WARR baseball writer Kevin Luchansky writes about the Cubs and the White Sox weekly for WARR.com.
Also, check out Kevin’s daily baseball betting picks on NorthSideWire.
Alone in the basement of the AL Central and not yet out of contention, the Chicago White Sox have been hard to figure out over this most recent stretch of games.
Winners of just three of their last 10 games, the wins and losses and who they’ve come against have been head scratchers, with perhaps the exception of losing to the suddenly red-hot Kansas City Royals. The White Sox took care of the National League West’s best Giants in a two-game set, but dropped three in a row to the Minnesota Twins, a team the Sox just can’t seem to figure out this year as they’ve tallied just two wins in their six head-to-head contests this year.
During the quick series with the Giants, the White Sox bats looked as hot as they had been earlier in the season, tacking 15 runs on the board while allowing just eight.
The South Siders have a tough stretch on the horizon with three games in Baltimore and three in Toronto against the American League East’s first-place Blue Jays. Luckily for the Sox, both teams have cooled off a bit and ironically, the Orioles are one of the few teams above .500 with an under .500 winning percentage at home.
Certainly winnable are the games in Baltimore, and at this point, the Sox can’t afford to not take advantage, especially if the pitching match-ups lean in their favor. Interestingly, the Blue Jays don’t hold much of an advantage at home either, posting a 20-17 record in Toronto. Still, with the All-Star break on the horizon and just one series between today and the break against a team they have a winning record against (7-3 advantage against the Indians) these next few series could be the most telling as to whether the White Sox are buyers or sellers at the trade deadline.
Player Showcase: Alejandro De Aza
One player that could help to push the Sox over the bump in potentially tight games to come is outfielder Alejandro De Aza, who has been swinging an improved bat over the past few weeks.
De Aza is hitting .314 over his past 38 plate appearances, raising his season average .211 this season. Still a whopping .44 points lower than his career batting average, but his vastly improved strikeout percentage over these 38 plate appearances is reason for optimism. For his career, a 20.5 strikeout percentage and a very low 7.7 walk percentage has plagued his ability to maintain a solid on-base percentage, but he’s shown us lately that even just tweaking one of those two can really improve his effectiveness.
Another reason for optimism is in a stat that indicates De Aza has been a bit of a victim of bad luck this season — a batting average on balls in play (BABIP) thats .73 points lower than his career average. In other words, De Aza hasn’t done a great job of hitting where the defense isn’t. But if he keeps making solid contact, his luck will turn, and that batting average should slowly climb back up to respectability. That much discrepancy between this season’s BABIP and his career average is nothing to shake your heard at.
Aside from that, the three bases he’s stolen in the last two weeks raises his season total to 10, putting De Aza on pace to eclipse his best career mark of 26, which came with the Sox back in 2012. As a team, the Sox are 7th in the majors with 42 stolen bases, part of that success in numbers comes from aggressive running, as the team however also has a relatively low success rate, ranking 22nd in the Majors with their 72 percent stolen base mark.
(Not So) Minnesota Nice
It was to be hoped coming into Sunday’s series-ender with the Twins that John Danks could help right the ship and give the team a win and boost before the tough road stretch ahead along with avoiding a sweep in Minnesota.
Danks has been very effective lately, posting a 1.51 ERA over his last five starts, but he gave up 10 hits and six runs, all earned, in five innings of action in a 6-5 loss for the Sox this afternoon at Target Field. The Sox squandered a five-run third inning that helped them overcome an early 3-0 deficit. The difference came in Minnesota’s three-run fourth inning, which included a game-tying single from Joe Mauer.
Resurrected former Yankees hurler Phil Hughes continued his success in the Upper Midwest by improving to 8-3 with the win, Danks fell to 6-6 this season with the loss.
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