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Handing out the White Sox midterm grades

Alex Rios has gone from the corner with the dunce cap to the top of the class in one year.  Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE
Alex Rios has gone from the corner with the dunce cap to the top of the class in one year. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE

Here we are at the All Star break. It seems like just yesterday was Opening Day. Things fly when you're having fun. That is exactly what the 2012 White Sox and their fans are doing so far this year. As the only certified teacher on staff here at SSS, it is my job to hand out the grades. So here are the final grades for the first semester:

A.J. Pierzynski - .285/.338/.522, 16 HR, 49 RBI - A.J. has been a man on a mission during the first half of the season. His 16 homers sit just 2 shy of his career high of 18 back in 2005. He hasn't had to completely sell out to get there either, as he's still hitting .285. He has even greatly improved his defense as it's not an automatic stolen base like it has been in years past. Midterm Grade: A

Paul Konerko - .329/.404/.528, 14 HR, 42 RBI- The Captain is an All Star yet again. He started out on fire, as he was hitting .399 in late May. He has fallen swiftly and steadily since then, and his power has also fallen off as he's only had 3 homers since that time. However, he's still sticking well above .300 and getting on base above .400. He can still pick it at first base even though he has zero range. Midterm Grade: A

Gordon Beckham- .243/.291/.380, 9 HR, 37 RBI: Beckham can't seem to break through the glass ceiling that is a .250 batting average. He has shown pretty good power for a middle infielder, especially one that plays outstanding defense like Beckham does. I can't imagine a 2nd baseman doing more things defensively than Gordon does. I would like a little more consistency on offense though. Midterm Grade: C+

Brent Morel- .177/.225/.195, 0 HR, 5 RBI: He was absolutely putrid at the plate. You can attribute that to having an injured back, but it still doesn't change the results. He played the most games at a position that prior to acquiring Youkilis was the worst position of any team anywhere on the diamond. He played solid defense in his 35 games, but that wasn't nearly enough to carry Morel to a passing grade. Midterm Grade: F

Alexei Ramirez- .266/.287/.341, 2 HR, 44 RBI, 10/13 SB: Alexei got off to his usual slow start, but took a couple of weeks longer than usual to get things going. He has hit the ball very well over the last month to get to where he is at now. The power is still lagging way behind, but the 10 stolen bases are a nice bonus. He still plays a very solid defense. His grade is low, but he has shown signs of improvement. Midterm Grade: D+

Dayan Viciedo- .255/.296/.442, 14 HR, 39 RBI: Viciedo has been a pretty streaky player in his first year as an everyday starter at the major league level. When he makes solid contact, it is special. Unfortunately, solid contact has been a little too rare so far for Viciedo. He still has good power numbers, but for a guy that very rarely walks he needs to raise his average about 30 points to maximize his potential. Defensively, he has taken to left field pretty nicely. When there is a fly ball to him, I don't get nervous and his arm has stopped many runners from taking an extra base. Midterm Grade: C

Alejandro De Aza- .283/.351/.401, 5 HR, 32 RBI, 15/22 SB: De Aza has been solid all season long. The All Star break may be coming at a good time for him, because he was on a little tiny bit of a rough patch very recently, but the guy could easily be playing tonight in Kansas City, if anyone outside of Chicago knew who he was. He has played awesome defense, has provided a great bat at the top of the lineup and adds some speed to a pretty slow lineup. Midterm Grade: A

Alex Rios- .318/.352/.522, 12 HR, 49 RBI, 13/16 SB: Rios is finally playing at the level that he has been capable of playing at ever since he came up with the Blue Jays. It is a shame he isn't representing the White Sox at today's All Star game, because he has been our best every day player in the first half. His defense in right field has been wonderful, he is ripping the ball to all fields. Jim covered everything you need to know about him this morning. Midterm Grade: A+

Adam Dunn- .208/.357/.502, 25 HR, 61 RBI: Dunn has struggled mightily recently and is on pace to shatter the all time strikeout record for a single season, but he has more than doubled his home run total from last season and leads the league in walks. He is in Kansas City for a reason tonight. I wouldn't mind seeing him drop out of the 3 spot in the batting order and really wish he would get more hits than he does but this years version is still much better than last years. Midterm Grade: B

Orlando Hudson- .175/.245/.278, 1 HR, 11 RBI: Hudson came over to the Sox in a midseason pick up to take over 3rd base, a position he never played a major league inning at. He provided a little bit more than Morel with the bat, which isn't saying very much. When you factored in his less than acceptable defense, we were right back at square one. Fortunately, that problem seems to be in the past now. Hudson gave it a shot though and has remained a model citizen in the clubhouse after his everyday job went by the boards. Midterm Grade: F

