By Connor McKnight
White Sox Pre and Post Game Host on WLS AM 890
The White Sox have the best record in the American League.
At 14-6 the Sox have tied their best 19-game start since 2006. They’ve gotten it done with spectacular pitching, highlight-reel defense and just enough hitting.
The offense, it would seem, is an easy enough fix. Really, it comes down to two guys doing exactly what everyone in the industry thought they’d do. In a way, the fact that Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier have struggled out of the gate is a best-case problem; those two will hit.
When that starts, and they’re coupled with Melky Cabrera’s .400 OBP and Adam Eaton’s constant table-setting (.309/.356/.397), the run-scoring issues should—in a rather profound way—resolve themselves.
Pitching and hitting often vacillate throughout a season. Defense, we’re told, is more stable. Granted, guys can have bad days or weeks but typically, the type of defense we see over the course of a season is a relative constant.
Defensively, the White Sox have been stellar. In most cases, it’s affecting their margin for error—for the better.
Look no further than the triple play Friday night against the Rangers—the very first 9-3-2-6-2-5 triple play in MLB history. Triple plays, as they go, are rare enough but when they do happen, they’re even rarer when they start in the outfield. (Around 10% of triple plays have been started by outfielders. Thanks to JJ Stankevitz of CSNChicago.com for that number.)
Adam Eaton’s break on the line drive from Mitch Moreland was just another example of his impressive work in the corner this year. Eaton has been able to read fly balls from the corner and it’s shown; FanGraphs has Eaton leading MLB in Defensive Runs Saved at seven. Abreu’s back-and-forth with Ian Desmond after the Rangers outfielder had overrun first base showed… well something, I’m not sure what exactly but let’s give Pito some props for the athleticism. Plus it was ridiculously fun to watch.
Brett Lawrie did a great job yelling for Abreu to throw home after he’d tagged out Desmond. Abreu couldn’t have assessed the situation himself after going three-rounds with Desmond (how could he?) and Lawrie was there to help out.
After Abreu had thrown home (from his knees, no less) Dioner Navarro and Tyler Saladino worked together to cut Prince Fielder from the herd and line him up for the third out of the inning. Saladino made, perhaps, the most heads-up play in the entire mess. His decision to run to third and freeze the runner there then cut the corner and force Fielder into a no-win decision.
There it is all in one play. Improvement from incumbent players, better communication on the field, smarter decision making.
When a team isn’t hitting it needs all of those gears to mesh to win ballgames. They’ve meshed, clearly, and now the White Sox have a cushion to get the offense sorted out. No doubt sooner would be better than later but with an unrelenting April schedule (27 games in 28 days including a stretch of 19 straight) and dates with homer-happy offenses in Toronto and Baltimore, the Sox have another test in front of them.
Remember though, the White Sox have the best record in the American League.