Chicago White Sox: Top 5 Story Lines from the First Half

Jon FromiSenior Analyst IJuly 9, 2012

Chicago White Sox: Top 5 Story Lines from the First Half

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    The Chicago White Sox enter the All-Star Break in the most unlikeliest of positions. Unlikely to the experts who cast the South Siders as cellar dwellers, that is.

    Despite low expectations on the heels of cutbacks and a rookie manager, the White Sox lead the AL Central by three games over Cleveland. The team of under-performers got a makeover and are currently nine games over .500.

    It has been a memorable summer so far for the Chisox with several highlights from the first half of the season. Here are five story lines from the first 85 games that have made the team so fun to watch.

1. Return to Form by Some High Priced Talent

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    Last season, Jake Peavy, Adam Dunn and Alex Rios were the poster children for what ailed the White Sox. Dunn and Rios suffered through career nadirs and Peavy struggled in his post-surgery season.

    Tuesday night, you'll see two of those players in the All-Star Game.

    Peavy was added to the team to replace an injured C.J. Wilson, while Dunn was voted in by the players after 25 homers and 60 RBI at the break. Both totals obliterate his numbers from all of 2011 and despite the low batting average he is enjoying a productive comeback year.

    Rios is second on the team with 49 RBI at the break. He's hitting .318 and hit his 12th home run Sunday in an 11-9 loss to the Blue Jays.

    Big first halves from these three players representing $43 million of Chicago's payroll have been a big part of the White Sox surge to the division lead.

2. Rookies Coming Up Large

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    The White Sox have a slew of players in their first extended run in the big leagues. Outfielders Alejandro De Aza and Dayan Viciedo have shone both offensively and defensively in center and left field, respectively.

    Seven of Chicago's pitchers are in their rookie campaigns. Including Eduardo Escobar and Jordan Danks on the bench, this squad is holding up incredibly well to the pressures of a playoff race.

3. The Acquisition of Kevin Youkilis

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    After Brent Morel and Orlando Hudson failed to fill the role on the hot corner, Kenny Williams sent Zach Stewart and Brent Lillibridge to Boston in exchange for Kevin Youkilis. To say it's working out so far is an understatement.

    The addition of Youkilis closes a gaping wound in the lineup. He has 14 RBI in 13 games with the White Sox. Several have won games. The move has energized the team. How this story continues will have a major impact on Chicago's fortunes in the last three months.

4. Chris Sale as a Starter? Yeah, It's Working Out.

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    A couple of months ago, Sale had to fast talk his way back into the rotation. If his 10-2 record and 2.19 ERA is any indication, the kid knows what he is talking about.

    Sale's use as a starter was a big preseason key to any success the White Sox might enjoy. I would have loved it if he was a solid fifth starter at this point. In fact, he is dominating the American League.

    Sale will be in Kansas City Tuesday as a first-time All-Star, after which he'll get back to keeping Chicago in the playoff hunt.

5. Perfection from Philip Humber

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    Yes, he has a 3-4 record in 2012 and a 6.01 ERA right now. He is currently pitching rehab starts in Charlotte. The fact remains that Philip Humber's April 21 perfecto is one of the brighter highlights of the first half.

    Can Humber return and contribute to the rotation down the stretch? That has yet to be written. However, the masterful performance against the Mariner can never be taken away from him.

    It also cannot be overlooked even in the face of so many great White Sox highlights from the first half.