Chicago White Sox 2012: Will the Sox Outlast the Tigers for the Division Crown?

Matt Barbato@@Matt_BarbatoCorrespondent IAugust 21, 2012

Rookie manager Robin Ventura hopes his team will hold off Detroit in the AL Central race.
Rookie manager Robin Ventura hopes his team will hold off Detroit in the AL Central race.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The baseball world has been saying it since June, "The Tigers will get hot, they'll figure it out."

But on August 22, the Detroit Tigers sit two games behind the division-leading Chicago White Sox, a team that has been rejuvenated under first-year manager Robin Ventura.

Can the White Sox keep up their unexpected season and make the baseball world look foolish? Or will the Tigers finally get it together and swipe the division away from the South Siders in the last month of the season?

A key component to the race could be the schedules of both clubs.

The White Sox have 20 games remaining against teams with records above .500, while the Tigers only have 16. Also, the Tigers play their last 13 games of the season against cellar-dwellers Minnesota and Kansas City.

The Sox play seven of their final 13 against playoff contenders Tampa Bay and Anaheim. That is a big difference in strength of schedule that definitely gives Detroit an advantage.

The Tigers have the best pitcher in the division, if not the league, in Justin Verlander, but I don't think they have a better pitching staff than the Sox. Other than Verlander, the only starting pitcher on the Tigers with an ERA under four is Doug Fister, and he has a 7-8 record.

The Sox rotation has been anchored by Chris Sale and Jake Peavy, and has also gotten great production from rookie Jose Quintana. The Tigers may have Verlander, but he can only pitch once every five days, while the Sox have three guys who give them a pretty good chance to win whenever they take the mound.

The bullpens are both very good, but I'll give the Tigers' pen the slight edge because of their experience. 

The Sox' bullpen has plenty of upside in rookie closer Addison Reed, and was bolstered when they acquired Brett Myers from Houston. But when it comes down to the final few games of the season, I'll take the experience of veterans Jose Valverde, Joaquin Benoit and Octavio Dotel slightly over the young arms of the Sox.

The Tigers made the big splash of the offseason by signing free agent Prince Fielder, and also have arguably the best hitter in the game in Miguel Cabrera.

But after that, the production drops off dramatically.

The only other player with more than 50 RBI is outfielder Austin Jackson. The White Sox have six players with over 50 RBI and five players with at least 19 home runs. The Sox may not have the star power of Cabrera and Fielder, but they do have Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn along with a lineup that can kill a pitcher on any given night.

When the final games of the 2012 season have concluded, I see the White Sox winning the division in a race that will go down to the wire. The Tigers have the more dangerous lineup, but the Sox can hit the ball as well and are getting remarkable production out of Dunn, Alex Rios, A.J. Pierzynski and youngsters Dayan Viciedo and Alejandro De Aza.

The Sox's rotation is also deeper as long as Peavy stays healthy, and unfortunately for Detroit, Justin Verlander cannot win it by himself.

Things are coming together on the south side of Chicago, and the baseball world will be wondering what happened as the Sox clinch the Central Division.