The Baseball Notebook

March 19, 2010 2:00 PM

Chicago White Sox Preview

Chicago’s South Side team was a disappointing entity last year, never really finding their groove and missing their chance to take a winnable division. Starting in the middle of last year, GM Ken Williams has made some personnel moves involving significant names to try and get his club back over the top and to win its third division in six years, including the 2005 World Series run.

Late last season, Williams shipped Jim Thome to the Dodgers. He picked up Andruw Jones to DH. After declining his last couple years in Atlanta and being nothing short of a disaster during his one season with LAD, Jones saw his power bounce back a little bit in Texas last year. Now we find out if he really bounced back or if the park dimensions in Arlington did it for him.

Juan Pierre is in to play left field. His on-base percentage was the best of his career last year with the Dodgers, as he had to step up and produce when Manny Ramirez was suspended for steroids. Whether he can duplicate that performance is in question, since he’s traditionally had shaky OBPs for a leadoff-type guy. And Mark Teahen has been imported from Kansas City to play third. Teahen plays a good hot corner, but his bat was a disappointment with the Royals.

And finally we come to the biggest new piece, that of Jake Peavy. Williams acquired the former Cy Young winner from San Diego at last year’s trade deadline, but Peavy was hurt at the time and unable to contribute much to what was already an uphill stretch push against Detroit and Minnesota. Now he’s healthy and has to prove he can get American League hitters out. Of all the new faces, this is clearly the one that South Side hopes hinge on for 2010.

The new players are being added to a core of talent that’s pretty good. The ChiSox get power from Paul Konerko and Carlos Quentin, and the 2B/SS tandem of Gordon Beckham and Alexei Ramirez is good with the bat, if not necessarily afield. The pitching staff has steady veteran workhorse Mark Buehrle and steady young workhorse John Danks. And the fourth spot is occupied by a steady lefty, Gavin Floyd.

Alex Rios isn’t a new face anymore after a season in town, but he’s going to have to find the bat he exhibited in Toronto that made him a rising star. After the 2007 season he went into a mysterious decline and the Blue Jays gave up on him. He’s got good range in centerfield and a resurgence of his offense gives the White Sox a real star in the outfield. The same goes for J.J. Putz in the bullpen He’s two years removed from being the AL’s top closer and is now the setup man coming off a 5.22 ERA.

The talent looks to be there. Making it all mesh will be the job of Ozzie Guillen. And whether an 2005 reprise can happen depends on the recovery of players like Rios and pitchers like Putz.

Up Next: St. Louis Cardinals tomorrow
Final AL Central Picks & Preview: April 2

NCAA Tournament recaps and previews going over at The College Basketball Notebook.

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