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Friday March 7, 2008 4:38 pm

Team Preview: Chicago White Sox

Moving on from the AL East in our MLB team previews, the Chicago White Sox will be the next team to be evaluated. The White Sox, in the AL Central Division, went 72-90 last season finishing in 4th place. Will manager Ozzie Guillen and the White Sox rebound from their down 2007 season and return to the same form as the team that finished at .500 or better for 7 consecutive seasons? Read on.

Starting Rotation: Besides Jon Garland (Who was traded to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for Orlando Cabrera), its mostly the same cast of characters in the 2008 Chicago White Sox rotation as were in the 2007 rotation; Mark Buehrle, Javier Vazquez, Jose Contreras, John Danks and Gavin Floyd. Last season besides those 5 (And Jon Garland) only 2 other pitchers made starts for the team; Nick Masset and Lance Broadway. Buehrle perhaps wasn’t, “ace,” material last season but was very good nonetheless. He won 10 games, to go along with a 3.63 ERA and 3 complete games. Buehrle’s consistently pitched over 200 innings each season, so an innings increase for him because of the loss of Garland and the new rotation spot for Gavin Floyd shouldn’t be an issue. Javier Vazquez exceeded everyone’s expectations last year, winning 15 games (The most he’s won in a season since 2001), and striking out 213 batters in 216 innings. Jose Contreras is a real question-mark in this rotation. At 36 years old, Jose went 10-17 last season with a hideous 5.57 ERA. Whether he still has the stuff to maintain a number 3 slot in a major league starting rotation remains to be seen. Last year John Danks had his first crack at big league hitters, and for the most part it didn’t go too well. He went 6-13, giving up 160 hits in 139 innings. Gavin Floyd threw 70 innings in the big leagues last season, and had a 7-3 record in AAA. If Contreras falters and Danks and Floyd prove to not be big league ready, this Chicago rotation could get pretty ugly in 08.

Bullpen: The White Sox bullpen was disastrous in 2007, sporting a 5.47 ERA. General Manager Kenny Williams added Octavio Dotel and Scott Linebrink this off-season which should help, but not a whole lot. Mike MacDougal remains with the club after putting up a 6.80 ERA last season. The team remains in search of a stable left handed relief pitcher; Scott Thornton threw 56 innings last season but had an ERA of almost 5, and Boone Logan gave up 59 hits in 50 innings. Andy Sisco has the stuff to be the team’s best lefty reliever but hasn’t performed up to his talent since 2005 when he struck out 76 batters in 75 innings with the Kansas City Royals. Closer Bobby Jenks remains a dominant closer, but who on this team will get a lead over to him in the 9th?

Starting Lineup: The best new addition for the Team is center fielder Nick Swisher. Swish hit 22 home runs last season (Expect more in 2008, US Cellular Field is considerably smaller than McAfee Coliseum), with an OBP of .381. Shortstop Orlando Cabrera is solid, one of the most underrated players in the American League. He had a.301 average last season in 638 at-bats. The rest of the lineup will be the same as the lineup in 2007 except for new acquisition Carlos Quentin who has a chance to be the every day left fielder. An improvement from last season, but I don’t see this lineup giving any pitchers fits.

Bench: If Carlos Quentin starts every day in left field, left handed hitting Jerry Owens will have a chance to be among the game’s best role players. In just 93 games last season, Owens stole 32 bases. Joe Crede should return to full health and take away Josh Fields’ chance to start on a regular basis in the bigs in 2008; Fields may start the year in AAA unless Crede is traded. Toby Hall will back up A.J. Pierzynski, Hall’s a solid backstop and should handle the young pitching staff nicely.

Overall: Chicago was 90-72 just 2 years ago, though that seems much more distant now. Will the new additions perform? Yes. I’m sure Swisher, Cabrera, Dotel and Linebrink will have fine seasons, but not all wounds have been healed. The bullpen’s still sloppy, the starting rotation will miss Jon Garland’s innings pitched, and aging hitters (Paul Konerko, Jim Thome and Jermaine Dye) will have to carry most of the offensive load. Expect another 4th place finish in the AL Central for the Chicago White Sox.



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