The Chicago White Sox have started the season quite nicely. They split their 22 April games and won an impressive seven of 11 games on the road to this point. What's most remarkable is that the White Sox are tied for second in the division, trailing the Cleveland Indians by one game.
Two specific items explain why the White Sox are where they are. They're getting a good number of home runs from players like Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn, who looks to be on a nice comeback trend. Starting pitching is carrying the load for the White Sox.
White Sox fans need to gather their breath as they enjoy the nice start that their team has had this season.
Following are a few lessons to take from the White Sox's first month of play.
Adam Dunn had the worst season ever for a designated hitter last season. He had a .292 on-base percentage, .569 OPS and only 11 home runs.
Many wondered whether he could recover the form that helped him hit 38 or more home runs seven straight years and walk 100 times seven times.
He seems to have recovered that form thus far this season. Dunn has hit five home runs and driven in 16 runs. He has a .368 on-base percentage and .513 slugging percentage.
Those marks render his .231 batting average irrelevant.
He could beat his home run mark well before the halfway point in the season and get back to at least 30 home runs.
That would help the White Sox tremendously towards finishing .500 this season.
The White Sox have been held up by strong starting pitching. They've earned nine of their 11 wins by allowing three or fewer runs.
They've found a good amount of reliable pitching. Three of their five starters (Jake Peavy, Chris Sale and Gavin Floyd) have ERAs lower than 3.20. Few would have thought that Peavy would have a 1.67 ERA after the first month of the season.
The White Sox are fourth in the AL in ERA with a 3.41 mark.
Also, they're tops in the AL in strikeouts with 192.
Four White Sox pitchers (Peavy, Phil Humber, Sale and Floyd) have strikeouts-per-nine-innings rates of 7.9 or better. Humber leads the way with 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings.
If the White Sox are to compete this season, the starting pitching will have to stay healthy and reliable.
The White Sox are fortunate to have strong starting pitching because they couldn't hold up on offense alone. They're in the bottom third in the AL in each of the three major hitting rates. Chicago stands 11th in batting average (.241), 10th in on-base percentage (.305) and 10th in OPS (.703).
The White Sox have been pulled down by four hitters (Alexei Ramirez, Gordon Beckham, Brent Morel and Dayan Viciedo) who have on-base percentages lower than .300.
They're 10th in scoring, averaging 4.1 runs per game.
They've been helped by home runs, putting forth 23 home runs. Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko each have five home runs.
Better hitting from various parts of the lineup could help keep the White Sox going in the division race.
Brent Morel had a surprisingly good month last September. After posting slugging percentages below .400 in each of the first five months of the season, Morel had a .553 slugging rate in September. That was keyed by eight home runs.
He hit only two in the first five months of the season.
Also, after holding an on-base percentage below .300 most of the season, Morel had a .340 on-base mark in September.
Some White Sox fans wondered whether Morel could carry that over into the 2012 season.
Any such hopes were dashed this month. Morel hit .178, had a .221 on-base mark and a .205 slugging percentage in April. That made for a miserable OPS+ of 18. He's yet to hit a home run and has three RBI.
On the bright side, he does have two stolen bases.