One Night Only: Where There’s Smoak, There’s Probably Also an Unfortunate Pun

Today’s edition of One Night Only brings both (a) the pain and also (b) some serious HTML action. But mostly it brings the pain.

Chicago (AL) at Texas | Wednesday, April 28 | 8:05 pm ET
Starting Pitchers
White Sox: Jake Peavy (R)
22.1 IP, 6.04 K/9, 6.04 BB/9, .324 BABIP, 33.3% GB, 10.0% HR/FB, 5.99 xFIP
Projected FIP: 3.56 (FAN) 3.83 (CHONE) 3.86 (ZiPS)

Rangers: Rich Harden (R)
17.2 IP, 10.19 K/9, 9.17 BB/9, .319 BABIP, 29.2% GB, 10.7% GB, 6.54 xFIP
Projected FIP: 3.64 (FAN) 4.08 (CHONE) 3.85 (ZiPS)

Persons of Interest
Both of tonight’s starting pitchers have begun the season poorly — and, worse yet, they both have Dave Cameron concerned.

Of Peavy, Cameron wrote on April 23rd:

He’s walked as many batters (15) as he’s struck out. His groundball rate is just 33.3%, down from his career average of 41.6 percent, but he’s not giving up more flyballs – instead, those grounders have turned into screaming line drives. Batters are making contact with 84.4 percent of the pitches he throws, and his swinging strike rate is half of what it was in his prime.

A couple-few days before that, our full-time employee wrote of Harden, under the heading “Rich Harden is not right”:

In two starts last week, Harden lasted just 9 2/3 innings, walked nine guys, hit two more, and threw a wild pitch. Command has never been his forte, but he’s now running a 9.45 BB/9 on the season. His fastball averaged just 90.6 MPH, and only 41 percent of his pitches were in the strike zone.

This version of Harden doesn’t appear to have good enough stuff to challenge hitters, and his already poor command just compounds the problem.

It’s true: Harden’s velocity is down — and not just the tiniest bit, as this graph proves incontrovertibly:

The right-most green dots are Harden’s velo from this season. Between Pitchf/x and BIS, it appears as though he’s down about 2 mph from his normal. No, that doesn’t necessarily spell disaster; some pitchers are definitely able to function at lower speeds. But a drop in velocity could also be a sign of injury or fatigue. In any case, it’s not ideal.

On the whole, this game should serve as an opportunity to gather information about two talented pitchers and their respective struggles.

Leaders of Tomorrow
You probably haven’t heard of him, on account of he’s a wicked underground prospect, but a little guy by the name of Justin Smoak was recently promoted from Triple-A Oklahoma City. Baseball America calls his power potential “plus-plus.” Marc Hulet writes that “he projects to be an above-average regular.” Leonard Maltin calls Smoak “a delightful romp” and adds that “if you see one prospect all spring, you should see Justin Smoak.”

Weird, right? That Leonard Maltin would say that about Texas Rangers prospect Justin Smoak?

Smoak is projected by CHONE to bat .244/.347/.371 at the Major League level this season, a line that reflects both his advanced plate discipline and underwhelming power numbers to date (including just 10 home runs in 464 minor league PAs last year). Still, scouts l-o-v-e him, and the K:BB ratios are favorable.

The game will be broadcast by Comcast SportsNet in Chicago and Fox Sports Southwest in Metro Dallas. While I recognize that some people are amendable to the spirited commentary of Ken “The Hawk” Harrelson, I don’t count myself among this particular demographic. That said, if you’ve never heard the Hawk at work, you should watch the CSN broadcast for at least a couple of innings — if only to understand what the fuss is about.

FSSW broadcaster Josh Lewin, on the other hand, appears to be one of the good guys. Just as the season opened its doors to us, Lewin wrote an open letter to the fellers of Lone Star Ball. His basic point? “I’m sympathetic to the nerds, but I gots to make that paper.”

Yes, that’s 100%, entirely a direct quote.

If I Had My Druthers
Colby Lewis would just get it over with, and admit to everyone that he’s the Son of Man.
• Colby Lewis would soar like an eagle — into my heart.
Julio Borbon would find his way back from the unfortunate 11:1 K:BB with which he’s started the season — like, by drinking a tincture crafted by Colby Lewis, for example.

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Carson Cistulli has just published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

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Does “I feel like I wish he would be run over by a truck about once an inning” as a reaction to Hawk Harrelson make me, well, “unamenable”?

Ugh. =( I’m glad I don’t live in Chicago – I might have to be a Cubs fan, which would be a whole different species of depressing.