White Sox

13 Things: The highlights of 2011

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13 Things: The highlights of 2011

Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011Posted: 7:45 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com White Sox InsiderFollow @CSNChi_Beatnik
CLEVELAND - With the Chicago White Sox desperately striving to finish even as well .500 this season, you could certainly say that there have been as many highlights as lowlights in this All-In season that ended up flatulent and deflated. But in the interest of staring at the sun instead of getting soggy in the rain, heres a look at the top 13 moments of the 2011, All-In turned Well-Were-Here season.

And the list is made all the more appropriate by the top spot on the list, which took place almost six months ago in this very spot.

1. April 1: White Sox 16, Indians 10 -- Offense hits the ground running

Just four innings into the 2011 season, the White Sox had jumped out to a 14-0 lead on the Cleveland Indians, who would become the darlings of the American League before dropping back down to .500. The Pale Hose offense was terrible in the Cactus League, but 11 hits and 10 runs off of presumptive Wahoos ace Fausto Carmona made it look like the White Sox would coast to the Central title. Adam Dunn and Carlos Quentin would combine to go 5-for-9 with two homersnine RBIs and six Sox had two or more hits.

As we now know, this outburst would turn out to be the biggest April Fools joke in White Sox history. But for one day two, actually, as the next Wahoo trouncing, 8-3, kept the Pale Hose a half-game ahead of everyone in the Central at least the team was in fulfilling its promise, bolstered by the highest-octane offense in baseball.

2. April 25: White Sox 2, Yankees 1 -- Heroes Humber and Lillibridge

Opening the White Soxs visit to the Bronx began with the White Sox flailing at 8-14 and GM Ken Williams flying into town after being grumbled at by any number of furious fans while he awaited his plane at OHare to assure that all was calm at White Sox central.

In just his fourth start for the White Sox, Phil Humber took a no-hitter one out into the sixth inning and still managed to be upstaged. Thats because defensive substitution Brent Lillibridge made back-to-back brilliant plays in the ninth, the first on a run back to the wall to rob Alex Rodriguez of extra bases, then the clincher on a diving catch parallel to the ground, extinguishing Robinson Canos bid to win the game.

I found my closer, a smiling Ozzie Guillen said postgame. Lillibridge.

3. April 7: White Sox 6, Rays 1 -- Velo perfection

There was a time when I felt Edwin Jackson would, in a salary drive year, become the ace of the White Sox staff. That certainly didnt happen, as Velo was just as exasperating a hurler as ever. But he did win his first two starts and spun a gem of a game in the White Sox home opener, with eight innings of four-hit, 13-strikeout ball. His game score of 82 would be the fourth-highest all year.

4. May 11: White Sox 6, Angels 4 (10) -- Wild pitch offense

In perhaps the most hilarious comeback of the season, L.A. reliever Kevin Jepsen provided the White Sox the eventual game-winning run in the top of the 10th by airmailing the first pitch of an intentional walk 10 feet over the head of catcher Hank Conger, scoring Alexei Ramirez from third.

In mockery of the White Sox awful performance driving in runners from third base, this improbable win gave berth to the wildpitchoffense hashtag on Twitter, one that sadly was never killed off by the White Sox actually gaining proficiency in clutch hitting this season.
5. July 4: White Sox 5, Royals 4 -- Balk-off win

Its a joke waiting to be written: What was more rare this season, a clutch Dunn homer or a winning run coming home on a balk? The answer might end in a tie, as two white buffalos were bagged in this comeback win. The first came off the bat of Dunn, a towering fly of a home run that landed just beyond reach in right-center, as Sox maniacs hoped against hope that his .171 average would soon swell as the nights heated up. Meanwhile, after Dunns dinger gave the White Sox the lead in the eighth, but that advantage dissipated as K.C. went ham on Sergio Santos in the ninth. That set the stage for A.J. Pierzynski, who was operating at peak feist on third base, annoying reliever Aaron Crow to such an extent that he jerked his shoulder subtly as Dunn stood at the plate, forcing home the Campbell Soup kid with the game-winner.

6. August 28: White Sox 9, Mariners 3 -- The power of youth

The weirdest saga of this sad season took an interesting turn in Seattle, when Dayan Viciedo made his debut some two months later than anticipated, finally getting the call to aid Chicagos withered offense after hed put himself in the International League MVP discussion for his ball murdering at Charlotte. All Viciedo did was crush a liner out to right-center in near Dick Allen-esque fashion. That three-run blast woud prove to be enough for Gavin Floyd, but later on catcher Tyler Flowers pounded out a grand slam, making this rare laugher of a win fully fueled by the Knight Sox.

