Well folks, the White Sox Roundtable is back in action. With the South Siders in the playoff hunt and jousting with the Twins for the AL-Central lead, things get more interesting every day.
Fortunately, we have our Sox Talk panel to clarify things for us. Thanks to Tom Barbee, Collin Whitchurch, and my fellow community leader JJ Stankevitz for contributing to this week's edition of Sox Talk.
So without further ado, let's get into it!
1. After Kenny Williams' surprise trade at the July 31 deadline, my friend had this to say: "Griffey is iffey." It's been almost a month since Junior arrived. Grade the trade.
Collin Whitchurch: Due to the fact that the White Sox gave up absolutely nothing for Griffey, this grade can get no less then a C from me. Unless, somehow, Griffey finishes the season with less then a .215 batting average (Paul Konerko's average at the time of the trade), it can't possibly be a bad trade.
While Griffey hasn't exactly lit up the world since arriving on the South Side, he's still come up with a few timely RBI and hasn't hurt the team defensively yet. Couple that with the fact that the trade seemingly lit a fire under Konerko (average jumped from .215 to .227 in 16 games since the trade), and I can't give the trade any lower then a "B" right now.
JJ Stankevitz: I wasn't sad that the Sox parted with Richar, seeing as he's blocked by Alexei Ramirez and Chris Getz, with Gordon Beckham waiting in the wings. Even though the bullpen has been stretched lately, Masset was part of the problem, and getting rid of him was addition by subtraction.
The problem with getting Griffey is that he hasn't added a whole lot—his defense has been atrocious, and he hasn't added a whole lot on offense. I'd much rather see Nick Swisher (or better, Brian Anderson/Dewayne Wise) in center than Griffey, as the loss of defense we have with Junior in center has definitely hurt us.
I guess if I had to grade the trade, I'd give it a C—it won't cripple us in the long run and it didn't cost us a whole lot. However, the trade hasn't helped the White Sox a whole lot, either.
Thomas Barbee: My honest grade of the Griffey trade is an A-. The numbers for him haven't been great, but the benefits are beyond the numbers. For one, it lit the respective fires under Nick Swisher, Paul Konerko, and Jim Thome, who were struggling prior to this trade.
By giving Ozzie a full arsenal of power bats, he can plug one of the four into the lineup, based on who's hitting. Another plus is that it gave the Sox some proven depth in the OF—not to mention Reinsdorf will be happy about the additional seats that Griffey will fill.
Truth be told, the analysis of this trade has been a bit overblown. Did the Sox need bullpen help? Yes, desperately. But Kenny Williams didn't want to pay a king's ransom for a guy that may not last past this season. Instead, he gave up two guys that are essentially spare parts (Richar has been bested by Chris Getz in the farm, and Masset never got himself together) for a future Hall of Famer that is, even at this stage of his career, very good.
Chris Pennant: For me, the trade gets a C+. Junior has a double in tonight's game against the Orioles and hit his first Sox homer this past week. I think he's gone through whatever adjustment period he needed and will really start hitting soon.
On the other side, I do not want to see him in center with the defense that Brian Anderson provides, and he didn't contribute much prior to this week (except for his first game against KC).
Junior provides another veteran presence, to be sure, but to this point, he hasn't been the big bat that the Sox could use.
2. The Sox are 20-28 against this season against teams that currently have a winning record (Twins, Angels, Red Sox, Yankees, Blue Jays, Rays, Cubs). However, in road games against winning teams, they are 4-18. Can the Sox maintain this trend and still make the playoffs?
CW: I'm not quite sure how much to put into this stat. In 2005, the White Sox were 38-32 against teams with winning records (Yankees, Red Sox, Indians, Twins, Angels, and Athletics). However, they were 14-5 against Cleveland and 11-7 against Minnesota, meaning that against teams outside of their division with winning records, they were only 12-20.
Perhaps I'm looking too much into it, but I guess what it all boils down to is that if they can get into the playoffs, despite their atrocious record against winning teams, anything can happen. (3-4 against Boston in '05 regular season and 4-6 against Angels.)
The White Sox have 16 games remaining against teams with winning records and only seven are on the road. The Twins only have 10 games remaining against teams with winning records and seven of them are on the road (the only home series is against the White Sox).
I know, I've gone a little stat crazy here, but I think that if the White Sox continue on their current trend (beat up on the bad teams and hold their own against the good ones), they'll be fine. They've done it all season long and still sit just one-half game out of first place.
JJ: I don't think so. They still have to play Boston (three games), New York (four games), and Minnesota (three games) on the road, in addition to three games against a hot Cleveland team. They're going to have to win these games if they want to make the playoffs, especially the ones against Boston and Minnesota, the two teams the Sox will be battling for a playoff spot down the stretch.
If they can't win those games, they aren't going to make the playoffs.
TB: Well, considering the only team in the A.L. with a winning record on the road is the Angels, I don't think the numbers are particularly startling. Everyone's having a hard time on the road this year and playing top-tier teams makes it that much more difficult. What it comes down to is that the Sox need to simply beat teams that they should beat and try to split/win series against the stronger teams—no matter if it's at home or away.
CP: No matter where you are, I want to win. That's just me. I understand that everyone in baseball is choking on the road this year, though, so I would be happy with the Sox going .500 on the road for the season. To do that, they need to beat the bad teams, as Collin said, and make a strong showing against good teams.