Eduardo Escobar- .216/.301/.270, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 2/2 SB: Escobar has only gotten 74 at bats over the season and never really got an opportunity to play semi regularly at 3rd base. He plays good defense when he gets in the game and he does have a walk off hit. He's pretty much what you'd expect from a glove first rookie with no consistent playing time. Midterm Grade: C

Tyler Flowers- .164/.250/.295, 2 HR, 2 RBI: Flowers hasn't gotten nearly the time that anyone thought he might get. Pierzynski is playing the best ball he's ever played and the Sox are contending. That's not going to give Flowers the at bats I thought was necessary this year as A.J. closes out his contract. Tyler hasn't hit in his limited opportunities though. He has struck out in 29 of his 61 at bats and has gotten pinch hit for by A.J. in games he does start. He has played excellent defense though, as the running game pretty much stops when he's in there. I was just hoping to see more. Midterm Grade: C-

Kevin Youkilis- .347/.418/.571, 3 HR, 14 RBI, 13 games: Youkilis has come in with a chip on his shoulder, hoping to prove the whole New England area wrong. He's been smashing the ball and giving the Sox great at bats in his 13 games. He hasn't been bad on defense either. He has already won a few games with his bat and has been nothing short of outstanding in his short time here. Midterm Grade: A+

Jordan Danks- .381/.364/.429, 0 HR, 2 RBI: Danks showed enough early on to give Kosuke Fukudome his walking papers and render Brent Lillibridge pointless. He hasn't had much of an opportunity, but looks better with the bat than Fukudome did and provides good defense and speed off the bench. He's done well so far but hasn't had enough of an opportunity to grade him. Midterm Grade: Incomplete

Kosuke Fukudome- .171/.294/.195, 0 HR, 4 RBI: He only got 41 at bats, but didn't impress anyone in the chances he got and was deemed expendable with all three regular outfielders playing well and Jordan Danks providing a faster runner and better defense off the bench. Midterm Grade: F

Brent Lillibridge- .175/.232/.190, 0 HR, 2 RBI: His power surge last year was proven to be a mirage, as the real Lillibridge showed up this year. He struck out in 26 of his 63 at bats, and while he still provided a highlight reel defensive play now and then, he was more than expendable. Especially when Youkilis was coming back in return. Midterm Grade: F

Jake Peavy- 120 IP, 7-5, 2.85 ERA, 108 K's: Peavy has finally shaken his injuries and has been a top notch pitcher for the White Sox for the first time since we acquired him in 2009. He's gone at least 6 innings in every start but one, he's only given up more than three runs three times. He was a late replacement to the All Star game and with a little offense in June, he could very well have started the game tonight. Midterm Grade: A+

Gavin Floyd- 103 IP, 7-8, 4.54 ERA, 91 K's: Floyd is either real good or real bad. In his 17 starts, he's given up at least five runs in five of them. He does have good stretches though. From April 24th- May 11th he gave up four runs over four starts. He's pitched very well in three of his last four starts as well. Unfortunately there are a bunch of starts in between there where he got shelled. He could be so much better than he is, like an honors student who doesn't try. Midterm Grade: C-

Chris Sale- 102.2 IP, 10-2, 2.19 ERA, 98 K's: Sale has been unbelievable in every start but one. He has been dominant in many of them. It is a joy to watch him pitch and I would be comfortable with him going up against any pitcher in the majors. He's a true ace. Midterm Grade: A+

Philip Humber- 67.1 IP, 3-4, 6.01 ERA, 63 K's: Humber has had 12 starts on the year. Five of them were acceptable, one was historical and six of them were anywhere from terrible to disgusting. It's pretty much the definition of a 5th starter. Hopefully when he comes back from injury he'll be a little bit more consistent. Midterm Grade: C-

Jose Quintana- 57.1 IP, 4-1, 2.04 ERA, 37 K's: It's debatable whether he has been lucky or good or a combination of the two, but the results are undeniable. Quintana has teamed with Sale and Peavy to give the Sox three great starting pitchers so far. He will obviously regress as the league sees him a little bit more, but I don't think he's a flash in the pan like some have suggested. He's started 8 games and has only given up more than 2 runs one time. Midterm Grade: A+

