Milwaukee at Wrigley, they stopped hitting, but the pitchers were so good that it didn’t matter. Take away the pitching and you get what happened on Wednesday: an 11-2 beating in Chicago at the hands of the Rockies.
The starting rotation is so unbelievably frustrating. At their best, they’re nearly unhittable. In the four-game sweep of Milwaukee last week, Cubs pitchers gave up 14 hits and just 2 runs. The bullpen is still doing their job: now 3rd in the majors with a 2.67 ERA. It’s very nice to see one offseason investment paying dividends (At some point, I’m going to dig deeper into Darvish and his struggles against any team that isn’t named the Brewers, but suffice to say he hasn’t lived up to expectations yet). The starters on the other hand are currently 25th in the league in innings pitched by starting pitchers. That’s only ahead of Miami’s AAA rotation, Tampa Bay (who is using their bullpen as a starter once a week), and a few others. It’s behind the Reds who are, well, the Reds and the Orioles who are the employer of not just Chris Tillman, but also Andrew Cashner. At some point, the Cubs need the starters to make it into the 6th inning at a minimum because the bullpen needs some rest. They were on track for the first time this season until the Darvish blow up. I would write more about it, but Carrie Muskat (MLB.com Cubs beat writer) had a tweet last week that sums it up better than I can:
https://twitter.com/CarrieMuskat/status/991710598730862599
I guess the ultimate message is wait and see and hope things change because if the Cubs ever hit and pitch at the same time, they’re a scary team.
Random Notes:
– The Cubs have started the season 7-1 against the Brewers. It’s nice to see them taking care of business against one of the teams expected to challenge them in the NL Central.
– Kris Bryant doesn’t really seem like he’s back to normal since his brush with death in Colorado. I don’t blame him at all. If someone threw 96 MPH within a foot of my head, I’m calling it a career let alone taking a fastball off the bill of my helmet.
– Albert Almora is a maniac in centerfield. I highly recommend looking for his highlights from the Cubs games in Colorado last week. That outfield is gigantic and he was spectacular.
– ESPN put an article out last week about team DJs in the clubhouse. It’s a fun article that mostly focuses on George Springer, but apparently Anthony Rizzo is the Cubs’ DJ which seems like a strange pick for a guy who has at various points used Bad Blood by Taylor Swift and Good Vibrations by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch as his walk-up music.
Standing: 16-12, 3rd in NL Central, 1 GB of Milwaukee
This week: @ St. Louis (3 gms), vs. Miami (3 gms)

 

Fire

Last week, a very very late goal from Alan Gordon secured a draw and valuable point for the Men in Red on the road against Toronto. Perhaps most importantly, the Fire scored more than once in a game without a goal from Nemanja Nikolic, who really cannot be a one-man offense. Toronto was coming off a loss in the CONCACAF Champions League final and have only won one MLS game so far this season, thus this wasn’t a game the Fire would have been comfortable losing. The “Bastian Schweinsteiger, center-back” experiment has continued, but hey he scored against Toronto so maybe he’s not totally restricted to just defending? The squad is still seeing a lot of opportunity being given to young players with Michael de Leeuw and Luis Solignac, and Matt Polster all out of the squad (de Leeuw is likely out till the second half of the season after tearing his ACL late last year).

After a tough start to the year, I think the Fire can be satisfied with being just place out of the playoff places through seven matches.

The Fire have a tough test this weekend as they welcome Atlanta United to Toyota Park. Atlanta has not lost a game since their season opener. On the bright side, at least they won’t have their 70,000 fans for this game.

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