As we reach the midway point of the season for the Chicago White Sox, many factors have played a role in the team going 49-32 to lead the AL Central, with the fourth-best record in all of baseball.
Their stellar starting rotation (Lucas Giolito, Lance Lynn, Dallas Keuchel, Carlos Rodón and Dylan Cease) has combined for a 3.22 ERA, the best in the American League. Closer Liam Hendriks has anchored the bullpen, with his 21 saves, most in the AL and second in all of baseball.
The pitching staff has benefited from remaining healthy for most of the first half. The offense hasn’t been so lucky, but that’s where some of the most remarkable work is being done. The White Sox bats have hit for a .254 average so far, fifth in all of baseball, despite injuries to star players like Eloy Jiménez, Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal.
The next man mentality the Sox have had throughout the season has played a huge factor, too. Whether it be Yermín Mercedes breaking and/or tying MLB records in the first weeks of the season or fellow rookie Andrew Vaughn finally coming around to put up more consistently great offensive numbers (like the .450/.458/.850 slash line to go with a two home runs and five RBIs he has put up in his last seven games).
The next-man-up list includes a more recent rookie call-up, Gavin Sheets, who’s gotten a hit in each of his first four career games and has posted a .400/.412/.933 slash line to go with two home runs and eight RBIs.
Gavin Sheets: first player in #WhiteSox history with a hit & RBI in each of first 4 career MLB games.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 3, 2021
First with an extra-base hit in each of first 4 career MLB games.
It hasn't just been Mercedes, Vaughn and Sheets, but the likes of Zack Collins (a recent hot streak of .294/.400/.588 to go with a home run and seven RBIs in his last seven games) and the newest White Sox call-up, Jake Burger (2-for-4 with a double and RBI in his debut on Friday).
"Why didn't you quit?"— White Sox Talk (@NBCSWhiteSox) July 3, 2021
"My parents told me 'don't regret anything in life,' and if you quit, you're gonna regret it. ...They were right."
Jake Burger, man. No words. pic.twitter.com/jlq3oh6ypw
Four of those five players are White Sox draft choices, and three are first round picks. That shows the great depth that the Sox have in the minors, helping them tremendously on the past toward World Series contention. In fact, all but eight players on their 40-man roster have seen White Sox action over the course of the first half.
The rookies are holding the fort until more notable names like veterans Tim Anderson and José Abreu recover from slumps, or Yoán Moncada and Yasmani Grandal come back from injury.
If you are a White Sox fan, you have to be pretty satisfied with where they are at the midpoint of the regular season, hoping that they can maintain their division lead and accomplish something never done in franchise history: Making the playoffs two years in a row.