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WSI News - Season Features

July, 2000.  It's the half-way point of a glorious season for our Sox.  WSI's Hal Vickery reviews the performance of each Sox hero.

Mid Season Report Card

by Hal Vickery

It seems like only yesterday that I was grading the Sox on their first quarter performance, and here it is report card time again. Only those players will be graded who are on the 25-man roster at the All-Star Break.


Mark Johnson: C. Mark has been terrific handling pitchers and his defense has been adequate. The only thing dragging down his grade is his .223 batting average.

Brook Fordyce: C+. Although neither catcher has done a lot at the plate, Fordyce has just one less RBI than Johnson in 13 fewer games. He's not as good a defensive catcher as Johnson, but to these eyes, he has improved over last year. Both catchers need to hit better than they have so far.

First Base

Paul Konerko: B+. Konerko is going to be a terrific hitter. He's already very, very good. At the All-Star break he is hitting .299 with 12 HR and 55 RBI. In the Cubs series, you could see how sorely his bat was missed in the middle of the lineup. At least the Sox don't have any more games in NL ballparks. Paul plays adequate defense at first base, and with his bat, that's all you need.

Second Base

Ray Durham: B+. Ray has recovered from his May slump and has been instrumental in the Sox' offensive production. If Ray gets on base, the Sox seem to do well. He's raised his average to .280, has slugged 13 HR so far, and driven in 48 runs. Not bad for a leadoff hitter. If anything needs improving, it's his on-base percentage which is .347. I'd personally like to see it higher than that. The one big problem in Ray'soffense is his tendency to strike out. Fifty-four K's at this point in the season is more than you'd like to see in a leadoff man. Ray's defense has improved immensely with the addition of Jose Valentin as the Sox shortstop.


Jose Valentin: B+. When is 20 errors not horrible for a shortstop halfway through the season? The answer is when they are more than compensated for by game-saving plays, which seems to be Valentin's forte. In fact, Valentin's grade is lower than it might be simply because he has been slumping lately at the plate. Valentin strikes out too much for a number 2 hitter (64 times so far). And if there is anything that one can complain about with the top of the Sox batting order it is the 118 K's. Still Valentin is hitting .265 with 13 HR and 46 RBI. But it would be nice if he had more than 28 walks.

Third Base

Herbert Perry: A. What a find! When Perry got a chance to play everyday, he only responded by hitting .305 with 6 HR and 25 RBI in 54 games. His defense has been almost flawless.

Greg Norton: C. The rise of Perry has coincided with Greg Norton going into a bad slump. Norton's batting average has dropped to .259. He's hit 5 homers and driven in 21 runs, which really isn't bad when considering that he has 12 fewer at bats than Perry. The problem is that most of those numbers were put up early in the season.


Tony Graffanino: A. Like Perry, Graffanino was a pickup off the waiver wire, and like Perry, he's found a new life on the South Side. Tony has played very good defense to go with a .343 average in 67 at bats. His ascendency has cast doubt, at least in my mind, on Craig Wilson's future with this team.


Carlos Lee: A-. By forgetting to wear his sunglasses in Wrigley Field on June 9, Lee blew his A. Until then no one could find fault with his defense. Offensively, "El Caballo" is coming into his own. Batting .301 with 17 homers and 62 RBI, the only thing preventing more of a comparison with a young Frank Thomas is the lack of walks, only 19 so far.

Chris Singleton: C-. This is a tough grade to give. ESPN has taken a lot of time to unfairly fault Chris's defense, which has been just fine as far as I'm concerned. But Singleton isn't hitting. His average has dropped again to .256 with just 6 homers and 36 RBI. Will someone tell him to quit swinging at the first pitch?

Magglio Ordonez: A+. Magglio is having another All-Star season. His.330 average, 24 homers and 74 RBI just barely trail Frank Thomas. He and Thomas are the only Sox players with on-base percentages over .400. Magglio has quietly (only in the sense that the regular press hasn't been paying enough attention) become the best right fielder in Chicago.

Jeff Abbott: B. He could play a little bit better defense, and he'd probably hit better if he played every day. But as a fourth outfielder/pinch hitter, Abbott has done just fine except for perhaps one bad day on defense.

