It's a day later, but Chase Utley is still sitting for the Phillies' series opener against White Sox left-hander John Danks. Kevin Frandsen, hitting .379 vs. lefties as a Phillie, gets the start at second base.
The decision must have more to do with Utley's swing and getting him a game off than Danks. Lefties are hitting .297 off Danks this year.
Danks is nine starts into his return from shoulder surgery. It kept him out a calendar year and cost him about 3 mph on his fastball, which is down from averaging 92 to 89.
For years Danks (2-6, 4.31) went mostly four-seam fastball-changeup-cutter, but this season he’s mixed in more sinkers and curveballs. The changeup is by far his best pitch. It has limited opponents to a .209 batting average in over 1,000 at-bats dating back to 2007, and a .169 clip this year (albeit with six home runs).
Danks throws the changeup on the first pitch as often to righties as he throws the fastball, and with two strikes it’s his go-to offering. But he’s not afraid to use it against lefties, which is rare.
The Phils counter with Jon Pettibone, who has a 2.35 ERA in his last four starts. Lefties are still giving him problems, hitting .311 with a .384 OBP. But he's minimized damage because of 10 double plays in 101 opportunities.
The White Sox have three lefties who could give Pettibone trouble in Alejandro De Aza, Adam Dunn and Conor Gillaspie.
With the game pushed back a day, the Phils avoided having to see left-handed power reliever Matt Thornton, who on Friday night was traded to the Red Sox. It's a plus for the Phils.
This could be a big series for Frandsen and Darin Ruf. Frandsen has destroyed lefties for over a year now, while Ruf is 8-for-19 with five extra-base hits in his brief major-league tenure.
You thought the Phillies’ offense was inconsistent? The White Sox batting average is 10 points lower, their OBP is 12 points lower and their slugging percentage is 21 points lower. They have the same number of home runs as the Phils (88) but 19 fewer doubles and 14 fewer triples.
The Sox have gotten very little from their catchers, who are hitting .201 with 98 strikeouts in 299 at-bats. Paul Konerko is hurt, and even when he was healthy he was in the midst of his worst season since 2003. Adam Dunn has 24 homers but is batting .208 with 106 Ks.
Aside from Dunn, no player has more than 11 bombs. And De Aza has punched out 89 times, which is far, far too many from a leadoff man.
Chicago’s defense has been equally abysmal. The White Sox have the second-most passed balls in the majors, as well as the third-worst fielding percentage in the AL. They are below average defensively at catcher, first base, second base, center field and left field. Among full-time centerfielders, De Aza has the second-worst Ultimate Zone Rating in the majors, at minus-7.3. Only the Reds’ Shin-Soo Choo, a converted corner outfielder, has been worse.
Random, crazy stat that has nothing to do with today's doubleheader: Cliff Lee has gone 0-2 to a batter 224 times this season. The next-best pitcher has done it 165 times.
In the first half of 2013, Lee already has more 0-2 counts than 97.4% of pitchers had all of last season.