The White Sox are 9 games out of the AL Central, which doesn't seem like so much, but Baseball Prospectus put their playoff odds at 1.6%, which seems like even less.
With playoffs hopes now dead, winning is de-emphasized. It still helps for day-to-day sanity, but the tangible benefits are suddenly slim. Maybe the franchise could recoup some revenue, but why would they? Have you SEEN stubhub recently?
So what could possibly be worth watching in the last 21 games?
Actually, I'm not telling you to watch old episodes of the CBS crime drama Numb3rs, but instead pointing out that the end of the season usually has some interesting statistical milestones the players are inching toward.
No so much this season.
Paul Konerko is sitting at 28 HR, so he'd seems like a good bet for the 7th 30-HR year of his career. Then again, he hasn't homered since August 18th, and slugged under .400 during that time. Maybe he needs to get some more things floating in his wrist again, as all he's been doing is getting on base 40% of the time like a jerk. He's at 93 RBI, so if you're up to holding your nose and tracking a context-dependent stat, he could hit the century mark.
Other than that...uh...
Quentin's injury has sapped any chances of him reaching 30 dingers, Alexei only needs 1 more double for 30, and Gordon Beckham totally has an 100 K season locked down. Besides that, it's bizarre races like 'Can Brent Lillibridge finish with the 3rd highest HR total on the team?", "Can Tyler Flowers equal A.J.'s HR total?", "Can Alexei NOT post a career-low batting average?" "Can Gavin Floyd lead the team in wins--even reach 15!--with an ERA in mid-4s?"
My favorite thing to watch for? Juan Pierre is 25 for 39 on stolen bases this year for a 64.1% success rate. To achieve the golden mark of 75% where stealing is worth the risk from a run expectancy perspective, Pierre needs to steal just 17 bases in a row without getting caught. If that sounds too hard, remember that he could also steal 20 and get thrown out once, or 24 times and thrown out twice....
2. People losing their jobs
...That said, it might be better if Juan failed. If there's one thing that Kenny Williams' acquisitions and Ozzie managerial decisions point to in unison, it's a craving for a 'traditional' leadoff hitter. It'd be best if Alejandro De Aza takes the part and runs away with it.
De Aza isn't ideal. He doesn't seem at all that intrigued by walks as a concept, and will probably need to continue to stroke well over .300 to be above-average at getting on base. If he were a lock to do that, well, he probably wouldn't be battling for playing time in this outfield at age 27.
Still, if the Sox are cutting salary, it would be great if they didn't waste resources pursuing a 'traditional' leadoff guy unlikely to significantly outperform De Aza. Especially if they guy they have in mind is a 34 year-old Juan Pierre.
Meanwhile, the shine has worn off Tyler Flowers' batting average now that his BABIP has normalized and the reality that he's going to post one of the highest strikeout rates in baseball has set in. With his power and plate discipline, that still makes him a slightly below-average hitter from the catcher position while playing better defense than Pierzynski.
A.J. has another year on his contract, 10-5 rights, and the adoration of the organization. But if the Sox are really desperate to cut money, and Flowers keeps making the dropoff look minimal, things could get interesting. So long as he plays again, that is.
Other elements of the White Sox are of interest. Viciedo is composed entirely of excitement. Every at-bat is a wonder. Every line drive is explosive. Every walk is triumphant. Every swing where he misses and wildly spins halfway around breaks my heart 1000 times.
Dayan is hitting .368, which is about absurd as it sounds and doomed to fall a bit. His BABIP is sitting around .450 and he somehow already has 3 infield hits. His strikeout rate is fine, and his walk rate is as expected (very few, but more than none!), but his power has been muted. Just a .118 ISO. That needs to fix itself before breathing gets easier about his transition
Viciedo has been stinging the ball plenty, and he hit a home run 900 feet to center, so the extra-base hits should come, and when you think about, this power-outage is great. We now all have permission to root for a HR every time Viciedo comes to the plate.
4. More Peavy?
Ozzie wants to shut Peavy down as he is topping out around 90 mph these days, and apparently hasn't thrown a side session in months just to save the strength required for that.
Now that it no longer risks derailing a pennant race, maybe it will be a macabre delight to watch Guillen and Peavy do their typical back-and-forth. The Sox still could really use Peavy finding some sort of consistently effective form again. Yet if that's not in the cards, we can just sit back and enjoy Peavy bark a concerned Guillen back into the dugout, and continue to grind through the Blue Jays lineup despite being at 130 pitches in the 5th inning during the 2nd to last game of the season.
5. Starting rotation jostling
It's been documented that Zach Stewart and Philip Humber are battling it out for who's a less-offensive cheap option for the back of the rotation, but pretty much every starting pitcher is determining their future at the moment as well. Except Peavy, who's shotgun married to the Sox for life.
Buehrle is being judged for whether he's worth a new contract, and whether he's more appealing than a supplemental draft pick. Danks and Floyd are being assessed for their trade value, with Danks possibly being sized up for an extension off the heels of what's clearly a down year.
There's been no talk of stretching out Chris Sale this season, which is good, as it wouldn't be a great idea. But man, would it be a reason to watch if they did!
6. Lineup construction - Will it stay inexplicable?
For example, with two outs and down a run on Wednesday, Ozzie Guillen stuck with Omar Vizquel to hit. Ignoring the larger absurdity of Vizquel even playing, this individual decision is wrong in every sense.
In the sense that Ozzie is trying to win the game - Tyler Flowers is on the bench, Brent Lillibridge is on the bench, as well as several other grown men with pulses and hands. They are all better than Omar's .245/.282/.294 line.
In the sense that the game doesn't matter - In that case, Omar should never play, because no one could possibly factor less into the future plans than Omar Vizquel.
It will be hard to quibble with Guillen playing Rios now, or even Dunn, because by all means they are the White Sox future (put down that knife!). With 2011 circling the drain, it'd be nice to see some sort of coherent purpose emerge, and in that light, it'll be interesting see how Carlos Quentin is utilized upon his return.
7. Maybe someone will get fired!
Always fun! Right?
Tags: A.J. Pierzynski, Adam Dunn, Alejandro De Aza, Alex Rios, baseball, Brent Lillibridge, Carlos Quentin, Dayan Viciedo, Gavin Floyd, Jake Peavy, John Danks, Kenny Williams, Mark Buehrle, Omar Vizquel, Ozzie Guillen, Paul Konerko, philip humber, Tyler Flowers, White Sox, zach stewart