1. The last week was somewhat of a rollercoaster, starting with the loss to Toronto, Gavin's near no-no, the shellacking by Minnesota, three wins in a row, and then the loss Sunday to the Mariners. What was your take on the week (positives, negatives, that kind of stuff)?
Dieter Kurtenbach: I liked this week. It was a return to normalcy for the South Side bitches. I was impressed with the team's demeanor in winning two series and being in every game. This team responds to Ozzie and controversy. Those things go hand in hand most of the time.
Gavin Floyd has flirted with two no-hitters thus far, and you can never take that away from him. I still would like to see more consistency from him—he's making rookie mistakes when he gets behind in the count. When he runs across teams that are patient at the plate (ie. not Minnesota or Detroit), he can run into trouble. If nothing else, Seattle is patient and he got the loss Sunday because of his ineffectiveness to get ahead in the count.
It would be something entirely different if Floyd was the type of pitcher who could beat you with his fastball, or location, or speed, but Gavin thrives on hitters chasing pitches out of the zone. If a hitter can force Floyd into a hole in the count, they can, and usually do, beat him.
The only thing that is holding Floyd back from being the best pitcher on this team is his inability to attack the strike zone with well located pitches. This team could have easily thrown in the towel with the way they were being defamed in the media. A team that no one, other than the fans who love them, wants to see succeed, took the rallying call of their embattled manager and scrapped out two vital series wins.
Chris Pennant: It was a crazy week. Check out my column from Sunday for my full take, but otherwise, I saw some positives and negatives. The offense started to come out of the doldrums, but they still didn't take advantage of the big opportunities. The pitching was great at the beginning of the week, but Buerhle and Floyd got lit up. Vazquez wasn't lights-out either. After losing six in a row though, the past week was positive overall in my view.
Aaron Rusnak: I thought it was a good enough week to get us back on the right track, after having lost six straight, so I am satisfied. We have now won the last two series, and when you do the math, that's .666 ball. If we can continue to win series we will be fine.
The hitting funk isn't completely over with, as some of our big bats have yet to pick up, but we are starting to put some runs up—which we couldn't do during the losing streak. I was most impressed by Gavin's near no-no, but not impressed from his hangover of it Sunday. I think he can bounce back his next time around. I also attended my first game of the year on Thursday, making this a pretty good week for me overall.
TJ March: It was just that: a rollercoaster. Winning the two series in the week (Twins and Mariners) was a definite high point. Floyd's almost no-hitter was the most nerve-racked I have been in a long time, and I am a college student starting finals week.
However, Buehrle had yet another rough outing. The inconsistency is starting to worry me a little. Not to mention, the blow-up doll controversy was completely blown out of proportion. There's so much to be taken. As the summer starts to rear its head in Chicago, we can only hope that the inconsistency of the bats start to disappear.
Thomas Barbee: Overall, I feel pretty good about the past week of baseball—The
Sox seemed to have turned a corner with a few key guys stepping up.
Needless to say, that Toronto series was brutal offensively, but all teams have stretches where they don't perform. The key is for the guys to just pull out of it, and for the most part our guys have.
We did well against both the Twins and M's overall, and seeing Dye, Cabrera, Quentin, Uribe (!), and Anderson all stepping up a bit in the last week
is pretty encouraging.
Steve Jankowski: Overall, not a bad week, and we're only one game out in the division race. That's the most important thing right now.
Patrick Nolan: All in all, I think it was a decent bounce-back from the bad stretch they just went through. One major concern I have is that Mark Buehrle doesn't seem to be able to get it done these days. Another is that we got a peek at what I unfortunately believe is "the real Gavin Floyd" on Sunday.
JJ Stankevitz: Consider this. When the Sox beat the Twins on Tuesday, May 6, it had been nine days since their last win. I'll take four wins in the week. I'm starting to get concerned with Mark Buehrle, though, and Gavin Floyd finally had the bad outing everyone was expecting. However, on the whole, the week was good, as the offense finally showed signs of life.
