People in the national sports media know their baseball. They spend countless hours doing research and looking up every stat imaginable. They know that an ERA under two is a phenomenal accomplishment. They know that a batting average under .200 should get a player sent back down to AAA.
Regardless of the stat, the national media knows it. They should have known that picking the Chicago White Sox to finish fourth in their own division was a mistake, and they seem to have forgotten the preseason picks in 2005.
The Chicago White Sox (33-26) have a 2.5 game lead on the Twins, heading into a four-game series against Minnesota. The Sox have stayed on top of their game, beating teams with their pitching and defense all season long. Sound familiar?
The same formula that led them to a World Series Championship in 2005 has gotten them back to the top of the division. Playing Ozzieball does pay off.
Despite his occasional antics, Guillen has proven to be a valuable asset and the kind of leader that this veteran ballclub needs. His preaching of getting on base and taking advantage of opportunities have affected his players positively, and none more so than left fielder Carlos Quentin.
A new addition to the Sox this season, Quentin was traded from the Arizona Diamondbacks in the offseason for highly touted AA first baseman Chris Carter. He didn't even make the opening day lineup, but that did not stop Quentin.
The next day he was put in at left field, as Guillen moved newly-acquired outfielder Nick Swisher to center field. Quentin went 1-4, but impressed Guillen enough to keep in the lineup. The gamble paid off, as Quentin is now hitting .287 with 15 home runs and 50 RBI.
This rapid production has ignited what would be a sluggish offense if it wasn't for Quentin; the team is hitting an average of .249. Good thing that the pitching has gone above and beyond all expectations.
The Chicago White Sox bullpen has proven to be a weak point in years past. General Manager Kenny Williams went into the offseason with one goal: improve the bullpen.
Mission accomplished, Kenny. Newly signed set-up men Scott Linebrink (1.44 ERA in 25 IP) and Octavio Dotel (2.93 ERA in 27.2 IP) have proven to be quality relievers that can handle backing up All-Star closer Bobby Jenks (14 saves). It hasn't been just Linebrink and Dotel that have emerged.
Pitcher Nick Masset has developed into a quality long-reliever (3.55 ERA in 25.2 IP). Lefty Boone Logan has developed into a flamethrowing pitcher that doesn't throw anything but strikes (2.05 ERA in 22 IP).
Even recently, Kenny Williams has taken a chance on former White Sox pitcher Estaban Loaiza, and signed him to pitch long relief. Hopefully, he can be the same pitcher that won 21 games back in 2003. It is a chance that they can take because they're in first place.
The two question marks coming into the 2008 season for the Chicago White Sox were pitchers John Danks and Gavin Floyd. Danks was a rookie in 2007, and showed some promise and created skeptics at the same time, going 6-13 with an ERA of 5.50, but also having 109 strikeouts. His problem: throwing strikes.
Pitching coach Don Cooper made it a point to fix the problem in Spring Training, and it has paid off for Danks. Currently, Danks is 4-4 with an ERA of 2.88, but shows that he is going to be a solid pitcher for years to come. After all, he's only 23. And then, there's Gavin Floyd...
Gavin Floyd was the fourth overall pick for the Philadelphia Phillies back in 2001. After two years of disappointment in Philadelphia, the Phillles sent Floyd and prospect Gio Gonzalez to the Sox for pitcher Fredie Garcia.
After months in the minor leagues, where he went 7-3 with an ERA of 3.12 for the AAA Charlotte Knights, he was called up to the Sox. Needless to say, he was shaky at best; going 1-5 with an ERA of 5.27, but there was still hope.
Cooper worked with him in the offseason to improve his change-up and to get him to throw strikes. Currently, he is 6-3 with an ERA of 3.15 and 36 strikeouts, and has provided some of the best pitching performances this season, which include two almost-no hitters against the Tigers on April 12 and against the Twins on May 6. He's only 26, and has given Sox fans so much more to look forward to for years to come.
Even thought the Chicago White Sox weren't picked to finish higher than fourth in the division, they continue to prove their critics wrong. Maybe, just maybe, they can make another magical October for us all.