Well…there are a couple ways to look at the first half of the season for the Chicago White Sox. They are still in first place by 1 1/2 games at the AllStar break with Contreras pitching poorly for the last two months and Konerko being essentially a non-factor. They are in first place even with Jenks out and Vazquez being inconsistent. All of this has taken place while the Twins have been seemingly winning every day, with today a noteable exception. It is in a way, miraculous the White Sox have managed to stay in first place for as long as they have. Still, I don’t see them staying in this position for long after the AllStar break if they continue to get this kind of poor pitching from Contreras and inconsistency from Vazquez and now Gavin Floyd recently. It is the right handers who I am most concerned about. The lefties Buehrle and Danks have been very good.
The bullpen, while good for most of the first half, has suffered in Bobby Jenks’ absence. They desperately need him not just for what he can do in the ninth inning, but how he affects the entire organization of the bullpen. With eveyone out of place, the difference has been quite profound, at least that’s what my eyes tell me without actually crunching the numbers. The offense has gotten better, but when you need 13 runs to win a ballgame as they would have needed today, that puts the offense in a very precarious position – one no offense should have to be in if the pitchers do their job. I understand the Rangers have a high-powered offense in a ballpark that plays especially small in the 100 degree heat. Still, a pitching staff that is supposed to be good as the Sox pitching has been should be able to limit the offense to at least 6 runs or less. I think that is a reasonable expectation. The White Sox pitchers have not always fared well against the better offensive clubs and this is a concern for me. Good pitching has to consistently defeat good hitting and that has not been the case as often as I would like from this team.
The second half will be a big challenge for the White Sox, with seven more against Minnesota all in Minnesota, a place where the Sox traditionally have played poorly. The White Sox are going to have to win as many games against their divisional rivals as possible. Since they have never been a good second half team, even when they won it all in ’05, I’m a bit skeptical about their chances with such a slim lead. They are in first place now, but they have to play much more like a first place team in the second half if they are going to win the American League Central Division.