I’m not a big proponent of April stats, and I’ve never been a big proponent of April stats. Once you’ve seen Chris Shelton hit 10 home runs in April, early-season stats begin to lose their luster. Having said that, the White Sox seem a little scary so far, eh?
Jose Abreu is annihilating baseball left and right – Rumor has it that his uncle invented baseball, and Abreu himself uses a bat he carved from an elephant tusk (which he killed with his bare hands). Alexei Ramirez seems to go 2 for 3 every other day, Adam Eaton moonlights as the Flash, Marcus Semien can telepathically tell what a pitcher is going to throw before he throws it, and Tyer Flowers is secretly the son of Zeus. There’s nothing this AL-leading offensive team can’t do. Right?
Well, here’s the thing: the White Sox’s pitching staff is, outside of the currently-injured Chris Sale, not-so-good. Their team ERA is second-to-last in the AL at 4.84, and third-to-last in the entire MLB. Outside of Sale, the resurgent John Danks leads the team with an ERA of 3.50 (not bad), followed by Jose Quintana at 4.00 (…okay), then Andre Rienzo with 4.05 (hmm), then Erik Johnon’s 6.45 (/dry heave), and Felipe Paulino‘s abysmal 11.29 (/wet barf). They recently picked up Hector Noesi, who has pitched on two different teams already this season, and he’s sporting an ERA of 11.12, which makes a better brunch time than a pitcher’s stat.
Their bullpen is similarly gross, with Matt Lindstrom serving as the de facto closer despite currently having an identical K/9 (4.50) and BB% (4.50), and an xFIP of 5.12. Scott Downs, heralded from the Angels’ bullpens, sports an 8.00 K/9 and a 7.00 BB% (as well as a 4.53 xFIP). The rest of the bullpen, outside of Daniel Webb and Scott Carroll, is similar gross.
So what does that have to do with the hitting stats? Well, to get to the point, a lot of these players are hitting over their heads, and when they regress back to their mean they’ll have to rely on a pitching staff that has all the gusto of a dead fish.
Alexei Ramirez, he of the AL-leading batting average, has never hit above .300 in his previous six seasons. Tyler Flowers has never batted over .209 (!!!!!) in his previous five seasons of MLB experience (in addition to only have below a 30% k-rate only once, in 2011, at 29.5%). Dayan Viziedo is somehow batting .341 despite being strikeout-prone and walk-averse (that .394 BABIP in action). Marcus Semien, Conor Gillaspie, and Jordan Danks historically haven’t been anything to write home about offensively. Adam Dunn, as we have come to learn, will lose a chunk of his batting average towards the second half of the year, though his power and batting eye continue to maintain their excellence.
Yet not all of its players are heading towards a precipitous decline. Adam Eaton struggled last year, so this could be closer to his norm, and Alejandro De Aza is certainly better than he’s currently playing. Jose Daniel Abreu presents the most intriguing player on the White Sox, with a record-shattering first month of the season. Without his official Cuban stats it’s difficult to make any comparisons or predictions, but he appears to be yet another import capable of making a prolonged positive impact.
However, he could be posting a performance similar to Yasiel Puig last year, where Puig set the baseball world on fire for the month of June (an unprecedented .436 batting average and 1.180 OPS), but regressed to a more palatable mean over the next three months. This could be Abreu peaking, which would be great news for Detroit. Think about it: if he’s going to finish the season with 35 homers, he’s already used up a third of them.
But this isn’t an article to blast the White Sox. If anything, GM Rick Hahn deserves recognition for his retooling of an older, expensive roster and injecting some good, affordable energy into it. Kenny Williams was a tire fire, but it was nice because at the end of the day Tiger fans knew the White Sox weren’t a threat due to age and financial restraints. Now, Hahn has pieced together an outfield that will be a pain in the Tigers’ collective ass for years to come (Eaton, De Aza, and currently injured former Tiger Avisail Garcia), and a first baseman who already appears elite. But the thing is, right now? They’re playing above their heads, and when they fall they’ll fall hard.
Next year, when Webb and Johnson are given more responsibility and Garcia returns to wreak his terrible revenge, is when I’ll be hearing the footsteps.