7. August 27: White Sox 3, Mariners 0 -- Danks tosses a gem

Just one day earlier, another erstwhile Pale Hose ace, John Danks, threw a gem of a game in defeating Ms rookie hurler Micheal Pieda, giving up just three hits while whiffing 10 and earning a season-high to that point game score of 90. The win also raised the streaking Dankss record to 6-9 sadly the closest hed get to .500 from that point on.
8. April 12: White Sox 6, As 5 (10) -- Alexeis game-winner

With just 15 home runs tied with his lowest-ever major league output there hasnt been much occasion for mister Homer Hands to show off his joy at a killer clout. But early in the season, things looked different, especially in the 11th game of the season, when Ramirez not only hit his second career game-ending homer, but hit two, for his first career multi-homer game. The decider came with two outs in the bottom of the 10th, and raised the White Sox to 7-4. Believe it or not, it was the last and only time the team would be three games over .500.

9. September 5: White Sox 4, Twins 0 -- Stewart chases perfection

The doubleheader vs. the Twins was billed as a possible battle between two young hurlers for the fifth rotation spot for the White Sox in the seasons final month, and Humber had already spun a gem in a Game 1 win. But rookie Zach Stewart raised the ante by taking a perfect game into the eighth inning, where Danny Valencia spoiled the bit with an oppo double. It would prove the only at-bat marring Stewarts brilliant outing, as he finished with a White Sox season-best 94 game score and a one-hitter en route to a 4-0 win.

10. May 30: White Sox 7, Red Sox 3 -- Peavy fuels a sweep

Sometimes for better, sometimes worse, but Jake Peavy usually garners an unusual amount of attention with his every start. And per game score, the Bulldog had three better starts in his truncated season. But none may have been more important that his 7-3 win at Boston, which would fuel a three-game streak and further entrench the Pale Hoses domination at Fenway. The game was perhaps more notable for the Chicago offense jumping all over Bosox ace Jon Lester, but whatever the root cause, this win temporarily staved off the free-fall the White Sox were in danger of falling into with the season just two months gone.

11. May 24: White Sox 8, Rangers 6 -- Q triples his fun

Quentin is infamously hot and cold, but a slugger cant get much hotter in a single game than crushing three homers in a single contest, even if that contest ends at 1:27 a.m. the next day. Indeed, not even tornado-force wins, delaying the game three hours and forcing various methods of evacuation from Rangers Ballpark, could deter Quentin, who had his most productive day in a 24-homer, 77-RBI campaign in this soggy victory deep in the heart of. And of curious sidenote, Tony Pea got his final White Sox victory in relief of Peavy in the win.

12. June 30: White Sox 6, Rockies 4 (10) -- Pierre kick starts

Guillen is known to shake his tiny fist at his naysayers, particularly those of us who might lean on dastardly stats to determine who should play and who should sit, or who should stay and who should go. The manager placed Juan Pierre beloved left fielder straight in the line of fire over the Viciedo debate, but was vindicated to some degree by his beloved left fielder when his rebound began. Although he has undoubtedly lost a step on the basepaths and a great deal of confidence in the field, offensively Pierre equaled his solid 2010 in this campaign as well. And that all basically started with a game-winning single to knock off Colorado in extras and help fuel Chicagos run back to .500.

13. June 7: White Sox 5, Mariners 1 -- Sox start to hit

In a season full of false offensive starts, this was another. After knocking off hot rookie Pieda in the series opener in Seattle, Chicago chased ace Felix Hernandez with a 6-1 win. To a man and including the slumping Dunn and Gordon Beckham the White Sox felt their offense was beginning to crest and that promise would be delivered soon.

It ended up a season of empty promises, but these choice moments from 2011 prove that all wasnt pain and heartache on the South Side.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.

Despite midseason slump, Jose Abreu is moving toward a fifth straight season of 25 homers and 100 RBIs

Despite midseason slump, Jose Abreu is moving toward a fifth straight season of 25 homers and 100 RBIs

When Jose Abreu went to the All-Star Game — voted in as the starting first baseman for the American League squad — he was of course deserving as an incredibly consistent performer through his first four seasons in the big leagues and his role as the face of the White Sox.

But the numbers weren't looking so good in mid July. An extended slump had Abreu looking very un-Abreu-like, perhaps heading toward his worst statistical season since arriving in the majors from Cuba ahead of his 2014 Rookie of the Year campaign.

At the close of the first half, he was slashing .253/.311/.441 with 13 home runs and 52 RBIs, a far cry from the .301/.359/.524 slash line he put up through his first four seasons, when he also joined Albert Pujols and Joe DiMaggio as the only players ever to start their careers with a quartet of 25-homer, 100-RBI campaigns.

But Abreu, who's been a very good second-half hitter during his career, is on a hot streak that's powering his way back to his version of normal. And it's looking like he could again reach the numbers we're so used to seeing from him by season's end.

After a one-homer, three-hit, three-RBI day in Wednesday afternoon's win over the Detroit Tigers, Abreu is up to .268/.327/.484 on the campaign with 21 homers and 73 RBIs. That puts him nine homers and 27 RBIs away from the mark he's hit in each of his first four seasons with 42 games left in the season. It's not at all unreasonable to suggest he'll be able to do that, as he's hit eight homers and driven in 21 runs in his last 22 games.

