Of course they are, what a stupid question, right? What would cause a seemingly rational (or close to it) person to ask such a question that would indeed put his personal safety in danger just from the people in his inner circle of friends?
Well one, I like to start fires, and two, thanks to this weird/fake/abomination of a baseball season, it’s kind of hard to tell.
The White Sox have been a feel-good story all season, and one that the league itself desperately needed to shield people’s eyes from the farce and danger this season really was, as well as try to rouse a fanbase that’s needed to be cattle-prodded for a couple of decades now to pay attention. They will play their first postseason games in 12 years, have young, exciting, and personable stars simply spilling out of every orifice, and they also seem to be having a blast while crashing baseball’s aristocracy’s party and putting their face in the punch (we hope it’s their face).
They’re second in runs in the AL behind the Yankees, who play in a bouncy-castle anyway so they don’t count. In team wRC+ (a stat weighted for ballpark), they’re essentially the Yankees’ equal at the top of the AL. They have the third-best ERA in the AL as well, behind their Central running-buddies Cleveland and Minnesota. Their FIP is fifth in the AL, not among the best but still solidly top-tier. So yeah, all the appearances of not just a good team, but a really good one.
But peel beneath the surface, and it gets a bit murkier. The Pale Hose are 21-3 against the Tigers, Royals, and Pirates, and 13-19 against everyone else. Obviously, you can do this kind of thing every year, where the imbalanced schedule always means that some seasons you can rack up a ton of wins against bad teams in your division. But there’s nothing this year to balance out the “conference-only” schedule (Wests, Centrals, Easts, h/t Joe Sheehan for the term).
Their run-differential against the aforementioned teams is +110. Their run-differential against everyone else is -41. That’s a touch unsightly. The White Sox average 6.9 runs per game against that troika of sandbox-urinators. That drops to 3.6 against everyone else. They give up 3.2 runs per game against that trio. It’s 4.3 when facing teams that have their shoes tied.
It filters down to their individuals as well. Jose Abreu, one of the leaders for the AL MVP, has Mortal Kombat-fatalitied the Tigers to the tune of a 1.216 OPS. Take out those 10 games and he slashes .306/.345/.617 for an OPS of .962. Still really good, just not other-worldly.
Eloy Jimenez has slugged over .800 against the Tigers and Pirates, but hasn’t managed that against anyone else other than three games against the Cardinals. Tim Anderson has hit .444 against the Triplets of Pukeville, .257 against the rest of the field.
On the pitching side, Dylan Cease – who is a Pollock painting when it comes to the strike zone – runs a 3.09 ERA against Detroit, KC, and Pittsburgh. And a 5.23 ERA against anyone else.
This is admittedly unfair. This happens every season. The Yankees and Red Sox got to pad their win totals by marking their free spot on the Bingo card known as the Baltimore Orioles for years. Ditto the Astros with the Texas Rangers or Seattle Mariners.
Still, the two teams the Sox are competing with, Minnesota and Cleveland, have been a little more socialist on how they spread out their wins. The Twins only run a 14-10 record against the Tigers, Royals, and Pirates. Cleveland is a little more savage, going 15-8. And hey, we know that the Rays AL East division title was built on a foundation of beating up on Little Sisters Of The Poor All-Stars, the Yankees. And over 162, the Sox could have easily ripped through a West Coast swing just because and had a positive record against the A’s or Astros or whatever.
The good thing for the Sox is that none of this really matters. This season wasn’t really about determining who’s the best team. It was just about who gets into the playoffs, and then who scratches together 13 wins against whoever from there. And if the Sox can hold onto the Central, they will get a chance to put the first two wins against a decidedly mediocre team like the Jays…or Cleveland, who they’ve spent most of the week spitting up against.
Oh well. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to prep my house against several drone-strikes from close personal friends.