Fresh off winning a three-game set against the Astros this weekend, the Cleveland Indians head to Chicago to face the White Sox on their home turf for the first time this year. So I talked to the always-delightful James Fegan, Editor of Southside Showdown, about the White Sox’ slow start, Brent Morel‘s collapse, and Alejandro De Aza‘s Konerko-like ability to tear the cover off the ball against the Tribe.
You can also read my answers to James’ questions here.
Wahoo’s on First: Three weeks in, the White Sox are in the basement of the AL Central. Are you nervous at all?
James Fegan: What? Me worry about the team with fringy playoff hopes that needs everything to break right sputtering to an awful start? Hahahaa, come now, this isn’t my first rodeo, partner. Say, can you pass me a tissue? I’m bleeding a little bit out of one of my eyes again.
It’s too early—I hear, from reputable sources—to worry about game results at this stage, but I can worry about causes. The cause is the offense!
Adam Dunn is looking 2011-level dreadful while trying to implement a more aggressive approach. He was dying a slow death in his performance with his old ways, but unless he shows that swinging earlier and being less selective is actually going to improve his contact rate, I’d prefer that to the quick and gruesome death he’s going through now.
Even before Dunn tap-danced off the edge of the planet, the White Sox badly needed Dayan Viciedo to develop into a middle-of-the-order masher. Scouts spoke highly of him in Spring, but he was still very much in the process of figuring things out for the first two weeks, now he’s hurt, not getting better, and getting replaced by either Dewayne Wise and Jordan Danks. Likely neither one is a major leaguer and one of them is old. Hey! Who stress-ate this entire wheel of cheese while I was writing this paragraph!?!
Wahoo’s on First: Last year, I picked Brent Morel to have a breakout season; now he’s in the minors. Is there any hope for him?
James Fegan: Well, he’s on the DL again with an unknown injury after missing most of the last season with back problems. He’s already hard-up for opportunities to get playing time with Jeff Keppinger signed through 2015 and Carlos Sanchez in the wings, and he just missed a big one by getting hurt. Keppinger is playing second base while Gordon Beckham is out with a broken hamate bone and Morel would be an obvious choice as a platoon partner with Conor Gillaspie if he were healthy.
It’s not like he was setting the world on fire in Charlotte—he hasn’t since 2010, really—but this seems like a rare opportunity for him to be put in a real position to shine and he’s missing it. He has plenty of time to get well and still see some run and I suspect he will, since the White Sox bench assortment makes zero sense right now.
September 2011 was forever ago, though.
Wahoo’s on First: Do you have any explanation for why Alejandro De Aza tears the cover off the ball against the Indians but is a below-average hitter against anyone else?
James Fegan: If you’re referring to his career, it’s because Alejandro’s spent most of his 20’s being a feckless fourth outfielder who struggled to hold down a regular job before blossoming as a solid-average center fielder at the end of 2011. We’re taking in late-night screenings at the small sample size theater looking at team splits, but he killed the Royals last year, loves the right field porch at Yankee Stadium, and like every member of the White Sox, murders the Seattle Mariners like he’s avenging war crimes…yannow, if that sort of thing makes you feel better.
He’s a lefty and you guys have been without a lefty starter for a while. This year he’s been having a lot of trouble being out in front of breaking stuff down and in, and the only thing he’s done this season is run into a few dingers…two of them happened to be against Cleveland.
Wahoo’s on First: Who’s pitching for the White Sox this week and what should Tribe fans look for from them?
James Fegan: Dylan Axelrod—right-handed nibbler who likes to work low and away from same-handed hitters, now he’s facing the lefty-hitting Indians who are near the top of the AL in walk rate. I’ve felt better about matchups, but the same thing was said before every good start in Axelrod’s career.
Jose Quintana—His command snapped into form last weekend in Cleveland, his velocity uptick of recent is of mild interest and he actually flashed some useful breaking stuff his last time out against Toronto. This guy’s a back-end starter and inconsistent, but will become interesting if he keeps missing bats, especially if he misses bats in a way that seems less fluky than “throws an 89 mph heater helmet-high.”
Chris Sale—A pacing approach that sees him work less off of mid-90’s heat and throwing 50% off-speed stuff works a lot less if his sliders are flat on a given day. I don’t think he’s top 5 in the AL if he can’t work off his fastball more, but I suppose he thinks he has a better chance to earn his contract that way. He looked better in Toronto last week after getting eviscerated by you guys, but the pitcher from the first half of 2012 hasn’t shown up yet.
Wahoo’s on First: What’s your prediction for the series?
James Fegan: What’s the state of mind of the average opposing team blogger that picks his team to lose the series—in mid-April? It can’t be good, right? Sox two out of three, or else.