With Johan (7IP 1ER) Santana listed as Minnesota's scheduled starter for Tuesday, the White Sox effectively dropped their 5th straight series with a painfully predictable loss on Monday. Javier Vazquez did was Javier Vazquez does; pitch very well for most of the time, but getting crushed the third time through the order.
I haven't really weighed in on the "Vazquez Sucks" discussion mainly because I don't know how to explain it. I don't believe that he's a mentally weak pitcher. His stuff is as good, if not better than the rest of our staff. His peripherals remain excellent. There's just no good explanation for why he struggles like he does.
I suppose that's the reason why I'm still reluctant to call for Vazquez to be traded. The Sox currently have far too many question marks in the rotation. Buehrle's July pitching line looks like one from an injured pitcher. Garcia's 1st through 3rd inning fastball lights up the radar gun like that of an injured pitcher. If you ship out Javy, it's only a matter of time before one of those guys goes on the DL, resulting in a naptactular Charlie Haeger getting his share of starts.
Perhaps the best plan is to start Javy, with Garcia simultaneously throwing a simulated game in the bullpen. As soon as Javy reaches the 3rd time through the order, you give him the hook and put in the Garcia who actually has a major league fastball.
The Twins are now 32-8 in their last 40 games. The Sox are 2-9 in their last 11. That's quite a contrast. The Twins are hot. The Sox are NOT. -- That contrast is even more stark when looking at the two lineups that the teams put on the field Monday night. Minnesota's lineup had combined to hit fewer homeruns than the tandem of Jim Thome and Paul Konerko. They had only two players with double digit HR figures, and really only featured 3 dangerous hitters. Of course, it was those three dangerous hitters who each took Sox pitching deep, while the Sox offense continued their HR-or-nothing trend.
I don't have the time to really do any research on this, but since the Boston series, the Sox have been terrible at driving in runs without the aid of the HR. It seems like even on the rare occasion that they do get a hit with runners in scoring position, they still fail to score thanks to the wrong combination station-to-station baseball and over-aggressive baserunning.
The Sox are slumping. Hard. When they get a good pitching performance, as I suspect they will tomorrow, the offense doesn't show up. When the offense is putting up touchdowns, the pitching is giving up touchdowns with the defense allowing 2 point conversions. The Sox are playing about as bad as a completely healthy defending World Series Champion can play. And you know what?
If the playoffs started today, they'd be in. I know it doesn't feel like they even deserve to be in the playoffs thanks to their play lately, but they are. The 1.5 game lead over the Yankees will likely be gone by the end of the series, but I still like their chances against the Twins & Yankees over the last 60 games. The Sox can not play this bad forever.