White Sox are playing .500 ball – if you look closely
By Jeff Shirk
Something is happening with the 2018 White Sox. For a club that’s 24th out of 30 when it comes to scoring runs – 430 in 105 games for an average of 4.09 runs per game – they’ve scored 69 in their past 14 games for an average of 4.94… nearly a run per game better.
During that stretch, the White Sox have played .500 ball.
Sox, what gives?
I can answer that question: they’re hitting. The team is finally healthy. The lineup is a formidable one with a healthy Avisail Garcia and Nicky Delmonico in it along with the surprising Daniel Palka.
Avi is finally hitting the ball with authority, clubbing 10 home runs in his 26 games (100 at-bats) since returning from the Disabled List. That’s power. Last year he demonstrated consistency, this year now healthy he’s demonstrating distance.
I’ve not read anything to this effect, but I believe the subtle shoulder injury Delmonico suffered at the end of spring training affected his first two months of the season. The broken hand may have been a blessing and forced him to completely go offline and let the shoulder fully rest while the hand healed, because his bat is once again lightning.
Delmonico has the tightest and quickest swing of any player on this team and we’re starting to see the results. In his six games back since his DL stint, Nicky has hit two home runs and two triples for a batting average of .286 and a slugging percentage of 1.000 – considerably more dynamic than the .224 average and .302 he delivered in 116 at-bats before breaking the hand.
Palka is making a case for Rookie of the Year honors. Through Sunday – on a day in which he hit a pinch homer one day after hitting a two-run pinch single – Palka had 15 homers to go with 38 RBI in 72 games played. At just 26, he has inserted himself into the lineup and the team’s future conversations.
Consider the following lineup which beat the Blue Jays 9-5 this past Saturday:
1B – Jose Abreu
2B – Yoan Moncada
SS – Tim Anderson
3B – Yolmer Sanchez
LF – Nicky Delmonico
CF – Leury Garcia
RF – Avisail Garcia
DH – Matt Davidson/Daniel Palka
Obviously, Davidson will get some starts at 3B, Palka will make some outfield starts, etc. The point is the overall essence of this lineup of offensive contributors has the potential to deliver 5+ runs per game with consistency, which gives even a mediocre pitching staff the chance to win ball games. And over the past 14 games, they’ve won half of them.
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So what is this team goes on a run? Possible? If Michael Kopech gets called up, yes. With no additional starting pitching resources on the way, absolutely not. Oh sure, they might play an amount of .500 ball and worsen their 2019 draft position but they won’t win.
One more note on the prospect of calling up Eloy Jimenez: the club would need to either move an outfielder or send one down. I don’t see either action landing – at least not this year – so expect him to be called up for a cup of coffee in September and then appear for good sometime next May. Delmonico is healthy. Palka is a keeper. Avi is killing it. Leury is quite possibly the most underrated player in all of Major League Baseball. Where does Eloy fit? For now, Charlotte.
I remember several years commenting to someone while watching Michael Morse crush the ball for the Seattle Mariners. The guy replied, “Yeah, he’s fun to watch.” Fun to watch. It’s a great way to think about baseball. Forget the numbers, just enjoy watching the game being played.
There hasn’t been much fun to watch about the 2018 Chicago White Sox. But that’s already started to change, and it’s the outfield in the forms of Delmonico, Palka, and the Garcias driving that change.