July 11, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago White Sox center fielder Alejandro De Aza (30) receives congratulations from third baseman Brent Morel (22) after he hits a home run in the eighth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
The White Sox scored 22 runs in their three-game series in Detroit. That’s the most they have scored in any series this season. They have played six four-game series.
The Cleveland series where they scored 18 runs in the first doubleheader came close.
There have been brief outbursts before, but this is the first time the White Sox have even scored as many as five runs three games in a row. What was different? An easy answer would be Phegley, but the grand slam was his only hit–nay, the only time he reached base in Detroit. Grand slams are important, but there was a whole slate of Anibal Sanchez screw-ups that preceded it. Phegley has timing and puts the ball in the air like a power hitter should, but he’s interesting for the future and we’re talking about the last three days.
Over those days, the difference was three veterans, all of whom should probably be traded if possible.
Alex Rios still hasn’t homered in over a month and is slugging .321 since June 9, but he reached base nine times in Detroit. Nothing he did after his six-hit night suggested he was about to jump into 2012-esque hot streak, but he called attention to himself in a positive way that sparked national attention. He got thrown out trying to steal second on Thursday but he’s also having a career-best campaign on the basepaths in spite of his woes.
Alexei Ramirez–between hilariously becoming a target of Tigers fan derision by seeming to be uncharacteristically lustful for violent contact–went 6-15 with two doubles, which could have been three if he hadn’t cramped up rounding first base on Thursday. The power is still completely gone, but he can be mighty productive when he’s not striking out at all, which save for a single incidence Saturday in Tampa, he’s done for the month of July.
Lack of strikeouts was the key this week for Alejandro De Aza too, whose five-percent jump in whiffs this season is the key to his decline. He struck out just once in 16 trips to the plate in Detroit, collecting seven hits and two walks. His current .322 on-base percentage is high water mark for the season, after it reached .389 in the middle of June last season, and he’s on pace for 20 home runs, even if he surely won’t get there.
None of this changes the reality of these players, who all either are aging or showed a troubling number of flaws already. But it’s a curiosity that this whiff-happy team ran into a pitching staff that’s lapping the field in strikeouts–their 24.3% strikeout rate coming into Thursday was over 2% above the second-place team–and suddenly found a way to put bat to ball. The Sox struck out in just 17.3% of their plate appearances in the three-game series. That would be the fourth-best rate in the American League extrapolated over a season.
With the Yankees offense in freefall and the Astros being who they are, the White Sox might not have the worst offense in the American League by weighted-runs created for very much longer, perhaps not even the end of the weekend. For as much as a collapse, or the end of their ability to play above their projections, has been long warned against for the Sox organization, the first half probably represented the worst this group was capable of. Even if a three-game series win against the Tigers is just a dreamy vacation from the harsh realities of this season, it’s probably more likely to be repeated than whatever the hell happened against the Astros.
Until everyone’s traded and Jordan Danks is leading off regularly. Then it’s back to the bad days.
Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan