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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Chicago Sports: Jeff Cox will hammer on fundamental concepts from his ‘Billy Ball’ roots (RR)

Will Short-Lived Success Spoil Pennant Hunters?...(as if the White Sox needed help).

“We do need to get down to some tangible things pertaining to baserunning, and Ozzie knows I can pass on some thoughts, ideas and suggestions,” said Cox, whom Guillen hired to reinforce the “small ball” and baserunning aspects that have eroded since the 2005 World Series season.

...The 52-year-old’s scrappy personality reflects his short-lived success as a major-league player and the aggressive style Guillen wants to implement because poor fundamentals were a big part of a 90-loss season.

Cox was a rookie on the 1980 Oakland team that executed 99 sacrifice bunts and stole 175 bases (100 by Rickey Henderson) under Martin, who improved the A’s victory total 29 games to 83.

“We had 16 squeeze bunts on the year, and I had eight,” said Cox, who had 11 sacrifice bunts—more than any Sox player in 2006 or 20007—in only 59 games. “I couldn’t hit that well. But [Martin] knew how to utilize the guys who couldn’t hit.”

Repoz Posted: February 03, 2008 at 03:00 AM | 14 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: white sox

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   1. Dan Szymborski Posted: February 03, 2008 at 03:30 AM (#2682537)
Of course, the White Sox were the 2nd-most reliant team in baseball on home runs for run scoring, behind the Rangers, in 2005. Back in 2005, I looked at win expectation for each stolen base attempt for the White Sox and thanks to the team stealing a lot more in low-leverage situations, I had the 137-67 SB-CS ratio being worth 0.26 wins.
   2. The Kentucky Gentleman, Mark Edward Posted: February 03, 2008 at 05:36 AM (#2682590)
I know this article will mostly get mocked, but there's a chance Cox could help at least one guy turn into a semi-useful player. If Jerry Owens wants to remain in the majors, he'll need to learn how to get bunts down for singles. Owens has absolutely no power (I mean, worse than Pierre) and will never walk 100 times in a season. So if he can hit, like, .285/.340/.350 (probably a very optimistic projection), that wouldn't be too bad for a 4th or 5th outfielder. He was successful on 80% of his stolen base attempts last year, and can play all three outfield positions decently. I definitely don't want him starting, but a $300K Juan Pierre has his uses.

If his BA drops below .250 though, he's basically useless. That's why I think it would be wise for Owens to perfect the bunt-for-hit technique.
   3. Walt Davis Posted: February 03, 2008 at 10:49 AM (#2682638)
Yes, small ball and the 2005 White Sox were more a fantasy than a reality.

That said, I don't know what the Sox baserunning has been like the last few years, but I saw those Dusty Baker Cub teams give away seemingly at least a dozen runs a year on boneheaded baserunning plays (not to mention wavin' wendell). I wish someone had come in to teach Moises Alou the fundamentals of not getting caught off 2B on short fly balls.

There ain't nothing wrong with learning to run the bases. There ain't nothing wrong with learning how to lay down a bunt (though no point spending time teaching Thome, Dye or Konerko to do it). Sure ain't nothing wrong with learning to bunt for a hit. The wrong bit comes in if the manager starts calling for dumb steals and bunts.

The Sox were tied for 2nd (with the Royals and the Yankees!) for sac bunts last year; 3rd in 2006 with about the same number; and 1st in 2005. So, by today's standards, they are small ball in that respect. Whether those were high leverage situations or not I can't say.

Man, the 2005 Rangers must have driven small ball advocates nuts. Last in sac bunts (just 9!) and last in sac flies (I know, probably just random but you can imagine the guys stranded on 3rd bringing tears to the announcer's eyes), and just 67 steals (though good for 9th and at a high success rate). Meanwhile, they led the league in HR.

If only they had more bunts, I'm sure they'd have pitched better.
   4. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: February 03, 2008 at 12:47 PM (#2682650)
There is nothing wrong with good baserunning, proper bunting technique, hitting cutoff men, etc.

The thing is there's a reason why they call them: the 'little things.' All of it can get canceled out by a three run homer in a hurry.

That said it's important to note that this is the Chicago White Sox. In 1928 Lou Gehrig had an off year and only hit 27 Homers. That was three more than the White Sox did. This is a team that's been around since 1901 and Jose Valentin is 10th all time in the team Home Run list. In 1987 Harold Baines set the All-Time White Sox Home Run mark, breaking Bill Melton's record, when he hit his 155th home run of his career. Every player that's ever hit 40 homers for the White Sox has played for the team within the last 10 years. Ozzie Guillen is 9th all time in total bases. The White Sox franchise spent 1920-1976 resisting Babe Ruth with varying degrees of seriousness until 1977 put an end to that fruitless endeavor.

The old time White Sox fans always viewed "wait for the homer" baseball to be "Wrigley ball" and felt it was beneath them. They'd cheer sacrifice flies the way the Cubs fans cheered home runs. I think there may be just a tiny little bit of that era still lingering where a few of the White Sox faithful long for the return of the most consistently successful White Sox teams ever: the Go Go Sox. Guys running all over the damn place is exciting, there's no doubt about that. However, that the big weapons in the Go Go Sox's arsenal were more or less unbelievable glovework and Billy Pierce, I think is lost in time.
   5. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: February 03, 2008 at 12:47 PM (#2682651)
deleted
   6. Dan Szymborski Posted: February 03, 2008 at 03:24 PM (#2682667)
It's kinda funny how the article and Cox talk about the 1980 team as if it was a good team, not a mediocre team in a division with only one team worth anything. It's like looking back for the wisdom of the '94 Rangers and hoping to emulate what got them to 1st place in the AL West.

