Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, July 2, 2012 at 9:04 PM
It’s hard to say for certain right now whether or not the Chicago White Sox are a serious threat in the American League. They do lead the Central Division…but that’s been a crappy division all year. They have posted a great record the past month or so. But, that includes Interleague play against the weak NL Central and six games against the horrible crosstown rival Cubs.
Winning BIG games vs. TOP teams would prove that the Chisox should be in the AL Championship discussion along with the likes of Texas, the NY Yankees, and the LA Angels. That’s why the three-game series that begins tonight against the Rangers is so important. The White Sox just split a four-game series on the road against the short-handed Yankees. Win this series…and you’re looking at 4-3 or 5-2 against competitors who matter. Lose the series, and it becomes 3-4 or 2-5 even though the Yanks weren’t at their best and the Rangers series was at home.
Some mysteries are about to be solved!
For now, there is some evidence that Chicago is more of a pretender than a contender. Let’s look at a couple of telltale signs.
RECORDS VS. .500 OR BETTER
NY Yankees 33-22
Chicago White Sox 20-21
To the degree the White Sox are in the playoff discussion, it’s because they’re beating up on an easy schedule. When stepping up in class…they’re only a .500 type team pending this series. Now, that’s not as bad as it sounds. If you’re 50/50 within a quality class, that means you belong within that quality class. You can see though that both the Rangers and Yankees are doing very well vs. top competition. The White Sox aren’t an ELITE team right now.
They belong in the playoff discussion. They don’t belong in the championship discussion unless. Even if they sweep the Rangers, we’re looking at 23-21 for the Chisox and 22-17 for the Rangers vs. quality heading into the final weekend before the All-Star Break. They can play their way into the championship discussion by impressing the world these next few days.
RECORDS AT HOME
NY Yankees 25-19
Chicago White Sox 19-21
This is stunning to us…and probably the single biggest red flag that the White Sox are a pretender. Have you ever seen a championship caliber team that couldn’t play .500 ball at home?! And, that 19-21 record has come against a soft schedule! The Rangers are obliterating a similarly soft schedule at home. The Yankees have had a very tough schedule this year, but are still holding their own. The White Sox should be embarrassed to have that poor a home record this deep into the season.
Okay…with those elements in mind as the Chisox embark on a home series against a quality team, let’s look at the likely pitching matchups.
Texas: Oswalt (2-0, 4.26 ERA, 1.97 WHIP)
Chicago: Sale (9-2, 2.27 ERA, 0.97 WHIP)
Oswalt has limited time in 2012 under his belt, and he’s been stuck pitching in a great hitter’s park. So, that horrible WHIP will probably be stabilizing soon. That being said, Chicago plays in a hitter’s park too…particularly in terms of home runs in warm weather. Oswalt may be in trouble here, against a surprise pitcher having a truly fantastic season. Clear edge to the White Sox on the mound here. If they can’t win this one…you can probably take the fork out of the draw already in terms of championship potential. And, if Oswalt starts to settle in, that just locks in Texas even more strongly in their own division and in the championship discussion. The winner of the AL West battle between the Rangers and the Los Angeles Angels may come down to how much Oswalt can give the Rangers down the stretch.
WEDNESDAY NIGHT (on ESPN)
Texas: Feldman (2-6, 6.13 ERA, 1.53 WHIP)
Chicago: Axelrod (0-2, 4.50 ERA, 1.35 WHIP)
Another chance for the White Sox to cash in…given the troubles Feldman has been having this year. Axelrod may be in trouble though too. He’s not particularly well-suited to shut down a strong offense in a good-hitting environment. This would be a good spot to consider an Over in terms of your personal handicapping…particularly if weather conditions are helping. If you follow home plate umpires, check out that angle too. Normally when top teams are playing in a way that foreshadows playoff baseball, you’re talking about a pitcher’s duel. That’s not the case here. The stat suggest a slugfest is likely. The White Sox must win both low and high scoring games if they’re going to be taken seriously in the second half of the season.
THURSDAY AFTERNOON (on WGN)
Texas: Harrison (11-3, 3.16 ERA, 1.24 WHIP)
Chicago: Quintana (3-1, 2.19 ERA, 1.07 WHIP)
Quintana’s not likely to maintain those ERA and WHIP stats over extended action. He’s thrived within a short sampling. Harrison has thrived all season, and has posted very strong numbers for a guy who has to pitch his home games in Arlington. That’s ace caliber stuff from the Rangers arm today. Remember this is a day game after a night game, which might influence how the managers structure their lineups. It’s also a getaway game for Texas, who must fly to Minnesota afterward to start a series in Minnesota Friday. Chicago stays at home to host Toronto this weekend. This isn’t one we’d want to handicap in advance. As the flow of the series and the game day decisions of the managers will play a huge role in determining overall motivation in this spot.
Well…the stage is at least set for the White Sox to make a major statement over these next three days. They face manageable pitching the first two games, and might luck into a get-away mindset from the Rangers when a good opposing arm is on the mound. A poor series would be a disaster in that context. Make sure you’re paying attention!
JIM HURLEY is likely to have at least one major BLUE RIBBON release in this series. Check the ads on the home page of this website every day for big play bulletins. Other games of interest on the Tuesday Card include:
NY Yankees at Tampa Bay (see yesterday’s showcase series preview if you missed it)
LA Angels at Cleveland (Wildcard contenders)
San Francisco at Washington (potential NLCS preview?)
Cincinnati at LA Dodgers (Cueto on a mission?)
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Back with you Wednesday for July 4th baseball coverage. Our next showcase series preview will run Friday to get you ready for the much anticipated Yankees-Red Sox series in Fenway. We begin our summer series of college football conference previews this weekend with the WAC and the Sun Belt. Those will run every weekend through the next two months…starting with the mid majors and building to the majors as we get you ready for the 2012 kickoff (how about Boise State-Michigan State and Alabama-Michigan in the first big weekend?!)
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