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The White Sox are Officially a Second Place Team

Photo Credit: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

What a difference a week makes.  After a rough first series and change to open the season, the White Sox found themselves at 1-4, dead last in the AL Central.

From there, a strong Lucas Giolito start to close out the series in Cleveland and the Friday afternoon call up of Nick Madrigal gave the White Sox a much needed spark.   This spark lit off something much bigger, as the team erupted, dominating the Royals this past weekend to the tune of a three game sweep.

After all that, the White Sox sit at 5-4, in sole possession of second place in the AL Central.  The worrying and panicking after one week of baseball has subsided. Funny how winning a couple games and leapfrogging the Tigers, Royals, and Indians will do that.

Each night was won in different ways, showing off the versatility this team has.  Friday night was the Adam Engel game, as he ripped a three run homer to give the Sox all the offense they needed in a 3-2 win.  A strong Dallas Keuchel start and 3.2 shutout innings from the bullpen made sure that lead stood.

Saturday was an absolute offensive explosion, with Luis Robert making his first start in the leadoff slot, taking the place of the injured Tim Anderson.  After this game, I’m not sure how Tim gets this spot back without a fight.  Featuring dingers from Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, this game was an absolute bloodbath of a game that was more lopsided than the 11-4 final score conveyed.

The box score is too beautiful to not include here.  The dominance was across the board, with 6 players having multi-hit games, including Robert, Jimenez, and Garcia all collecting 4 of their own.

White Sox Box Score, 8/1/2020

Sunday was another blowout win, although in a very different shape. A close 2-2 game was blown wide open in the 7th, when the Sox hung a 7 spot to push the score to 9-2.  Although there were no home runs, a steady White Sox assault of singles and walks led by Yasmani Grandal and Nick Madrigal was enough to get the job done.

Obviously, all three wins have plenty to take away in the positive.  I talked about the offense so far but Keuchel and Cease both looked good, with Cease being much improved from his first start last week.  The bullpen, outside of garbage time on Saturday after the Sox had taken a 7-0 lead, didn’t allow a run.  However, there’s another angle I took away as the most important takeaway I have from the weekend.

The crazy thing is, the Sox lineup did their damage with significant no shows each night.  Here’s what I mean:

  • Friday: Moncada, Abreu, Grandal, Jimenez, Madrigal, McCann, Robert: 0-23
  • Saturday: Encarnacion, Madrigal: 1-10
  • Sunday: Robert, Moncada, Jimenez: 1-11

Okay, Saturday is a reach, but on Friday and Sunday their were star caliber players with horrible games.  In past years, getting this type of production from their key guys would’ve been a death sentence for the game.  The White Sox of old just simply did not have the firepower to withstand anything less than their best players having big days at the plate.

Times have obviously changed.  It just goes to show what a well rounded offense can do, especially against an overmatched pitching staff.  It can simply dominate (Saturday), use a big inning to its advantage in an otherwise close game (Sunday), or rely on an unsung player to get the job done, even when the majority of the lineup struggles (Friday).  And while Nomar Mazara may not be a dominant offensive force, one has to keep in mind that all this production is without the starting right fielder.

As it stands after the weekend series, here is how the White Sox offense compares to it’s 2019 counterpart in MLB rankings:

White Sox Offensive League Ranks, MLB
Stat 2019 2020
Batting Average 8 1
On Base Percentage 23 7
Slugging Percentage 25 4
OPS 24 4
Home Runs 25 7
Strikeout Rate 3 22
wRC+ 18 4

A small sample size, of course, but nonetheless a good indicator of where this team is at comparatively.  While there is still plenty of baseball to play, the fact that the White Sox are producing at a top 10 level is most major categories is certainly a good sign for where this team is at.  Given, of course, the stars in the lineup can stay healthy.

Now, if Nomar Mazara can take a step forward in his development this year and fulfill the hitting potential he’s been expected to produce?  Watch out.

Of course, several of the concerns and questions the 1-4 start raised are still present.  Can the rotation, outside of Giolito and Keuchel, take a step forward and pitch with some semblance of consistency?  Will the bullpen continue to dominate?  Can the lineup stay healthy, thus not exposing the depth issues?

All of that remains to be seen, but for right now, one thing is certain.  A second place White Sox team is a rather good sight to see.

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