The American League Central division, the one in which the Chicago White Sox play, has been among the weakest in MLB.
The White Sox are 83-62, with an 11.5-game advantage over the second-placed team, the Cleveland Indians.
In fact, besides Chicago, no other team is playing at least .500 ball (Cleveland is 71-73).
In contrast, the AL East has four teams above .500, and all of them are fighting for a playoff spot.
The AL West has three teams with more wins than losses.
An Inflated Record?
One has to wonder whether the weak AL Central has somewhat benefited the White Sox in achieving such a good record.
More importantly, the question would be if playing all year long with lousy teams will affect them in October.
It’s certainly something to consider, given that teams in the AL Central are considerably weaker than what the White Sox are about to face in the postseason.
It’s not so much that the weak level of play in their division will hurt them in the playoffs, it’s that it somewhat exposed them a little, because their record against the AL East and the AL West wasn’t so good.
Counter point: White Sox are 25-29 against teams above .500
The AL Central is bad guys https://t.co/thDKfdimNL
— ajs (@ajsstormchaser) September 15, 2021
As of Thursday afternoon, the White Sox are 38-27 against AL Central teams, for a winning percentage of .584.
Chicago is .575 against AL East teams, with a 19-14 record.
They had more issues against the West, with a 14-15 record (.482 winning percentage).
Looking closer, Chicago did have some problems with winning teams.
They have played, so far, three games against the Texas Rangers and seven against the Baltimore Orioles, by far the worst teams in the AL.
They have won all 10.
That means, if we take away their games with Baltimore, Chicago is 12-14 against the best teams in the AL East: the Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, and Boston Red Sox.
Likewise, if we remove the Rangers from the AL West analysis, they are 11-15 in that division.
The Real Test Is About To Begin
For the White Sox, who were already good last year but had to endure an early-round exit, the moment is now.
They have invested years and lots of resources into building a championship-winning roster.
They will be good for years to come, but they are expected to be competitive in 2021.
Perhaps they are not as good as the Rays, but they can compete with them anyway and with their good rotation and explosive lineup, anything can happen.
The White Sox have the third-best record in the AL behind the Rays and the Houston Astros, and slightly better than the rest of the AL East powerhouses.
All teams behind the Rays are comparable, and even the Rays can be beat.
The White Sox will likely need their bullpen to step up, especially Craig Kimbrel.
Dallas Keuchel has gone 6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 5 BB, 3 K, 0 HR, 48 of 98 pitches for strikes, with eight swinging strikes
Unconvential, but as it stands, Keuchel’s firs quality start since Aug. 5. His ERA is 5.23
— James Fegan (@JRFegan) September 16, 2021
Their real test is about to start: they will need to prove in the postseason that their excellent record is more than just beating bad teams.