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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Sox at the quarter mark

A lot of baseball fans consider the season a marathon, a six month race to the finish and thatís an accurate analogy. A season though can also be broken down into quarters or turns like in a horse or car race. Itís hard to believe but the Sox have already hit and passed the first quarter turn of the season.

This recap of the first quarter is being written as the Sox head off to Boston. At this time their record is 24-20, certainly nothing to brag about, especially considering the fact that three times this season they were at eight games above .500, but certainly nothing like last year when about this time they were 15 games under .500 and already out of the playoff race.

As someone whoís passionately followed the Sox for 41 years, I did have some hunches that this was turning into a very unusual season and taking a closer look at the first quarter numbers confirmed that impression.

Now Iím not a numerologist or an accountant but some pretty weird things seem to be happening to the Sox.

Just taking a look at some figures seems to reveal what a lot of Sox fans already know...this team either wins big or loses big, thereís no middle ground. Thatís what happens when you have built a team where pitching isis in short supply, and you have a lot of hitters who either feast or starve against the opposition.

Consider this for example.....in the Sox 24 wins, theyíve scored 202 runs and allowed the opposition 74. Thatís a difference of about 5.3 runs. In the Sox 20 losses, theyíve scored ONLY 53 runs, while allowing an 158. The difference between those two sets of figures is about 5.2 runs. That pretty much sums up why the Sox either win big or lose big. In both cases somebodyís going to put up double digits in runs. The Sox have had nine games of ten or more runs, the opposition has had only four HOWEVER theyíve also had two games where they have scored nine runs and two games with eight.

Perhaps even more amazing is the lack of close games involving the Sox. Do you realize the Sox have yet to play an extra inning game? And they are only 2-4 in one run games (with three straight losses).

Scot Gregor, sportswriter for the Daily Herald made an interesting observation in The Sporting News last week. To me itís quite a damming indictment of the team and the field manager. Gregor said "the White Sox appear to quit playing when they fall behind by a large margin early in the game." Perhaps that explains the lack of close games, perhaps the team knows that once the "canít miss kid" pitchers get ripped, theyíre going to give up a LOT of runs.

The Sox are also behind the eight ball when it comes to the late innings. Theyíve had three games this season when they took a lead into the 7th inning or later and lost. Two of those games were the first series in Seattle along with a blown game to Texas on May 6th. Only one time this year have the Sox rallied to win when theyíve trailed in the 7th inning or later!

That was way back on April 13th when they beat Baltimore 4-3, trailing in the 8th inning.

What does it all mean? Maybe Jerry Manuel said it best last week when he made this comment..."Itís going to be hard to put together a long winning streak because of the inconsistency of the club, especially the pitching." This trend could also affect what happens to certain players. For example, Keith Foulke is being paid a lot of money (at least according to our managementís way of thinking), to close games. Yet he hasnít had many chances to do this has he? If this trend continues someone in our front office could start to think Foulke isnít really needed anymore. Ultimately he could wind up someplace else come July.

All this could happen when you shortchange the pitching staff, put to much pressure on untried youngsters and have an imbalance when it comes to your positional players.

Can it be solved?

Sure, IF management is willing to go out and make moves designed to help the team and not obsessively worry about the size of the payroll and if they are willing to do this NOW, not at the trading deadline, when theyíll have to fight other teams looking for help and when the price of getting said help isnít sky high.

And if they donít...well letís just say the Sox are fortunate to be in a division where 85 wins might be enough to get you into October (and a quick exit at the hands of legitimate teams like Boston, Seattle or New York..)

And with that, letís see if they can reverse their current trend of seven losses in the last ten games and 13 in their last 28 as they head towards the half way mark.

As always comments, questions or insults are always welcomed. Contact me at mliptak1@ida.net


Editor's Note: †Mark Liptak is an experienced sports journalist, holding several awards for both his electronic and print media work. †He has held numerous sports reporting positions for various TV and newspaper†organizations, including Director of Sports for KNOE-TV (Monroe, Louisiana)†and KPVI-TV (Pocatello, Idaho), and sports writer for the Idaho Falls Free Press, where his column "Lip Service" has appeared for for a number of years. †"Lip", his wife, and cats presently live in Chubbuck, Idaho, where they collectively comprise 100 percent of the Pocatello River Valley's long-time Sox Fan population.

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