Sox Drawer: Exceeding expectations

Sox Drawer: Exceeding expectations
April 23, 2012, 3:55 pm
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After two weeks of baseball, who are these Chicago White Sox and what in the name of Philip Humber is going on here? This early in the season I normally stay away from such questions, mainly because you can never expect whats transpired in the first 15 games to actually play out for the final 147.If that holds true, AJ Pierzynski will be an MVP candidate, Jake Peavy will be gunning for a Cy Young Award, Humber will throw 15 perfect games, and the White Sox will shatter a major league record by striking out 4,872,299,513 times.Still, there are some interesting developments and intriguing story lines taking shape that deserve immediate attention.Well begin with this:Humber almost didnt survive his perfect gameAfter the final out on Saturday, Humber was mobbed on the field by his teammates. Jake Peavy was the first to arrive, and basically tackled him. What was the first thing Humber said to his overjoyed compadres?I cant breathe guys, youve got to get off of me! Humber recalled in an interview Sunday on White Sox Pregame Live.The game, as well as the next few hours, was an out-of-body experience for Humber, who did his best to be as present and in-the-moment as possible.

After the game I was trying to soak up as much of it as I could. Someone compared it to the reception after your wedding. Its all kind of a blur. You just dont remember any of it, Humber said. I really just tried to slow down and just remember as much of it as I could. Just take mental pictures of everything and savor the experience because chances are Im never going to come down this road again.Before the White Sox claimed him off waivers from Oakland on Jan. 18, 2011, Humber had been an unwanted man at every stop in his career. The As, Royals, Mets and Twins all had him and yet decided they could go on without him. What are they thinking now after Humber threw a perfect game?Theyre probably thinking, I wish he had figured it out a little earlier. Maybe they would have had a good pitcher on their hands, Humber said. I dont think any of them are regretting their decisions.At that time, I wasnt the pitcher that I am now. Im thankful for where Im at. I wouldnt trade any of the experiences, the ups and downs for anything. Its all been worth it. Its made me the person that I am.As for his sudden fame, the humble Humber still sees the same guy when he looks in the mirror. Just like Mark Buehrle, hes about as real and down-to-earth as you can get. In that way, the two make for quite a perfect combo in White Sox history.For a little while I think people are going to recognize me a little bit more, but Im still just who I am, Humber said. Ive got 12 major league wins to my name, and one of them happens to be a perfect game, which is kind of cool. I dont think Ill have to fight off the paparazzi or anything. Ill just continue being me.Adam Dunn is raking. And I told you so.Well, actually I didnt predict this. I just reported what Dunn said during the winter and spring training about how he was promising a comeback season. He even went as far as guaranteeing hell win the AL Comeback Player of the Year Award.Its mine. Ive already claimed it, Dunn said in a February interview.Very few White Sox fans believed him. The reactions I received on Twitter were scathing about Dunn.The wounds from watching him in 2011 apparently didnt heal.Feeling better now?Friday, Dunn had his first two-homer game as a member of the White Sox.He hasthree homers, 13 RBIs, andsix doubles. Last year, he had 16 doubles for the whole season. Hes finally looking like the guy Kenny Williams thought he was getting when he signed himtwo winters ago.The lesson here is this:Going from the National League to the American League is not as easy as it looks -- especially for power hitters. Just ask Albert Pujols. In his first 16 games with the Angels, hes batting .246 and has yet to hit a home run.Why has it been so tough? Theres one huge reason thats been overlooked.Pitchers dont hit in the American League. Yep, thats it. Heres why:In the National League, most starters are reluctant to consistently pound the inside because they know that three or fourtimes during the game, they themselves are going to be standing in that batters box, a sitting duck if a team wants to retaliate. You can almost hear them say, Dont hit the hands! Dont plunk my knee! Pitchers are a delicate piece of china. Therefore, its almost like theres a code in the NL: Be nice to our power hitters, and we wont put your star pitcher on the 15-day disabled list.Not so in the American League.Justin Verlander, Jared Weaver, etc. can stand comfortably on the pitchers mound,sizzle the inside and then escape to the dugout after every inning, where a warm windbreaker is waiting for them.Prince Fielder has adapted better to the AL than Pujols so far. Hes batting .317 withtwo homers andeight RBIs.But did you see how the White Sox pitched to Fielder when the Tigers came to town? They kept jamming him inside, making life much more difficult than it was in the cozy National League.If you watched closely, Prince was pissed.Dunn struggled to adapt to this last season, which led to his dismal start. Pretty soon, the scouting report on Dunn likely said'THROW INSIDE'in bold, capital letters. It often set the tone for many of his at-bats. Eventually, pitchers threw all sorts of junk at Dunn and he would chase it.He just never got comfortable.Not this year.Who is AJ Pierzynski?Frankly, I dont know this man anymore. In his 14-year career, he has never exceeded 18 home runs and 77 RBIs in a season. Right now hes on a pace for 43 homers and 151 RBIs. Last week he belted hisfourth homer of the season. Last year he didnt hit hisfourth until July 25th!Again, its April. Most statistics get distorted this early in the year. Eventually his numbers will come back down to earth (I assume), and hell likely go back to his career averages. However, there is one new wrinkle to his game that truly has me baffled.Pierzynski is throwing out baserunners. Hes2-4 Meanwhile, Tyler Flowers is a perfect 4-4, meaning White Sox catchers have thrown out 75 percent of attempted stealers. Thats the best percentage in the major leagues. Last year, the Sox were dead last at 14 percent.Its the little things that count. So far, theyre paying big dividends. And A.J.? Dont know him.Other quick observations: The Royals have lost 10 in a row.Theyre 0-9 at home.Theyre not hitting. Theyre not pitching. Theyre not winning.All those people who picked them to finish second in the AL Central, theyre not talking. Alex Rios has a 10-game hitting streak. During that time, he has raised his batting average from .111 to .333. Thirdbase coach Joe McEwing is a human windmill. Watch how he waves baserunners home. Its a work of art and can probably provide enough energy for the entire South Side of Chicago. Matt Thornton, Addison Reed and Nate Jones have combined to throw 20.1 innings. Their combined ERA: Zero. Jake Peavy is healthy.Cross your fingers and hope he stays that way all season. If he does, well, lets not go there yet.