I have been watching Chicago White Sox baseball for the better part of 40 years now. As the door to the season was creaking open, everything was looking down: The players were at war with ownership (to the point they nearly walked out of a Spring Training game) over a player retiring because his son would no longer be allowed to sit in the dugout at every game. There was little confidence that the pitching would be better, and no hope that the offense would improve. Some of the learned heads of baseball prognostication picked the Whits Sox to finish with a mediocre 78-84 record. With the Sox spending a lot of time on the road in April, and a lot of that dealing with West Coast teams that the Sox struggle against, the outlook wasn’t brilliant for the South Side Nine.
And then something really odd happened.
The prognosticators were partially right … the offense wasn’t upgraded. However, the pitching staff was infused with something like Super Soldier Serum, and were pitching at a level I have never seen before, and I include the 2005 pitching staff in that assertion. The starters (minus John Danks) were brilliant. The bullpen has been awesome. And while the offense has not been there in huge numbers, the offense has been timely. As the dust of April settles, the White Sox have more wins than any team in Major League Baseball, and to boot, they have only faced one really poor team, while they have taken on three teams that are in first or second place in their division. This is only the fourth time in 116 years the team has tallied 17 wins in April.
The two guys getting a ton of credit are Matt Latos who is pitching far over his paygrade, and Chris Sale, who currently leads the solar system with a 6-0 record in six starts. What I really respect about Chris Sale is that he has changed his approach to pitching. For several years, Sale has been the consummate strikeout artist. This year, has has abandoned the double digit strikeout tally for more pitching that puts the ball in play, and allows his improved defense to take care of business. Not many pitchers are willing to change what has worked, but Chris Sale is proving himself to be not your average All-Star pitcher. Seeing three White Sox pitchers finish April with sub-2.00 ERAs is surreal.
Another player I will single out is my television partner Adam Eaton. Eaton was moved to right field this year, and after being the only member of the team with a strong offensive start, his spectacular defense has been incredibly fun to watch. His MLB-leading six assists from the outfield this year have been great fun as he guns down unsuspecting runners greedily trying to get one more base.
While it is a great start, it is early, and the real test won’t be until they face the two-time defending AL champion Kansas City Royals. That will be May 20.