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The Chicago White Sox entered June with big aspirations and a big homestand, only to lose two of three series, including yet another one to the lowly Cleveland Indians. Kenny Williams then declared that his team was open for business.
Perhaps that was a wakeup call. Or maybe it was a bit of luck and a lot of bad opponents. Either way, the Sox dusted themselves off and rattled off 10 wins over their next 12 games, currently riding a six-game winning streak that has launched them back to .500.
It’s a run of baseball that’s as exhilarating as it is confusing. There’s something for everybody, whether pessimist or optimist.
Glass half empty: The Tigers, Cubs, Nationals and Pirates aren’t exactly a gauntlet.
The Sox’s sweep of the Pirates is a mere drop in their bucket, which is mostly filled with tears. The Pirates had lost nine straight before the Sox even showed up. Likewise, the Sox only doubled the Nationals’ recent woes, turning a three-game losing streak into a sixer.
Glass half full: The Sox hadn’t exactly punished the weak.
Two of the three worst teams in the American League reside in the AL Central. The Sox are 3-3 against Kansas City and have lost eight of 12 games to the Indians.
Glass half empty: The Sox haven’t hit a homer in seven games.
The Cheat already looked it up — you have to go back to the second half of the 1980s to find longer droughts, and that wasn’t exactly a high time in White Sox history. Their team slugging percentage has dipped below .400. Recent history suggests that when the Sox aren’t homering, they aren’t winning. The odds say this 6-1 stretch is an aberration.
Glass half full: The Sox aren’t beating themselves.
Just like winning ballgames with a slap-and-tickle offense, a lack of errors, official or otherwise, is also a recent development. Anybody who doubts Alexei Ramirez’s capabilities at short after the display he put on in Washington can leave the room right now. Right field is the only real trouble spot; Paul Konerko may be almost rangeless, but his scooping and throwing abilities have come in handy this year.
Glass half empty: Speaking of right field, Carlos Quentin is a zero, and so is Gordon Beckham.
In terms of WAR, Quentin and Beckham are the least- and third-least-valuable position players in the American League. Fittingly enough, you called these guys the most- and third-most-important position players of the 2010 season. The Sox are ill-equipped to suffer a stinkbomb from one of these guys, much less both of them.
Glass half full: The pitching is ready to carry some dead weight.
Updating the spreadsheet from last week, here’s what Sox starts have done over the past two weeks:
(Brief aside: It’s kind of annoying when people use win totals to call Freddy Garcia the best pitcher on the staff, but it’s far more annoying when people cite FIP and xFIP, thinking they’ve won the argument somehow. Wins aren’t scintillating, but the people asserting themselves as the superior position-holders aren’t even having the same conversation. The Sox are 9-4 when Garcia starts, and there’s no extra credit for xFIP when only looking backwards.)
Glass half empty: Williams might be reluctant to trade now.
With the Sox lacking firepower, the bullpen basically needs all hands on deck if they’re going to contend. J.J. Putz, Matt Thornton and Bobby Jenks could each get something interesting back in a trade, but Williams would probably have to keep them in order to keep dreams of contention alive. And that’s still an uphill climb.
Glass half full: Sustaining fan interest might outweigh those returns.
Jerry Reinsdorf said that he could add salary if the situation demands it. With the Twins raising the revenue bar in the Central, cementing a decline in attendance with a fire sale (even minor) might negate any advantages of trading away a mildly valuable chit.
Add it all up, and I’d say to not get carried away with this current version of the White Sox. Baseball Prospectus puts their playoff odds at 6 percent, and that sounds about right for the hole they’re trying to escape.
At the same time, enjoy it. Garcia isn’t a good bet going forward, neither is Omar “.847 June OPS” Vizquel nor Ramon “7-for-12” Castro, but it sure beats talking about fan-murdering and how much so-and-so sucks. Regardless of the quality of competition, paying fans deserve to see sustained periods of enjoyable baseball, and Sox fans are getting it now.
Let’s just hope the Sox bring some of that road mojo home with them. Winning on the road is all well and good, but the 25,000 at U.S. Cellular Field don’t have the option of changing the channel.
Rookie ball season begins this week, as you’ll see below. Some interesting names on the first drafts of the Great Falls and Bristol rosters:
- David Holmberg (LHP, 2nd round, 2009)
- Addison Reed (LHP, 3rd round, 2010)
- Thomas Royse (RHP, 3rd round, 2010)
- Steven Upchurch (RHP, 12th round, 2008)
- Juan Silverio (32 years old)
- Matthew Heidenreich (RHP, 4th round, 2009)
- Jacob Petricka (RHP, 2nd round, 2010)
- Rangel Ravelo (3B, 6th round, 2010)
- Jose Martinez (Venezuelan signed in 2006 who injured knee)
Further bulletins as events warrant.
Minor league roundup:
- Charlotte 6, Syracuse 1
- Tyler Flowers went 2-for-4 with a double, a homer and four RBI. He struck out once.
- Carlos Torres struck out seven over seven shutout innings, allowing just three hits and a walk.
- Jordan Danks went 1-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout.
- Brent Morel went 0-for-4 with two K’s.
- Billings 11, Great Falls 3
- Juan Silverio doubled and homered over four at-bats.
- Ryan Hamme went 2-for-4 with a solo shot.
- Birmingham OFF
- Winston-Salem OFF
- Kannapolis OFF
- Bristol OFF