Chicago White Sox: A User's Guide to Holding off the Detroit Tigers
For the first time since 2008, the city of Chicago gets to experience meaningful baseball in the month of September.
And boy, it feels pretty good if you ask any White Sox fan.
Throughout the course of the 2012 MLB season, the chemistry within the AL Central has been perplexing to say the least.
The division-leading White Sox have struggled against the division, holding a 28-27 record against their regional foes. This figure hides the fact the Pale Hose have been absolutely atrocious against the Tigers and the lowly Kansas City Royals.
Nevertheless, the Tigers cannot seem to gather any momentum after they run off a couple of victories. Since last weekend's sweep over the White Sox last weekend, the Tigers have lost four out of their five.
The season is approaching its conclusion at a rapid pace. How can the White Sox fend off the Tigers and secure the AL Central Crown?
The Middle of the Lineup Needs to Heat Up
Due to Alex Rios' stellar play throughout the entire 2012 season, I'm going to keep him out of this conversation.
Meanwhile, I'm going to call out Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko.
If the team weren't in the midst of a playoff push, I'd be congratulating the tandem on a terrific season.
But it's September, and I expect more.
Since the All-Star break, Konerko has hit a light .274 compared to his .329 pre-All Star break average. While that figure isn't necessarily alarming, I want to see it higher.
Dunn, on the other hand, has noticed a significant drop. For a player graded on his power production, the slugger has seen his OPS drop from .859 to .825 in the second half. Coupled his oblique issue, this decline is a bit alarming.
If the White Sox are going to slide into the playoffs and make any headway once they're there, they need this duo to take their hitting to the next level.
De Aza Needs to Rediscover His Mojo
Much of the White Sox success this season can be attributed to the offensive and defensive play of CF Alejandro De Aza.
In the field, the "rookie" has covered a ton of ground in center field while displaying an above-average throwing arm.
At the plate, he's set the tone with .348 OBP percentage, 23 stolen bases and 75 runs scored. Needless to say, he's no Juan Pierre.
Recently, De Aza returned from the DL, and he's yet to find his former production. Regardless of DeWayne Wise's success off the bench, the team needs De Aza to be the force he was prior to the injury.
Stop Issuing the Free Pass
The mantra seems pretty simple to comprehend, yet the White Sox pitching staff doesn't seem to get the memo.
Walks will kill a pitching staff.
Ever since the arrival of Francisco Liriano to the pitching staff, the rest of rotation has suddenly caught the BB bug.
It seems like every White Sox starter has thrown 80 pitches by the time the fifth-inning rolls around.
If the White Sox continue this horrific trend, I can guarantee that the team will fail down the stretch.
I'm no mathematician, but this formula is easy to understand.
Walks = stressful innings = higher pitch counts = consistent scoring opportunities for the opposition.
Hopefully, pitching coach Don Cooper gets out the chalkboard and explains this elementary concept to his oblivious pitching staff.
God, I hate walks.
Gavin Floyd Needs to Return with a Vengeance
Gavin Floyd is the most frustrating pitcher in baseball. At times, he can be brilliant and lead a pitching staff. At others, he shouldn't even be pitching for the Charlotte Knights.
Floyd is the type of pitcher that needs to find a consistent release point. To this point in the 2012 campaign, he's yet to do so.
For some obscure reason, I've got a feeling that his best pitching this season is still in front of him.
Time will tell, but I think Floyd will win two more starts this season. Call me crazy, but the White Sox definitely him to step up.
Reed Needs to Find His Form
White Sox closer Addison Reed is a rookie. Let me repeat, the 23-year-old is pitching his first season in the big leagues.
While Reed's been shaky as of late, his performance on the whole has been impressive for a first-year closer in the show. His numbers aren't the greatest, but he's 26 for 30 in save opportunities.
At this point in his career, he's a "bend-don't-break" type of closer.
He relies on his 95 MPH heater too often, not trusting his breaking ball or change up enough to make opposing hitters think twice.
Once he gains the confidence and spots his fastball a bit better, his numbers will continue to improve.
The Sox need him to remain confidence, pound the strike zone and trust his secondary stuff.
I know, quite a short order.
It might seem like a long list, but the White Sox should be able nail a couple of these things down.
If they don't, the Tigers will probably sneak into the playoffs.
Given the Tigers' lackadaisical play and less-than-stellar defense, my gut tells me that the South Siders will prevail and appear in the post-season.
I'm hopeful, and you should be too.
Hopefully, come October, you will see the White Sox on the big stage and the Detroit Tigers in a 16-inch Softball League Tournament where food and beer are allowed on the field.
A place where Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Jhonny Peralta, Delmon Young and the rest of the overweight Detroit Tigers would surely rather be.