The Seattle Mariners are 20 games under .500 this season, and were jut preposterously terrible last season, so perhaps the White Sox aren't the only team who finds comfort in the presence of the Mariners. Still, pretty much no major league franchise should be able to beat another one 16 times out of 19.
No one else is joining that "The White Sox are too good at baseball!!!1" Facebook group, Mariners. No one.
In Seattle, the White Sox resemble a playoff team. Their starters are untouchable with no strange late-inning issues, their offense is strangely powerful (home runs? in Safeco? Goodness me!), and mostly they just win a lot of friggin' games. It makes you forget things--divisional standing, roster conflicts, hour of day--if only for a weekend.
But the White Sox can't spend all their lives in Seattle. That's for the Mariners, and they insist it's a terrible idea. Outside the shadow of the Space Needle, the light is much harsher, and reveals that the White Sox...
-Will botch entire games away with incompetence, and look great doing it
-Are still 6 games back of Detroit
That last one's a killer. I wouldn't say the Sox are playing out the string in August, but they haven't been within two games since Tax Day. Anyone who says they're "keeping it interesting" probably just completed a study on drying patterns in acrylic paint.
While it's still very important that the White Sox play well down the stretch for a variety of reasons (clear up roles for next season, recoup some revenue, makes fans feel so good deep inside, break the city of Cleveland's will), certain things that don't necessarily pertain to dreams of 2011 playoff glory are catching the eye:
How are the Charlotte Knights doing?
Dayan Viciedo--Lightning rod for debates on roster-complacency--debuted on Sunday (to sarcastic derision!) in place of the injured Carlos Quentin. He had a bloop single, hit a bullet line drive to dead center for a 3-run HR, drew a walk after getting a close call on a check-swing on 2-2, and struck out with an enormous windmill swing.
As Jim said, this is pretty much Viciedo in a nutshell. He will show tremendous power, he will get fooled badly on occasion, and when he walks, it will seem fortunate.
Tyler Flowers has more power than A.J. Pierzynski. Tyler Flowers takes more walks than A.J. Pierzynski. Tyler Flowers is not even that great at defense, and could be a lot better than A.J. Pierzynksi. Alas, Tyler Flowers struck out in half of his plate appearances this week. He may have hit the only White Sox grand-slam this year, but I don't know how much longer this can last.
Alejandro De Aza - .313/.353/.563 for the week with competent defense and speed. Is 'Juan Pierre + some pop' an unreasonable summation of his skills? Is 'Juan Pierre + some pop' not better than Juan Pierre?
Is Juan Pierre playing his way to a new contract?
Only if management is taken with his empty high batting average ways. Juan might have put the most Juan Pierre hitting line of all-time this week: .316/.316/.316...with a sac bunt and a stolen base
Man! He got a LOT of hits!
Whoa, getting hits was all he did!
Damn! All those hits were singles!
As J.J. stated, with Pierre on a hot streak average-wise, he's not really a problem in the lineup, but for a corner outfielder, he remains someone for whom the White Sox could easily find an upgrade. They could let Pierre walk, and have Alejandro De Aza wear his jersey, and most people wouldn't catch on until they realized that he had 10 HRs on the year.
With him would also leave the "See how foolish those bloggers are for questioning the clearly great Juan Pierre!" narrative the beat writers are flaunting. It will be missed.
Signs of life from Adam Dunn?!?!
He didn't reach base in 11 plate appearances with 6 K's, and will apparently be getting even less playing time. Darn you, White Sox! Just when you were far enough out that watching him hit could become a morbid curiosity again!
Well, no. He posted an ignoble .222/.222/.333 line. However, he also batted cleanup for all four games he played, and Paul Konerko hit .352 this week. That means either:
Alex Rios = Lineup protection
Alex Rios has single-handedly disproved the theory of lineup protection.
Well, he had been mostly terrible, but dropped an encouraging quote after going 2-4 with a double on Sunday.
"Today is the best I’ve felt in a long time. Just really uplifting to have three swings that were just locked in."
Hitters usually feel great after hitting doubles, and he could just be commenting on the contact he made, as there's been no talk of altering any mechanics. Any kind of power streak from him would be encouraging, though.
Jostling for rotation spots
Chris Sale is likely coming to the rotation in 2012 (deep sigh of contentment). As relaxing as that is, it's worth mentioning that such an addition gives the Sox 6 current starters with 4 (presumably) spots for next season. How did the contenders do?
Humber - Prohibited per MLB roster rules from contributing because he's on the 15-day DL. Poor showing, Phil.
Stewart - Annihilated. It doesn't really matter if he pitched a little bit better than 7 earned runs in 6 innings. His middling stuff meant he had to really raise eyebrows to have an argument.
Peavy - He wasn't exactly efficient or under control at all, but 8 strikeouts in 6 solid innings of work at least hinted at his former levels. His peripherals remain excellent, but won't become especially relevant until his health and strength are reliable. All those other guys with guaranteed spots due to their horrible contracts have really sapped the attention from Jake's horrible contract and uneven performance.
Buehrle - Maybe 6 innings with only 2 strikeouts while allowing 3 runs and a HR wasn't the most impressive thing ever, but he remains the team ERA and fWAR leader (through Saturday). If the White Sox have the money to spend, he's still worth it.
Both Floyd and Danks ruthless terrorized the Mariners. Floyd struck out 6 in 7.1 IP while allowing just a 2-run Josh Bard HR, while Danks outdid him with a complete game shutout, allowing only three hits and a walk, while striking out 10. Perhaps Danks even did something to humiliate Josh Bard while off-camera.
Floyd's contract makes it seem like he's worth more to the White Sox than he would be in a trade. Danks' free agency after 2012 could be a huge headache, but he's only 26, and from a pure strikeout/walk perspective, he's actually taken a step forward this season. If Danks was a rotation linchpin before, what is he while sporting a 3.0 K/BB ratio?
It should take something serious to lose either of these guys, though Peavy is a walking cautionary tale about paying pitchers to be worth 4 wins a year.
If I had to pick: Danks, Floyd, Buehrle, Sale, Peavy. Since this is my fantasy, let's throw in scientifically-restored Bob Gibson as a spot-starter.
The Sox have three home games against the Twins (they're terrible!), three last-gasp games in Detroit (they're not terrible!), including a matchup against Justin Verlander (the opposite of terrible!)
Tags: A.J. Pierzynski, Adam Dunn, Alejandro De Aza, Alex Rios, baseball, Chris Sale, Dayan Viciedo, Detroit Tigers, Gavin Floyd, Gordon Beckham, gordon beckhams, Jake Peavy, jered weaver, John Danks, Juan Pierre, Justin Verlander, Kenny Williams, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Mark Buehrle, Minnesota Twins, Ozzie Guillen, Seattle Mariners, Tyler Flowers, White Sox, zach stewart