As you might expect from a team finishing the first half with 25 wins in their last 30 games, the Sox have been propelled by a number of hot streaks. Some we’ve been waiting on, and others have come out of nowhere, and when you add them all up, it means that somebody’s going to get jobbed in the next couple weeks if nothing changes.
Below are the sluggin’ Sox who have made Mark Teahen’s return more complicated than originally anticipated when the Sox were scuffling six weeks ago.
Hot streak: .368/.469/.926, 11 homers in 68 AB since June 16.
For real? He’s not going to burn this hot, but he’s raised his season line to .244/.344/.523. That seems like a perfectly predictable season line, and we know he has the talent to exceed it when all is right.
Why? He’s absolutely murdering the ball.
But wait: Injuries. It’s all pretty simple. Sliding Quentin to the DH role for half the time — or more — seems to be ideal at this point, but thanks to Teahen, that might not even result in the optimal defensive lineup.
Hot streak: .333/.444/.619 over the last week, with five walks.
For real? Nope.
Why not? Jones had hit just one homer over the previous two months before going deep twice in the last week — and those happened to be on the fattest off-speed pitches imaginable. Jered Weaver grooved a changeup, and Anthony Lerew hung a navel-high curve. Jones had enough time to crow-hop and aim for the Fundamentals Deck.
But wait: There’s an outside chance that Jones was pressing in order to reach the 400-homer mark, and I did see him actually bounce a single through the right side — intentionally — over the past week. That was a marked departure over his usual swing-until-my-girdle-breaks approach, and perhaps he had an epiphany of sorts. Doubtful, but hey.
White Sox Catchers
Hot streak: .319/.371/.503 since June 1.
For real? Not like this.
Why not? A.J. Pierzynski has 11 extra-base hits (and three walks!) over his last 111 at-bats, and Ramon Castro is Small Sample Size Joe Mauer.
But wait: The Sox have waited five years for their lefty-righty catching tandem to work out. It shouldn’t have been this hard, considering their starting catcher hits from the left side, and the Sox haven’t benefited from good acquisitions on paper — not just Castro, but Toby Hall before him. There’s a lot of lost time in between Chris Widger’s deal with the devil and the present, so maybe this is finally the Summer of the Backup Catcher we’ve all been waiting for.
But at the very least, it appears that Pierzynski has his short stroke back, so catcher shouldn’t be the problem it was earlier.
Hot streak: .310/.318/.595 over 44 PAs since June 25.
For real? Reluctantly, I’m going to say “yes.”
Why? It’s usually not a good thing when players stop walking, but Beckham seems to have turned it on attack mode. Pitchers aren’t afraid to throw him strikes; it’s just now that he’s actually starting to do things with them. And there’s the matter of his track record and the fact that his good swing shouldn’t yield all-or-nothing results.
But wait: Beckham’s bad swing yields nothing, and it keeps coming back. He’s had more false starts this year than Fred Miller. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me 17 times, I’m desperate for signs. I’d like to see one more week, especially since he has two hits in his last 21 at-bats against good pitching staffs (Atlanta, Texas, Anaheim). He’s 11-for-28 against the Cubs and Royals.
Hot streak: .455/.478/.864, 5-for-5 with 5 XBH as a pinch hitter since June 1.
For real? Ha.
Why not? Because.
But wait: Lillibridge is one of two demotion candidates when Mark Teahen comes back, because he has options and he’s having a hard time getting playing time as is. It won’t get any easier of Gordon Beckham stops giving Ozzie Guillen reasons to sit him.
Yet it’s a little odd. With the exception of completing double-play relay tosses, Lillibridge has done everything asked of him, times a billion million. Baseball isn’t fair, of course, but it’d be nice to see Ozzie Guillen ride out an out-of-nowhere performance as long as he can.
Hot streak: .300/.300/.500, only four strikeouts over 40 plate appearances.
For real? Kinda.
How so? Well, it’s not like his walk rate could get worse. He’s a see-ball-hit-ball guy with tremendous hand-eye coordination, and Guillen is careful in picking spots to play him. He’s 4-for-11 with two extra-base hits (and no strikeouts) against lefties; he’s grounded into four double plays against righties. If he had to play regularly, he’d likely sink, but I don’t think Guillen or the Sox would hang him out to dry.
But wait: He still has a lot of development to do in his approach, so going back down to Triple-A would be the best option for his individual progress. Yet right now, with Viciedo and Castro in the lineup against lefties, the Sox are suddenly stacked against southpaws, hitting them to a tune of .325/.371/.491 since Jackin’ Dayan debuted.
And that brings us to…
The Teahen Trap
Mark Teahen will have the pins removed from his right middle finger on Thursday. The Sox predicted that he’d miss six weeks, and six weeks is this week. He should be set to return before the trade deadline.
That’s unfortunate, as cold as that might sound, because Teahen would have little impact on roster decisions if Kenny Williams landed his big, preferably left-handed bat. For instance, acquiring Adam Dunn means that DH and right field are locked up, rendering Andruw Jones a true fourth outfielder and third base the only true battleground.
If the roster is the same by Teahen’s return, my guess is that Viciedo returns to Charlotte. While he packs excitement, he’s the most redundant and least reliable, both in the field and at the plate.
If I had my druthers, I’d love to see Teahen get reps at first base during his rehab stint and return to the utility role he occupied in Kansas City. The whole reason the Sox chained him to third is because they figured his entire game would stabilize upon the return to his “natural” position. That wishcasting hasn’t come true — he’s been streaky with the bat, and he’s basically the defensive equivalant of Rob Mackowiak: Center Fielder, to the point that he makes a better DH candidate than a third baseman.
If the Sox aren’t going to get their money’s worth from Teahen himself, he can at least create a better use of resources elsewhere by taking on multiple positions, albeit poorly.
But that would require saying goodbye to Mark Kotsay, and that’s not going to happen. He’s been hitting well enough (.284/.361/.432 since June 5) to take the heat off him, and Ozzie Guillen loves him. Take him out of the equation, and the “THEY UPSET THE BALANCE” articles write themselves. That’s probably the last move anybody wants to make when things are going this well.
White Sox All-Stars fared none too well — Matt Thornton gave up the game-breaking bases-clearing double to Brian McCann with two outs, and Paul Konerko went 0-for-2, including playing the front part of a strike-him-out-throw-him-out. But have no fear!
Silver lining: When the White Sox sweep for another World Series title, they’ll win it at home this time. Thornton knows what he’s doing.
Christian Marrero Reading Room:
*Doug Padilla (he’s back on ESPNChicago, apparently) lists his top 10 moments to remember from the first half.
*Kenny Williams answered a lot of Padilla’s questions — among the interesting answers, he says others magnified the tension with Guillen, and Jake Peavy’s injury is unrelated to the fluid issues earlier.
*Chris Sale was promoted to Charlotte after giving up his first two runs of his pro career on Winston-Salem.
*J.J. looks at regression candidates on the White Sox.
Minor league roundup:
- Charlotte OFF
- Birmingham OFF
- Winston-Salem OFF
- Kannapolis OFF
- Bristol OFF
- Great Falls OFF