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White Sox Sun Jul 11 2010

Sox Power Surge is No Surprise

SoxLogoSmall.jpegIt seemed likely, when the season was at its lowest ebb, that the White Sox weren't quite as bad as they'd looked so far. Even with a fair number of veterans on the down slope of their careers, the idea of regression to the mean suggested they wouldn't be this bad all summer.

But no one expected 25 wins in 30 games, a brilliant run that concluded triumphantly with a 15-5 win Sunday against Kansas City to finish off a perfect seven-game homestand and send the Sox into the All-Star break in playoff pole position. They now lead second-place Detroit by one-half game in the AL Central and Minnesota by three and a half.

Sunday's winning formula, moreover, was fueled by five Chicago home runs -- four in the third inning -- which fit nicely with one of the more puzzling memes we've seen from Sox observers in recent weeks. Are there really smart people out there who are surprised to see these guys hitting home runs by the bunches?

This is a lineup anchored by Paul Konerko, Carlos Quentin, Alex Rios, Alexis Ramirez, A.J. Pierzynski and (on his good days) Andruw Jones. And yet Doug Padilla at ESPNChicago.com marveled this weekend -- before Sunday's explosion, even -- at the recent uptick in home runs:

This was supposed to be a club built around small ball, using a roster that was preferred by manager Ozzie Guillen. On-base percentage, situational hitting and clutch RBIs were supposed to be their trademark. ...

Home runs weren't exactly going to disappear this year, but it was thought they wouldn't be relied on so heavily. It seems, though, that at some point on the road to regaining their identity, the White Sox have grown comfortable flexing their muscles.

This is one of the problems with covering 162 games: It's often difficult to resist the urge to draw conclusions from small sample sizes. You've got to write about something, and when you're dealing with a manager who loves to talk about Doing the Little Things, it's tempting to advance the notion that this is a different White Sox team, a small-ball group. (Not that I've ever understood what that means, especially for an American League team, other than "This team struggles to score runs.")

That storyline seemed vindicated by an early power outage, but this is and always was a slugging lineup. The White Sox haven't reinvented themselves or consciously returned to a "power" brand of offense. They've simply started hitting home runs at a rate commensurate with their past performance.

Now, with a 49-38 record, the Sox rank seventh in baseball with 95 home runs. Home runs account for 13.1 percent of their hits, the game's fifth-highest percentage. This is a surprise? With Konerko and Quentin and Rios and Ramirez and Pierzynski and a brawny bunch of role players led by Jones and Dayan Viciedo?

This gorilla ball wasn't unexpected. It just took a while to arrive.

 

The 100 Bar Project / July 12, 2010 6:18 AM

It seems every season we hear about "small ball" or "Ozzie ball" but year in and year out, the Sox tend to rely on the long ball, and after witnessing Sunday's barrage, we love it.

Jim Reedy / July 12, 2010 3:27 PM

So far, so good. It's great to win close games with clutch hits -- that's what separates a great season from a special season -- but the wide majority of playoff-bound teams win games by decisive margins, whether that be 6-0 or 10-4. If you're winning 1-0 and 2-1 every night, that's good fortune as much or more than skill.

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