Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Treading Water In The AL Central

I have to admit, I've been a little despondent about how the Sox have played over the last couple of weeks. After peaking out at 24-7 after sweeping the Blue Jays on May 8th, the Sox have gone just 11-10 since - barely over .500 baseball. And they haven't particularly looked good doing it - hitting poorly, and not pitching like they had at the beginning of the season. It's been a dead spot for the team, and it the Sox will not be able to hold a lead over the Twins with that kind of performance.

But the truth of the matter is that
the Twinkies are in their own dead spot, going 10-10 in their last 20 games since they beat Tampa Bay on May 8th. Indeed, since May 8th, the Sox have actually increased their lead by 1/2 game - something that really amazes me.

There's a reason for all of this. Both the Twinkies and the Sox started out with AL Central-heavy schedules. Through May 8th, the Twinkies had played 21 of their 30 games against the AL Central, managing a 12-9 record versus the Central and a 7-2 record versus the Mariners, Angels, and Devil Rays. Through May 8th, the Sox had played 22 of their 31 games against the AL Central, going 18-4 versus the Central and 6-3 against the Blue Jays, Mariners, and A's. Indeed, take away their record against each other (the Sox won 4 of 5 from the Twinkies), and you get, through May 8th:

Teamvs. CLE, DET, KCvs. Other ALvs. CHI/MINTotal





White Sox





Pretty close right there - the Sox's victories over the Twins in the early going are really the ONLY reason for the five-game lead at this point. So much for Jacque Jones' "it's early, dude" statement.

Since that time, both teams have concentrated on playing non-division opponents. The Twinkies have gone 10-10 versus a lineup that includes Baltimore (1-2), Texas (1-2), Toronto (4-2), Milwaukee (2-1), and Cleveland (2-3), while the Sox have gone 11-10 versus Tampa Bay (1-2), Baltimore (2-2), Texas (2-3), the Cubs (2-1), and the Angels (4-2). Indeed, they've played relatively similar schedules, and performed relatively similarly thus far.

And if you look at the two team's performances, they are really indicative of a close race. The Sox have scored 229 and allowed 188 in 52 games, while the Twinkies have scored 225 and allowed 191 in 50 games. Those are roughly equal totals, with the Twinkies having a slightly better offense and the Sox a slightly better defense/pitching. The team rate-statistic totals look like this:

Minnesota Offense: .267 AVG/.334 OBP/.400 SLG
Chicago Offense: .255 AVG/.321 OBP/.403 SLG

Minnesota Pitching: 3.43 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 1.1 HR/G, 1.6 BB/G, 5.8 K/G
Chicago Pitching: 3.42 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, .9 HR/G, 2.9 BB/G, 6.3 K/G

Wow, those are pretty close on the pitching side, where the Sox have made up for the Twinkies' lower walk rate by allowing fewer home runs and striking out slightly more hitters.

On the offensive side, the Twinkies have a good lead in OBP and AVG, but the two teams are even when it comes to SLG. Given that the patience of the two teams has been about the same (.321 OBP-.255 AVG = .66 for Sox, .334 OBP - .267 = .67 for Twinkies), a rise in the Sox's batting average commensurate with Konerko, Dye, and Everett getting back up to their historic performances (.276 for Konerko, .270 for Dye, and .276 for Everett), would probably push the Sox to about even with the Twinks in the hitting department.

It's going to be a long race ahead.

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