The White Sox have already surpassed last season’s win total against the Cleveland Indians after only four games.
One person who can’t be too surprised is Indians general manager Chris Antonetti.
Two months before the season began, Antonetti sang the praises of White Sox GM Rick Hahn for the roster he has assembled.
While the White Sox surely have some areas that need to be cleaned up, it’s clear after only 13 games the team is trending back in the right direction. A group that lost 99 games last season, including 17 of 19 to Cleveland, has shown marked improvement with wins in three of its first four against the Indians. Overall the White Sox are off to a 7-6 start with the World Series-winning Boston Red Sox in town starting Tuesday night.
“Unfortunately for us, I thought Rick and his staff had an exceptional offseason,” Antonetti said in February. “They’ve positioned themselves not only better for the short term but also for the long term as well and that’s a challenging thing to do.”
Two of Hahn’s moves that have worked out in the short term are the additions of Adam Eaton and Jose Abreu.
The White Sox are also hopeful Matt Davidson can one day contribute to an offense that is near the top of the rankings in most statistical categories in the American League.
Through the first two weeks of the season, the offense is first in the AL in runs scored, hits, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and total bases and OPS. The team’s 18 home runs also rank second in the AL and it is in the top four in doubles, stolen bases and walks.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura said one of the biggest difference makers for a team that scored fewer than 600 runs last season for the first full season since 1977 is extended at-bats.
Among the first five hitters in the lineup, Marcus Semien ranks fifth in the AL in pitches per plate appearance (4.53), Adam Dunn is 11th at (4.40) and Eaton is 29th (4.11).
“Guys fouling off pitches, making a guy work for it,” Ventura said. “That’s part of the concept and mentality that you have to have to be able to win games. You look at teams that win over the years, they make a pitcher work for it. You don’t see any easy innings, easy at-bats. Right now, that’s offensively what we’re doing.”
Through 13 games, the White Sox have scored 80 runs, an average of 6.15 per contest. Last season they had produced 45.
With Gordon Beckham out the first two months, Dayan Viciedo, Tyler Flowers and Dunn slumping, and Paul Konerko in the midst of the worst season of his career, the 2013 White Sox never took off.
The team finished with a .302 on-base percentage, a figure that ranks 102nd in 114 seasons in franchise history. They only produced a double-digit run total five times in 162 games and 82 times scored fewer than three runs in a game, including 13 shutouts.
This season, the White Sox have been held to three or fewer runs just twice in 13 games and haven’t been shutout.
“Last year was really going to be tough to duplicate,” Dunn said.
Antonetti could only hope for the same type of results. The Indians finished 92-70 and reached the postseason in 2013 in large part because of their 17-2 record against the White Sox. Antonetti knows how difficult it will be to match that record again over the next few seasons with Abreu, Eaton and perhaps Davidson all contributing for the foreseeable future.
“I thought they made a number of tremendous moves that will not only help them this year but for years to come, unfortunately to our detriment,” Antonetti said.