In the midst of a four-game winning streak, the Chicago White Sox have completed one-eighth of the 2017 season. Collectively, it has been quite a roller coaster experience these 20 games. Just a week ago, the South Siders could only muster five runs in four games. Then they turn around and go on a tear for 33 runs in their past four games. Despite the feast or famine offense, this squad somehow has a record of 11-9 as they embark on a 10-game road trip with visits to Detroit, Kansas City, and Baltimore.
As they prepare on this off-day, why just take a look at the AL Central Standings.
AL Central Standings
|Chicago White Sox||11||9||13|
|Kansas City Royals||7||14||-33|
Obviously this is not going to last, but it's fun to say that Friday night will be a battle between the Tigers and White Sox for the AL Central lead. For a team that's supposed to be rebuilding, they sure have made the month of April more entertaining that I thought it was going to be.
Here are five reasons why the first 20 games have been fun to watch.
1) Avisail Garcia
Avi leads the American League with a .373 batting average. He's fourth in OBP (.420) and OPS (1.020), and sixth in slugging (.600). His 17 RBI is just two behind AL leader, Nelson Cruz. With those numbers, Avi has a legit chance to be AL Player of the Month. What a time to be alive.
Is this performance sustainable? No, the BABIP is still a ridiculous .462, which is 135 points higher than his career average of .327. Steamer, despite the torrid start, projects Avi to finish the season with 18 HR and 71 RBI with a .775 OPS. Regression is bound to bite back, but those would be career high's for Garcia. Maybe he has turned a corner and this is the player Rick Hahn envisioned receiving from the Jake Peavy trade. If so, it'll be fun to see if Avi can climb over 20 home run hurdle.
2) David Robertson
On April 25th, the Washington Nationals were up 15-7 against the Colorado Rockies in the bottom of the eighth inning. Trea Turner had already hit for the cylce, and that Nats should have been on cruise control. I say should, because their bullpen resembles a dumpster fire. Joe Blanton gave up four runs without recording an out, and that forced manager Dusty Baker to make a swap.
That pitcher was Matt Albers. Amazingly, he was able to limit the damage before their closer du jour Shawn Kelley allowed a home run in the ninth. Washington did win, 15-12, but it was a hell of lot harder than it should be.
Which is why I'm amazed they haven't already pulled the trigger and traded for David Robertson.
D-Rob is having an outstanding start to 2017. Perfect in save opportunities (5-for-5), he's allowed one earned run in 7.2 IP. His knuckle-curve has been devasting to batters as he has 13 strikeouts to just three walks in his eight appearances. Sure, he's still owed a lot of money, but if Robertson continues this performance they'll be more teams calling Rick Hahn to obtain his services. Very quickly, it's David Robertson who has become the White Sox most tradable asset over Jose Quintana. If he's still with the White Sox after June, I'll be shocked.
3) The Bullpen
While Robertson gets the attention, perhaps a big reason why the Sox are two games above .500 at this juncture is rest of the bullpen.
This unit is currently second in Major League Baseball with a 1.96 ERA. They have 78 strikeouts to 21 walks with no blown saves. This very well could be a case that regression hasn't caught up to this unit, but the numbers are startling. Especially with these three pitchers:
Anthony Swarzak: 9.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 12 K (!!!)
Dan Jennings: 9.1 IP, 9 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K
Tommy Kahnle: 7 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 15 K (!!!)
That's 26 IP allowing only two runs with four walks and 34 strikeouts. Mercy.
4) Miguel Gonzalez
MiGo is on a roll. In his last two starts, Gonzalez has pitched 16.1 IP and just allowed one run. He's 3-0 on the season with a 2.00 ERA. Baseball-Reference already has him at 1 WAR. The upcoming mid-season trade market for starting pitchers is still a bit hazy, but Gonzalez might be attractive for a playoff contender who is looking to only pay for a 4th starter.
5) Matt Davidson and Leury Garcia
Matt Davidson is tied for the team lead with four home runs and is second with 14 RBI. In the past week, he's cut ten percent from his K% (Now 40.4%) and it just seems when Davidson is in the lineup the team produces.
Another surprise this season is the emergence of Leury Garcia. So far in 2017, the starting CF started with Charlie Tilson, then it was Peter Bourjos before he got traded, then Jacob May but he can't hit and finally landed on Garcia. All he's done is hit .319/.347/.553 with 2 HR and 5 RBI in 17 games.
Perhaps outside of Robertson, it's nice to see the players with low expectations excel in the first 20 games. With Todd Frazier starting to warm up and Quintana earning his first win, maybe this surprise start still has some run left in it.