Suddenly, White Sox are sweeping giants

When the Sox rattled off six straight wins against the dregs of the National League, it was prudent to approach it with cautious enthusiasm. They didn’t blow any of those teams out of the water.  They did outplay them, but one could make the case — especially with regards to the Pirates — that the Sox just let the opponent underplay them.
Caution is a little harder to come by now.
The Sox used the same gameplan against a superior opponent, and the results were the same: three games, three excellent starts, three wins.  It’s hard to not get excited when Pale Hose pitching faced lineups like these

Now this is a lineup.
…and allowed five runs over three games*.  With a DH. In warm weather. At U.S. Cellular Field.
(*No, Linebrink doesn’t count.)
Certainly there are still causes for concern. Look at those OBPs above, and then realize that, out of Thursday’s lineup, only Paul Konerko had a better OBP than the worst one the Braves threw out there.  Alex Rios needed a third off day this week for some reason.
Andruw Jones had 397 homers on May 5. He’s still two away from 400 now, and has even fallen behind his 2009 pace in terms of overall production. Gordon Beckham probably needs a demotion to Triple-A. Mark Kotsay is approaching respectability at the plate, but has nothing on the basepaths.  He was thrown out easily at third and at home this past week, raising his total to four.
Them’s a lot of reasons to wait for the other shoe to drop.  But such is the power of Carlos Quentin, who has used facial hair to springboard back into middle-of-the-order form with 11 hits in his last 28 at-bats.  If Jones were lighting it up instead of Quentin, we’d write it off as a fluke hot streak and brace for the letdown.
With Quentin, 2008 is still a recent memory, even if it is covered by scar tissue.  It’s foolish to rely on him for an entire season, but he changes the landscape of the Sox lineup so greatly when he’s on that it’s too strong of a pull to ignore.  When Quentin’s right, the Sox are only one hitter short, and hitters can be found at the deadline, especially when they don’t need to play a position.
And hell, if the pitching is this good, another bat might be overkill.  All five starters — especially Gavin Floyd — are at the tops of their games, and so are the Big Three in the bullpen.  That the Sox could absorb Sergio Santos’ reality check is one of many unthinkable aspects of this run, but they’ve been able to sidestep that issue by barely pitching him — and anybody else who isn’t a lockdown type.
Since the Sox started their tear on June 9, Santos, Tony Pena, Randy Williams and Scott Linebrink have thrown 6 2/3 innings combined.  That’s over a 15-day period. Honestly, Kenny Williams may not have demoted Williams because he keeps forgetting he’s there.
If nothing else, this nine-game winning streak has proved that the Sox have just enough to win this thing, which sheds some light on what exactly Kenny Williams was thinking when he left the winter bringing a knife to a gunfight with the Rotating DH.  The ends don’t justify the means yet, but we can now get an idea of what kind of performances the White Sox front office projected in terms of a run prevention/production balance when they called themselves contenders.
Now, Williams needs to get a bat.  If he can find a left-handed power bat, whether thinking as small as Luke Scott or big as Prince Fielder, before the Sox start giving games back to the Twins, he then puts the onus on Ozzie Guillen and his team to perform.
Williams did the same thing in the winter when he let Guillen choose against a traditional DH, which many took to be an act of giving Guillen rope to hang himself.  Giving him credible players to get the job done seems to be a more effective way to go about it.
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Jayson Nix won’t be heading to Charlotte.  Instead, he’ll join the Cleveland Indians’ cast of woefully ineffective “utility” infielders.
Say what you will — and some of you will, of course — about Nix, whose best tool was undermining the rest of his tools with confounding mistakes, but he could turn out to have a big part in the overall narrative of this season.
Nix filled in for Mark Teahen after Teahen broke a finger on his throwing hand against Tampa Bay on May 30, and ended up bailing out Jake Peavy with one of the most surprising grand slams I can remember.
If you want to count that game, the Sox are 16-6 since Teahen hit the DL, and that Nix slam is among many of the surprising ways they’ve been able to boost their production at third base in Teahen’s absence.  Omar Vizquel is the most noteworthy fill-in, but even Dayan Viciedo is showing competence at third, handling a couple of chances on Thursday that registered a moderate score on the degree-of-difficulty chart.
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Minor league roundup:

