A big part of writing about baseball is noticing patterns, and it’s hard not to notice how much the schedule itself foreshadows the happiness of White Sox fans.
The White Sox are 15-11, which is a record to be proud of, provided you ignore that this house was constructed on an AL Central burial ground.
- vs. Royals: 3-0
- vs. Tigers: 6-1
- vs. Brewers: 2-2
- vs. Indians: 2-4
- vs. Twins: 1-2
- vs. Cardinals: 1-2
The winning records are very winning against teams that very much aren’t. The losing records are against the teams that are the supposed measuring sticks. The Brewers are the lone team the Sox battled to a draw, and even then it was the demoralizing sort of split, with the White Sox losing the last two.
Long story short, a team projected to be in third place is acting Third Place as Hell, but it seems to be a winning strategy this time around. The postseason odds are all in the White Sox’s favor:
- FanGraphs: 92.2 percent
- FiveThirtyEight: 88 percent
- Baseball Prospectus: 84.2 percent
For some context, when the White Sox started the 2016 season by winning 23 of their first 33 games, FanGraphs gave them a 70 percent shot of making the postseason. In the end, all they got was a lesson in how probabilities work.
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With the White Sox driving up to Wrigley to play the Cubs, I’ve already prepared for the Sox to lose two of three, because I’m going to force the Sox to make me expect better. That’d leave the White Sox 16-13, and they’ll cross the season’s halfway point with a light week against the Pirates and Royals.
If the White Sox continued this pattern of beating the teams they’re supposed to beat and losing to the teams they’re supposed to lose to, where does that get them?
Here’s one model:
- vs. Royals: 8-2
- vs. Tigers: 8-2
- vs. Pirates: 3-1
- vs. Reds: 2-1
- vs. Brewers: 2-2
- vs. Indians: 3-7
- vs. Twins: 3-7
- vs. Cubs: 2-4
- vs. Cardinals: 1-2
That’s a 32-28 record, which is roughly where they were projected to end up before the season started. That seems like it should be plenty for one of the last spots in an American League where the middle class is hollowed out:
All of the teams ahead of the White Sox were teams I didn’t think they could top, which is why I didn’t have them playing into October in my preseason predictions (the pool was expanded from five to eight after the season started).
Every team that’s beneath the White Sox feel, well, beneath the White Sox. That’s not to say the Rangers or Blue Jays are worse than the White Sox, because they’ll probably never play each other to actually put any postulate to the test. They just don’t seem to warrant the concern, because the White Sox are in a better position to take care of their business than teams in deeper divisions (or bubbles, when roping in their National League counterparts). Rick Hahn might have built the best third-place team in the American League for the one season where that guarantees a payoff.
I included the streak column in the standings because the number of hot and cold teams seem like a potential theme of this season. The Rays started the season 5-7. but they made up four games on the Yankees in two weeks. The White Sox already have more five-game winning streaks this year than they did in 2018 and 2019 combined. Between small samples and more extreme team health situations, it wouldn’t surprise me if teams run this hot and cold, perhaps more so in September when sellers sell, players sit, and a third of the league resigns itself to crossing days off the calendar. It’s the White Sox’s job to get to high ground before playing the Indians and Cubs in the final week, and there’s a clear path up the hill if they continue issuing thumpings to teams that are cratering.
(Photo by Rob Grabowski/Icon Sportswire)
The White Sox are doing what good teams do- they beat up on the weak sisters and hold their own against the good teams. The Twins are all beat up and the Plesac-Clevinger fiasco will hurt the Indians. Can any team be really good if they lost 4 straight to the Pirates and Royals like the Twins did? The Sox have developed some pretty good depth this summer- significant contributions from Mendick, Engel, McCann, Heuer, Burdi and others have allowed them to weather a pretty significant rash of injuries. And the Twins injuries have been to guys that have a hard time staying healthy recently (Rich Hill, Bailey, Donaldson, Buxton). The Sox have really developed a swagger over the last 5 games and let’s hope that confidence carries into this weekend series. They are definitely in play for this division, or at least one of the top 2 spots. And if they get in, having Giolito, Keuchel and Cease and all those young guns in the pen in a 3-game series, I certainly wouldn’t want to have to face them in a short series.
