It's well-worn narrative ground that the 2012 White Sox playoff candidacy is a product of almost everything going right. Bounce-backs from Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, Jake Peavy, a career year from A.J. Pierzynski, surprise competence from Jose Quintana, surprise dominance from Chris Sale, etc., etc.
But Dewayne Wise has to be the best example of the "It's just their year" phenomenon. Pretty much nothing about Wise's ascent to regular playing time was a managerial decision I agreed with, nor would like to see set as precedent.
- He was a 34 year-old, no-hit, good glove, left-handed fourth outfielder replacing the exactly same type of player, except eight years younger.
- He was inserted into the top of the batting order, because Ventura prioritized regular roles over lineup optimization
- In a full embrace of the hot-hand fallacy, he has nearly usurped the man who has been the everyday center fielder and leadoff man
- He's started against a few left-handed pitchers, which is just a terrible idea.
But Robin Ventura has not been punished for this progression of decisions, he's been rewarded--handsomely. Wise went 3 for 5 with a double and two RBI, and moved his batting line as a White Sox up to .298/.328/.488. Sports Illustrated gets a lot of grief for predicting 95 losses for the South siders, but they probably didn't factor in the possibility of ~130 magical plate appearances from a Quad-A lifer.
Also, the chances that said Quad-A lifer could run into a foolish out, wipe an insurance run off the board, and not have it be the defining moment of a short tenure with the team is pretty fortunate as well
Other notes from the biggest game to date
-That opening up a three-game lead over Detroit feels like a breakthrough only shows how close the race has been for the last two months. The Sox are still one short funk from blowing their advantage, and there'll be plenty of opportunity for that during the next week in Kansas City and Los Angeles.
But the primary advantage for the Tigers (head-to-head play), has been taken out of the equation for the year. Without that, there aren't many other numbers willing to stand with Detroit. Cool Standings now places the Sox as more likely to win their division than the Texas Rangers, and the magic number is 14 with 16 games to play. Also, we've reached the point of acknowledging magic numbers.
-Speaking of good fortune, Addison Reed is probably pretty fortunate to be 27 for 31 in save opportunities considering his 4.88 ERA. His once-dominant slider is as far gone as ever, and his last two 9th inning appearances have featured...other pitchers--primarily Matt Thornton clearing out tough lefties.
If the last two games are any indication, Ventura isn't yanking Reed out of the role, but acknowledging his vulnerability. He cannot be allowed to hang himself in the name of development any longer, nor can he be placed in unfavorable matchups and be expected to transcend them. For all the bullpen shuffling from the new skipper, this policy seems well-calibrated.
-Nate Jones' streak of 15 scoreless appearances is fairly misleading--two appearances where he failed to retire a batter, and one where he retired one and walked three are mixed in there--but credit is due for the way he's powered through some mid-season malaise.
Jones eclipsed the 60 inning mark in his 2.2 inning appearance on Monday, and was still able to touch 100 mph. As the last player to make a team out of Spring Training that's gone through remarkable levels of bullpen turnover, Jones sticking on the roster all year long without so much as a DL stint is another unthinkable result. The 2.63 ERA is just gravy.
It all is, at this point.