2. Brian Anderson started all three games against Seattle and played pretty well. Would you like to see him continue to start, at least until Swisher, Thome, and/or Konerko finally break out of their slumps?
Dieter Kurtenbach: The BA era has come. I don't know if his hitting will be solid for the team, but that has never been his strongsuit. I think that having Anderson in center takes away nearly one run from a team a game.
Obviously I have no mathematical formulas to back this up, but looking at the last three games, there was the Sexson grab, and the near spectacular catch on Ichiro. That's two runs that he saved right there. Who knows if BA would have caught Mauer's slicing double...my money says that he does.
Frankly, I feel that Jim Thome's performance has been nothing but detrimental to this team. Swisher has been horrible thus far, but he brings a lot to the clubhouse. Thome, from all knowledgeable accounts, brings nothing. He's a great guy, but not bringing much to the table with that kindness.
I think the best thing for the team is to bolster the farm system a bit more by trading Thome to a team like Toronto, Texas, Kansas City, Baltimore, San Francisco, or Florida. Perhaps a team will need a bat to make that 'push' between now and June 15th. Thome is bringing nothing to this team right now, and I can't foresee him bringing anything in the near future and ultimately we need to add some depth to the farm system.
The White Sox can move Konerko to the full-time DH spot, and then Swisher to first base, his natural position. That leaves left field to Carlos Quentin, Jermaine Dye in right, and a nice platoon of Jerry Owens and Brian Anderson in center.
Chris Pennant: Heaven help me, I'm saying Brian Anderson deserves a place in this lineup. I almost can't believe I'm saying it, but he's played well enough to start at least three days out of the week, whether in center or one of the corners. Swisher needs some time off right now, and BA can deliver some key hits in the seven or eight spot, seeing as Uribe looks to be coming around for one of his streaks. Yes, Uribe. I didn't stutter.
Aaron Rusnak: Yeah, I would like that. I feel like he has earned the spot, and we won two of three when he played this weekend, so why not. He seems to be hitting better than Thome, Swish, or PK, so leave him out there and continue to see what he can do.
TJ March: Ride it out. Same thing that is going on with Carlos Quentin. Play him until he loses the hot bat. If he can keep hitting the ball the way he has, maybe between him and Quentin, the offense will get a bit of a jump start.
Thomas Barbee: As long as those three guys continue to struggle, there should be a place for Brian Anderson to start. He flashed some serious leather in that Seattle series, including one play that would've been a part of ESPN's highlight reel for the next month, had he been able to reel in the catch.
While I love what Swisher brings to the plate with his tenacity, the guy seems to be pressing too hard as of late, and with Anderson putting in good ABs, I don't see the harm in him playing until the other guys get out of their slumps.
Steve Jankowski: Yes. We need someone to be in the lineup that is producing. So, until either Anderson slumps or one of the aforementioned three get back in gear, keep Anderson in there.
Patrick Nolan: I'm all for Brian Anderson carrying a starting job for now, that glove is awesome. Now that his bat is playable-ish (.248 EqA), I'd say he's more than fine to spell a hitter in a slump. Thome is underperforming, but Swisher (.238 EqA) is the main culprit for the offensive struggles. If some time off is what he needs, then Anderson's my man.
Konerko (.226/.355/.409, .272 EqA) hasn't actually been all that far below his projected production, considering the back two of those three rate stats are much more important than the front one. I'm fine with Konerko staying in the lineup every day.
JJ Stankevitz: Brian Anderson is just one of those guys who you love watching play defense. The routes he takes to balls are incredibly smooth, and he has no fear of the wall—as seen by his spectacular catch on a deep fly ball off the bat of Richie Sexson in the Seattle series. If he just could consistently hit, he would quickly become one of the premier center fielders in the game. It's a real shame he hasn't got that chance after his rookie year of 2006, but with those three players struggling, maybe we'll see him really start to develop nicely.
3. All-Star voting has (prematurely) begun. Right now, who on the White Sox is deserving of a spot on the All-Star team?
Dieter Kurtenbach: Carlos Quentin. He leads the American League in home runs, is third in RBI, has a .403 OBP, and a .288 average. I can't foresee him letting up anytime soon. His approach at the plate is enviable and his defense is solid.
