Chicago White Sox: Do They Have Enough Left to Hang on for a Division Title?
The Chicago White Sox have no doubt already exceeded the expectations of most as they continue to battle the Detroit Tigers for the AL Central division title five months into the 2012 baseball season.
The only problem is that the season is six months long and it appears that they may be running out of gas a little early.
The baseball season is a 162-game grind and it definitely tests a team's resiliency and toughness.
And White Sox fans are about to find out whether or not their team is tough enough.
So far under new manager Robin Ventura they seem to have a quiet confidence about them that hasn't been there in recent years, but that confidence will surely be tested during the last four weeks of the season.
There have been several instances this year where it appeared that they may finally collapse and become the team that many thought they would be from the start, but each time they have shown the ability to bounce back.
Twice this season they have slipped to their low water mark of four games below .500, but have also had winning streaks of nine games, six games and fives games (which has happened twice).
However, they are at a critical juncture in the season and are in desperate need of another one of those winning streaks to get them back on track.
It's definitely not going to be easy.
They continue to struggle against the Tigers, who have now beaten the White Sox five straight times heading into Sunday Night's tilt against Justin Verlander.
In addition, they have also struggled to beat division foe Kansas City, who has also won five straight against the White Sox.
This poses a problem because after Sunday's game in Detroit, 10 of their remaining 29 games are against those two teams.
If that trend continues, the Sox will be home for the postseason.
The good news is that they have played well at home as of late and they will play 17 of those 29 remaining games at U.S. Cellular Field.
The bad news is that many of the players who have carried them all season seem to be hitting a wall at the same time.
The pitching staff has battled through injuries all year and has done a tremendous job, considering the circumstances and the number of rookies who have taken the mound.
However, some of their young pitchers are entering uncharted waters with the number of innings pitched and it's becoming evident.
Chris Sale has without question been the White Sox ace, but in his first full season as a starter he has more than doubled the most innings he has ever pitched in a season professionally.
The White Sox have already had to give him more time in between starts on more than one occasion and they are hoping that he doesn't fade in this final month when they need him most.
Jose Quintana has been more than the White Sox could have ever hoped for when he was brought up to replace John Danks in the rotation, but he too has now surpassed the most innings he has ever pitched in a season.
Then there's veteran Jake Peavy who has also been terrific this year despite not getting any run support. However, he has now reached the most innings he has pitched since his Cy Young season of 2007 and it's tough to know if he will hold up after battling through injuries the past few seasons.
Add to this the fact that that Gavin Floyd has been battling injuries lately and therefore hasn't been very effective and that Francisco Liriano has been up and down since joining the Sox and it's easy to see why there's cause for concern.
As if this isn't enough, they have a lot of youth and inexperience in their bullpen which includes their closer Addison Reed, who has been pretty good this season, but hasn't been as sharp lately.
And what about the offense? Where has that gone.
Guys like Alex Rios and Adam Dunn who have been having great comeback seasons this year, have gone silent recently.
The same goes for A.J. Pierzynski who is having a career year, but has also gone cold of late.
And you know it's bad when Konerko isn't hitting, but right now that's the case. Paulie is in a bit of a funk at the plate and that doesn't bode well for the White Sox.
Is that enough negativity for you?
Ok, well on the bright side the White Sox are expecting the return of leadoff man Alejandro De Aza for Sunday's game in Detroit after a stint on the DL due to a ribcage injury. This could be significant as De Aza has been a spark plug for the team all season and his return could be the jolt they need to get their offense going.
Also, not everyone in the lineup has been struggling.
Will the White Sox hold off the Tigers for the Central Division Title?
Alexei Ramirez is hitting .406 in his last 10 games and has driven in some big runs to help save the offense during this slump. If Ramirez can continue his hot hitting at the bottom of the order that will certainly help.
The bottom line is that the White Sox have to turn things around, and while they certainly haven't played good baseball lately, it's not too late to right the ship.
They've been here before and have found ways to get back on track.
The big question for White Sox fans is, can they do it one more time?
Well, in the words of their enigmatic announcer "Hawk" Harrelson—sit back, relax and strap it down.
Because we're about to find out.
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