The Chicago White Sox are not off to the start they would like. After winning their first three series of the season, the South Siders are currently on a four-game losing streak. And the last three losses in Cleveland were lifeless performances. It’s hard to come to any conclusions about a team after only 12 games. However, some trends are forming, and three, in particular, could perhaps be a preview of what’s to come. At the very least, they’re worth mentioning.
I’ve trudged through 12 game recaps and noticed a few things. I’ll tell you about the good, the bad, and the unlucky.
The 2021 White Sox had a knack for scoring runs early in games. It’s always great to see the Good Guys get on the board early. An early lead takes a tremendous about of pressure off of pitchers while hitters can be more patient and selective at the plate. As we’ve seen many times, patience at the plate pays big dividends in helping a team pour on the runs. The White Sox’s record in games when they scored a run in the first three innings was phenomenal.
What does this have to do with this season? Well, the White Sox have continued this trend so far in the early going. In games where they have scored at least one run in the first three innings, their record is 5-1. The only loss in that category came in the season opener via Liam Hendriks’s blown save. Inversely, with a 6-6 record, the White Sox are 1-5 when they don’t score early.
Team health is an obvious issue for the Chicago White Sox. Various injuries have resulted in Tony La Russa having to lean on his bench more than anyone would like to see. Injuries are out of anyone’s control. However, it’s hard to excuse La Russa from batting Leury Garcia third.
What really set off my alarms though is the heavy bullpen usage to date. La Russa has been able to spread the work out amongst many arms. But the Pale Hose still rank fifth in the American League in innings pitched by relievers. It’s worth noting the Rays are in 1st and a bit of an outlier because they primarily use their bullpen.
However, despite the innings piling up, the bullpen has pitched very well. Unexpected performances by Bennett Sousa and Tanner Banks have provided an unexpected boost. Both southpaws have proven effective in lefty matchups and multi-inning relief scenarios. Consequentially, the White Sox haven’t felt a negative impact from the loss of Garrett Crochet and Joe Kelly’s injury. Free-agent acquisition Kendall Graveman has been outstanding despite a hiccup against the Guardians on Thursday.
Innings will add up on any bullpen, but so many this early is concerning. The Sox need their best relief arms to make it through the year, especially in the dog days of August and September during what could be a close division race.
The White Sox have certainly been the recipients of bad luck. I’ve said many times, “If the Sox didn’t have bad luck they’d have no luck at all.”
The South Siders are absolutely crushing the ball but could use a little good luck. We consistently see exit velocities well over 100 MPH multiple times in a game. Those hard-hit balls result in impressive expected batting averages on barreled baseballs. But at the end of the day, we only care about results.
The results haven’t been too bad overall, but 15 total runs in the last seven games is absurdly low. With a lineup that boasts so many sluggers, this trend simply cannot and probably will not continue. It all starts with hitting the ball hard and the Sox have done that in spades. If the hard contact keeps up, it’s only a matter of time until this lineup breaks out.
Again, these trends have only had 12 games to develop. While the Chicago White Sox are in a bit of an offensive funk, AJ Pollock will return to the lineup this weekend in Minnesota. If he can provide a spark as he did on Opening Day, that could help the South Siders get back to scoring runs early in games.
My hope is that the return of Lucas Giolito and eventually Lance Lynn will help the rotation help lighten the bullpen’s burden. Additionally, Joe Kelly should be back in the mix soon to help cover innings in relief.
You never know if luck will be on your side though. Hopefully, the White Sox keep making hard contact that eventually results in hits and runs instead of outs. It should be a long season for opposing pitchers if those hard hits can find gras, or better yet, land in the Guaranteed Rate Field bleachers.
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