Rooting against your team is unnatural. In 2018, legions of fans in almost every sport have been persuaded to root for losses in order to recoup higher draft picks. There’s a cold logic to it, and as an analyst, I can explain the cold logic and whether I believe it is correct or incorrect depending on the situation. That said: the White Sox beating the Twins is always right and good and wonderful. Particularly when the Twins are trying desperately to salvage a playoff push. The White Sox have taken two straight from the Twins and go out for the sweep on Thursday.
1. James Shields threw seven shutout innings on Wednesday night. I’m not advocating for Cy Young votes or anything, but he’s sitting at a 4.29 ERA with a 4.27 DRA and 4.43 FIP to match while throwing the 6th most innings in the majors. It would have been cool if he had managed this in 2016 instead, but I continue to be pleasantly surprised with how he has adjusted to his diminished arsenal, and these results are beyond what I would have predicted for 2018.
2. We’ve pointed out how thin the White Sox had become at outfielder, due to an unambitious Opening Day pool of talent to begin with, which was then severely eroded by injury. Leury Garcia and Avisail Garcia returned from the disabled list at the same time and the boost to the lineup has been fairly clear. Leury is hitting .471/.471/.529 in his return to Chicago, meaning his batting average is about 100 points higher than Trayce Thompson’s OPS. Avisail hasn’t walked yet in 2018, but he’s homered in back-to-back games while he tries to get back to 2017 form. Either way, the offense has clearly benefited from turning 22% of the lineup into competent major league regulars again.
3. The bullpen continues to evolve from a weakness at the start of the season to a strength. Joakim Soria has held opponents to a .114/.262/.114 line in June and is now having as good of a season as he’s had despite his rocky start to the year. Jace Fry continues to use his starting pitcher’s arsenal in a relief role to great effect. Xavier Cedeno is doing his Jace Fry impression results-wise, having thrown 8.33 shut out innings since his call up from Charlotte while striking out more than a batter per inning using a crafty lefty arsenal. These performances have helped the White Sox hold leads a lot better as they fight toward a .500 June, even in the absence of Nate Jones.
4. Eloy Jimenez hit his second home run in Charlotte on Wednesday, improving his line since promotion to .276/.344/.483. Jimenez remaining in Charlotte after eight games is not an outrage the way, say, Vladimir Guerrero Junior hitting .800 or whatever for three months in Double-A was. But he has shown no real signs of an adjustment period so to speak now that he’s facing the major league veterans in the International League as a 21-year-old, and there’s every reason to suspect he will start beating the door down to the majors in the coming weeks.
5. With Lucas Giolito turning in his most exciting start of the year over the weekend, looking like he had combined the improvements he made to his secondary pitches from last fall with the resurgent velocity he showed this spring, and Dylan Covey’s string of good starts, Carson Fulmer has been off the radar screen. That’s just as well, as he continues to struggle at Triple-A. Despite a mediocre 4.46 ERA, Fulmer has walked 28 batters in 38.33 innings since his demotion. Teams always burn through starters at a terrifying rate in this sport, but with the potential improvements from Covey and Giolito, Michael Kopech, Jordan Stephens, and now Spencer Adams catching him in Triple-A, I’m not sure how much longer you bother with Fulmer in the rotation.
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