  • Charlotte 5, Syracuse 2
    • Lucas Harrell struck out six over 6 1/3 shutout innings in his best outing of the year. He allowed just three hits and a walk.
    • Tyler Flowers went 1-for-4 with a double and an RBI. He struck out once.
    • Jordan Danks went 0-for-3 with a strikeout and a sac bunt.
    • Brent Morel drew two walks over four PAs.
  • Chattanooga 7, Birmingham 3
    • Brandon Hynick left after one batter in the first. He walked him.
    • Christian Marrero went 1-for-4; C.J. Retherford wore the collar.
  • Winston-Salem 7, Frederick 4
    • Brandon Short and Jon Gilmore both went 2-for-5; Short hit a solo homer.
    • Justin Greene hit a two-run shot, his only hit over four ABs.
    • Nathan Jones was hit around for three runs on six hits and two walks over 3 2/3 innings. He did strike out five.
    • Dan Remenowsky struck out four of the five batters he faced in a perfect night of work. He has 19 Ks to two walks over his last 11 innings, all scoreless.
    • Santos Rodriguez allowed an unearned run over two innings. He walked two and struck out two.
  • Kannapolis 4, Augusta 2
    • Miguel Gonzalez went 1-for-3 with a double and a sac fly. He struck out once.
    • Brady Shoemaker singled and was plunked in four trips to the plate.
    • Cameron Bayne allowed two runs on nine hits and a walk over seven innings, striking out two.
  • Elizabethton 5, Bristol 4
    • Jose Martinez maintained his .500 with a 2-for-4 day, driving in a run. He also contributed an outfield assist.
    • Tyler Saladino went 0-for-3 with an RBI in his debut.
    • Rangel Ravelo and Dan Black each went 1-for-3, with Black doubling and walking.
    • Josh Phegley, still playing partial games, went 0-for-2 with a walk.
    • Spencer Arroyo struck out seven over six shutout innings, allowing four hits and a walk.
  • Great Falls 6, Billings 3
    • Steven Upchurch allowed two runs on five hits and two walks over seven innings, striking out three.
    • Leighton Pangilinan went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a strikeout.
    • Juan Silverio went 1-for-4 with a strikeout.
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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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cushinglee

I know it’s only been a couple of games, but Viciedo looks a lot better defensively at third than I thought he would be.

fustercluck

From the negative reports, I was surprised he faces the right way.

tdogg

Now that was funny.

winningugly

Absolutely.

soxexile

“If he can find a left-handed power bat” … and how much would it have cost to sign Jim Thome last winter? Unless Kenny overpays for Prince Fielder, I doubt he’ll find anybody better than Thome in a deadline deal. Much as I’d like to see the Sox make a serious run at this, I think they’re more than one bat short, and I’d hate to see the farm system depleted further in an failed effort to thread the needle to a championship.

bigfun

I agree with you on the farm system, but there’s a middle ground there. Prince Fielder is probably off the table, but there’s some other guys they could get for a low-grade prospect. Teams looking for salary relief are ready to move your Luke Scott/Lyle Overbay/Adam Larouche types. If that costs something like Nevin Griffith and a few spare parts, that’s not so bad.
Trading a bullpen arm would be fine too.

knoxfire30

Yesterday was a perfect example of a game a team on a losing streak likely loses, where you have great starting pitching nearly wasted by a lack of ability to score a guy from third with one out multiple times or advance a guy from second with noone out, but sure enough Paulie bails the sox out with a huge 2 run blast and all is well for a team playing their best baseball in years.
Lets hope we pour it on vs the cubs, and really just keep taking advantage of the schedule before the all star break.

