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The White Sox

A quick little analysis of their postseason to date...

Something you're bound to hear several times over the next few weeks - particularly if Chicago goes on to win the Series - is that it was their blend of pitching and smallball that got them so far in October. One look at their team ERA (2.50) and you might be inclined to agree.

As usual, though, this doesn't tell the whole story. The White Sox are representing the American League in the World Series this year because they've gotten good hitting, good pitching, and extraordinary defense.

The Chicago pitching staff is coming off four consecutive complete-game wins over the Angels, and the group as a whole is sporting a tremendous .202/.239/.364 batting line against so far in the playoffs. Their strikeouts are down and their home runs are up from their regular season rates, but they've trimmed a considerable chunk off their walk rate. Chicago's Fielding-Independent ERA through these last eight games is 3.73, a 58-point improvement on their regular season number. The pitching has definitely stepped up in the spotlight, and their success in shutting down Vladimir Guerrero in particular played no small part in the team's advancing to the Series.

The lineup, though, has also improved. So far in the playoffs, Chicago's batting average is the same as it was during the summer, but its OBP is up 14 points, it's SLG is up 44 points, and its scoring has improved by 1.3 runs per game (28%). Smallball? No way. It's the power, stupid. The White Sox have seen a 21% increase in its home run rate in October, with seven of its 12 longballs coming with runners on base (compared to 81 and 199 in the regular season). Both the power and the situational hitting have been spectacular for Chicago of late.

What's been the real driving power behind the White Sox' success, though? Look no further than the gloves in the field. After finishing as the runner-up in Defensive Efficiency during the season, Chicago's team defense has turned into an absolute vacuum, gobbling up an incredible 80% of balls in play and turning them into outs (up from 71% in the summer). When your pitching staff has a BABIP of .202, you're not going to give up many runs, and consequently, you're not going to lose many games. Chicago's team defense has saved almost ten runs in just eight games, which, to me, is pretty unfathomable.

Should the Astros (who have had playoff success for the same reasons as the White Sox, albeit to a lesser extent) advance to the Series, the combination of Houston's weak lineup and Chicago's amazing defense could spell all kinds of trouble for the NL rep. Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens, and Roy Oswalt have a ton of work ahead of them.