This week was one uncharacteristically light on baseball for the White Sox, with only five games thanks to an off day and a rain delay. Perhaps that's a good thing. The Sox are still 35-38 on the year, so they're kind of below average at playing baseball.
That's as definitive judgment as I can manage after an intensely schizophrenic week where the White Sox dropped their first three contests while scoring two runs combined, then rode a Rios/Konerko power surge to a series win in Arizona. It was a cautionary tale about momentum, to be sure.
To make things seem more reasonable, let's rationalize the heck out of it. The Sox ran into two Twins starters in Pavano and Blackburn who have been highly productive of late, were diced up by Daniel Hudson, who may just be on his way to being truly great (which just makes this worse). After that, they Sox made some token headway against two mediocre starters before sealing wins versus a Diamondbacks bullpen that kept their best cards (J.J. Putz, David Hernandez) in their hand all weekend.
Still, the run-party the Sox threw in the 8th inning Sunday did enough
to stoke hopes of the moribund offense coming around. And they could do
it without even panic-firing their hitting coach!
I mean, Juan Pierre had two hits on Sunday. Surely, we need to start losing our minds about this.
Konerko carries team on back, baserunning likely to suffer:The
greatest emotion-driven indiscretion of the 2011 off-season has not just
been reliable, not just been a facsimile of the dominant player from
last season, but has officially morphed into the hitter the team can't
live without. On Sunday, tasked with finding a spot to give Adam Dunn
playing time (because we have to!), Guillen decided he'd rather live
with Dunn's defense in right field than lose Konerko for a day.
Which poses the question "Would Ozzie save the life of one of his sons if it meant benching Konerko for a day?"
Paulie homered in every game of the Arizona series (all solo, which
shows you how things were going), hasn't failed to reach base in a game
since May 27th, has a preposterous .431/.482/.902 (.902!) line for the
month of June, and is now in the top 5 for such stodgy old counting
categories like batting average, home runs, and RBI. They may not tell
the whole story, but those stats can go a long way toward locking up an
old man's 5th All-Star game appearance.
All the starters are pretty good, so let's focus on the best one:
Starters for the week: 36.1 IP, 2.97 ERA, 7.18 K/9, 1.25 BB/9
Well, yeah. That'll work.
Edwin Jackson is still trying to start a flame war between statheads and traditionalists by leading the rotation in fWAR,
but in general Humber's peripherals are slowly starting to confirm a
peculiar reality--that he's been as productive as any other starter in
the rotation. After an excellent outing Sunday that suffered
statistically when he ran out of gas in the 8th, Humber sits at 90
innings pitched with a 2.90 ERA, with a 5.5 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9.
That doesn't belie dominance, but it certainly hints as sustainable effectiveness. As J.J. covered,
Humber's now using his slider as a backup pitch when his curveball
isn't clicking. Phil likes to pound the strike zone with an average
velocity fastball, so that type of variance is critical to him avoiding
the career path of say....Carlos Silva. No one would like that.
Phil's currently in the top 5 in the AL in WHIP, and in the top 10 in ERA, and...well...I'm on an All-Star kick right now.
Hold me closer, sandy dancer: It's been an awful year thus far
for Alex Rios. He's been quietly worse than Juan Pierre at the plate,
has only Juan Pierre to thank for people forgetting about his
early-season defensive troubles, murdered an ice-bucket,
and while my sister still refers to him as "boyfriend", she speaks in a
tone that one would use if their significant other was currently on an
indefinite stay at the Betty Ford. Or some place not as nice as the Betty Ford. Somewhere where the nurses are mean.
It's hard to get really excited for him because he started the week 0-9
with a walk, but the two home runs he clocked this weekend certainly
raised some eyebrows. It's pretty hard to tell when he's right besides
just waiting for him to start clocking homers to left, but maybe that
line drive single to center means he'll stop trying to pull everything.
We've eliminated your department...everyone currently in my sight is fired: Sometime between passing kidney stones this weekend, Ozzie gazed out at the carnage and gore in front of him and made the following assessment on the White Sox running game.
"I shut it down a little bit more, because we were giving away outs with
no reason," Guillen said. "I want to see how the team functions without
the running game. The running game wasn't working. It was killing us."
Well, the Sox are slightly over 50% for steals on the seasons (there were first waves at D-Day that did better),
so muttering "long-time coming" might be an appropriate, and even
measured, response to this move. Whether or not the offense explodes in
the coming weeks might not be related, but if this is long-term, it really will call into question the purpose of a base-stealing oriented player on the roster.
Looking ahead: This week brings 6 games of home interleague play,
typically a magical tonic for the Sox, to be applied liberally all over
the skin and even ingested in small doses.
The crosstown series brings over those familiar Cubbies. While obvious
it's been a contentious matchup for years, and they just completed a
decent enough week, the Cubs are 13 games under .500, ravaged by
injuries, and have the worst run differential in baseball. I don't see
how a description of the North Siders can avoid using the term "bad".
They're bad. In several areas. Winning is expected, but never assumed.
The Nationals on the other hand, are red-hot, pitching well, basically
have the same record as the White Sox, and have Ryan Zimmerman back. I
don't think I would use the word 'bad'.
Tags: Alex Rios, arizona diamondbacks, baseball, Carl Pavano, Carlos Silva, Daniel Hudson, Edwin Jackson, J.J. Putz, John Danks, Juan Pierre, Minnesota Twins, nick blackburn, Ozzie Guillen, Paul Konerko, phil humber, White Sox