Alexei Ramirez punctuated an up-and-down second week of the season for the White Sox with his two-run, walk-off home run on Sunday against the Cleveland Indians. The victory gave the White Sox a 4-3 record for the week and raised their record against the American League Central to 6-4 at this very early point in the season, and the 3-1 series win over the Indians helped them exorcise some of the demons that haunted them after going 2-17 against the Tribe a year ago.
Sunday's four runs were the lowest amount the White Sox scored in a victory this season but the week as a whole further illustrated what has become the early-season theme for this team — an impressive offense and dreadful bullpen.
Here's a bit of what we've learned after 13 games:
- Thursday's revelation that Avisail Garcia will miss the rest of the season certainly put a damper on a fun start to the season. But as James noted Friday, while the injury robs us of the opportunity to watch an exciting, young player grow during the season, the White Sox's offensive performance to date was nowhere near relient on Garcia. So while the news, for all intents and purposes, sucks, this season's offense appears to be just fine.
- Alexei Ramirez continues his scorching pace through 13 games. His OPS+ was a ridiculous 200 entering Sunday and he's second on the team in RBIs. More importantly, perhaps, he's struck out just three times while drawing four walks. I don't know how long Ramirez's hot streak is going to last or what we'll see if and when he cools off, but right now he's the team's best offensive player. And that's saying quite a lot.
- Tyler Flowers continues to hit at a high clip and his approach, despite striking out 13 times to just two walks, has been impressive. He appears to have shortened his swing quite a bit and is taking the ball the other way. Take a look below at his hit chart for all of 2013 and 2014 to date:
Tyler Flowers in 2013
Tyler Flowers in 2014
While acknowledging that BABIP has likely played a role in Flowers' production thus far (it's currently at .632), Flowers already has seven hits this season when going to the opposite field. In contrast, he had just 13 opposite field hits in all of 2013. So while it would still be foolish to expect Flowers to hit like an All-Star all season, the change in is approach has been welcomed.
- How could I write this many words without yet mentioning Jose Abreu? He mashed his first four home runs of the season (two each on Tuesday and Thursday), and continues to look great at the plate. He did go through a late-week slump, finishing the weekend series 3-for-15 with seven strikeouts despite the two HR performance in Game 1, but I'm confident we'll see more peaks than valleys from him this season. Oh, and he now has five walks on the season, drawing his first unintentional free pass on Tuesday and two more in consecutive games against Cleveland.
- Lost amid all of the swooning over Abreu and the hot starts by Ramirez and Flowers is a quietly solid start by Adam Dunn. The strikeout numbers will never change, but he has eight walks already and a .419 OBP.
- Chris Sale didn't have his best stuff in Friday's win over Cleveland, but he has 19 strikeouts against four walks in 20.1 innings across three starts. The White Sox are really lucky to have him because...
- Neither Felipe Paulino nor Erik Johnson have shown much to this point. Johnson's outing against Colorado on Wednesday was better as he cut down on his walks and generated more swinging strikes (14 in 107 pitches) than he did in his first start (four in 98 pitches). However, Paulino has been nothing short of a train wreck, as even a strong offensive output couldn't offset his ineffectiveness. I wouldn't expect the White Sox to consider a change after just two outings, but there isn't much room for optimism with him right now.
- The bullpen is a complete and utter disaster right now. I'm sure you're sick of hearing about it even just 13 games into the season, but three relievers (Donnie Veal, Ronald Belisario and Scott Downs), have small-sample size ERAs of 9.00 or higher. Downs, specifically, has only tossed 1.2 innings across five appearances with five walks and zero strikeouts. Walks, as a whole, have been the downfall of the unit. Relievers have walked 23 batters with just 27 strikeouts in 34.2 innings to date. Surprisingly, the young trio of Maikel Cleto, Daniel Webb and Jake Petricka have been the most effective of the bunch, but none of the seven bullpen pitchers inspire a bit of confidence.
This week: Three games vs. Boston (T-Th); three games @ Texas (F-Sun)