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Series Preview: 4/20-4/22 Tampa Bay Rays @ Chicago White Sox

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All games start at 8:10 EST

4/20 David Price vs John Danks

4/21 Wade Davis vs. Mark Buehrle

4/22 James Shields vs. Jake Peavy

The White Sox are an odd team, with a roster that's a combination of old, declining players and young up-and-coming talent. Carlos Quentin, Gordon Beckham, and Alexei Ramirez form the core of their line-up and should be valuable players for years to come, with Alex Rios pushing his way onto that list by proving that last season's abysmal performance was largely a BABIP fluke. Surrounding this core, though, is a group of aging veterans that really shouldn't be seeing the light of day. Juan Pierre, Mark Teahen, A.J. Pierzynski, and Andruw Jones are all players well past their peaks, while Paul Konerko is far from useless (projected .360 wOBA) but is not the slugger he used to be either.

More after the jump.

Any offense that bats Juan Pierre at lead-off is going to have some trouble scoring runs, but the White Sox have also gotten unlucky so far this season. The White Sox offense has really been struggling with a team wOBA of .308 largely fueled by a BABIP of .228. The White Sox may have a bad offense, but it's not this bad; they will regress at some point, but hopefully it's not this series. The Sox offense continues to be built around the long ball and to no surprise they are second in the American League in home runs with 16. The lone bright spot for the Sox offense has been free agent acquisition Andruw Jones with a wOBA of .463 and three home runs.* It's not much, but the Sox need all the offense they can get right now.

*What's with baseball so far this season? Andruw Jones, Vernon Wells, and Jose Guillen all decided to start hitting home runs again? This feels like something out of 2003.

The real strength for the Sox, though, is their pitching staff. To date, their staff has the second lowest FIP in the American League at 3.49. Leading the charge is John Danks, who is off to a fantastic start (2.10 FIP, 3.0 K/BB), and he's supported by four quality starters: Mark Buehrle (projected 4.12 FIP), Jake Peavy (proj, 3.91 FIP), Gavin Floyd (proj, 4.33 FIP), and Freddy Garcia (proj, 4.57 FIP). This rotation has high upside, but also features some big question mark: Jake Peavy carries a significant injury concern, while Freddy Garcia hasn't pitched over 60 innings in the majors since 2006. Gavin Floyd took a large step forward last season and Buehrle is one of the most underrated above-average pitchers around, so a healthy and effective Peavy would make this rotation an absolute beast one through four. Thankfully Peavy hasn't hit his groove yet (5.92 FIP, 1.5 K/BB), so the Rays might get off easy.

Questions for the Series:

  • How will the Rays fare against the two lefties, Danks and Buehrle? I think 2008 is impressed too strongly in our memories; yes, the Rays were bad against lefties that season, but why should they be that way now? Three of our best hitters are Longoria, Upton, and Zobrist; Bartlett is also much better against lefties than against righties. If the Rays struggle against these two, it's most likely because they're good pitchers, not because the Rays stink against lefties.
  • Will Pat Burrell continue his offensive surge? Pat looked good against Boston and finally got some good results, but he's still got a long way to go before he's out of the woods.
  • How will Zobrist perform? Zorilla has yet to record his first home run and his approach at the plate has gotten sloppier than last season. Sooner or later he's bound to fix things; the question, though, is how soon.
  • Will David Price continue his dominance? In his first two starts, Price has looked ready to crank his performance level up a few notches, which would obviously be a huge boon for the Rays. If Price becomes a 4 WAR pitchers alongside Shields (and/or Garza becomes a 5 WAR pitcher), the Rays...well, that'd be pretty awesome.