MLB Chicago White Sox

Top 5 Keys To The Chicago White Sox Winning The AL Central In 2013

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Chicago White Sox Keys To Winning The AL Central

Chicago White Sox Keys To Winning The AL Central
Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

In 2012, the Chicago White Sox spent over 60% of the season in first place. If it wasn’t for a total collapse in the final two weeks of the season, it may have been the White Sox, not the Detroit Tigers, battling the San Francisco Giants in the Fall Classic. With the start of Spring Training getting closer and closer, White Sox fans can finally put last years late season wreck behind them, and look forward to the 2013 campaign.

When looking at the 2013 Chicago White Sox, there really isn’t a whole lot different from last year’s team. The biggest change with this year’s team compared to the 2012 squad is the departure of A.J. Pierzynski. Also, the addition of Jeff Keppinger to replace Kevin Youkilis is worth noting. Other than that, this off-season has been unusually quiet for the White Sox.

Not making much change to a team that was extremely competitive in the AL Central, but ultimately failed to make the playoffs, can be looked at in two different ways. One way to look at the lack of off-season moves is that the Sox are doomed to repeat history, and once again miss the postseason. Another, more positive way of thinking, is that the White Sox are bringing back the same team that was in first place for over half the season, and as long as they finish in 2013, they’ll reach the playoffs.

I’m more of a glass half full person, so I believe just because the White Sox didn’t make any blockbuster moves this winter, doesn’t mean you should count them out as playoff contenders. That being said, there are some important areas the Sox need to improve on in 2013. Here are the top five keys the White Sox must focus on in order to win the AL Central.

Matt Malecha is a Chicago White Sox writer for Follow him on Twitter @MattMalecha.

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5. Defense

5. Defense
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe the most overused line in sports today is “defense wins championships”. However, the reason this phrase is said so often is because it's true. In 2012, one of the main reasons the White Sox were able to compete with more talented teams, like the Tigers, was because of their stellar defense. The White Sox led the entire MLB with a .988 fielding percentage. Defense will once again need to be a strength of the Sox this year.

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4. Beating Teams Within The AL Central

4. Beating Teams Within The AL Central
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

In 2012, the White Sox went 37-35 against divisional opponents. With the AL Central being a very weak division once again in 2013, the White Sox will need to improve on their divisional record from a year ago if they want to reach the postseason.

Most notably, the Sox need to play better against the Kansas City Royals this season. Going 6-12 against the Royals in 2012 may have cost the Sox a playoff berth. Even Tigers’ skipper, Jim Leyland, agreed that the White Sox struggles against the Royals were a difference maker in 2012.

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3. More Of A Balanced And Consistent Offense

3. More of A Balanced and Consistent Offense
Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

For a while now, the White Sox have been a team that lives and dies by the long ball. Finishing third in the MLB in homeruns in 2012, the Sox once again relied heavily on the homerun for much of their offensive production. Homeruns may sell tickets, but a good hitting team must be balanced. The more balanced an offense, the more dangerous it becomes.

Also, the White Sox were extremely inconsistent at the plate last year. The South Siders cannot afford to give away at-bats this season. In order to win the AL Central in 2013, the White Sox will need a more balanced and consistent offense.

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2. Pitching Staff Needs To Stay Healthy

2. Pitching Staff Needs To Stay Healthy
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The White Sox should have one of the best pitching staffs in all of baseball in 2013. From their starters, to their bullpen, the Sox have some dominant arms. The key to their success as a staff will be staying healthy.

If top starters, John Danks, Chris Sale and Jake Peavy, all remain healthy, and the young arms in the bullpen can stay fresh, the White Sox playoff hopes will greatly increase.

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1. Finish, Finish, Finish

1. Finish, Finish, Finish
Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Let me just stay it one last time… FINISH! After beating the Tigers on Sep. 17 last year, the White Sox had the Tigers on the ropes. With a three game lead over Detroit, and only 16 games left to play, all of Chicago was getting ready to celebrate an AL Central crown.

And then the meltdown of 2012 happened. The Sox went 5-11 in those final 16 games, and all but handed the division to the Tigers on a silver platter.

In 2013, the White Sox most important key will be to finish. The Tigers, and maybe another surprise team like the Royals, will be neck and neck with the Sox the entire year in the AL Central race. If the Sox once again find themselves atop the division with only a few weeks to go, their ability to finish will decide their postseason fate.