You Can Put It on the Board: White Sox Will Contend in 2013
Despite low expectations from most prognosticators, things were looking rosy for the White Sox for much of the 2012 season. Guided by rookie skipper Robin Ventura, Chicago led the American League Central for a good portion of the year including a two month period when the Pale Hose sat in the catbird seat every single day. In the end though, the South Siders stumbled, going just 4-11 down the stretch. The club finished a respectable 85-77 but finished outside the playoff picture looking in.
This season the White Sox will look to take another crack at the postseason, and they'll do so without any major additions. The Chicago brass seems to think they already have the ammo to succeed. Now, they have to put together a full season to prove it.
Look for the Sox to lean heavily on their talented starting rotation. New GM Rick Hahn re-signed Jake Peavy to anchor the staff. Chris Sale continues to impress, while the Windy City hopes for better health and thus a better effort from John Danks. Gavin Floyd and Jose Quintana are also projected starters. Look for Dylan Axelrod to be in the mix if Danks can't rebound. Hector Santiago could also be a factor.
While the White Sox did add third baseman Jeff Keppinger, the rest of their off season additions have been modest. The most noticeable move is a subtraction, with the team deciding to allow long-time catcher A.J. Pierzynski to leave as a free agent. Chicago will miss Pierzynski's bat and his effort behind the plate, but what they may miss most is his leadership. The backstop has been the backbone of the White Sox since 2005.
Paul Konerko will likely fill the void of clubhouse chief along with providing the big bat in the lineup. The ageless first baseman batted .298 last year with 26 home runs and 75 runs batted in. Alex Rios and Adam Dunn are the other two sluggers to watch. Both had strong 2012 campaigns after struggling in 2011.
While Konerko, Rios, and Dunn will be expected to provide consistency, the rest of the lineup will need to contribute with timely hitting. The middle infield remains the same with shortstop Alexei Ramirez and second baseman Gordon Beckham hoping to flash the leather at U.S. Cellular Field all summer long.
The bench and bullpen is not creating much of a buzz in Chitown but don't discount the subs completely. Dewayne Wise has a flair for the dramatic. He'll be the fourth outfielder and the go to lefty hitter off the bench. Utility man Angel Sanchez , infielder Conor Gillaspie, and Hector Gimenez are Ventura's other main reserves.
Matt Thornton has experience and he'll have to serve as not only a pitcher but a mentor to the young relievers in the White Sox bullpen. Addison Reed is the closer, while Nate Jones hopes to get some save opportunities as well.
KEY ADDITIONS: Jeff Keppinger, Blake Tekotte, Angel Sanchez, Lars Anderson, Matt Lindstrom, Zach Stewart
KEY DEPARTURES: A.J. Pierzynski, Kevin Youkilis, Dan Johnson, Brett Myers, Francisco Liriano, Philip Humber
CF- Alejandro De Aza
3B- Jeff Keppinger
RF- Alex Rios
1B- Paul Konerko
DH- Adam Dunn
LF- Dayan Viciedo
SS- Alexei Ramirez
C- Tyler Flowers
Dylan Axelrod/John Danks
THE WHITE SOX WILL WIN IF: The veteran hitters can carry the lineup while some of the young bats compliment the big names along the way. The starting pitchers consistently go deep into ball games allowing little room for error from an inexperienced pen. The club stays relatively healthy throughout the season.
THE WHITE SOX WILL LOSE IF: Dunn and Rios revert to 2011 form. Konerko's age starts to show. The injury bug bites hard. Tyler Flowers is an automatic out. The team gets off to a slow start.
OUTLOOK: Barring any unforeseen circumstances the White Sox should be able to hover right around that 85-77 mark once again. A handful of games here or there however could mean the difference between making the postseason or an October on the links. Robin Ventura has a good rapport with his players and this team plays hard. Chicago is one of those teams in Major League Baseball right now with a huge spectrum of possible outcomes for their season. No one will be surprised if the Sox win the division, qualify as a wild card, or miss the playoffs all together. The key will be finding different ways to win. Unless Detroit and all wild card contenders run away and hide, Chicago should do better than 2012 when all is said and done. Once again, the White Sox will be in the hunt all the way. But when mid-September hits this time they'll have to channel their inner Hawk Harrelson and remember "don't stop now boys!"