Thanks to the relationship Frank Thomas had with the Chicago media, the work of Jay Mariotti and the events of the 2008 ALDS, I went through most of the major lessons in managing fan disappointment, fan anger and setting reasonable fan expectations in pre-blogging years (Note: This is not me saying nice things about Mariotti, this is saying I learned what “trolling” was at age nine).
But it wasn’t until now, with Dayan Viciedo, that I got to really dive into the experience of giddily monitoring a prospect’s progress from signing, to Double-A, to angrily campaigning for his call-up from Triple-A, to watching him not…quite…get it…in the bigs.
Viciedo’s entering a weird middle ground in his career, especially for someone who vacillates between torrid hot streaks and discouraging slumps like late-White Sox career-era Carlos Quentin. When he’s running hot, he’s a still 24 year-old raw slugger with plenty of untapped potential. When he’s flailing at sliders out of the zone, he’s someone with 878 career MLB plate appearances and a .310 on-base percentage.
While we can almost assuredly count on another stretch of wild contact and power to come along this summer (though, I don’t know, Alexei Ramirez just stopped doing that all together), he was doing some stuff after returning from his oblique injury that suggested something about his process has changed entirely for the better.
Eight walks, only five strikeouts and only swinging at 48% of the pitches he saw. 2011 levels of discipline, without 2011-levels of wrist pain-addled power loss.
Now we’re in a stretch of zero walks in the last week, while swinging at 63% of the pitches he’s seen, which doesn’t really have correlation to anything he’s done previously, thankfully. It’s not a new trend as much as its just another bouncy trip to the opposite pole that he makes so often. There’s our old friend again, chasing fastballs up the ladder and off-speed pitches down and away.
Again, this isn’t a death knell, but more of a regression so intense that it renders previous enthusiasm foolish. The reason for the rushed enthusiasm was more or less discussed yesterday. Dayan Viciedo was tabbed to be the next middle-of-the-order masher in this lineup when he came up, and every indication from Konerko and Dunn is that the time for Viciedo to work through his growing pains smoothly and without pressure is up. He needs to be a significant contributor now, but he’s just not there yet, and his path to becoming fully realized is as murky as ever.
Chris Sale’s extended break
Fresh off an 11-day break, Chris Sale’s velocity was plenty crisp Tuesday night. He maxed out at 96.92 mph on his fastball according to BrooksBaseball.net, which is his highest-mark in over a month. Because of Tuesday’s rainout, he’ll be bouncing back from only 37 pitches of work the next time out, which could be as soon as Saturday if the Sox choose to accelerate his timetable. On the topic of such, what’s the rush? It’s May and maintaining Sale still seems like the only pressing priority.
Hector Santiago helping out again
Though he never wound up getting into the game Tuesday night, Santiago hit the news again for scrambling in response to a national disaster and offering his help. That’s become typical for him at this point, but what’s also become typical for him is the surprising degree to which he makes himself personally available to fans and outsiders. Listen to the activities described in the video linked to above, or check out his Twitter account and tell me it’s possible for Hector to live peacefully without a separate phone.
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