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White Sox Thu Apr 21 2011

Skid Keeps on Skidding for White Sox

white sox.gifWell, this looks bad.

The 2011 "All In" White Sox dropped their seventh straight game last night. It has been so much of the same mediocrity for the past week that all the games are beginning to blend into one. So much so that my after-work routine has become the same thing every night: get home, strap it down, watch three hours of baseball, shuffle over to my fridge, scrawl an "L" on my Sox calendar, go to bed and repeat. It's like Groundhog Day but with a sad sack offense in place of Bill Murray.

Last night, Ozzie felt so bad for putting us in this rut that he dropped Dunn to the fifth spot in the lineup just to spice up our relationship. It didn't work.

Where are the bats from the first two weeks of the season? Before the bullpen and defense started melting down regularly, the offense was white hot, averaging 6.9 runs and 11.4 hits in the first nine games.

Gordon Beckham has been emblematic of the sudden decline. Against the Indians, Royals and Rays, he was reminding fans why we had so much hope for his future, posting a .964 OPS. Now, in this seven-game skid, he's 3-for-33 with a .212 OPS.

Alex Rios has been even less fortunate. When the Sox started slow last year, the veteran center fielder was a ray of hope in April before exploding in May. This season he's a reason to cringe, hitting .183 with a .505 OPS.

All signs point to a chronic case of turf toe as the root cause of Rios' disparaging lack of effectiveness, so hopefully Ozzie will wise up and give him some rest before Alex is looking up at a pitcher's batting average.

Sadly, a .183 average is not the worst among players who carry high expectations. Lower still is the appendix-free Adam Dunn who has more than twice as many strikeouts (18) as hits (7). It's hard to tell if the surgery left him missing something or if maybe the American League is just too daunting a place for a Big Donkey. Or most likely, it's just a bad start.

When the Sox unveiled their new power slugger in Cleveland, he unleashed a towering shot to right field in the second game launching the ball with little (apparent) effort. Post-surgery, every swing is laborious and when he makes contact, it's usually a lazy dribbler or a pop fly. Last night's lineup shakeup seemed to help a little, as he smacked a double in an otherwise inconsequential performance.

All is not lost though: Carlos Quentin is off to a tremendous start, hitting a.309 with four homers and a league-best 10 doubles, while Paul Konerko has picked up where he left off last season as the linchpin of the offense.

The starting rotation has done its job, even in the absence of Jake Peavy. Even the utilitarian Phil Humber has quality starts in two of his three starts so far. And while unburdened by the pressure of having to maintain a lead, the bullpen has been adequate. Even Will Ohman, the former Cub who got booed at the home opener, has only given up one run in his past five appearances. (He was used as a LOOGY three of these times, which hopefully tells his skipper something.)

"All In" can be written off as just another two-word marketing ploy (much like One Goal or See Red), but the fact is the Sox brass was making a statement. Now, with all their chips on the table, the team is 7-11 and six games behind the rampaging Indians. They don't get a day off until May 5, and they've got nine games against the Tigers, Yankees and Twins in the meantime.

While the Twins are off to an equally inauspicious start, a futile April is exactly what kept the Sox nipping at their heels last year. It would be nice to take the proverbial bull by the horns for once, but first the Good Guys are going to have to start winning some games.

Before we go, I'd like to share a few predictions. The day before the season started, my Cubs fan father and I made some guesses at how our respective teams would do this summer. For the Sox, I picked a breakout player, the ace and a long shot. Let's see how I am doing:

Breakout Player: I predicted Beckham would shrug off his 2010 anxieties, and hit at least .280/.380/.450 this season. By breakout, I didn't mean all-star necessarily, just a player who had a significantly better season than last year. This prediction was based largely on his performance during the second half of last season. Right now he is hitting .222/.269/.361. So, um, there's room for improvement.

Ace: I thought for sure John Danks would rack up at least 18 wins this season. I thought this was the safest bet of all. So far, Danks has been giving us the kind of performances that would warrant such a call, but sadly his team has not backed him up, leaving him currently winless. Danks has been the victim of three separate bullpen meltdowns and his last start, in which he only allowed only two runs over seven innings, he was left hung out to dry by his offense.

Long shot: Maybe it was getting caught up in the hype, maybe it was the beer, but my long shot on March 31 was that Konerko, Dunn, and *ahem* Rios would combine for a whopping 110 home runs by the end of the season. I didn't actually expect this to happen, but I thought it would have been great to see a newly revived power offense unleash its fury all season. Right now these three players are on pace for about 60 if they're lucky. So again, there's room for improvement.

 
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