No products in the cart.
It’s still hard to wrap one’s head around the concept of the White Sox making two consecutive postseasons in a row, so I’m still not accustomed to the final week of the season not being the final week of the season. The concept is especially novel when the last six games on the schedule are irrelevant to the outcome. Whenever the White Sox have gained entry into October, they’ve usually been thrown through the plate-glass window in front. This time, they can just saunter on through the wide-open doors.
It’s an ideal situation, at least on paper. Maybe you’d rather be the St. Louis Cardinals, ripping off 16 consecutive victories just in time for the postseason, rather than a White Sox team that’s been stuck in a wins-and-losses paradiddle for an entire half. But even then, all the Cardinals have to show for their record-breaking streak is a one-and-done date with the NL West runner-up.
It’s actually good to be the White Sox for once. Really.
The Sox have a number of matters to settle, but most of them are at the individual level. After this week’s six games — four against Detroit, two against Cincinnati — the season will then hinge on whether players can step up against Houston in the ALDS. Until then, the Sox just have to avoid further injuries and wrap up some minor housekeeping. For instance…
José Abreu‘s numbers
José Abreu entered September with 28 homers, so appeared to be a lock for his fourth 30-homer season. With six games left, Abreu is stuck at 29. He last went deep off Boston’s Tanner Houck on Sept. 10. He’s hitting .267/.394/.373 for September, so he’s seen worse. But he’s also hit into four double plays while hitting that one homer, which is the kind of ratio that makes the White Sox offense look stuck for long stretches.
If he can get back to putting the ball over the wall, it might help him return to his rightful place atop the league lead in RBIs. Right now, his total of 113 is two behind Sal Perez’s league-leading 115, and he also has to watch out for Teoscar Hernandez‘s 112 immediately behind him on the leaderboard. A well-timed surge would make him the first player to own the RBI crown in three consecutive seasons since Cecil Fielder, who ran the table from 1990 to 1992.
No matter what, it appears that Abreu will lead the league in double plays for a third straight season. He has 26, with Josh Donaldson and Giancarlo Stanton running well behind him in second place at 22 apiece. Donaldson’s leading the league in terms of frequency, but four is a hard gap to close.
Tim Anderson‘s batting average
That said, he’s vying for his third consecutive season with a .300 average, which would be the first time a White Sox player has accomplished that since Magglio Ordonez tied together five such seasons at the turn of the century.
Cy Young finishes
With Lance Lynn falling short of qualifying for the ERA title, no White Sox pitcher can stake a serious claim to the Cy Young Award. That said, he should get support for his 2.72 ERA, and Lucas Giolito should get support for his commendable 3.58 ERA and what should be 200 strikeouts and 175 innings (he only needs two K’s and four outs for both).
Dylan Cease has already locked up the bronze medal for strikeouts in the American League at 221. He’s also likely going to lead the league with 32 starts, unless a 163rd game or other wild card shenanigans put another pitcher over the top. He basically gave the White Sox everything they wanted to see from him this season.
With Brian Goodwin on the shelf with back spasms and Adam Engel unavailable just as long due to leg soreness, the Game 1 starter in right field is still an open question. Engel is supposed to play in the Cincinnati Reds series, but he’s supposed to have done a lot of things this year. Tony La Russa left it an open-ended matter:
‘‘What he’s done for us isn’t going to be forgotten,’’ La Russa said of Goodwin. ‘‘So it’s a question of how game-ready he can be because of this. And then what the makeup of the position-player roster is. And we have a question about Engel, too. Wait till you get all the information.’’
There’s also the matter of whether César Hernández’s bat will show the kind of life that could keep Leury García away from his starts, but if Engel and Goodwin are out, it seems like García is an option to throw against the right field wall. That’s a metaphor, not a suggestion, as the Field of Dreams Game already left him with one such concussion.
The eighth inning
I’m guessing the back end of the bullpen will still feature Liam Hendriks in the ninth inning, and Aaron Bummer in the highest-leverage situation involving a lefty beforehand. The only question is whether La Russa will gain comfort with Craig Kimbrel in any other late-inning jam by the time October rolls around.
The impending return of Ryan Tepera gives him another option. He should be back from his finger laceration for the Cincinnati series, and a couple of strong outings would make Kimbrel’s volatility more avoidable, even if the Sox won’t be able to escape it completely.
I mentioned on this morning’s Sox Machine Podcast that Carlos Rodón’s September has unfurled as a very public bout of DABDA. After Rodón’s velocity flattened out and rolled backward during his three innings in Detroit, Rodón spent his Zoom conference exercising denial and ending on anger while La Russa had skipped ahead to depression.
Rodón was supposed to start on Tuesday, but La Russa’s revised rotation plans for the final week moved him back to Wednesday, which looks a little like bargaining to me. The good news is that the White Sox can still make great use of Rodón in the postseason if he’s only a candidate to cover three innings, but I could be falling into the same trap. I suppose we’ll find out at the end of the week what everybody’s forced to accept.
(Photo by Aaron Josefczyk-USA TODAY Sports)