On Second Thought, White Sox May Have A Shot
At the beginning of the 2012 season, not too many were optimistic about the Chicago White Sox. It wasn’t because the Sox had gotten rid of talent from last season, but because they refused to take on salary this season. General Manager Kenny Williams was able to keep his job, but he was going to have to (cringe) rebuild. Worse yet, it was a rebuilding job that he seemingly made necessary.
In 2011, the three highest paid players on the team had the three worst seasons. Jake Peavy was hurt for a good majority of the season, Alex Rios hit next to nothing, and Adam Dunn ended up having one of the worst seasons in major league history.
So after manager Ozzie Guillen was fired, it was clear the Williams would be forced to rebuild. So now we sit at the end of May, heading towards the beginning of June. The White Sox sit 3.5 games behind the Cleveland Indians, who most of the world didn’t see having a chance when the season started.
But here are the facts. The Detroit Tigers, the preseason favorite to win the AL Central, have a problem with their starting pitching. Yes, Prince Fielder was a great addition to the middle of their lineup, but with Victor Martinez hurt, he just ends up replacing most of that production. Their starting pitching just isn’t one of the better staffs in the league, and how long can Drew Smyly keep it up? Outside of Verlander, Smyly has been a nice surprise for the Tigers, but in his eight games and 2.89 ERA, he is just 1-1. Seeing that it is the 22-year old’s first season, it is only a matter of time until scouting reports catch up to him.
Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer combined are 6-7 with an ERA over five. Jose Valverde, their closer, currently has an ERA of 5.51 and seems to have trouble getting people out after his perfect season last year.
Moving onto to the division leaders, the Cleveland Indians have had an impressive start in the AL Central. What has lead the Indians to a solid start is a good line, average starting pitching, and a solid bullpen. The resurgence of Derrick Lowe has been great, as he has gone 6-2 with a 2.15 ERA. The rest of the staff has gone 11-11, but with a division with no one really dominant, two starting pitchers down the stretch can win it.
That brings us to the White Sox. Currently 22-22 under new manager Robin Ventura, the White Sox will enter June with a definite chance of hanging around in the division. The key at the beginning of the season was to not let a team run away with it. Lead off hitter Alejandro De Aza has been impressive with a.359 OBP. Mix that with the production of Paul Konerko (hitting .384 with an OBP of .462 and 10 homeruns) and the run production is there. Maybe most importantly, the fact that Dunn has been able to find his game again (currently with a .383 OBP with 14 homers and 33 RBIs) has been a huge factor in the White Sox being able to compete in the division.
The White Sox starting pitching has also been outstanding. Jake Peavy has been the real surprise, going 5-1 on the season with a 2.39 ERA. Chris Sale has been nearly as good, going 5-2 with a 2.50 ERA, even after all the distractions of whether he would pitch in the rotation or the bullpen.
What the division will ultimately come down to is each team’s bullpens. The White Sox recently named Addison Reed as the closer. He takes over for Hector Santiago, who struggled after a few outings. The White Sox have the potential to have a solid bullpen, but it is also an unknown. The Indians’ bullpen seems to be the best right now. There are four months for the White Sox to get it together and show their opponents they can close out games. If they can do that, the city may see October baseball after all.
Photo Credit: Ed Zurga