THE SURPRISING WHITE SOX!!

Last week, in this spot, I wrote about the Chicago Cubs, who, at the time, were 24-6 and eight games ahead of the second place Pittsburgh Pirates in the National League Central Division. A week later, after going 3-3, they were still ahead of the second place Pirates, with a won loss record of 27-9, a .750 won loss percentage.

Obviously, they cannot keep this up but, if they did, a won loss percentage of .750 translates to 122 wins and 40 losses over the full season. Don’t look for that to happen but the Cubs are looking really good right now.

While that is happening over on the north side of Chicago, on the south side there is another surprise taking shape. The White Sox, who finished in fourth place in the American League last year with a dismal 76-86 record, are in first place with a record of 24-14, five games ahead of the second place Cleveland Indians. Robin Ventura’s team, in his fifth year at the helm, is 10-5 at home and 14-9 on the road. They have scored 168 runs while giving up just 130.

During the off season, the White Sox added hard hitting third baseman Todd Frasier, who they got in a three way deal with the Reds and Dodgers. Frasier is hitting only .228 but has 12 homers and 32 RBI’s. Strengthening themselves up the middle, they signed veteran short stop Jimmy Rollins who has solidified their defense and is hitting a respectable .236. He was signed for $2. million, a bargain for a middle infielder. Brett Lawrie, their second baseman, acquired in a trade with the Oakland Athletics over the winter, gives them a whole new middle infield. He hit .260 with 16 homers and 60 RBI’s last year and is hitting .268 with five homers and 16 RBI’s this year.

Further strengthening themselves in the middle, they signed Free Agent, center fielder Austin Jackson for $5. million. Jackson, who can play any of the outfield positions well, is hitting .230. With Adam Eaton, hitting .303, in right and Melky Cabrera, at .305, in left, they get plenty of offense from their outfield.

Dioner Navarro has been filling in behind the plate until this week while regular catcher Alex Avila, signed for $2.5 million, as a Free Agent to further strengthen the middle, recovered from a right hamstring strain with fifteen days on the disabled list. Avila is a career .241 hitter and a fine defensive catcher.

They have the slugging first baseman Jose Abreau, who had 69 homers and 215 RBI’s in his first two years, back for his third year and he has five homers and a .248 average. Avisail Garcia, the designated hitter, is batting .269 with four homers.

The real key to this team so far has been the pitching staff. Chris Sale, who became needlessly embroiled in the dispute over Adam LaRoche’s son not being allowed to be in the clubhouse before the season started, is off to a great start despite the controversy. He is 8-0 with a 1.67 ERA and has struck out 53 batters in 59 innings. Jose Quintana is 5-2 with a 1.54 ERA and Mat Latos is 5-0 with a 3.40 ERA. Their fourth starter Carlos Rodon has not fared as well with a 1-4 record and a 4.99 ERA.

If there is one possible weakness for the long haul in this pitching staff it might be that Sale, Quintana and Rodon are all lefties making them vulnerable to right handed lineups, although that has not appeared to be a problem as yet. Veteran John Danks, another left hander, started the season in the rotation but was released after losing his first four decisions with a 7.25 ERA. Miguel Gonzalez, a right hander, who has made two starts with no decisions and a 4.91 ERA appears to be going to be the fifth starter.

Closer David Robertson, who had 34 saves, with a team that only won 76 games, last year after coming over from the Yankees, is back again. He has 10 saves in his first 12 tries this year and a 1.23 ERA. Robertson is a hard throwing right hander who worked in the bull pen with Yankee Closer and legend Mariano Rivera to learn his trade.

Left hander Zach Duke has been in 22 games in relief and has a 3.00 ERA with 15 strikeouts in 15 innings. Matt Albers has been in 17 games and has a 2.60 ERA and is

1-2. Nate Jones has been in 16 games, has won 2 and not lost and has a 2.30 ERA. Zach Putnam has been in 12 games, won one and has a 3.38 ERA, while another left hander, Dan Jennings, has appeared in 11 games, won one and lost one, and has 2.35 ERA.

Ken Williams, Vice President and General Manager of the White Sox has done a fine job of putting together a contender in a short period of time. When you look at the moves he made between the end of last season and the start of this season and realize that he added five of his current eight position players, all of whom were established veterans with proven ability, you wonder why anyone is surprised that they are so much improved. But even the most astute observers could not predict they would get off to such a good start.

This summer looks to be a happy time for the long suffering fans in Chicago on both the north and south sides.

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