Suffice it to say that the Chicago White Sox surprised pretty much everyone this April. As I’ve said before, it doesn’t look like they will become the awful 95-loss team that analysts predicted. Going into May, their record of 12-11 has them vying for first place in the AL Central.
It is true that the Sox were in contention last year before the Detroit Tigers got red-hot, but this 2012 team already has me feeling better than last season. Our consistently good players continue to be…well, consistently good. Add that to the fact that several other players are enjoying a much needed rebound and you have a team that could be atop the division at the All-Star Break.
If I’m going to talk about what’s going right for the White Sox, obviously the team captain will headline this category. Not to sound like a broken record, but Konerko continues to be an absolute beast. Recently named AL Player of the Week, Konerko has been simply crushing the ball. During the beginning of a season when many players enjoy bloated stats, Konerko is still batting .369 with 5 HR and 16 RBIs. In this respect, he continues to set himself apart from the rest of the pack. Hopefully those RBIs increase as the rest of the lineup finds its groove.
The former Cy Young winner looks like a new man this season. Due to a string of injuries, he’s been lackluster to say the least since his acquisition in 2009. However, having already thrown two complete games this year, Peavy possesses a 1.67 ERA along with a very impressive 33:5 strikeout to walk ratio. Also positive to note is he has only allowed one home run in 37 innings of work, which demonstrates his excellent control of the zone. If this continues, the Sox rotation could end up being one of the best in the league.
Brent Morel and Gordon Beckham
I’ve grouped these two players together because they’re in the relatively same predicament. They’re each extremely strong defensive players that are having major problems at the plate. In fact, it is their stellar defense that may be the only thing keeping them in the lineup. They each have batting averages below .200 and only have 7 RBIs between the two of them. Hats off to Robin Ventura for being supportive and standing by his players, but if their numbers don’t improve in a few weeks, you can be sure that utility player Brent Lillibridge will be seeing some more action. Admittedly, I’ve never been on the Gordon Beckham bandwagon, but I desperately want to be proven wrong. It would be great to have another franchise player in an infield that already has the sure glove of Alexei Ramirez.
On the Rebound?
After only having 44 RBIs in the 2011 campaign, Rios already has nine to go along with his .295 BA. Obviously it is still somewhat early and his numbers could easily go down, but Rios has really been shining this year in key spots. It is nice to see him make the occasional contribution despite still being in the bottom half of the lineup.
Don’t look now, but Dunn’s bat is actually driving in runs. His 16 RBIs and 5 homers ties him with Paul Konerko. Yes, it would be nice to have him strikeout a bit less and to have the average rise some more, but let’s not be unreasonable here. The key thing is that there is noticeable improvement. He is taking pitches he would have swung at last season and he is making much better contact. Dunn’s bat is essential to a White Sox playoff run. If he can stay productive, then the 1…2…3… punch of Dunn, Konerko, and Pierzynski will be very dangerous to opposing pitchers.
All this being said, the Sox are looking ahead to May. 21 of the 29 games this month are against division opponents. Games against division rivals are always important, but the Sox have had problems these last few years winning these contests. Fortunately, they are 5-1 this year against their American League counterparts and if that continues, the Southsiders could easily be 4 or 5 games in first by the time June rolls around.