One of the best teams in baseball in '05 and '06 became one of the worst in '07. They had an offense that produced way under its career averages, and a bullpen in which every member, except the dominant closer, struggled at some point throughout the season all contributed to a team that went 72-90.
GM Kenny Williams went out and tweaked his team. He brought in SS Orlando Cabrera from LAA, OF Nick Swisher from OAK, OF Carlos Quentin from ARI, signed RHP Scott Linebrink and RHP Octavio Dotel for the bullpen, and agreed to a deal with Cuban exile Alexei Ramirez.
With a little luck, and a return to normal for some guys, this 2008 White Sox team could surprise. Here's a look at how the team shapes up with less than a week until the season starts.
Projected Batting Order Key '07 Stats
- CF Jerry Owens 32 SB, .324 OBP
- SS Orlando Cabrera 86 RBI, .301 AVG (w/LAA)
- DH Jim Thome 35 HR 96 RBI, .410 OBP
- 1B Paul Konerko 31 HR 90 RBI, .259 AVG
- RF Jermaine Dye 28 HR 78 RBI, .254 AVG
- LF Nick Swisher 22 HR 78 RBI, 100 BB, .381 OBP (w/OAK)
- C A.J. Pierzynski .309 OBP, .263 AVG
- 3B Joe Crede 4 HR 22 RBI in 47 games before season ending back surgery
- 2B Alexei Ramirez N/A, Played for Cuba before signing 4-yr deal with Sox
Outlook for '08
After finishing last in the AL in runs scored, average, and on-base-percentage in '07, all the White Sox hitters need to do in '08 is have average years. A typical year from Jim Thome, Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye, and now Nick Swisher, should produce at least 25+ HR and 80+ RBI to go along with a .280+ AVG. Even the smallest improvement in these four guys will vastly improve an offense that looked dead by midsummer.
Although, the real key to offensive success for the White Sox in '08 could be Jerry Owens' continued growth at the plate. After being called up for the second time in '07, Owens showed manager Ozzie Guillen and crew why he should be considered the leadoff man, anchoring a lineup that needed a spark after shutting down the injury-plagued Scott Podsednik for the season.
Owens and the newly aquired Orlando Cabrera could merge together to form a lethal 1-2 punch that people may recognize as similar to the Podsednik-Tadahito Iguchi top of the order in the memorable '05 Championship Season.
Projected Pitching Rotation Key '07 Stats
- Mark Buehrle 10-9 3.63 ERA, 201.0 IP
- Javier Vazquez 15-8 3.74 ERA, 213 SO
- John Danks 6-13 5.50 ERA, 54 BB in 139.0 IP
- Jose Contreras 10-17 5.57 ERA, 117 ER
- Gavin Floyd 1-5 5.27 ERA in 16 games (10 started)
Outlook for '08
Pitching was the most important part of the White Sox success in '05, and pitching will once again likely dictate the outcome of the season. If the two youngsters, John Danks and Gavin Floyd, show that they have improved as well as they have been pitching down in Arizona, then the rotation should be a lot better and younger.
Probably the biggest factor to the Sox overall success in '08 is Jose Contreras. Contreras struggled mightily in '08, losing nearly 20 games and struggling with his health, both mentally and physically, throughout the year.
The season started off bad for Contreras, filing for divorce with his wife and giving up eight runs (7 ER) in one IP on Opening Day '07. Contreras never got into a rhythm that season, setting the tune for the rest of the Sox. If he can get his fastball back to the mid-90s and control his devastating forkball, then Contreras turns into one of the best pitchers in the game. Otherwise, he is a wild-pitch machine.
Projected Bullpen Pitchers Key '07 Stats
CL Bobby Jenks 2.77 ERA, 40/46 SV
SU Scott Linebrink 3.80/3.55 ERA w/SD/MIL
SU Octavio Dotel 3.91 ERA in 24 G w/KC, 4.70 in 9 G w/ATL
LHP Matt Thornton 4.79 ERA, 56.1 IP
LHP Boone Logan 4.97 ERA, 50.2 IP
RHP Mike MacDougal 6.80 ERA, 33 BB, 42.1 IP
RHP Ehren Wasserman/Nick Masset 2.74 ERA, 23.0 IP/ 7.09 ERA, 39.1 IP
Outlook for '08
The bullpen was the single biggest problem for the White Sox in '07. It started out strong the first two months, but tailed off dramatically in the end. GM Kenny Williams believed that a bullpen built on a bunch of young guys with the ability to throw upper 90s fastballs would be a dominating bunch, but Williams forgot to make sure that the group could throw it over the plate.
The retooling of the '08 bullpen is intended to lean upon veterans such as Scott Linebrink and Octavio Dotel, along with dominating closer Bobby Jenks. The thinking is that these veterans can help take pressure off of younger guys like Mike MacDougal and Boone Logan, letting them develop in less high-pressure situations, and thus getting them ready and focused for a chance at a playoff apperance. This group seems significantly improved from last years bullpen crew, but then again, the same thing was being said about this time last year.
Projected Backup Players Key '07 Note
OF/INF Pablo Ozuna Broken Leg took him out in May, is spark plug and
OF Brian Anderson Fell in managers doghouse, sent to minors, but
great spring has him as likely backup CF.
C Toby Hall Torn labrum in right (throwing) shoulder led to
2B/SS Juan Uribe World Series SS in limbo after losing job at SS and
possibly 2B, may not be with team much longer.
Players being noticed in Spring Training
3B Josh Fields Would be starter most likely sent down to Triple-A
Charlotte because of inability to trade Joe Crede.
OF/INF Jason Bourgeois Had a great spring, could be called up if a spark is
needed to the offense, can run and play all over.
RHP Lance Broadway 15th pick by the Sox in the '05 draft. Won't make
team this spring, but could be called up to slide
into rotation if Danks or Floyd falter.
2B Chris Getz Has shown good patience at the plate in camp, may
need some more time down in the minors though.
OF Carlos Quentin Has great potental, just needs to fully recover from
offseason shoulder surgery, most likely headed to
15-Day DL to start the season.
C Paul Phillips Has impressed manager Ozzie Guillen with his
handling of the pitchers during spring training and
his defensive capabilities behind the plate.
Playing well in Spring Training for the first time in years, the Sox need to keep the good feeling going and start the season off hot in a tough AL Central race.
If the Sox perform up to their abilities, then it will be a three team race between them, the Detroit Tigers, and Cleveland Indians. While all three teams have their strengths, all three teams also have their weaknesses that could hamper their chances at a playoff slot. It should be an interesting summer.