We have passed the half way point in the season and the All Star break is almost here. The White Sox are playing excellent baseball at the moment and currently hold a 3 game lead in the A.L. Central. There are a lot of things to like right now. There are also a couple of things that concern me as we start to enter the dog days. Lets take a look at three up, three down.
1. It started a little bit later than usual, but Alexei Ramirez has found his hot streak. The shortstop really struggled for most of the first half, but over the last 30 days the Missile is hitting .358/.382/.453. He was hitting .215/.238/.269 on June 14th, but now has his line up to .260/.282/.330. He has had multiple hits in 11 of the last 19 contests and only went hitless four times over that span. With Ramirez heating up and Kevin Youkilis taking over at third base, the Sox have filled in two of their deepest, darkest holes in the batting order.
2. Jake Peavy, Chris Sale and Jose Quintana. I'm kind of cheating here by grouping them all together, but all three of these guys have pitched remarkably. Peavy has gone 6+ innings in every start besides May 15th, when he couldn't get out of the 6th against the Tigers. He's only allowed more than three runs in 3 of his 17 starts this season and one came in a 14-7 White Sox win.
Chris Sale has been even better. He is 10-2 and has only allowed more than three runs one time this season (June 15 vs. Dodgers). His ERA sits at 2.19 and is a true ace that can go up against any opposing offense or opposing pitcher in the league and give the White Sox a good chance to win.
Jose Quintana has started eight games and and has only given up more than 2 runs one time, against the Yankees in New York, where he gave up four runs in the first and managed to settle down and get the win. He has gone 8 innings in three of his last four starts and is 4-1 on the year. He has stepped up huge for a team that lost John Danks and has gotten very inconsistent outings from Gavin Floyd and Philip Humber this year.
3. Alex Rios. I can't stress how good Rios has been for the White Sox in 2012. He's hitting .315/.348/.508 and is currently on an 11 game hitting streak. He has been the most consistent White Sox hitter this season, with his worst month being May where he still hit .264/.319/.418. Rios is second to Dunn on the team in extra base hits (33). In the field, he gets to most everything and makes plays look easy. It is a rare time you see a ball hit the grass in right field.
It is a lot easier finding good things about the White Sox than bad things at this time, but there are still a couple of concerns that I have as we enter the 2nd half.
1. Adam Dunn. Since June 15th, Dunn only has two home runs, which means he recently has become a two true outcome player. He is still drawing his walks but the strikeouts have started to take over the home run portion of the Dunn pie graph. Home runs come in bunches so this could change today, but currently it is awfully tough seeing him in the 3rd spot of the batting order when guys like Rios, Youkilis and Pierzynski have been hitting the ball all over the field. The Sox are hot now, so I wouldn't change the batting order today, but after the break if they happen to lose a couple games and Dunn hasn't started hitting at least a little bit, it may be time to drop him down a couple of spots.
2. The bullpen situation. It hasn't really become an issue yet because the starters have been going pretty deep in games and the offense has come up big a few times over the last week or so, so the Sox have been able to get by with Nate Jones, Matt Thornton and Addison Reed covering a good portion of the meaningful innings out of the Pen. Sooner or later though, we are going to have to count on Hector Santiago, Leyson Septimo and Brian Omogrosso to get some important outs. Are they going to be able to get it done?
3. Paul Konerko's defense. He never had much range, but it seems to me what little bit of range he had is gone now. Unless a ground ball is right at him, he isn't making the play. Adam Dunn should be getting a little bit more time at first base because he looks better down there than Konerko does. I always liked Konerko's ability to scoop bad throws and he still has that skill, but his slow reactions have started to dwarf the good throws and scooping ability. On the positive side, things must be going pretty well if a first baseman's defense is one of the top things I am concerned about.
Another thing I'm personally not looking forward to is the All Star break. There is nothing worse than that Wednesday after the All Star game... except for the Thursday after the game if your team isn't playing, which is the case this year. What in the hell am I supposed to do those two nights? The Sox are playing good. I want to watch them!