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That's About Right

by Mike DePilla
Saturday, August 29, 2009

For third straight time, the Sox lost to a team in its final at bat last night at Yankee Stadium. In doing so, they fell into third place, 5 games behind the Tigers with 6 games left on this nightmare of a roadtrip.

Good teams win close games. As much as I admired them on paper three weeks ago, this is just not a good team right now. At 16-23, the Sox have a worse record in one-run games than any team in the majors currently anywhere near the playoff hunt. (The only other team that is even close is the Tampa Bay at 17-20.) And that one-run record does not even include games like last night or Tuesday night, in which the outcome was in question until the end even though the final difference was more than one run.

Yes, Alexei Ramirez made his obligatory daily error at shortstop, but no runs resulted. And Mark Buehrle was shaky once again, but limited the damage to two solo homers over 6 innings of work. It'd be easy to get upset with Randy Williams for imploding in the 10th inning, but come on, by that point did anyone expect the Sox to really win this one anyway?

Once again, it was the offense, or lack there of, that did 'em in.

And just as a note to Sox hitters, it was not a coincidence that the team's only run-scoring hits, by Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham, went to the opposite field. If the Sox as a team would be more open to up-the-middle and opposite field type hits like that, the offense could really open up. Short compact swings the other way are a sure-fire way to either cure slumps or avoid them in the first place.

******

Speaking of slumps, Alex Rios is currently marred in a big one. After his break out series vs. the Royals in which he went 5-for-10 with two doubles and a homerun, Rios has gone 2-for-his-last-20.

There are going to be times when Rios just looks dead up at the plate, and recently he has certainly fit that description. When he falls behind in the count, either due to over-swinging, he is very susceptible to strike out on an outside breaking ball. In the two and a half weeks we've seen him in a Sox uniform, Rios has shown zero ability to cover the outside portion of the plate.

He's like the exact opposite of Josh Fields- where Fields was a good breaking ball hitter who was dead meat on heaters, Rios has very quick hands and can handle fastballs, often drilling them into the left field corner, but he looks like Pedro Serrano against a curveball. The bottom line is when they fall behind in the count, both are very likely to strike out.

Even when he's been ahead in the count he's pulling his head off just enough to not square the ball up. I am still a Rios fan, but he is clearly trying to do too much at the plate. The evidence is not only his lack of contact, but his abysmally low walk rate. He's never going to be confused with Rickey Henderson, but Rios has only one walk in his 49 White Sox at bats. His career average is one walk ever 13.9 at bats. Small sample size, but that's a large difference.

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