Give ’em a finish, for once
By James Fegan
The White Sox are a mere 29-28 since the All-Star break. If you get the feeling that you’ve seen the White Sox build a playoff candidacy in 1st half, then aimlessly tread water for the 2nd half before, it’s because you have. Many, many times.
- 2012: 29-28 — Weaker performances from Sale, Peavy, Konerko, Dunn, Quintana, Danks and Floyd hurt
- 2011: 35-35 — Better than their first half, but still pretty terrible baseball
- 2010: 39-36 — Jake Peavy injury, Alex Rios and Mark Buehrle fade, Twins killing everything in sight
- 2009: 34-40 — Rotation carved up for Jake Peavy trade, Jermaine Dye ages 20 years overnight
- 2008: 35-33 — Carlos Quentin injury, Nick Swisher’s descent into hell, Javy Vazquez and Clayton Richard making starts
- 2007: 33-43 — A terrible team in the 1st half, a terrible team in the 2nd half
- 2006: 33-41 — More of a legit collapse, since they were 26 games over .500 in the 1st half before the pitching staff imploded
- 2005: 42-34 — A good 2nd half removed of context, but everyone remembers blowing the 15 game lead
- 2004: 37-41 — Magglio Ordonez and Frank Thomas getting hurt were pretty ruinous
- 2003: 41-27 — A heroic, but failed rally to save Jerry Manuel’s job
Basically, the Sox spent the entire Ozzie Guillen tenure establishing a pattern of staggering to the finish. A factor listed here time and again is injuries, which would show up on any sort of list like this for any team, especially since the Sox have had less than their fair share.
Another interesting repeating factor is the declining performance of aging veterans, which is ironic given the worrying that’s been done on not just the Sox, but anyone’s reliance on “young arms” down the stretch. The White Sox are always on one of the extremes in that debate, since they rarely have any elite players in their prime, but rather rookies and veterans on the wrong side of 30. Neither breaking in new meat or trying to scrape the last bit of life out of Roberto Alomar are ideal September modus operandi, it would seem.
How much Ozzie Guillen wearing on everyone over the course of the year played a part, is open to personal interpretation.
But it’s not particularly fair to this club to point to any reasons beyond the here and now, and the fact is that a great deal of the 1st half was full of helium. Chris Sale, Jake Peavy are both very good, Jose Quintana might be a steady rotation member, but sustaining a sub-3.00 ERA for any of them is a stretch, or Quintana’s case, flagrantly ridiculous.
Adam Dunn started the year showing he had his power stroke back, but he’s lost serious on-base ability since his strikeout rate has jumped 10% from his prime–his stats reflect that now. Paul Konerko was hitting .399 earlier this year, which would have been goofy in 2006, let alone now when he’s fighting his typical wrist troubles and has slowed to cartoonish levels. That’s not even touching the wackiness of A.J. Pierzynski this season, or tacking on late-season control problems from the pitching staff. This team wasn’t supposed to be this good, and the 2nd half has seen them dragged in the general direction of where they were supposed to be.
There’s definitely a larger pattern here, but trying to tie an over-arching theme–poor prospects, reliance on old people–seems extraneous with such good immediate explanations. Whatever the cause, the humbling end-of-season showdown with a chief AL Central rival has become a franchise trademark over the last three years, and it’s because the White Sox can’t maintain a high level of play down the stretch.
A lot of the methods the Sox have been employing recently–a sane manager, spending in the Latin American market so there will be more than fringe arms in the system, drafting high-ceiling athletes–could serve as antidotes down the road, but apparently these things take a lot of time.
That said, a huge three-week kick could make this year’s 2nd half mark look pretty good, still.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @ JRFegan. Also check out his full-time, daily blog, White Sox Observer