Chicago White Sox 2012 All-Stars: How They Earned Their Trip to Kansas City
Major League Baseball announced Sunday the rosters of All-Stars who will be attending the 83rd MLB All-Star Game in Kansas City, and for the Chicago White Sox and their fans, it is a far cry from last season, when only one All-Star was selected to play for the American League.
The White Sox will be represented by Chris Sale, Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn. Pitcher Jake Peavy is also eligible to be an All-Star, as he is a candidate for MLB's Final Vote.
In 2011, the White Sox sent only Carlos Quentin initially, and Paul Konerko would later follow after becoming an All-Star via the Final Vote.
With the White Sox currently sitting atop the AL Central division, it could be argued that more White Sox players should have become All-Stars this season, most notably A.J. Pierzynski and Alex Rios.
While many pundits weren't buying the notion of the White Sox as 2012 playoff contenders, many of the "ifs" on the team have actually come to fruition, with the White Sox currently holding a run differential of plus-42, which is 79 runs better than the second place Cleveland Indians.
The White Sox have received contributions from most of their roster, with some familiar names chipping in, along with some new ones. Alex Rios and Adam Dunn have bounced back in a huge way in 2012, while Paul Konerko has continued producing at a high level, well into his mid-30s.
Rookies Addison Reed and Nate Jones have shored up the White Sox's new-look bullpen, while veterans Jesse Crain and Matt Thornton have remained steady.
The White Sox starting rotation has been bolstered by the return to form of Jake Peavy. Peavy, along with Chris Sale, have put the White Sox in a position to win almost every time they've taken the mound in 2012. Both starters have combined for a stellar 23 quality starts in 30 games. With disappointing seasons from John Danks, Gavin Floyd and Philip Humber, Peavy and Sale's contributions have been very important.
Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn have combined to make pitchers think before giving in to the intimidating 3-4 duo. With Alejandro De Aza and his solid .362 on-base percentage setting the table, and Rios, Pierzynski and Dayan Viciedo offering protection for Konerko and Dunn, the White Sox have been able to make up for any pitching deficiencies.
With the White Sox still in first place, and the announcement of their All-Star representatives coming Sunday, let's take a look at how the White Sox All-Stars, and potential All-Star Jake Peavy, earned their well-deserved recognition.
Jake Peavy, Starting Pitcher
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Jake Peavy, who is not yet a 2012 All-Star, but is a candidate through MLB's Final Vote, would be a lock for Comeback Player of the Year if not for his teammate Adam Dunn's terrific comeback performance so far this season.
Due to his rare shoulder injury suffered two years ago, which required surgery, Peavy had struggled since coming to the White Sox in 2009. Peavy had only managed 35 starts over the last two seasons, posting an earned run average of 4.77 over those two seasons. He was not exactly the dominant pitcher who enjoyed a career 3.29 ERA in his eight seasons in San Diego.
Peavy had struggled to find an out pitch since coming to Chicago, and his high pitch counts early in ballgames were a telltale sign of his struggles and how long of a road to recovery he had. His strikeout/9 ratio was his lowest last season since the 2003 season.
2012 has been a different story, however. Peavy has stayed healthy and has also stayed in games longer. Peavy lost his last outing last week against the Yankees, yet pitched a complete game while striking out 11. He's thrown 13 quality starts, and although his K/9 ratio is below his career average of 8.8, it's still by far his best since he's been in Chicago.
A third All-Star appearance by Peavy would be well-deserved, and if he's voted in by fans before the July 10 All-Star contest, it would almost cement Peavy's full recovery from surgery and merit his hefty salary of $17 million.
Chris Sale, Starting Pitcher
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In only his third season with the White Sox, the left-handed Chris Sale has drawn comparisons to a young Randy Johnson and to reigning Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw.
Sale has successfully made the transition from the bullpen to the starting rotation and is fast developing into the team's ace, only six months after the White Sox extended John Danks' contract, paying him $65 million over the next five years.
While Danks sits on the disabled list and will have his work cut out for him in order to earn his hefty salary, Sale continues to light up the American League, striking out 94 batters in 95 innings this season.
Sale leads the American League with the lowest ERA at 2.27. His WHIP of 0.97 is second only to Jered Weaver of the Angels.
Sale's crowning performance this season has to be his 15-strikeout performance during a 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays back in May. Sale out-dueled the Rays' heralded rookie left-handed pitcher, Matt Moore, yielding only five Tampa Bay base-runners while gunning down 15.
With the White Sox owning the rights to Sale for five more years, the new All-Star should become the backbone of a White Sox rotation that will likely see many changes over the next few years.
Paul Konerko, First Base
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Avoiding the wait that he endured last year to become an All-Star, Paul Konerko earned his sixth All-Star trip Sunday, and continues to be the main cog in the White Sox offense. Since turning 30 years old in 2006, Konerko has averaged 31 home runs and 95 runs batted in, along with an on-base percentage of .369.
Konerko continues to be on top of his game in 2012, hitting 14 home runs with an OBP of .411.
The White Sox's unquestioned leader has already scored 38 runs, hitting in front of a resurgent Adam Dunn.
Perhaps Konerko's best performance of the season was on May 26 against the Cleveland Indians, leading the White Sox to a 14-7 victory. Konerko smacked three doubles and went 4-for-4 with three runs scored and two runs driven in. He reached base five times in five plate appearances.
After another solid campaign in 2011 and an outstanding first half this season, Konerko continues to push back the clock and has quietly ended the discussions about what the White Sox will do when he finally decides to retire.
Adam Dunn, Designated Hitter
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Anybody who watched Adam Dunn struggle mightily during his 2011 American League debut season had to figure that there was only one way to go for Dunn: up. Dunn has gone way up and continues to hit home runs at a personal record pace.
Dunn is currently projecting to hit 48 home runs this season, which would be a career high. More importantly, Dunn isn't looking lost at the plate and is reaching base more along the lines of his average career output.
With a .359 on-base percentage this season, Dunn is dwarfing his minuscule .292 OBP of 2011 and has already knocked out 13 more home runs in the first three months of this season than he did during all of last season.
Despite recent struggles, Dunn still has a healthy .866 OPS, and has a batting average against left-handed pitching of .165, which is still poor, but miles beyond his historically bad 2011 .064 average against lefties.
Dunn has already walked 64 times, proving that his hitting eye is back. A virtual lock for Comeback Player of the Year, Dunn continues to anchor the White Sox's offense, which ranks fifth in the American League through July 1.
It's been a rough ride for Dunn since joining the White Sox before last season, but his performance over the first three months of 2012 is justifying why the White Sox invested more than $50 million in the big slugger.
As an All-Star selection this year, Dunn has to feel good about his return to productivity. One of the big "ifs" this offseason, Dunn is finally playing as advertised.