Having said that, I think the Sox can take two of three from the Yankees and the Twins, and possibly win the four-game set with the Angels (as I don't think Ervin Santana's as dominant as he has been.)
3. The previously unknown or forgotten men have come up big for the Sox this year: Carlos Quentin, Alexei Ramirez, Jim Thome, and recently Javier Vazquez and Juan Uribe. Who will have the largest impact for the team down the stretch?
CW: The biggest impact players for the White Sox this season will be the guys whom the team expected to depend on when the season began. Jim Thome, Paul Konerko, Javier Vazquez, and Mark Buehrle will all play pivotal roles in getting the team back to the playoffs.
As good as John Danks and Gavin Floyd have been, I'll still trust Vazquez or Buehrle more than them in a season-deciding game. Likewise, while Ramirez, Quentin, and Jermaine Dye have carried the team throughout the season, and I don't expect any of them to dwindle down the stretch, I still fully expect both Konerko and Thome to carry the offense down the stretch.
And with an offense that has those two hitting, coupled with our three stars, it could be an offense to be reckoned with.
JJ: Scott Linebrink, and it may not be in a good way. Octavio Dotel has really struggled since the start of August, as has Matt Thornton. Getting Linebrink back would take a lot of pressure off those two, in addition to D.J. Carrasco, but if he stays out for the rest of the season, the bullpen will continue to struggle to get to Bobby Jenks.
TB: Vazquez and Uribe still have a lot to prove in my opinion. Javy's been pitching better, but that last start against the Rays definitely left a bad taste in everyone's mouth. He needs to be one of the guys that steps it up and pitches late into games, as he's the only other innings-eater besides Buehrle.
With Juan Uribe, I have to believe that as his defense continues to improve, and as he gets more comfortable playing third, that bat will start to come back. When it does, watch out.
CP: Javier Vazquez. He's very close, but he hasn't reached his true potential yet. Earlier in the year, I said that Gavin Floyd would be the X-factor down the stretch. Now that the Sox have switched to a four-man rotation (so I've read on the Sox website), Vazquez has to really turn it on in September. He's turned a corner; he's still vulnerable to a big inning or two.
4. Of the American League teams with a shot at the playoffs, whom would you rather play (or not play) in October?
CW: Even though the White Sox beat them in 2005, the possibility of playing the Red Sox still scares the crap out of me. The team just flat-out knows how to win in October, and Terry Francona is the best big-game manager in baseball right now.
At the same time, the scrappy Rays are to be avoided as well. Sure, they don't have a lot of big-game experience, but they remind me too much of the '05 White Sox, in that they just play the game well and don't get rattled in big moments.
I would absolutely love for the Sox to play the Twins in the playoffs, if both teams make it, as Minnesota has a propensity for choking in the playoffs. The Angels, as good as they've been this season, are also a team I think the White Sox could have success against come playoff time.
TB: Crazy as it is to say, I'd have to go with the Angels as the team I'd rather see the Sox play. They match up well against them and can also hit their pitching pretty well. So long as they don't try to rely on late-inning heroics, the Sox could take them in a series.
CP: I would much rather see the Red Sox or the Twins than the Angels. If the Yankees make it, I think the Sox could take them as well, but the Angels are way over .500 for a reason. They've been able to win against a loaded offense in the Rangers, and I'm not sure if the Sox could beat them with their recent reliance on the long ball.
The Red Sox have a good team and their pitchers have a propensity to be lights out in the postseason, but I still think the BoSox would have a tough time of it against the ChiSox, as the series in Chicago showed.
The Twins have Perkins and Liriano on right now, but one of them is going to lose it by the end of the regular season. And my goodness, how sweet would it be to send the Twinkies packing?
Bonus: On 670-AM this past Thursday, Boers and Bernstein said they would take the Cubs' "Big Three" of Dempster, Zambrano, and Harden over any of the four starters for the Sox in a playoff game. Do you agree? If not, whom would you switch out?
CW: Even though he's had his playoff struggles, I think I'd still take Carlos Zambrano over any of the White Sox pitchers. Mark Buehrle would be my second choice, over both Ryan Dempster and Rich Harden.
Perhaps I have a White Sox-bias in my decision, as both Dempster and Harden have been unquestionably better then Buehrle this season, but he's always been a big-game pitcher, and I have the utmost confidence that he'd get it done in the clutch, where Dempster and Harden both have yet to prove that.
JJ: I would agree, simply because Zambrano, Dempster, and Harden are all far more consistent than the quartet of Danks/Vazquez/Floyd/Buehrle. In any given week, those four can all be dominant, or three of them can have awful starts.
In the postseason, you really only need three starters, and Zambrano/Dempster/Harden can match up with anyone in baseball, save the Rays at Tropicana Field.
TB: It's hard to disagree with that argument, seeing as the Cubs' "Big Three" are the best in baseball. I'm not as big on Dempster as I am Harden and Zambrano, but the only Sox starter that can possibly compare is John Danks. Even so, Danks doesn't really intimidate hitters the way the Cubs' starters can.
CP: I wouldn't call the Cubs' starters the best in baseball (not with Lackey, Santana, and Saunders killin' it in SoCal), but they are better than the Sox's top four right now, no question.
However, based on the way John Danks pitched at Wrigley, along with the whole year, I would take him over the Cubs' trio. Call me crazy and biased—you'd be right.
That's it for this week's edition of Sox Talk. If you'd like to join the panel, post on my wall or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks, and as always, Go Sox!