Two weeks into the Chicago White Sox 2017 season, the South Siders stand in third place in the American League Central with a 6-5 record. Consisting of Daily Illini editor Michael Gasick, Illinois State historian Darren Black, and DePauw penmanship major Tommy Peterson, The Comiskey Commodores are here to provide their takes on the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of the Chicago White Sox.
1. What has been the biggest surprise of the Sox season thus far?
Mike: Jose Quintana has not been the dominant starting pitcher he has previously shown the Sox. The southpaw is 0-3 and boasts a 6.75 ERA. Fans shouldn’t really take into account Quintana’s win-loss record — he has been one of the unluckiest pitchers in the MLB since entering in 2012 — but his disappointing start is noteworthy. Quintana has been on multiple teams’ radars in the offseason as a possible trade candidate, and the Sox could get a substantial amount in return for him. Even if Quintana continues to struggle, and the Sox don’t receive appealing offers at the deadline, I’m perfectly fine with him as a part of the team’s future.
Darren: The biggest surprise to this young White Sox season has been the play of their 26-year-old third baseman Matt Davidson. Davidson is a former top prospect of the Arizona Diamondbacks and was acquired by the Sox via trade in 2013. In four years in Triple-A, Davidson slashed .232/.314/.410 and became an afterthought in the minor league system. Through 29 plate appearances in the 2017 MLB season, he has a slash line of .370/.379/.815. Davidson started Spring Training with the expectation of beginning the season in the minors. Now, fans are clamoring for him to receive more at-bats.
Tommy: The play of starting pitchers James Shields and Derek Holland. Nicknamed “Big Game James” and “The Dutch Oven,” respectively, Shields was looking like a big shame for the Sox last season, and Holland was definitely reeking of injuries the past three seasons. Having pitched 12 innings, Holland is No. 8 in the AL posting a 1.50 ERA, and trailing right behind him in the No. 9 spot with 19 innings pitched is Sheilds posting a 1.62 ERA. While Shields is 35 years old and is not a core piece of the Sox future, it will be interesting to see if Holland can keep up his stellar play and factor into trade talks later in the season.
2. Who has been off to the strongest start?
Mike: Avisail Garcia — without a question. Garcia has had his past struggles at the plate, but he seems to have found something that is clicking. The right-hander is driving the ball to the right side — as he did on his home run swing Sunday afternoon. It’s unclear why Garcia is having such a hot start, but he has been one of the biggest reasons why the Sox stand at 6-5. He will face two Yankees pitchers who possess at least a 4.50 ERA, so I expect him to continue his torrid hitting this week.
Darren: Avisail Garcia is off to a scalding start. Garcia currently leads MLB with a .465 batting average and is getting on base in over 50 percent of his plate appearances; however, this is what Garcia does best. He performs at his potential whenever personal or team expectations are at their lowest. Most fans did not want Garcia to stay with the team, and the Sox are in a rebuilding year. These are prime conditions for Garcia to succeed. He will need to continue to show improvement in order for Sox fans to accept him.
Tommy: Put me down for Avi as well. On top of leading the majors in batting average, Garcia is also No. 2 in hits with 20 through 43 at-bats. While there is no clear answer to his blistering hot start to the season, Garcia collected over 120 at-bats in the Venezuelan league during the off-season and entered Spring Training weighing 15 pounds less. While all of that talk may be pointless justification to explain Garcia’s strong start, he is quickly cementing himself in the Sox lineup.
3. What lies ahead for the Sox this week?
Mike: A reality shock. This season has shades of early-season 2016 White Sox baseball written all over it. The Sox were 13 games over .500 May 9 last year; they got strong starting pitching and bullpen work and did not have to score many runs to win games. Chicago has not been scoring many runs in these recent victories, so I expect a losing record this week. The Sox now face a Yankees team this week that don’t necessarily need a superior pitching staff to win games. Unless if another few bats can join Garcia and Davidson in their recent hot streaks, I don’t see how the Sox come away this week above .500.
Darren: The White Sox have tough matchups ahead for them this week. The New York Yankees have won 7 straight games and have not lost at home yet this season. Though it is still early in the season, this three-game series against the Yankees can be a statement series. The Yankees have the fifth most runs scored in MLB and that has been without their best hitter, catcher Gary Sanchez, for the majority of their games. If there is any series that can prove if pitching coach Don Cooper can turnaround careers for pitchers, it is this one against the Yankees.
Tommy: The doldrums. Unless Quintana can bounce back from his lackluster start to the season and Shields along with Holland can maintain their tasty ERAs, The New York Yankees will look to rock the pitching staff. As long as the White Sox rank No. 28 in the league in runs, there is simply no plausible way they can compete against heavy hitting teams. Look for the Sox to drop below .500 this upcoming week and for the pitching staff’s ERAs to rise.
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