Coming in to this season, many prematurely crowned the Detroit Tigers as the clear winner of the American League Central. While that still may turn out to be true, the Chicago White Sox have put together a nice season and currently sit atop the division by two games on August 21.
So, after firing their distraction of a manager, Ozzie Guillen, and then making moves to make it seem like they were rebuilding, and then turning around and making moves that made it seem like they were contenders, they’ve suddenly found themselves in a heated pennant race.
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They’re only 12 games over .500 and play in a division that isn’t exactly loaded, regardless, the White Sox have managed to put a good team on the field that has allowed them to compete as they grow some young talent.
The centerpiece of this transformation has been the rebound of Adam Dunn.
Caution: Don’t look at his batting average.
The power machine was signed to a four-year, $56 million contract with the White Sox in 2011 before absolutely flopping, putting up career lows in home runs and RBIs. As of right now, he leads the White Sox, and all of Major League Baseball, in home runs with 36. He is also first on the team in RBIs with 84, eighth most in the league.
While the Big Donkey’s strikeout numbers are still up and his OBP has taken a drop, he’s doing what he got paid to do and that’s mash balls out of the park. And while many thought he would benefit from playing at U.S. Cellular, only 14 of his bombs have been at home this year compared to 22 on the road.
Dunn isn’t the only veteran helping carry this team to a potential division crown. Paul Konerko has been the best hitter on the team, and for a long period of time was the best hitter in baseball this year. Through May he was batting. 381 before struggling in June. He still leads the team in average at .315 and OBP at .385.
Then you also add in the experience of A.J. Pierzynski behind the plate, along with his great offensive production this year, and you have a solid core of experienced major league ballplayers leading the way. Pierzynski is second on the team in home runs with 23 and third in RBIs with 69. He’s also batting .299 with a .346 OBP.
The White Sox have also gotten a surprise year form Alex Rios who has mashed 19 home runs and driven in 71. He supports a solid .300 batting average but has only walked 18 times all season. He’s also swiped 18 bags, which is second on the team.
And let’s not forget about the pitching side of this team, where Jake Peavy has bounced back to have an incredible year after looking like he was finished. The former Cy Young winner has posted a 3.11 ERA in 168 innings pitched striking out 150 and only walking 37.
So, how have the White Sox managed to become the best team in the AL Central?
Players have played to their potential.
Basically everything that could have gone right for the White Sox this season has gone right. Dunn and Rios have both bounced back. Konerko and Pierzynski have put together great campaigns late in their careers. And Peavy has risen from the ashes to put together one of his best seasons and returned to his old form.
I don’t think White Sox management or its fans could have scripted this season any better. At the beginning of every year, you figure one or two players will get hurt or not live up to expectations, but that hasn’t been the case for this team.
These core guys will need to continue to perform down the stretch to hold off the Tigers, but either way, it’s been a great season by a team that wasn’t expected to do much. A round of applause should be given to the organization for ridding itself of a virus and believing it had a championship contender.