Chicago White Sox Are Down, but Not Out
As the White Sox have hit a bump in the road, their arch nemesis, the Minnesota Twins, has been surging.
With less than a week left until September, the White Sox find themselves 3.5 games behind the Twins in the AL Central race.
Already, the articles have been flowing, calling the White Sox done. The tombstone has been placed and all but the official date of elimination etched in.
Articles on Bleacher Report have already begun to fly about the Sox' "unimpressive season" and "10 reasons the White Sox will lose the AL Central." Sox fans seem ready to throw in the towel and throw on their Brian Urlacher jerseys.
This leaves me wondering: Do Sox fans really have that short of memories?
Undoubtedly, the Sox are not in an ideal position. But at 3.5 games back, there's plenty of room to rejuvenate themselves and take back the AL Central.
As of late, the Twins have put together somewhat of a hot streak while the Sox have been fading. However, it may be a little early for the Twinkies to get hot. No team stays hot all season, and no team stays cool all season. The trend is a cycle of turning the oven on and off. Right now, the Sox' oven is off—which leads me to believe that that trend may be about to benefit the Sox in a big way.
The Twins, who have somehow played exceedingly better without Justin Morneau, have hit a wall named the Texas Rangers. If there's anything that can cool a team off, it's four games in Texas (because we all know how cold Texas is).
In the doomsday scenarios I've been reading about, the underlying point seems to be the White Sox' schedule. Everyone is so afraid of the Yankees and Red Sox, who will be playing the White Sox in September.
However, consider this: The White Sox have a combined 15-13 record against the Yankees, Rays, Red Sox, Rangers, Angels, and Braves (the six best teams the Sox have played outside the Central). Would you be surprised if I told you that is far better than the record the Sox have compiled against the Indians, A's, Orioles, and Royals (17-21)?
Clearly, playing tougher teams hasn't been the issue for the Sox (or the Twins, for that matter). The issue is not who the teams play, but where. The White Sox are 36-24 at home while being 32-33 on the road. Similarly, the Twins struggle on the road (32-32) while playing well at home (40-22).
So where will the teams play this September? Of the Twins' remaining 36 games, 19 will be played at home. Of the White Sox' remaining 37 games, 22 will be played at home.
While it is very close (although three games will be huge in this race), the important factor is where they are playing from Sept. 10 on, when the Sox will play 16 (of 22) home games and the Twins will only play 10 (of 22). This home field advantage will certainly be key down the stretch, even more important than schedule difficulty.
Next, we need to examine why the Sox fell so hard so fast. The answer is, of course, their bullpen. What has been their strength throughout most of the season has been a glaring weakness as of late. In the last 10 losses the Sox have suffered, the pitcher of record (the losing pitcher) has been out of the bullpen seven times while getting only one win during that same stretch. Most of these losses came in the form of blown saves.
However, this seems to have just been a freak coincidence that so many games were lost by this solid bullpen. J.J. Putz, Bobby Jenks, and Matt Thornton have all had some struggles with injuries during this time, and all are on the verge of being fully healthy. Chris Sale has been a huge lift out of the pen and will be a huge part of the bullpen down the stretch.
I fully expect this one strong part of our team to get back on track and get us winning games again.
The big point is, the Sox still have the best pitching in the Central. They are seemingly getting quality starts night in and night out. The offense has done its part as well. With the bullpen getting back and playing well, I see no reason why the White Sox can't put together another solid run and get back out in front of this race.
By no means is this a guarantee, but Sox fans should begin to expect it. This team simply has too much talent not to be in it until the end, and players on both sides seem to have the feeling this thing is going down to the wire.
So while all you doubters and haters out there write about "needing a miracle" to get back into this race, I would like to remind you that just months ago, it took us about two weeks to come from a near 10-game deficit. Imagine what these Sox could do with a whole month.
(Don't look now, but the Dodgers just placed Manny Ramirez on waivers...that 3.5-game deficit shrinks every day.)
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