These rebuilding years have been tough on Chicago White Sox fans. Loss after loss, fans stuck by this team in anticipation of finally being on top. We are many weeks into the 2021 season and MLB has named the White Sox the number 1 team in their power rankings. The White Sox are the best in the MLB.
The south siders are 24-15. That is an MLB best .615 winning percentage with an MLB best +61 run differential. They have won eight of their last ten games and are firing on all cylinders. The rotation has been playing above and beyond what they were expected, despite a lackluster start from the ace Lucas Giolito. When your number five guy throws a no-hitter, you can be pretty confident in the group as a whole.
Carlos Rodón has been the best starting pitcher so far with a 1.47 ERA and 49 strikeouts in 36 innings. His ERA was even better at 0.58 before his last start against the Kansas City Royals. A double, a walk, and a home run hit almost five inches over the strike zone inflated his ERA. He kept the White Sox within 3 but the offense just could not capitalize. Even when Rodón did not have his best stuff, he kept the Sox in the game. Mike Minor had his best stuff that day which put a damper on things.
At the start of the season, the bullpen was considered the strongest aspect of this team. So when the bullpen struggled early, it caused fans to freak out. José Ruiz stepped up to pick up some slow starts from his teammates in the pen. With a 2.30 ERA in 15.2 innings of work, Ruiz struck out 15. He has given up the long ball twice but Ruiz has been solid so far this season.
The best in the bullpen has undoubtedly been Michael Kopech. After stepping away from the game following Tommy John’s surgery in 2018, Kopech has not shown any signs of rust. In 26 innings of work, he has allowed a 1.71 ERA and has a 40/10 strikeout/walk ratio on a 0.911 WHIP. He has been dominant and will eventually find his way into the rotation. However, it may not be this year if Rodón and Dylan Cease continue to pitch at the high level they have been.
The offense has been inconsistent but dominant pitching more than makes up for the slow offensive start. Despite the big bats of Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert out for the foreseeable future, this team still has the capability to reach double digits in the run column.
To do that, the team must be in the right mindset. More often than not, the lineup is demoralized a bit. If Tim Anderson or Jose Abreu is not in the lineup, a whole different team is out there. That’s okay, they are human after all. A winning team has players that step up. This White Sox team has players that are stepping up.
When the team saw their star left fielder go down for the season, they looked to their top prospect to step up. Andrew Vaughn, a first baseman, decided to be solid defensively in left. He is starting to see the ball better recently as well. He was dinger-less through the first 23 games of the season but Vaughn has hit two in his last six games.
There is stepping up to help your team win, then there is Yermin Mercedes making a run at the MVP title. What more can be said about the Yerminator? He leads the MLB with a .358 batting average and slugs .545 with a .951 OPS. With five home runs and 22 runs batted in, Mercedes answered the call when the team needed a DH.
Moving forward, the biggest question mark on the team might be their management in Tony La Russa. There have been problems leaving pitchers in the game too long and embarrassing problems like not knowing the new rules. Tony has improved at knowing when to take a pitcher out of a situation so hopefully, we can expect the hall of fame manager to live up to that title.
With the weather starting to heat up, we get closer to the dog days of summer. With almost a quarter of the season done, the White Sox are first in the AL Central and the MLB Power Rankings.