Lo and behold, the White Sox are a winning ballclub.
Thanks to their old friend, the long ball, the Sox defeated the Indians 10-6 on Wednesday afternoon despite forecasts for snow and other Cleveland-related weather maladies.
As John Danks' control took the early flight back home, for the first time the Sox deviated from what their standard formula for winning--great pitching, some hitting--should be for 2012. Instead they racked up an early lead on a wild Justin Masterson--a pitcher well-equipped to murder the Sox lineup under normal circumstances--and finished the game off with decisive blasts against a Cleveland bullpen that still looks supesct after a hellish opening weekend vs. Toronto, and a short outing by Josh Tomlin on Monday.
The White Sox have exuded a sense of competence early on throughout (Beckham inexplicably dropping and rolling a ball to 1st base Wednedsay notwithstanding), but there's still a need to look out for standout performances; individuals playing above what their presumed talent-level is.
To paraphrase what @DanKveton said to me Wednesday on Twitter, the Sox need to succeed in some areas they're not expected to in order to turn those projections of 80-90 losses on their head. Dan suggested situational hitting and the bullpen, and before getting to those I would add the large selection of players in the lineup with the potential to swing either way; they have the talent to be assets, but also could falter and drag the team down with them.
De Aza, with his uncertain track record and huge role in the offense, certainly fits the bill. Wednesday's shot to dead center on a cold, blustery day provided further encouragement that he can counter his other deficiencies with power. There's nothing to his minor league stat line to suggest average-to-above average power on a year-to-year basis, but it's clearly not a strain for him to lift the ball out of the park, and he can add extra bases onto his hits with speed. It's speculation, but pop is the only element from his magical breakout last year that De Aza's put on display so far.
Every time Pierzynski homers it begs the question of why he doesn't do it more often. The raw power is there, and his home run stroke is an easy and compact motion that looks repeatable. It's also of the dead-pull variety, and Pierzynski doesn't offer pitchers a lot of reason to come into the lion's den in that way. The 18 HR Pierzynski hit in 2005 remain a career high, while the batting average and on-base percentage he sported that year were around career-lows. Since then he's swung all the way to the other pole, emphasizing contact. For A.J. to have a big year at the plate, it would not be entirely unexpected due to his age, but is more likely to be predicated on better luck on balls in play and a high batting average, not power.
More rest for the 35 year-old Pierzynski certainly won't hurt. Prior to the snow-out, Ventura was planning on playing Tyler Flowers on Tuesday night, which would have been the earliest in a season a backup catcher has gotten his 2nd start since A.J.'s tenure began.
- The Sox bullpen remains off to a sterling start with only 3 ER allowed in 13 IP along with 11 K. The ding today came under the watch of Will Ohman, who you just can't take the LOOGY out of. The Indians have a lefty-dominated lineup that provides the most forgivable scenario for allowing Ohman to pitch for a longer stretch, but his platoon splits were just too strong Wednesday. Ohman came in during the 6th to strike out the the left-handed Shin Soo Choo to end the inning. In the 7th, he served to turn around the switch-hitting Carlos Santana, but still walked him. He induced a groundout from left-handed Travis Hafner, then allowed a home run to right-handed Shelly Duncan, but recovered to retire left-handers Casey Kotchman and Jason Kipnis to end his work. His limitations are quite clear
- The White Sox offense redeemed themselves from their situational woes by hitting 6 for 9 with runners in scoring position Wednesday, tripling their total number of hits for the season. Two of those hits came via the homer, which is a simple--if not necessarily crafty--way of solving the problem. Sort of like bringing a pizza to a grade school potluck.