- As of Sunday evening, the White Sox lead the Tigers by half a game in the AL Central. Can they hold onto the division? What has to go right for them over the next week-and-a-half?
The offense has to be better. There’s really not much else to it — the Sox scored a grand total of 11 runs, and it’s not too surprising they went 1-5 against Kansas City and Los Angeles. The pitching was good enough to at least salvage a split of those six games. The good news for the Sox, though, is they’ve handled Cleveland well this year (7.1 runs/game) and the offense has been much better at U.S. Cellular Field (5.3 runs/game) than on the road (3.9 runs/game). But if the offense can’t scoring, the Sox will probably have to rely on a Detroit collapse to get in the playoffs.
Per FanGraphs’ wins above replacement, the biggest contributor to Chicago’s surprising season is Alex Rios, whose 4.1 WAR total represents a five-win improvement over his miserable 2011 campaign. To what do you attribute his comeback?
A tweak in his stance has made him look incredibly more comfortable at the plate this year. There were times in 2011 when it looked like Rios was going to fall over in the batter’s box — he had absolutely no balance last year — but he’s swinging with plenty of authority this year. Value-wise, moving to right field has been key, too — I’d say he’s been a little above average this year, whereas last year he was a disaster in center field. He’s the White Sox MVP this year, no doubt, and deserves just as much recognition for comeback player of the year as Adam Dunn and Jake Peavy.
- Speaking of rebounding players, Adam Dunn avenged his awful 2011 season with a torrid first couple months of 2012, but he’s since cooled off in a big way and is hitting .188 with a .696 OPS since June 17. What happened?
Good observation. Looking at his spray chart and contact numbers, there doesn’t appear to be a huge difference between April 6-June 16 and June 17-Sept. 23. Best I can say from watching him in that he’s not driving the same pitches he was driving earlier in the year — either mistakes or ones he was sitting on — and why that is, I’m not sure. Just as hurtful, though, has been Paul Konerko‘s issues. He only has a .734 OPS since the start of June, which certainly isn’t ideal coming from the No. 4 spot in the order.
Give us a quick scouting report on the pitchers the Indians will see this week.
Chris Sale hasn’t been dominant — like Cy Young-worthy — in his last few starts, but he’s nonetheless been pretty good. Efficiency has been a bit of an issue, as he hasn’t thrown seven full innings since Aug. 22 despite topping 99 pitches in all but one of his five starts in that span.
Francisco Liriano‘s still an enigma. He went from a rough relief appearance against Detroit to nearly no-hitting his former club, them dominated Kansas City early on before running into troubles that cut his start short last week. If he’s not walking anyone, he’ll avoid a disaster and probably keep the Sox in Tuesday’s game, but if his control isn’t there Ventura won’t wait around to see if he finds it.
Jake Peavy is scheduled to start Wednesday, although that could be pushed back. If he does start Thursday instead, the best guess is Hector Santiago will start. He’s only allowed one run in nine innings covering two major-league starts this year, the product of him mixing his pitches better than when he was trying to blow opponents away in the bullpen.
- What’s your prediction for the series?
Sox take two of three, finally making a move in what has been a war of attrition atop the AL Central.