The Cleveland Indians take the field against the Chicago White Sox tonight to kick off their final series of the season. So before we hear “Play ball!” at Progressive Field for the third-last time in 2012, I talked to CSN Chicago‘s JJ Stankevitz, who has done us the honor of answering some questions about the White Sox before each and every Cleveland vs. Chicago matchup this year. JJ was kind enough to offer his thoughts on the White Sox’ fading playoff hopes, what to expect in Chicago if they make the postseason, and who we might not see in a White Sox uniform come 2013.
- The White Sox’ elimination number in the AL Central is down to one game. Can they pull out a playoff berth?
Unless Detroit completely tanks it, no. But the way the Sox are playing, they probably don’t have three wins in them to close out the year — and even if they did, they’ll have to win a one-game playoff in Detroit, which would be started by Justin Verlander. So…yeah, it’d be a real shock if they did.
At the end of August, Baseball Prospectus put Chicago’s playoff odds as high as 92%. How did the White Sox’ fortunes change so drastically in just five weeks?
They ran out of gas. The pitching hasn’t been the problem, the Sox have just stopped hitting with runners in scoring position. There’s some bad luck involved there, but the late-season issues of guys like Kevin Youkilis, Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn and A.J. Pierzynski have hurt. Those four guys were huge in getting the Sox into great playoff position late in August, but just couldn’t keep it going through September.
- Let’s assume the White Sox do end up in the postseason. Is this team built to play deep into October?
Oddly enough, yes. They have two strong starters in Chris Sale and Jake Peavy, and Gavin Floyd has pitched well since coming off the disabled list. Defensively, they’re solid, and enough weird stuff has happened in short playoff series that I think they could’ve made a legit World Series run this year.
- How different will the White Sox look when our teams first meet in 2013? Who’s gone, and what fresh faces might we see in their stead?
There’s probably going to be plenty of turnover, with A.J. Pierzynski, Kevin Youkilis and Jake Peavy all set to hit free agency. Gavin Floyd and Matt Thornton may not have their options exercised, either. The Sox don’t have much in the way of guys you haven’t seen to fill those spots — Charlie Leesman could be a dark horse rotation candidate, but that’s it — so if the Sox go the internal route, guys like Tyler Flowers and Hector Santiago may jump into larger roles. Most likely, though, they’ll look to address most of their needs via free agency or offseason trades.
- Give us a quick scouting report on the pitchers the Indians will see this series.
Hector Santiago had a rough go in his last start against Cleveland, but he’s still angling for a 2013 rotation spot and this is his last opportunity to showcase himself this year. Jake Peavy and Gavin Floyd could be making their final starts in a White Sox uniform, although both could definitely return in 2013 and beyond — Peavy’s been outstanding in a big bounceback year, while Floyd’s still the same up-and-down guy he’s been for the last few years. Even if the Sox are out of the playoff picture, each of these pitchers has an incentive to finish strong for their 2013 prospects, whether they’re in Chicago or elsewhere.
- What’s your prediction for the series and the rest of the White Sox’ season?
At this point, a 1-2 finish seems likely. The Sox are limping, playing arguably their worst baseball of the season, and nothing has seemed to re-energize them in the final few weeks of the season.