He'd have to be some kind of dialed-in for the remainder of 2018 to bump the averages back to where they've been in recent seasons. But here's the kind of hot streak he's on now: Since the start of the second half, Abreu is slashing .323/.385/.646. And that's not too crazy when you realize how good he's been in the second half in his career. Coming into Wednesday's game, his career second-half stat line looked like this: a .314/.381/.540 slash line with 61 homers and 199 RBIs in 303 games.

For the White Sox, the confidence was always there that Abreu was going to snap out of the extended slump that saw him slash .180/.230/.308 from May 27 to the end of the first half, and he's done exactly that. Now, he's hot enough that he's inspiring confidence he could return to some of his regular numbers by season's end. It's that kind of consistency, coupled with his off-the-field value, that makes the team think so highly of him and could keep him around long enough for the rebuilding process to yield a perennial contender on the South Side.

A lot can change, but who are the favorites to make up the White Sox rotation of the future?

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A lot can change, but who are the favorites to make up the White Sox rotation of the future?

The White Sox seem to be a couple years away from shifting from rebuilding mode to contention mode. There's plenty of development that still needs to occur at both the major league and minor league levels before the roster of the future comes fully into focus.

But with some excellent performances happening right now, is the White Sox rotation of the future falling into place? At least a little?

Look at this:

— Carlos Rodon, last seven starts: 1.60 ERA, 42 strikeouts
— Michael Kopech, last six starts: 1.89 ERA, 50 strikeouts
— Dylan Cease, last seven starts: 1.08 ERA, 57 strikeouts
— Dane Dunning, last five starts (back in June): 2.08 ERA, 38 strikeouts

Kind of looks like four-fifths of a starting rotation, doesn't it?

As has often been discussed, the White Sox have a good deal of starting pitching depth, and there are plenty of possibilities to fill that starting staff down the line. Heretofore unmentioned are pitching prospects Alec Hansen, Jordan Stephens, Jimmy Lambert and Bernardo Flores, all ranked among the organization's top 25 prospects, as well as current big leaguers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez, who have each had their flashes of brilliance this season on the major league stage.

But the four guys listed above have been very, very good this season, especially recently, making it easy to envision them making up 80 percent of the starting rotation the next time the White Sox are competing for a championship.

Let's start with Rodon, who extended his streak of great starts to seven in Wednesday afternoon's win over the Detroit Tigers. He went eight innings for the second outing in a row, and he's now pitched into the eighth inning in five of his last six starts. He's got a 1.60 ERA in his last seven starts, with 42 strikeouts in that span. Wednesday, he bounced back from a rocky three-run third inning and finished with just three runs allowed on five hits and a walk, adding six strikeouts. Quite simply, he's been ace-like and done well to answer the health-related questions he brought into the season, when shoulder surgery prevented him from debuting until June for the second straight campaign.

Then there are the two guys putting up monster numbers in the minor leagues: Kopech and Cease.

The 22-year-old Kopech has moved past some midseason struggles and has been downright electric of late at Triple-A Charlotte. In his last six starts, Kopech has a 1.89 ERA with 50 strikeouts and a jaw-droppingly low four walks in 38 innings. It's quite the turnaround for a guy who was having difficulty keeping the walk numbers low earlier this season. But he's come out the other side pitching as well as he has since joining the White Sox organization prior to last season, which is saying a lot considering he struck out 172 hitters in 2017. He's just 11 strikeouts away from matching that total this year. He could make his major league debut before the 2018 season is over.

And then there's Cease, also 22, who wasn't even the most talked-about player in his own trade, coming over from the Cubs along with Eloy Jimenez in last summer's crosstown swap. Cease has been a tremendous surprise for the White Sox this season, not because they didn't think he'd be great but because he's been the organization's best pitcher. And he's continued that trend in his seven most recent starts at Double-A Birmingham, too, with a razor-thin 1.08 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 41.2 innings. He deservedly represented the White Sox at the Futures Game during All-Star week in Washington, D.C., last month and appears to be well on his way to earning the team's minor league pitcher of the year honors.

And for a fourth, how about a guy who hasn't pitched in a month and a half? Dunning has an elbow injury that's kept him out since late June, but prior to that, he was putting up terrific numbers at Double-A Birmingham. In his last five starts before hitting the DL, he had a 2.08 ERA with 38 strikeouts in 30.1 innings. And he might be making some progress, if a recent tweet is any indication.

Now, as mentioned, there's a lot that can and will happen before the starting staff is set on the next White Sox team that will contend for a championship. But this kind of positive production from these four guys stokes the idea of a potentially dominant rotation of the future.

At the very least, this quartet seems to be making life easy for the legion of 2020 lineup projectors out there.