All-Star Break White Sox Exchange

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The Soxman and Paul M. Banks participate in a Home-run Hitting Contest of Ideas about the White Sox Second Half
 
(PMB) With the unbalanced schedule, winning in your division seems to be the most important component towards reaching the postseason. 

I have to commend baseball in that regard. They’ve done a good job making the pennant races last longer, by not only instituting the Wild Card, but also giving teams a chance to make up ground on their division rivals by playing them many times.

(SM) You are correct, having a schedule in which you play division rivals several times a year does keep division races interesting.  Of particular interest this season we have second-half series against the Rays, Red Sox, and Angels.  This could offer us a preview of a division series or American League Championship Series. 

Sadly, it also means we will have our work cut out for us in the second half.
 
I think you also have to give a little credit to the implementation of the luxury tax, bringing better balance to baseball in addition to the concept of supplying compensatory high-round draft picks to teams who lose marquee players to free agency.
 
Look at the number of small-market teams that are competitive this season: The Rays, Brewers, Marlins, and Twins are all very much alive in the play-off hunt.  Using the system to your advantage, in addition to employing good scouting, really appears to work. 
 
(PMB) Our boys have taken care of business in the Central. Can the Sox keep this up in the second half?  They’ve tanked down the stretch (or at least done worse in the 2nd half than they have in the first half) pretty much every year since 2001.   Why does this team traditionally struggle in the second half? TSB Twins writer and fan Peter Christian thinks it’s because the Sox have an older core and they are more prone to wearing down over the course of a long season. Is this “piranhas” supporter correct? God, I hope not!  
 
(SM) Trying to speculate on the root causes behind the Sox second half swoons would be nothing more than conjecture.  Peter Christian’s hypothesis would be disproved if we examined every season since 2001, as the White Sox still had a fairly young core at that time.  Additionally, in 2005 they swooned, and almost lost their division.  Then they ascended again and were nearly unstoppable throughout the play-offs.  There are so many “X” factors in baseball, so I believe it could be a number of things.
 
A team with a commanding lead could relax a little too much. On the flipside, a team losing their lead can press too much.  The bottom line is that players have to strive for consistency.  In terms of keeping players fresh, I think there is no better manager in baseball than Ozzie Guillen when it comes to ensuring that his bench players get adequate work and that his everyday guys get the proper amount of rest.

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(PMB) What are your pleasant surprises and bitter disappointments from the first half of the season?
  
 
(SM) I feel like I’m going to sound like a broken record in answering this question, especially as it relates to surprises.
 
There have been several pleasant surprises for me honestly.  I’ll rank them:
 
1.      Carlos Quentin: I told you in my season preview he would be good if healthy. 22 HRs and 70 RBI?  Wow.

2.      Gavin Floyd, no writer in Chicago was harder on Gavin than Soxman.  10-5 with a 3.63 ERA is amazing.

3.      John Danks, I would have never believed he would have the best ERA (2.67) of all Sox starters and the 4th best ERA among starters in the AL.

4.      Alexei Ramirez keeps getting better and better.  He has the best BA among Sox starters and yes, we have him for three more years at a mere $1 million per season.

5.      Scott Linebrink, has stumbled a little lately but I honestly did not think he would be as good as he’s been.
 
Disappointments?  Yeah I have those as well.
 
1.      Paul Konerko.  What is wrong with Paulie? Brian Anderson has only 4 less homers than Paulie in over 100 less Abs.

2.      Jim Thome.  He’s been raising his average over the last 30 days, but that .246 BA was a shocker after being “Mr. Incredible” the past two seasons.

3.      Nick Swisher.  I love the passion and chemistry he brings, but he left about 30 points from his batting average in Oakland.

4.      Small Ball.  No speed, no little things.  Where did the World Series winning formula of executing properly go?

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(PMB) Finally, give me your keys to the stretch run/things to watch for in the 2nd half…
 
The Sox MUST improve on their road record and continue to dominate at home in order to win their division.  I do not believe the Sox will make any major moves.  While I know Ozzie would love to have a speedy lead-off hitter, Paul Konerko would have to be traded for that to happen.  I don’t think you will see that happen.
 
Secrets to the Sox success in the second half:
 
1.      Paul Konerko MUST go on a tear.  He’s hitting .316 since being activated from the DL, which is a start.

2.      Ozzie will have to continue making defensive replacements late in ball games.

3.       Bobby Jenks MUST come back healthy.  The bullpen has stumbled without him at the back-end.

4.      Our starting pitching must return to their early season success.  Contreras has a 5.60 ERA over the last 21 days.  Gavin Floyd had a 5.48 ERA in his last four starts, and Javier Vazquez has a 6.48 ERA in his last 4 starts.  Those are not the numbers of a play-off bound team.

5.      The Sox MUST improve on hitting in pressure situations.  The Sox are second from last in MLB in batting average with runners in scoring position and two outs (.195).

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Comments

  1. paulmbanks says

    The old dude in the right corner of the picture montage reminds me of the super hero on SPongeBob Squarepants…rubber boy I htink he’s called?

  2. Peter Christian says

    PMB… (that’s funny to me because the Minnesota Wild leader in assists is also nicknamed PMB) the character’s name is Bubble Boy (sidekick to Mermaid Man).

    Also, the Sox should let Konerko get hot and trade him. Billy Beane style. They can win without him and they could unload him to a team wanting a big name, it makes them better for the future. I should be a baseball GM.

  3. paulmbanks says

    Yes, Bubble Boy thats exactly who he looks like. I would agree about Konerko. Paulie’s a fan favorite here and all. but it would be good to move him while he still has some value.

  4. That’s the first ever Bat Boy… LOL. A one game only appearence and he gets in the MLB World Series DVD with me.

  5. Thanks Cheese.

    My baseball “spidey sense” tells me that the Brewers and not the Cardinals will be the team to challenge the Cubs in the Central. They need to shore up their bullpen.

    While the Brewers have more dimensions to their offesne than the Sox (namely speed), they are similar. The Brewers are 4th in MLB in homers (Sox are third), but in the lower quadrant in team BA.

    With runners in scoring position and two outs, the Brewer’s team BA is .227.

    How bad is the bullpen? Well in innings 1-6 the Brewer’s team ERA is the 4th best in baseball at 3.79. Innings 7-9? 26th in MLB (4.69).

    I agree the it was a close call to end the game. To me there were horrible calls in the 9ths though favroing the NL. Replays showed Kinsler was safe on the steal at second and Navarro was safe on the slide home.

    As far as video news goes, the Sportsbank Board of Director have discussed it. It’s on our winter meetings agenda.

    Keep reading!!!!

  6. Bleeding Cheese says

    Another fine article Soxman. What do you think will be the secret to the Brewer’s success in the 2nd half? I think Hart nailed “Moron”neau in the 15th. I think the umps knew the risk of the game being called if they gave the right call.

    Any thought of adding video blogs to the site? I’d love to see you live.

    Later-

  7. The Statue of Harold Baines says

    I agree video sounds like a novel idea

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