New-Look White Sox to Rely on Strong Pitching, Improved Defense in 2010

New-Look White Sox to Rely on Strong Pitching, Improved Defense in 2010 As we count down the days until Opening Day, it is time to look at each of the teams on the Red Sox’ 2010 schedule. Our fifth installment sizes up the Chicago White Sox.

2009 record: 79-83, third in AL Central

Manager:
Ozzie Guillen

Key additions: OF Andruw Jones, OF Juan Pierre, SS Omar Vizquel, 3B Mark Teahen, RP J.J. Putz

Key losses: OF Jermaine Dye, OF Dewayne Wise, OF Scott Podsednik, RP Octavio Dotel, RP D.J. Carrasco

Outlook: One of the defining moments of the 2009 season, for Chicago and all of baseball, was Mark Buehrle’s perfect game on July 23 against Tampa Bay. It was one of a handful of pitching gems for a White Sox team which ranked second in the American League with a 4.14 team ERA.  Only Los Angeles had more shutouts in the AL. Only Minnesota issued fewer walks.

Yet behind a collection of quality arms which included Buehrle, John Danks, Gavin Floyd, a strong bullpen and, in the end, Jake Peavy was a bumbling bunch of glove men. And in support of the staff was an offense that tanked in the second half, resulting in the team’s second-lowest run total since 1994.

Chicago committed 113 errors, second only to Kansas City in the AL. The quartet of Carlos Quentin, Jermaine Dye, Jim Thome and Alexei Ramirez, which combined for 125 home runs in 2008, managed just 86 due to injuries and ineffectiveness.

Another stat which signaled doom for the White Sox was a notable increase in public rants by manager Ozzie Guillen, including this gem after a 10-0 loss to the Yankees in August.

"I feel like I’m stealing money from [team chairman Jerry Reinsdorf], and that’s a shame," Guillen told reporters. "When you have more errors than hits, you better look yourself in the mirror and second-guess yourself. I’m second-guessing myself right now, making the wrong lineup every day. I watched Little League this morning … they were playing better than we did. At least it was more fun. This is not major league baseball, sorry."

To assist with the team’s issues, the White Sox made a series of minor moves. Andruw Jones was signed with the hope that he can rediscover some of his old pop and fill the vacant designated hitter spot. Future Hall of Famer Omar Vizquel will spend his 22nd season mentoring Ramirez at short. And Juan Pierre will probe left field and likely hit leadoff.

Mark Teahen takes over at third base, allowing rookie standout Gordon Beckham to move to second and bolstering a pair of positions which were revolving doors in 2009.

Alex Rios — who never lived up to expectations in Toronto and offered nothing in a short stint with Chicago last year – is in the fold for a full season. Quentin is healthy again.

There is a degree of excitement in camp surrounding each of these developments, but it all pales in comparison to that which surrounds Peavy, who takes a good rotation and makes it potentially great. The former NL Cy Young Award winner shined in limited action with the White Sox last year and says he is completely healthy for the first time since 2008.

There will be more defining moments for Peavy, Buehrle and the rest of the staff in 2010. Whether those behind them catch the ball and those with the bats hit it remains to be seen.

What it means to the Red Sox: The battle of the "Hose" has been completely one-sided of late. Chicago has not won the season series since 2002, going 19-32 against Boston since (of course, the only playoff meeting between the teams in 2005 resulted in a three-game White Sox sweep).

But Chicago is one of the few teams in the league which may be able to match up with the Red Sox’ pitching staff from ace to closer. It should make for some great series between the two teams.

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