The First Place White Sox at the All Star Break
So here we are at the All Star Break and the White Sox have pretty much shown us and every one else that we know nothing about baseball. Predicted to be a 3rd place team at best, the White Sox have a 3 game lead in the division (3 1/2 over Detroit) and look to be in good shape heading into the second half. Let’s look back at our pre-season predictions and seeing where we went wrong and the Sox went right.
Prediction #1: We thought the Sox would struggle this year mainly because they lost so many key players and essentially acquired no one.
Dave: So what happened here? Did they just get lucky that their three big contacts (Peavy, Dunn, and Rios) are all having great years? Or was this the plan all along? Personally I think Kenny knew they had talent and didn’t feel right completely blowing up the team. They certainly got lucky that so many of the disappointing players from the past couple of years are playing at an All Star caliber level, but it’s not like these guys are nobodies. They were All Stars in the past. Thoughts?
Kevin: It’s a little bit of a mix right? We expected the veterans like Dunn, Peavy, A.J., and Rios to not suck as bad as they did last year. That alone made them a “better” team with a higher win potential. I think the surprise is that they’ve gone beyond their averages and are actually doing more than they would typically do. I think some of the newcomers have been a surprise as well – De Aza has been solid as a leadoff guy. Sale has been near Cy Young worthy, and the young bullpen arms have been pretty impressive, especially Reed who’s been a lock down closer. I think Kenny would answer this question by saying “oh yeah, that’s what we planned,” but that’s a sell job. They expected some guys to bounce back. They couldn’t have expected the young guys to be playing so well.
The next question of course is – how much credit for this turnaround/good play do you attribute to Robin Ventura? Any? A little? There’s no doubt that he’s brought a whole new vibe to the team and the whole franchise. I think Kenny can, and should, get credit for that since most pundits were calling Ventura’s hire a dumb move (*points finger at self*)
Dave: So in regards to the manager, I’ve heard rumors that it’s basically Don Cooper managing the team with Paulie and AJ acting as player/managers in the clubhouse. I honestly have no clue how much a manager can really do to effect a team. It seemed pretty obvious that they needed a change after last year and sometimes when you change styles so dramatically (from Ozzie) that seems to help. I can’t say why that helps but in this case something has certainly worked. What I love about Kenny is that he’s never content to sit back and do nothing. He’ll always keep it interesting and in a 162 game season that’s just about all you can ask for.
Prediction #2: This team has too many IFs to compete. Detroit is much better and will walk away with the division
Dave: Again, the Peavy/Dunn/Rios trio COULD have performed to this level but it did not seem likely that they all would be able to. The bullpen full of rookies has been another success when it could have been a disaster. Paulie is one of the best hitters in baseball when he should have been falling off, Sale has been the best pitcher in baseball and they’ve gotten outstanding contributions from Quintana during Danks’ injury. As you said, De Aza has been outstanding as a leadoff hitter. Basically all of the big question marks became positives for the Sox. On the flip side Detroit has struggled mightily. Their lack of defense and pitching depth has really hurt them. Still, they’re within striking distance and despite the great early returns I still worry about Detroit more than any other team during the second half. They have the talent.
Kevin: Yeah the thing with Detroit is they’ve been playing terrible and hurt and they’re only 3.5 games out. Cleveland hasn’t slipped much either. To me 3-3.5 games is nothing. That’s one series. Would I be upset if the White Sox somehow missed the playoffs? Yes. Would I be shocked? Hell no.
How about any big moves at the trading deadline? You think the White Sox will be buyers? They did steal Youkilis away from the Red Sox. That worked out, huh?
Dave: Youkilis has been an absolute beast. I knew that the acquisition would be solid, but I certainly didn’t think it’d be this good. He’s really rounded out the lineup. Speaking of which, that’s one thing I’d like to see changed just a little bit. I don’t see why Dunn is still hitting 3rd. Why not at bare minimum switch Dunn and Rios? I think as Ramirez continues to heat up he’s our best 2 hitter, so my ideal lineup would look something like this: De Aza, Ramirez, Rios, Paulie, Youk, Dunn, AJ, Tank, Beckham.
In regards to more moves, I’m sure Kenny is always looking. With the team more than in contention it really wouldn’t surprise me if he tried to trade for one of the big pitchers on the market. Dempster seems like he’d make a lot of sense and won’t cost as much as Greinke. I feel like at this point all the Sox are really missing is some help in the bullpen and one more starter. You could argue that with Danks almost healthy they’re getting the starter. A Pirates fan buddy of mine was sad to see the Sox claim Moskos off waivers. Hopefully he can help us this year in the bullpen. I was excited to see ex-Cub Will Ohman go, but that bullpen is really young and can’t be expected to keep playing at a high level.
Prediction #3: The Sox will win 81 games (Dave) or 77 (Kevin)
Dave: We’re idiots.
Kevin: You, me and the rest of the baseball experts out there. ESPN should hire us! With that said, what do you think will happen in the second half?
Dave: This has been the most exciting White Sox season to watch since 2005. I say that because even if they fall off in the second half I’m thrilled that the Sox gave me a sport to watch for the last three months. With Rose’s injury and the Heat winning the NBA title and Kentucky winning the NCAA Championship, I was ready to write sports off until the NFL season started. This Sox team battles, they’re fun to watch, they play great defense, and Paul Konerko is a Golden God. I’m not going to make a prediction for the second half. Clearly no one (especially me) really knows. I’m happy the Sox put themselves in a good position and hopefully they can keep playing at this level. With baseball all you have to do is make the playoffs then get a couple of good starting pitching performances. I think the Sox can do that so they have as good of a shot of winning as anyone else.
Kevin: Agreed all around. Sports have sucked for so long for Chicago fans. You and I were laughing a few months ago about how terrible the summer months would be without any team to watch. So I’m obviously very happy the White Sox are doing well. I don’t see any reason why they can’t keep it up. The offense is legit, especially with the signing of Youkilis [Aside: I never thought I’d like a former Red Sox player. But dammit if I haven’t become a huge fan of his….though i’m sure that would be different if he wasn’t on an insane tear right now]. What was once an average rotation has become pretty stellar with two of baseball’s top pitchers at the top (Sale, Peavy) and Quintana being a surprisingly solid third option. I still maintain that Kenny should trade Floyd for a bag of baseballs, but I guess now we just have to hope that when the playoffs start he’s playing Mr. Jekyll that week and not Mr. Hyde. Humber has been a bust post-perfection but Danks is coming back and there’s no reason Humber can’t be a good 5th starter. So yeah, I’m expecting this thing to continue. The whole team and season has a 2005 vibe to it (great pitching, good defense, timely hitting, coming back from deficits to win games, etc.) so let’s hope they keep it going!