First Week of 2014 Season Indicates Chicago White Sox Will Be Better Than Last Year
With the exception of Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother, having a perfect week is one of the hardest accomplishments to achieve. In regards to baseball, winning every game in an individual week takes great skill and for the ball to bounce one’s way countless times. This past week for the Chicago White Sox was no where close to perfect. It began on Opening Day when optimism filled the air as the fanbase embraced the clean slate the team was given. This sample size of six games perfectly depicts what White Sox fans will see all season: play that demonstrates that this season will be better than last, but that more work still needs to be done.
On Mar. 31, the Sox took on the Minnesota Twins to open up the 2014 season. Ace Chris Sale took the bump in front of a standing room only crowd at US Cellular Field. Every single quality team needs an ace who can carry the pitching staff throughout the season. When the 2-5 guys in a rotation hit a rough patch, it is up to the ace to stop the bleeding. Through his first two starts of the season, Sale has set the tone for the rest of the staff while snapping the first losing streak of the season. His 3.68 ERA and 0.82 WHIP is impressive, but what stands out most about Sale’s first two appearances is that his velocity has stayed the same even late into games. As seen again today, Sale’s fastball hit 95 on the gun late into the game.
It is not just Sale that has impressed so far this season pitching wise. Felipe Paulino , who struggled throughout Spring Training, tossed 5.1 innings of one run ball while striking out six in his first start of the year. John Danks pitched seven innings while giving up only three runs in his first start of the season. If both Paulino and Danks can remain healthy the rest of the season, the Sox will have a chance to stay relevant for longer than they were last season.
Throughout the first six games of the season, the Sox lineup has displayed that any guy can come up with a clutch base hit. Alexei Ramirez had two key hits late in the game today to put the Sox in a place to win the ballgame. Tyler Flowers — yes that Tyler Flowers — is hitting .500 through five games. He is finding the open areas of the field and displaying better control with the bat so far. Newcomers Adam Eaton and Jose Abreu have shown their ability to get on base, which has led to countless rallies late in games. The bench of Leury Garcia, Paul Konerko, Dayan Viciedo and Adrian Nieto have all contributed in the three victories whether it be through a timely base hit or exceptional base running. Unlike last season, the bats have not fallen asleep late in games, allowing the Sox to compete until the end.
It has not been all positives one week into the season. The bullpen still remains an enormous question mark. Matt Lindstrom has been shaky late in games and continues to leave pitches over the heart of the plate. Nate Jones literally could not get anyone out in his two appearances and now finds himself on the disabled list. Jose Quintana struggled, giving up five runs in six innings in his first start of the season, while Erik Johnson gave up sevens runs in 4.2 innings during his first start. The struggles for some of the pitchers have resulted in the Sox giving up games they should have won.
Yes it is only six games into the season. A lot can happen during the next 156 contests. Still, through the first week of the season it is clear that this is not the same White Sox team from last year. Timely hitting from everyone in the lineup and contributions from starters not named Chris Sale have shown that this will not be another 99 loss season. Sure the team can still lose 90 and trade all their veterans at the deadline (besides Konerko), but one fact remains: this season will be more exciting than the last. The team has proven the critics so far that they will not repeat their 2013 performance. Hopefully they continue to do this for at least a couple more months.
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