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Tue Apr 24, 2012 1:01amBy Tim Heaney
My older brother was one of those kids that took apart things just so he could learn how to put it back together. I'm not a car guy, but I've emulated that sticktoitness in other avenues, including the dissection of baseball players. Fantasy baseball gamers often forget how often and how drastically real-life fixes to corrupted machines (batters and pitchers) can yield better numbers. Every so often I'll don my Fantasy Baseball Mechanic uniform and dive into the nuts and bolts of players' struggles or success. No additional overcharges, either.
Today, it's a 4-for-1 special with a few Chicago White Sox who've done or are undergoing some important retooling.
OF Alex Rios
'He's been doing that for the last four or five days, staying in the middle of the field,' manager Robin Ventura said. 'He looks good at the plate, and he's covering a lot of different things. He's not just hitting fastballs but offspeed pitches, kind of doing everything. He's pulling the inside pitch and going the other way.'
Rios looks comfortable at the plate, and 'he looks really comfortable in right field,' Ventura said. 'That's where it starts.'
Comfort with the leather often relaxes you at the plate, and the body work the vet has done is significant considering his disappointing 2011 campaign.
Rios admittedly recently that he turns his left shoulder too much, which leads to his pull tendency. All 13 homers he clubbed in 2011 were of the same-field variety. The only one he has hit so far in 2012 has been to center field.
Estimate: I'm required by fantasy bylaws to issue a sample-size warning, and maybe this all-fields approach will limit him to, say, 15 homers. But a wider spray chart would broaden his fantasy contributions, as well, pushing him closer to a batting average that will aid his 15-20 or higher potential in homers and thefts. It also doesn't hurt to ride the coattails of a hot bat.
Still, to paraphrase the label given by Rudy Gamble and Grey Albright of Razzball during LABR mixed draft day, Rios' 'Saberhagensian' every-other-year excellence could be on its way.
1B Adam Dunn
Adam Dunn didn't buy into hitting coach Jeff Manto's suggestion that he place a medicine ball between his legs during a drill, but after hitting two home runs Friday, he was convinced.
'Jeff is always thinking about new drills,' Dunn said. 'He came up with another drill I thought was kind of crazy. We started doing it, and I felt like I was getting my balance back. He's still on the ball.'
Dunn had been lunging with his front foot, but the drill helped him stay back.
Any 6-foot-6, 285-pound Donkey appreciates better balance - in both diet and stick wielding. Even the statistics are showing it so far: 26.5 percent line-drive rate and - more importantly - a 6.7 infield fly-ball percentage. In 2011, it was 13.2. More of his lofts are carrying because of his cleaner swing.
Estimate: Sure, half of his four taters came in his one breakthrough game, but if this holds, prepare for vintage Dunn numbers.
SP Chris Sale
Chris Sale said he's moving his bullpen day back a day to Monday, a minor experiment to see if it will help his command. Most starters throw 30 to 40 pitches on the side two days after their start, but some, including John Danks, throw on the third day. Sale had 11 strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings Friday, but he allowed seven hits and three walks. Sale threw one changeup for a strike.
But his slider was good, and his strikeout total was the most by a Sox starter since Edwin Jackson's 13 in the 2011 home opener and the most by a lefty since Mark Buehrle's 12 against the Mariners in April 2005.
Estimate: Establishing a proper off-field rhythm and routine will go a long way in bolstering his stamina, especially if Chicago decides to let him go with as many IP as possible. He already had allure coming into the season because of his high K output. Reining in his walks and pitch counts would put him over the top. Expect some bumps, but expect a whole lot of productive outings.
CL Hector Santiago
Video coordinator Bryan Johnson dug into the archives for rookie closer Hector Santiago to find video of former left-handed screwball pitchers Fernando Valenzuela, Tug McGraw and Willie Hernandez.
Santiago, who got his fourth save in five chances, threw only one screwball as he looks to rediscover the pitch he said was better for him last season. He attributes that, in part, to higher seams on minor-league baseballs, allowing for a better grip and more spin, but he wants to do everything in his power to make it an important part of his arsenal. Santiago watched the tapes to see how the ball came out of the aforementioned trio's hands.
'I'm kind of a fastball guy now,' Santiago said. 'Usually I'm a changeup guy trying to sneak a fastball in, but right now I'm just going after guys.'
Digging up a pitch long thought dead has revitalized Santiago's career. Luckily, he's not leaning on it. Rightfully so; it's more effective when its deployment is less predictable.
Estimate: Santiago has nice velocity and a sufficient array of offerings to get by as the White Sox's stopper.
Figuring out the proper grip on his new signature offering could produce a fraction of the effectiveness that its previous carriers held. In this era, that could be enough to prolong Santiago's saves reign.
With nine K's to one walk and going 4-for-5 on closing opps so far, he's proving, in this short time, to at least trust him for the next month or so. The typical chain of speculation applies, but this train of thought is more about deep-league desperation than imminent danger for Santiago.