No one argued with the fact that the Chicago White Sox were teeming with young talent entering this season. But that talent wasn’t expected to translate into creating a contender on the south side of Chicago until next season. Even the team’s general manager, Rick Hahn, said before the season that the White Sox were only in the “middle stages” of their rebuild.
Instead, the White Sox have exceeded those expectations, lapped two talented teams in front of them in their division in the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland baseball team, and are poised to win the AL Central and make the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
Of course, things didn’t look so bright just a few weeks ago. The team has dealt with injuries to Dallas Keuchel and Reynaldo Lopez, among other players. The White Sox were 10-11 on August 15. Since, though, they’ve gone 18-5. And they’ve done it by not being one-dimensional.
The White Sox have baseball’s best offense, and one of the best pitching staff’s in MLB as well. Their run differential reflects that – they’re +60 differential is the best in the American League and the third best in baseball. So … what happened in the four weeks since the team was struggling and no sure bet to make even an expanded playoff format?
For starters, a veteran on offense has been a steadying presence. Jose Abreu had a 20-game hitting streak, and he leads the league in RBIs. He also has become the go-to voice on the team for a collection of emerging stars. The team’s other key hitters, Tim Anderson, Nick Madigral, Eloy Jimenez, Yasmani Grandal, and Luis Roberts, have all seemed to feed off of Abreu, who has even entered into the American League MVP conversation.
Now, though, in addition to hot hitting, the team’s pitching staff is healthy. Keuchel and Lopez have returned, and join Lucas Giolito, Dane Dunning, and Dylan Cease to give the team one of the most promising young rotations in baseball, and a difficult matchup for any playoff opponent. So difficult, in fact, that the team is still trying to figure out how exactly they’d set up a playoff rotation with so many talented arms in it.
A few weeks ago, the White Sox were wondering if their talent was underachieving. Now they’re suddenly faced with a question of whether they can hold onto first place in a competitive division and how they’re going to best utilize all of it in a short playoff series.