John Danks- 53.2 IP, 3-4, 5.70 ERA, 30 K's: Danks got rich, was bad, then injured. Did the injury cause him to be bad? I don't know. He signed the richest deal in White Sox history and has proceeded to give the Sox nine starts (four of them acceptable). For being the ace of the staff coming in to the year, thats really not even close to being good enough. Thank God for Peavy, Sale and Quintana. Midterm Grade: F

Dylan Axelrod- 28.2 IP, 0-2, 6.59 ERA, 19 K's: Axelrod has had five starts and pitched well in one of them. I am willing to throw out his last start because he was put in position to fail, but he still hasn't been good enough. Humber should be back soon which will move Axelrod into the long man role. Midterm Grade: D-

Nate Jones- 38.2 IP, 3-0, 3.03 ERA, 37 K's: Jones has done a very good job in his rookie season and has given the Sox a nice option out of the bullpen, especially when you throw in Jesse Crain's absence. Jones is the righty set up man and has done well. He's come a long way since I declared him the worst pitcher I ever saw in a Spring Training game this year. Midterm Grade: A-

Matt Thornton- 37.1 IP, 2-5, 2.89 ERA, 35 K's, 2 saves: Thornton is the only veteran in the bullpen with Crain's absence. He has had a few blips on the radar and has had a few of his patented bloop and a blast performances, but overall he's been pretty solid, especially of late. Midterm grade: B+

Addison Reed- 31 IP, 2-1, 4.06 ERA, 33 K's, 13/14 in saves: His ERA got severely inflated in a garbage time effort against the Royals when he gave up 6 runs in 1/3 of an inning. Other than that meaningless performance, he's been pretty stellar. He has only blown one save, and except for a couple of outings he usually makes them relatively painless. He looks like he could be a closer for the next bunch of years on the South Side. Midterm Grade: A

Hector Santiago- 30.1 IP, 2-1, 4.15 ERA, 34 K's, 4/6 saves: Santiago began the year as the closer and was a little bit homer happy (7 in 30.1 IP). Thats not a good quality to have when you are supposed to protect close games. When he isn't giving up a long ball though, he does ok. He kind of got buried behind Ohman and Thornton after losing his closers job, but with Ohman being gone, I think Santiago will see more work in the 2nd half. As long as he keeps the ball in the yard, he should do ok. Midterm Grade: C

Jesse Crain- 22.2 IP, 2-1, 2.38 ERA, 28 K's: He has done ok when he is able to pitch, but that hasn't been too often in the first half. Hopefully he is able to get healthy because we could really use a proven veteran in the bullpen during the dog days of a playoff chase. Midterm Grade: B-

Brian Omogrosso, Leyson Septimo, Brian Bruney: Not nearly enough time from any of them to determine a grade. Midterm Grades: Incomplete

Will Ohman- 26.2 IP, 0-2, 6.41 ERA, 13 K's: He probably was used more than he should have been, but he's a major league pitcher and is expected to get major league hitters out. He didn't do that, so he was given his walking papers. Midterm Grade: F

Eric Stults- 6.2 IP, 0-0, 2.70 ERA, 4 K's: He pitched well in his short time but was victim to a numbers game and was signed by the Padres, where he has continued to be ok. Not enough time to give him a grade here though. Midterm Grade: Incomplete

Robin Ventura and staff: Ventura has done a real nice job in his first season, more than just being "not Ozzie Guillen". Credit has to be given to the staff for Rios, Dunn and Peavy finding their form. The bullpen has also survived their severe lack of experience. Joe McEwing has been absolutely wonderful as the third base coach. There have been times when Ventura made me scratch my head, but he has seemingly learned from the mistakes he's made. The team is having a lot of fun for the first time in a long time, and it has been a pleasure to watch. Midterm Grade: A

Kenny Williams and Front Office: He has been quick to try and find solutions this year. When Morel went down, he took a flier on Hudson and when that didn't work, he made a remarkable trade to get Youkilis for nothing. Kosuke Fukudome wasn't producing, he was given his papers. Same with Ohman. He signed Quintana off the scrap heap and he's been one of the main reasons why the White Sox are where they are. De Aza has been a great find. All of a sudden the Peavy, Rios and Dunn acquisitions don't look so terrible either. He also seemingly was the one who correctly reinserted Sale into the rotation after that whole debacle. I hope he acts on another pitcher before the deadline, but right now all is looking good for Kenny. Midterm Grade: A

After having a class full of dunces in 2011, this battle for valedictorian is a nice change.