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Chicago White Sox in Review: April Edition

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The Chicago White Sox finished the month of April with an abysmal stretch where they lost eight straight games at one point including being swept on a road trip through Cleveland and Minnesota. It was a tough stretch indeed and the end of April may have provided the fresh start the Sox needed. Winning the final game of April against the red hot Angels behind a solid pitching performance from Vince Velasquez would provide a boost heading into the beginning of May. Currently standing at 11-13 and three games back of the Twins in the AL Central means everything is in front of the Sox and the division is still there for the taking. What will May bring for the Sox? Let us dive in!

Health

While every team deals with injuries throughout baseball and nobody will feel sorry for a contender losing key pieces, the Sox have been hit the hardest on that front yet again. From losing newly acquired AJ Pollock in the opening series in Detroit to losing Eloy Jiménez in late April to a torn tendon in his hamstring, the Sox have dealt with injury after injury. Lucas Giolito and Luis Robert both had short stints on the IL and Lance Lynn is still out recovering from knee surgery. Yoan Moncada and Joe Kelly have yet to see the field in a major league game this year but are both in Charlotte on rehab assignments. Also in Charlotte ramping up is back end starter Johnny Cueto.

While things have been bleak for the weather and for the White Sox on the injury front, the skies may soon be clearing allowing both the sun and the Sox to shine. Moncada and Kelly should join the big league club when they return from a weekend series in Boston to face the Cleveland Guardians beginning Monday. Moncada should provide stability at third base and a much-needed switch-hitting bat to their lineup while Kelly will be a welcome addition to a bullpen that has been very good as of late.

Pitching

When and if Johnny Cueto comes up will the Sox eat the money owed and DFA Dallas Keuchel? Keuchel could be slated for the Saturday start in Boston but according to MLB.com, the Sox have not made that decision. It could be worth keeping an eye on with the off-day Thursday if the Sox decide to skip Keuchel in the rotation.

Sox fans would collectively breathe a sigh of relief if they get to skip a start from Keuchel who is currently 1-3 with an 8.40 ERA. Keuchel just cannot seem to get hitters out, boasting a 2.333 WHIP rate. While elite pitchers can carry a WHIP of below 1.00, this is rare and seen most frequently in short one-inning relievers. While a starter carrying a WHIP below 1.300 is deemed average, 2.333 is horrendous and should not be tolerated by a contender. After his worst start of the season, Keuchel was asked about the performance and replied, “I’ll take nine singles and a blast. Three hard-hit balls all day. First pitch swings, ground balls, I mean, really all I wanted.” Unfortunately for Keuchel and the Sox, it may be over for the once crafty Cy Young-winning lefty. Regardless of the lack of defensive support in that start, nine singles and a blast is never all I wanted.

If Cueto can be serviceable and eat innings this should relieve some pressure from the innings on the bullpen and allow them to help with the innings limit on starter Michael Kopech instead of attempting to bail out Keuchel from yet another bad start.

While the pitching from Keuchel and Velasquez has been subpar (aside from one solid outing for Velasquez), the rest of the Sox pitching has been overall outstanding. Cease Fire and Dylan Cease could very well contend for an American League Cy Young award, and Lance Lynn has begun throwing bullpens and seems on track to return sometime in late May. Lucas Giolito has returned from his IL stint and continues to pitch well. Once healthy, this rotation and bullpen should prove to be among the best staffs in baseball.

Offense

While the pitching has been an overall positive, the offense has been less than impressive. This offense is supposed to be explosive and riddled with both types of hitters. Some for average, some for power, and frankly they have done neither. As a team, the White Sox are slashing an ugly .221/.276/.355 with a team OPS of just .631 including just 22 home runs.

While there are many factors at work here including injuries and weather, the Sox have surely underperformed. The continuous shake of the lineup including batting Leury Garcia batting third and second by manager Tony La Russa has worn thin on Sox fans and May is just getting started.

Fortunately for the fans and the Sox, somebody talked Tony off the Leury Garcia cliff and the lineup is starting to stabilize. Tim Anderson has been solid as usual in the leadoff spot and help is on the way. Moncada returning should be a huge lift for the Sox and just in time for the warm weather. Monday’s scheduled game with the Guardians in Chicago is currently calling for partly cloudy and 72 degrees. This should be a welcome sight for both the Sox and their fans as they look to turn the page on the horrendous month that was April and get things headed in the right direction towards great baseball and sunny skies on the Southside.

Eloy Jiménez should not be rushed to return. Sox fans certainly want Eloy back but he needs to be healthy and stay that way for the entire summer. Returning to a lineup that is already rolling could help ease him back in as well and provide the Sox time to make sure he is right before sending him back out there. All things considered, the Sox seem to have at least stopped the bleeding for now. The offense must get going and the pitching needs to continue to be solid if the Sox truly have championship aspirations in 2022.

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