With just a few games left to go in the 2012 season, the fans on the South Side of Chicago have, for the most part, been pleasantly surprised by the success of their White Sox this season.
After the Prince Fielder pickup by AL Central rival Detroit this past offseason, everyone assumed Detroit would run away with the division, taking the crown probably by the Fourth of July.
Well, that’s not exactly how things panned out: like the scrappy White Sox fans, new manager Robin Ventura managed to pull together an impressive first season, regardless of the postseason fate of his team, which will be determined as early as tomorrow.
A lot of folks had Ventura’s White Sox finishing dead last in the division (yes, even behind the Kansas City Royals and the Minnesota Twins).
Over the last few seasons, many had been surprised at the inconsistencies of the White Sox lineup.
At times, it was a wonder that Alex Rios even remembered where the batter’s box is located.
Carlos Quentin would go on blazing hot streaks, and then tumble into freezing cold slumps.
Adam Dunn would either hit a home run, or strike out. And with Mr. Dunn struggling to hit even .200, most of those time, he was striking out.
Juan Pierre was exciting to watch steal bases and score from first and second base. But he could only get on base once in a blue moon.
After the 2011 season, Pierre and Quentin moved on to other clubs (Pierre with the Phillies and Quentin to the Padres), leaving a hole in the outfield that needed to be plugged.
Due to financial constraints, the White Sox opted to fill the opening with an in-house candidate, Dayan Viciedo, the Cuban-born outfielder who was pegged to provide the Sox with decent defense at the corner outfield positions, and put some pop in the lineup. (Viciedo signed with the Sox as a free agent in 2008).
Starting out this year, full-time duties for the young Viciedo proved to be difficult.
It took until about mid-May for Viciedo to finally get rolling—from mid-May until about the first week of June, Vicideo went on a tear, hitting almost .370 during that streak. But once July rolled around, Viciedo went into a funk, and hasn’t really had another hot spell since the early part of this summer.
Scouts that saw him play in Cuba projected that he’d be a middle-of-the-order bat in a Major League lineup if he would be more careful in his pitch selection and try to be more disciplined at the plate.
When he gets rolling, he takes calm, disciplined at-bats and can usually at least put the ball in play somewhere. When he’s mired in a slump, the bad at-bats seem to pile up, and his offensive errors often lead to lapses of judgement on the base paths and out in the outfield.
Throughout all of the analysis I’ve ever done on players that have made the jump from Cuba to the Majors, there usually is an extended “growing period”.
How easy would it be if you had to leave your home on a raft, defect to another country, and hope all of the legal ramifications wouldn’t destroy your dreams?
So, all things considered, a .270 average with 22 HR and 69 RBI isn’t that bad—if you forget about the 117 (!) strikeouts he has racked up this season.
With all that riding on his shoulders, not to mention the Sox are hoping he’ll turn into that power bat they were hoping he’d be, I fully expect Viciedo to turn in a more consistent 2013 season. He has a sweet swing, and is fairly reliable in the outfield.
Once the confidence comes, so will the plate discipline—then the dominoes will fall, and watch out AL Central.