Designated Hitter

Frank Thomas: A+. He hasn't let up a bit as the season wore on. Frank Thomas is back, All-Star team or not. .333, 26 HR, 75 RBI, and a new batting stance that has him hitting with more power than he's ever displayed. It has been an awesome sight to behold.

Starting Pitchers

James Baldwin: B+. After a 10-1 start, JB has gone 1-3. He has pitched far better on the road than at home, but he does lead the staff in wins, and innings pitched (111.1). Despite some bad outings in recent days, his ERA is still only 4.28. He just needs to pitch as well at home as he does on the road (especially in domes).

Cal Eldred: A. Eldred has exceeded everyone's expectations except maybe his own. In his past couple of outings he's had trouble with his control, and that has led to a couple of no-decisions. Overall, though, he is still 10-2, but his ERA has risen to 4.76. He is tied with Baldwin for the team lead in complete games (2), and has pitched 104 innings.

Mike Sirotka: A. After a slow start, due mainly to lack of run support, Siro has come on strong. He now stands at 8-6 with a 3.73 ERA, best on the staff.

Jim Parque: A-. With an 8-2 record and a 3.81 ERA, Parque misses full A because he often doesn't make it through six complete innings. He stand to inherit the title "Little Bulldog," formerly owned by Greg Hibbard.

Jon Garland: Incomplete. He was obviously nervous against the Royals in his only start so far. He looked good in his one inning against the Cubs, especially in striking out Sammy Sosa. I prefer to think he walked Mark Grace semi-intentionally just so he could have the satisfaction of doing that.

Kip Wells has been sent down, so under my rules, I won't grade him. Let's just hope he gets back what he had last year and can return from Charlotte with that fire in his eyes that he had in 1999.

Relief Pitchers

Bob Howry: A-. Back as closer again at least some of the time, Howry has overcome the ill effects of working on a new pitch in spring training which seemed to throw him completely off. He's been devastating for the last month. His ERA is now a respectable 3.20.

Keith Foulke: A-. A recent bad streak has lowered his grade as Keith's ERA has risen from below 1.00 to 3.21. Looking at the ERAs of other closers though, that's not bad at all. Keith regained his form a week or so before the All-Star break and should come back strong in the second half.

Kelly Wunsch: B+. Wunsch is devastating against lefthanded hitters. He has more problems with righties, though, and a critical home run given up to Sammy Sosa in the Cubs series lowered his grade just a bit. Still with a 2.48 ERA, I might be grading him a bit harshly.

Bill Simas: B. Again, with memories of the Cubs series fresh in my mind, I might be a bit hard on Simas. His 3.45 ERA ranks with our other top relievers. Still he seems to have a problem with inherited runners. They score a bit too often on him for me to give him an A.

Sean Lowe: B-. Lowe was going through a rough period and just seemed to be coming out of it when he was injured during the Cubs series. His ERA is 5.80 but a lot of that was picked up during his bad stretch. If his injury doesn't affect his performance, look for that to go down rapidly.

Jesus Pena: B. He seems to have improved his control. His ERA is down to 4.12, and it's getting to where I feel a lot safer when he's in the game than I used to. Watch for this grade to go up as the season progressses.

Kevin Beirne: C. "C" means "average." And Beirne's performance is pretty much what you'd expect from the 12th man in the bullpen. He's been adequate in that role, and I'd like to see more of him because I've been impressed at times. He's been much better than that 5.58 ERA suggests.


Jerry Manuel: A. His team has the best record in baseball. Lately, though he seems to have fallen into a trap, not playing his bench as much as he did earlier in the season. That's the only thing keeping the "+" sign off his grade.

Overall Grade: A. I was tempted to give this team an A+ because they unexpectedly have the best record in baseball at the All-Star break. On the other hand, they are coming off losing two straight to the hated Chicago Cubs, one of the worst teams in baseball. You have to do better than that to get that "+" sign!

Editor's Note:  Hal Vickery has been a White Sox fan since 1955 when he was five years old.  For much of that time he also had a secondary rooting interest in the Cubs, which he has shown the good sense to abandon.  When not cheering for or writing about the Sox, Hal teachers physical sciences at North Boone High School, in Poplar Grove, IL.  He obviously likes to drive because he commutes there daily from Joliet, where he lives with Lee, his wife of 25 years, their son Jeff, and Buster T. Beagle.

Hal's opinions are strictly his own and do not necessarily reflect those of North Boone High School, or Buster T. Beagle.


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