How I Got This Smile
May 20, 2010

I was watching "Dark Knight" the other day for about the 20th time and it suddenly dawned on me something the Joker said might apply to me.  Not that I should be taking career advice from a psychotic criminal but his words seemed prescient enough, and it seems I am not alone in heeding this advice: if your good at something, never do it for free.

So I hope you'll be patient as this site goes through a few changes - from free to some type of pay format - and in return I will do my best to give you the very best that I can, which if I may say so myself, has resulted in several expert titles of my own as well as another as an advisor.  Hopefully you'll feel like you're getting your money's worth.

Without further adieu, here are some thoughts and ideas on the baseball season at the quarter point.  Just a note - if you have specific things, teams or players you'd like me to discuss, feel free to email them to me at

OK.  On the south side of Chicago, Gordon Beckham is really struggling.  There were scouts who whispered when he first came up that he would need to make an adjustment to his swing in order to succeed, but his second half last year showed no such weakness.  I don't think his troubles are mechanical.  I think everything that has gone wrong with Beckham's year so far is psychological.  Here's my theory: Beckham came through college as a middle of the order shortstop and was drafted as such.  In the minors that was the primary position he played as well.  But when they brought him to the majors, they installed him at third base - where he fared ok defensively - and in the #2 spot in the order.  He's not the kind of contact/controlled bat-type hitter one normally associates with hitting in the second spot in the line-up.  He's more grip and rip.  There's a 200 point difference in his OPS when he hits down in the order, 7th or 8th, where there is far less pressure to get on base and move men over.  Now this year they move him to second base, a side of the diamond he's not familar with, having to make throws from the opposite angle that he's used to.  Obviously, these ostacles are not impossible to overcome, but why pursue a path when it's not necessary.  Beckham has stated numerous times he'd be more comfortable at short and there's good reason to believe that he'd have average range there.  Maybe he has too much on his mind to relax and just play.  Shifting him back to his natural position might relax him enough to get his bat going.  And as much as Alexei Ramirez wants to stay at shortstop for pride's sake, he's a much better player when he plays second base.  For his career, Ramirez is an .812 OPS hitter as a second baseman as opposed to a .697 hitter as a shortstop and the difference in defensive competence is negligible.  I'm not saying a switch would work wonders, but at this point in the season, with the White Sox falling well behind the Twins and Tigers, what could it hurt?

I think the same could be said of Grady Sizemore about his switch to hitting #2.  Sizemore has never been a contact- or a defined situational hitter.  It's not surprising Manny Acta has not figured this out, but I've already said my piece about Acta's abilities as a manager.  Small samples aside, of all the places he's hit in the line-up, the #2 spot is Sizemore's worst for his career.  Given his unintentional offseason exposure to the world, it's pretty clear that he's not a big thinker.  Let him use his natural talent: either utilize his speed as the lead-off guy, or let him pick his pitches to drive down in the order.  The injury to Asrubal Cabrera opened the door for Sizemore to return back to the lead-off spot but he didn't get a chance with his knee injury.  Assuming both come back as soon as possible, perhaps Acta should look at the actual numbers as to where each guy is most comfortable batting.  Cabrera shows no significant difference between batting #1 or #2.  Sizemore shows a huge difference, and he has more speed than Cabrera.  It remains to be seen whether Acta can add #1 plus #2 correctly.

At first blush, it looks like Carlos Pena's year is doomed.  But he has always been a slow starter. In April and May for his career he has a .221/.320/.451 and .227/.330/.424 lines. The remainder of the year he's combined for .257/.369/.532 line. He'll heat up soon.  He was working on a new batting stance in spring training that would better protect his wrist so the production might not uptick precisely when the calender changes, but rest assured, it will come.

OK, so we're a quarter of the way through the season and Paul Konerko is on pace for 56 homers, while Ty Wigginton, Jose Bautista and Kelly Johnson are on pace for 48 apiece.  Right behind them in the surprise department are Vernon Wells, Alex Gonzalez, Rod Barajas, Robinson Cano and Casey McGahee.  Are any of these guys legit?  If by "legit" you mean will they continue their current pace... of course not.  But can they continue to hit for power?  Sure.  Konerko has hit 40 before and Vernon Wells was projected to be an annual 30 homer guy when he was an up-and-comer.  All of those guys have legit power but most are more in the range of 18-25 homers rather than 30-40.  So if you are trading for one of them, expect maybe 15 to 20 homers the rest of the way rather than their continued rate.  I know that thinking goes against logic given the evidence so far, but remember that in 1969 Reggie Jackson hit 37 homers before the All-Star Break yet only hit 10 the rest of the way.  Even Hall of Famers entering their prime have a hard time exceeding their career norms.