Typically we like to do these little series Q&As before the series starts, but since the Tigers and White Sox are in the middle of a four-game set, and some very exciting news broke on Monday, we opted to push the Q&A out ahead of game two instead.
These are two very similar teams, who have seen their share of struggles over the past few years. Now, they’re both in a position to potentially sneak into the postseason if they can stay healthy and win enough games.
We were able to have a chat with Brett Ballantini, site manager for our White Sox sister site South Side Sox about the AL Central rivalry, and what we can expect this week.
BYB: The White Sox and Tigers are both 4-6 over their last 10, but with the Tigers now dropping to fourth and the Sox on the climb, what do you think is going right for the White Sox?
BB: This is a function of a season under a microscope. Weren’t the Tigers like in first place when the Sox last came to town? After seeing the absolute zombie march of the doubleheader sweep on Saturday to a team that hadn’t played since J.D. Drew was active, I refuse to believe much more is going “right” for the White Sox than any other team, including the moribund Royals.
However, in the interest of your question, there are some things going right for the White Sox. Luis Robert, though rather swing-happy, is a stud. He’s so good in center field, he could go up to bat with a bat made of beef jerky and not wood and still provide value. The bullpen, which has been called upon to pitch approximately 96% of White Sox innings this year between injuries and rocked starters, has mostly been absolute nails, and the one crappiest guy, Kelvin Herrera, was cut! With pay! By the White Sox! It’s a new era. One starter has been as advertised in a good way: Dallas Keuchel, who you will fortunately not see this series. He is throwing Wiffleballs to the plate, some of the longer strands on his beard are stronger than his best fastball, but he keeps the White Sox in games and making batters corkscrew like Bugs Bunny their swings while going it.
Is the Tim Anderson hype sustainable? Do we think he’s a future All-Star?
No, it is not. I mean, Tim is a terrific personality with an incredible spirit, and loves to prove his doubters wrong, so I hope this answer spurs him to the MVP. But his ceiling is average defender and wheels-driven high-average and no-walk hitter. Very sustainable in the lower third of the order. All-Star? Probably not.
Which player has surprised you most this season, for good or for bad?
Matt Foster is the best surprise this season, and given we’re a .500 team, a rookie reliever who’s thrown about nine-10 scoreless innings being the biggest surprise checks out. But he’s a fantastic story, low draft choice, briefly retired, made his debut and is a HOSS on the mound. Bad? Can I say Eloy Jiménez’s defense? He is so lovable, and I am one who believed in his defensive instincts, and that he can become an average left fielder. But we seem to have reached the point at the moment where we’re just praying for no more injuries out in left.
With such a deep postseason pool available, what do you think the White Sox need to do to claim one of those spots?
Stay healthy? Not to be cheeky, but pretty much any team without an outbreak will make the playoffs this year, yeah? Even in bad spurts it seems the Sox are always projected at worst as a lowest-run playoff team, so fingers crossed on health and the unfreezing of some chilly bats, and whether second or third place, the Sox should like their chances.
The Sox and Tigers are in similarly timed rebuilds, how do you think White Sox fans feel right now about where the team is going? How far from contending do you think they are?
WHAT! THE WHITE SOX ARE CONTENDING NOW!
No, really, opening the wallet this offseason meant the window was now open. The team has caught some breaks (Luis Robert, Yaz Grandal) and suffered some (Michael Kopech, Carlos Rodón, Leury García et. al) but overall seems very locked in for a nice five year run at the top of the division. Maybe more. And, sigh, let’s acknowledge, maybe less. Or none. But the fan base would say the 2020s are ours, people!
Which Tigers player do you think is going to pose the biggest problem for the White Sox this week?
Nicholas Castellanos. [Editor’s note: Rude.]
And if not him, Casey Mize? Or the other dude making his debut? I can imagine like five no-hit from one or both.
Ever since Niko Goodrum ruined the White Sox home opening weekend last year by hitting a homer through the snow to complete a sweep of the Sox and send us back on 100-loss watch, I always think he’s about to do something horrible to us. I sort of like him at short now though, he seems a little bit like a young fawn out there.
Is there a player in the taxi squad you’re super excited to see this season who hasn’t yet been called up?
Dane Dunning is an all-around awesome guy, worked back from TJS, and is rumored to be making his MLB debut on Wednesday. That would be a terrific story for Wednesday’s game, for both teams.
Many thanks to Brett for taking some time this series to chat with us. We also hope to see Tarik Skubal or Casey Mize no hit the White Sox in their major league debuts. You can read more of Brett’s work at South Side Sox.