As I read an interview with Paul Konerko this morning in the Chicago Tribune I realized that the White Sox would be more fun to watch this season than last season, especially since the expectation level is lower. Should it be?
At first glance I immediately say, yes! A season with 75-wins would be great for this team, but is that really accurate? Other than losing Mark Beuhrle have the White Sox lost all that much compared to last season? Let’s really break it down.
Ozzie Guillen is gone and that may be 5 -10 more wins for the White Sox this season. Konerko admitted that a lot of the Sox woes towards the end of the season were related to the Guillen/Kenny Williams drama, “…there was definitely sometimes late in the year last year, especially where there as probably games and days given away because of people worrying about things that were not related to the game of baseball.” Pretty ridiculous for professional players and managers but the good news is that sideshow is gone.
Carlos Quentin headed west and took his injuries with him. CQ only played in 117 games for the White Sox in 2011, but had a stat line of 24 homers and 77 RBIs, not too bad for only 117 games. The two biggest issues with CQ have been the aforementioned injury bug and his streakiness as a hitter. Half of his home runs last season were hit during an 11 game period between July 9 – 25, he only hit 12 homers over the other 106 games he played. The young Dayan Viciedo and Alejandro DeAza should breathe new life into the outfield. Viciedo has the ability to easily hit 24 home runs.
Sergio Santos was the most puzzling trade from a dollar and cents point of view, but not from a White Sox needs’ point of view. Trading Santos for the talented Nestor Molina was the right move as the Sox are in desperate need of starting pitching for the future. Santos is unproven, but seemed to have the raw talent to be a successful closer for years to come. The Sox have stock piled young arms this offseason, planning for the future for the first time in almost five years. Jessie Crain and Matt Thornton will be available to close games.
Juan Pierre… who cares? I already talked about Beuhrle.
So now I’ll move on to what the Sox have, they have a young managerially and coaching staff except for Don Cooper, Harold Baines, and Juan Nieves, Guillen left overs. There’s no love loss between Cooper and Guillen, but I see Cooper as a no-nonsense guy and with Guillen there was a ton on nonsense. Again, I will wait to pass judgment on Robin Ventura and his crew until mid-season. One thing’s for sure I like the fact that that catchers and pitchers are working out 90-minutes prior to the rest of team to fix the Sox getting more bases stolen on them any other team. According to AJ Pierzynski this was not a concern of the prior coaching staff. Really? While that seemed obvious it’s ridiculous to hear someone finally say it.
Then you have the “Trio of Terror;” Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, and Gordon Beckham. If these three guys hit then you will definitely see Smitty and I at the Cell on September 10 – 13 during a four game series against the Tigers. I look at like this, if Dunn and Rios produce 75% of their best years then the White Sox will not have any problems producing runs. Dunn would have 30 homers and 80 RBIs, while Rios would have 18 homers and 66 RBIs; both would be acceptable rebound years. For Beckham, he just needs to get back to driving the ball and hitting above .300, and the rest will fall into place. He was so deadly when he first came up because he covered the entire plate and hit to all fields.
Finally, you have three pitchers that are more than capable of winning at least 15-games each; Jake Peavy, John Danks, and Gavin Floyd. For Danks and Floyd it’s about keeping their concentration during key moments in games, but Peavy is all about health. He plans on pitching like he always has because that’s the only way he knows how to pitch, at least that’s his stance at the moment. When his two-seam fastball is moving he’s almost unhittable, the question is does he have enough giddy-up on his four-seamer to throw it bye hitters. We’ll find out soon enough.
I’m feeling a little more like the glass is half full versus half empty as Spring training kicks into full gear, but these mysterious questions surrounding the White Sox players could change that in a split second.
Let’s say the perfect storm occurs and everything that I mentioned happens, I would put the Sox at 88-90 victories and a possible Wild Card birth. Yes, only a Wild Card because those stacked Tigers should win at least 94 games this season. If not, then the Sox will probably be within five games of .500 on either side. Now is the time to dream. Go Sox!
But what about bunting?