Chicago White Sox 2009 Season Preview

Tom FroemmingCorrespondent IMarch 3, 2009

*From Protect the Plate

Thanks in large part to their top three starting pitchers, the White Sox won back-to-back-to-back elimination games to sneak into the playoffs. The 2008 season was full of breakout performances for the White Sox, who won their second American League Central title in four seasons.

After an offseason of change, the White Sox expect to field a younger, more athletic team in 2009. Only time will tell if Chicago is once again a contender, or goes into full-blown rebuilding mode.

Staff ace Mark Buehrle has the longest running streak of consecutive seasons (eight) with at least 10 wins, 30 starts and 200 innings. The lefty also leads all pitchers in quality starts (170) and innings pitched (1,796 1/3) since the start of 2001.

Expect Buehrle, who will be only 30-years-old come Opening Day, to once again be amongst the best and most consistent starters in the American League this year.

After both were highly regarded as prospects, pitchers John Danks and Gavin Floyd finally had breakout seasons in 2008.

Danks, who appeared on the Baseball America Top 100 prospects list from 2004-07, ranked fifth in the AL with a 3.32 ERA to go with 12 wins, 1.23 WHIP and .246 batting average against.

Floyd, who was listed on the BA Top 100 list from 2002-05, won 17 games while posting a 3.84 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and .241 average against. Both pitchers displayed why their previous organizations made them top-10 picks, and made Chicago GM Ken Williams look brilliant for acquiring them.

Heading into the season, not much was expected from Carlos Quentin or Alexei Ramirez. Quentin, a former first-round pick, had fizzled as a prospect with the Arizona Diamondbacks due to numerous injuries.

Despite not even making the roster out of Spring Training, Quentin emerged as the front runner for the AL MVP. He ended up finishing fifth in voting after hitting .288 with 36 home runs and 100 RBI even though a broken wrist cost him the final month of the season.

Ramirez finished second in AL Rookie of the Year voting after hitting .290 with 21 homers and 77 RBI. No one knew what to expect from "The Cuban Missile" because he hadn't played any professional baseball in the states. Ramirez will move from second base to shortstop in 2009.

After they had so much success with players with very short track records in 2008, the White Sox are hoping another group of young players can step up this season.

On the pitching staff, Clayton Richard, Jeff Marquez, and Aaron Poreda are looking for a shot in the rotation if aging starters Jose Contreras and Bartolo Colon falter.

In the infield, rookie Chris Getz, who hit .302 in Triple-A, will get the first shot to replace Ramirez at second, while Josh Fields, who hit 23 homers with the Sox in 2007, will take over at third.

In the outfield, speedster Jerry Owens, who stole 32 bases in 93 games with Chicago in 2007, will battle career .221 hitter Brian Anderson for the starting center field spot.

Paul Konerko, the longest-tenured member of the Chi-Sox, has been on the decline the past two seasons. After hitting .313 with 35 homers and 113 RBI in 2006, his average took a hit in '07 before he had a disastrous year in '08.

His average dropped 73 points and OPS dropped 149 points between 2006 and last year. Konerko, who turns 33 this month, already has an AL Comeback Player of the Year Award, so a resurgence certainly isn't out of the question.

The White Sox hit 35 more home runs (235) than any team in the AL and led the league with 93 quality starts...Closer Bobby Jenks' Ks/9 has fallen from 10.3 to 7.7 to 5.5 over the past three years...Octavio Dotel's 92 strikeouts has tied for the most amongst AL relievers...Southpaw Matt Thorton held lefties to a .170 batting average while striking out nearly 50 percent of the lefties he faced...Quentin led the AL in at bats per home run (13.3) while Jim Thome ranked fifth (14.8).


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