Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Midseason Reviews

The White Sox are blessed to play in one of the weakest divisions in 2009. In almost any other division in baseball, the Sox would be in seller's mode. Since they are 3 1/2 out at the break, the next two weeks are crucial.

If they play poorly, look for the expensive parts to be shipped off to contenders for AAA talent and utility players. If the Sox play well, look for one player to be added to the roster that will make everybody go, "Why?", just before he helps win the division.

We've been through this scenario many times before. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. Irregardless, the next two weeks should tell the tale. I don't envision another "White Flag" trade if the Sox are still 3 1/2 games out by the trading deadline.

Let's go through the roster, position by position, and see how everyone stacks up.

Starting Pitcher
The starting pitching has had its ups and downs. Mostly, the starting pitching has been outstanding. When the starting pitching is bad, it really stinks up the joint. No one has been immune, not even Buehrle, who got his horrid outing out of the way, two days before he appears on the All-Star roster. Way to make an impression.

Danks and Floyd have pitched up to expectations, with little bumps along the way. They are finally learning that one bad inning should not effect the rest of their outings. This is a major step in each player's development and it tells me that last year was not a fluke for either pitcher.

Buehrle is Buehrle.

Jose Contreras was smart enough to demote himself and has made a miraculous comeback. Will it last? Let's hope so.

The fifth starter has been problematic at best. A nightmare at worst. Bartolo Colon may be the short term answer. Clayton Richard is clearly not the answer this year. He needs to work on fielding and throwing to first base, not the stands. His outings become worse the more he thinks out there. A trip to AAA will hopefully straighten his head out. Freddy Garcia is a long shot, at best. His arm is nowhere near ready. Aaron Poreda could be a starter, but the Sox need to define his role better or send him down to get steady work.

Grade: C+

A.J. Pierzynski continues to improve his game. His batting is much more consistent and it seems that it's staying around the entire year... so far. Corky was a nice experiment, but I'm not surprised by his current status. Ramon Castro has a little pop in his bat, but needs more consistency at the plate. His involvement in the resurrection of Jose Contreras is good enough for me. The defense is suspect, but that has more to do with the erratic pitching staff.

Grade: A-

First Base
Paul Konerko is the most underrated player in Chicago. The Sox would have more errors (if you can believe that) without the great picks by Paulie. He has rebounded from a mostly miserable 2008 to possibly be in contention for Comeback Player of the Year. Yes, I'm serious. Anyone else that has played first base from Betemit to Fields has been pretty lousy. Fields at least is believable at first, unlike Betemit.

Grade: A

Second Base
Lillibridge looked like a twelve year old out there and played like one too. Chris Getz is the perfect choice here, but he has much left to learn. I can see a drastic improvement in Getz at the plate and defensively. There is still work to be done. Jayson Nix has been a nice bench player surprise. Getz has a huge upside though. Remember, he stole home this year. I can see him blossoming into a Joey Cora type player with a better bat.

Grade: C

Alexei Ramirez reminds me of Jose Valentin 2.0 at short. He has great range and most of his errors would have been hits with almost every other shortstop. He is trying to master his third position at the Major League level in less than two years. I think he's doing a nice job, in that respect. He learns fairly easy and quickly, but he learns best, unfortunately, with on the job training. Brain cramps will be part of his game for a while.

Grade: B-

Third Base
Josh Fields could have become Joe Crede. His defense was really starting to come around. It's a shame that his bat really hasn't followed suit. He is in the unenviable position of being usurped by someone who was drafted 364 days earlier.

Not that Bacon, er I mean Beckham, should feel bad about taking Fields place. Beckham has definitely earned the opportunity. He is a quick learner, who has already started to live up to some of the hype. The errors will start to lessen, once he learns his new position. I think I see a theme emerging.

Grade: B

Left Field
Carlos Quentin has missed more time. A rotating roster of players have filled the position in his absence. Unlikely candidate, Scott Podsednik, has filled in beautifully, after an American Idol type audition for the open spot. You know the kind. The train wrecks! The White Sox had a left field and center field of William Hungs after Quentin and before Podsednik.

Look for Quentin to reclaim left field sometime after the break. Let's hope that he has had enough at-bats in AAA to reclaim his timing and that the foot injury doesn't re-aggravate itself near the end of the season.

Grade: B+

Center Field
Oh the horrors. If you can field there, you can't bat. If you can bat, you can't field there. Let's try offense in the early innings and defense in the late innings. The thing is, you usually need both. DeWayne Wise started off the season as the answer, until he separated his shoulder diving for a ball and tumbling. It looked painful and it was painful.

Brian Anderson is great defensively, but his average is a little limp. B.A., that doesn't impress the "honeys" too much. No matter what Brain tells you, B.A. stands for Bad Average. Look for Scott Podsednik, who has gained speed somehow, to slip into center when Quentin comes back.

Grade: D+

Right Field
Jermaine Dye is a wonder. He still makes (mostly) exceptional plays in right and he carries a huge stick to the plate and knows how to use it. 'Nuff said!

Grade: A

Designated Hitter
You know what you're getting with Jim Thome. He delivers exactly what you would expect in the role. He is usually a pitcher's worst nightmare and has beaten "The Shift" on numerous occasions. He does tend to strike out a little more and usually needs to be pulled for a pinch runner in late innings.

Grade: B+

Relief Pitcher
This is the most maddening group of players ever assembled. Every one of them has shown flashes of brilliance. Some have had long streaks of pure dominance this year. It's the meltdowns that really hurt this group though. When it goes for the bullpen, it goes all the way south. We're talking about a tumble from the Magnificent Mile down to the woods in Deliverance. There is no in between, like a Leonardo, New Jersey, where the players can hide out at the dirt mall and change their luck following advice from topless psychics.

If the lows weren't so low, they would have gotten a higher grade. The talent that exists in the White Sox bullpen is far too good to be that low for such long stretches. Usually, one player steps their game up when the others fail, but the bullpen can't live like that. You never know who that one guy is on a daily basis.

Grade: C

Hopefully, the White Sox can step up and improve on these grades. There is still time to pass the next test. Will the Sox players study for it? Only time will tell. The final grades should be in by the end of October. If they are the last team standing, everyone gets an A.

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