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Chicago White Sox Preview
by Matt Fargo - 02/28/2008
2007 Record 72 Wins 90 Losses - 4th American League Central
2007 Money ($1,14) Moneyline ~ ($153) Runline ~ 70-81 Over/Under
Itâ€™s hard to believe the White Sox won the World Series just two years ago. After finishing with 99 wins in 2005, Chicago dipped to 90 wins the next year and missing the playoffs by five games. No one saw only 72 wins last year coming however. Everything that could have gone wrong did. Injuries piled up early, pitching was getting pounded and the hitters could not produce. Little did everyone know that the 12-5 loss suffered Opening Day would be a good summation of the entire season.
The 3-4-5 hitters remain intact for the White Sox but that is about all that remains in this lineup. Jim Thome, Paul Konerko and Jermaine Dye will once again be the power in the middle but the White Sox are hoping for a much quicker start from the three following a very slow start last season. The only other likely returnee from last season is catcher A.J. Pierzynski who had his share of struggles last season. Three players will battle out the opening at 2nd base with veteran Juan Uribe leading the way.
The rest of the lineup looks different but that is a good thing. Third base is a question mark, mostly because of the status of Joe Crede and his recovery from season-ending back surgery. Josh Fields has the job and if Crede does show he is healthy, he will be traded. Chicago grabbed Nick Swisher from Oakland and Orlando Cabrera from the Angels, giving it two great on base guys. 2nd year center fielder Jerry Owens hit .340 the last month and finished the season with a team-high 32 stolen bases and will hit leadoff.
2008 Starting Pitching
The rotation is pretty much set barring any injuries or any other surprises. Gone is Jon Garland who has a disappointing 2007 after two straight seasons of 18 victories. Mark Buehrle will be the No. 1 starter again, followed by Javier Vazquez, John Danks, Jose Contreras and Gavin Floyd. Buehrle had a disappointing 2006, his worst year ever actually, but posted a 3.63 ERA and 1.26 WHIP last season, the fifth time he has posted a sub-4.00 ERA in his seven years as a starter.
Vazquez and Contreras are both tossups. Vazquez had his best season last year since his days in Montreal and his 1.14 WHIP and .242 BAA were both the second lowest in his career. As far as Contreras goes, he had a miserable season, losing 17 games while posting a 5.57 ERA. His 3.72 ERA in August and September should help ease some of the pain. Danks had a rough rookie campaign but Chicago is hoping for better. Floydâ€™s ERA the last three seasons - 10.04, 7.29 and 5.27. At least it is coming down.
Last year the bullpen was a big weakness but this year it could be the strength. The White Sox pen had an ERA of 5.49, one of only four teams in all of baseball that finished with an ERA over five. The .281 average allowed was second worst in baseball and Chicago knew something needed to be done. Bobby Jenks excelled as the closer and actually had a better season last year than in 2006, his first as the full time closer. He was one of the only bright spots of the entire relief corps.
The White Sox improved the bullpen by signing Scott Linebrink, a free agent from Milwaukee and Octavio Dotel, a free agent from Atlanta. Linebrink was great with the Brewers and Padres last season while having four spectacular seasons in San Diego prior to that. Dotel has been up and down throughout his career and did have a decent season spitting time with the Royals and Braves last year. Both should be excellent in the setup role. Ehren Wassermann and Nick Masset will battle for the seventh and final pen spot.
2008 Overall Outlook
The White Sox will be better this year there is no question about that. The problem is that they play in the ultra-tough American League Central. So while they may get a few more wins, that doesnâ€™t necessarily mean they will get any closer to a playoff spot. Chicago was an overvalued team last season since expectations were so high and the problem is that we might see that again this season. The value could be there when they play the Indians and Tigers, and they meet nine times in the first two weeks of the season.