The Chicago White Sox came into the 2021 season with high hopes. They expected to contend for the AL Central title, and most experts considered them one of the top teams in the American League. Now, after 40 games, the White Sox aren’t just meeting those expectations, they’re surpassing them, posting the best record in baseball a quarter of the way through the season.
The White Sox stand at 25-15, 3.5 games ahead of the Cleveland Indians atop the AL Central standings.
White Sox burying Twins in AL Central race
More importantly, Chicago sits 11.5 games ahead of the Minnesota Twins, who came into the year expecting to duel with the White Sox for the AL Central title. The White Sox punctuated the difference between the two teams on Monday night, pounding Minnesota 16-4 to drop the Twins to 13-26 on the year.
“When the whole lineup takes tough at-bats, it shows the potential of what you can do offensively,” Chicago manager Tony La Russa said after the win. “Up and down the lineup every third of it was dangerous, relentless.”
It can be dangerous to judge a team this early in the season in a sport where variance takes a while to sort itself out. But all signs are that Chicago is for real, and could be the best team in baseball.
His first-ever homer, and — of course — with two strikes.
— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) May 18, 2021
The White Sox lead the league in run differential – usually an early indicator of true strength – at +73. That’s 17 runs better than the next-best team, the Houston Astros, who have compiled a +56 mark. Chicago has excelled in both run-scoring and prevention: only the Boston Red Sox have scored more runs – just one more – than the White Sox, and no team in the American League has held opponents to fewer runs.
Bookmakers now see the Sox as a legitimate World Series contender. FanDuel Sportsbook lists Chicago at +900 to win the title this year, good for the fourth-best odds of any team. The White Sox are now a -290 favorite to win the AL Central, while the Twins have fallen to +1500 to win the division.
Injured Abreu missing Minnesota series
The White Sox are solid up and down the lineup. Every starter has an OPS+ of at least 100, meaning they are, at minimum, league average. Defending AL MVP Jose Abreu is off to a solid start, hitting .255 with eight homers and an .827 OPS. Shortstop Tim Anderson has put together the best start of any White Sox hitter, batting .331 with five homers while also swiping seven bases so far.
While Dallas Keuchel and Lucas Giolito have been mediocre to start the season, the rest of the rotation has impressed. Lance Lynn is 4-1 with a 1.30 ERA, while Carlos Rodon (1.47 ERA) is off to a 5-1 start. Closer Liam Hendriks has saved eight games, and relievers like Aaron Bummer, Garrett Crochet, Jose Ruiz, and Michael Kopech are holding down the bullpen.
In short, it’s hard to find an obvious weakness, despite the fact that Chicago has dealt with a number of injuries early in the season. Most recently, the White Sox announced they would sit Abreu for the series against the Twins due to left ankle inflammation.
As good as the White Sox have been to start the season, La Russa says it’s only the beginning for his team. “Stepping up in tough circumstances, losing key players, that’s extra credit,” La Russa said after Monday’s win. “Enjoy the moment and can’t celebrate because there is so much ahead starting with tomorrow.”