Ranked 19th in the league in runs and 15th in ERA, how could I even consider them playoff contenders? The Chicago White Sox have been very disappointing this year to say the least, stumbling through the first three months of the year. After defeating the Cleveland Indians last night, they've managed to get a game over .500 and reach within 3.5 games of the AL Central leading Detroit Tigers. The White Sox' struggles all start with big Adam Dunn and his .162 batting average. He has just 11 homeruns this year, while driving in a measly 40 runs. So with an automatic out in the lineup, how could this team win the division? The answer is simple: strength of schedule.
The White Sox actually have the lowest strength of schedule in the AL so far this year, but their schedule gets even easier for the rest of the year. After this patch of games against contenders (Indians, Rangers, Angels), 10 of their next 13 games are against the Mariners and Twins. The Sox also have 7 games left against the Royals, before finishing up their season vs. Toronto. Of course they have some tough division games against Detroit and Cleveland (6 and 10 respectively), but that puts matters in to their own hands. 16 more games against AL Central contenders, 5 against AL West contenders, and 20 against non-contenders are all that remain for the regular season. Going 25-16 the rest of the way would give them 87 wins on the year and probably get them into the playoffs. The 25 wins are definitely possible for the White Sox, who have won 9 of their last 11.
A lot of this falls on to rookie Tyler Flowers, who will be starting a lot of games with A.J. Pierzynski gone to the DL. Juan Pierre and Paul Konerko are both putting together great years once again, but if the other bats in the lineup start to heat up, watch out for these White Sox. Quentin, Dunn, Ramirez, Beckham and Rios have all struggled this year, but are way too talented to perform this poorly.
The pitching rotation is doing okay with Buehrle leading the way, but John Danks is pitching a lot better as of late. This team is built like a playoff contender and they are playing their best baseball of the year right now. Coming into the season they were the easy pick to win the AL Central, but they haven't lived up to the hype. The South Side of Chicago is yearning for yet another playoff run, so Ozzie better get his troops lined up or this team could be blown up this winter.