After a week of games one thing is certain — there are still 156 games to play.
Yes, it's a long season. But let's take a look at some of the more noteworthy bits and pieces we saw after six games of White Sox baseball.
Alexei Ramirez — Putting aside the obvious point that a high batting average in the first week is unsustainable (see Flowers, Tyler), Ramirez's start is a positive sign given his inability to hit at the beginning of the season in the past (career line of .239/.279/.326 in April).
While his .455 batting average is fun to look at, the reason for optimism that his success could continue is his three unintentional walks, seeing as how it took him 14 games to accumulate that many a season ago. He's also swiped two bags and only struck out once.
Adam Eaton — Eaton has shown flashes of why he was expected to become a fan favorite during the first six games. Yes, he's (BUZZWORD ALERT) scrappy. Yes, he's (BUZZWORD ALERT) grindy.
Eaton has seen 136 pitches in 28 plate appearances thus far, averaging just a shade under five pitches per at-bat (4.86, to be exact). Per ESPN Stats & Information, the MLB leader in pitches per plate appearance in 2013 was Mike Napoli at 4.59.
Again, the high rate isn't exactly sustainable, and likewise, seeing a lot of pitches isn't necessarily indicative of success (Adam Dunn saw the third most pitches per plate appearance in 2013), but it's a good sign that the team's young center fielder appears comfortable hitting at the top of the order.
Chris Sale — 15.1 IP, 3 ER, 2 BB, 14 K. Obviously.
Jose Abreu — After exploding onto the scene in the first three games against Minnesota, Abreu cooled off a bit against Kansas City, going 1-for-11 in the three-game series.
But peaks and valleys are to be expected, and as hard as it was to not overreact to his mashing of the Twins, failing to repeat those results against the Royals is a reminder of just that.
There is still room for improvements, of course. Abreu has yet to take an unintentional walk, and had just one during Spring Training, but his pitch recognition and ability to improve the more he sees a pitcher has been promising, particularly against two teams he's going to see a whole lot of in the future.
The Bullpen — Robin Ventura's shaky bullpen management has been a point of contention for some time now, and has been badly exposed during the opening week, particularly in Wednesday's game against Minnesota when he used three different pitchers for four batters before the 7th inning, leading to late-inning issues that saw Daniel Webb throw 48 pitches over 2.2 innings.
The struggles of Nate Jones, Ronald Belisario, Scott Downs and Matt Lindstrom are worrisome. But as Nick mentioned, there is still a plethora of young arms with the potential to get the job done. This bullpen doesn't have the makings of a lights-out, shutdown group, but Ventura managing them sensibly would go a long way toward them cobbling together some semblance of respectability.
Erik Johnson — Again, it's early. But check out the heat map of Johnson's contact rate in his first start of the season:
What does that mean? Well, it means the Royals didn't have a whole lot of trouble seeing and making contact with Johnson's pitches. He threw 98 pitches in Friday's loss and only generated four swings and misses.
In short, not good.
But Johnson is an example of someone it makes no sense to worry about at this stage. He's young, starting his first full season and is going to have his share of outings this season that make you go "yeesh!" What will be key going forward is limiting those outings. He simply can't miss bats at this low of a rate.
Avisail Garcia — James chronicled the potential of Garcia prior to the season and thus far, we've seen more of the bust potential than the boom. After collecting three hits in his first five at bats of the season, Garcia has gone 0 for his last 15.
What's more, he has looked slow and awkward in right field, failing to show off the athleticism he's been touted as having and that we saw glimpses of in 2013. Again, he's young and it's early, but having a similarly-billed warning sign right next to him on the roster (see Viciedo, Dayan) makes it easy to find concern.
The results haven't been there for Marcus Semien thus far, and he's striking out at a high clip (9 in his first 30 at bats), but his approach hasn't looked too bad and maybe I'm a crazy optimist, but I still believe he'll figure it out. A move down in the batting order may help.
Tyler Flowers has nine hits in his first 18 at bats. For comparison's sake, he didn't collect hit No. 9 until his 44th at bat in 2013 (although he did begin the season 5-for-12). The hits have been nice, but they haven't exactly been impressive. I'm going to reserve judgement for now and expect a heavy BABIP regression in the near future.
Similarly, Conor Gillaspie has shown the kind of righty-mashing potential we saw early last season. Most impressive was his being the only White Sox hitter who could figure out James Shields on Sunday, ripping a pair of doubles off of him, the second leading to the first run of the game.
While Sale has been great and Johnson looked shaky, the jury is still out on the other three starters. Jose Quintana, Felipe Paulino and John Danks all had mixed results in their first outings, with Quintana looking the most impressive.
The powerhitting duo of Adam Dunn and ... Alejandro de Aza? I say that in jest, of course. Yes, de Aza's powerful display in the first two games was nice to see. Dunn and de Aza have combined for five home runs this season but just eight base hits in total.
I don't know if you've figured this out yet by now, but it's still early. There are positive signs and negative signs, but mostly, there are signs that this team will be about as average as expected. But hey, that's still a vast improvement from 63-99.
This week: Three games @ Colorado (M-W); four games vs. Cleveland (Th-Sun)