Sunday, August 26, 2007

Cigar but not Close?

The old saying, "you're never as good as you look when you win, and never as bad when you lose," comes to mind after the first three games of the White Sox series have gone 35-6, Boston.

The inconsistent Sox offense pounds out double digit runs three games running, and shows a very good argument why Mark Buehrle didn't belong on their radar screen. The White Sox have injuries and their pitching hasn't performed up to expectations, which is why they are a last place team.

As for the Sox, what are they, a World Series favorite, a top five team, or an enigma unfolding before us? First, despite the sense concerning offensive vulnerability, they have three guys in the top 10 hitting (Pedroia, Lowell, and Ortiz), three guys with 85 or more RBI (Lowell, Manny, Ortiz), two of the top ten in OPS (Ortiz, Lowell), three of the top 20 and five of the top twenty-seven in Runs Created (Pedroia, the revelation at 27).

As of the 23rd, the Sox have eight players with at least thirteen Win Shares, with Youkilis, despite his struggles after the break third on the team, and Pedroia fourth. Pedroia has a legitimate shot at Rookie of the Year, and Lowell may have been the Red Sox MVP so far (an arguable point).

So what's the problem? Is there a problem? It always comes down to pitching, with Beckett and Matsuzaka a legitimate one-two, and Wakefield tied for the post-All-Star break wins at seven. Beckett and Wakefield are tied for the league lead in wins at sixteen.

Among pitchers with at least forty innings pitched this season, Okajima and Papelbon are one and five in ERA, and Mike Timlin (whom I wrote off, literally) is twenty-one. Among pitchers with 100 innings pitched (ERA qualifiers as it were)...Beckett is six, Matsuzaka sixteen and Wakefield twenty-seven. An oddity, according to ESPN, of the top 30 ERA leaders, only one has not yielded an unearned run, Matsuzaka.

Worries? You have to feel better that Youkilis and Varitek seem to be coming out of their doldrums. Manny not being Manny is one issue. The other issues of course are Gagne (as in gag me with a spoon) and Curt Schilling. Schilling got great results with location and no velocity the other night. Many of his fastballs were in the mid 80s, and at least while I was flipping between the Pats and the Sox, he seldom touched 88. Maybe it was a slow gun in Chicago. And he was getting them out.

The tendency becomes to focus on the Yankees, but the issue today is one more contest in Chicago. Let's hope the team has the short-term focus lasered in.

No comments: