Win 99 games -- Win 99 is my not-so-subtle way of saying 'win the division.' With the Sox, Twins, and Tigers bunched as closely as they are with 5 weeks to go, one of them will play great baseball in September and sprint to the division title.
The White Sox would need to go 23-9 down the stretch to reach that win total. Meanwhile the Tigers and Twins would have to post 17-14 and 23-10 records, respectively, to achieve the same feat.
23-9 is a pretty gaudy total for a team that's 4 games under 500 since the All-Star break, so 99 is extremely unlikey. You've got to aim high though.
- Win 96 games -- This is more realistic, but would still require the Sox to go 20-12 down the home stretch. I think 96 wins will bring home the Wild Card, and if it doesn't, well, there's not much shame in finishing 3rd in the best division in baseball with 96 wins.
20 quality starts -- There's 32 games left on the Sox schedule. If I were to guess, I would say the Sox have won about 80% of games this season in which they've recorded a quality start. Based on that, 20 quality starts gives them 16 wins and 4 losses in those games. If I were to guess again, I would say that the Sox win about 25 percent of their games when they don't get a quality start.
12 non-quality starts x .25 = 4.
16-4 in quality starts + 4-8 in non-quality starts = 20-12 = 96 wins = playoffs.
- A healthy Thome -- Jim Thome tweaked his hamstring in the middle of spring training, sitting out of most "A" games for the better part of 2 weeks. When he returned to the Sox, the healthy and rested Thome went on a 2.5 month HR binge, smoking 8 HRs in the last week plus of spring and 10 HRs in the first month of the regular season. If he comes back healthy and rested for the Sox last 25 games, no lead is safe.
HR's in bunches -- There are others besides Thome who can go on HR binges.
- Paul Konerko might have found his power stroke again with 2 over the weekend. If he can reach 40 HRs again, the Sox will be in good shape.
- Jermaine Dye is having a monster year. If he is able to reach the Sox single-season HR record (Joey Belle's 49), the Sox will be in good shape.
- Joe Crede already has 5 more HRs than his career high, but 40 HRs isn't completely out of the question. 10 more HRs would give him 37, and have the Sox in good shape.
- Juan Uribe is the streakiest hitter on the Sox, and maybe in all of baseball. He can impersonate Albert Pujols for weeks at a time. He looks better at the plate lately, which is generally a good sign. He needs 7 more to reach his career high, which would be a drop in the bucket for a hot-Uribe.
- No blown saves -- The White Sox bullpen has blown a lead of 3 or less 13 times this season, which is actually better than last years club. This season, however, there's no room for error. The middle relievers currently on staff have converted holds 45 times in 53 opportunities this season, good for a conversion percentage of 85%, which is right at league average. The bullpen is going to have to be near flawless to sneak the Sox into the playoffs.
- Win on the West Coast -- Recent history hasn't been too kind to the White Sox on the west coast. They've won just two series there in the last 5 seasons. 6 games with the A's and Angels present a huge roadblock to the Sox post-season hopes. They need to come back from that trip no worse than .500, and even that would still put a serious crimp in their playoff plans.
- BA in CF -- The Kid has hit .292/.343/.453 since June 11th. He plays some of the best defensive CF in baseball. There's no reason he should be, at the very least, penciled into the bottom of the lineup 6 out of every 7 games.
- BMac to the rescue, again -- When the Sox were pissing away their stranglehold on the division last season, the one thing they could count on was a quality start from Brandon McCarthy. He was 4-1 in his 5 late season starts allowing 3 runs or less in all of them. His 5.1 innings of 1-run, 1-hit ball against the twins, have led to whispers that he's returning to the rotation savior role once again.
- Switch leagues -- Even without Thome, the Sox offense would be near the top in the NL, and the pitching staff would look a whole lot better. They'd win something like 125 games. The NL sucks.