Chicago White Sox: This team has serious potential going into the playoffs

(Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images) /

The Chicago White Sox sit comfortably in first place in the American League Central division and are just days away from clinching a birth in the post-season. However, one question seems to be lingering around this club: just how good are the White Sox?

Following their final game with the Texas Rangers, the White Sox are 85-64 on the season. There is no doubt that any team 20 games over .500 this late in the year has to be recognized as being legit contenders for a World Series title. However, while the record is impressive, a closer look at that record reveals some interesting information, both for the good and bad.

One indicator of how impressive their record is comes in the form of the names manager Tony LaRussa has/has not been able to put on a lineup card each day. There have been only four times this year that Tim Anderson, Luis Robert, Jose Abreu, Eloy Jimenez, Yoan Moncada, and Yasmani Grandal have been in the starting lineup together.

The number of injuries the White Sox has endured has been well documented but other contending teams have had it as bad if not worse. Still, the “next man up” mentality has worked brilliantly displaying both the depth this team has and the ability of the front office to find guys who can be solid contributors.

The Chicago White Sox have what it takes to be contenders in the 2021 playoffs.

While the overall record is impressive, the second half of the season has not been one to strike fear into opponents. The White Sox are 31-29 since the All-Star break with the longest win streak in that period being four games and they won three in a row once.

By comparison, the Tampa Bay Rays look like they haven’t lost a step from last year’s World Series appearance going 19 games over .500 during that period while posting win streaks of nine, five (twice), and four games. The Houston Astros are seven games above .500 with streaks of four games (twice) and three games (three times).

Why it may be important for the White Sox to put together a sustained winning streak is the fact they are trailing the Astros-their probable first-round playoff opponent-in the run for home-field advantage.

The White Sox have been dominant at home going 49-27 but are 36-37 on the road. Their only trip into Houston saw them get swept in four straight but they came back to take two of three at home.

What is interesting to note is with the exception of the Astros and New York Yankees, the White Sox are .500 or better against each of the AL teams in the playoff hunt. They went 3-3 against Tampa Bay, 4-3 against Boston, 4-3 against Toronto, 4-3 against Oakland, and 3-3 against Seattle.

The home run surge that the White Sox had a while back has cooled off as the team is 9th in the majors with 172 long balls. However, while the White Sox have been able to generate runs to the tune of 731 for the year, good enough for seventh overall. They are fifth in batting average at .255. The latter two categories mentioned are both led by the Astros with 760 runs and a team BA of .269.

The pitching has been solid all year, ranking sixth in the Majors with a 3.76 ERA and third overall in strikeouts behind the Milwaukee Brewers and the Los Angeles Dodgers. It is difficult to figure out where the White Sox ceiling is at.

The knock against them has been they play in a weak division and their record is bloated because of it. Since the break, the Sox have won only five total series, two of which came against the Chicago Cubs. The start and stop flow of wins and losses is what clouds the ability to judge where this team is at. Fans would feel a lot more confident to see wins strung together with greater consistency.

The White Sox have not approached their ceiling yet as evidenced by their not having their full lineup together for any real extended period. La Russa knows a thing or two about being successful working with what he has and has punched the right buttons so far. For him, it’s about the destination as much as the journey, yet he knows this team can be better.

Former NFL head coach Bill Parcells famously said, “You are what your record says you are.” By that standard, the White Sox are outstanding. Perhaps, they’re not 1927 Yankees exceptional, but maybe good enough to be 2005 White Sox exceptional.

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