There's been a lot more of this than I would have imagined // Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

The White Sox are competitive, so it’s time to eat some crow


For my first ever post here at Southside Showdown, I decided to begin things in the same way every episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? ended, by throwing a huge pile of sand on the fire.

In a piece with a straight-forward title of “Why the White Sox Won’t Be Particularly Competitive in 2012“, I laid out the three primary issues with the squad.

  • Too much reliance on bad players from 2011 to rebound
  • Too many young players asked to step in immediately contribute
  • Not enough depth

All this combined gave me enough ammunition to say that “staying out of the bottom two slots in the division would be a nice place to put fan expectations for the 2012 White Sox.”

Well, they’re in first place after two months of the season, so perhaps it’s time to retrace my steps a bit.

Rebound candidates

Dunn was so bad, that while his decline follows no sort of typical pattern, his recovery from such depths as a hulking 32 year-old slugger may be only slightly less improbable.

Adam Dunn is actually striking out more than last season, and his current .222 batting average would be the third-lowest of his career.  But that’s just window-dressing, as his walks and power production puts him firmly in the territory of his prime years.

“[Rios]’s pretty far removed from an acceptable performance level.”

September 2011 was the first time Rios had topped an .800 OPS in a month since May 2010, and I doubted that he could produce at that level consistently.  He promptly posted an .807 OPS in April.

“Gordon still has plenty of untapped potential, but Jeff Manto, Robin Ventura, and even Harold Baines aren’t being tasked with snapping him out of a slump, they’re being asked to reverse a free-fall.”

Arguments for Gordon Beckham’s turnaround are less convincing, since his OBP is still under .300 after a dreadful start, but there also more simple.  He looks comfortable at the plate again, and he’s hitting the ball harder (8 HRs after only 10 all of last season).  He’s not a star again, but the free-fall has been stopped.

Youngsters filling in big shoes

“The difficulty of adjusting to starting will probably make it too hard for Sale to match #56′s average ERA in his first year in the rotation.”

Well, in fairness, I didn’t say anything about Sale blowing Buehrle’s average ERA out of the water and lead the AL, merely that he wouldn’t match it.

“[Viciedo]‘s being tasked with replacing a player in Quentin who posted a 125 wRC+ last season…He’s being asked to do a lot of growing up on the job.”

Well, Dayan’s not quite there yet, but a 116 wRC+ is about as close as he could hope to have been at this point, especially considering that he was pretty much worthless for the first month, and has hit 9 HRs in the last three weeks.

“At least some of [Morel]‘s September surge (.224/.340/.553 with 8 HR) needs to be real if he’s going to stick around.”

For this one, the logic held up.  Morel was awful–while also hurt and sick–and now has to earn his job back from a washed-up 2nd basemen.

Lack of depth

“But the White Sox hopes for 2012 are crippled simply because they cannot absorb failures from the players listed above or withstand crucial injuries, due to a lack of competent replacements from within.”

It’d be nice to repudiate every negative word I said about the 2012 White Sox, but unfortunately this is still true, and there’s no need to even cite the minor league system as evidence.  Gordon Beckham and Dayan Viciedo have spurred to life, but there are still two black holes at the end of the lineup, and Tyler Flowers is the only bench player with an OPS over .600.

De Aza and Konerko have been great, but the quality of their replacements lends too much anxiety to every time they foul a pitch off of their foot.

Contrary to popular belief going into the season, the White Sox are good enough to win the AL Central, but to pull it off, they’ll have to walk a tight-rope in terms of maintaining their health.

Every division title year requires some luck, this will be no exception.

 

Follow James Fegan on Twitter @ JRFegan.  Also check out his full-time, daily blog, White Sox Observer

Tags: Adam Dunn AL Central Alejandro De Aza Alex Rios Baseball Brent Lillibridge Brent Morel Carlos Quentin Chris Sale Dayan Viciedo Gordon Beckham Mark Buehrle Orlando Hudson Paul Konerko Tyler Flowers White Sox