Coming out of the All Star Break, the White Sox went 1-5 against the Royals and Cardinals, while averaging three runs a game on offense. As they stared at 42-50 with a -81 run differential on the season, there wasn’t much reason for optimism as they started a 4-game set in Cleveland against the likes of Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar.
So of course they annihilated Cleveland in three straight games by a combined score of 24-4. Baseball Reference defines wins and losses of more than 5 runs as “blow outs.” Coming into this Cleveland series the White Sox had 6 blow out wins all year (against 15 such losses). They rattled off three in a row against the reigning Cy Young Award winner and a couple of very talented strikeout pitchers.
Some of this was unsurprising - it isn’t really weird that Samardzija, Sale, and Quintana all turned in excellent starts. Quintana mixed in his first career complete game shut out, Samardzija looked very much the part of an efficient workhorse - not missing bats, but generating lots of weak contact - and Chris Sale was Chris Sale. It’s funny that 7 innings with 2 runs is somehow a disappointment, because he’s that freaking good.
It’s not funny that Sale was left in to throw 109 pitches with an 8-1 lead and the bullpen only having thrown one inning in the previous two games combined. Even when things are going well Robin Ventura finds some way to do something indefensibly stupid. Moves like this are why I think it's a fair argument to say he should be fired immediately.
But Melky Cabrera’s recovery has gone from a gradual, grinding slog to a genuine outburst, going 7 for 13 with 3 doubles, 2 homers and a walk against some very high quality pitching. On the season, Melky’s monthly OPS totals have looked like this:
April/March - .620
May - .518
June - .706
July - .962
If nothing else, there is more and more reason to think that May was simply a slump - which happens - and it's valid to think that he should give them roughly the production they had hoped for when they signed him this offseason.
After weeks of me calling him terrible, Carlos Sanchez has turned his Super Lame Recovery Story (“He’s hit an empty .260 for the last 4 games!”) into something that looks a little more promising. As I write this, Sanchez has gone 3/4 in the Sunday tilt (including his second home run in as many days) and has raised his OPS about 100 points since the All Star Game. It’s still a sub-.600 mess because he hit like a pitcher for about 150 PAs, but if he can show he can muster up a ~.650 OPS with a good glove that’s something you can live with at 2B. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time he’s had severe growing pains after a promotion - and he’s seriously super young still.
Alexei Ramirez also looks vastly improved and is making me feel better about my prediction that he is the best choice at SS for the White Sox in 2016. He’s hitting .323/.357/.477 in July so far and has looked revitalized in the field. The line for the season is still dreadful, and all of this is probably too little too late, but at the very least as an Alexei Ramirez fan I am glad to see he is not necessarily done.
Unfortunately, Avisail and LaRoche continue to be complete and utter train wrecks - both of their season OPS totals have plunged below .700 and show no signs of stopping. Still, for most organizations, corner outfield and DH shouldn’t be the hardest spots to replace, and it’s not like there is a ton of time left on LaRoche’s contract or that Avisail is owed any money at all.
It also helps that at a position where Gordon Beckham and Conor Gillaspie had hit .195/.258/.311 and .237/.276/.364 and respectively they have had Tyler Saladino’s .306/.300/.469. This is unsustainable, and he needs to draw a walk eventually, but that’s obviously a huge upgrade and his glove definitely plays at third. EDIT: As pointed out in the comments below, on Sunday Saladino drew three walks and his line now sits at .294/.327/.451.
If nothing else, they have finally looked like the team that people thought could compete coming into this season, and any signs of life are welcome. It would also be nice if they could clearly identify where they have problems and where they don’t. And at least White Sox fans have been able to enjoy a couple of fun games.
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