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White Sox Fri May 11 2012

What to Make of the White Sox

This has been a confounding White Sox season so far.

Sometimes, they look good. They look like a postseason-contending team when Adam Dunn is driving the ball, when Jake Peavy is dominating on the hill, when Konerko is putting up a stream of 2-for-4s, when Philip Humber is literally unhittable, and when the entire lineup chips in - Wednesday's 8-1 win over Cleveland was an example of that.

But then again, the Sox can look pretty bad, like they are truly a 72-win team masquerading as a .500 (or better) squad. Prior to their last two wins over the Indians, the Sox had a stretch where they were 3-11, and their current record is 15-17.

The bullpen hasn't been great, with the closer spot being shifted around and around. Hector Santiago worked himself out of the closer role due to blowing a few saves (including one to the Athletics). Matt Thornton then found himself in a couple of save situations, and blew one of them. Manager Robin Ventura then moved Chris Sale to closer, and he promptly gave up the lead against the Indians on Tuesday (though the Sox did win). Now, it appears that Sale may or may not have arm issues, so the closer role can continue to be in flux. The big silver lining is that other guys in the pen - Addison Reed, Nate Jones and Zach Stewart - have been mostly good this season, with only a combined four earned runs (Reed has allowed zero runs in 2012).

Humber has been inconsistent in 2012, to say the least. Of course, he has his perfect game, and another strong outing against Baltimore in mid-April. But since then he's had two horrendous starts - nine runs in five innings against Boston, and eight runs in just over two innings against Cleveland. Also, while Jake Peavy and Gavin Floyd have pitched well this year, John Danks isn't where he needs to be. Danks had a 5.89 ERA and a 2-4 record, and he's not striking guys out like he usually does (5.3 K/9 ratio in 2012, compared to his career average of 6.9). If Sale stays in the bullpen, the Sox have to hope someone like Dylan Axelrod can be a competent fifth starter.

The batting order has been consistent for the Sox this year, with Alejandro De Aza leading off, and Dunn, Konerko, AJ Pierzynski and Alex Rios usually hitting 3-4-5-6. But production from the #2 spot has been lacking. Alexei Ramirez has a .160 OBP hitting second this year, and Brent Morel, Brent Lillibridge and Gordon Beckham have all been slotted there. It feels like the lineup is slightly out of whack when the number two guy is always changing (and worse, never hitting well). Beckham, though, filled the two spot the last three games, and has shown some flashes this month. He has had a couple three hit games and a pair of home runs, and he has been scoring runs in May.

Chicago enters another lull in their schedule, with upcoming series against the Royals (currently 11-19), Angels (14-18), Cubs (13-18) and Twins (8-22). This is the time to figure spots and roles out, and see if they are in or out for 2012. It looks like Sale will be the closer (unless the MRI reveals an injury), but the White Sox should give Dylan Axelrod a better look at fifth starter. Though he had a solid game against the Tigers on Sunday, he was optioned to Triple-A soon after. And, unless the Sox want to go rouge with the second spot in the batting order (like placing Rios there), they should give Beckham a chance there, and see if he's truly a keeper for the future or someone they can jettison soon enough.

Once again, we play the waiting game with the White Sox. Hopefully, heading into their three-game weekend series against the Indians on May 25 we'll know if they have it in 2012 or not.

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