No team is as good as it looks when things are going well, and no team is as bad as it looks when things are going poorly. That said, it sure was fun watching them dismantle the Tiggers. I hope it continues for at least 3 more days.
You’re absolutely right about that. After watching that doubleheader last Saturday, it looked like the Sox might not win another game. Now they’re 5-0 since then. I hope we can look back on the back-to-back-to-back-to back homers as a turning point. They really seemed to be pressing the few weeks before that. Since then, they’ve seemed so much more relaxed at the plate. Of course, facing Tigers pitching may account for some of that.
Both statements are spot on.
Good teams score when the hitters are not hitting home runs, and good teams manage to win games on the strength of the pitching and defense when the hitters are not seeing the ball well. We saw that very painfully in the double header. But all those homers on Sunday, continuing against the Tigers this week, now give us the appearance of a turnaround.
I’ve lived and died with the White Sox since 1960, and in these 61 years I have never seen the team with so many talented, gifted young athletes as they have right now. Not even close to the level of raw talent we have now. But talent and athleticism are not enough; the question is, will they become good baseball players?
Sure hasn’t taken long for standings to unfold pretty much as expected….
Nice writeup on the bullpen by Longenhagen. Foster in particular got a really nice call out:
Fangraphs unveiled their annual list of 50 players with the highest trade value.
Eloy #Honorable Mention
Just don’t look at #2.
Bad advice. Looking at #2 is critical for ensuring colon health
Probably not great for blood pressure though.
Assuming Anderson hits this well for all of ‘20, he has to be on the list next year, right?
A number of random thoughts came into my head after reading this article……
Had we put a contract on the table to Harper and retained him we might have had enough steam to win the division this year. At the very least we would be a better team than Cleveland.
I do think with Tim in the lineup we likely win the series with Milwaukee.
The last series we played against Cleveland felt a little fluky. Cleveland beat us in one game on the back of Ricky not handling the bullpen game well. The second win they got in the series was partially a byproduct of the unique extra innings rules for this season.
Not sure if this hurts or helps, but FG has the Sox a game better than the Twins and 1.5 games better than Cleveland according to BaseRuns (which I believe essentially removes sequencing from the equation).
If we don’t make the playoffs, both Ricks need to be replaced. Cooper and Kenny can go, too. Failing to make the postseason with our easy schedule would be a major embarrassment and proof that progress is not really being made.
We spent a ton of money in the offseason, after tanking for three years. We have reached a time where either these people in charge produce and keep their jobs, or they be replaced if they fail to produce.
Even barely qualifying for the playoffs would not be a great feat, but it would represent some progress and allow our young core to gain some postseason experience.
This series against the Cubs is a big test. If we get swept, that would drop our record to 6-13 against non-tanking teams. If we lose two out of three, that’s not awful, but still a sign that we haven’t completely turned the corner. Winning such a series would show that we are a team people should take seriously.
While I don’t necessarily disagree with anything here, you picked an odd time to post this right after a sweep.
The sentiment is probably a little bit like this quote from Nero Wolfe (via Rex Stout):
“[A] pessimist gets nothing but pleasant surprises, an optimist nothing but unpleasant.”
It was a sweep over a team that might have trouble winning a division in Triple-A.
It doesn’t matter. They took care of business when they needed to. The Twins were swept by KC last week, another bad team. It’s not easy to sweep a 4-game series, no matter how bad the team.
You can pretty much ignore anyone who claims a midseason series against a team you’re not directly competing with for a playoff spot is must-win or whatever. Cubs could sweep the Sox and the Sox could turnaround and sweep the Twins next time they play and it’s all fine.
You’re right that it’s not easy to sweep a four-game series. I guess what I’m getting at is that so far we’re like a mediocre Big Ten football team beating up on non-conference cupcakes and struggling big time in conference games against teams with similar resources. The Tigers and Royals are not at our level right now, nor are they trying to be.
I just would like to see us start holding our own against the better teams, and this weekend would be a good time to start.
Yes, I agree. I think the players know that they can send a pretty strong message if they can take at least 2 out of 3.