Chicago White Sox
2009 Record: 51-51 (.500)
2009 Pythagorean Record: 51-51 (.500)
Manager: Ozzie Guillen
General Manager: Kenny Williams
Home Ballpark (multi-year Park Factors): U.S. Cellular Field (105/105)
Who’s Replaced Whom:
- Chris Getz (minors) replaces Orlando Cabrera
- Scott Podsednik replaces Nick Swisher and Brian Anderson
- Gordon Beckham (minors) replaces Joe Crede
- Jayson Nix replaces Juan Uribe
- Mark Kotsay replaces Ken Griffey Jr.
- Ramon Castro replaces Toby Hall
- Clayton Richard and Jose Contreras inherit Javier Vazquez’s starts
- Tony Peña replaces Nick Massett
- Randy Williams replaces Boone Logan
1B – Paul Konerko (R)
2B – Chris Getz (L)
SS – Alexei Ramirez (R)
3B – Gordon Beckham (R)
C – A.J. Pierzynski (L)
RF – Jermaine Dye (R)
CF – Scott Podsednik (L)
LF – Carlos Quentin (R)
DH – Jim Thome (L)
L – Dewayne Wise (OF)
R – Jayson Nix (IF)
L – Mark Kotsay (1B/OF)
R – Ramon Castro (C)
L – Mark Buehrle
R – Jose Contreras
R – Gavin Floyd
L – Richard Clayton
L – John Danks
R – Bobby Jenks
R – Octavio Dotel
L – Matt Thornton
R – Tony Peña
R – Scott Linebrink
R – D.J. Carrasco
L – Randy Williams
15-day DL: RHP – Bartolo Colon
L – Scott Podsednik (CF)
R – Alexei Ramirez (SS)
R – Jermaine Dye (RF)
L – Jim Thome (DH)
R – Paul Konerko (1B)
L – A.J. Pierzynski (C)
R – Carlos Quentin (LF)
L – Chris Getz (2B)
R – Gordon Beckham (3B)
The White Sox were my pre-season pick to win the AL Central. It was a default choice (I didn’t expect Justin Verlander and Edwin Jackson to be as great as they’ve been for the Tigers), but not a knee-jerk one. Yes, the White Sox are the defending division champions (thanks to their one-game playoff victory over the Twins), and the list of player replacements above is uninspiring at best, but they still had one of the divisions best lineups, an impressive lefty duo atop their rotation in Mark Buehrle and John Danks, and a solid bullpen led by closer Bobby Jenks.
So how’s that going? Well, the Sox are right in the thick of the division race, three games behind the Tigers despite their .500 record, and their rotation has been the third-best in the league by ERA despite their hitting-friendly ballpark, but their bullpen has been shaky, and their offense has been the fourth-worst in the AL.
Among the problems has been left fielder Carlos Quentin. An MVP candidate a year ago, Quentin got off to a slow start, then missed two months due to a torn tendon in his foot and hasn’t hit much since his return. Similarly, Alexei Ramirez, the Rookie of the Year runner-up in 2008, has seen his power numbers dip significantly (though his defense at shortstop has been much better than it was at the keystone last year). Mix in gaping holes in center field and at third base (the latter due to Josh Fields continuing to disappoint), and the Sox really only had half a lineup.
They’re working on that, however. They’ve filled their center field hole with a rejuvinated Scott Podsednik, whose .301/.357/.392 line thus far represents a huge improvement over the performances of Dewayne Wise (perfect-game saving catch aside) or Brian Anderson (who was just flipped to the Red Sox for Mark Kotsay). And they’ve filled their third-base hole with Gordon Beckham, who was drafted eighth-overall as a shortstop out of the University of Georgia in 2008. Beckham’s hitting .300/.374/.469 on the season and .329/.392/.541 in July.
With Quentin back from the DL and Beckham and Podsednik in place, the White Sox lineup would seem more dangerous now than it has been, but Quentin is still hurting, Ramirez left last night’s game with a sprained ankle and won’t play tonight, and Jim Thome, the team leader in on-base percentage, has been out with a bad back (though Thome is back in the lineup tonight).
Meanwhile, Jenks has had an awful month. He’s allowed at least one run in five of his seven outings this month, posting a 8.59 ERA and blowing his last two save chances. Similarly, new pickup Tony Peña has posted a 10.20 ERA since the beginning of June and has allowed four runs in two of his six outings for the Pale Hose.
So it all comes back to the rotation, which is weakened, but still high on Mark Buehrle’s record string of 45 straight batters retired. With Bartolo Colon back on the DL, everyone moves up a day, setting up a matchup of ace lefties in Sunday’s finale: Buehrle vs. CC Sabathia. That’s a must-see, as is Saturday’s matchup between Danks, who had a rough May, but has a 2.53 ERA over his last eight starts, and A.J. Burnett. Friday matches up the fifth-starters, Sergio Mitre and tall lefty Clayton Richard, who has aced his last two starts (8 IP, 1 R both times) but had a 5.75 ERA from his other dozen starts this season.
Tonight, the Yankees and Andy Pettitte face Glavin Floyd. A 17-game winner a year ago, Floyd seemed headed for a fall given his high home-run and fly-ball rates and low strikeout rate and BABIP. This year, however, he’s reduced his home runs, increased his strikeouts, and avoided a major correction in his BABIP (up to a still-below-average .284 from .259 last year). The result has been another solid season. In fact, Floyd was awesome in June (5-1, 1.28 ERA, all six outings quality starts), and got back on track in his last two starts (13 2/3 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 5 BB, 14 K, both quality starts).
Andy Pettitte has had a nice start to his second half as well. Yes, he took the loss in his last start after a sore Alfredo Aceves melted down in relief with one out in the seventh, but he had a quality start prior to that and in two starts has struck out 15 against just three walks and 11 hits in 13 2/3 innings.
Jose Molina catches Pettitte tonight and hits ninth, everyone else is in the usual places.