For the actually successful 1981, the bunt rate dropped significantly and the stolen base rate was still essentially fueled by Henderson.

And another thing, "Billyball" wasn't some doctrine that Martin carried from team-to-team - he was one of the best managers at using the actual players he had. Yet Cox had this idea that using something that worked for a low-offense era by a fast team in a very strong pitchers' park is something that should be executed in a high-offense era by a not particularly fast team in a very strong hitters' park. Agincourt and Stirling Bridge were tremendous victories, but no successful modern general would use their army in the exact same manner that Henry V or Moray did.
   7. shortblocker Posted: February 04, 2008 at 04:47 AM (#2683011)
I am amazed sometimes at the baseball blog baloney I read. Much of this thread is a case in point.
Threats on base are about how they affect pitching as much as anything else. When Henderson, or Podsednik for that matter, were on base, they often screwed up the pitcher. That's why, after a throw to first, odds are that the next pitch will be a ball, or better yet, wild over the plate. Station-to-station baseball, even for the power-hitting White Sox in a hitter's park, usually doesn't work well. The White Sox proved that in 2006.
It's always good to give the pitchers something to think about, so that the next guy maybe gets on base, too. And it's nice to get the infielders running the wrong way.
   8. Repoz Posted: February 04, 2008 at 05:17 AM (#2683025)
I am amazed sometimes at the baseball blog baloney I read. Much of this thread is a case in point.
Threats on base are about how they affect pitching as much as anything else. When Henderson, or Podsednik for that matter, were on base, they often screwed up the pitcher. That's why, after a throw to first, odds are that the next pitch will be a ball, or better yet, wild over the plate. Station-to-station baseball, even for the power-hitting White Sox in a hitter's park, usually doesn't work well. The White Sox proved that in 2006.
It's always good to give the pitchers something to think about, so that the next guy maybe gets on base, too. And it's nice to get the infielders running the wrong way.


The Book is still available...and with a new cover!
   9. Bruce Markusen Posted: February 04, 2008 at 05:29 AM (#2683031)
As Dan points out, Martin was very good at adapting his style to his players' strengths. Other than the A's, the only teams he did a lot of running with were the Twins (with Carew and Tovar) and the Rangers (with Randle, Harrah, and Nelson). With the Tigers and Yankees, his teams were more power-based, and less dependent on stealing and hitting and running.That was an especially wise choice with the Tigers, who had some very slow runners.

One thing that did become a constant with his teams was his use of starting pitching. He usually called upon two of his starters to carry a heavy innings load. Of course, with the A's, he pretty much asked all five of his starters to pitch complete games. And we know what happened after that...
   10. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: February 04, 2008 at 05:36 AM (#2683035)
The White Sox proved that in 2006.

How? By scoring 127 more runs?

The 2006 White Sox prove that you don't get any better by scoring 127 more runs if you also allow 149 more runs in the process. Again I think the success of these types of teams often have more to do with what happened on defense than on offense.
   11. Boots Day Posted: February 04, 2008 at 06:23 AM (#2683047)
With the Tigers and Yankees, his teams were more power-based, and less dependent on stealing and hitting and running. That was an especially wise choice with the Tigers, who had some very slow runners.

Martin's 1972 Tigers won the AL East despite stealing only 17 bases the entire season. The whole team!
   12. Dan Szymborski Posted: February 04, 2008 at 06:29 AM (#2683052)
That's why, after a throw to first, odds are that the next pitch will be a ball, or better yet, wild over the plate.


Which is demonstrably not true. Hitters hit worse overall in plate appearances in which a stolen base is attempted and successively worse the more pickoff attempts are made.


Station-to-station baseball, even for the power-hitting White Sox in a hitter's park, usually doesn't work well. The White Sox proved that in 2006.


2006 proved no such thing - they scored more than 100 more runs in 2006 than 2005.


It's always good to give the pitchers something to think about, so that the next guy maybe gets on base, too. And it's nice to get the infielders running the wrong way.


And it would be even nicer if this was actually true.
   13. Dan Szymborski Posted: February 04, 2008 at 06:34 AM (#2683054)
Of course, with the A's, he pretty much asked all five of his starters to pitch complete games. And we know what happened after that...

The really strange thing is that in his Pepe-assisted bio, Martin talked about how pitch counts were important and a far more important a measure of overuse than innings. Which doesn't sound all that odd now, but more than 20 years ago, you wouldn't hear a lot of that from managers.

I think what the overuse comes down to is that Martin was the ultimate short-term manager and he knew it, the teams knew it, and he knew the teams knew it.
   14. rfloh Posted: February 04, 2008 at 08:01 AM (#2683077)
Threats on base are about how they affect pitching as much as anything else. When Henderson, or Podsednik for that matter, were on base


Podsednik's career OBP: 338. League average throughout Podsednik's career: 340.

Rickey career OBP: 401. League average OBP throughout Rickey's career: 321

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