Series Preview: 4/16-4/19 Chicago White Sox @ Tampa Bay Rays

4/16/09 Jeff Niemann vs. John Danks 7:08(FS-F)

4/17/09 James Shields vs. Bartolo Colon 7:38(SS)

4/18/09 Scott Kazmir vs. Mark Buerhle 7:08(FS-F)

4/19/09 Matt Garza vs. Gavin Floyd 1:38(SS)

After dropping two of the first three at home, the Rays are 4-5 which mirrors the 2008 season. So far 2009 is not > than 2008, but =. The Rays will host the Chicago White Sox in a four game weekend set. Tampa Bay eliminated Chicago in four games in last years ALDS.

John Danks is one of the most underrated young lefties in the game. He just celebrated his 24th birthday and is looking to post back to back sub 3.5 FIP seasons. He doesn’t over power you, but uses all four of his pitches (fastball, cutter, curveball, and changeup) and usually had good control of all four. This year due to an increase in curveballs, Danks had been pounding the ground ball (62.5%). If that continues, he will only become a better more valuable pitcher. It seems to me like the Danks is a younger version Mark Buerhle.

A former Cy Young Award winner, Colon is on his second tour of duty with the White Sox. Health has been the biggest concern for Colon over the past few seasons, however, if 100%, there’s nothing to suggest that he won’t be a league average number four starter or even better. He has lost a few ticks on his fastball and has completely scrapped his curveball. He uses a slider and a changeup now as his secondary pitches, but likes to throw the fastball a lot.

It’s hard to believe the Buerhle just turned 30 years old less than a month ago. Over the past eight seasons it's hard to find a pitcher more consistent and durable than Buehrle. He has pitched 1,797 innings since 2001. He has pitched more than 201 innings in each of his eight full big league seasons and has been able to maintain an above average ERA/FIP throughout. He continues to use the same combination of pitches(fastball, cutter, curveball and changeup) and gets a good number of ground balls. It seems the only thing that is going to stop him from pitching for the next 5-7 years is himself as he has already expressed some interest in early retirement. My only regret is his matchup won’t be against Andy Sonnanstine as the two have competed in some of the quickest matchups we’ve seen.

Rounding out the four game set is Gavin Floyd. I know Floyd won 17 games last year, but to me it was very similar to the 14 wins by Edwin Jackson. There was nothing in Floyd’s peripheral stats to suggest breakout and so far in 2009 we’ve seen the regression back to the Floyd of old. Like many of the other White Sox starters, Floyd has multiple pitches and uses them all. Living mainly of a fastball, slider and curveball, he will mix in a good number of changeups to keep the hitters off balance. Also similar to Jackson, Floyd has the ability to be great in any start, but also has the tendency to not follow through on that ability.

Lineup

C A.J. Pierzynski

1B Paul Konerko

2B Chris Getz

SS Alexei Ramirez

3B Josh Fields

LF Carlos Quentin

CF Brian Anderson

RF Jermaine Dye

DH Jim Thome

For the past couple of seasons there seems to be 4-5 names you could plug in the White Sox everyday lineup: Pierzynski, Konerko, Dye, Thome and now Carlos Quentin. Quentin was my favorite to win AL MVP before injury cut his season short. So far, Quentin is back on the MVP pace and has improved his batting eye(lower O-swing% and higher BB%). Alexei Ramirez finished second to Evan Longoria in the 2008 Rookie of the year and highlights a change in the Sox infield. Ramirez has now shifted full-time to shortstop with Chris Getz taking over at second base. Josh Fields finally has an opportunity at third base with Joe Crede in Minnesota. Centerfield is a mess: Brian Anderson, Dewayne Wise, Jerry Owens and now Scott Podsednik? Some where Jim Edmonds wonders what he has to do to get a job.

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