April showers brought the White Sox May flowers
As much as it pains me to say it, most of my friends are White Sox fans. They all enjoy making fun of me for being a Cubs fan to the point that it almost makes me feel worthless in life. I can’t help it, though. I was raised a Cubs fan right out of the womb, so that will never change. This season was supposed to be different for me. The White Sox were supposed to suck just as much as the Cubs, meaning that the Cubs, and Cubs only, would be responsible for my depression this summer. Before the 2012 season started, I didn’t find one White Sox fan that thought they would finish ahead of 4th in the worst division in all of baseball, and all of them even admitted they couldn’t care less about this season. That was great news for me. But boy, were they wrong. For the past two weeks, I was out of the country and had essentially no internet access whatsoever. The White Sox were 17-21 and really struggling to stay consistent and win a series. I come home yesterday and find that they are the hottest team in baseball, going 12-1 since I left. How convenient for me? Life’s about to get rough for yours truly, but I’ll take the heat like a man.
After being so out of the loop, I just assumed that starting pitching has been the reason for the White Sox recent success. False. Over the past month, Sox hitters have been absolutely tearing the cover off the ball, and their middle relief has been electric. Other than Chris Sale (who has been no less than phenomenal), Sox starting pitchers have been miserable to say the least, yet this team is still finding a way to get it done. Take a look at these numbers during the month of May:
Top 5 Hitters:
- Dayan Viciedo: .351/.371/.628, 33 H, 8 HR, 23 RBI, 18 R, 59 TB
- Paul Konerko: .391/.472/.630, 36 H, 6 HR, 17 RBI, 18 R, 58 TB
- Adam Dunn: .237/.385/.608, 23 H, 11 HR, 21 RBI, 19 R, 59 TB
- AJ Pierzynski: .293/.343/.467, 27 H, 3 HR, 15 RBI, 18 R, 43 TB
- Alejandro De Aza: .312/.385/.376, 34 H, 1 HR, 15 RBI, 17 R, 41 TB
- Chris Sale: 3-1, 25.2 IP, 1.75 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 11.22 K/9
- Jake Peavy: 3-0, 32.2 IP, 4.68 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 8.54 K/9
- John Danks: 1-1, 23.1 IP, 5.01 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 2.31 K/9
- Phil Humber: 1-1, 32.2 IP, 5.79 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 7.16 K/9
- Gavin Floyd: 2-2, 29.1 IP, 7.06 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, 7.06 K/9
- **Jose Quintana with John Danks on the DL (1-0, 15.1 IP, 1.76 ERA, 0.72 WHIP, 5.28 K/9)
Top 3 Relief Pitchers:
- Nate Jones: 17 IP, 1.59 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 10.06 K/9
- Hector Santiago: 11.2 IP, 1.54 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 7.71 K/9
- Jesse Crain: 7.1 IP, 0.00 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 8.59 K/9
Quite frankly, the starting pitching has been a nightmare. However, it hasn’t seemed to matter much, if at all. Each of the Sox top five hitters over the past month drove in 15+ runs, and three of them slugged over .600. That’s unheard of. In addition, the relievers, most notably Jones, have been fantastic (forget about Addison Reed’s six-run outing). Even after a bad start, the Sox were able to score more than enough runs, and the bullpen gave Robin Ventura the confidence to pull his starters early instead of risk them getting even more shelled.
Sox fans have to be thrilled to see these numbers. If the starting pitching can improve, the bullpen won’t have to be overused and give out by September (think Atlanta Braves last season), which would be huge heading into the playoffs. Plus, pitching wins championships. You have to think that Danks was being affected by his shoulder injury prior to the DL stint, so he should get back to his old form once healthy. Gavin Floyd and Phil Humber have shown flashes of brilliance throughout their careers (Floyd’s no-hitter flirting and Humber’s perfect game), so it’s not outrageous to think they can get on a roll and help this team win more ballgames.
This poses the question that has been hanging over everyone’s head lately: is this the year? Obviously, it is way too early to make any guarantees, but I will say this: as long as the Sox get into the playoffs, anything can happen. That’s the glory of playing in October. Will they actually get into the playoffs, you ask? Lucky for you, I decided to predict the AL Central standings using baseball’s pythagorean theorem (ScoringRatio^2 / ScoringRatio^2 + 1) by estimating the winning percentage of each team. Here are the current standings and the projected standings:
Right now, the White Sox are far and away the best team in the AL Central. It would surprise me if they don’t end up winning the division (the Tigers pitching outside of Verlander is so atrocious that it’s embarrassing, but we still can’t count them out). However, one thing must be stated: people need to stop comparing this team to the 2005 World Series team. The Sox had incredible pitching that season (finished 2nd in the AL that season in both starter ERA and reliever ERA) and subar hitting (finished 12th in the AL in average, 9th in runs scored). This season, they have medicore pitching (7th in the AL in starter ERA, 6th in reliever ERA) and solid hitting (6th in the AL in average, 4th in runs scored). We can’t compare teams from different seasons because the game of baseball is constantly changing. All you can do as a Sox fan is remember that magical season forever and allow the current and future teams to create their own legacies.