White Sox

Dunn's hitting, so why aren't the Sox winning?

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Dunn's hitting, so why aren't the Sox winning?

We're just over a month into the 2012 season. Adam Dunn has been fantastic, posting a .364 OBP with 9 home runs heading into Wednesday's game against Cleveland. That's the kind of production the White Sox missed last season. They still may not have made the playoffs with it, but it probably would've helped stave off that miserable 4-18 stretch in April and May that put the team behind the 8-ball far too early.

With Dunn's production this season, though, the White Sox have lost 11 of their last 14 contests. At 13-17, they're only two games ahead of their 2011 pace through 30 contests.

The good news is that the White Sox have scored 116 runs and allowed 118, which cranks out an expected win-loss record of 15-15. The Sox are 2-6 in one-run games and have lost three games in which either Hector Santiago or Matt Thornton blew a save opportunity.

The bad news, though, is that generating offense continues to be a problem, even with Dunn seemingly back to normal. By weighted on-base average (wOBA, a better version of OPS), the Sox have the 19th-best offense in baseball, ahead of only the reeling Twins in the AL Central.

Along with Dunn, Paul Konerko, A.J. Pierzynski and Alejandro De Aza have been fantastic, although Pierzynski has started to come back to earth lately after a torrid start. But beyond those four, the Sox have struggled to do much at the plate.

Fangraphs breaks down wOBA into seven rough categories -- for example, an average wOBA is .320. They define an "awful" wOBA as being .290 and below. Four White Sox starters fall into that category: Gordon Beckham (.279), Dayan Viciedo (.262), Alexei Ramirez (.212) and Brent Morel (.195). And the backups haven't been much better, as all four Sox bench players have a wOBA below .280.

De Aza, Dunn and Konerko will have hitless games from time to time. That happens. But when it does, the Sox lineup doesn't stand much of a chance of scoring runs.

The Sox probably need two of those four struggling players to pull out of their slumps and become average-at-worst contributors to the lineup. Beckham, to his credit, has been solid since the start of May (.357.400.643 with 2 home runs), although whether he can turn eight good games into consistent offensive production remains to be seen.

Ramirez, hopefully, is just going through his usual pre-Memorial Day struggles -- the same ones that plagued him through his first three years in the league (although last season, Ramirez had an OPS above .700 on May 15 for the first time in his career).

The improved plate discipline Viciedo showed in 2011 has since escaped him -- he's walked in just 2.2 percent of his plate appearances after working a free pass in over 8 percent of his trips to the plate last year. At this point, he's struggling to hit much of anything, as over his last 18 games he's hitting .190.217.241 with one walk and 18 strikeouts.

And then there's Morel, who's only walked four times in 97 plate appearances while striking out 32 times. He only has two extra-base hits -- both doubles -- and only Marlon Byrd rates as worse than the third baseman by wOBA this season.

There's certainly hope for these guys, seeing as it's not even mid-May. But if June rolls around and these guys are still lagging, the Sox will be in big trouble, to say the least.

A great escape and a positive 'learning moment' for Lucas Giolito

A great escape and a positive 'learning moment' for Lucas Giolito

So often in this rebuilding season, Rick Renteria has talked of "learning moments," and as is evident from the team's win-loss numbers and many other statistics, those "learning moments" have largely ended in negative results.

It's not to say the lessons haven't been valuable ones, and growing pains now could lead to big-time success down the road, when the White Sox shift from rebuilding mode to contention mode.

But Tuesday night in Detroit, one young player, a significant piece of the team's long-term plans, succeeded in such a moment. And it looked like a step forward for a guy who's called himself one of the most inconsistent pitchers in baseball this season.

Lucas Giolito looked like he was heading for another disappointing outing early, when he relinquished a three-run lead in the first inning, allowing three runs that grew his first-inning ERA on the season to 8.63. But he settled down nicely from there, allowing just two base runners over the next four innings and allowing the White Sox to jump back ahead, which they did, leading 6-3 by the time Giolito's biggest challenge came around.

The Tigers loaded the bases to start the bottom of the sixth, putting three on with nobody out for Giolito, who has been susceptible to the big inning often this season, including in his previous start, when he gave up six runs in the second inning against the New York Yankees.

Renteria could've pulled the plug there and brought in a fresh reliever to try and limit the damage and keep his team's three-run lead alive. Instead, he allowed Giolito to stay in — another example of certain developmental things being more important than wins and losses this season — and the right-hander rewarded him. Giolito got a shallow flyball, a strikeout and a popup on the infield to end the inning with no runs scoring.

Giolito was obviously happy about that, and cameras showed him sharing a smile with Renteria in the dugout.

The White Sox won the game and now have a 6-2 record in Giolito's last eight starts. They're .500 (12-12) in his 24 starts this season, an interesting note, if not a terribly meaningful one, considering the team's overall record is 33 games below the .500 mark.

These "learning moments" have defined this developmental season on the South Side, and often they've come with the caveat of growing pains and the promise of a better tomorrow, despite a somewhat painful present.

This moment, though, came with a very visible sign of things moving in the right direction for Giolito. It doesn't mean Giolito will take off from here. But it's a good sign and something the White Sox have to be happy about as Giolito continues to develop at the major league level.

White Sox Talk Podcast: Will the White Sox call up Jimenez and/or Kopech this season?

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AP/USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Will the White Sox call up Jimenez and/or Kopech this season?

With Eloy Jimenez and Michael Kopech dominating in Triple-A, we tackle the No. 1 question on the mind of every White Sox fan: Are either or both of the White Sox top prospects going to play in the majors this year?

Chuck Garfien, Vinnie Duber and Slavko Bekovic give their takes and predictions. Plus, which other minor leaguers should be called up in September?

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below: