Once again, the National League served its purpose for the White Sox. Even though the Sox didn't steamroll the Senior Circuit like last year, they still emerged with an 11-7 record, which improves their already-impressive all-time record.
That's all well and good -- a big part of a winning season is letting lesser teams beat themselves while you stand idly by -- but as we saw play out last year, that's not going to be enough against the better teams of the AL Central.
As important as it is for Jake Peavy to take the mound tonight and show no ill effects from his habitually overaggressive schedule, continuing to climb against AL Central opponents is going to be entirely up to the offense. For nearly a month, White Sox pitchers have worked without a safety net.
This is especially true for the starters. As 3E8 pointed out last night in the gamethread, you have to go back to June 10 to find a game where the White Sox led by more than a run through the first six innings. And no, the starters haven't been to blame.
I went back through the last 20 games to chart the margins, as well as how many runs the White Sox allowed, through the first six innings of every game. Here are the results:
Margin after six innings
White Sox runs through six
|Leading by 1||Nine times||Zero runs||Four times|
|Tied||Three times||One run||Six times|
|Trailing by 1||Two times||Two runs||Five times|
|Trailing by 2||Three times||Three runs||Four times|
|Trailing by 3||Three times||Four runs||One time|
The two key takeaways from this information:
No. 1: White Sox starters have received two runs of support or fewer over the first six innings in 15 of the last 20 games.
No. 2: Somehow, the White Sox have never trailed by more than three in any of these games, and more often than not, they haven't trailed at all.
Even with the complete lack of a cushion, the Sox are 12-8 over these 20 games. The White Sox have climbed back to .500, and the pitching staff has done almost all of the heavy lifting. The offense hasn't had even one big day, where it could allow its pitchers to be merely average.
Of course, it's hard to score runs when you hit .221/.284/.305, which is what the White Sox have done over the first six innings of their last 20 games. They're .228/.294/.333 against starters overall.
Fortunately, Peavy and Co. have been nearly as stingy to their opponents (.237/.290/.376), which is good enough to get most of the games to the bullpens. That's where they're winning games:
- White Sox relievers: .203/.264/.267
- Sox hitters vs. relievers: .244/.302/.356
This could all be a product of the era. Offense is down across the league, which might mean we still need to lower our expectations further. Then again, the White Sox couldn't hit Rodrigo Lopez. They gave Jeff Francis an easy night for once. Tom Gorzelanny struck out eight Sox after he couldn't get one K against the Baltimore Orioles. Runs might be harder to come by across baseball, but the White Sox's issues are more significant than most.