Can enough be said about the weird little stretch of schedule the White Sox are in? Probably. They’re a fourth place team that entered the season with limited expectations. But to the niche audience that this blog is targeted toward? We can probably get through a few hundred words talking about this.
Last Wednesday in Minnesota marked the White Sox’ last game against a divisional opponent for a month, which is frustrating, because it will spark up a lot of anecdotal arguments about the true nature of AL Central baseball being absent. If the White Sox are still lagging back in fourth or fifth place by the final week of June, then it will be teased that they can make up all their ground by beating the teams in front of them head-to-head. If they’re in it, well then prepare for a lot “Now the real season begins…” talk, which is pretty close to true, because this stretch provides some remarkable opportunities for an average team–provided the White Sox are capable of being that–to look better than usual.
Boston (27-17, +38 run differential) is pretty good, Oakland (23-22, +3) is barely holding on to “winning team” status thanks to a 7-10 month of May. No other opponent on this stretch has a winning record. Miami and Houston are a combined 24-64 and are both paying obligatory organizational lip service to the practice of trying to win major league baseball games. The Cubs (18-25, -3) are rebuilding too, but are too good at filling out a solid middle and back end of a starting rotation to show it too much.
It’s an inviting slate. Not that the White Sox have earned the right to lick their chops.
Their run production has not been scattered around in an unfortunate manner.
Nor does WAR (Baseball Reference nor Fangraphs) think them to be playing at a higher level than their results.
If anything, these charts just play up how much an inability to beat the Angels nor the Blue Jays consistently to be really troubling.
Difficulties of West Coast travel aside, these next few weeks represent the opportunity. The next time the White Sox play Minnesota will be their 70th game of the season. John Danks will be back, Gordon Beckham will be back and the Sox will have likely decided what combination of him, Jeff Keppinger and Conor Gillaspie (owner of a .245/.315/.347 May batting line) will get featured in the infield, and they will be well past the cutoff date where conclusions about being buyers or sellers can be made.
July brings 10 games against the top of the division, the Braves, Orioles and Rays. Every one of these tames are all composed of major league talent fully capable of providing a substantial challenge, and games are not must-win until they are actually must-win, but let’s just go ahead and admit that if the Sox don’t dominate this stretch, they’re toast.
Not to say that them being toast would be a good thing, but what would be a more preferable result? A below-average team packs it in and plans for the future, or a below-average team reads too much into a stretch of beating weaker competition and invests resources in a doomed season? It’s the quandary such a group and schedule provides.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan