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White Sox Thu May 08 2014

White Sox Early Success Stems From Offense

Sox_200.pngChris Sale is hurt, Erik Johnson is in Triple-A, Felipe Paulino has been bad and the White Sox already have had eight pitchers start multiple games this year. The pitching hasn't been very good.

No matter, because the offense has been picking the team up.

Last night's game was a great example of that. Everyone got a hit or got on base. While Jose Abreu was great as usual with two doubles and two runs scored, the team didn't rely on him for run production -- Gordon Beckham jacked a three run homer and Paul Konerko brought in three runs on a double. In total, they got eight runs off of 11 hits and six walks. Pretty good stuff.

OK fine, this was against the Cubs, but the Sox have been crushing the ball all season long. They're in the top percentile of just about every sortable category on ESPN's stat page, and most strikingly the Sox have hit for a high batting average and high slugging percentage. They're getting a good balance of singles and extra base hits, and that's led to an AL-best 179 runs scored and a positive run differential (barely, at plus-7).

So many guys on the team have had remarkable starts. Abreu goes without saying, but Alexei Ramirez, Dayan Viciedo and Tyler Flowers all have been hitting the ball much better than usual, with batting averages over .300. Six players have an OPS-plus over 100, and Abreu, Ramirez, Viciedo and Adam Dunn are well over that mark. Moises Sierra has an OPS-plus of 391 this year!!! (You got me, it's because of four hits in five at-bats).

This is worlds better than last year, when the White Sox were 27th in the league in OPS (.680) and 29th in runs scored (598) and didn't have any players that had an above average offensive season. But... since seven of the team's regular players had such prominent roles on last year's anemic offense, and since none of those players (except maybe Viciedo) are entering their primes and are having an expected breakout this season, might this year's offensive output be a mirage?

Ramirez, a career .279 hitter, probably won't finish the season with a .320 average at age 33. Viciedo has had some hot stretches but nothing sustainable over a long period. Tyler Flowers is Tyler Flowers, a power hitter who hits for a low average.

So yes, some regression is expected, but guys are allowed to have career years in baseball, no matter how seemingly random. It would be unlikely just based on track record, but Ramirez, Viciedo and Flowers can all have good seasons, and them having good seasons at the same time would benefit the White Sox greatly. Abreu looks legit, Dunn always has respectable power numbers, and Adam Eaton will return soon enough to resume lead-off duties.

Are the White Sox in the same class offensively as Oakland and Colorado? Probably not, talent-wise. They are making a good year for themselves so far though, and it's led to an above .500 Sox team. It will be up to the pitching staff to step up.

 

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