Bernstein: A Word Of Caution On White Sox’s Hot Start
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By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) It was a pretty good week for the White Sox.
Because it happened to be the first of the 26 weeks they will play, you understand, it means we’re compelled to over-analyze it.
We do this as we’ve always done it this time of year, giving every outcome greater weight than it deserves. Plate appearances, defensive chances and pitching stints are examined for predictive signs and rock-solid truths to be carried forward.
The Robin Ventura narrative, too, is already packaged and ready to go, and his rollout has gone as if scripted by a PR staff. First Ozzie Guillen goes all Ozzie Guillen right out of the box, reminding everyone here of what’s not here, setting Ventura in stark contrast. Vanilla ice cream tastes pretty good after habaneros.
Then the early victories legitimized the appearance of calm. The conclusion is that the Sox are clearly benefiting in all areas from having something other than a crazy person in their clubhouse.
It helps that players are asked leading questions in a happy locker room. Both on the record and off, the Sox are making it clear what a relief it is to not have mommy and daddy fighting all the time, and we have no reason to doubt their sincerity. We just have no idea if it will make anyone better at baseball.
Our first look at this team is positive, seeing solid starting pitching, a bullpen that includes some eyebrow-raising no-names, some well-timed home runs and opportune defensive highlights. It’s certainly better than the alternative.
Skeptics will point out a few things. Any success this year still hinges on getting respectable seasons from last year’s dogs: Jake Peavy, Adam Dunn, Gordon Beckham and Alex Rios, and that’s ominous.
Peavy seems OK, with his fastball around 92 mph and his slider sharp enough. Fingers stay crossed until his inevitable trip to the disabled list. Dunn looks better than historically bad, we think. Beckham has already had too many of the kind of clueless at-bats that make us ask big, sad questions about him, and Rios appears to be Rios, which is probably not good.
Brent Morel is slugging .182, with an OBP of .208. It hurts to even type that.
The team’s OBP is .295, and that’s with an acceptable .286 BABIP (Batting average of balls in play, which normalizes around .300). It’s likely that the Sox will struggle to score runs with this lineup so filled with outs.
The BABIP normalization cuts both ways, too. Opposing hitters’ balls in play have become hits at just a .234 clip so far, so Sox pitching has been lucky, statistically. Not to mention what happens after MLB scouts get more tape and data on Nate Jones, Addison Reed and Hector Santiago.
Now, Ventura is composed, stoic and wise, radiating waves of zen serenity. In a few weeks, he could easily be the deer in headlights, lacking the requisite fire and passion. He will be exactly the same person.
There’s nothing at all wrong with overachievement. The results so far are what they are, and even the best forecast-algorithms have been misguided before. The White Sox may indeed be the 75-win team expected, or something unlikely and special can occur.
Enjoy for now. It’s been a nice first step on a steep, uphill journey.
Dan Bernstein has been the co-host of “Boers and Bernstein” since 1999. He joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995. The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM. Read more of Bernstein’s columns here. Follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.
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