By Mauricio Rubio
Forget last night’s loss to the Baltimore Orioles.
The White Sox look like they have a solid bullpen, and their starting rotation held a potent Detroit Tigers offense to 8 runs over a three game series as they took 2 of 3 from the Tigers at home. Opening day starter Jake Peavy dominated with 6.2 strong innings and Gavin Floyd followed it up with 6 innings of scoreless baseball to take the early season series. Chris Sale struggled with command to close out the series. He was frequently missing his spots on Sunday as he had trouble spotting the breaking stuff. His repertoire is nasty, but it will be interesting to see how he holds up over the course of a season. He is being asked to ramp up his work load from last year as the Sox hope he can pitch 150 innings. He’s looked solid to start the year, save for Sunday’s start, but he needs to keep it up all year.
The ‘pen gave up 2 ER over 9.1 innings of work in the series as they continue to make the case of being the best bullpen in the AL. Hector Santiago and his magic screwball solidifies the backend of the bullpen that features a decent stable of power arms in Addison Reed, Jesse Crain, and Matt Thornton. Thornton looks to bounce back from a lost season and regain his reputation as the best left handed reliever in baseball. Speculation was that they would give him the closers role once again, but I don’t think Hector Santiago is a bad choice at all. Overall, the White Sox pitching staff had a solid series. They held the Fielder/Cabrera combo in check as they had 2 hits all series, both by Prince.
Adam Dunn looks like he’s back. The bat speed is there. To be clear, “back” for Adam Dunn is a .240 average with a lot of walks, strikeouts, and home runs. His OPS is sitting at .757, which is still down from his career average, but Sox fans should find encouragement in his improved strike zone judgment and his bat speed. He’s capable of hitting the fastball now, something that was alarmingly absent last year.
Paul Konerko is hitting .387 on the young season and he put together a decent series against the Tigers, as he went 3-11 with a homer and 2 RBIs.
The offense did enough to win this series, but there are some alarming trends to look out for. Brent Morel looks lost at the plate. He never had the most amazing plate control and he finds himself in too many pitcher’s counts to be successful. He’s hitting .115 early on and will need to improve to justify penciling him in to the lineup everyday. His glove can only carry his bat so far. Gordon Beckham is also struggling. His OPS is .467, and his anemic batting average is dragging down any value he’s adding with his glove. He is amongst the best defensive 2B in the game, but his bat is hurting right now and he’ll need to fix that to stay in the lineup.
Moving forward the White Sox will need to score to stay relevant in the AL Central. I still don’t think they will win the division, but if they plan to, they’ll need to hit home runs. Historically, since moving to US Cellular Field the White Sox have made the playoffs 4 times. The last 3 times they qualified for postseason play they hit at least 200 home runs. The Cell is a cozy ballpark, and other teams will take advantage of it. If the starting pitching holds up and they can get real contributions from their question mark players, they will be in contention late in the year. The problem is that they have too many question marks in the lineup. You don’t know what Alex Rios will give you, Brent Morel looks absolutely lost right now, and while Beckham is slick with the glove, he has to hit to justify him being out there everyday. The Sox are off to a good start, but to maintain that they will need to continue to hit.