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Back In Contention, Streaking Sox Return to AL and Begin Search For A Real DH

by Mike DePilla
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
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I guess you could say there were signs.
  • Every team, no matter how good or bad, has at least one run in them over the course of a season.
  • June is historically Gavin Floyd's biggest month (2.97 career ERA in June vs. 4.69 overall).
  • Alexei Ramirez doesn't start playing major league baseball until the weather warms up.
  • Jake Peavy could not possibly be as bad as his numbers, even in a new league.
  • The team's low BABIP suggested the hitters were getting unlucky.
  • A run versus lowly National league opponents would provide easy competition to rack up some low-effort wins.

So you could say you saw this coming. If you were really pretentious and full of yourself. And hey, there might even be some writers out there that will pull out an "I told you so" or two.

But really, the team that was comically alternating wins and losses every other day in equal balance a month ago has just reeled off 11 wins in a row, and 15 out of 16. And during that streak they made up 8 full games in the AL Central standings.

No one saw that coming.

The team that just two weeks ago was talking fire sale has now flipped the sign on the front door from "Sellers" to "Buyers" and is aggressively pursuing additions to make a playoff push.

There's no doubt this is a welcome turnaround for the White Sox- it kept several longstanding players in Sox jerseys, it prevented GM Kenny Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen from killing each other (and may have saved each of their jobs) and, by drawing fans back in, it lessened the load on Chairman Reinsdorf's pocketbook.

It also proved to me that I really don't dislike this team- just a couple parts of it. (Namely, two undeserved jobs: Mark Teahen at third base and Mark Kotsay at DH. With Teahen on the DL, games are even easier to watch.)

Of course it was the pitching that fueled this run, and the fortunes of the rest of the season ride on the backs of the five starts. But it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that it was more than coincidence the streak took place against National League opponents. Matching up with teams without devoted DHs, the Sox were finally on a level playing field.

If it hadn't come on the heels of the winning streak, Monday night's 3-1 loss to Anthony Lerew and the lowly Royals is the exact type of game Jim Margalus of Sox Machine would label "fan murdering." The Sox were given five outs in the 8th inning and couldn't score. They were then given four outs in the 9th (along with a walk and a hit batter) and couldn't get the ball out of the infield.

Unless Bud Selig moves his buddy Reinsdorf's team to the NL next week, the Sox need one more bat to win. Williams, happy to even be in a position of buying, will act quick.

******

On Viciedo: The Sox called up their prized Cuban prospect Dayan Viciedo last week, only to start him twice in the span of 10 days. He'll probably get sent back down when Mark Teahen returns from the DL.

Tangent: Where is Teahen going to play when he comes back? It would disheartening to see him return to third base and forfeit the great team defense that helped spark the winning streak. Is there anyway we could keep Vizquel at third and work Teahen in at second base, in a semi-platoon with Gordon Beckham? I know he hasn't played there too much, but he has played there.

My point is: if you are going to have both Vizquel and Teahen in the line up, why not put Vizquel, the better defender, at third, the more important position, and Teahen at second? The offense will be exactly the same, and the defense will be better. If it's the case that Teahen can't handle second, forget all that.

Anyway, about Viciedo: We haven't seen very much, but I see parallels to the rookie curve of Beckham (and even Quentin). Viciedo will be fine as long as he uses the big part of the field- his solid contact to right and right-center against John Lannan of the Nats last Sunday was beautiful. But as soon as he starts turning on everything and trying to pull low and away pitches and swinging out of his shoes on change ups, he will struggle mightily. (He's not going to take walks and he is going to strike out a bunch, so you can just throw out his K% and K/BB ratio. I'm just looking for good contact when he does hit the ball)

Against Derek Lowe, Viciedo abandoned his opposite field approach and tried to pull low and away off speed/sinking pitches (in fairness, that is the "White Sox Way"). Viciedo could have put the same swing on 100 consecutive low and away sinkers and his batting average would still be .000: 0 for 100 with 100 ground outs to shortstop (a reason why BABIP is a limited metric).

I sure hope Greg Walker is aware of the huge advantage right field brings, and works hard to make sure Viciedo continues to use that part of the ballpark even if he starts getting comfortable.

Either way, it would be nice to see a little more of him before the All Star break.

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