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.
Fresh out of a heartbreaking series in which they lost two of three in dramatic fashion against the Baltimore Orioles, pitching and steady offense provided the Chicago White Sox with a three-game win streak and a sweep of the Blue Jays this weekend in Toronto.
Much of the steady offense — nine runs over the first two games against the Jays — were provided by Jose Abreu’s power surge. The sweep brings their season win total to 39, tying them with the Indians, who sit in third place in the American League Central division.
The Cuban slugger launched two more home runs Friday night to raise his season total to 25, putting him in a tie for first among all major league hitters along with Edwin Encarnacion and Nelson Cruz. These more recent blasts came off of Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey, who was cruising right along until Abreu broke the silence with a blast in the top of fifth inning that left the stadium faster than any ball I’ve ever seen in my life. Really.
And in addition to being tied for the lead league in home runs and taking just 67 games to hit his 25 major league home runs — a major league record, by the way — Abreu stands alone in first place in the majors for slugging percentage with a .631 mark. We haven’t quite reached the All-Star break yet, but it’s almost safe to say that even if Abreu were to go off in a tailspin, 25 home runs in his first season facing the world’s best pitching is pretty damn impressive.
Alexei Ramirez has had a campaign not quite like Abreu’s, but certainly worthy of consideration to not just make the all-star team, but be the starting shortstop for the AL All-Stars. With a .295 batting average, Ramirez sits only behind Troy Tulowitzki (.346) among all shortstops in the majors, he also ranks in the top 10 in on-base percentage and slugging among shortstops, while driving in 39 runs and swiping 13 bags.
Ramirez has made significant offensive contributions in nearly every category, and done so while providing solid defensive numbers (.977 fielding percentage, 50 double plays turned).
Quintana Finding His Way
Even before his great outing today against the Jays, Jose Quintana has pitched very strongly over the past few weeks. In his most recent two outings, Quintana allowed just three runs over 14 innings, striking out 14 batters along the way. Though his win-loss record does’nt show it, Quintana has settled into his role quite nicely and his most recent three outings (including today’s) suggest that these types of performances could be the standard in the near future.
When comparing his numbers from last year to his 2014 numbers, the one stat that sticks out as possibly being the big difference maker is Quintana’s home runs allowed per nine innings (HR/9). This season, he’s cut his previous mark of 1.04 nearly in half, down to 0.55. In other words, he’s only allowing home runs at half the rate he did last season, which is a much welcomed improvement for a team that plays its home games in a home run friendly park.
Quintana is also on pace to pitch 200+ innings again, which bodes well for a team that has had much bullpen problems. If Quintana can play the role of a solid number No. 2/3 starter and eat up a ton of innings, the White Sox just might be able to get by with the bullpen they’ve ridden with thus far.
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