It was a good opening month for the Tribe, and Cleveland (11-9) will start the month of May by hitting the road for a three-game series in Chicago. The White Sox (11-11) took both games in the snow-shortened series in their first visit to Progressive Field this year, and the Indians will look to take their revenge this week.
As we wait for the action to get underway at U.S. Cellular, I talked to CSN Chicago‘s JJ Stankevitz to get an expert’s take on the Indians’ hosts. JJ was kind enough to offer his thoughts on the White Sox’ playoff hopes, Adam Dunn‘s bounceback, and what Cleveland should look for this week.
WAHOO’S ON FIRST: The White Sox are only one game back in the AL Central, albeit because the division leading Indians are only 11-9. Has the first month of the season changed your opinion about the odds of Chicago making the playoffs?
JJ STANKEVITZ: Nope. The White Sox, overall, are who we thought they are — an average team that needs a few breaks to go in their favor to contend. They’ve gone about it in streaky fashion going from four-game winning streaks to five-game losing streaks or dropping three of four to Baltimore. But overall, the final product was about what most expected at the end of the month.
WAHOO’S ON FIRST: Looks like you were right about Adam Dunn having a comeback year—he’s got an .881 OPS so far. Can he keep up this pace all season?
JJ STANKEVITZ: Absolutely. Everyone still seems to focus on his strikeouts — which, so far, are in line with last year’s percentage — but he already has five home runs, nearly half his 2011 total. It’s too early to call him cured, but he sure looks like it through April.
WAHOO’S ON FIRST: My preseason prediction that Brent Morel would be 2012′s top breakout player looks quite silly now that he’s hitting .178 with a .426 OPS. Is there any reason to think he could turn it around?
JJ STANKEVITZ: That it’s early? As Bill Melton said over the weekend, he’s become extremely defensive at the plate, which has only made things worse. April has been a vicious cycle for Morel, who started off with a four-strikeout game against Texas and has looked tentative, defensive, and just lost at the plate through the season’s first month. The good news for him is the Sox don’t have a viable replacement (unless you consider Dallas McPherson or Conor Jackson one) to take his spot on the roster, so he — and Gordon Beckham — will probably be given a lot of rope to fix their issues.
WAHOO’S ON FIRST: Has Jake Peavy looked as good as his 1.67 ERA suggests?
JJ STANKEVITZ: It’d be lazy to say this is the Peavy of old — yeah, he’s succeeding like he did in San Diego, but he’s doing it in a completely different way. This isn’t the blow-it-by-you 9 K/9 Peavy of five years ago — this is the limit-walks-keep-hitters-off-balance version of Peavy. His strikeout and walk numbers are almost exactly in line with last year’s rates, but it looks like he’s finally made the adjustment to being a new kind of pitcher. His command has been outstanding, and if he can stay healthy (a big if), he could have a huge, huge season.
WAHOO’S ON FIRST: Who’s pitching for Chicago, and what should Tribe fans look for from them?
JJ STANKEVITZ: Chris Sale‘s transition to the rotation couldn’t have gone better in the early stages, as he leaves April with a 2.87 FIP. His peripherals look great, so it’s all systems go for the 23-year-old lefty.
Philip Humber‘s had an up-and-down season, to say the least — his perfect game was sandwiched between a trying, but not terrible, start against Baltimore and a terrible start against Boston.
And the series closes out with John Danks, who admitted he’s “pitched like s**t” at times this season and has been absolutely killed by walks. A good start to kick off May would probably be beneficial for the $65 million dollar man.
WAHOO’S ON FIRST: What’s your prediction for the series?
JJ STANKEVITZ: I’ll say two of three to the White Sox, because the Sox have seemingly played their best right after playing their worst.