The White Sox have played like two different teams in and out of the division.
Record v. AL Central: 31-7
Record v. Others: 33-26
I dug deeper and tested a hypothesis of mine:
RS/Game v. AL Central: 4.76
RS/Game v. Others: 4.81
RA/Game v. AL Central: 3.24
RA/Game v. Others: 4.39
There is very little difference between the runs scored between divisional matchups, but the pitching is completely different, completely average, in non-divisional games.
I think it's a fairly safe bet to put the White Sox in the playoffs at this point, but hold off on the World Series tickets. A lot of their great pitching is the product of a very weak offensive division, with 3 of the 4 lowest-scoring teams in the AL as frequent opponents (the Royals, Twins, and Indians haven't been too great offensively, and the Tigers are in the middle of the pack). And their offense has taken a step back from last year; 97 games into the season last year, the Sox had scored 526 runs. Currently, they have 465. Part of that is because it seems that offensive numbers as a whole in the AL are a bit down, but that's not the whole story and that doesn't account for a loss of 61 runs so far and a projected loss of 88 runs for the full season.
Offensively, the White Sox are merely average, thus far, averaging close to 4.8 R/G, in total, which is near the American League average.
A few other things:
- One of the reasons for their success is how well they've done against the Indians... they're 10-3, even after having only outscored the Indians by 10 runs in those 13 games. If you were to flip that record around (say the White Sox went 3-10 in those games), you'd see major differences in the standings.
W L GB Cleveland 58 41 -- Chicago 57 40 -- Minnesota 53 45 4.5 Detroit 49 49 8.5 Kansas City 36 62 21.5Unbalanced schedule at work.
- The Sox have only played 5 games against the Twins, meaning that there's plenty of time for a pennant race. So far, the White Sox have the upper hand and the Twins can't hit. But it should make for an interesting pennant race.
- Clutch? So far, so good for the White Sox.
TOTAL RISP White Sox .261/.322/.421 .264/.337/.419 Opponents .248/.313/.393 .225/.318/.350
- Finally, a look at run distribution, as per Dave Studeman over at The Hardball Times.
Run distribution values have the caveat that I haven't quite perfected the "Above Average" methodology I'm using...