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White Sox Wed Jul 11 2012

Forecast Looks Sunny for Surprising Sox

I've always been fascinated by the concept of "house money." Basically, it means that people are willing to take more risks with money (or intangible items like "success") that was unexpectedly obtained.

The question is, are the White Sox playing with house money for the rest of the season? You bet.

The White Sox are in first place right now, and they have been playing their best ball of 2012 over the last week. Kevin Youkilis, Adam Dunn and Jake Peavy have been rejuvenated, numerous young players are stepping up, and the team has strengths in every aspect of the game (hitting, pitching and fielding).

None of this was expected. The over/under for Sox wins this year was 74. Sports Illustrated had them finishing last in the AL Central. ESPN's Jayson Stark pegged the Sox as a team with no chance of playing in October.

In this regard, the Sox are definitely playing with house money. Before the season they looked like a textbook should-be-rebuilding team. But they have taken advantage of a weak division and has seen several players (Paul Konerko, Chris Sale, Jake Peavy, Addison Reed, A.J. Pierzynski and Youkilis, to name a few) play out of their minds this season, producing at a much higher rate than projected in spring training.

With no expectations, they can afford to be risky. They can be aggressive on the base paths, like they have been so far this season. Adam Dunn can swing for the fences and no one will protest his .208 batting average. Their rotation and bullpen can be filled with rookies, and have it pay off (not just Reed, but Nate Jones and Jose Quintana). They can acquire a guy like Youkilis, and Robin Ventura can do his thing as manager.

Chicago only leads Cleveland by three games and Detroit by three and a half games, but it really feels like 10 and 10.5 games. Those teams have been fairly disappointing this season. I figure the Sox aren't in too much trouble the rest of the way. Detroit has some talented players, but they haven't been able to put it together at all this year. Cleveland is middle of the road in both pitching and hitting.

The Sox, meanwhile, are clicking right now, and if John Danks returns and gives them anything, it will be a bonus. If he doesn't return soon, the White Sox will reportedly look to add another starting pitcher before the deadline. This was #1 on my wish list for the Sox, because while Dylan Axelrod has been all right for the Sox, he can be replaced the rest of the way. While adding Cole Hamels or Zack Greinke will be a stretch due to the weak Sox farm system, trading for someone like Ryan Dempster, Anibal Sanchez or Edinson Volquez is more realistic.

Other than that, and maybe acquiring another bullpen arm (can't have enough of those), I would say the Sox are set. If they need anything, they can claim a guy off waivers or make a trade in August. As of now though, they have a nice lineup, good rotation, and a few guys who can close out the game in the late innings. They're set for a run in October.

My prediction the rest of the way: Sox pick up a starter, trade for or sign a veteran reliever or two, and don't touch the lineup. In September, the Sox have to fend off a Tigers team that gets back in the race through sheer star power, but Chicago wins 90 games and the AL Central.

Their aggression and their willingness to take risks will serve the White Sox well in the second half. After all, no one thought they would be the third-best team in the American League heading into the All-Star break. They will be playing with house money over the last half of the season.

 
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