The problem for the White Sox, the problem that will probably end their season someday, is that their offense leaves them with too little margin for error. Any team that can post an ERA well under 3.00 for a 55-game stretch like the Sox have is going to win consistently, but with an offense that regularly places out 4 (4!) hitters with sub-.700 OPS’, the margin for error can be minimized to something like Paul Konerko not throwing home right away on a groundball with the bases loaded or Dayan Viciedo’s scorching line drive not getting over Felix Pie’s head, tipping them over to the L side.
Frequent complaints on CSN and elsewhere is that this Baltimore egg-laying version of the White Sox reminds them of the fitfully inconsistent and statistically dreadful April version of the South-Siders. The team that Cleveland owned. The team that played dramatic, evenly-matched contests against the Kansas City Royals. The team that gives away free tickets when you buy Alex Rios’ jerseys. That team was pretty much terrible in every aspect, and may have been lucky to be 24-33 after 57 games considering their offense was worse than the one currently causing panic, and Teahen’d ground balls all over the place.
In June, with all three elements of the team working simultaneously, the White Sox morphed into a borderline elite team, massacring shoddy, but MLB-quality National League squads. But now that their hitting has just scratched their way to 10 runs in 4 games against a team that usually allows that many in two, it’s safe to say that it’s on the downturn once more. It’s not going to stay there, but the fact of the matter is that the White Sox offense is significantly worse than that of the Twins. Their batters lead the league in WAR at 24.2 compared to the White Sox, who are 21st at 11.6. Conversely, White Sox pitching leads the league in WAR at 18.9, but the Twins are 3rd at 14.7. It totals to around 8 wins in favor of the Twinkies.
That’s a startling difference in favor of the Twins, but grossly misstates the gulf. The White Sox’ 1st place standing in pitching WAR clearly represents that they can carry themselves with hot mound performances, but have a margin of error that’s limited. They can’t be counted upon to overcome non-quality starts, or hit over unearned runs. Theoretically, they could pitch well enough to win the World Series, but would have to limit themselves mistake-wise to such an intense degree that it’s generally implausible. Without an additional bat, it seems like the Sox have slated themselves to try to gut out the division race, unless there’s a shocking uptick in production. Something like Konerko becoming 29 again, Quentin recapturing 2008, Alex Rios playing like it’s May again, or Andruw Jones being abducted, strapped to a chair and forced to watch Tom Emanski”s “Teaching the Mechanics of the Major League Swing” until his eyes bleed.
While the Orioles series is certainly discouraging, it didn’t do anything to discredit the White Sox basic construction, just further elucidated the lingering concern that even a phenomenally strong one-dimensional team, is still handicapped by being one dimensional.