soxicano

It really hurts me to see Gordon Beckham benched instead of getting plenty of bats to figure out his problem. The place for that is the minors. Not the Sox bench. Its gonna get crowded when Teahen comes back. Personally I think you move Vizquel to second with Lillibridge sub every 4 or 5 games to give the old Vizquel rest. Teahen and Viciedo battle for third base and are situationally penciled in lineup versus lefty or righty pitchers. That will be sweet to watch. Teahen was raising the batting average before he went on DL. He is also good at finding the gap with his hitting. If the Sox hitting chemistry continues to gel well like now, Teahen’s return could be a very nice welcome back.

soxicano

As far as giving this Viciedo kid enough at bats, I have followed him a bit and he is a cocky son of a gun. He needs to earn every bit of what he is given. He has some motivation problems, especially when he was signed for 10 million the minute he set foot in U.S. I like seeing him fight for his standing on the team. It was nice to see him yesterday get a hit off a tough righty pitcher the whole lineup was struggling against. But I think he has to grind away, at a big league level, to earn his position. But so far the Sox are finding ways to put him in the right situation, not throw him to the sharks. I think thats good because this Ozzieball lineup is involving some dynamic lineup adjustments and he has to gel like everyone else.

Shinons

I second soxicano’s sentiment regarding Beckham. We’re doing him no favors keeping him in the bigs. The oft used argument “oooh no, it’ll hurt his confidence to send him down” is absolute horseshit (which is not something I’ll often say about another’s opinion) – what’s destroying his confidence is batting .200. Send him down, let him get his doubles stroke back, bat .330 for a month, then he could be back to help us down the stretch – that’s how you’re going to up his confidence. I think it would work a lot like Chris Davis last year.
At some point it’s gotta be clear that doing the same thing over and over isn’t working.

bigfun

I’m fine with sending Beckham down for regular work, but I’m not sure Davis is a good comparable. He didn’t hit well when he came back up last year and flopped again this year.

Shinons

Chris Davis’ after his call up: 308 avg./.496 slg
He’s been terrible this year, but AAA last year worked wonders for him.

bigfun

He was better, but not a lot. He was still striking out more than 25 percent of the time, walking only 5 percent of the time, and mostly put up that line with a .376 BABIP.
Absent a scouting report on him or something, that looks like good luck in a small sample size, not any real correction on his part.

David

I have to admit this surge continues to surprise me. As exciting as it is, I’ll keep waiting for them to settle back into a .500 club but enjoy for now and hope it doesn’t end.
Rather than make a move for a Luke Scott-type lefty, I’d prefer to see them try an internal solution…Jordan Danks.
The minor league system is still amongst the worst in baseball. Our minor league system needs to be an above average asset in order to be a perennial contender for the division. I’d rather not chip away at it for a replacement level (or slightly above) bat. An impact bat that we could retain long term is a different story.
My idea with Danks: improve run prevention. The pitching has been so good, let’s continue to give it the tools to succeed. By all accounts, Danks can catch and throw. Put him in RF and bat him 9th. Make Quentin the full-time DH. Now that he’s getting hot we can’t afford a defense-related injury OR his defensive liabilities.
Just an alternative idea.

bigfun

If you want to go that route I would rather see de Aza, who is also a plus defender, but who (unlike Danks) doesn’t really need further development for his bat in the minors.

winningugly

Danks is not ready yet. If we wantd a no-hit OF we’d have kept BA.

ricksch

Great summation Jim. Why oh why we started the season two players short (a lefty bat and a lefty arm in place of the useless Randy) seems even more puzzling now that we have the pitching at the highest level one could expect it to perform.
We need to shitcan Kotsay bigtime and give Beckham one last chance to get his act together. Today’s homer and sac fly are a great first step back for the kid. I hope like hell it continues, but he shouldn’t get much more latitude. Teahen’s return means he can DH in front of Kotsay. So far I’d rather have Viciedo at third than Teahen.
Unless Williams can pull of some major deal that could help us long term, a minor tweak like a Luke Scott may be all that’s necessary. It shouldn’t require even a top ten prospect as the O’s are toast and need salary relief.

winningugly

Luke Scott is not a tweak. That would be a big deal.

Sophist

I don’t think you can approach those wins with “prurient” interest . . . maybe with prudence? (blowing away those teams, though . . . now that speaks of prurient interest).

Sophist

LOL