Thursday, July 29, 2004

Sox must take advantage of schedule

After running themselves out of a win in what was eventually a 5-4 loss yesterday, the White Sox sat 3 ½ games behind Minnesota in the AL Central standings. So is that reason to panic?

Well, if you’re the overanxious suicidal-type that believes the Twins will sweep the last six head-to-head games this year with the Pale Hose, then yes. Panic. Go ahead and kill yourself.

But if you take a minute to think about how the Sox and the Twins got to where they are in the standings, the future looks far less bleak.

                       Opponent Win %
White Sox         .503
Twins                .471

Minnesota, so far, has had the softest schedule in baseball. In addition to 16 games against the lousy Royals (who are again gunning for a new franchise-worst season) and 15 games against the improved, but hardly good Tigers, the Twins also lucked into a three-game series with Arizona in interleague play.

Though the Twins failed to make headway against the Brewers in their annual home-away series, they still had a better chance to win games than the Sox did against the pitching-rich Cubs.

 So, back to what this means for the Sox in terms of making up the 3 ½ game difference. Here’s the winning percentage for the Sox and Twins for their remaining games.

                       Opponent Win %
White Sox       .464 (64 games)
Twins              .516 (61 games)

The shoe apparently fits the other foot.

Last year the Twins finished off a three-game sweep of the White Sox on Sept. 18 to open a 3 ½ game lead in the division race. Armed with the league’s softest schedule (.471 Opp Win % for the year), Minnesota coasted to the AL Central title with seven games against the near-historically bad Tigers and a pair against a bad Indians team.

This year it’s Chicago that benefits from a front-loaded schedule. With only one more round against the tough AL West teams, and with the Yankees already in their rearview mirror, the White Sox now get 16 game against Detroit, and 15 against the Royals, who have already unloaded their best player.

Meanwhile, the Twins must play six games against the Yankees, plus two series apiece against Texas and Anaheim – both contending teams looking to load up at this weeks trade deadline.
Moreover, the Twinkies play 13 games against Cleveland. Because the Tribe is only 5 ½ game back in the AL Central race, they won’t be unloading players at the deadline. In fact, the Indians might add a player or two if it fits into their long-term plans.

Before we weary Sox followers get too giddy, lets take inventory of the situation.

Even though the White Sox have a definite scheduling advantage in final third of the season, Chicago still has to take care of business. That means a better than an 11-8 record against Detroit, which cost the Sox the playoffs last year. And for sure better than the 11-8 the Sox did against the Royals.

As long as the Sox don’t blow it against the chumps, they’ll be positioned to overtake the Twins.

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