This is the player that was uber-hyped and was widely considered the best prospect in the league. It is trades like the one that brought Quentin to the southside that always makes me defend Kenny Williams. That said, Jermaine Dye deserves a nice share of votes. He has had a great season thus far.
Chris Pennant: Carlos Quentin. Octavio Dotel and Scott Linebrink have been doing a good job out of the bullpen, so I'd put them up as well. But Carlos Quentin is mashing the ball.
Aaron Rusnak: Carlos Quentin, obviously. He's the AL leader in homers and could possibly be a Derby candidate (crossing fingers no, that event is just horrible for a guy's swing), but he has been just excellent all year—our one truly consistent hitter—and has fielded well. From the pitching side, Vazquez will get in. He's on top of the AL in Ks and I'm pretty sure he'll be a 10-game winner by July.
TJ March: Offensively, Quentin and AJ Pierzynski. Quentin is for obvious reasons (.298 average, AL-Leading nine home runs, 29 RBI, and .403 on-base percentage.). AJ has started off the season on fire. He is batting .303 with three home runs and 15 RBI. For the pitching side, Johnny Danks, Gavin Floyd, and Bobby Jenks. The youngsters certainly have the stuff this year. Even after Floyd's rough outing Sunday, their stats are 3-3 with a 3.18 ERA, 3-2 with a 3.32 ERA, and 2-0, with seven saves and a 2.51 ERA, respectively.
Thomas Barbee: I hate looking at All-Star voting this early, but if pressed, I'd
say that Carlos Quentin and AJ Pierzynski would be the two worthy nominees thus far offensively. If you want to include the pitchers, then I'd add Javy Vazquez, Bobby Jenks, and John Danks to the mix.
Steve Jankowski: Carlos Quentin. He's leading the team in every offensive category. I also think Javier Vazquez deserves to be named. He's been the ace of the Sox staff that is one of the best in the American League right now.
Patrick Nolan: As of right now, it would be an absolute sin to leave Carlos Quentin and his AL-leading .331 Equivalent Average off the team. However, due to him not even being on the ballot and a total lack of name recognition in the eyes of the casual fan, he has no chance.
JJ Stankevitz: Carlos Quentin, for all the reasons listed above. While Cliff Lee is getting all the "amazing story" publicity, what Quentin is doing is almost as incredible considering what he went through last year with his shoulder. Also, if John Danks and Javy Vazquez can get their wins up, they'll deserve to make the team, as I expect their ERAs to stay in the low-mid 3.00s.
4. Just how important do you think the four-game series against the Angels is? Do you think taking three out of four could be the spark this team needs to go on an extended run?
Dieter Kurtenbach: I love series against the Angels. They remind me a lot of the White Sox in many ways. Forgotten and frowned upon, never really given credit for their World Series win. I think that there is a nice little rivalry brewing between these two teams. I also love thinking about the 2005 ALCS, and the many Memorial Day games that I attend every year, when they always seem to play the Angels.
The Angels are in the same situation as the White Sox this year. They are being held up by their non-superstars. Their pitching is being lifted by guys with low expectations, and they are behind a team in the standings that was expected to be in the cellar of their said divisions. Of course, every series is important for the White Sox, but to get at least two is vital. Winning series in the regular season nearly ensures that you will be playing in an abbreviated series in October.
Chris Pennant: I talked a lot about sparks after Uribe's play in the rubber match against the Twins. I think that was the first step in getting the ballclub fired up. This series is definitely important because we're facing a good West-Coast team: our Achilles heel. We've played the Angels well in recent history, but they're not a rollover team; Torii, Vlad, and Casey Kotchman are all good hitters. This will be a measuring stick for the team, especially the starting pitchers.
Aaron Rusnak: I think it's a pretty big series for us. After taking two of three in Seattle, if we can get three in Anaheim, and then at least two in San Francisco, and come back with seven or eight out of ten on this road trip, it would be a huge confidence and momentum boost. West-Coast trips have always been hell for us, but to come back with seven or so wins could prove huge later on.
