Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Not Just a Fugly Mascot

Southpaw, the White Sox thing-a-mabob mascot, is fugly. He's also apparently the only southpaw on the team. That's the only way to explain how Justin Morneau wound up hitting against righty Nick Masset in the 10th inning last night. Oh wait, there's another explanation -- more on that in a second.

Between work and the Bulls' run, I haven't dedicated much time to the White Sox yet this season. And, frankly, it's still too early to get any real big picture answers about this team. But it's not too early to focus on Ozzie Guillen's inexplicable bullpen usage last night.

Obviously, it's not Ozzie's fault that Mike MacDougal couldn't get his job done last night. There will be nights like that. Anyway, MacDougal's off night wasted a great start by Javier Vazquez. However, thanks to a solid outing from David Aardsma (who leads the league in consecutive a's), the Sox reached the Twins' half of the 10th still tied at four.

Ozzie called on Andrew Sisco at this point to fac Luis Castillo. Castillo is awful against lefties. Ozzie had now turned to a lefty to get him out twice in one game. In the eighth inning, Matt Thornton induced a run-scoring ground out from him. Now in the 10th, Castillo came through with a double off of Sisco. With another lefty due up in Jason Kubel, Ozzie stuck with Sisco, who rewarded him with a strike out.

One out, man on second, and Torii Hunter due up. Hunter is a righty, and he's been crushing the ball this year, but he's hit righties nearly as well as lefties. He's followed by another righty, Michael Cuddyer, who over the past three seasons has had nearly identical success against righties and lefties. And just behind him sits the Twins' best hitter (with Joe Mauer out injured), left handed first baseman Justin Morneau. Unlike Hunter and Cuddyer, Morneau has a distinct platoon split. He kills righties; he's mortal against lefties. One other note, Sisco has nearly identical numbers against righties and lefties as well.

But Ozzie chose Nick Masset. And then he intentionally walked Hunter. So, if we take Hunter out of the equation, Ozzie's choice was between Sisco against Cuddyer and Morneau, or Masset against Cuddyer and Morneau. Obviously, the match-up most likely to kill you here is the righty killer Morneau against Masset, which is exactly what happened. Wouldn't you rather take your chances with Sisco against Cuddyer than giving a favorable match-up to the reigning MVP in the 10th inning?

But Ozzie even had a third option. See, the Sox are carrying a bloated 12 man pitching staff. Among this dirty dozen is the mysterious Boone Logan, last seen on May 4th, when he threw a taxing inning in which he unleashed eight whole pitches. But it must have been taxing because even though the Sox have three lefties for no discernable reason except when a guy like Morneau surfaces in the 10th inning of a game, Ozzie didn't use Mr. Logan. Might Cuddyer have beaten Sisco? Sure. So, Ozzie used Masset to get him. He still could have brought in Logan to face Morneau. Do I like Logan? Not especially. But lefties are only two of seven off him this year, and as I mentioned, Morneau kills righties.

Did I mention Morneau is the defending MVP? Presumably Ozzie is aware that Morneau's OPS was 140 points higher against righties than lefties from 2004-06. Certainly he's aware that his OPS is a full 200 points higher against righties than lefties this year. So, Ozzie, armed with enough relievers to defend Sparta, what the heck were you thinking last night?


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