One set of Sox rolls out of Camden Yards in time for another to roll in. The Chicago White Sox come into town for a three-game series that starts tonight. If you're like me, you probably don't think of that team a whole heck of a lot. Maybe if you have Jose Abreu on your fantasy team or something, but even then I don't think you really care about the White Sox.
Back before the season began, the White Sox had the third-most votes among ESPN's panel of experts (17/88) for winning their own division, behind the Indians (43 votes, also, what?) and the Tigers (25 votes). Crowdsourcing that one does not seem to have worked out. Your favorite bank of computers and mine over at Fangraphs figures the White Sox, currently sporting an 8-9 record, will end up with 78 wins on the season. The Orioles presently are projected to come in at 79 wins. Go figure.
I asked my counterpart over at South Side Sox, Jim Margalus, to give some thoughts on some things with the Chicago Sox headed into this series.
1. MLB recently handed down suspensions for the recent dust-up between the White Sox and the Royals. Are those going to end up playing a factor in this upcoming series, with either Jeff Samardzija or Chris Sale missing the series due to the pending suspension?
Jim: Considering Major League Baseball hasn't yet handled the appeals from Kelvin Herrera's suspension by the time he got a second one, I imagine Sale and Samardzija are still on schedule. I'm thinking at least one will make their start, after which they might drop their appeal in order to stagger the time served.
2. Speaking of all of that Royals business, seriously, what the heck happened there? You don't have to give me the unbiased version because I already don't like the Royals.
Jim: Basically, it seems like it's very easy to make Yordano Ventura crack, and his teammates are duty-bound to have his back, regardless of how ridiculous it gets. I'm guessing the league sees it the same way -- Adam Eaton didn't get so much as fined, even though he might've started the jawing. They took some unfair lumps in the early going (Jeff Samardzija didn't cover himself in glory in the opening series), but they've tipped the scales the other way since the first week. It might be traced to Ventura, but he's the guy who holds the ball, so that's a problem.
3. Standard small sample size caveat being considered, how are you feeling early on about the big White Sox acquisitions of the offseason? I'm curious about Samardzija, David Robertson, Melky Cabrera, and anybody else who's new and made an impression good or bad.
Jim: David Robertson is really, really, really, really good. Watching him a year after the 2014 White Sox bullpen, I'm getting close to endorsing all four-year closer contracts as great ideas. The Sox paid a hefty price for him and Zach Duke, but they're on a level of talent that the bullpen simply did not possess last year, and the whole group's better off for it.
Samardzija had a rough Opening Day, but he's looked good throwing to Geovany Soto the last couple times. He just needs to tone down the stuff that gets him in the middle of brawls. Melky Cabrera had a really empty first week or so, but he's starting to get on base ahead of Abreu. Adam LaRoche is striking out a lot, and he's the only one that looks truly off his game at this point.
4. Jose Abreu had an incredible MLB debut last year, earning the AL Rookie of the Year award handily and getting himself high up in the AL MVP voting too. So far this year he's off to an even hotter start. Do you expect him to keep it up and have an even better sophomore season?
Jim: I don't want to be greedy and say Abreu should/will have an even better season than his rookie year, but I think he's the kind of guy who can. He's smart, he's strong, and he's hard to pitch to. Which is funny, because he has some awful swings or awful at-bats that make it look like a pitcher has discovered a key weakness, but those have never stuck as anything indicative.
5. When the season got underway, what kind of competition were you expecting the White Sox to offer against the Tigers and the Royals in the division? Has anything happened in April to cause you to adjust your expectations?
Jim: I expected the Indians to be right there, because of their young pitching talent and depth, but there are some flags during their start (the injury to Gomes, Brantley's back, Jason Kipnis and Cody Allen's problems, etc.) that could dig a hole for them. Otherwise, I'm basically treating this year as two seasons. If three or four Central teams get to the trade deadline in contention, it could turn into an arms race.
The Orioles will try to get back to at least .500 against the White Sox starting tonight. The series runs through Wednesday.
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