As White Sox fans, we've been conditioned to believe that this team has to get off to a fast start or people will lose interest quickly. This age-old axiom certainly rings true in 2020, but for different reasons. With the additions the club made over the winter, excitement is high within the fanbase for the first time in a long time. But more importantly, if this team is to push through the opening of its contention window and reach the postseason for the first time since 2008, much of the groundwork for that will be laid in the season's early months.
The Ole Hawkaroo used to say, "You can't win a pennant in April, but you sure can lose one." We've seen firsthand that digging yourself a hole in April can sometimes be too much to overcome, but the schedule presents a tremendous opportunity for the Sox to announce their presence to the rest of the baseball world in 2020.
As we look at the month-by-month schedule, we notice that through the month of June the Sox have an opportunity to position themselves as a contender. Their strength of schedule for the first three months of the season is, well, less than stellar.
Games vs. Teams <.500
Our Sox will play 81 games, that's half the schedule for all you mathematicians out there, against teams that had sub .500 records in 2019. Of those 81 games, they will play 53 of these games through the month of June. We've heard a lot about roster "flexibility" in recent weeks and that should this team be in contention come July, it will allow them to be active to reinforce the roster as needed. The best way for them to be in a position to use that "flexibility" would be to take advantage of soft pockets within the schedule.
To quote the legendary founding member of the nWo, Scott Hall, I think when the Sox face mediocre pitching they are going to "carve...them...up."
This will be particularly important in the season's early months. With a team that features as much youth as our Sox, getting off to a winning start can help instill confidence that they can not only compete, but win at the Major League level.
If this team gets to the All-Star break within a few games of, or hell even leading the division, it should force the hand of the front office to add the pieces needed for a playoff push. When the calendar turns to August (which has the opportunity to be a bloodbath) and September, a further strengthened and confident roster will be better able to deal with the stiff competition that will face them in their quest to reach October.
The Sox will face the pitiful Royals of Kansas City nine times in the season's opening month. They went 9-10 against the boys from BBQ city last year and this is the year that trend of playing terrible baseball against them must end. Coming out in March/April and pummeling them will set the tone for the rest of the year, and we need to see it happen.
Too many times in years of contention this team has played down to its competition. In 2012, the last time the Sox had a winning record, they finished behind the Tigers by three games. In that season, the Sox went 6-13 against the Royals, arguably costing them a playoff appearance. If this team can reverse this trend in 2020, particularly by beating up on the pissants in their division, they will position themselves to make things interesting down the stretch.
If there ever was a time for the Sox to reverse their trend of stumbling out of the gate (yes, I remember 23-10 in 2016 #NeverForget), this is it. Getting off to a hot start would likely cause a group of young players who "aren't supposed to be there" to say to themselves "why not us?" Confidence can be contagious in baseball and the schedule presents a tremendous opportunity for this team to be confident when the baseball world meets at Dodgers Stadium in July for the All-Star Game.
I think in a lot of ways the fate of the 2020 season will come down to how this team is able to take care of business against the also-rans of baseball, particularly the American League. On paper, this team doesn't appear ready to match the upper echelon teams in baseball, so taking care of business against the league's bottom-tier teams is paramount. There are a lot of games against the likes of Kansas City, Detroit, Seattle, Colorado, and Baltimore early in the season and this team has to take advantage.
An inability to come out of the gates strong could sink this team's season and crush all optimism surrounding it before the lake has a chance to thaw. I know I'm optimistic that things are going to be different this time. Like I mentioned earlier, I think this team is going to maul mediocre and bad pitching like we haven't seen in a number of years. There's going to be a lot of fireworks at 35th/Shields this season, and we all know those are #CoolAndTough. They're even better when they're shot off after the 27th out of a game. I want those fireworks to start being shot off on 3/26, we simply can't afford to see them sitting in the garage until July.