The Indians head to Chicago this weekend for yet another series against the White Sox. We know this team pretty well by now—this weekend will be the 10th, 11th, and 12th times that the two teams have squared off this year—but the match-up gave us an excuse to talk to CSN Chicago‘s JJ Stankevitz once again. Here’s what he had to say about Chicago’s playoff hopes, Alexei Ramirez‘ struggles, and Paul Konerko‘s red-hot start.
- Read my answers to JJ’s questions on CSNChicago.com.
Wahoo’s on First: The White Sox enter Thursday with a 22-22 record. Over-under on them maintaining a .500 record for the rest of the season?
JJ Stankevitz: I give them pretty decent odds. There still are a few kinks that need to be worked out in the rotation—namely, at the back with Philip Humber, since I’m confident John Danks will get better at some point after he comes off the disabled list—but as long as they stay healthy, this is a team that, yeah, will probably hang around .500. And if you hang around .500, you leave the door open for a playoff run with a winning streak here or there. Maybe they don’t wind up doing that, but they’re not going to go away quickly this season.
Wahoo’s on First: Paul Konerko is a great hitter, but it’s hard to take his ridiculous 2012 numbers seriously when he has a .420 BABIP. Can Tribe fans take comfort in knowing that Konerko will come back down to earth soon, or is there reason to think he might be able to sustain an extremely high hit rate?
JJ Stankevitz: No chance he keeps that ridiculous BABIP up, but when Konerko comes back to earth, he’s still someone to be feared. Right now, he’s on one of his classic “get hit in the face, get hot at the plate” streaks…but man, he’s just a treat to watch at the plate. Konerko is a damn professional hitter, and even when his BABIP regresses, he’s an outstanding anchor to the Sox lineup.
Wahoo’s on First: Alexei Ramirez has earned a reputation for being one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball, but his UZR is (slightly) negative so far this year. Is that just a fluke of the data or has Ramirez lost a step in the field?
JJ Stankevitz: Fluke of a super small sample. Ramirez still has as good of range as anyone, and his arm strength hasn’t lost anything. The concern with him is that we’re nearing Memorial Day and he still isn’t producing—in years past, Ramirez usually started to heat up around mid-May. That hasn’t happened yet, and as it stands he’s only a few ticks better than Brent Morel offensively. He’s been one of baseball’s more underrated players in recent seasons, but if he can’t get back to a roughly average level of offensive output, he’ll have no chance of leading the Sox in WAR for the third straight year.
Wahoo’s on First: Who’s pitching for the White Sox this weekend, and what should Cleveland fans expect from them?
JJ Stankevitz: You guys are about the only other ones who know about Jose Quintana, who threw 5 2/3 shutout innings in relief of Philip Humber earlier this month. He’ll start Friday with John Danks on the disabled list, probably because the White Sox want to get a lefty in against the Indians. Jake Peavy goes on Saturday, and he’s been maybe more impressive than Adam Dunn in terms of a comeback this season — he told me on Sunday he’s finally starting to accomplish what he hoped to do when he accepted the trade to the Sox in 2009. And Sunday, you’ll see Gavin Floyd, who re-ignited Albert Pujols‘ season and then was lit up by the Twins, who historically bomb him, earlier this week. He had been outstanding up until his start against the Angels but was probably due for a regression. Maybe that’s over and he’ll return to form on Sunday.
Wahoo’s on First: What’s your prediction for the series?
JJ Stankevitz: The Sox have won five of their last six, albeit against baseball’s two worst teams. Cleveland is a good test for where the Sox actually are right now, though, and I think they’re up to it. I’ll go with the Sox taking two of three.