Having won their first two games of the season against the Indians, the White Sox have already matched their win total against Cleveland for the entirety of the 2013 season. So far, the offense gets most of the credit for the team's 6-5 start, having scored 70 runs in those 11 games — the most in the majors.
There are a few reasons for that. Weak spots in the lineup last year have morphed into strengths — Tyler Flowers is hitting .419/.455/.548, for example. Guys who were below average or okay last year have hit the ground running. Conor Gillaspie was certainly the player of the game last night, driving in four runs and improving his line to .343/.375/.457. Adam Dunn and Alexei Ramirez are off to very hot starts.
Then there are the newcomers — Jose Abreu is murdering the ball ruthlessly, and Adam Eaton is getting on base at a .412 clip.
The result is that even with a shaky pitching staff, even in games where the White Sox have fallen behind, they have generally kept themselves in games with an offense that keeps scoring.
A few things to keep in mind.
1. For all that I love the ride, and for all that they could still have plus/bounce back seasons, I do not think Alexei and Flowers are going to be the first hitters since Ted Williams to hit above .400 for a season.
2. The White Sox have had a very hitter-friendly schedule to start the season. Minnesota's pitching staff is atrocious. Kansas City is pretty good, given the strength of their bullpen and that the White Sox drew James Shields. Colorado in Colorado yields offense, as we saw. And Cleveland is probably going to struggle with pitching all year, as outside of Salazar and Masterson the rotation is full of back-end starters and the bullpen is a huge question mark.
3. One strength that usually maintains its value regardless of slumps, hot streaks, or quality of opponent is approach at the plate. The White Sox have been using a 1-2-3 of Adam Eaton, Marcus Semien, and Conor Gillaspie, and all three seem to have adopted the approach of working the count as long as humanly possible. On Thursday, when Danny Salazar struck the trio out to start the game, they still forced him to throw 20 pitches in doing so — a precursor to Salazar's 10K, 3.2IP losing effort. Eaton, Semien, and Gillaspie have ranked 39th, 12th, and 68th in the majors respectively so far this season in Pitches Per Plate Appearance. Combined, it requires 12.70 pitches to get through the three hitters. With those three getting the most PAs in a game, the result is the opposing pitching is forced to work harder than they might otherwise.
Speaking of Masterson, that's whom the White Sox will be facing today. Masterson has historically owned the White Sox. Over a not-small-at-all sample of 129.2 IP in his career, Masterson has held the White Sox to a .634 OPS while posting a 2.22 ERA. This should not come as a real surprise, as the Indians' right-hander dominates right-handed hitting and struggles mightily with lefties. Given that the White Sox have had a righty-heavy lineup for the past several years (and a poor lineup generally), that spells trouble.
So today will be a good test of the new offense — if nothing else, one hopes that a patient approach will mean that even if Masterson is effective, they can get back into the vulnerable Cleveland bullpen sooner rather than later.
Felipe Paulino takes the rubber for the White Sox, coming off a bludgeoning at the hands of the Rockies. His velocity has been good thus far, so the hope is that he can keep improving as he gets more time with Don Cooper and more starts under his belt post-injury. On paper, the pitching matchup absolutely favors Cleveland — but so far this White Sox team has been a pleasant surprise in many ways.
- Adam Eaton - CF
- Leury Garcia - 2B
- Conor Gillaspie - 3B
- Jose Abreu - 1B
- Adam Dunn - DH
- Alexei Ramirez - SS
- Alejandro De Aza - LF
- Adrian Nieto - C
- Jordan Danks - RF
Felipe Paulino - SP
- Nyjer Morgan - CF
- Nick Swisher - 1B
- Jason Kipnis - 2B
- Carlos Santana - C
- Michael Brantley - LF
- Asdrubral Cabrera - SS
- Ryan Raburn - DH
- David Murphy - RF
- Mike Aviles - 3B
Justin Masterson - SP
Where to Watch: Today’s game will be broadcast on WGN and SportsTime Ohio.
1:10pm Central start time.