The Chicago White Sox are going to need help if they are to make the 2012 MLB postseason. In fact, the White Sox will have to win the remaining three games and the first-place Detroit Tigers will have to lose all three in Kansas City just to force an AL Central playoff game in order to make the postseason.
Going into Monday’s game against the Cleveland Indians, the White Sox have lost 10 of their last 12 games dating back to the victory over the Tigers on September 17 that gave them a three-game division lead.
It has been an absolutely horrendous stretch of baseball and has come at the worst possible time.
If they manage to overcome the collapse, which will take a miracle, and make it to the second week of October, the task becomes even greater for the Sox.
The teams they would face in the postseason are the Baltimore Orioles, Oakland A’s, Texas Rangers and New York Yankees. Two playoff-hardened baseball teams and two teams which have refused to wilt under the pressure of exceeded expectations.
Considering the way in which the White Sox have played the last two weeks, beating any one of those teams would be unexpected.
Out of those four, however, the team the White Sox would have the best chance of beating is the New York Yankees. Other than the Yankees being, arguably, the most vulnerable potential playoff team other than the White Sox, there are four reasons why the Yankees would be the easiest opponent in the postseason.
Donnie Veal has been nearly unhittable.
The White Sox have a better bullpen and it starts with the lefties.
Donnie Veal and the resurgent Matt Thornton give the White Sox the luxury of matching up with Yankee left-handed hitters, while right-handed pitchers Nate Jones, who was touched up Sunday against the Tampa Bay Rays, Jesse Crain and Brett Myers all have above average stuff.
Too many times this year the Yankees bullpen has imploded and given games away.
For proof, look no further than the series with the White Sox in New York when Dayan Viciedo hit a three-run home run in the top of the ninth inning and Cody Wade let an ugly game get even uglier the next night.
It must also be taken into consideration that no matter how well Rafael Soriano has pitched this year, he is not Mariano Rivera. The postseason dynamic for the Yankees bullpen is completely different without him and plays into the White Sox’s hands.
Defensively, the White Sox are far better.
Generally, the Sox have more range, possess stronger arms and are more sure handed than the Yankees.
Consider that the Sox have surrendered only 30 unearned runs all year going into Sunday’s action, while the Yankees have given up 50, and the difference is even clearer.
In the playoffs, the better defense oftentimes comes out on top.
Surprisingly, the starting pitching for the White Sox stacks up very well with what the Yankees are going to throw out there.
Jake Peavy, Chris Sale and Gavin Floyd are not all that different from C.C. Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Phil Hughes. In fact, Peavy and Sale have held the Yankees vaunted lineup to a batting average below .200, while the White Sox are batting over .250 against both Sabathia and Kuroda.
While Sale and Peavy have been relatively ineffective recently, Floyd has pitched well since returning and the Yankees have been going through a similar swoon lately.
With the starting pitching for the two teams relatively equal, the advantage the Sox have defensively and in the bullpen becomes all that much more important.
The most important advantage the White Sox would have over the Yankees is the postseason schedule.
Thanks to the addition of another Wild Card, the first two games of the ALDS would be at home for the White Sox under the new playoff format released by MLB.
Granted, the White Sox have not been particularly dominant at home, but the fact that they would get to start at U.S. Cellular Field is a definite advantage early in the series considering the Sox swept the Yankees at the Cell in August.
Getting to the postseason is going to be difficult enough, but if the White Sox get there and have the fortune of facing the Yankees, anything is possible.