The Chicago White Sox have enjoyed a stellar 2021 MLB season thus far, and as July is coming to a close, their race to capture the AL Central pennant becomes less of a race and more of a cakewalk.
If you are looking for a tight race for a division pennant, the AL Central is the last place you want to look. The Chicago White Sox have a stranglehold on this division just past the halfway mark of the year, and it does not look like they will be giving it up.
Are the White Sox Legit?
Despite a loss last night to fellow AL East member, the Minnesota Twins, Chicago still holds a commanding 8.5 game lead over the second-place Cleveland Indians in the division. Sitting at a 58-38 record, the White Sox have one of the best records in baseball this season, up there with the MLB leading San Francisco Giants, who just reached 60 wins last night, the first MLB team to do so this season.
The White Sox are without a doubt the strongest in this AL Central division, and it has shown this year based on their division record alone. They have a dominant 32-17 record against teams in their division which has made up the bulk of their schedule.
While I am not trying to discredit what the White Sox have done this season, they do benefit from playing in the worst division in baseball.
Their 58-38 record is simply not as impressive as the Giants’ 60 wins so far, the Dodgers season, and what the Red Sox and Astros are doing in the AL. All of those teams have faced significantly better competition day in and day out.
Bright Spots of the Chicago White Sox
There have been a few bright spots from the Chicago White Sox, and they have been part of the reason they are winning.
They do have an amazingly consistent and balanced lineup that they put out on to the field each and every day. 9 of the 13 players on their active roster have an above-average OPS, with the leader of them all being third baseman Yoan Moncada, with Jose Abreu and Tim Anderson close behind.
Their depth also shows on the scoresheets and box scores, where six total players have over 35 RBIs. That has led this team to the fourth-highest run total in the MLB so far into this 2021 season.
And, not to mention, they are missing four key players that could chip into this offense, with the likes of Yasmani Grandal, Jake Lamb, Nick Madrigal, and Luis Robert all dealing with injuries at the moment.
Prior to his injury this season, the second baseman Madrigal was putting together impressive splits of .305/.349/.425. They have missed him in their lineup, but the other previously mentioned players have stepped up big time in his absence.
But there is one true reason that this team has dominated the competition in the AL Central, and that is the two-headed monster they have at the top of their pitching rotation, Carlos Rodon, and Lance Lynn.
Very few teams can say with confidence that they have two legitimate Cy Young candidates on their roster, but the White Sox should have no issue saying it at this point in the season.
Lance Lynn, 34, is enjoying a massive resurgence which led him to sign a two-year extension that will keep him in Chicago potentially until 2024. He currently has a 1.94 ERA, 3.28 FIP, and 1.024 WHIP over 97 innings pitched.
He can also say he has struck out an impressive 109 batters in that time while only allowing more than three runs once this season.
Rodon has been equally as impressive. The 28-year-old left-hander has a 2.14 ERA, 199 ERA+, 2.21 FIP, and 0.90 WHIP.
He has struck out an astounding 140 batters over 96.2 innings, which amounts to 13 strikeouts per nine innings, another statistic in which he would own league best.
And luckily for them, their rotation does not fall off too much. On other days, the White Sox hand the ball off to Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, and Dylan Cease to round out the rotation, all of which have been serviceable or above average this season.
Those five pitchers have helped boost the team to the seventh-best team ERA in the MLB, something that their bullpen has done a bit of damage too.
With the roster and starting rotation that the White Sox put out every night, there is no question why they are winning this weak AL Central division. But there are a few questions about consistency and the competition they have faced that make me have doubts about what the White Sox will be able to do come postseason.
I have no doubt that the White Sox will run away with this AL Central division, but with other strong teams in the AL, such as the Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros, I question their road and path to an AL pennant.