TJ March: I think that going to a warmer climate might be just the thing to wake up the slumping bats. That just might be the exact recipe that will bust Thome, Konerko, and Swisher out of their slumps.
Thomas Barbee: This Angels series is pivotal, as it could very easily make or
break this West Coast road trip. Beyond that, the Angels are one of the better teams in the AL, so it will be a good test for the Sox to see how they can do against yet another one of the better teams.
Hopefully the results this time around will be better than what they showed against the Yankees, as winning three out of four at the least would certainly boost the team's morale and confidence, and give them some much needed momentum.
Steve Jankowski: I think a split with the Angels would be a success, considering we won two out of three in Seattle, and we should win at least two out of three in San Francisco. But I wouldn't complain with three out of four in LA.
Patrick Nolan: I don't think that the outcomes of the games themselves are significantly more important than those of any other series. But individual performances in this series, such as Buehrle having a solid outing or Swisher showing signs of remembering how to make contact with baseballs and hit for power, could be very key over the long season for this team.
JJ Stankevitz: I'd take a split at this point, but like Patrick said, individual performances might be more important. If the offense can continue to pull themselves out of their slump and the pitching does well, I'll be satisfied with two wins in Orange County.
Bonus Question! The MLB Draft is fast approaching—any specific player or position you want to see the White Sox take with their first top-ten pick in well over a decade?
Dieter Kurtenbach: Aaron Crow. I try to keep my biases under wraps. I don't like to beat the Rah-Rah drum, but I have seen too much of this kid over the last two years, and I can't get enough. He's diabolical. He makes people look foolish.
The White Sox have drafted a lot of SPs in the past few drafts, but the word on the street is that Crow's bonus money might have teams sour on him. He is without a doubt the kid to take if he falls. Give him his money. He has the stuff to get to the majors, but more importantly, the mindset. He can beat you physically and mentally. Only the elite can say that.
If he is awaiting at the eighth spot, you must take him, Kenny Williams. Take him or rue it forever. If only the pieces will fall into place...If you excuse me, I must go do some MLB Amateur Draft sabotage.
Chris Pennant: It might be time to start looking for a first baseman. Paulie K is showing a little gray in his beard and a little lead in his usually fleet feet. Sorry, couldn't resist, but yeah, I'd look for a good all-around first baseman, and perhaps a second baseman that has some pop.
TJ March: Right now, with the farm system in shambles the way it is, the South Siders need to take the best player available. With only a few bright spots left in the minors, they just need to start rebuilding from the ground up. No matter what position, or players are available, the Sox simply need to take the best player left on the table.
Thomas Barbee: Oh, the MLB Draft, the only draft where guys like Albert Pujols can be selected in the 13th round, and "can't miss" guys like Scott Ruffcorn get selected in the first round. While there are a number of directions that the Sox could go in this year, I think they'll start off in typical Kenny Williams fashion—pitching.
That being said, if available, I'd like the Sox to go after LHP Brian Matusz out of University of San Diego. He's put up some very nice numbers and has great stuff—so hopefully the Sox can afford him, if he's available. If they do go offensive for once in their lives, I'd like for them to look at an infielder like 2B Jemile Weeks (Rickie Weeks' younger brother) or SS Brandon Crawford.
Patrick Nolan: I'd like to see them take a shortstop, simply because it's been a long time since the team was well above league average at that position.
JJ Stankevitz: If Aaron Crow, from The University of Missouri, falls to us and we take him with the eighth pick, I will cry tears of joy. Like Dieter, my fellow Mizzou bretheren, I've seen Crow pitch a lot this year like Dieter, and absolutely love what he brings to the table. A low-mid 90s fastball, a solid changeup, and one of the most devastating sliders I've ever seen.
That said, if we can't snag Crow, Buster Posey, a catcher from Florida State who could also be moved to shortstop if necessary, would be an excellent pick as AJ Pierzynski isn't getting any younger.
Editor's note: Sorry for the delay here. It's finals week...