Chicago White Sox season hangs on this stretch of divisional games
By Chip Egan
Despite how bad things have been for the Chicago White Sox to this point, the 13 straight games against American League Central Division foes over the next few weeks could be what helps them turn things around and get them back into contention for a playoff spot.
Or it could be what takes them out of it.
Grabbing the first two games of a three-game set against the Cleveland Guardians is certainly a good way to get off on the right foot. Heading into the series finale, the White Sox have outscored the Guardians 15-5 and belted six homers in that span.
The Guardians have long been a thorn in the side of the White Sox, including last season when they took 12 of the 19 games between the two on their way to winning the division by 11 games over the Southsiders.
After taking the first two games, the White Sox managed to even up their season record against divisional opponents at 6-6. The White Sox split their first six games with the Minnesota Twins but are 1-3 against the Kansas City Royals.
The Chicago White Sox can take advantage of a weak division in 2023.
Being mediocre is not ideal by any stretch of the imagination, as evidenced by the team's 81-81 mark last year.
However, the Central Division is not strong again and if the White Sox can put some sort of run together over this stretch of games it could help turn the negative vibes around the team into something to build on.
The gap between the first and second-place finishers in the division is usually pretty wide. Since 2014, only three times has the second-place team been within 11 games of the eventual champion and only twice has the second-place team made the playoffs as a wild card.
This is what makes the situation surrounding the White Sox's poor start so maddening. If they could have played close to .500 in the early stages of the season, they would have found themselves in a much better position than they currently sit.
This is not to say that being average is anything to write home about. The White Sox need to play better in all facets and making some hay in this 13-game stretch could be what rights the ship.
Yet, the team can't seem to escape being average at best. A look at the team's current offensive output through the first month and a half of the season shows there is still plenty of work to be done to get over the hump.
The team ranks ninth in the American League in on-base plus slugging percentage, slugging percentage, runs batted in, and home runs. Their highest rank is fifth in hits but are 12th in on-base percentage and 11th in runs.
If the pitching could get itself to an average level that would be a huge step up. The staff has been hugely disappointing and in need of getting on track quickly.
The White Sox pitching is second worst in home runs and walks while being 13th in earned runs and 14th in earned run average. That has to change and change in a hurry.
Based on last season's results and how the team has performed to this point, the White Sox are far from a World Series contending team. Vast improvements in on-field performance need to be made if they plan to be viewed as more than just average.
At this point, just getting to average would be an improvement.