As I started to type this post this morning it was announced that the White Sox are calling-up Carson Fulmer to work out of the bullpen aligning his future with that of Chris Sale. With that news and the “first half plus” coming to an end, I ask, what will the second half bring for the White Sox?
The key number for the White Sox is they are a negative 12 entering today’s play, and what I mean by that is they had a five game lead over the Indians on May 16 and now trail the Indians by 7 games. It was an epic collapse for a month, but since coming out that disaster they’ve won five of their last six series, and start out on a road trip that sets them up to continue their winning ways by playing the Angels and Mariners.
Why the turn around on getting back to winning ways? It starts with the pitching and that’s what the Sox have been getting from four of the their five starters, the odd man is the injured, Carlos Rodon, who seems to have lost his feel for the strike zone. When you miss in zone it leads to the usual problems like missing in the zone over the heart of the plate. You hold out hope since Rodon is nearly a full season in with his mid-year call-up last year that he will have another torrid finish as he did in 2015. If not, he maybe the Achilles heel that has the White Sox coming-up a bit short.
Moving on to DH, the other Achilles heel of the White Sox for the second half and is Justin Morneau the answer? Not sure, he was hitting .310 with four homers over 182 games before he went down with his elbow injury in 2015, which I would take because he could turn into an RBI machine if they bat him lower in the order where Avisail Garcia has failed miserably.
Along the same line as DH, the Sox have been dealing with a lack of power from Jose Abreu as he’s batting roughly 26 points lower than he should be, but has produced with runners on scoring position driving in 52. So, he hasn’t been terrible, but he needs to be Abreu and start hitting some more bombs because 11, 86 games into the season is well off his pace of 30. The major positive that trended into the all-star break his WAR went from a negative 0.9 to a positive 0.9 thus showing a upward trend. If he gets it going the Sox can easily catch the Indians. There’s no doubt his improved performance aided in the Sox turnaround.
It seems inevitable at this point that Avi Garcia is going to be part of a trade in the next few weeks, as he still has a lot of upside, but what are the Sox going to trade for? With the promotion of Carson Fulmer my thought resides in another bat with a starter being a distant second.
With Dr. Don Cooper turning around Big Game James its provided the Sox with a BIG THREE for the second half, but you still need a solid 4th. It could be second half starter, Miguel Gonzalez, as he may have found his groove based on this performance over the last six starts he’s had two complete disasters against the Tigers and Blue Jays where he allowed 15 runs over 8.2 innings, on the flipside of that he only allowed 4 runs over 26.2 in his other four starts against the Astros, Nationals, Red Sox, and Yankees. Solid numbers against solid hitting teams, so when I see that it sways me into thinking the Sox will seek a bat.
I’m sticking to my guns that the bat will either be Carlos Gonzales or Jay Bruce sending Garcia, and a top ten prospect from the Sox. If the move is CARGO, I’m assuming some cash will come the Sox way, probably not as much of pick pocket as the Shields trade, but something to offset the $20 Million next season. Either moves fits into the Sox 2-year window and gives them the horses to make a solid run.
So, I do believe the Sox have the ability to make run at a playoff spot, but a lot will hinge on how they come out of the gates starting tonight against the Angels, and even bigger than that winning within their division. I like the way they’ve aligned the team to have success in the Central in the second half.
The other advantage the Sox have for a Wildcard birth is they have a winning record against the AL East this year with a .647 winning percentage providing them the confidence for a one-game playoff.