Chicago White Sox's 5 Biggest Surprises so Far This Season

Matthew SmithCorrespondent IIIApril 23, 2013

Chicago White Sox's 5 Biggest Surprises so Far This Season

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    The Chicago White Sox have played bad baseball for a majority of the first three weeks of the 2013 season. Not surprisingly, they are in last place in the AL Central with a 7-12 record.

    The woes for the White Sox start at the plate.

    While they were not expected to rival the Detroit Tigers, the White Sox were not supposed to be this bad.

    Look no further than the team’s .271 OBP entering play on Monday. That is good enough for a tie with the Miami Marlins for last in the majors.

    Meanwhile, the pitching staff for the White Sox—owners of the sixth best team ERA (3.40) in baseball—have failed to hold leads and/or stay out of the big inning.  

    To be sure, it has not been all bad on the South Side. Jake Peavy has been exceptional, as have Alex Rios and Addison Reed.

    For the most part, though, it has been a horrible start to the season.

    Starting with Chicago's pitchers, here are the five biggest surprises for the White Sox—some good, and some bad—as the 2013 season enters its fourth week

     

    All team and player statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and the White Sox team site.

Donnie Veal's Lack of Control

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    Don’t let Donnie Veal’s 1.93 ERA mislead you, he has been a disappointment so far.

    Coming into the season, Veal was showered with accolades for his ability to get left-handed hitters out. As a result, terms like being a "left-handed specialist" were hung on him as the 2013 season opened.

    Unfortunately, he has been anything but special.

    Veal has already issued five walks in 10 outings this season. That is more than he had all of last year, when he issued four base on balls over the course of 24 appearances.

    Veal faced one batter in each of his appearances last Saturday and Sunday, and walked them both on nine total pitches.

    Couple his control problems with his ineffectiveness against lefties—two hits and three walks in 10 plate appearances—and his impressive ERA is surprising.

Addison Reed's Effectiveness

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    Addison Reed has been a pleasant surprise.

    Not that the White Sox didn’t think Reed was going to be an integral part of the bullpen, but near-perfection was not expected.

    In large part, his success this season is due to the newly found confidence he has in his slider. As far back as last September, that was seen as a key to his development.

    Bradley Woodrum, of FanGraphs.com, noted then that, “if Reed starts burying his slider, it might develop into a proper put-away pitch that could help him add a few more strikeouts.”

    How right you were Mr. Woodrum, how right you were.

    With a 1-0 record, five saves in five opportunities, eight strikeouts in 8.0 innings and a 1.13 ERA, Reed is dominating right now.

    Along with Hector Santiago, Reed has turned into one of the go-to guys in the White Sox bullpen early on.

Jeff Keppinger's Offensive Ineptness

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    Jeff Keppinger has been less than impressive to this point for the White Sox.

    Brought in via free agency to make contact and get on base, Keppinger has failed to do either.

    He has already struck out nine times in 18 games this season after collecting a mere 31 strikeouts in 115 contests last year.

    He is also failing at getting on base. His .167 OBP this year—which is actually lower than his .171 batting average—is well below is career mark of .332.

    While Keppinger has succeeded in advancing Alejandro De Aza on several occasions and has collected two sacrifice flies, his lack of discipline at the plate has been quite surprising.

    He has hit the ball with more authority the past few games and collected two hits Monday night against the Cleveland Indians, but has little to show for it.

    Keppinger has shown his defensive versatility, however, logging time at third, second and first base already.

Alexei Ramirez's Hot Start

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    Has Alexei Ramirez finally figured out how to hit in cold weather? Well maybe not, but this is the best he has ever looked in April.

    A career .232 hitter in the first month of the season, Ramirez is currently batting .288 and already has 19 hits. He is off to a fantastic start.

    His numbers must be tempered just a bit. After all, he had a .385 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) over his last seven games going into Monday night, which is extraordinarily high. As such, we must expect a bit of a regression at the dish.

    Either way, though, Ramirez’s offensive numbers have historically improved as the weather warms up, and if he continues that trend, 2013 figures to be a very good year.

Adam Dunn's Historically Bad Start

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    Adam Dunn is off to a historically bad start.

    Not even his forgettable 2011 season (.159 BA, 11 home runs, 42 RBI and 177 strikeouts) started this badly.

    In 2011, he hit .160 with a .597 OPS in the month of April. Entering play on Tuesday, Dunn is hitting .101 with 27 strikeouts in 67 at-bats and has looked lost at the plate.

    Some of his struggles can be attributed to a new philosophy at the plate, as he is more aggressive early (via FanGraphs.com). However, his difficulty generating offense may also simply be a decline in his natural ability.

    Whatever the case may be, April has not been kind to Dunn. Heading into this week, he had to get 13 hits over the course of his next 35 at-bats just to get to a .200 batting average (via Mark Gonzales, Chicago Tribune).

    Given his recent performance, that seems unlikely.

    You know it’s bad when a player cannot live up the standards he set during the worst year of his career.

     

    @MatthewSmithBR